Year: 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Police and their Uniforms

Police Uniforms

There has been a lot of news about abusive police in the past few years:

• the tasering death of a confused, tired, big man by RCMP officers in Vancouver
• the shooting death of a lone, knife armed, high young man isolated on a streetcar in Toronto
• the mishandling of various intoxicated (and probably lippy) people being processed at local lockups.

What is going on? Has there been a subtle change in policing?

Over a decent length of time, I’ve known a number of police officers from the three levels of forces in Canada. They are decent normal people whom I call friends. If there has been a change. Why?

This is a personal observation, but I believe it may have some truth. Television shapes our perception of things in subtle ways beyond what manifests on the surface. One of the most popular TV genres is the Police drama. They have changed over time. We used to see officers in their white shirt, dark pant “police hat” uniform performing their duties. Yes they were armed, but they were portrayed as our friend and protector. Detectives were dressed in sports jackets, shirts and ties. They looked like people there to both protect and defend.

Now the TV officer is portrayed in one colour, dark, cargo pocketed, flack jacketed uniforms with ball caps. Detectives often are shown very much dressed down also in protective vests and baseball caps. Somehow this does not engender the feeling of friendly respect that the older uniform created. Remember when the black hat was the villain and the white hat the hero? The dark uniform is very much closer to the former look of the “bad guy”.

TV shows of police now almost always involve a forced entry, guns drawn, noisy scene where the bad guy is deservedly trussed up and taken in. None of my police friends have ever said this is normal. Their jobs are most often quite routine. They hope never to have to use their weapons.

But is that ethic changing? How many “combat” dressed officers whose initial look at policing came from TV think that maybe they should get some of the “action” they’ve seen but haven’t yet experienced?

I had a conversation with a very good friend who, during the wind up of a local sporting event, actually crossed the street so as not to have to walk by a small group of police officers who were together in front of a nearby business. Their presence, although they were chatting and laughing, was imposing and somewhat frightening.

I understand the need for officers to be comfortable and protected when performing their duties. Surely; however, the uniform designers can create a functional, safe look that says respect rather than one that, as now, says aggression. Maybe then the look and the actions could meld and we’d again have that mutual respect.

The Plaidneck

The demise of Canadian Parliamentary Democracy

There quite a few definitions of democracy. One I’ve personally liked is:

“Democracy is equality before the law. For there to be democracy, there has to be strong law before which we can be equal.” Can’t remember the author, but it was printed in a magazine directed at Canadian municipal representatives called “Municipal World”.

A couple of on line dictionaries gave the following definitions.

“Democracy is government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.”

Government by popular representation; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but is indirectly exercised through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed.”
In Canada, we are supposed to have a representative parliamentary democracy.

We elect our local representatives who in turn from among their members select our head of government (Prime Minister). Our executive (the various ministers) are then selected again from the elected representatives hopefully by the group itself, but more likely by the chosen Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, Media, Party discipline and the fact of living beside a powerful nation whose head of government is chosen directly by the electorate, out Parliamentary system has been corrupted.

The media, because of short staffing, heavily advertised national programming and again influence from south of our border concentrate heavily (almost solely) on the leaders of our national parties (who are just groups of potential/hopeful representatives).

Ask most voters who they are voting for and they’ll answer the leader’s name. Only about 200,000 people get to vote for one of the party leaders. The rest of us vote for a local representative. Our southern neighbours vote for a leader, we don’t.

Party discipline adds to the perception that there is only the leader. Our parliament used to allow people to vote their conscience now and then.  A few representatives from most parties would/could vote differently from the party line.  These votes would often be cancelled out by counterparts in the other parties.  Things worked.  However about 50 years ago (actually during a free vote where conscience voting was allowed) the party in power demanded voting on the party line.  They expelled the one member who chose to believe the “free” part of that decision. The other large party had fringe members vote contrary to their official position while the smaller one issue groups were more unified.

From then on, party whips tightened their grip on members.  Vote the party line or be ejected. When discipline is the law within the party, members have less say and the Leader tightens the control exerted on the party.

As the leader  becomes the BOSS (rather than a leader) there is a concentration of power. To exercise that power, staff is hired to advise, counsel, disseminate and enforce. The Prime Minister’s Office which was minimal during the above debate began to grow. From a secretary and a few aids, it now numbers about 120 and has become the power behind the Prime Minister (replacing those representatives we elected to be our government).

Party discipline, a media that in effect promotes leaders (rather than representatives), a Prime Minister who believes (s)he is directly elected all supported by a non elected staff loyal only to the PM has eroded our democracy.

The Plaidneck

Canada’s Gaelic Heritage

Ciamar a tha thu? (Kimmer a ha oo?) How are you (informal)

Most of the information in this bit is pretty well a lift from Wikipeda’s “Canadian Gaelic”.

Prior to finding this summary article, I had done a reasonable amount of other reading on Highlander settlement in Canada. Wikipedia’s words summarize what I’ve learned better than I could. The numbers in [ ] are theirs.

Early Settlement.
In 1773 a ship named “The Hector” landed in Pictou, Nova Scotia, with 169 settlers mostly originating from the Isle of Skye.[10]

In 1784 the last barrier to Scottish settlement – a law restricting land-ownership on Cape Breton Island – was repealed, and soon both PEI and Nova Scotia were predominantly Gaelic-speaking.[11]

It is estimated more than 50,000 Gaelic settlers immigrated to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island between 1815 and 1870.[2]

With the end of the American War of Independence, immigrants newly arrived from Scotland would soon be joined by Loyalist emigrants escaping persecution from American Partisans. Many of these were of Gaelic speaking highland stock.

These settlers arrived on a mass scale at the arable lands of British North America, with large numbers settling in Glengarry County in present-day Ontario, and in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.[2]

In 1812, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk obtained 300,000 square kilometres (120,000 sq mi) to build a colony at the forks of the Red River. With the help of his employee and friend, Archibald McDonald, Selkirk sent over 70 Scottish settlers, many of whom spoke only Gaelic, and had them establish a small farming colony there.

Status in Nineteenth Century.
By 1850, Gaelic was the third most-common mother tongue in British North America after English and French,

In PEI, Cape Breton and Glengarry there were large areas of Gaelic monolingualism,[11] and communities of Gaelic-speakers had established themselves in northeastern Nova Scotia (around Pictou and Antigonish); in Glengarry, Stormont, Grey, and Bruce Counties in Ontario; in the Codroy Valley of Newfoundland; in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Eastern Quebec.[2]

At the time of Confederation in 1867 the most common mother tongue among the Fathers of Confederation was Gaelic.[14]

In 1890, Thomas Robert McInnes, an independent Senator tabled a bill entitled “An Act to Provide for the Use of Gaelic in Official Proceedings.”[11]. The bill was defeated 42–7.[2]

There was widespread disregard by government on Gaelic issues,

Reasons for decline
Despite the long history of Gaels and their language and culture in Canada, the Gaelic speaking population started to decline after 1850. This drop was a result of prejudice (both from outside, and from within the Gaelic community itself), aggressive dissuasion in school and government, and the perceived prestige of English.

Gaelic has faced widespread prejudice in Great Britain for generations, and those feelings were easily transposed to British North America.[15]

That Gaelic had not received official status in its homeland made it easier for Canadian legislators to disregard the concerns of domestic speakers. Legislators questioned why “privileges should be asked for Highland Scotchmen in [the Canadian Parliament] that are not asked for in their own country?”.[11]

Politicians who themselves spoke the language held opinions that would today be considered misinformed; Lunenburg Senator Henry A. N. Kaulbach, in response to Thomas Robert McInnes’s Gaelic bill, described the language as only “well suited to poetry and fairy tales.”[11] The belief that certain languages had inherent strengths and weaknesses was typical in the 19th century, but has been rejected by modern linguistics.

With the outbreak of World War II the Canadian government attempted to prevent the use of Gaelic on public telecommunications systems. The government believed Gaelic was used by subversives affiliated with Ireland, a neutral country perceived to be tolerant of the Nazis.[2] In Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton where the Gaelic language was strongest, it was actively discouraged in schools with corporal punishment. Children were beaten with the maide-crochaidh (en: hanging stick) if caught speaking Gaelic.[11]

Alec “from the sixth” McDonald (a dairy farmer) spoke only Gaelic at home. He learned English because Gaelic was forbidden when he attended school. He the last “fluent” Gaelic-speaker in Ontario, descended from the original settlers of Glengarry County, died in 2001.[21]

A couple of years ago, I wrote CBC suggesting a Gaelic/Celtic themed channel on their web radio. I actually got an answer saying basically that it wasn’t going to happen. They have classical rock, jazz, hip hop, world, country but no Celtic. Seems to be a continuation of the purposeful degradation of the Gaelic culture

Living here in Glengarry and being partway into the culture is somewhat diminished by the loss of its language. And it seems very few care.

The Plaidneck


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