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Donald Low made impassioned plea for assisted suicide September 25, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in British Columbia, Canada, Civil Liberties, Health, Quebec.
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“I am not afraid of dying,” Dr. Donald Low said in a video made shortly before his death from cancer, “what worries me is how I’m going to die.”

Eight days before he died of a brain tumour, Donald Low, one of Canada’s eminent microbiologists, summoned his waning strength in a video plea for assisted suicide.

“Why make people suffer for no reason when there is an alternative?” he asked, adding an authoritative medical voice to a surging national debate.

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“He wanted to say something public about the struggle he went through to [try to] have an assisted death, preferably with the types of barbiturates that are available in the countries that allow it,” his widow, Maureen Taylor, said in an interview about the video, which went live Tuesday.

Dr. Low, who died Sept. 18 without assistance, was the infectious disease expert who became the calming voice and medical face during the SARS crisis a decade ago. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour seven months ago.

“I am not afraid of dying,” he said in the video, “what worries me is how I’m going to die.”

He wondered aloud if he would end up paralyzed, unable to swallow or even talk with his family while he endured a protracted and painful death.

Even before his diagnosis, Dr. Low, 68, was in favour of legalizing medical assistance for “people who were terminally ill and of sound mind,” Ms. Taylor said, but it wasn’t until he was facing his own imminent demise that he tried to turn theory into reality. “There is no place in Canada where you can have support for dying with dignity,” he concluded.

The couple talked about going to Switzerland, where non-residents can swallow a toxic potion and fall into a terminal sleep, but “he wasn’t prepared to go away to die without his kids and my kids around him,” said Ms. Taylor. And he wanted to be here for the anticipated birth of a grandson in July and the wedding of his stepdaughter in late August. They also investigated speeding his death with helium, but “if I was caught buying the gas tanks, then I could have gone to jail,” she said.

Time was running out when the videographers from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer arrived in early September. “Don wasn’t able to speak fluently, but he pulled it out of a hat,” Ms. Taylor recalled. Hearing was also a problem. Ms. Taylor had to relay the producer’s questions because hers was the only voice her husband could still distinguish. But there is no mistaking the challenge that the dying physician issued to doctors who oppose assisted suicide: “I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours. … I am frustrated not being able to control my own life.”

Dr. Low isn’t the only dying patient to rail against Canada’s prohibition against assisted suicide. Twenty years ago, Sue Rodriguez, a British Columbia woman with ALS, took her request for medical help in ending her life to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ms. Rodriguez lost her challenge, but the debate continued.

In June, 2012, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the Criminal Code section on assisted suicide was discriminatory and suspended the decision for a year to give the federal government time to draft a revision. Instead, the government has appealed the BC ruling.

Meanwhile, Quebec tabled right-to-die legislation in the National Assembly last June. Committee hearings into Bill 52, which contains the most radical end-of-life options of any jurisdiction in North America, began last week and are scheduled to continue into October. Among the witnesses expected to appear are representatives from Alzheimer’s and disabilities associations and experts on all sides of the debate, including professors Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University and Margaret Somerville of McGill University.

In Quebec It’s Official: Mass Movement Leads to Victory for Students September 22, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Education, Quebec.
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Published on Friday, September 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

Naomi Klein: ‘This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win.’

  – Common Dreams staff

Students protesting the rise in tuition fees demonstrate in Montreal Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

After a year of revolt which became known as the “Maple Spring”—including massive street protests that received global attention—university students across Quebec were celebrating victory on Thursday night following the announcement from newly elected Premier Pauline Marois that the government was cancelling the proposed tuition hike that led to the student uprising and nullifying the contentious Bill 78 law which was introduced to curb the powerful protests.

“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which is the largest student association with about 125,000 students. “It’s a new era of collaboration instead of confrontation.”

“Together we’ve written a chapter in the history of Quebec,” she added. “It’s a triumph of justice and equity.”

Well-known Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, responded to the news by tweeting:

This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win. “It’s official: Quebec tuition hikes are history”

oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2012…

And, “Bravo to the striking students,” tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) during the most tumultous and pitched episodes of the student mobilization, in French:

Victoire étudiante! Bravo aux grévistes ! “@LP_LaPresse: La hausse des droits de scolarité annulée, la loi 12 abrogée bit.ly/SbBSse

Marois’ announcement followed her very first cabinet meeting and was a fulfillment of promises she made during her recent campaign against the former premier, Jean Charest.  For his part, Charest became the prime target of ire for students during their fight against the tuition hikes and following the passage of Bill 78, which he signed. The most odious sections of Bill 78, which later became Law 12, will be nullified by decree, said Marois.

The Montreal Gazette reports:

Whichever side of the debate you were on, there was no denying the significance of the moment. Marois, who was criticized by the Liberals for wearing a symbolic red square in solidarity with students for much of the conflict, made a promise to cancel the tuition increase — and she moved quickly to fulfill that commitment.

Students, who organized countless marches and clanged pots and never wavered from their goal of keeping education accessible with a tuition freeze, seemed at last to have triumphed definitively.

The various student groups, which range from the more radical CLASSE to the less strident FEUQ, do not share all the same political goals or tactics, but it is unquestionable that their shared movement helped lead to the downfall of the Charest government, paved the path for Marois victory, and culminated in yesterday’s victory.

As CBC News reports:

“It’s certain that we were very present[...] during the election to make sure that Charest, who was elected with a weak majority vote in 2008, was not reelected,” said Desjardins.

Another more militant student association, CLASSE — the Coalition Large des Association pour une Solidarite Syndicale Étudiante — has as its central mandate a goal to keep fighting for free tuition. But Desjardins said FEUQ plans a calmer approach on pressure tactics.

Desjardins said she does not believe CLASSE’s campaign for free tuition will negatively impact the FEUQ’s plans. She pointed out that both groups had clearly outlined their differences during the student crisis.

The FEUQ president also said a consensus between the government and all student associations is possible.

‘Biggest Act of Civil Disobedience in Canadian History’ May 23, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Education, Quebec.
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Published on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

Marchers defy Bill 78; Neighborhoods fill with sound of banging pots and pans

- Common Dreams staff

“The single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.”

That’s how yesterday’s Montreal protest is being described today. Hundreds of thousands red-shirted demonstrators defied Quebec’s new “anti-protest” law and marched through the streets of downtown Montreal filling the city with “rivers of red.”

Tuesday marked the 100th day of the growing student protests against austerity measures and tuition increases. In response to the spreading protests, the conservative Charest government passed a new “emergency” law last Friday – Bill 78.

Since Bill 78 passed, people in Montreal neighborhoods have appeared on their balconies and in front of their houses to defiantly bang pots and pans in a clanging protest every night at 8 p.m.Bill 78 mandates:

  • Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution or who participate in an illegal demonstration.
  • Penalties climb to between $7,000 and $35,000 for protest leaders and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations.
  • All fines DOUBLE for repeat offenders
  • Public demonstrations involving more than 50 people have to be flagged to authorities eight hours in advance, include itinerary, duration and time at which they are being held. The police may alter any of these elements and non-compliance would render the protest illegal.
  • Offering encouragement for someone to protest at a school, either tacitly or otherwise, is subject to punishment. The Minister of Education has said that this would include things like ‘tweeting’, ‘facebooking’, and has she has implied that wearing the student protest insignia (a red flag-pin) could also be subject to punishment.
  • No demonstration can be held within 50 meters of any school campus

Bill 78 not only “enraged civil libertarians and legal experts but also seems to have galvanized ordinary Quebecers.” Since the law passed Friday, people in Montreal neighborhoods have appeared on their balconies and in front of their houses to defiantly bang pots and pans in a clanging protest every night at 8 p.m.

* * *

* * *

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) reports:

CLASSE spearheaded Tuesday’s march, aided by Quebec’s largest labor federations. The province’s two other main student groups, FEUQ and FECQ, also rallied their supporters.

CLASSE said Monday it would direct members to defy Bill 78, Quebec’s emergency legislation.

The special law was adopted last Friday, suspending the winter semester and imposing strict limits on student protests. Organizers have to submit their itinerary to authorities in advance, or face heavy fines.

CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said the special legislation goes beyond students and their tuition-hike conflict.

“We want to make the point that there are tens of thousands of citizens who are against this law who think that protesting without asking for a permit is a fundamental right,” he said, walking side by side with other protesters behind a large purple banner.

“If the government wants to apply its law, it will have a lot of work to do. That is part of the objective of the protest today, to underline the fact that this law is absurd and inapplicable.”

* * *

The Montreal Gazette reports:

A protest organizers described as the single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history choked the streets of downtown Montreal in the middle of Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour as tens of thousands of demonstrators expressed outrage over a provincial law aimed at containing the very sort of march they staged.

Ostensibly Tuesday’s march was to commemorate the 100th day of a strike by Quebec college and university students over the issue of tuition increases. But a decision last Friday by the Charest government to pass Bill 78 – emergency legislation requiring protest organizers to provide police with an itinerary of their march eight hours in advance – not only enraged civil libertarians and legal experts but also seems to have galvanized ordinary Quebecers into marching through the streets of a city that has seen protests staged here nightly for the past seven weeks.

“I didn’t really have a stand when it came to the tuition hikes,” said Montrealer Gilles Marcotte, a 32-year-old office worker who used a vacation day to attend the event. “But when I saw what the law does, not just to students but to everybody, I felt I had to do something. This is all going too far.”

Tuesday’s march was billed as being two demonstrations taking place at the same time. One, organized by the federations representing Quebec college and university students and attended by contingents from the province’s labor movement, abided by the provisions of the law and provided a route. The other, overseen by CLASSE, an umbrella group of students associations, deliberately did not.

By 3: 30 p.m., a little more than 90 minutes after the marches began to snake their way through downtown, CLASSE, which estimated the crowd at 250,000, described the march as “the single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.”

Other crowd estimates varied between 75,000 and 150,000 protesters. Montreal police do not give official crowd estimates but the Place des festivals, which demonstrators easily filled before the march began, holds roughly 100,000 people.

* * *

Sea of red as hundreds of thousands protest Quebec’s austerity cuts and new anti-protest law, May 22, 2012. (Photo by @philmphoto on instagram)

* * *

The Canadian Press reports:

[...] Shortly before the evening demonstration commenced, supporters in central Montreal districts came out onto their balconies and in front of their homes to bang pots and pans in a seeming call-to-arms.

As well, the powerful Montreal transit union also gave protesters a boost when it called on its members to avoid driving police squads around on city buses during the crowd control operations. Montreal police have for several years used city buses as well as their cruisers to shuttle riot squad officers around to demonstration hotspots and as places to detain prisoners. [...]

The daytime march was considered to be one of the biggest protests held in the city and related events were held in New York, Paris, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. [...]

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesman for the hardline CLASSE group, described Tuesday’s march as a historic act of civil disobedience and said he was ready to face any legal consequences.

“So personally I will be ready

Montreal streets turn chaotic as protesters clash with police May 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Education, Quebec.
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Published On Mon May 21 2012

www.thestar.com

Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday night. The protest led to clashes with police and more than 300 arrests.Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday night. The protest led to clashes with police and more than 300 arrests.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Benjamin ShinglerThe Canadian Press
 
MONTREAL—Quebec’s student protests took a dark, angry turn over the weekend following the introduction of an emergency law aimed at restoring order in the province, while the movement gained a number of high-profile supporters on the international stage.

For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 300 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called “non-life threatening injuries.”

Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.

Riot police used tear gas and sound grenades to try to break up the protest, which was deemed illegal moments after it began for not complying with the new law. The result was a series of violent exchanges between small groups of protesters and police in pockets throughout the downtown core.

One video circulated online captured what appeared to be a police cruiser moving forward briefly with a protester on the hood, before the protester jumped off to the side and the cruiser sped away. Police later denied a rumour that a person had been run over.

Two journalists from local newspapers also reported being arrested and later released.

The legislation passed Friday was intended to put an end to three months of student protests, but it appears only to have given the movement momentum.

“I think the government put the police in a difficult situation,” said protester Nino Gabrielli, who got his Master’s last fall at a Montreal university. “I think the population is mobilizing around this thing.”

As the scenes of unrest played out in the city the movement also gained some celebrity support.

Montreal’s Arcade Fire wore the movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live. Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore also gave his support to the students, featuring links about the issue prominently on his website.

“Their uprising is inspiring,” he tweeted to over a million followers. “One of the most amazing mass protests of the year.”

The global hacker collective Anonymous took an interest as well, releasing two videos denouncing the legislation and the planned tuition increases. The group, which regularly hacks into government websites around the world, warned of future actions in Quebec.

“Resistance is futile,” a computer-modulated voice stated in one video. “The hour of war has come.”

The website for the Quebec Liberal party and the province’s Education Ministry were down for portions of the weekend in an apparent cyber attack. Anonymous, however, did not claim responsibility.

The newfound support came during a weekend marked by violence and vandalism. The unrest reached a climax with a blaze of plastic traffic cones and construction materials lit Saturday during a melee on a busy downtown street.

Meanwhile, police came under criticism on Sunday over an altercation caught on video that shows patrons on a bar patio getting pepper sprayed.

Surveillance footage, played in a loop on one of Quebec’s all-news stations, shows several people sprayed by riot police at close range. Customers are seen scrambling to get inside the bar as a police officer knocks over tables and chairs.

Another video from a local TV station shows the officers took action after one was hit by a flying chair. The chair was then flung back toward the patio. The bar owner said police went too far and he’s considering taking legal action.

“People were falling on each other running inside to get away from the pepper spray, breaking things, and then people left by the back exit,” said Martin Guimond, who runs the Saint Bock brasserie in the city’s lively Latin Quarter. His waitress was initially going to call 911 after it happened.

“And then she said, ‘But wait, it’s the police that are doing this,’” Guimond recalled. “That’s when you realize there’s a total loss of security.”

Police didn’t return a request Sunday for comment about the incident, which occurred only steps from where the fires were set.

Police were newly armed on the weekend with Bill 78, which lays out regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people. It includes requiring organizers to give eight hours’ notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they’re being held.

The City of Montreal also adopted a new bylaw that threatens protesters who wear masks with heavy fines. But it failed to deter dozens of protesters from wearing masks Saturday or Sunday night, and police said they would use the new law with discretion.

Montreal police took a tougher stance on the weekend than previously seen during the nightly marches. The march was almost immediately declared illegal on both Saturday and Sunday because, police said, they weren’t provided with a protest route and bottles and rocks were thrown at police.

Massive Student Protest Fills Streets of Montreal after Proposed ‘Emergency’ Law May 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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Published on Thursday, May 17, 2012 by Common Dreams

Thousands of students react after Quebec tries to make their strike illegal
- Common Dreams staff

Thousands of student protesters flooded the streets in Montreal last night after Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced a proposal for a new ‘emergency law’ in a bid to end the ongoing 14 week old student uprising and strike.

Students protest in the downtown streets of Montreal against tuition hikes on May 17, 2012 (Photo: Rogerio Barbosa/AFP/GettyImages)

 The proposed legislation would halt the spring semester, push up the summer holidays, and restart classes in August. The move would maneuver around the current student strike and walkouts, moving classes to later in the year, in an effort to ‘restore calm’.

The government also hinted at severe penalties for anyone who tries to picket or prevent students from entering classrooms; further details about the extent of the law and its penalties will be released today.

The demonstrations on Wednesday night followed this announcement, as several thousand students met with police, who have started cracking down on the protests across Quebec. Up to 122 students were arrested, as “the acrid scent of police crowd-control chemicals billowed in the cool nocturnal air,” National Post/CA reports. “This on a night when Charest shared plans to clean things up.”

* * *

CBC News: Montreal student protest ends with 122 arrests

 

* * *

National Post/CA: 122 Quebec protesters arrested in raucous night before proposed student-strike breaking legislation

The unrest on Wednesday night followed the Quebec government’s announcement it would suspend the current academic session for striking students in an effort to calm things down.

It also hinted at more punitive measures, without sharing details. [...]

In that charged atmosphere, thousands of chanting students spilled into the streets of Montreal, marching straight to the city’s main commercial district. Their demonstration was peaceful until some rocks apparently thrown at police resulted in riot squad charges to clear Ste-Catherine Street. [...]

Authorities reported 122 arrests, three injured police officers and also some injured protesters.

Charest’s legislation would temporarily halt the spring semester for the minority of faculties paralyzed by the walkouts; push up the summer holidays; and reconvene students in August so they can complete their session before starting the fall one in October.

The government also hinted at severe penalties for anyone who tries to picket or otherwise prevent students from entering classrooms.

Charest did not answer when asked about reports of stiff fines. He simply said those details would be revealed when the legislation is tabled — perhaps as early as Thursday.

He did make it clear the legislation will target the crowds of protesters who have blocked access to schools and even stormed into classrooms in an attempt to enforce what they call a legal strike.

* * *

Associated Press: Emergency law considered in Quebec student protest

Quebec was set to consider emergency legislation Thursday aimed at calming weeks of student protests over rising tuition costs, after thousands took to the streets once again and more than 100 were arrested.

Authorities said 122 were arrested late Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators spilled into the streets of Montreal, with some smashing bank windows and hurling objects at police.

Legislation could be introduced as early as Thursday amid student strikes. Dozens of protesters on Wednesday stormed into one Montreal university for the first time, breaking up classes.

Premier Jean Charest said he would table emergency legislation aimed at ending the disorder, while sticking to the planned tuition hikes.

In appreciation of the Quebec student strike May 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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By Anne Lagacé-Dowson, www.rabble.ca

| May 8, 2012

Photo: radicalmontreal.com

Like sap rising in spring, the printemps érable showcases the talents and humour of Quebec students. Here are some examples:

Red-clad students board subway cars during the morning rush hour on the orange line of the metro. One per car, they stand silently looking straight ahead. When the car stops they get out, position themselves at equal intervals along the platform so that when the metro pulls out of the station passengers see a blur of red.

Red, the colour of radical movements, has been taken over by the students, who wear red knitted or crocheted squares, or squares of red felt, attached with a safety pin. Or just a plain old square of red duct tape.

Music students perform a professional calibre “Sacre du printemps” by Igor Stravinsky to cheer the protesters, a piece that sent the Paris establishment into paroxysms of rage when it was first played in the spring of 1913.

Students build red cubes, using them as part of a piece of street theatre at the Earth Day demonstration, the biggest demonstration in the history of Canada and Quebec.

Videos, installation art, signs brandished by philosophy students in Latin and Greek. Fine arts students make picket signs with wonderfully detailed portraits of Quebec politicians.

Poems, songs, videos and music clips. If the purpose of an education is to learn how to think creatively, then the education system is working.

For 40 years, older people have lamented self-absorbed, apolitical youth. Now that so many have taken their ideas to the streets, many of those same observers are outraged, calling them spoiled, pointing to their iPads and Starbucks coffees as evidence.

The unemployment rate for young people is at 14 percent and most of them end up burdened with huge debt when they graduate. Many students work while studying — 20 or more hours per week. They may have a Starbucks coffee from time to time. So what?

Supporters of the Occupy movement in New York speak admiringly of the Quebec student mobilization.

The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper of the movement, writes: “A deep democratic movement, something most of us have never seen and scarcely imagined, turned a small park near Wall Street into the centre of a global storm. Everybody knows the deck is stacked. But it turns out not everyone is willing to put up with it.”

Beautifully written, and who would have thought that the Quebec branch of this worldwide mobilization, with 300,000 people in the streets, would have become the most stupendous of all? Quebecers in the streets are united, with the world marching. Everyone knows something is profoundly wrong — with the economy, with the environment, with the political system, corrupted with cash.

André Pratte, chief editorialist of La Presse, who is in favour of the tuition fee increase, compares the upheaval to May 1968. Students around the world protested against the war in Vietnam and demanded a voice in their education. In 1970, four students were shot down and killed at Kent State University in Ohio. You have probably heard the song by Canadian Neil Young that starts with the line, “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming…”

When it was all over, students had a say in the running of educational institutions.

Quebec’s student strike perplexes, annoys, thrills. Montreal writer Elise Moser says she supports it for three reasons:

a) The more accessible education is, the fairer, more stable and richer a society is, because we can develop the resources of all our people, not just the thin layer of entitled wealthy who can pay for education. That seems obvious, doesn’t it?

b) The strike is not just against a tuition hike, it’s for a much broader vision of an equitable society.

c) The investment in an undergrad degree produces much higher economic returns to the state than an equal amount in subsidies to industry.

On March 22, at least 100,000 people protested peacefully in the streets of Montreal against the tuition fee hike. That was the first sign that something really big was underway. In another song of the 60s, Bob Dylan sang, “Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

The tuition fee hike amounts to a 75 per cent increase over five years – $325 per year for five years. About $325-million in all. The cost of the fiasco of a new building constructed by the Université du Québec à Montréal called L’Îlot Voyageur: $500-million. So why the insistence on the fee hike?

Ideology. An election promise. The need to be seen to be fiscally responsible.

After the World Trade Center attacks, social activism declined. The gap between the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent grew. Now over ten years later a new generation of activists is looking around and saying, ‘Wait a minute, this system is not so great. The neo-liberal model led to a worldwide financial crisis that brought the world economy almost to its knees. Just what is so great about the status quo?’

It has always been easier to stand back, cross your arms and do nothing. To go along with things as they are. But the reason we have public education, votes for women, public healthcare, libraries and paved roads is because people who didn’t just go along with the status quo built systems that defended the interests of the people.

They were called names too — “communists,” “anarchists,” “agitators.”

I was struck by an interview I saw with a government minister who said she doesn’t like demonstrations. No one likes demonstrations, Minister. It’s just that sometimes demonstrations are the only tool people have to make themselves heard.

Let the last word go to filmmaker Hugo Latulippe, excerpted from the poem he wrote called Nous sommes des millions, published in Voir:

“Puis, raillé nos enfants insurgés.
Minimisé l’envergure du geste, la largeur des idées.
Minimisé les milliers d’entre eux dans la rue.
Grave erreur.”
[...]
“Nous sommes arrivés à ce qui commence.
Le feu a pris pour de bon.
Nous sommes des millions.”

Anne Lagacé-Dowson is director general of the anti-bullying Tolerance Foundation. She is an award winning broadcast journalist and political analyst.

This article was originally published in The Hour and is reprinted here with permission.

Quebec Students Ignite the Popular Imagination May 3, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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By Stefan Christoff, rabble.ca | Report

Thursday, 03 May 2012 09:32

(Photo: Robin Dumont / Flickr)

Vibrant nightly protests over the past week in downtown Montréal, in solidarity with the Quebec student strike, are sparking global attention. As the Quebec-wide strike continues – it has now been going for over 11 weeks – a new energy is apparent in the city.

All across the city spotting the symbolic red square patches is easy; on any city bus or métro car patches are proudly pinned on jackets or backpacks.

Despite repeated incidents of police brutality, strikingly hostile mainstream media coverage and a sustained refusal by the Quebec Liberal government to negotiate in good faith, popular support and energy toward the strike is growing. Beyond surveys, or poll numbers, the Quebec student strike is historic in nature, a sustained mass protest movement creating political space to debate not only rising tuition fees but also fundamental questions of social justice.

A clear shift is occurring on the streets, as protests are now expanding to highlight environmental justice and the growing economic inequities in Quebec at a time of austerity-driven economics.

Today in Quebec the earning gap between the wealthy and the rest sits at a 30-year high, according to a recent study by Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-economiques. Economic injustice in Quebec is increasingly a focus of student protests and the upcoming May Day protests will illuminate points of unity between striking students and larger social movements on the streets.

Last week Aveos airline maintenance workers in Montréal, fired last month without due process, joined with striking students in a morning protest outside a shareholders meeting of Air Canada in downtown Montreal. On the streets, la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), a major union federation in Québec with a history of strong links to grassroots activism, has consistently joined striking students on the street.

In Québec the student strike is igniting the popular imagination.

Recent night protests have been starting at Émilie-Gamelin square, close to Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), taking to the streets for hours on end, as many join the protests spontaneously as the protest weaves throughout downtown Montreal districts. As the night protest moves the size grows, tens of thousands marching in the cool spring air, waving red flags in the rain. The student strike is crossing many political barriers at a rapid speed and turning into a social movement.

Despite the growing protests, the movement does face incredible challenges, beyond just the usual cynical commentators across the mainstream media in Quebec and Canada.

Police repression has at times been extreme, with hundreds of students arrested and disturbing physical violence by police toward the protest movement. On the streets police often launch flash bang grenades. To take just one example, last week in Montreal one of these grenades exploded over a night demonstration, unleashing toxic CS gas on the protest.

Montreal police use the flash bang weapon, made by Defense Technologies, a subsidiary of the world’s second largest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, despite the obvious danger to student protesters. Striking student Francis Grenier suffered a serious eye injury in early March due to an explosion close to the eye while playing harmonica and is still recovering.

Unity within the student movement is another major challenge, the more institutional Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) are consistently facing divide and conquer offers by the Québec government pushing to exclude the protest-driven Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) from any negotiations. Despite a history of division in previous student mobilizations, the major student unions today are remaining strongly united in this mobilization to halt tuition hikes in Quebec.

Calls for a broader social strike, an effort to transfer the energy of student protests into larger struggles for social justice is strongly backed by CLASSE, a network of student unions that supports direct action and openly rejects the capitalist economic system.

Over recent years CLASSE has actively supported anti-poverty struggles in Quebec and international solidarity campaigns like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in solidarity with Palestine.

Protests will continue in Quebec over the next days, from May Day to the upcoming Liberal Party general council meeting, scheduled to take place later this week. The Liberals have in fact announced they are moving their meeting from Montreal to Victoriaville, due to fears of mass protest.

As the momentum of the Quebec student strike continues to grow, with nearly 180 000 students remaining on strike, many open questions ring out beyond Québec.

Can the Quebec student movement, clearly a collective struggle against austerity-driven economics, spark or inspire broader mass struggles for social justice in Canada?

Stefan Christoff

Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based writer, musician and community activist who contributes to rabble.ca. You can find Stefan at http://www.twitter.com/spirodon/

 

Charlie and Me December 29, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Autobiographical Essays (Roger), Charlie and Me.
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(I think I can say honestly that I loved both my parents equally, and I believe that their influence on my life and character was equal as well.  However it was Charlie, intellectually and politically oriented like myself, who could both inspire me and get under my skin.  He was clearly a less secure individual than my mother, and I don’t think I ever achieved anything of any significance whatsoever without thinking about how it would please my father.  I cannot vouch for all the historical facts in the “story” that follows, especially with reference to the year 1941.  What I know about the events of January 26/27, 1941 are all hearsay, my having been minus one day old at the time; but I was young then and had a good ear.) 

 

1941

 

Hitler’s armies are in control of most of Western Europe, and the Japanese military is cooking up a secret plan to attack the main US naval base in Hawaii, which will represent a daring move to demolish in a single blow America’s capacity to wage war in the Pacific.  It is January 26, 1941, and it has just begun to snow in Newark, New Jersey.

 

At about 8:30 PM, Charles Hollander leaves the grocery store that is owned and operated by his cousin Morris where he earns the ten dollars a week that supports him, his wife, Anne, and their two year old son Neil.  He steps out onto Springfield Avenue and decides that the storm is not so bad that he cannot save five cents by walking to their Jacob Street flat instead of taking the bus.  Then he stops for a moment for a second thought.  He gives himself a mental kick in the pants for thinking of saving a nickel when his wife is in her ninth month and due at any moment.  He catches the first number five that passes going east and heads for home.

 

Charlie, as he is known to just about everyone, was “political” in his youth.  He presided over a reform-oriented Democratic “Club” whose political hero and inspiration was Jersey’s own Woodrow Wilson.  With his quick mind and law school background Charlie was considered by many to be an up and comer.  Instead, he chose to buck the party establishment by joining a reform ticket that opposed the party bosses in a primary election for the State Assembly.  To the injury of a losing campaign was added the insult of being blackballed from the party’s patronage (including WPA jobs).  For good.

 

Despite the sudden and rude termination of his dream for a career in party politics, Charlie had no lasting regrets.  For it was through his political involvement that he became good buddies with Max Korabiak, the husky son of a Ukrainian immigrant, who drove a truck making deliveries for his father’s burgeoning ice and coal business.  Ice boxes (before refrigerators could be found in most homes) demanded to be kept ice cold in the summer, and furnaces consumed tons of coal in the winter. Max was proud and ambitious, and a later business failure was to lead to what in those enlightened times was called a “nervous breakdown.”  Max ended up spending the rest of his adult life wheeling and dealing and outliving several generations of attendant staff at the same State Hospital for the Mentally Ill in upstate Overbrook, where he also was able to look after the well-being of his mother, Sadie, who had been confined several years before with the same amorphous diagnosis and where she also made her home until her very last days.

 

At one of their Democratic Club’s annual dances, Max had introduced Charlie to his younger sister, Anne; and though both Anne and Charlie had arrived at the dance with their own dates, they left together.  It was but a few weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, 1933, that Charlie borrowed his friend S. Donald “Red” Rappaport’s Model A Ford and eloped with Anne to the poor man’s Niagara Falls: Elkton, Maryland.  Red came along as a witness.

 

Whether Anne’s hard working old world style tyrannical father, William “Bill” (neé Vasily) Korabiak, had no use for Charlie because he was poor or because he was Jewish is hard to say.  Probably a little of both.  Upon their return from Elkton – it had been an overnight trip and they were back in time for the New Year’s Day party at the Korabiak home cum ice dock cum coal bin on Hunterdon Street, with no one being any the wiser about their new marital status – Anne continued to keep house and raise her three younger brothers (as she had done since she had “dropped out” of the sixth grade when her mother left the home for good) until Charlie could save up enough cash to rent the Jacob Street flat.  When months later she finally broke the news to her father and took leave for good, old Mister Korabiak now had another reason to hate Charlie, one that hit much closer to home.  Charlie had, in effect, signed Anne’s Emancipation Proclamation, thereby causing Bill the net loss of one full time domestic indentured servant.

 

Charlie arrives at the Jacob Street flat shortly after 9:00 PM.  He is exhausted, for his day at the grocery store is long and tedious, and the walk from the bus stop to the house is all uphill, but he is relieved to find everything ship shape.  Little Neil is crying, but what else is new. After grabbing a quick supper – Anne had already eaten – Charlie will now have to take over the seemingly endless task of getting the baby to sleep so that Anne can rest.  He says a silent and secular – for the religious part of his Judaism really never took root – prayer that the new baby will be a quieter one.  The law of averages, he thinks to himself, has got to be in our side on that score.  Charlie tries to put out of his mind the fact that once the recalcitrant Neil decides to trade weep for sleep, his kitchen duties – in the form of a sink full of dirty dishes and a hamper full of soiled diapers – await his attention.  His responsibility for these kinds of chores goes back beyond Anne’s pregnancy.   Having escaped from one slave master, she was not about to replace him with another, albeit a younger and more handsome one.  She was a grade six drop out, and the new wave of feminism was decades away from raising its unruly head, but Anne was ahead of her time.  Charlie was expected to pull some of the domestic weight.

 

As he sleepwalks through the dishes, Charlie’s mind drifts back to that last visit to Dr. Hautman’s office.  Hautman, a tall, dark haired handsome man, a half-generation older than Charlie, was a general practitioner, that’s about all there was in those days.  He charged only what you could afford, gave you all the time you needed, both in the examining room and with making payment.  He never sent a bill, and he never considered making house calls anything other than part of his job.

 

While Anne would be getting dressed in the doctor’s examining room, he and Charlie are talking about the war that day in the front office.  Two peace loving Jewish men agonizing over what seemed to be the inevitability despite Roosevelt’s apparent hesitancy of their country once again getting sucked into the middle of another European conflagration.  Although Hitler’s attitude toward Jews was well known by then, no one could have imagined the atrocities that were to follow, so it was not that unusual that many American Jews were blasé about getting involved.   Neither Charlie nor the good doctor would have considered themselves “isolationists,” yet both men were cynical about what would be achieved by fighting another World War.

 

“They said the last one was the ‘war to end all wars,’” the doctor reminded Charlie who had mentioned that he was starting to see no way the U.S. could not get involved again, “I don’t know about you, Charlie, but why is it that the big shots always call the tune, and it’s the young kids that go over and get shot at?  Sure Hitler’s a maniac, but who drove the Germans into his arms with the impossible reparations debt from the war?  Wilson tried with the League of Nations and where did it get him?  I’ve got two boys a lot closer to fighting age than your little Neil.  Those boys mean everything to me and Sarah, and I’ll be damned if I want to see them sent five thousand miles to die on foreign soil.”

 

Charlie nodded agreement.  “When will the fools that run this world ever learn, when will they ever learn?” he added, shaking his head.

 

Charlie had completed training with the Civilian Military Training Corps (CMTC), a sort of non-academic R.O.T.C. for civilians, and when called up would enter the army as a second lieutenant (unbeknownst to him at the time, however, he would never see active duty due to a bone deformity that caused him to fail his physical when he finally tried to enlist).

 

“Charlie, I want you to know something.  If somehow we get dragged into this thing, and when you are called up, I don’t want you to be worried about Anne and the kids.  I will take care to make sure they are in fine health when you get back, and you can take that to the bank.  And don’t worry about money, O.K.?  Right now everything is as it should be with Anne.  The baby’s gong to be as big and healthy as the last one.  She could be popping out any day now.  You understand what I’m telling you?  I’m counting on it being a girl.”

 

 

 

1987

 

Here is how I became a city councilor.

 

For years I had resisted the temptation to run for political office in Toronto.  I was in my seventh year as Executive Director of the now legendary 519 Church Street Community Center, and I won’t deny that I wasn’t at times restless for a change.  But I had plenty to keep me happy right where I was.  I had had the opportunity to take a lead role in the development of City of Toronto policy toward city funded but independently run community centers, and therefore to a certain extent I knew my way around City Hall.  Of late, in reaction to the Mulroney Conservative government’s cuts and privatization of the student summer employment programs that had been initiated in the Trudeau era, which had a profoundly negative effect on the ability of non-profit organizations to provide a wide range of community and social services over the summer, I had helped to organize and was national coordinator of the Save our Summer Coalition (S.OS.).

 

Since emigrating to Canada in the summer of 1968 to avoid up to five years in a federal prison for my anti-Vietnam war activities, I had slowly gotten my feet back into the waters of political activism; and, since 1980 when I took the position at The 519, I was even drawing a decent salary, thanks in part to my friend Anna Furstenberg’s having convinced me that it is possible “to do well while doing good.”  It was not quite the same as the street level political activism I had known in Southern California. There I had been involved in helping to support the United Farm Workers, under Cesar Chavez, by organizing boycotts of non-union grapes and wine; I had gotten involved with the Black community in various Civil Right demonstrations and projects; and, of course, was involved in a wide range of anti-Vietnam War activities, including the picketing of local draft boards and military installations, demonstrating against Dow Chemical, the maker of the horrendous napalm bombs that was eating flesh of thousands of innocent Vietnamese civilians, and organizing and participating in teach-in and sit-ins at various campuses.

 

I had spent several frustrating years involved with the Democratic Party.  Although my inclination, which had taken root in my student years at Berkeley (1958-1962), was for direct action of the street variety, until the revolutionary gusts that swept the nation beginning in the mid-sixties, it seemed as if the Democrats were the only game in town for progressive political activists.  The final straw for me, however, came shortly after the 1964 presidential elections, where I had poured heart and soul into the campaign to elect “peace candidate” Lyndon Johnson in an Armageddon like battle against the war-mongering Barry Goldwater.  It was Johnson, of course, who, once elected, proceeded to escalate US involvement in Vietnam that lead eventually to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides and expansion of the conflict into Cambodia and Laos.

 

After leaving the Democratic Party, I had studied, adopted, then rejected anarchism and was beginning to become interested in the Marxist-Humanist movement founded by Raya Dunayevskaya.  When I got to Canada and learned that there was a third party — a socialist party! – I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  It wasn’t long, however, before I discovered that the New Democratic Party (NDP) had pretty much abandoned its socialist CCF roots.  It was socialist in name only, it was no longer looking to transform but rather to reform.  I soon saw the logic of whoever it was who had characterized the NDP as nothing more than “Liberals in a hurry” — that is, reformers with no desire to remake a system that was structurally flawed.

 

So, although I was under no illusions, and although I did not choose to join the Party, I could not deny, especially since I was directly involved via my work at the community center with city government, that on neighborhood-based issues, it was generally the NDP that could be counted on for support, both with respect to policy and practical assistance.  I therefore was quite willing to actively back NDP candidates in the old Ward 6 where I worked and especially in Ward 7 where I lived.  In so doing, I got to know, became friendly with, and worked side by side with a number of NDP grass roots activists as well as elected city councillors.

 

Nevertheless, when John Piper jogged into my office at The 519 at lunchtime one afternoon, and those who know John will know that I mean that literally, I outright rejected his suggestion that I seek to become the NDP candidate in the Ward 7 by-election to replace Joanne Campbell, who had resigned to accept an appointment from the Provincial Liberal government.  Joanne, a life-long New Democrat representing a Ward with a twenty year tradition of sending hard-working progressives to City Hall, had become somewhat of a controversial figure several months prior to her resignation when she announced that she would no longer participate in the NDP caucus at City Council but rather would sit as an “independent”.  Many Torontonians are under the illusion that party politics do not apply at the city level since the Liberals and Conservatives do not run under the party banner but rather call themselves “independents.”  However, a true independent at city council is as rare as a true idealist, and the same Liberal and Conservative organizations that support provincial and federal candidates are mobilized for the city level campaigns (in fact, city council has always served as the “minor leagues” for many a future Liberal and Conservative member of the provincial and federal parliaments).  The NDP, on the other hand, openly and formally nominates candidates who, when elected, participate in a caucus, albeit without the discipline that is exercised at the senior levels of government.

 

A couple of weeks before John’s appearance at my office, I had received a phone call from Joanne’s assistant at City Hall, Jeff Evanson, to inform me that Joanne would be resigning the next day, that he would be running in the by-election to fill the vacancy, and could he count on my support.  He neglected to mention to me that he would be running as an “independent” with the active, if clandestine, backing of the Liberal Party (who found him a Provincial job after losing the election).  Oblivious to the impossible to conceive of at the time fact that I would be Jeff’s opponent in that election, and although I assumed he would probably win the NDP nomination and get my eventual support, I told him (assuming that he was asking for my support for the NDP nomination) that I could not offer my public support until I knew who all the candidates were.  It had always bugged the hell out of me that so many people gave their public endorsements based upon the first person to ask for it; and I later came to find out as a city councilor that this was also the case amongst councilors when lobbying their colleagues for support for a particular council vote or appointment.  So much for principle in politics.

 

In any case, since I had long ago decided that it would be against my principles to be an NDP candidate for anything, it didn’t take any real consideration on my part to reject Piper’s suggestion.  John Piper is that unusual combination of intellectual and jock.  He is one of the most persistent and persuasive persons you will ever want to meet, or not want to, as the case may be.  He filled me in on what an Evanson victory would mean for Ward 7, that is, nothing less than a Liberal coup d’etat.  He told me that the NDP needed to come up with a strong candidate fast (this was June and the by-election was to be held in November), and that he was only asking me to participate as a candidate in the nominating process to help develop a strong field of candidates.  He showed me a list of people who were considering entering the race for the nomination, including the Labor Council’s Linda Torney, a person for whom I had and have tremendous respect.

 

Our meeting ended up with my withdrawal of an outright rejection in favor of my agreeing to at least consider the possibility.  This was a major step for me, one that showed that I was not immune to setting principle aside when it came to realizing a practical strategic objective, in this case, not letting the Liberals get away with the sleazy and dishonest attempt to “steal” Ward 7 with their “independent” candidate.

 

After consulting with family, friends and confidants, I decided I would take the plunge.  Since I would be running, if nominated, not simply to carry the NDP banner but rather to stop Jeff Evanson, i.e., actually to win; once I made the fateful decision, I put every ounce of my energy into it.  When it became finally known who would be seeking the NDP nomination, it became clear both to me and to the Ward 7 NDP executive, that because of my history of community involvement I was the only one with a chance, albeit an outside one (given Evanson’s virtual “incumbency” and head start), to actually win the seat (Linda Torney had decided not to seek the nomination).

 

Although I freely admit, and did so at the time, that my decision to join the NDP and run for a city council seat as an NDP candidate was a compromise with a previously held principled position, I was determined that when it came to issues and matters of policy, the NDP was going to have to live with my political radicalism and independence of thought, which was not negotiable.  Since there is no policy “platform” and no disciplined caucus at the city level, it seemed to me that I could do this without deceiving either the Party, the electorate or myself.  But could the NDP live with me?

 

I met with the members of the local executive informally.  Piper had been their emissary, and although they were prevented from making a formal endorsement, they wanted to give behind the scenes encouragement to the person they considered to be the strongest candidate for the nomination.  A couple of the members of the executive were excited to have an unabashedly “left” candidate, others were glad just to find someone who had a bit more than a hope in hell to beat Jeff Evanson.  Everyone was worried about my past radicalism, especially since I made it, as that intellectual giant Richard Nixon would say, “perfectly clear” that I did not intend to move one inch closer to the NDP mainstream from where I stood about six and a half miles to its left.  “Is it true that you were a draft dodger,” I was asked.  “No,” I replied – sighs of relief all around – “actually I was more like a deserter.” 

 

Largely through the efforts of a few dedicated friends and associates and the amazing organizational efforts of my then wife, Cathy Crowe, I won the nomination with a comfortable margin, even though one of the other candidates, University of Toronto campus chaplain Eilert Freirichs, gave a speech at the nominating meeting that was ten times better than my own.  With the nomination in hand, in the general by-election it was me against Jeff Evanson and a handful of fringe candidates with no organizational backing (including an ex-landlord of mine and a drag queen).

 

The campaign was one of the most salient experiences of my life.  I don’t think I ever worker harder over a sustained period of time.  Because of what Jeff had done in using his NDP job as a springboard to running as an “independent”, secretly supported by the Liberals, against an NDP nominated candidate, the race took on the aura of internecine warfare.  Many NDP supporters had no idea of what Jeff had done and gave him their support believing that he was going to be like Joanne, a more independent minded NDP’er.  Although I had years of community organizing and he had basically done only party work, Jeff was now the “community” candidate and I was the “party hack.”  Oh, sweet irony.  Former NDP allies were now on opposite sides of the fence, and life long friendships were strained (Piper, for example, had grown up with Joanne Campbell and is best friends with her and her husband, ex-NDP councilor Gordon Cressy; the friendship weathered the storm; the first thing I did when I won the election was to work to mend fences; Ron Kaplansky, a graphic designer who did Evanson’s campaign sign and literature designs, is now a good friend of mine; Jeff, however, did not give me the traditional courtesy of conceding defeat on election night).

 

We had a hell of a lot of ground to make up.  We spent tons of money to hire the best NDP organizers available (the debt incurred remains unpaid to this day).  Piper served as interim Campaign Manager until we were able to bring on the incomparable Sherril Game; a future Provincial Consumer Affairs Minister in the Rae government, Marilyn Churley, was the campaign secretary.  Piper, who was later to become Ontario Premier Bob Rae’s public relations director and was subsequently forced to resign in disgrace when he made a serious tactical error in an attempt to protect a Cabinet Minister who had been falsely accused of sexual abuse, designed an unbeatable campaign strategy, but one that would only work if there was enough time.

 

I won by 222 votes.  If the campaign had lasted another week, I think I would have won by 2000.  We had a lot to overcome, but we had all the momentum.  Victory, to use a cliché, was sweet.  The first thing I did, of course, upon being confirmed as the winner, was to phone my dad with the good news.

 

You know, my father had been in politics for a short time in his youth.  He too was something of a maverick.  He had been President of a Democratic Party “Club” and had unsuccessfully bucked the Party establishment, which cost him any chance of further advancement.  He was never nearly as radical in his beliefs as I am, but much of what I have learned about principled behavior in politics I have learned from him, more from his actions than his stated beliefs.  It’s funny for me to say this, because my father is always preaching pragmatism to me.  “You have to stoop to conquer,” is one of his favorite sayings.

 

My father graduated from Mercer Beasley School of Law in Newark (long since, I believe, absorbed into Rutgers University) but never practiced law.  For some reason, after his first unsuccessful attempt at passing the New Jersey bar, he lost heart.  He had lost both his parents before he was twenty, and in his teens took off riding the rails hobo style to California, where, had he been a little more shrewd, would have landed a bit part in a John Wayne movie.  His ultimate destination was Japan, which he never made.  After losing his one and only election and his betrayal of the party bosses, he dropped out of political activism never to return.  He remains more or less progressive in his outlook, and I am sure he never voted Republican.  Maybe because of being so seriously burned when he ventured outside the boundaries of the established order of the world where he thought he saw his future (i.e., the New Jersey Democratic Party), he became a strong advocate of “working within the system.”  He could never fully endorse my decisions to work outside the system, although at some level I know he understands my uncompromising idealism and my “impractical” obsession with principle.

 

Although my Dad left politics for good after his defeat, he kept in touch with some of his old buddies, one of whom, Isaiah “Ike” Turner, was the first Black elected to Newark’s city council.  How many times has he told me the (possibly Apocryphal) following story about Ike’s first council meeting: It would goes without saying that the white incumbents were not apt to give a cordial welcome to this “uppity Nigger” who dared to think he had a right to elected office.  So how does old Ike deal with the cold shoulder he receives when he takes his place at his very first council meeting?  He introduces a motion to give members of council a significant raise in pay (something that almost all politicians lust after but have to be careful about proposing).  The motion passes unanimously, and from that day forward Isaiah “Ike” Turner is one of the boys.

 

Would you like to know what I did at my first council meeting?

 

In Council procedures there is something called an “Order Paper motion” which any member of Council can put on the Council agenda in order to get an issue directly before the Council.  It is used when there is no time to follow the normal laborious committee process on a particular matter of urgency; or – and this is what I often found advantageous — when there would be no hope to get a recommendation passed by a committee and put before the Council (Council committees are notorious for killing controversial initiatives before they can reach the Council as a whole for debate).

 

At my first Council meeting I put a motion on the Order Paper to the effect that the Council declare Toronto a “disaster area” with respect to the problem of homelessness and request immediate emergency assistance from the provincial and federal governments.  Order Paper motions are debated after the Council has disposed with all its committee vetted business, so that it was late in the evening when it came up, and the members were tired and grouchy.  Those who did not consider my motion a scandal treated it as a joke.  I was made fun of and ridiculed – who is this rookie councilor with this screwball motion?  Nevertheless, the Council was forced to take its collective head out of the sand, and a two-hour debate, the first of its kind, took place in Council chambers on the city’s crisis in housing.  Needless to say, the motion did not carry.  The vote was something like 35-4.  Not even all my NDP colleagues voted for it.

 

The Ghost of Ike Turner was not pleased, and I never became one of the boys.

 

(Twelve years later, in response to the tireless organizing and lobbying by Cathy Crowe and the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, the Toronto City Council, and then municipal council’s across Canada, passed similar motions, calling for federal intervention in the housing crisis.)

 

And yet, despite the fact I was not prone to follow in the hallowed footprints left by Ike Turner’s fancy footwork in the council chambers of Newark, New Jersey, no one was more proud of me for my seven years as perpetual outsider and a constant thorn in the side of Toronto Council …than my dad.

 

 

 

 

1968

 

I first became seriously aware of the US involvement in Vietnam while I spent the summer months of 1964 as an intern at the National Council of Churches’ (NCC) Washington, D.C. office on Maryland Avenue, a hop, skip and jump from the Capitol building.  In many ways it was an idyllic summer for me.  We house-sat for a wealthy union bureaucrat in his posh mansion off of Connecticut Avenue, sharing it with Djawah, an Indonesian graduate student.  Linda and I were at that time in our second year of marriage and still childless.  She had landed a summer job in the State Department.  We were invited to attend the celebration for the independence of Malawi, and I danced with Miriam Makeba.  During the day, I mostly hung out in the Capitol building drifting from committee room to committee room.  I had virtually no responsibilities as an intern; there was no supervision to speak of.  I saw liberal Senator Yarborough from Texas get into a near fist-fight with ultra-conservative Strom Thurmond outside a Senate hearing room.

 

In another hearing room I heard some strange phrases I didn’t fully understand: “military advisors, limited engagement … dominos”.  It was the Senate Foreign Relations Committee discussing the country’s involvement in a small country in Southeast Asia, a former French colony that almost nobody had ever heard of, where some kind of a civil war was going on that for some strange reason former Presidents and the current president, Lyndon Johnson had been worried about enough to send United States soldiers, excuse me, advisors, over to help out the good guys in the south but in a “non-combatant” capacity.

 

Vietnam.

 

This was just before the war between the Viet Cong and the corrupt South Vietnam puppet regime had entered into the consciousness of the average American, but mountains of information passed through the NCC Washington office including some disturbing criticism of U.S. intervention in Vietnam by apparently well-informed critics.  Although Civil Rights was foremost on my and almost everyone else’s mind that fateful summer (the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 was before the Congress, and Linda and I spent as much time as we could at the twenty-four hour prayer vigil in front of the White House), I decided to follow up on what had been suggested by the Vietnam critics and began to look for more information about a war in a country that I had not previously known existed.

 

At summer’s end, having made my decision, after one year of graduate studies in theology (at Princeton Theological Seminary), to become a theological seminary drop-out, Linda and I went back to Southern California, and I resumed teaching at a Lutheran private school where I had previously taught for a year after my graduation from Berkeley.  While in Washington I had introduced myself to Jim Corman, a young progressive/liberal Democrat who represented the 22nd Congressional District in California where we would be taking up residence.  I was impressed with him and accepted his request that I work as a volunteer in his campaign for re-election in the November elections.  However, it was not the congressional races that were front and center in that election. 

 

In San Francisco’s Cow Palace earlier in the year, what many considered to be the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party had gained control of the convention and nominated as there presidential candidate the right-wing “extremist” ideologue, Barry Goldwater (who in today’s Republican Party would fall somewhere well left of center!).  “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” he intoned.  The Republican theme was “In your heart, you know he’s right,” In my heart I knew he was wrong!  You have to remember that this was in the middle of the Cold War, and to my thinking putting the nuclear trigger in the hands of an avowed Hawk was to risk the very survival of the planet.  Most of the nation agreed, and, thanks to some pretty nifty television scare commercials connecting Goldwater with nuclear holocaust, Lyndon Johnson was re-elected in a landslide.

 

What also slid, however, was Johnson’s commitment to keep the peace.  When he assumed the presidency following the Kennedy assassination, he had kept in tack most of the Kennedy Cabinet, including such shinning lights as Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.  With the counsel and support of these men, Johnson took the nation into the morass of Vietnam and what turned out to be the United States’ first great military defeat in history.  It would appear that the boys of Camelot were out for more than a friendly joust.

 

The sinking of an American battleship in the Gulf of Tonkin was all the pretext that was needed to win the support of the Congress (only two out of a hundred voted against the Bay of Tonkin Resolution in the Senate, Barry Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska) and the bulk of the American public for a major expansion of the United States participation in the war.  By that time I had read much of the early anti-war literature (Howard Zinn, Robert Scheer, etc.), which was overwhelmingly convincing.  I had learned that after the final defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu, it was the US government that set up the puppet regime in South Vietnam that broke the peace treaty that would have unified the country (I was shocked to learn that then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had lobbied the Cabinet and President to help the French out of their jam at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 by dropping the Atomic Bomb on the Vietnamese.  Eisenhower vetoed this plan.  The same Eisenhower, who spent as much time during his presidency playing golf as Ronald Reagan did nodding off, also warned the nation in his Farewell Address, a warning absolutely unheeded, of the dangers of the “military industrial complex.”  For these two events old Ike still holds a warm spot –albeit a small one — in my heart).

 

My intuition and reading told me that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a phony one designed by the U.S. military and government to get public and political support for a dramatic escalation of U.S. commitment in the civil war.  This was subsequently confirmed years later.  I therefore participated in the earliest of the anti-war activities, which consisted initially mostly of “teach-ins” as high school and university campuses.

 

My personal history as an anti-war activist pretty much followed the course of the anti-war movement itself, which escalated in intensity parallel to the government’s taking the nation deeper into the Vietnam quagmire. I was still a “believer” (that is, an evangelical Christian) at the time, and along with a handful close comrades, was involved in a Congregational Church in Pacoima, a transitional community in the San Fernando Valley of northeast Los Angeles, where an influx of Blacks and Chicanos were transforming the nature of a previously white neighborhood.  I therefore concentrated much of my anti-war activism within the confines of the “faith community.”  We offered educational programs on the Vietnam War to local Christian congregations, and when they refused to even listen, we would picket them for their un-Christian like refusal to get involved in the greatest moral issue of the day.  As delegates representing our local congregation, we took an anti-war resolution to the regional conference of the Congregational Church, and when it was defeated after a vigorous debate, we donned sack cloth and ashes and sat-in at the alter of the Pasadena United Church at which the meeting was held.  We were cursed, threatened and spat upon at many of the churches we picketed and accused of being everything from unpatriotic to Communist.  When our own Pacoima congregation ultimately refused to take a public position against the war, we picketed outside our own church (one of our gang, Lew Fretz, eventually left the States and has been living and teaching in at Hamilton University in New Zealand, where he has preserved our original picket signs showing Vietnamese children being burned with napalm and uses them as illustrations in the course he teaches on U.S. History).  I think the congregation finally got fed up with us and asked us to look for a “more compatible fellowship” after one Sunday evening worship service where we had volunteered to lead the “Bible study.”  Instead of the traditional exposition of a particular Biblical text, we put on a skit in which a series of the poor and suffering individuals approached a student of the Bible asking for help and were rewarded with quotes from the Bible.  We ended the skit by tearing pages from the Bible, igniting them with a match, and singing a popular Christian hymn: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”  Our minister, the Reverend Paul Kittlaus, with all the majesty of the British queen, was not amused.

 

Our core group consisted of Pete Flint, our moral leader and political guide, who had been drafted into the Marines during the Korean War and who had received a dishonorable discharge for his anti-war activities; Lew Fretz, who had just received his doctorate in History from Stanford; Lew’s wife, Margaret Fretz, a schoolteacher; Dick Bunce, a friend from and recent graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary; Linda Page, my wife, who was working on her doctoral thesis in Sociology for Princeton University and teaching at San Fernando Valley State College (today know as California State University at Northridge); and me.

 

We attended all the protest demonstrations.  We organized anti-war activities at Valley State in cooperation with Tom Lasswell, a campus chaplain and member of our Pacoima congregation, and with the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  We recruited John Buchanan, a Professor of Speech at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys to run as an anti-war candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in the 43rd State Assembly District.  We picketed Dow Chemical, the maker of the infamous napalm.  We demonstrated at local draft boards and the local National Guard headquarters at the Van Nuys Airport.

 

I cannot tell you how many times I burned my draft card.  This was before the days of photocopy machines, so there was a technical problem.  I cannot remember how we solved it, but I ended up with a supply of draft cards and even made Newsweek Magazine where a photo shows me along with two others in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles, draft-card torch in hand. 

 

And what was my draft status?  1-0, if that means anything to you.  I had been 1-A, that is, prime draft material.  However, I applied to my local draft board for “conscientious objector” status, as I had been counseling many others to do, and – only because of my religious background – it was granted to me.  [Note: insert here something of the history of conscious objection, Quakers, etc.]  This did not protect me from the draft, rather it meant that if drafted, I would be able to do “civilian public service” at home rather than go into the armed forces either as a soldier or a medic (conscientious objectors with 1-A-0 status serve as medics on the battlefield).

 

Aware of the fact that I was likely to be drafted (I was twenty-four years old in 1965, and young men were drafted up to the age of twenty-six), I looked for work that would qualify as civilian service and was hired by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) to do venereal disease epidemiology with the Los Angeles County Health Department.  Sure enough, I was drafted in 1966 and was successful in having my health department work qualify as my civilian service. My job was to interview patients diagnosed with Syphilis and to bring in their sexual contacts for examination and possible treatment.  I worked out of health centers in Watts (South Central Los Angeles), which was predominantly Black, West Hollywood, which was predominantly Gay, San Fernando, which was predominantly Latino, and Van Nuys, which was predominately white middle class.  If you ever need a survey course on the sexual habits of a broad spectrum of society, I’m your guy.

 

It was sometime in 1967 that I went to UCLA to listen to a talk given by David Harris, who had formed a movement, which he called “The Resistance.”  David had first made news when, as Student Body President at Stanford, he was kidnapped by members of the football team who proceeded to cut off his long hair.  He went on to become seriously involved in anti-war activities and married the popular folk singer, Joan Baez.  His message to young men of draft age was that using their draft deferments (e.g., student deferments, conscious objection, etc.) to keep out of the war was in effect a form of collaboration with the war effort.  He called for total non-complicity with the Selective Service System (i.e., the draft).  I was struck by the logic of his position, which also underscored the fact that it was uneducated poor whites and Black men who were making up a disproportionate part of the waves of soldiers sent over to slaughter and be slaughtered in the jungles and swamps of Vietnam.  David himself was eventually drafted, refused to be inducted, and was given a five-year prison sentence, which he served until paroled.

 

For me, becoming a part of the Resistance meant giving up the “privilege” of my conscious objector status.  I was helped along with this by my employer, who at that same time ordered me to shave my beard and transferred me out of the “field” and into the downtown administrative offices of the USPHS.  Rebel that I was (and am), I refused on both counts and was unceremoniously fired.  Rather than finding other suitable “civilian service” work, I ignored this obligation.  Instead, I helped found and taught at the “I-Thou University of Young People” (Guinness world record for most pretentious Name of School), an alternative school in the tradition of A.S. Neill’s Summerhill.  In effect, I had gone AWOL.

 

Soon I received a visit from two FBI agents who wanted to know about my anti-war organizing and my non-compliance with my obligatory civilian service.  I refused to speak with them.  Several months later, in June of 1968, I was indicted by a federal grand jury for the crime of refusing to perform civilian service as a conscious objector, and I was arrested by the same two agents.  I was home one afternoon having lunch with Alex, a huge brooding sixteen year old who was living with us a foster child and attending the school.  I answered the door, and before I could swallow what was left of the baloney sandwich I was still chewing in my mouth, I was handcuffed and ushered out to a car where I was transported to the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

 

This was the first time I had been arrested since I was ten years old and caught by the local police throwing rocks through the window of an abandoned house (haunted no doubt) on Halloween night in Irvington, New Jersey.  At that time I was roughly sat down in the back seat of a squad car, given a stern lecture, let go with a warning, and stumbled home shaking in my boots (I have a vague recollection that I may also have wet my pants).  This time I felt an intense vulnerability with the cuffs on, and began to imagine myself the victim of police brutality.  But the two agents were professionals, they realized that my alleged “crime” was of a political rather than a violent or anti-social nature, and on the ride downtown in their beat up and aging Plymouth (was the FBI having budget problems?) we engaged in a lively and heated argument about the moral imperative to commit civil disobedience in the face of your government committing crimes against humanity.  I got as far as having them admit that they would have resisted under Hitler (sure they would have), but Vietnam, they insisted, was not the same thing.

 

At the L.A. Courthouse I was given the traditional one phone call, which I used to call home, and arranged for Linda to be notified at the college so she could drive downtown and bail me out.  I had male friends who had been arrested during demonstrations who had been raped at the infamous L.A. County Jail, and I had no desire to put myself in that position.  It turned out that I was released by signing what is called a “Personal Surety Bond,” in my case in the amount of one hundred dollars.  This was the simplest and most innocuous way of being released once arrested, and I admit that I felt cheated and undervalued.  I didn’t even have to put up any money.  It just meant that if I jumped bond, I owed the government one hundred dollars (in 1973, when from Canada I plea bargained with the U.S. Attorney to be able to return to the States – this was before the general amnesty – the charges of “interstate flight to avoid prosecution” were dropped, and I pled guilty to the main charge of failing to perform civilian service and was given eighteen months probation.  But no one ever thought to dun me for the hundred bucks!).

 

Out on bond I had a life-changing decision to make: stand trial where conviction was assured and serve up to five years in a federal prison (plus a $5000 fine), or flee.  I was married at the time and the father of a one-year old daughter.  I did not have the courage or the strength of principle of a David Harris, who was also married with a child, and I decided, in consultation with my family, to leave the States and start a new life in a foreign haven.  I did some research, and, although we would have preferred to settle somewhere in Latin America, it seemed as if the only countries where there was absolute safety from being extradited were Sweden and Canada (Canada will not extradite to the United States a person accused of a crime that is not a crime in Canada).

 

Linda and I decided that we had no desire to exile ourselves as far away from home as Sweden, and Canada offered the opportunity to live in a French culture.  We opted to settle in Montreal.  I had draft counseled a student of Linda’s, Jim Falconi, who had fled to and was living in Vancouver.  I would “slip out” of the country by flying to Vancouver to stay with Jim until Linda finished the school year and could drive up with our daughter, Malika, and join me before heading east to La Belle Province (Quebec). Falconi shortly thereafter also moved to Montreal, changed his first Name to Giacamo, and we ended up managing together the Montreal Paperback Bookstore, whose owner was the eccentric Julian Wedgwood, heir to the Wedgwood china fortune (Julian once showed me an elaborate chart of his family tree, with Josiah Wedgwood, the founder of Wedgwood China at the center, and he pointed out that one of his ancestors was Charles Darwin.  I was duly impressed).  Today Giacomo Falconi, who adopted the separatist politics of Quebec, owns and operates a prosperous rare book shop in Old Montreal.

 

The hardest part of going into exile, of course, was going to be the leaving behind of family and friends.  For security reasons no one could know about our plans except my political group and my parents.  The discussion with my parents was heart rending.  They “understood” and did not understand at the same time.  My father was caught between his pragmatic ethic and, I believe, the knowledge that what I was doing was moral and right.  My parents have gone through all kinds of “stages” with me over the years, from my conversion to rabidly evangelical Christianity, to my student shit-disturbing (including locking horns with Clark Kerr, the illustrious President of the University of California), to my political radicalism, to the Hippie days, and to my present life in South America (my fourteen years as a community center administrator — salaried! — and city councilor in Toronto, I think were the only ones that were really easy on their souls).  They have not always agreed with me, but never once have they withdrawn their moral and emotional support.  My mother told the FBI where they could go (and it wasn’t a very nice place) when they came looking for me; and my father, who worked in the aerospace industry, was put in an awkward position by my actions.

 

As my father had watched my escalating radical activities – we were living in the same general area of the San Fernando Valley – I could sense a growing uneasiness on his part.  This was based entirely, I realize mostly in retrospect, on his concern for my personal safety.  But he used all the ammunition he had at his disposal to dissuade me from taking so many risks.  He argued that I could achieve more by “working within the system,” that, yes, you have to “stoop to conquer.”  I can remember some pretty heated arguments.  But, as I say, there were never threats, ultimatums, or withdrawal of friendship and emotional support.  In spite of his fears for me, I know that my father never ceased to be proud of what I was doing.  He later (while I was living in “exile” in Canada) went downtown to the federal courthouse for the Los Angeles trial of Daniel Ellsberg, the government researcher who had leaked the infamous “Pentagon Papers,” which revealed much of the government’s lies and treachery.  He introduced himself to Ellsberg and proudly told him about my having had to go into exile because of my opposition to the war.  When Vietnam era Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, published his book admitting that Vietnam was a huge mistake, my dad phoned to congratulate me “on being right all along.”

 

It was a typical smoggy morning in early June as my parents, accompanied by Linda and one year old Malika, drove me to the Burbank Airport where I would fly to San Francisco and connect to Vancouver.  I thought I saw FBI agents everywhere.  The farewells in Burbank were, of course, highly emotional. I thought I would never again be able to set foot on United States soil.  You can imagine how my parents must have felt as I boarded the aircraft that would take me thousands of miles away, possibly never to be able to return.

 

It is the only time in my life I have ever seen my father cry.

 

 

 

 

1941

 

Charlie would later joke to Neil and me that his secret weapon in getting us to sleep at night when we were babies was to sing to us, because we immediately would fall asleep so as to not have to listen to his operatic interpretations.  But the fact of the matter is that Charlie actually has a pleasant tenor voice, and he did succeed in lilting both Neil and himself into dreamland that night on the studio couch in the living room at about ten o’clock.

 

He awoke just after midnight to the sounds of the snowstorm lashing against the windowpane just above his head.  Apart from the howl of the angry winds, the house remained in complete silence.  Anne had gone to bed who knows what time, and must be sleeping comfortably in the adjacent bedroom.  Charlie looked outside and thought to himself, “better that it not be tonight with the storm raging as it is.”  Anne was still suffering with the remnants of her flu, and although Dr. Hautman said not to worry, going out in this weather certainly was not what the doctor ordered.

 

Everything was set for the big moment.  The old ’34 Packard that Anne’s brother Ernie had loaned them was parked downstairs a half a block south on Jacob Street, and there was gas in the tank.  When the moment came, they would drive Neil to Charlie’s sister Molly’s to be left in her care, and phone Dr. Hautman from there since they had no phone in the house on Jacob Street. 

 

Charlie thought to himself, with a smile, about Dr. Hautman’s prediction of a girl.  He really didn’t care that much, as long as Anne and the baby come out of it O.K. either sex would do.  A girl would be nice, however, maybe one a little quieter than Neil, although apart from his nightly colic, Neil was really a pretty cute baby, and Charlie thought to himself I really have nothing to complain about.  He had a lovely and devoted wife, a half decent roof over his head, and the country seemed to be about to pull itself out of the depression.  Although what he earned in Morris’ grocery was barely enough to get by on, it was a job, and in those times simply having a job was everything.

 

But the ominous possibility of another war crept again into his thoughts and put something of a crimp into his reveries.  He already had one potential future soldier, and the thought of that cuddly dark haired toddling noise maker someday going off to kill and, what would be unthinkably horrendous, be killed himself, was not something any parent should ever have to contemplate.  Yeah, maybe a girl after all.

 

Charlie took a long and loving glance at Neil, who was by now deeply and safely into sleep.  He gently lifted himself up and carried the baby to the crib in their bedroom at the foot of the second hand maple wood bed that he shared with Anne.  Upon looking up he saw to his surprise that she was not asleep, but rather sitting up with her back against the headboard.  Although the room was mostly in darkness, enough light peeked through the bedroom window from the lamp-post outside so that he was able to make out the expression on his pregnant wife’s face.  What he saw left no doubt in his mind.

 

It was time.

 

With hardly a word said between them, Charlie began to dress Neil as rapidly as he could without waking him.  Although Neil fought bedtime with stubbornness that sometime drove both Charlie and Anne to despair, once he was gone he was gone.  Thank god for that.  Anne’s “overnight” case for the hospital was already packed and ready to go.  As Charlie dealt with the baby, Anne slowly got up from the bed and began to dress herself.  She hadn’t mentioned it to Charlie, but the contractions had actually begun in the mid afternoon.  Since they were sporadic and spaced widely apart, she hadn’t been sure it was the real thing, and it was right in character with her stoicism that she didn’t bother to say anything.  But now that her water had broken and the contractions were beginning for real, there was no doubt about the imminent arrival of number two.

 

Charlie sat with Neil in his lap, the baby fully dressed and ready to go.  Heavy woolen pants, sweater and jacket, all hand me downs from one of his sister Rose’s boys.  The tiny watch cap, scarf and mittens that Anne had knitted and the cheap rubber boots they had picked up in the second hand shop.  He watched Anne as she was in the final stages of putting on her winter clothes, and he urged her to put on a second sweater as he could see what the wind was doing outside.  He couldn’t help thinking again, for the millionth time since they were married how lucky he was.  Anne was a real beauty.  He thought of the way she looked when he first met her eight years ago.  With her hazel green eyes, her radiant skin, and her flapper hair-do she could have passed for Mary Pickford.  According to her brother Max she had had tons of “suitors,” and Charlie still couldn’t really understand why she had picked him.

 

They really didn’t know one another when they ran off to Maryland that New Year’s Eve of ‘33.  Charlie was so smitten that he would have driven to the moon and back if that was what it would have taken to make her his wife.  Anne was impressed with Charlie, he was the first one bright and serious enough for her to even consider marriage, and marriage for Anne was her Underground Railroad to freedom.  She could tell he was a good man, an honest and kind man.  He was Jewish but she didn’t care, and that was something for a Ukrainian girl.  She might not yet have been in love, but when he proposed, she didn’t hesitate.  She knew her father would be furious, but she never imagined it would take a full five years before his stubbornness would wear down and break the wall of silence he had built between them (William Korabiak and Charlie would eventually become great friends, and Charlie loves to tell how Bill once told him, “Charlie, you a good man, I like you; only thing, you is poor.”  Neil and Roger as children never experienced either a hint of their grandfather’s anti-Semitism or any antipathy toward their father.  Nor had they a clue about the tyrannical character of his younger days.  To them “Pop” was always a sweet white haired affectionate grandpa; and, when as adults they heard the stories about his tyranny, intolerance and philandering from their parents and aunts and uncles, it couldn’t have come as more of a surprise).

 

With the overnight case safely placed on the back seat of the car, Charlie went back to the flat to fetch his wife and child.  With Neil in one arm, he used the other to guide Anne gently down the steps from their second floor flat, out the front door and onto the front porch, which by now was almost completely covered with snow.  He was treating her as if she were a breakable antique which prompted her to say, “It’s O.K., Charlie, I’m all right, I won’t fall, just get me into the Packard and for god’s sake drive carefully.”

 

It was just before one in the morning when they got to Molly’s.  Molly and Morris were first cousins so Molly’s maiden name and married name were one in the same (if she had been Latin American where they use both parents’  surnames, she would have been called Molly Hollander Hollander).  The sad thing was that their daughter, Lorna, was born deaf, and in those days schools for the deaf did not teach American Sign Language, so that Lorna’s ability to communicate was always limited.  Morris and Molly, groggy eyed from sleep, took a minute to come alive.  Mollie fussed over Neil while Morris attempted to get Dr. Hautman on the phone.  Anne was starting to have stronger and closer contractions, and Charlie was beginning to worry that they might not get to the hospital on time. Morris finally got through to the doctor, who asked a few questions then said he would be on his way to the Presbyterian Hospital.  He was a lot closer than they were, so he would be sure to be there when they arrived.  He told Morris to tell Charlie that there was plenty of time, that he shouldn’t tarry, but that there was no need to rush.  Charlie didn’t need to be reminded that driving conditions were getting worse by the minute.  Morris volunteered to accompany them to the hospital, but Charlie said no, someone has to be rested to take care of the store tomorrow, that Morris should get some sleep.  He would call from the hospital as soon as there is news.

 

It would normally have been about a fifteen-minute drive from Molly’s house in the nearby suburb of Irvington to Newark Presbyterian.  In this weather it was going to be a half hour or more.  Anne sat in the front seat next to Charlie, endured the contractions with her characteristic stoicism, and on the whole was calmer than Charlie, who couldn’t refrain from asking her how she was doing every thirty seconds.  “Don’t worry, stop talking, and keep your eyes on the damn road.”

 

It was close to two a.m. when they entered the emergency, were interviewed by the receptionist, filled out forms, etcetera.  It was close to two thirty when Anne was finally admitted.  Charlie was nodding off as they waited in the reception area, and when they came for Anne, she was halfway down the long hallway before he realized they were taking her up to the maternity ward.  He had to run to catch up and barely got to where she was sitting in a wheel chair before the elevator arrived.  This was the last he would see of her until after the delivery.  He gave her a peck on the cheek, told her to be brave, and had a forlorn look on his face as the elevator door opened and the nurse pushed his about to deliver wife into it.  As the door shut in his face, Charlie felt moisture running down his cheek. 

 

He stood immobilized for a minute, then he wiped his face with his handkerchief and then went back to the emergency reception area to ask how he could find Dr. Hautman.  He was told to wait, and in a matter of a few minutes the doctor appeared with a smile on his face.  “Hi, Charlie, didn’t I see you here just two years ago?”

 

“It seems like yesterday,” Charlie answered, “She just went up, I guess we’ve both got a long night ahead of us.”

 

Hautman nodded, and they discussed the routine.  He promised Charlie he would periodically brief him on how things were going, but that if he could find a way to make himself comfortable on one of the hard waiting room chairs, he should try to get some sleep.

 

“You still putting your money on a girl?” Charlie asked as the doctor started away toward the elevator.

 

“Do we need another putz in this world?” he quipped as he strode away without looking back.

 

Charlie dozed on and off through the night, waking with a start whenever the doctor or a nurse nudged him to give him the news that the delivery was proceeding as it should.  “What about her cold?” he asked Dr. Hautman, who had come into the waiting room at just after seven o’clock to inform Charlie that Anne was ready and going into the delivery room. 

 

“It’s not a problem,” the doctor answered, “the delivery is going smoothly, and her general health is excellent.  She is a strong woman, don’t worry.  It’s going to be just fine; I’ll see you in less than a half hour.”

 

That half hour lasted longer than all the previous half hours put together. Did Charlie pace?  Is the Rabbi kosher?

 

At last Dr. Hautman strode into the waiting room with a broad grin written across his face.  He spoke before Charlie had a chance to say anything.  “You are a father again, my friend.  Everything went perfectly.  Anne and the baby are fine.  A real scrapper, over eight pounds.”

 

“And?” said Charlie.

 

“And what?” A pause.

 

“Oh, yeah,” said the doctor, almost as an afterthought and with a wry smile, “cannon fodder.”

 

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