what price honour?

A few weeks ago, there was a bizarre news item telling of the drowning deaths of 4 women, three sisters and their aunt, who were found in their car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal, near Kingston Ontario. It seemed especially odd since there were no signs of how they could have gotten there, past various barriers, without leaving so much as a skid mark.

Today, the papers are full of the arrest of the girls' parents & brother, supposedly while attempting to leave the country:




While the reports vary a little, it appears that the "aunt" was in fact the father's first wife, unable to have children & so supplanted by the second wife.

This is the kind of incident that makes many average Canadian citizens scratch their heads over immigration policies that foster a very broad interpretation of multiculturalism, in that this enables extremist views that would have been well left in the country of origin when emigrating to a country with clearly different mores & standards. Some of our own more extreme elements would have immigrants attest that they will abide by Canadian laws & social customs when living here, & given the above I'm sure there will be more calls for such. Tolerance can, after all, only go so far.

We don't tolerate polygamy, purdah, so-called honour killing or suttee. What makes some people think that they can bring such traditions here, or worse yet, start cults that do such things? This is not exclusive to Islamic extremists, although this particular case is illustrative of the reasons why sharia law will never be adopted here and there is so much resentment about the attempts to do so.

Canadians would, on the whole, are pleased to embrace most multicultural novelties. Food, literature, art, music, philosophy, & certain aspects of dress come to mind as crossing cultural borders. However, when it comes to systematic marginalization of women by extremist groups, whatever their origin, we draw the line. We tolerate headscarves, but not burqas. One may be a fashion statement, the other is clearly not. Adult women have a right to self-determination & independence. Children have a right not to be molested or otherwise abused by their families or others in the community. These are the compromises that OUR culture demands of immigrants. These are the things that should be left at the border of the country of origin.

Sadly, these 3 girls and their aunt/step-mother will never have the opportunity to benefit from Canadian culture, because the culture of their parents' homeland was applied to abrogate their rights.

As for the supposed honour, does the classification of one of the girls as "willful & rebellious" in any way justify her death? Not here. We have no room for such distorted conceptions of honour.


health care insurers obviously desperate

For those who have been following the machinations of the USAmerican health care "industry" to stave off public health care reforms, and who may have heard some horror stories about how poorly served Canadians are by our public health care system, you might be interested in reading this article, with associated links & comments:


I'm sure some of you have seen this (conservative funded) spot, which forecasts dire consequences if the USA were to introduce "Canadian style" publicly administered health care. The woman in this story claims to have solid evidence of how horrible our system is, & how much better the current USAmerican system is.

While I'll be the first to agree that our system isn't perfect, at least we don't have a bunch of corporate bottom line feeders running (ruining?) our health care system. Although we need to keep a close eye on our current neoCon federal administration, so that we won't have them in future. Most of us are hoping that the arguments against public health care (which I remember from when I was growing up) have been concluded, in favour of the public, and health care. That element of our social safety net is still in place. True, improvements could be made. That's true of any system, isn't it?

There is some 2-tier medicine here already. For example, dentistry, unless it requires hospitalization, is a private-care system. Some of us are fortunate to have access to inexpensive dental insurance (note here that the dental plan insurers sure act a lot like HMOs when it comes to in-office dental surgery, giving us due warning of what that system would be like if implemented for medical as well).

Most of us carry supplementary medical insurance, but that's to give us a higher level of hospitalization (semi-private or private room) plus cover about 80% of our prescription costs & appliances such as glasses & hearing aids. And since we have a lot of generic pharmaceuticals (most made by the original pharma group but packaged by the generics, so of equivalent quality) we aren't being gouged for drug costs either. I'd like to point out here that supplementary medical plans neither cost a fortune nor are based on denial of service without a lengthy fight. The term "pre-existing condition" is essentially unknown here. We find it ludicrous that the very fact of becoming sick may lead to you being denied reimbursement by your insurer, and can't comprehend why there hasn't been an effective grass-roots rebellion in the USA against such corporate thievery.

I'm personally irked by some of the restrictions on legitimate therapies under our system, like the classification of joint replacement as an "elective" procedure (obviously the plan's administrators have never suffered extreme joint pain), but the fact is that the surgery wait times are usually not extreme for non-life-threatening illnesses. However, I'm quite willing to believe that there are others in greater need than myself. We do need more & better hospital facilities. But at least we're all triaged under the same system when it comes to hospital care.

The woman in the story is by no means unique. Just as in the USA, those who have or can find the money to get their treament faster may choose to do so, but generally speaking they do so off-shore, because Canada's sytem isn't governed so much by the almighty dollar as it is by need. True, mistakes do happen, and lives are lost unnecessarily. However, not as frequently as in a system where so many are denied even basic care because of inability to pay.

Perhaps we don't have all the latest & greatest bells & whistles when it comes to surgeries or therapies, either. However, you're unlikely to undergo either an experimental or inappropriate treatment here just because you can pay for it. Can the same be said in the USA?

If the USAmerican HMO system is so great, why do we pay more than twice as much for travel medical insurance when visiting the USA than when I go anywhere else in the world? And why does nobody I know feel comfortable going across the Canada-USA border for as much as 5 minutes without such insurance?

I'm sure nobody would be surprised to learn that the woman in the story was handsomely reimbursed by her interviewers...say, to the tune of USD 100K? Plus a bit for her trouble, of course, & to salve her conscience, if she has one.


one good book leads to another

(update of an earlier post)

The queue of books by my bed is getting bigger again. It's not quite the leaning tower of death I had a few years ago, and I've got most of them on a chair that's far enough away from my pillow not to crush my head if they fall, but between the books I've bought over the past few months and the ones I keep getting out of the library it comes to quite a stack.

I have this distressing habit of not being able to pass a bookstore without going in and almost always end up buying something. You could call me a bookaholic, & I have no intention of entering rehab, either. If this is a vice, it hurts nothing but my bank account.

Another part of the problem is my habit of surfing our library's web catalogue, where we can order as many books on reserve as we like, and have them delivered to our local branch. It's a wonderful system, but it can get out of hand. My tendency is to search out every book on a topic I get interested in, and either order it or put it on a wish list for later. I keep thinking I'll run out of "enthusiasms", but there always seems to be a new one around the corner.

Right now, I've got several topics on the go, including travel guides to Jamaica & New Zealand, consulting handbooks, archaeology & anthropology tomes, some mystery series whose authors I came across recently (Alan Gordon's Fools Guild series is one, Stieg Larsson's Millennium a second, Yrsa Sigurdarsdottir's & Arnaldur Indridasson's Icelandic-set mysteries yet others), and songbooks from the 60's and 70's.

It's not too hard to understand this grouping. I've recently retired, thus the consulting handbooks since I'm starting up a small consulting business. We'll be travelling to both places for pleasure & to keep in touch with former colleagues, and also to escape some of our usual abysmal winter weather. New Zealand has become our favourite winter getaway. A bit distant, but a wonderful place to go. I'll have to post some of my pictures from previous trips one of these days.

I've always been interested in the distant past, and there have been some excellent texts and syntheses published in the field lately, which I've been devouring as fast as our library can get them in. Added to which we have recently participated in the Genographic Project, adding our bits of DNA to the effort to establish ancient patterns of human dispersion around the globe, something I only learned about via a library book!

The songbooks are to get more material to work on with my voice coach (I take singing lessons for fun), and the novels are pure relaxation. OK, I also have aspirations to write mystery fiction, so it's good to keep up to date in the genre. I also like to alternate fiction and non-fiction, more or less, so that I have something to learn & something to read before I turn out the light.

Our local public library system is fabulous -- I can't speak highly enough of them. We have access to books from across our entire region, both urban & rural libraries participate. They have DVDs and music CDs as well. We are very well served.

However, I still have that queue waiting for me to make my way through it. I'm sure I will, eventually. Given that it's a rainy summer, I'm making steady progress.

I wouldn't mind getting more book recommendations, though. One good book leads to another.


is it just me?

OK, I'm as sad as the next person when someone dies. Especially someone I know personally, but also when I hear of someone noteworthy for their achievements in life. And there's nothing like a good wake to celebrate their passing. Just last weekend I was at yet another memorial for a friend.

What I just don't get is the insatiable thirst for a final piece of the action around celebrity funerals. Are these people not hounded enough during their lives? Death should have an intrinsic dignity, but these days it just seems to unleash the rumour mill to an even greater frenzy.

Frankly, it looks to me more like vultures gathering around the corpse than sincere sorrow. And what's the point of exposing children as participants in public spectacles of grief? It reminded me so much of the public response to Princess Diana's death. Not in a good way.

Obviously I'm referring to today's lamentable media circus around the remains of Michael Jackson. I suppose you could see it as a giant wake, generously shared with his innumerable fans.

All I see is a lot of crocodile tears.

So, am I the only one?