Pink weapons and face offs



Pope Francis confessed to some children recently: “Many powerful people don’t want peace!  Even if, one day in the future, we can say that there will finally be no more wars, then too peace will be built day by day.

Peace is not an industrial product, it is artisanal.  It is built day by day through our mutual love, our closeness.”

I was sitting peacefully by a warm Scouts campfire enjoying the starry night, when a munchkin asked me:

“Why do kids have to cooperate, if adults get to fight? and say horrible mean things about each other?  If its the right thing, why don’t adults do it?  And why do they keep killing  people they don’t know! Why is there a war older than me?”

Hmm.  What do you propose, future adult?

“Only bullies fight someone, just so to keep them from fighting you first.  And its worse when they cause pain to someone who can’t even defend themselves! 

“They should go back to the old fashioned way.  If there’s no onother solution, then go back to duels.  Anyone who thinks they need to kill someone should have to face the other person, not use ipods & drones etc.  Back to back duels with old fashioned pistols, only make them PINK!  So they’ll look stupid.  ’cause they ARE stupid! And make ALL their friends, family and neighbors watch so they can’t lie about what happened afterwards! If peace has to be made face to face, then so should war.

Any bully with a pink gun will know they are stupid and so will everyone else.  And they should have to wear t-shirts that say ‘On this day, I created orphans in another part of the world.’  Update their Facebook status with that too!

Adults need to be better examples because they keep using words that have no meaning for us.”

There is no place to hide when you hang out with smart kids. They have an unique perspective on life, death and the reality in between the two.  Sometimes its pink but it always worth hearing.


It’s time to get dirty! Words matter.


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From our perch a stone’s throw across the border, we can’t avoid American media from CNN to Jon Stewart. Reuters just announced that the U.S Justice Department is investigating the Charleston crimes as a possible domestic terrorism incident. Only last month, the media declared Montréal a jihadi recruiting hotbed. Will they soon declare the American South a ‘hotbed’, too?

Why do words matter, you ask?  “Terrorism” happens to us, while “domestic racism” is nurtured within us. And it goes wherever we go.

TV celebrity Jon Stewart looks  his international audience in the eye and says “I’m confident that by acknowledging it, by staring into that, and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack s***.”  Can Stewart really be right?

Suppose for a moment that the current public outcry is effective. Imagine  the Confederate flag is removed from all public display. Perhaps the license plate Sons of Confederate Veterans Plate is discontinued from sale by the state DMV.

So what? Does the elimination of an icon eliminate the opinions represented? Are the fears and social anger any less tangible?

As I learn from my own garden, I can remove the irritating plants sprouting among the vegetables. I can deny their existence, but unless I uncover the roots, the plants will continue to bloom over and over again! I don’t always follow through to the roots because that requires me to get dirty and to also admit that I have responsibility in the health of my garden.

What happens next?

It’s time to get dirty and examine our roots. How we have been tending our gardens? How will the current moral outrage transfer into meaningful change in our actions and reactions? Will discussion continue among our families, between spouses, children, colleagues? Have we the courage to broach this with our kids’ teachers? Have we noticed that our history textbooks that inform generation after generation have gaping holes?

Harvard sociologist James W. Loewen provides a place to start the conversation through his monumental bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me. However, it will require us to first unlearn everything we knew to be true. And it won’t be a pretty process.

How do we unravel the visible and invisible? These weeds did not bloom overnight. We must first recognize that many of the seeds were planted within us—by people we know and love. As John Kerr sang in the 1958 popular musical South Pacific:

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

before you are 6 or 7 or 8,

to hate all the people your relatives hate.”

Can we start in our own backyards to face our own history, directly and honestly?

We cannot undo the past, but we own our present and future. We are parents, voters, soccer coaches, siblings, employers, educators, community volunteers and role models to our children and their friends.

What can we do differently, deliberately to show that Change is an action verb?  Can we:

  • courageously challenge racist comments voiced in our presence by anyone, of any age, or stature?
  • read and discuss books like Lies?
  • create cross-cultural discussion groups— as in the popular book The Faith Club?
  • host movie nights to discuss a modern documentary on Race and Racism?

As my mother used to say: What happens next is what really counts!

Only a fool believes that Time heals all wounds.  Only people—We The People—can create that miracle.

Words matter.

I look forward to your comments.

Are we really asking the right questions?


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Have you ever noticed that approximately 1.2 million Muslims live in Canada? And  more than 1,199,850 have NOT traveled abroad to join ISIS?

Its a curious thing because the national news media paints a different picture. “Montreal has become a jihadi recruiting hotbed.”  In the past six months, seven young men and women reportedly left Montreal to join the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. Another dozen were preemptively detained, then released minus their passports. (One presumes ALL their passports)

So many Questions: Where is the blame? What’s triggering all this action?

Are parents too distracted just making ends meet to monitor their kid’s social activities? Inevitably.

Are some community figures fueling public fear of an inevitable arrival of Sharia Law? Clearly.

Are some religious leaders railing against ecumenism? Unfortunately.

Fear is rampant.

One of my favorite books is The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More.

Author sociologist Barry Glassner exposes the invisible people and organizations who manipulate our perceptions and profit financially from our fears, including those who disproportionately heighten concerns about youth and terrorism.

Since the introduction of the province’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values in 2013, the number of attacks against veiled Muslim women has increased.

Months earlier, the Quebec Soccer Federation unilaterally banned turbans, patkas and keskis — the religious headgear worn by Sikh men and boys – essentially forcing the children to choose between fun and friends, and compliance.

The QSF executive declared:

Those who don’t obey the rules can “play in their backyards!”

It required FIFA’s international intervention to restore harmony on the field!

How can these policies not compound the stress level of these young people?

Far from the security of extended family, they are trying to navigate western school systems and 21st century social dynamics. They face radical cultural differences, not limited to language, food, fashion, religious and personal traditions. Pressure from their families, their new schools and the system only add to their PTSD.

Factor adolescent dynamics and their whole world is unstable.

They cry for life to stop moving so fast.

Avez vous un cœur, ma Belle Province?

Question: Is Society complicit in allowing racist agendas to gain political traction?

Society. That’s us, right?

Question: Is Society patient enough to understand the daily lives of these young people?

Are we truly willing to do what is necessary?

It would seem the very health of our communities and families are at stake. Shouldn’t children feel safe, have time to play sport, be educated, and most importantly, just sleep! Yet, ironically, they become more isolated than ever. Fear and sleep deprivation make a dangerous combination.

What would Pinocchio do? Admittedly, many youth temptations are universal. There has always been tension between conformity and rebellion. Desperate to be understood, most youth don’t actually know what that means. Tending toward group think and uncertainty, they look to others for direction. And then, there’s the ever present anxiety.

Are we listening to our kids in their time of need? or do we fear them? Must they look elsewhere for understanding?

Question: What kind of person is attracted to violent impulsive actions?

I am reminded of a cautionary tale.

Only decades ago, an infamous charismatic leader envisioned a new future where no one worried about food or housing. Preying on their fears, Jim Jones attracted over 1,000 disenfranchised followers who sought to change the world.  Even without modern social media, he artfully identified the most vulnerable and emotionally desperate.

More than 900 people were persuaded to risk life itself, to abandon family and homeland in pursuit of …an idea.

Question: Should we fear the messenger, or the message itself?

So, I ask my final question.

They are here now, so doesn’t that make them our kids? Community. Common. Their problems are therefore our problems. It would seem that the solution depends on us all. Can  we learn to build bridges between our worlds?

“If you want something to change, something has to change.”

They come without mercy

The story is still unfolding.  My young cellist friend called me again.  Can you come to our place at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning while my parents are gone?  We don’t want to be alone when they come for us!

Who is coming for you?

They say notices were sent to the man who rents this apartment.  They say he didn’t pay them the rent money we paid to him.  But now he has left the country and no one knows where he is. We are just subletting for a few months while we find a real place to live.  We only took this horrible place to escape the nightmare in North Carolina.

[NB-Subletting is very common in Montréal]

I know this.  Who is coming for you?

The bailiff and the company who owns this giant building is sending a bunch of big men to throw all of our stuff in the street.  My parents are trying to rent a moving truck but they might not be back in time.  Can you come help us?

I arrived just after 7 and it was clear the kids hadn’t slept all night. Boxes were scattered half filled everywhere with quickly packed dishes, pots, toys, school books, the stuff of life.  The sun was just coming up and we didn’t have much time. Even little 4 year old Ana had to be put to work.  Lets play a game!  How many blankets can you put in one large green bag?!  Excellent!  How many towels can you fold into this suitcase?  Keep going!

Put all your school books and backpacks in one corner.  You still have to go to school next Monday, boys.  Math class waits for no one!

At 7.59am, there was a loud knock at the door.  Who was I to face down these men?  But I was forewarned that if I did not answer, they would remove the door.  With the 3 children cowering behind, I opened the door and was promptly handed some official document, effectively: “Get Out Now.”  I smiled and rolled it up.  No point in having courage, if you don’t get to practice it every once in a while, right?

They told me to step aside.  They had a legal right to enter the apartment and remove everything to the walls and I should get out of their way.  I countered: Since when do strange men have a right to enter the abode of 3 minor unattended children? Perhaps some police protection might be useful to protect the rights of these innocents? 

I stalled them at the door for another 5 minutes while the kids scurried about packing. I asked for photo identification. Business cards. Phone numbers.  Why weren’t you worried all along about the condition of this damaged apartment and the health and safety of its occupants?

Meanwhile, I kept getting updates on the parents. They are 5 blocks away. They are just parking.

The bailiff was nonchalant.  Apparently, this was de rigueur for him.  Another day, another dollar.  The company’s pitbull was something else.  Barely 30 I guessed and eager to prove his merit.  It takes a brave man to intimate children, I suggested.  My final stall tactic was simply to ask them to reflect for a moment, before they entered the apartment.  This family was not challenging the eviction.  They were victims of a scam and this was not the battlefield to rectify it.

The ‘movers’ had a choice.  I pleaded past the bulldogs directly to the muscular family men, the enforcers with leather gloves.  Please be patient amid your efficiency.  Please understand that the children are suffering their own Post Traumatic Distress symptoms.  Remember when you are having your beers after work, that they will be sleeping on the floor somewhere.  Please try to keep kindness and dignity a priority.

At 8.10am, the men crossed the threshold.  A resolute bailiff followed by the smarmy bulldog and the large tattooed movers.  As he passed me, the second one leaned slightly  and winked. Don’t worry ma’am.  We got yer back.  He walked straight up to my cellist, looked him in the eye and said. ‘Hey, this is not your fault and I’m really sorry we have to do this.  We’ll be as careful as we can with your family’s stuff, I promise.’

Moments later, the parents arrived. Its not two-dimensional, like dry accounts in the newspaper.  It was horrible.  The mother collapsed under the accumulated pressure and someone called 911.  While the paramedics treated her for shock and respiratory distress and the 4 year old watched her mother, the movers worked around her, continuing their tasks.  Finally, the room was barren, except for the chair she was in and scattered oxygen tanks and medical equipment that encircled her.

Less than an hour after the first knock on the door, we were all standing on the sidewalk.  Their car was packed with school books, work clothes and a child’s car seat.  A modest moving truck was stuffed to capacity with bed frames and household goods. For the moment, they will sleep at a friend’s house, 3o kilometers north.  The kids will find a way to commute into town to finish the school semester.  The father will continue his job, the piece that holds everything together and we will all pitch in on the housing hunt.

Just one more family trying desperately to find solid footing in economic quicksand.

For a limited time only

I had my annual physical this week, which is a real achievement in the province of Québec!  Despite Canada’s national healthcare system, more than two million Quebecers remain without a family physician, and that number is growing in the wrong direction.

When the doctor returned to the exam room, he carried my folder and bore a very serious expression.  Shutting the door gently behind him, he smiled.

“Well, I have your report.  And the good news is that now we know some things for certain, but not everything.”

There was something in his mysteriousness I didn’t trust.

“Your xrays appear clear and so are your blood tests.  But I can’t say for certain how long you have left… to live.”

His words bounced off the wall for me, but something didn’t seem right.  After a few moments, he continued.

“Actually your health appears fine at the moment.  I’m just saying it because my patients keep asking for a magic number.  The truth is I’m just a doctor, not a fortune teller.  Why would I know how much time anyone has?  But still people keep seeking reassurance.  So now, after 30 years in practice, I am trying a new approach.  I’m just saying it outright.

“I don’t know how long you have left.  Months, maybe years, even decades.  Maybe you’ll live to see your grandkids, maybe not.  Maybe you can get a doctor’s appointment in time, maybe not.  Your question should be:  What difference would knowing make?  Just in case your straw is shorter than you expect?

“If you find yourself asking these questions, you already have your answer. Are you really using your time well?   ‘Cause if there is something you really want to be doing, just don’t put it off until its too late.

“That’s my only advice.  They don’t teach that in medical school.  Its just something my mother used to say to me.  In the meantime, remember – ‘All things are possible’ … until they’re not.”

“But chin up.  You look great today!  Come back next year and we’ll see if anything has changed!”

Then he was gone.

With liberty and justice for all

My good friend, a 13 year old cellist called me early last evening. In the background, his little sister was crying.

“Hello? Can I just talk to you for a few minutes? There was a gas explosion on a floor below us. The power has been off in the whole building for 2 days and they don’t know when it will get fixed. Even the water was off. One lady got stuck in the elevator all night. My mom and baby sister are really scared. My father came home from work but he can’t stay. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid.

The air is beginning to stink but it is too cold to open the windows. The snow on the roof is melting. Lots of it is coming through the cracks along the walls. Whatever. Maybe we can try to find a different apartment in the summer.

Actually I just called to say thanks. I know you can’t really help us right now but thank you for letting me call you. Its helps to have someone I can trust so I don’t get scared too.”

“The poor will be with us always.”

We know ‘the poor’ personally, whether or not we really realize it. They attend our churches, study with our kids, shop sales with us. Some were born into poverty, some outlived their savings and their spouses. Many are the victims of recession, medical and other devastating circumstances. There but for the grace of God. Still, they are everywhere among us, in the inner city and the wealthiest suburb.

My friends have traveled that complete spectrum. Younger than me, the parents were born under the brutal regime of Romania’s Nicolae Ceaușescu whose secret police terrorized families, intellectuals and religious, leaving a country without food, fuel, and basic fundamentals and most of all, hope and justice. While I was enjoying private university in Los Angeles, their front door was being kicked down, home ransacked, lives threatened.

Against all odds, my friends earned university degrees and established themselves in the European world of classical music. When they finally escaped Romania, their precious music instruments were confiscated. A chilling reminder that they themselves, as well as their violins, were state property.

For the past 15 years, they have traveled the world trying to gain a foothold.  One son is American born.  Yet always something happens to devastate their meager savings. And each time, they face into the challenge with renewed faith and spirit. “We have survived far worse than this!” they constantly assure me. I am humbled by their courage, self sacrifice in helping others more needy than them and their faith-fueled optimism.

When our families first met, this noble father had a minimum wage, but steady, job in tech customer service. The resilient mother was singing at church and private events. Their eldest son worked part time at a butcher shop and went to school at night. So when they secured contracts and work permits to teach music in two different South Carolina high schools last autumn, we rejoiced at their good fortune and helped them and their four children prepare for the journey.

A few weeks later, the mother called me in a panic.

“It’s all a lie! The principal says even though my husband teaches at the high school, they can’t guarantee the safety of our two sons in the school.   One man yelled at me for telling his daughter that if she worked hard, she could do better in life. For that, he threatens me?

The house was not the one shown in the agency website. Once we got rid of the cockroaches, it got worse. Each night, a gang of scary young men with tattoos circle our house to see if we left a door or window open. They stole everything out of the Uhaul when we were treating the house for bugs. I think I saw one of them at my school. There are 3 bedrooms, but we all sleep in one room now to stay safe. Actually we haven’t slept in days.

The police think we should move before things get really bad. We are supposed to call on their private cell phones because gangs monitor the radios. Where CAN we go? The landlord won’t give us our money back, we don’t have our paychecks yet and we spent our savings to get down here. This feels more like Romania, than America!”

Where is the justice?

 I just read Ryan Messmore’s fascinating essay Justice, Inequality, and the Poor about the notion of economic justice.

“A sense of justice may spur citizens to work for — and petition government for — better education, less expensive health care, or more jobs in their communities. Justice surely demands that we care for the poor, and requires us to help them find ways out of poverty.”   Rather than simply debating income inequality, we are called toward compassion, to help those in need – they are our fellow citizens.

Exactly who does the call of justice beckon? A government floundering in war debt? Traditional civic society institutions, more historical vestiges than vibrant entities?

What is our individual responsibility? Can we really satisfy that responsibility by simply pouring ice buckets over our heads?

In our mad race toward individualism and isolation, is society only connected ‘virtually’? Are we so focused with our own oxygen masks that we are forgetting to help those around us?

Dom Hélder Câmara, the “bishop of the poor”With a nod to Plato, at some point we seriously need to quit kicking the ball and decide a course of action.

Camping supplies, coolers, flashlights, bottled water and brownies will get my friends through the night.

Then real conversations need to happen. Would anyone else like to be part of the dialog?

History’s Heroes


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My son came home a bit confused after studying the War of 1812 in history class.  “Mama, do you know who Laura Secord is?”  No, I admitted.

“I thought she was just the chocolate shop, but my teacher says she was a heroine during the War of 1812.” (The chocolate company bearing her name declares Laura Secord, the Canadian heroine who was a symbol of courage, devotion, and loyalty.)  

Hmm. Why didn’t I learn about this heroine when I was your age?  laura secord

With a little research, I discovered another challenge of dual citizenship.  At some point, you have to decide your loyalties.   As my father would say: you can have a foot in the boat and on the pier, but when the tide shifts– decisions get made.

Like her husband and many others, Mrs Secord  was born in the United States and had relatives across the Canadian line. Her American father had sided with the Patriots during the American Revolution (1775-83). He eventually moved across the border in exchange for land. Laura married a Canadian and was intensely loyal to the British Crown, and to the defense of the colony.  She would become a Canadian ‘Paul Revere’, warning ‘The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!’


One evening, Secord overheard American soldiers planning against the British forces at Beaver Dams.  Escaping under the cover of night, Laura Secord trekked some 30 kilometers through inhospitable wilderness and arrived at the British garrison in time to warn of the impending American attack.  As a direct result, 25 Americans were killed and 50 injured by the British and their Cognawaga Indian allies.

So – no.  I did not study her in American history class.  Countries immortalize history from their own perspectives.   Americans do not consider Secord a heroine.

In 1814, the Massachusetts governor sent a secret emissary to negotiate a separate peace with the British. Some New Englanders even advocated secession.

Was the 1799 Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, debated that year?

Interesting, in light of recent political events.

3 Ways to Engage Change


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Spring did not arrive as scheduled this year. On Tuesday, the black bears, Juno and Genie, came out of hibernation and did their victory lap at the Ecomuseum. On Friday, Spring was heralded by a total solar eclipse viewed by millions around the earth.   Saturday morning dawned to heavy wet globs of snow falling from the sky obscuring any blue sky optimism.  On Sunday morning, a sudden deep freeze turned Montréal into one enormous treacherous ice rink where it was actually safer to drive than walk.

No signs of Spring as promised.  Nothing had changed.

My point? Change happens in its own time.  Of course, change is both noun and verb. Part of the original ‘maker generation’ of the 1930s, my father had an annoying but timeless expression about Life and Change.

“Some people make it happen. Some people watch it happen.

Some people say “What happened?”

Make it happen”

We need to change our point of view. Stop putting one secure foot in front of another. Stop waiting for other people to change our lives.

Look upward at tree branches instead of obsessing over black ice.  Wake up our souls from complacency!

Make small but radical changes, so that when real change arrives it will be less shocking.

Get outside your comfort zone and see what you are made of.  MChart your pathake meaningful and specific goals.  As Lewis Carroll opined,

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

We need to shake up our routines and engage in the world. Otherwise, we are throwing away our potential, day after precious day, while we wait.  My mother used to say “You wouldn’t care what other people thought about you, if you realized how rarely they did!”   Change is personal.  We need to embrace it for ourselves!

“Watch it happen”

How can we feel anything under all that goosedown? We barricade ourselves against nature, against risk, against vulnerability, against change. We need to remove – rip off – our metaphorical barriers. It is not as cold out there as we think! Eventually floating white pollen replaces the seemingly perennial snowflakes.

Say “What happened?”

Or we can simply deny change is coming and just stumble into it one day. Like stumbling upon a picnic table which miraculously appeared overnight released from the snow.

As a wise Jesuit friend loved to remind us: “To NOT decide, is still a decision!”

Living Multi Culturalism


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CulturalLast night 12 young men earned   “La badge multiculturalisme” – (Scouts Canada’s Cultural Awareness badge).  More relevant than ever, it promotes a greater understanding of Canada’s cultural diversity while learning about language, cuisine, religious and cultural traditions.

Amid a mélange of delicious aromas, the kids presented their research, told stories, played music and led dances from Romania, China, Italy, Mexico, Brittany in France, Syria, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)and the independent Republic of Ireland.

As a Scout leader, I knew that behind a few of these smiling faces hid truly heart wrenching personal testimonies of young ones who bid extended families farewell to travel halfway across the world, in a journey of hope and survival. What distinguishes them from earlier generations who spilled upon north American shores is…Skype … Facetime … xBox… and other “next best thing to being there” technology.

I expected one or two stories to slip out, as on other occasions.  I was wrong.  Boys just want to be boys, not international diplomats.  But they were fascinated to learn that –

  • many of their countries had once been occupied by England or France
  • Syria has extraordinary traditions of poetry and music
  • Ireland has its own language, which is not remotely similar to English

and best of all,

  • that right here in Montreal, Romania’s pride and joy, Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast in Olympic history to be awarded the perfect score of 10.0 for her performance on the uneven bars (1976)

After that, they just wanted to try all the delicious foods, watch Irish hurling videos (“the greatest sport on earth”) and debate the merits of World Cup Soccer versus Stanley Cup Hockey.

In this complicated province of Québec, with its progressive rights for women, and regressive institutionalizing of values, culture is a daily discussion.  There is the obsession over language –complete with The Québec Language Police.   And the tiresome political bickering over ‘national sovereignty‘.

 Francophones spar politically with Anglophones over rights and resources – (native French speakers vs native ‘english’ speakers).

By contrast, our Scouts represent the growing Allophone population of Canada (neither French nor English native speakers). In this richly diverse city of Montréal, Third Culture Kids slip easily between their primary 3 languages and eagerly embrace new ones languages offered in school.

They also bring a pragmatic view toward multiculturalism.

Case in point:

Our Dilemma:  What is the best way to accommodate the dietary restrictions of our Jewish and Muslim fellow scouts?

Their Solution: Adjust the camping menu for everyone.  “Seriously! If everyone eats halal chicken, we can stop talking about religious differences at every meal! And we are willing to pay for it …by giving up vegetables!”

It was a small, but significant gesture.  Of course, by the time they finished debating the details of butchering traditions, many were pledging to become vegetarians!

With a nod to Dylan, the times are changing.

So many rockwalls, so many fields


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ShamrockHappy St Patrick’s day one and all, or as some say Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig !   But please, for the last time… Irish / Gaelic  is NOT “just English with a cute accent” 

Its odd,  the things people don’t know.   Just last November on live TV,  a veteran American anchorman kept insisting to the head of Ireland’s foreign investment agency that Ireland should use the pound [British sterling] because it’s sort of the same island” and suggested “you guys gotta get it together”!   Irish IDA chief executive Mr Shanahan tried unsuccessfully to explain Northern Ireland is a different country and Dublin is very happy with the eurobut eventually, in good humor, steered the conversation in new directions.

Frequently badgered themselves, Canadians can empathize.

Why don’t you just use the American dollar?  Its stronger, after all!”

Montreal flagShamrocks on the Montreal flag?  Its true!

Floral emblems adorn each quadrant representing the 4 main European ethnic groups that settled in the city in the 19th century –French, English, Irish and Scots.

In 1847, thousands of orphaned children fleeing the famine in Ireland arrived onto Quebec shores. To their great credit, local orphanages preserved their Irish identities.  They recorded complete details of each child’s natural parents, parish and county of origin, plus the vessel that brought them over.  The records also included the names and addresses of the foster families, most of them French-Canadian.

But then in 1866, Irish Fenians invaded Canada!  Its complicated.