My Mother’s First Husband Went Missing In WW2. He is Found.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog for Remembrance Day about my mother’s first marriage during World War 2.

My Mother’s War Time Love Story

Robert Durham and Mary Oxenford married on January 23, 1943 in Abington Pigotts, near Cambridge England. Just over four months later, Bob was transferred to squadron 12.  On June 12, Bob’s plane took off from the base. It was shot down over Northern Holland. Bob and the crew were reported missing.

My mother insisted that Bob came to her in a dream. He stood before her and said, “Don’t worry Mary, I’m all right.”  That was when she knew he was dead. All the crew except one died and Bob was one of the dead, his body lost in the North Sea. Bob was given a Distinguished Flying Medal, posthumously.

Shortly after my husband died in May of 2021, I received an email from Martin Visser of the Netherlands. He had read my blog and asked me if I had any more information about Robert Durham, such as a picture of the crew in front of the plane they flew. My older daughter said I shouldn’t answer back as it was probably a money scam.

My husband loved genealogy and I knew he would have been like a dog with a bone, looking for a picture and more info about Bob Durham. I answered the email.

Martin Visser told me that Bob Durham’s body had washed ashore on the coast of Holland along with parts of the plane, near a town called Egmond aan Zee and was buried in the local cemetery at Bergen. A local man, Cor Van Pel who was recommended for the job by the Germans kept a list of all the dead airmen and the Dutch residents took the bodies away to to bury.

Bob was buried under a gravestone marked for an unknown soldier. Although he was found wearing his life vest which had his name, the government of the Netherlands is very strict about putting a name on a war grave. Sometimes airmen traded life jackets so it may not have been Bob. There was also the problem that the insignia on the life jacket was not the same as Bob’s rank in the wedding picture.

Martin Visser is part of a group of Dutch men who voluntarily track down the relatives of airmen and soldiers who died in World War 2 in order to find the proof to identify them and give their grave a name. They still search 77 years after the war ended. Incredible.

I could not find a picture of Bob Durham and his plane, but I did contact the British War office and was able to get Bob’s records even though I am not biologically related. The archivist was very happy to help in following up for a missing airman. The records showed that the insignia on Bob’s life vest was correct. He had been promoted after the wedding. My cousin, through an internet search, has since found a picture of the squadron in front of a plane. Unfortunately Bob wasn’t in it although he was listed as a member. It might be enough. Unfortunately, the British government represented by the Common War Graves Comity does not allow DNA research on soldiers from World War 2.

In early September of this year, I took a river cruise along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. I arranged to visit Bob Durham’s grave. I took with me a bouquet of flowers purchased in a local Amsterdam supermarket. I was met at the nearby train station by Martin Visser and two of the other researchers. As well as hunting for proof of identity of fallen soldiers, they also run a small museum located in a German bunker, look after the local lighthouse and rescue those in trouble at sea. All voluntary.

They drove me to the cemetery and I, feeling very moved, placed the flowers in a vase on Bob Durham’s grave. I gave a prayer and thought about how happy my Mother would have been if she was still alive, to know that Bob had been found.

For more that 77 years after the second world war, the Dutch go above and beyond to honour war dead who died fighting to free the Netherlands and defeat the Nazis. Not only do they still hope to name the dead, they are also hoping to create a memorial with the names of the unkown at the beach in Egmond aan Zee.

Each school child has a grave that they personally look after. On Christmas Eve, the local people come to the Bergen cemetery and light a candle at each grave of the war dead. I am hoping Martin will send me some pictures this Christmas. Bob Durham is not only no longer missing, his grave is loved and cared for.

Lest We Forget.

Martin Visser and Frank Meijer
Bergen war cemetery.

Banning Books, Banning Controversial Topics, Shutting up your Enemies is not Freedom of Expression.

Trans flag

Why am I suddenly wading into the contentious dispute between Mike Ramsay and the other WRDSB trustees by bringing up the credit card scandal from when I was a trustee over 20 years ago? I am presently retired from a long career as a Regional Councillor. It is this statement that I found on the twitter feeds of WRDSB trustees Cindy Watson and Mike Ramsay.

Trans kids” aren’t a thing. “Gender” confused kids are. And if a kid is confused about their gender, it’s because the adults in their life made them confused. Your son isn’t a girl because he likes dolls and dresses. Your daughter isn’t a boy because she wants short hair.

For the past year, my child has been on a gender journey. He is now no longer Bronwyn Elizabeth but Brian John. He says he hid his gender for 20 years, through marriage, separation and two lovely children. Why? Because he feared violence and shunning. My other daughter and myself support him in his journey. It is not easy for me, particularly the change in pronouns, though I find he/him easier then they/them. I am still struggling to call my past daughter my son.

To help myself, I attended a meeting of PFLAG — Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays. Every single person at the meeting was a Mom grappling with the transgender change of their child. The transchildren ranged in age from 14 to 21. My daughter is 37. Not one of the Moms encouraged their child to become trans. Their child, like mine, came out to them. They were at PFLAG to learn how to support their child.

As for my grandchildren (9 and 11), they understand that Mommy is still Mommy but pronouns have changed. I was pleased to read the EFTO document on gender identity that encourages teachers to learn about and embrace diversity. I want to know that when my grandchildren go to their kind teachers, they will be helped and their school mates will be encouraged to understand diversity and not bully. Bullying is one of my granddaughter’s greatest fears.

I have concerns though. The delegation who came before the WRDSB wanted library books about transgender banned. I watched the delegation speak and disagree with cutting her off because after a long political career, I knew it would lead to her being a martyr. It was a tough call by the chair.

I also knew that censoring Trustee Ramsay would only make him a martyr as well. Unfortunately, like any personnel issue, the reasons and actions of the board had to be discussed in camera. I have found in my own career that this leaves the trustees or councillors bringing the action at a disadvantage because they can’t talk about it. Trustee Ramsay, as an experienced politician, also knows that suing the other trustees also stops them speaking because the board’s lawyer and their own lawyer would have advised not speaking when there is a live case as the words can beheld against them.

I find it interesting how Trustee Ramsay keeps speaking yet says he is denied freedom of expression. He wants to ban teachers from talking about anti- black racism. This despite the fact that he said the other trustees were racist in their actions because he is black. Trustee Watson and he want teachers and librarians to be banned from providing help and information about transgendered people. How is this giving everyone freedom of expression?

I congratulate the EFTO for spearheading an understanding of diversity. It leads to the prevention of bullying. Bullying prevention is hard. Acceptance of those who are different is hard. But there is nothing harder for a child trying to learn than worrying if they could be bullied or shunned.

Here is one of the articles about the credit card scandal. I was quoted in some others

I was quoted in a similar article

Goodbye Mary Ann

September 11, 1960 to April 19, 2023.

Yesterday my best friend Mary Ann died of cancer. She had a remission a few years ago, then in the fall, on her last test to see if it had returned, another more lethal form of leukemia appeared. It would not go into remission and she died at 63.

I met Mary Ann when I was a trustee on the Waterloo Region District School Board in the 1990s and we became fast friends. If you are reading this and you say to yourself, “But I was Mary Ann’s best friend!”, you are right. She had several best friends, was close to her three sisters and had many regular friends and acquaintances. A wise, listening ear, she should have been a social worker or counsellor. She was a fantastic school board trustee, one of the best.

For her obituary, I give you her own words.


I was here

I had a very ordinary life that, on reflection, feels extraordinary

I was born a Scottish girl and I worked hard to become a Canadian (Go Leafs go)

I had young parents who moved continents to better their girls lives

I was here and I was a daughter and a sister. I was blessed to move from sister to best friends. My story only works with Elizabeth, Maggie & Jacquie. They enriched my life and gave me 2 more brothers and amazing nieces and nephews

I was here and I had true love. There were bets at our wedding that we wouldn’t last 5 years…those people hadn’t seen Dave in white painter pants. Getting a big brother and a sister out of the deal was a nice bonus, as was another brother and 3 awesome nieces and a nephew

I was here, and I was a friend

If you were my friend, it likely happened the day we met and lasted forever. If we don’t talk in ages, we pick up like it’s been a minute

I was here, and I was a mother

There aren’t words for that gift. Every minute with my boys has been life altering. My love for Dave was strengthened by watching him as a father. Seeing him in our boys has been wondrous. I am always going to be here in them

How blessed am I that I get weeks or months to say goodbye… I fought as hard as I could to stay but leukemia got through two different chemo protocols. That means I’m palliative…and that means the time I have left will be a gift every day. I’ve been able to laugh with my boys, plan my non funeral, teach Dave how to use the banking app. People are drowning me in baby and cat videos (THANK YOU). I’ve been able to cancel apps and try to off load Royal Doultons (no takers)

I’m very much at peace

I have the easy part and hopefully everyone will help Dave and the boys through the sad part


The Answer isn’t Only More Homes for the Homeless.

Edited the blog due to people who think I am saying we don’t need more housing. I worked for many years as a Regional Councillor on increasing housing.

Meth and fentanyl are relatively new and highly addictive synthetic drugs. Easy to make and easy to take. While we were only concerned about the pandemic, the epidemic predicted by Michael Parkinson (presently running for Regional Councillor) of the late Waterloo Region Crime Prevention has raged out of control. Last night at the House of Friendship dinner, John Neufeld showed the audience project after project, both House of Friendship, Regional and Non-profits like the Working Centre being built in Waterloo Region. He asked how many in the huge audience knew about these projects. Very few raised their hands. All we know is the tent cities in Victoria Park and at Weber and Victoria. These tent cities are a direct result of the fentanyl and meth addiction crisis.

Edit: I am not saying all homelessness is caused by addiction. My 37 year old child has lived with me for the last year in my small bungalow after his marriage broke up. The grandkids live here half time. I am well aware of the housing situation.

How do we solve this crisis? Certainly police involvement in tracking down the dealers and cartels that manufacture and distribute these drugs is key. It is hard as the drugs are made from common ingredients. Not so easy is looking at the upstream causes of this crisis.

Edit: Government policies that do not fund counselling, mental health services, addiction services and support for the homeless. Do not fund enough supportive housing are also a problem.

Joe Roberts, the Skid Row CEO was the guest speaker at the dinner. Addicted and homeless for 15 years on on the streets of Vancouver, in desperation he finally accepted help from an organization like House of Friendship. He was able to overcome his demons and become successful in business. Now he dedicates his life to the eradication of homelessness.

What struck me about Joe’s story were the events of his early life. For the first 9 years, he had a loving father and a mother who was able to stay at home. Then one night his father died. His mother had no job and no way to care for her three children. She remarried quickly to a man who turned out to be abusive and belittling to Joe. At fifteen, Joe found drugs that numbed his fear, anxiety and sense of inadequacy. The downward spiral began.

How can we help kids not get involved with drugs? Edit: How do we increase supports for women and children fleeing abusive situations or in need of daycare and job training.

Today we have organizations like Anselma House where women can flee from abusive relationships. The complication of our society means they sometimes return to their abuser. Also, organizations like Anselma are always fundraising and working to have enough spaces for the abused to be safe. Second stage housing, job training and counselling are key yet chronically underfunded.

In the City of Waterloo, particularly, there are only two community centres, Sunnydale and Erb St. run by House of Friendship and Carizon. My church, All Saints, is building a nonreligious community centre for Lakeshore North. Unlike the cities of Kitchener and Cambridge, Waterloo does not have community centres. These are places where kids like Joe can go to feel safe while they do homework or participate in various programs. Trained staff can help them through what is happening in their lives.

Finally, I would like to speak about a fantastic organization called Adventure for Change. Run on a shoe string, this organization helps kids and families, many refugees from the trauma of war, with various programs. It is presently housed for free on a floor of the Parkside Plaza in Waterloo. However the generousity of the plaza owners ends in a month or two. Adventure for Change will then have to pay $300,000 a year for accommodation. Like most upstream organizations, they exist on fundraising and donations. If they close their doors, the drug dealers will be rubbing their hands together.

The housing crisis isn’t about not enough homes for the homeless, it is about the lack of support, both government and private, for organizations that are working at the difficult task of raising and supporting kids, women, and families in crisis. Edit: I am not saying that even with many projects, we do not need more affordable housing. We need it. We must do better.

No Country for Only White Men: The Dewdney Murals

Controversial Dewdney mural. It talks about Joseph Brant
selling Six Nations land to settlers.

My friend and retired counsellor, Jean Haalboom phoned me up to tell me that the Dewdney murals had been removed from the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. I was stunned. Then not surprised. The Dewdneys were originally commissioned by a local bank then eventually made their way to the region. There are also some Dewdneys depicting 1950s life that I assume are in storage at the Ken Seiling Museum.

Who gets to tell the story Article from the KW Record

The article from the Record concentrates on the role of indigenous people in the first Dewdney painting but there is another glaring absence from the later murals. Women. Despite the fact that many women worked in industry at the time, including my mother, the last mural depicting the forward movement of prosperity does not contain a single women. The mural depicting the 1900s only has a woman as a passenger in a car. There are no depictions of the huge arrival of immigrants from around the world during the 1950s, only the arrival of the Mennonites earlier. Some women with a baby were in that mural, behind the men.

I was part of the art committee that commissioned the more up to date mural with modern scenes of women and racialized citizens working and playing in modern situations. I understand that mural has not been removed, though at the time it was controversial because it showed the variety in our society and “didn’t fit” with the Dewdneys. This mural was to try to correct some of the problems with the Dewdneys, rather than removing the popular works. Yes, they were popular.

When the Region of Waterloo was developing the Ken Seiling, Region of Waterloo Museum, a black woman came as a delegation to council. She was a local teacher and asked that the history of blacks in Waterloo County be included in the museum. A number of councillors scoffed, saying there were no black settlers in Region of Waterloo history, and if there were, they were transient. She held her ground, pointing out there was a settlement in the Queen’s Bush.

Queen’s Bush

As we know now, black history in Waterloo Region is Queen’s Bush and a lot more.

Black History

Eventually, black history was included in the new museum along with a few panels about First Nations.

Good for the Region of Waterloo Museum for mounting the Dewdney exhibit. I hope they will also include an exploration of the exclusion of women and racialized people from the murals.

Despite my surprise at their removal, I agree that the Dewdneys have had their day and do not belong on the walls of the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. It is important though that they not be hidden away or destroyed. They are a part of our history and I commend the museum for mounting an exhibit. Perhaps the National Gallery of Canada could take note.

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council: Death By Politics.

“Once your belief in the power of punishment to solve social problems is shaken, your whole politics will start shifting.” @l_melo_h on twitter.

For a number of years, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has seen the writing on the wall. This past year, they asked to no longer be an arms length organization of the Region of Waterloo.

A number of years ago, Police Chief Matt Torigian held a meeting to talk about this wonderful idea he had discovered out west. It was essentially another Crime Prevention Council. I remember standing up at the meeting and asking about this similarity. Over the years, police travelled to places around the world looking for ideas for crime prevention. They ignored the Crime Prevention Council in their backyard.

On January 26th, Regional Council approved a framework for the Community Safety and Wellbeing plan to much back patting and congratulation of those in the community who have been consulted.

On March 31, 2022, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council will be no more, the staff dismissed. Five years of funds will be given to Community Justice Initiatives as part of their new Justice hub initiative which will include the Crime Prevention Council, although there is no way of knowing what that new council will look like or if the funds will continue at the end of the five years.

According to minutes of the prevention council’s May 8, 2020 meeting Redman told the council the status quo was not an option because of budget constraints and overlapping mandates with Wellbeing Waterloo Region.

Three options were presented by Redman at the time: shut down, reimagine the council’s work and potentially partner with Wellbeing Waterloo Region or leave the regional umbrella and receive two years of regional funding.

The crime prevention council reports directly to the regional chair.

Quote from The Record:

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council was ignored when they pointed out that for 28 years, this community collaborative has been doing the very same work as the Community Safety and Well Being Framework (The WRCPC was once called the Waterloo Region Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council). The Crime Prevention Council was turned down when they applied to do the behind the scenes running of the Wellbeing organization. 18 months ago, the Region of Waterloo terminated the Executive Director and took over WRCPC. The community board no longer had any power.

In 2001, my first year on Regional Council, I ended up as a regional rep on the Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Council. In this conservative community, I was surprised an arms-length community organization that promoted crime prevention though social development was funded by the Region of Waterloo.

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC) was an initiative core funded by the Region of Waterloo since 1994.  Started by the late MP Andrew Telegdi, former Councillor Mark Yantzi, former Regional Chair Ken Seiling and Chief Larry Graville, among others, its work was rooted in a long history of restorative justice and community stewardship in Waterloo Region. Here is a list of accomplishments.

  • First council of its kind in Canada that got to define what crime prevention through social development means, i.e. make the connection to other social issues such as poverty, homelessness, problematic substance use. The creation of root causes. Many other councils followed their model of government community partnership.
  • Instrumental in starting the National Municipal Network on Crime Prevention that put Waterloo Region on the map (visitors from Japan, China, Norway, Mexico, many municipalities from across the country, the UN, and many more visited to get advice from the council and to visit many projects)
  • Pulled significant funds into the Region for projects such as InReach (street gang prevention). A lot of corporations supported campaigns such as Say Hi, Look Deeper, Reach out.
  • Working hard to get Naloxone into the hands of those who needed it.
  • Authoring the first statistical report on the actual numbers of overdose deaths in Waterloo Region.
  • Supporting neighbourhoods through engagement staff and such projects as Safe and Sound .
  • Strong advocating in many areas of justice such as mandatory minimum sentences, safe schools legislation, and the opioid crisis.
  • Supporting many community organizations throughout the years. Many of them were at the start up stage. For example: WAVYE (Waterloo region youth against violence everywhere),  KW Coalition of Muslim women, African Caribbean network, Alliance for Children and Youth (now the Child and Youth Planning Table which remains at the Region).
  • Hosting the Justice dinners that gave voice to many diverse issues
  • Developing the Friend program and Porch Chats that mobilized the grass roots
  • Starting the Upstream campaign, the course on Critical Reflections and the notion of “smart on crime” All of these are now mainstream
  • Assessing annually public perceptions about crime and fear of crime which the municipalities used for planning
  • Developing curriculum at Conestoga college for a degree in Community and Criminal Justice that is unique in the country   
  • Evaluating and researching the impact of COVID on domestic and intimate partner violence
  • Speaking about sex trafficking prevention
  • Researching and reporting for the community on issues of significance such as the gap analysis when it comes to violent offenders, the reintegration challenges for women from GVI
  • Creating policy papers always based on community input such as the Integrated Drugs Strategy, the Breaking the Silence Against Violence Against the LGBTQ Community and Islamophobia,

But along with all these successes came controversy. This is particularly true concerning the opioid crisis. Promotion of Naloxone, a drug that when administered on the spot can stop death from an overdose, was met with foot dragging at other levels of government.

Complaints came to the Region from the province and the feds that the Council was too radical in their stance. Persistence paid off and now the drug and training on administering Naloxone is readily available. Lives have been saved.

I believe police and social services did not understand why an organization funded by the Chair’s office wasn’t under their control and was instead led by a community board. (Something that needs to be addressed as the Community Safety and Wellbeing Framework moves ahead with a lot of members from Region of Waterloo staff on its committees.)

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council formed a community of practice; a place where people came for close to 30 years to make difficult discussions. A place where there was honest dialogue about what was happening in Waterloo Region. An organization that fostered change and got things done.

Praise for the Community Safety and Well Being Framework is lovely, but the proof will be if they actually follow up on the changes recommended for our community. The status quo is hard to move. Good luck to them.

Cancer in the Time of COVID

Yesterday I finally got the courage to delete the pictures on my phone of my husband when he was dying. One where he lay, skin and bones, with his mouth open as if he was dead. Several of the foot that went black. Why on earth would I have such pictures on my phone? Because, COVID.

I first noticed that my husband, John ate very little, didn’t walk the dog very far, and slept a lot in August of 2020. I pointed this out to him and he said it was because at 76, he was getting old. In the family tradition, he said to me, “I’m fine.” To understand how alarming this statement was to me, my mother-in-law on her death bed kept saying, “I’m fine, love. I’m fine.”

I phoned the doctor and due to COVID, she wanted to have a phone visit. Despite having stage two diabetes, we had not physically visited our family doctor since around February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. We would tell her our weight and do our own blood pressure. For many months, we could not even go to the lab for our regular blood tests. I insisted she see him in person.

I took John to the doctor but I was not allowed in with him. The waiting room was closed. So I sat in a chair by the elevator in the eerily quiet Boardwalk medical building. John said the doctor didn’t seem too worried. As the child of parents who died of cancer and the retired director of HopeSpring Cancer Centre, I knew something was wrong. I phoned the doctor and insisted John should have a CT scan. She said fine but because of COVID, he would not be able to get an appointment until January 2021. This was early September 2020.

That evening I visited a friend and by chance, she had another friend visiting her who has gone through many fights with cancer. I burst into tears and told them my fears. The cancer survivor agreed and said I must insist on a CT scan as soon as possible, even if it was in London or Toronto. My friend’s husband suggested the States, but we realized the border was closed, due to COVID.

I knew John would be dead if we waited until January for a CT scan. This was not an idle fear. My neighbour’s daughter-in-law waited until January 2021 for a scan after many visits to her doctor saying “It’s not my diet, something is seriously wrong”. She has stage 4 colon cancer. This mother of two adorable kids and a lovely husband is now struggling with many chemos and surgery for something that should have been caught much earlier.

We managed a CT scan in Cambridge. I was able to go with John to the scan. In a surreal waiting room, a man told us that any vaccine would be dangerous because the government is putting nano technology in it to follow our every move. I asked him if he had a cell phone. He did. I pointed out the government could already follow him if they chose (probably not) through his phone. That went nowhere.

In October, the results of the scan came back. John went for his first visit to the cancer centre. I sat in our car in the Grand River Hospital parking lot and listened over the phone as the oncologist told him he had stage four esophageal cancer and 6 months to a year to live. I heard him crying. I held my phone and cried too.

Over the next few months, he visited the cancer centre for more CT scans, chemo and radiation. I would drop him at the door and he would go in. As he became weaker in early 2021, he would head in with a walker and finally, in a wheel chair. At the end, when he could no longer dress himself, normally I would have gone in as his primary caregiver and helped him. Instead, very kind nurses, volunteers, and PSWs helped him. He was a chatty man and by the end, they would call him by name. At the end of his chemo and radiation, when there was nothing more to be done, the cancer staff called me into the waiting room and he rang the gong (usually reserved for people who are cured or in remission). By that time he was very thin and obviously dying.

In March 2021, my daughter, a PSW who works at a local nursing home, came to help me look after her Dad. At the same time, she separated from her husband and she and my two grandchildren came to live with me. With also a year and a half of nursing school, she was a life saver.

Eventually, we had a masked nurse come once a week to see John at home. We also wore masks but at the end they said John didn’t have to. With all the people coming into the house, we managed to get him double vaxxed. The thought that he could get COVID in his state was horrifying. A PSW eventually came once a week to bath John, to give Bronwyn a break. We had no problem getting a hospital bed and other equipment. He declined quickly.

We were told that he could go to hospice and that we could visit. My daughter had been through months of lockdown with her nursing home residents where relatives could not visit. We did not trust that the hospice would not suddenly go the same way and he would die alone.

Bronwyn and I took care of him at home. It was hard but with my daughter, he had no bed sores or rashes, and someone was always there to see to him. My older daughter would come one or twice a week for a cheerful visit with him. At the end, all of us, including my grandchildren were present when he passed away.

Now my grandson, with mild autism, will hold up his mug and we will say, “Cheers to Pa!” Then he will say, “We saw Pa’s body go by.” (Wrapped in tartan blanket and out of the house to the hearse). I will say, “It was very sad.” Then the two children will talk about happier times with Pa.

The pictures on my phone? His palliative care doctor once said to me over the phone, “What do you think of Doctor So-and-So, his radiologist. Doesn’t he have a nice beard”.

I said, “I have never met him.” I didn’t say, “I have never seen you either.”

All the consultations went through the palliative care nurse who reported on John’s condition. The doctor did talk to me over the phone. I had to send the doctor photos of what John looked like and what was happening with his foot. Because, COVID.

The Ring on My Finger

My ring

After 46 years, almost 47, my wedding ring is no longer on my left ring finger. On Saturday, my husband John died peacefully at home with his family around him. Cancer is a bitch. Not only have I lost a companion and best friend, I am also now a widow.

My mother kept her wedding and engagement rings from the marriage to my father on her left finger until she died. She was widowed twice, once in world war two and once a month before my own wedding. The first set of rings she gave to Bob’s mother as they had only been married a few months. The second set she wore for 27 years after my Dad died of cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

I have decided to move my rings to my right hand ring finger. A google search told me that widows create pendants from their rings, wear them around their neck, move them to another finger, or keep wearing them on their left hand. Occasionally rings are put in the coffin of the spouse. I do not believe in putting jewelry in the ground. My daughter wore my mother-in-law’s ring during her marriage. Her marriage is ending in the usual way these days, by separation.

I did not realize how many times my thumb touched my wedding ring these last few months. Now it goes to touch a ghost and there is the indent of 46 years. I never took my plain wedding ring off, not even in the shower.

The ring on my right hand seems odd, a little tight and heavy. It seems sad. I wonder if I should take it off and have naked fingers like I did in the 1970s when I met my husband.

I will keep it on my right ring finger. Over the years of working, I collected a lot of lovely rings. My engagement and wedding rings will continue to join them.

Due to COVID, John’s obituary and funeral will be a little delayed. There will only be 7 family members at it. I will post his obituary and the livestream of his funereal when the arrangements are final. A reception will be held when the pandemic is over. Thank you for all your condolences.

Hidden First Nation

When my daughter was getting married, her husband’s father flew in from B.C. We had dinner with him and Mark’s step-mother at King’s Buffet. After the dinner, when they had returned to their hotel, I asked Mark and his brother, “Is your father native?” They both looked ashamed. It turned out that their father is one quarter First Nation. Both blond haired and blue eyed like the German side, Mark and Alan had been taught not to talk about that side of the family.

Eventually my grandchildren were born, both blond haired and blue eyed like the English and German parts of the family. My husband is interested in genealogy so my daughter followed up with Mark’s father about his ancestors who were English and First Nation. His wife sent us the papers that showed the children were one sixteenth Chippewa of the Thames, Ontario.

The children’s great-great grandmother married a white man. From 1876 to 1985, a First Nations woman who married a white man lost her status and so did her children, but a First Nations man who married a white woman kept his status as did his children. First Nations status continues to follow the patriarchal line that only men can transmit status. This led to a large group of non-status First Nations, Metis and Inuit. There are also First Nations and Metis that are not recognized as official bands or part of an official band.

We have been told that we shouldn’t say that my grandchildren have First Nation heritage as they are white and they are only one sixteenth. My husband can trace our family back to the gentry that inspired the book Tess of the D’Urbervilles around the same time but we can’t speak about the children’s First Nation heritage.

We carried on, my younger daughter taking a few courses on First Nation history out of interest but being careful not to publicly talk about this part of their heritage. I did slip once before we knew about this and mentioned the sadness I felt at my son-in-law’s shame in a speech.

Recently my daughter’s marriage ended. Through the children’s organization involved with the break up, a woman phoned her. The woman was First Nation. She had discovered that Bronwyn had put down First Nations as well as English, German and Swiss for the grandchildren on an intake form. She informed Bronwyn that hiding this heritage is part of the First Nations genocide. Robert and Mary, but especially their father, are part of the reconciliation process.

I bring this up because my older daughter sent me an article by Michelle Latimer, the producer who left the CBC program Trickster for not being First Nation. CBC shut down production of the second season of this excellent show. Shame on the CBC.

In the following article, Michelle describes how she lost everything when people thought she was pretending to be Metis or First Nation. With much research and the help of genealogists and relatives, she has proven she is First Nation from a small village flooded for a lake. Her family is non-status.

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My husband and I watch the program, “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” on PBS. Many times only verbal knowledge is passed down in a family, or no knowledge at all. I know a woman who was part of the 60s scoop who had to work to regain her status. Another woman is Metis and has detailed her family history on her twitter feed. Her family are not regulation Metis.

I believe that this absorption into the colonial culture through marriage and children is another way of destroying a people. It is not lost on me that both shame and discounting of heritage are working to make this part of my son-in-law and my grandchildren’s heritage disappear.

We got the long form census. I filled it out. On the question that asked “What is your cultural background”, I wrote about my grandchildren, “English, Welsh, German, Swiss, First Nation.” I then had to answer if this was status or non-status, (non-status) or Metis (yes), official Metis (no). First Nations is now part of my family tree. We won’t be looking for status cards, or special grants, or pretending to be First Nations or really anything. We want the acknowledgement that First Nations is part of my grandchildren’s heritage and must not be lost.

Get Moving on Pharmacare!

As you know, my husband has cancer. He is presently doing well on oral chemotherapy. Whenever we look south to the United States, we are proud of our public health system. Wait a minute! Should we be proud of Ontario’s health care system?

My husband does not pay a cent for his cancer health care and his chemo. Our neighbour around the corner has a son with cancer. That son pays $5,000 a month for his cancer related medications. A woman I used to work with has macular degeneration. The good news, she has the kind that has a cure that will save her eyesight. The bad news, she has to pay $1700 a month for a shot in each eye. Why? They are both under the age of 65. There is no Pharmacare for people between the ages of 24 and 65 in Ontario. Those under 24 can only have Pharmacare if their family does not have private health insurance.

With unemployment increasing due to COVID, more and more people do not have Pharmacare benefits through their work. One of my best friends must now pay out of pocket for her insulin. Unlike countries in Europe, which include prescription drugs as part of their public health care, Canada does not. This leads to B.C. having Pharmacare for all and Ontario not having Pharmacare for all.

We have a minority federal government. In the past, the parties of minority governments have worked together to bring benefits to Canadians. The Liberals and the NDP both promised Pharmacare in the last election. Certainly COVID has taken everyone’s attention but with the many side effects of the virus, surely it is time for Pharmacare across Canada.

I am thrilled that my husband and I are not losing all our retirement savings and maybe our house due to the cost of his oral chemo. What about everyone else? We know the Conservatives would never endorse a Pharmacare program but what’s holding up the Liberals bringing forward a plan and the NDP, Bloc and Greens endorsing it?

Here is a template for the political will for Pharmacare.

  • Lester B. Pearson was the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968. His government saw Medicare introduced on a national basis, after his party wrote and introduced the legislation for hospital and out-of-hospital treatment, and received the support of Douglas’ NDP.