Friday, March 02, 2012


SorryLast month a wonderful Canadian-style protest erupted over the Harper government’s plan to allow just about any cop to monitor just about anything anyone does in Canada online just about any time on just about any excuse.  Without a warrant.

Canadians used Twitter to mock Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Safety who introduced Bill C-30 in the House of Commons and defended it to various media outlets for the next few days.  The #TellVicEverything hashtag started out funny, clever, and awesome, swerved a little toward rants, and then back to funny, clever and awesome.

Early on, someone began tweeting as VickiLeaks30, publishing some very unsavory elements of Toews’ divorce, all a matter of public record but deeply personal.  Accusations flew, and the Conservative Harperites claimed that the NDP was behind the account, tweeting from inside Parliament.

Turns out it wasn’t the NDP at all, but a staffer for the Liberals.  He resigned, and the most Canadian of rituals ensued: Apologies all around.

This video from the CBC begins with Vic Toews complaining about the Vickileaks30 twitter account connection to the House of Commons, and asking for an investigation.

After almost five minutes of this, the Liberal leader is recognized by the Chair and begins his apology, first in English and then in French.

At 8:28 minutes, an NDP member is recognized, and mentions that the Conservatives had accused the NDP of being behind all this, and demands an apology.

And, he gets it.

The Bloc Québécois leader then speaks in French.

Just when I thought this couldn’t get any more Canadian, Vic Toews gets up and accepts Bob Rae’s apology, but only after critiquing it for it’s sincerity and worthiness.

Bob Rae now takes his place alongside other notable Canadians who have apologized to people for things.

Apologizing is part of Canadian culture.  Canadians apologize when YOU bump into THEM. They apologize for running up the score. I once saw a musician say “Sorry” to a microphone stand he had banged into.  It takes some getting used to
Search Google for “canadian apologies” and you will get 12,900,000 results.

Google results "canadian apologies"

Search Google for “american apologies” and you will get 47,000,000 results, admittedly a much higher number, but most of the results appear to be links to articles complaining that Americans have apologized for something.

Google results "american apologies"

We just don’t like to do that.

Canadian Apologies on Tumbler

But there is a theory that “Canadians say ‘sorry’ a lot, but they rarely apologize.  See this excerpt from How to be a Canadian (Even If You Already Are One)

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Canadian Protest

Last January 18 saw the largest online protest in history when Americans (and many Canadians) staged the Stop SOPA event.  The "Stop Online Piracy Act" before the US Congress would have censored websites and impeded creativity. 

In Canada, people were horrified that the United States government would infringe on the rights of its citizens that way.  They were still clucking their tongues about the Patriot Act and complaining about the added border security and fees.  There was no shortage of Canadians ready to offer advice on how to better run a country.

On January 20, both houses of Congress backed down.

Meanwhile in Canada the Conservatives had finally formed a majority government, and were ready to prove that they could do whatever they wanted now that they didn't have to worry about offending members of the other parties.  It takes some getting used to.

So what they did was they cooked up Bill C-30, which sounds a lot like the Patriot Act, except they call it the "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act."  The CBC sums it up:

The bill includes no mention of children or predators except in the title, which appears to have been changed after it was sent to the printers.

Like similar legislation introduced in the past by both Conservative and Liberal governments, the new bill includes provisions that would:
  • Require telecommunications and internet providers to give subscriber data to police, national security agencies and the Competition Bureau without a warrant, including names, phone numbers and IP addresses.
  • Force internet providers and other makers of technology to provide a "back door" to make communications accessible to police.
  • Allow police to get warrants to obtain information transmitted over the internet and data related to its transmission, including locations of individuals and transactions.
  • Allow courts to compel other parties to preserve electronic evidence.
However, unlike the most recent previous version of the bill, the new legislation:
  • Requires telecommunications providers to disclose, without a warrant, just six types of identifiers from subscriber data instead of 11.
  • Provides for an internal audit of warrantless requests that will go to a government minister and oversight review body.
  • Includes a provision for a review after five years.
  • Allows telecommunications service providers to take 18 months instead of 12 months to buy equipment that would allow police to intercept communications.
  • Changes the definition of hate propaganda to include communication targeting sex, age and gender.

This really got under people's skin, and the Harper government is already beginning to backpedal, stating that they're willing to "entertain amendments."  It might not be enough.  Canada's Public Safely Minster, Vic Toews (pronounced "Taves") stood up in the House of Commons and said, "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

It was too George W. Bushian for many Canadians, especially users of Social Media.  A uniquely Canadian protest has broken out on Twitter.  Using the hashtag #TellVicEverything, people are flooding the @ToewsVic account with the minutia of their lives.

It's absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sign On The Dotted Line

While my American friends are using their smartphones to deposit money in their Chase accounts without ever leaving their apartments, I have to deal with Canadian banks.  It takes some getting used to.

Anything that isn’t simple means going into the bank and dealing with the tellers.  And of course, because everyone inside the bank has something complicated to do, it takes forever to get your complicated thing done.  You just have to plan on spending an hour in there and hoping for a good outcome.

Today’s transaction was especially complicated.  The teller took it in stride and just got on with it, but it took some doing.  After 20 minutes of tapping the keyboard and squinting at the monitor and looking things up in a manual, she said, “OK.  Now I just need to get some John Henrys on this,” and headed for a cluster of desks.

“Oh,” I thought to myself.  “She means John Hancock.”

Pretty flashy signature for an insurance man
Pretty flashy signature for an insurance man.

But while she was off locating John AND Henry, I started thinking, “Hang on. This is Canada.  Maybe up here a signature has to do with a steel-driving man, and not with the American Declaration of Independence.”

But wait.  There’s more!  It IS John Henry, but it’s not the steel-driving man!  Apparently a cowboy never signs a document, he puts his John Henry to it. Who knew?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Stanley Cup

It’s the end of April, and time for baseball.  At least for me it is.  But here in Canada, people are paying far more attention to hockey, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway.  It takes some getting used to.

When I was a little girl, I listened to the NY Rangers on the radio late at night. I'd never seen a hockey game, but I loved the rhythm of the game, and the French names of the players. My favorite team was the Toronto Make Believes, and I hoped to stand one day in Make Believe Garden. It was a pretty big disappointment when I saw my first (televised) game, and finally understood the name of the team.

When I lived in the Bay Area, the San Jose Sharks came into being, and I paid attention to hockey once again.  The standing joke then was that there were really only 17,442 Sharks fans. That was the capacity of the San Jose Arena configured for hockey, and the most likely explanation for a team with one of the worst records in the NHL selling out every home game.

Now, the Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but even more thrilling, the Stanley Cup was in Kelowna last night.  I'll never stand in Make Believe Garden, but I got to touch the Stanley Cup.

Stanley Cup on the left; me on the right.

No Falcons baseball until June.  So it’s root, root, root for the Canucks.