Canadian Politics

The CPP and You: Why Facebook is A Bloody Horrible Place to Get Your Facts

Posted on August 8, 2013. Filed under: Canadian Politics, Personal, Politics, Social Justice |

BREAKING NEWS:  The sky is not falling.

Vaccines don’t cause autism, your brain is not being fried by radio waves from nearby power lines, and contrary to the message you might have received in your Facebook feed recently- your Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is not a Ponzi scheme that is stealing money from you to fund government waste and possibly leave you broke and penniless (the government left us penniless already) by the time you retire.

This message showed up in my Facebook feed today, shared by a friend who I love dearly and respect immensely.  I think it was posted with the best of intentions, but the effect was to spread a pernicious fiction about the collection, use and solvency of the CPP.

Who died before they collected Canadian Pension Plan? (CPP) old




Remember, not only did you and I contribute to CPP but your employer did, too. It totalled 15% of your income before taxes. If you averaged only $30K over your working life, that’s close to $220,500. Read that again. Did you see where the Government paid in one single penny? 

We are talking about the money you and your employer put in a Government bank to insure you and I that we would have a retirement cheque from the money we put in, not the Government. Now they are calling the money we put in an entitlement when we reach the age to take it back. If you calculate the future invested value of $4,500 per year (yours & your employer’s contribution) at a simple 5% interest (less than what the govt. pays on the money that it borrows), after 49 years of working you’d have $892,919.98.

If you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last better than 30 years (until you’re 95 if you retire at age 65) and that’s with no interest paid on that final amount on deposit! If you bought an annuity and it paid 4% per year, you’d have a lifetime income of $2,976.40 per month.

Another thing with me…. I have two deceased husbands who died in their 50’s, (one was 51 and the other one was 59 before one percent of their CPP could be drawn). I worked all my life and am drawing 100% from my own CPP so I am receiving the maximum allowable payment per month. My two deceased husband’s CPP money will never have one cent drawn from what they paid into the CPP plan all their lives.


Entitlement my foot, I paid cash for my CPP! Just because they borrowed the money for other government spending, doesn’t make my benefits some kind of charity or handout!!

Remember Senator’s benefits? — free healthcare, outrageous retirement packages, 67 paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, unlimited paid sick days. Now that’s welfare, and they have the nerve to call my CPP retirement payments entitlements?

We’re “broke” and the government can’t help our own Seniors, Veterans, Orphans, or Homeless. Yet in the past few years we have provided aid to Haiti , Chile, Turkey, Pakistan, etc., etc., etc. Literally, BILLIONS of DOLLARS!!! And they can’t help our own citizens ! 

Our retired seniors living on a ‘fixed income’ (CPP and OAS) receive no additional federal aid nor do they get any financial breaks, while our government and religious organizations pour hundreds of billions of $$$ and tons of food to foreign countries!

They call CPP an entitlement even though most of us have been paying for it all our working lives, and now, when it’s time for us to collect, the government is running out of money. Why did the government borrow from it in the first place? It was supposed to be in a locked box, not part of the general fund.

Sad isn’t it? 99% of people won’t have the guts to forward this. 

I’m in the 1% and I just did.

Holy Penniless Pensioners Batman!

We’re going to run out of money because the government is using our hard earned CPP to pay for foreign aid!  We should be making thousands of dollars per month in pension income and instead seniors are starving on a pittance! The government has been stealing money from all those people who died before collecting CPP!  The government is perpetuating the greatest financial fraud in the history of forever and ever!!!

The problem is, of course, that none of that is true.  Very little in that sad excuse for information is even remotely accurate. ( In the author’s defense- we do give foreign aid to other countries and there is a program known as CPP that many Canadians depend on upon retirement- the rest is pretty much bunk, as I’m about to demonstrate)

Let’s look at each premise in this fiction in the order that they occur…..

Unlike That Kid From The Sixth Sense,The Government Doesn’t See Dead People


First, stop yelling at me.  Please.

Second, CPP is not just a retirement pension for living people.  It has what are called “Survivor Benefits”.  As the name implies- they exist for people who “survive”.     “Survive what?”, you might ask.  Great Question!  It is for people who survive longer than their CPP contributing partner.  So dead people still get benefits, they just go to the qualifying spouse of the deceased.  Looks almost like the government thought of everything!


Turns out it went to the surviving spouse.  Also, stop yelling.

Why I Want This Author To Measure My Penis Size

Remember, not only did you and I contribute to CPP but your employer did, too. It totalled 15% of your income before taxes. 

Where on earth did you get a figure like 15%?  The amount that comes off of an employee’s paycheque for 2013 is 4.95% to a maximum of $2356.20 per year.  This is in addition to the employer portion which is equal to the employee portion- which means that the effective maximum percentage that a working Canadian can pay is 9.9%  That, if you are keeping track of the math, is 5.1% lower than what you are claiming it is.  This of course assumes that the employee doesn’t make more than the maximum contributory earnings of $47,600. Let’s break it down so it is easier to understand:

Example 1- Joe works for Walmart. He makes $1500 gross biweekly because he is a high level manager. He will contribute $67.59 from every paycheque for a total of $1757.25 per year. This amounts to 4.95% of his gross pay.  His employer contributes an equal portion, totaling $1757.25.  This is not 15% of his earnings.  Not even close.  That amount (15%) would be $5850, which appears to be less than $3514.50 (9.9% of 39,000 less the basic exemption of $3500).  Maybe I’m wrong.

Example 2- Cindy works for the Toronto Dominion Bank.  She makes $2350 gross biweekly.  Since she makes $61,000 per year, and the maximum contributory amount is $2356.20, she will contribute $90.62 per paycheque, or just 3.9% of her gross earnings.  Her employer contributes the same, meaning she contributes $4712.41 per year- just 7.7% of her gross earnings.  This is less than 15% as well.  It is actually even less than the previous example.

There is no scenario where anybody in Canada pays 15% of their income into CPP.  None.  Doesn’t exist.

What makes things worse is that I (nor you) haven’t even paid 4.95% every year we have been working.  We have only done this since 2003.  Prior to that we paid less and the maximum contributory earnings were less.  So we paid waaaay less than 9.9% in the past- which gets you further away from that claimed 15% from the author.

Heck, before 1987 you and I only paid 1.8%, which when doubled by your employer is 3.6%  Don’t believe me?  Here is a chart from a reputable source.  That reputable source is called “The Government of Canada”, and they kind of know what they are talking about.

If you averaged only $30K over your working life, that’s close to $220,500. Read that again. Did you see where the old3Government paid in one single penny? 

Let’s frame this claim a little bit.  

First, when did you start working?  If you started working at 18 and retired at 65- and you paid the claimed 15% you would have stashed away $211,500.  That, as the author says, is close to $220,500!   That is a lot of money! 

Here is the thing though- you couldn’t have possibly made $30,000 when you started working.  Especially if you retired today.  Why, you ask?  Well, if you made $30,000 per year when you started working in 1966 then you were pretty friggin’ rich.  That is the equivalent of $216,200 in 2013 dollars- and you have been getting a pretty horrible pay cut every year since then.  Nobody averages $30,000 per year- because of this thing called “inflation”.

So let’s talk about a hypothetical guy- let’s call him “George”.  George makes $30,000 in a magical parallel universe where inflation does not exist, and he makes the exact same amount every year for his 47 year working life.  Even if he paid the maximum contributory amount for 2013 (because there is no inflation and no Consumer Price Index, remember?) he would pay a total of $221,482.80 in the 47 years he was employed.  That number looks even closer to $220,500!  But he wouldn’t do that.  Why? Because he only made $30,000 per year, and he didn’t cap out his contribution.  He actually paid $139,590 (9.9% of $1,410,000).

BTW- the government didn’t pay a penny.  You are right about that.

Entitlement is a Word.  With a Definition.  Look it Up.

We are talking about the money you and your employer put in a Government bank to insure you and I that we would have a retirement cheque from the money we put in, not the Government. Now they are calling the money we put in an entitlement when we reach the age to take it back.

Do you know the definition of an “entitlement”?  It is something you are entitled to.  Like money you contributed to your CPP!  They call it an “entitlement” because you are entitled to it- because that is what the word means.  Look it up. I’m totally not lying to you.

If “Ifs” and “buts” Were Candy and Nuts…

 If you calculate the future invested value of $4,500 per year (yours & your employer’s contribution) at a simple 5% interest (less than what the govt. pays on the money that it borrows), after 49 years of working you’d have $892,919.98.  If you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last better than 30 years (until you’re 95 if you retire at age 65) and that’s with no interest paid on that final amount on deposit! If you bought an annuity and it paid 4% per year, you’d have a lifetime income of $2,976.40 per month.

IF you paid $4500 per year (hint: you don’t)

IF you got 5% interest on your money (hint: you won’t)

you will have lots of money.  Got that?  “Ifs” are awesome!!!!

What you end up with instead is this:

You started working in 1966 at the age of 18.  Let’s say you contributed the maximum amount to CPP every year you were working……

you should end up contributing (with your employer’s contribution) around $89,800 by your retirement in 2013.  $89,800!

But you only paid half that!  Remember that you were matched dollar for dollar by your employer.  So you paid $44,900!


Now let’s say you live to be 85….

If you take your $89,800 and divide it by 20 that is $4490 per year, so you are getting a pension cheque of $375 per month just to equal the total contribution amount. What if you only live to the age of 78?  Then you need to get paid $575 to equal all the money you and your employer contributed together.

Remember though, this includes the employer co-pay that you must insist is your money for this to work.

So the question is this: What is the maximum CPP benefit cheque available to a retiree 65 years old in 2013, since this amount was calculated on a maximum contribution to CPP every year since 1966?

Do you want to guess?

C’mon, guess……


So you need to live for 7 and a half years to just break even assuming your employers contribution was your money!

The average CPP pensioner gets a cheque for $596.66, and in a world where everyone paid in the maximum contribution and drew the average amount of CPP- it would take 12 years to break even.

So let’s think about that for a second.  In this world where we get ripped of by CPP, everyone pays the maximum amount and nobody survives past the age of 77.

That would be a truly shitty place to live.  Good thing nobody lives in that world.

So what would happen if you took just your contribution ($44,900) and invested it for 47 years at a compound interest rate of 5%?  Well, I’m not going to make a long table with differing yearly contributions, so let’s just take the average yearly personal contribution ($955.31-but remember that in 1966 your actual yearly contribution was $180!) and invest $79.60(the average monthly contribution) per month for 47 years and see what we get.

It turns out that you get $190,204.89.

Again, if you paid in the maximum contribution and drew just the average CPP cheque, it will take you 26 and a half years to be better off with CPP.  You will be 91 years old.  Which is pretty old, but remember that nobody pays the maximum and draws the average. Nobody.  Not you, not me.

I Should Be Making $3000 A Month Because I Am Attracted To Sickly People

Another thing with me…. I have two deceased husbands who died in their 50’s, (one was 51 and the other one was old259 before one percent of their CPP could be drawn). I worked all my life and am drawing 100% from my own CPP so I am receiving the maximum allowable payment per month. My two deceased husband’s CPP money will never have one cent drawn from what they paid into the CPP plan all their lives.

What is that you say?  You are drawing the maximum amount of CPP by yourself?  So you are getting $1012.50 per month.  Is it possible that you might live for four years after you start cashing in CPP?  Good.  Then you will be getting 100% of the money you personally paid into CPP.  Every month after that is gravy.

Calculate it with me.  I’m going to assume that you paid the maximum amount into CPP from 1966 till now, and that you retired this year at the age of 65.  This would give you the maximum amount of your own money invested into CPP.  You paid about $44,900 of your own money and if you draw $1012.50 per month it will take you 45 months to recoup your investment, or just shy of 4 years.  If you live for 7 years you got back every penny of you and your employer’s contribution.  If you live 12 years you got all the money you and your two husbands put into CPP and more!

So maybe you are just thinking about this the wrong way.

Everybody Else Is Getting Rich And I Get Nothing (Except $1000/Month)


No. No they didn’t.  I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Also, stop yelling at me.

Entitlement my foot, I paid cash for my CPP! Just because they borrowed the money for other government spending, doesn’t make my benefits some kind of charity or handout!!

If you don’t think you are entitled to it, that is your issue- not mine.  Your money goes into a trust that the government can draw from, yes, but they have to pay you a retirement dividend with it.  They don’t get to keep the money.  For example, I donated $1200 last year to various charities and as far as I know none of them are cutting me a moonthly stipend when I retire.  If you think CPP is a charity- I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

Remember Senator’s benefits? — free healthcare, outrageous retirement packages, 67 paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, unlimited paid sick days. Now that’s welfare, and they have the nerve to call my CPP retirement payments entitlements?

First, you get free healthcare, a retirement package, and two weeks paid vacation while you are working.  You are entitled to those things by virtue of being a Canadian citizen.  Also, they call your CPP an entitlement because, again, you are “entitled” to it.  

We’re “broke” and the government can’t help our own Seniors, Veterans, Orphans, or Homeless. Yet in the past few years we have provided aid to Haiti , Chile, Turkey, Pakistan, etc., etc., etc. Literally, BILLIONS of DOLLARS!!! And they can’t help our own citizens ! 

ZOMG!  We’re broke?  Oh noes! 

The government doesn’t help seniors?  Really?  Were you not just whining about how the government is giving money to….wait for it…seniors? Veterans?  We don’t help veterans?  Really? One of my best friends was disabled as a paratrooper, and he might beg to differ on your definition of “help”.  Orphans and the homeless are helped by specific programs, too.  We give foreign aid, and we give domestic aid.  Take your xenophobic bullshit elsewhere.

The rest of the post is stuff we have already been over, so I won’t bother rehashing it over again.

Turns out on further investigation that this post is an adaptation of a Letter to The Editor which is an adaptation of a rant about U.S. Social Security.  There is a more parsimonious knockdown of the original at which makes many of the same points I made here.

References and further reading:

Average and maximum CPP payments

Compound Interest Calculator 

History of CPP- Wikipedia

Inflation Calculator

CPP contributions, maximums and exemptions

Contribution rates 1985-2006

Contribution rates 1966-1984

Will Canada Pension Plan Be There When You Retire?

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Bill 13: Ontario Picks A Fight With Bullies. The Bullies Fight Back.

Posted on June 4, 2012. Filed under: Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Religion |

Ontario will sometime today have a final reading for some of the most comprehensive anti-bully legislation in

Is this supposed to be insulting?

history.  Bill 13, known as the Accepting Schools Act, aims to amend the Education Act in our province to define and address bullying in schools. 

Bill 13 does an admirable job of defining the concept of bullying.  Section 1(1)(ii)(b) even explicitly addresses the concept of power imbalance. 

1.  (1)  Subsection 1 (1) of the Education Act is amended by adding the following definition:

“bullying” means aggressive and typically repeated behaviour by a pupil where,

  (a)  the behaviour is intended by the pupil to have the effect of, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of,

           (i)  causing harm, fear or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or harm to the individual’s property, or

          (ii)  creating a negative environment at a school for another individual, and

  (b)  the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, disability or the receipt of special education; (“intimidation”)

This definition goes a long way toward explaining how privilege plays a part in bullying- the difference between “punching up” and “punching down”.

Ontario may be the first jurisdiction in North America to enshrine programs to address equity and inclusiveness in education that explicitly includes a comprehensive spectrum of sexual identity- including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning.  In those exact words.

During the public consultation process, it was brought to the attention of the government that extra-curricular and social groups helped to foster an environment of tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness for marginalized groups- and that students have had problems at their schools attempting to organize clubs and social groups that include LGBTTIQ issues.  To this end the government included in the legislation provisions to give interested students the right to start Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) within their school.  It also closed a loophole in previous drafts that would have allowed schools to refuse to allow students to name these groups “”gay-straight alliances”. 

Bullies To Province: “Only We Get To Define A Group By Narrow Criteria”

So by now I have given away the punchline- you already know who stands opposed to the new anti-bullying legislation.  Just to give a little more context though, let me tell you a little more about education in Ontario….

Ontario has a Constitutionally protected  publicly funded Catholic school board.  This protection is, funny enough, the result of an agreement at the time of Confederation that was designed to acknowledge the privilege of being a Protestant in the province and to give some bit of cultural real estate to a marginalized group.  It was enshrined in Section 93 of the British North America Act in 1867- it was protected by section 29 of the Charter in 1982.  Since 1867, of course, the naturally privileged Protestant schools in Ontario have all disappeared in favor of secular education while the Constitutionally protected Catholic minority has been allowed to keep their schools religious

Poor, poor, parents. This new law completely infinges on their right to create second-generation ignorance.

focus.  Now, the minority that has benefited so greatly by laws designed to level the privilege playing field is shouting at the top of their lungs to avoid giving another minority protection under the law.  “This is not something that needs to be protected under the law”, they say.  “There is no good that will come from laws focusing on protecting one minority more than all the other disadvantaged groups”, they argue.

Perhaps they are right.  There is reason to believe that well-intentioned laws have unintended negative consequences- we have precedent.  One need look no further than the protections we afforded to the Catholic church regarding denominational education back in 1867.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that Bill 13 doesn’t focus solely on LGBTTIQ bullying.  It points to them by name- as a group that has struggled most with acceptance within the school system.  Bill 13 addresses a problem unique to this group when looking to organize extra-curricular groups sanctioned by the school board.  It does these things, for sure, yet it still addresses the power of privilege and the roadmap to making headway in the fight against bullying.   Why does it focus on LGBTTIQ rights when so many other underprivileged groups also suffer at the hands of bullies?  Because the rot of ignorance and ambivalence extends beyond the hormone-swelled students and into the faculty and administration.  It is necessary to spell this out for even the adults in the system. 

When I went to high school, I was not at the bottom of the pecking order- but I certainly wasn’t near the top.  I was called a “fag” for two whole school years because I stood up to a homophobic asshat of a teacher.  Oh, and I was in Drama. Also, the Tennis Team-so I was pretty much “asking for it”.

  You know what though?  I was an “artsy geek”, and I wasn’t entirely alone.  I had teachers who befriended me- and helped to make a difference in my life.  So did the “MtG geeks”, who had a Staff Advisor who was into D&D as a teen.  So did the “Mathletics/Chess Club/Brainer geeks”, who had staff who had been there themselves.  Who did the gay kids have?  Sure, they fit into other groups.  Groups that probably still marginalized them, and staff who probably didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to them.  Hell, I was in the Drama Club- that seeming safe haven for homosexuality.  We had (that I know of) two closeted gay guys, one bi-curious (at least openly) guy, another who was lifestyle-queer(but swore he was totally straight) and a bunch of girls who made out with each other at parties.  Pretty gay, right?  Well the one guy who was closeted got called “Princess” by many of the members, and the other one quit after one year when it was apparent that we were just as hostile as the sports clubs.  The bi-curious guy was one of my best friends- and I am ashamed to say that I occasionally chastised him for being a bit too “homo” in public. The other guy prided himself on being called gay- at least outwardly.  I will tell you that our group was probably the most “gay friendly” you could get in high school.  I will also tell you that I wouldn’t trade my hetero-privileged life for theirs.  It was still a shitty time for them. 

So to me, Bill 13 is very important legislation.  Will it end bullying?  Nope.  Will it make high school easy?  No.  Will it give bullied kids a real avenue to address the daily torture they face? Yes.  Will it give some much needed shelter to the queer community from the privilege of a hetero-centered and homophobic school system?  Yes…and it should. 

The public hearings on Bill 13 were a  three-ring circus.  There were accusations that Gay-Straight Alliances were “sex clubs”.  People testified that schools would have forced GSA’s even if no students were interested- it was mandated. 

Why would people be so ridiculously misinformed about this legislation?  I’ll give you a guess…..

  O.K., still not sure?  Here’s a hint.

It’s a group.  A group who has the word “Family” in their name.  Are you surprised?

  Go check out their site.  It’s a real prize.

You Know How To Terrorize A Kid?  Make Up Shit That Could Plausibly Be True- Tell Everyone, Repeat.  How Do You Attack Anti-Bully Legislation?  Do The Same…..

Here is a couple of tips for those who want to kill this bill.

  • If you are going to write to your Liberal or NDP MPP to tell them how unbelievably horrible this legislation is, you might start by not using the epically ridiculous form e-mail offered by the Family Coalition Party.  You know that MPP that you are writing? Yeah. About that.  He/She has read the bill. She knows what it does and doesn’t say and do. Why does she know this?  Because she read the fucking bill!  Hell, she might have actually assisted in drafting it.  Don’t piss on someone’s leg and tell them it’s raining.
  • If you are going to testify before committee-and I’m dead serious here- read the bill!  Know what it says.  Know what it doesn’t say.  Point out something clever, like the fact that a Staff Advisor may be required to oversee a GSA against their religious principles.  Don’t make shit up.  Don’t tell them that it is a sex club.  Or that kids are going to be forced to join GSAs.  Or that “gay kids don’t get bullied any more than other groups”.  That’s patently false.
  • If you are an opposition MPP, don’t write a letter telling people a whole gaggle of bald-faced lies and logically disjointed arguments in an effort to sway opinion.  It makes you look even more ignorant when you are expected to know better.
  • If you are the opposition Conservatives- for the love of all that is sacred in this universe- do not introduce a competing bill that has multiple clauses stating “this legislation means absolutely fuck all”.  The point of legislation is to legislate something.  As near as I can tell, Bill 14 only actually legislates “Bullying Awareness  and Prevention Week”.  Everything else is just polite suggestions.  For those who have better things to do with their lives than read Conservative toothless platitudes, let me sum it up in my revised preamble, then just click the link above and scroll to  sections 303.1 (2), 303.2(5), and 303.2(7).


Bullying, particularly in schools, has become an increasing problem in Canada. Victims of bullying have suffered mental anguish, bodily injury and even death at the hands of their tormentors.  We as a society must at least feign concern, or else people might say we are heartless.

Bullying is a problem we don’t really want to solve. It can leave children with painful emotional and mental scarring and a lifelong struggle with self-esteem- but it also teaches some good life lessons.  Like what to expect under a Conservative Government. 

Bullies suffer as well, since bullying may be indicative of deeper psychological and emotional problems. Children who bully more frequently experience psychological problems later in life, such as aggressive tendencies and occasional symptoms of depression. Childhood bullies often display the same types of behaviour as adults and are found to be more likely to harass co-workers or commit spousal, child or senior abuse.  So why are you picking on the poor bullies?  They are only carrying out the natural social order.  It is in this spirit that we introduce this anti-bully legislation.  As a Government, we must send an ambiguous but public message that bullying can go on as usual, but we kind of don’t really like it.  School officials must have tools in place, other than themselves, that they can use to consider, then disregard if they find cumbersome or inconvenient. 

We need anti-bullying legislation that is going to take steps to fix a problem that has been- and will continue to be- with us since we came down from the trees.  No one is saying that Bill 13 is going to end bullying.  It is going to put the burden on teachers and administrators to act and intervene.  It is going to make it illegal to brush it aside as the natural order.  It is going to allow students to be proactive in reaching out to fellow students who need a safety net.  It is going to allow students to do something about the ignorance and misinformation that exists around a certain flavour of being different. 

Bill 13 may be the warning shot in the battle to remove public funding of the Catholic School Board in Ontario- but it won’t be the Province that does them in.  It will be themselves.  It will be a group that benefited from a gift of synthetic privilege that can’t see the reason for helping their own marginalized students.  It will be a Church that wants to be the piglet that insists on being fed well without ever having to walk to the trough. 

In Ontario, from now on at least, schools will be places that aren’t endemically homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic.  It will be there, for sure, but the ignorance and hatred will be swimming against a current of tolerance.  I couldn’t be happier.

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Thoughts After Going To Court For A Domestic Abuse Charge

Posted on March 14, 2012. Filed under: Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Personal, Politics, Social Justice |

There are few things more certain to deflate your trust in the legal system than witnessing it in action.

It becomes, the more you navigate the system, increasingly hard to continue convincing yourself that we are moving in the direction of justice.  I find myself, after spending a single morning sitting outside a courtroom, wanting to shout

Is this really the best we can do?

The Back Story

I got a subpoena to appear as a witness in a domestic assault case.  Back in November, just 3 months after moving into the basement of my house, my tenant physically assaulted his girlfriend with my children upstairs listening to the whole thing.  My wife called me at work to tell me that the woman who lives downstairs was screaming repeatedly, and at the top of her lungs “Help me. Someone….please….help me.”

My wife- upstairs with a house full of children and 7 months pregnant asked me if I could come home and deal with the situation.  I quickly rushed home and after checking with my wife to discuss what exactly was going on, I went downstairs and knocked on the door.  The door opened a crack, enough for the boyfriend to stick his head out to greet me, but not enough for me to see into the apartment. “Hey. So my wife said she heard your girlfriend crying for help, is everything alright?”, I ask.

“Yep, everything’s fine.”, he says.  He closes the door.

Wow. Really? Your girlfriend just finished screaming for help and the best you can muster is “Yep, everything’s fine”?  Not “she dropped the couch on her foot while rearranging the living room and screamed for help”?   No?

Not “she was  practicing a rather loud and spirited tone-deaf rendition of the Beatles classic.”….Really?  If you’re going to lie, go big or go home. I feel insulted.

Suffice it to say I called the police.  Within minutes I had three cruisers on my front lawn, a shirtless tenant being stuffed in a cruiser, and my wife imploring me to make sure I’m outside in plain view so that the neighbors don’t think I’m the one getting arrested.  A while after, his girlfriend is escorted to another cruiser visibly shaken.  An officer takes my statement, my wifes statement, then thanks me and leaves.

The next day, an officer stops by to tell me that the Accused is not welcome at my address as a term of his release, and that I am to call the police if I see him there.  He explains that the Accused has been charged with assault and forcible confinement, and we should expect updates through Victim Services.  That night, I again knocked on my tenants apartment door.  She answers, face swollen and bruised- deep purple shades changing to a light brown color like coffee with cream at the periphery.  Her bottom lip bulges slightly, noticeably split.  My heart breaks for this woman.  I tell her that my wife and I want her to know that we understand that money might be tight for her the next little while- we don’t want her to worry- we are happy to be flexible if she wants to stay.

She never takes me up on the offer. Rent is always on time, always in full.

Months later I am visited by a nice lady in a police uniform.  The patch on her arm reads “Court Services”, and she pulls out two subpoenas attached to her clipboard.  He has decided to plead not guilty, and my wife and I are witnesses for the prosecution.

“He’s pleading not guilty?”, my wife says, “How can he plead not guilty?”, and I try my best to explain what I think is going on.

  In Canada, thankfully, we don’t drop charges if the victim refuses to be cooperative.   An uncooperative victim can make prosecution more difficult, but it doesn’t make it impossible.  The most likely explanation is either he believes there is a procedural technicality (like grounds to enter the premises) or he is hoping to get a plea bargain by forcing the prosecutions hand. 

My Day In Court

My subpoena says to be outside the courtroom by 9AM.  My wife and I get there at about 8:45 with our two month old baby in tow.  There are no police officers outside the courtroom when I get there.  There are no lawyers.  There is me, my wife, a couple that looks homeless, a guy with a poneytail that is dressed in a $10 Goodwill suit with a dress shirt frayed and worn at the collar, the woman who lives in our apartment, and her attacker- who is standing over her just three feet away as she texts on her phone.  As soon as he recognizes us, he moves to a seating area further down the hall.

I say hello to her, she acknowledges me and continues staring at her phone.  You can see her trying to keep her composure, the occasional sniffle pulling back the tears. A few cops start to arrive and start shooting the breeze in an interview room with the door open.  One of them, loud enough for me to hear clearly, starts talking about beating the crap out of a guy he arrested that night. 

It’s 9:15AM and the lawyers start slowly shuffling in.  No one has spoken with me yet.  No one has talked to her either.  The homeless husband asks one of the lawyers when they are going to get into the courtroom.  “At 9:30, sometimes it’s a little later than that”, he says.  Un-fucking-believable.

Yeah.  Now it’s 9:30- there are lawyers and clerks and police moving in and out of the courtroom like bees from a hive.  No one has spoken with me yet.  No one has spoken to the victim either.  The Accused is finally getting a meeting with his duty council, they go into one of the interview rooms to talk.  I look over at her, she’s starting to relax a little.

“Man, this is taking forever.”, I say, hoping to break the ice a little.  She agrees, and she starts talking a bit.  Turns out, she had called the prosecutor a few times hoping to get the conditions changed so that she could talk to her boyfriend before the trial.  She never got a call back.  She says that she thinks he can change- my wife is not impressed.

“People don’t change- don’t get your hopes up”, my wife interjects.

“That’s not true”, I say- my wife looking visibly displeased with me,”It is true that people can change.  It’s that they change so rarely and not always for the better.” 

Our tenant explains that when she spoke with the prosecution they had mentioned some of the sentencing options, which included anger management classes- which she thought was a good idea. 

 My wife is stewing.

It’s now 10:05 and a disarmingly handsome police officer walks up to our tenant.  He invites her to come into one of the interview rooms to speak with a prosecutor about her statement and testimony.  Still, no one has even acknowledged that my wife and I exist.

“What is wrong with that girl”, my wife asks, “and where the fuck are her parents?”  My wife cannot believe what she is hearing.  The next 10 minutes are spent talking about how anyone would let their daughter handle this alone, what could possibly bring someone to have such a skewed view of their own self-worth, and why the victim should be sitting alone for over an hour without anyone really giving a shit.  I’m disturbed, but stoic- my wife is just trying to keep her cool.

It’s 10:25, and our tenant is coming back to her seat.  She seems happier.  She says that the prosecution has decided to accept a plea bargain.  They are dropping the forcible confinement charge- he’s going to plead guilty to assault and with her approval sentence him to one year probation and six weeks of anger management classes.  She seems to think this is a good solution.  A police officer comes up to us (finally) and says “Thanks for coming, but you can go home now.”

What Just Happened??

Wow.  I don’t know where to start…..

  1. Why are people subpoenaed for 9AM if no-one who works there shows up till 9:15, court doesn’t start till 9:30 (or later!), and nobody intends to be waiting there to speak with you?  Did we subcontract court services to a Cable Television company?
  2. What, for the love of FSM, are people thinking when they ask a victim to be outside a courtroom at 9AM- with the fucking abuser there at the same time- without anyone there to police the situation???  He was standing right fucking over her!!!  FUCK!!!! When my kids get in a fight, do I send them both to the same room-alone? 
  3. Should we, as a society, give much thought to how a victim wants their abuser dealt with?  If I wanted my attacker sentenced to death, would we pursue that?  If I wanted a person who murdered my spouse to go free with a $250 fine, would the prosecution entertain that?  No.  sentences are not just about making right with victims, they are about sending clear messages about how society views certain behaviours.  Victims should be consulted- but not to the degree that we empower abusers.  If anger management and a year of probation is a reflexion of how society feels about domestic assault, how can we come to any other conclusion than the belief that we think it is more bothersome than wrong?

Am I being irrational here?

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Canada has issues too……

Posted on February 28, 2012. Filed under: Canadian Politics, Children, Parenting, Personal, Politics, Social Justice |

I’m going to send you a link to a story from the Toronto Star.  Be prepared to first shout “WTF?”, then be immensely angry, then shout “No, Srsly……WTF?”

The story is here.

A Kitchener father is angry at police after he was arrested at his child’s school and later strip-searched at the police station, all because his 4-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun in class.

“I’m picking up my kids and then, next thing you know, I’m locked up,” Jessie Sansone, 26, said of his ordeal on Wednesday. “I was in shock. This is completely insane.”

The school principal, police and child welfare officials, however, all stand by their actions. They say they had to investigate to determine whether there was a gun in Sansone’s house that children had access to.

My favorite line in the whole article?

After he was released, Sansone was asked to sign a paper authorizing a search of his home. He signed, even though he didn’t have to, he said.

So yeah, they got him to sign a paper authorizing the search they had already performed.  You know, so that he can’t sue them.  This is monumentally ridiculous.  I wish I had Ed Brayton on my Facebook.  He’d get a kick out of this.

In the same local newspaper I found this news story, there was a great piece on the front page interviewing our Chief of Police about Bill C-30 (A Canadian Bill that would force ISP’s to keep data on their customers internet usage that police could access on request).  He made it clear that he supports the initiative.

You know, because police would never overreach their authority or abuse their power.

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Parenthood, Promises and Progress: Why Scouting Makes Me A Reluctant Hypocrite.

Posted on November 22, 2011. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Personal, Religion, Social Justice |

On my honour
I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to God and the Queen
To help other people at all times,
And to carry out the spirit of the Scout Law.

The man I am today owes a debt to my life in Scouting.  I can build a fire, make a camp, cook a meal from whole ingredients. I can sew, lash, and build with tools. I am passionate about getting involved and being of service to my community.I am a better leader, a better peer, and a better citizen.  I am a responsible steward of the environment.  When I go on a walk with my children, I can name trees and plants, rocks and minerals, animals and insects- I can show them how nature impacts us and how we impact nature. I am a better Dad, a better husband, and a better man because of scouting.

The idea that skills are important, that people are important, that passion is important- lie at the heart of Scouts from Beavers to Rovers and beyond.

When I was a Scout, I thought I could change the world.  We were told we could change the world.  We were taught how to change the world.  My troop collected newspaper and glass bottles before our community established a recycling program.  We planted trees, collected trash, gave our time to food banks, the elderly, and community organizations.  We were told that it was our duty not just to leave nature better than we found it but to leave our world better than we found it.

Scouts is about camping and hiking, yes- but it is really about more than that- it is about giving kids the skills they need to succeed in life, and building within themselves the passion to always “do your best”.

So when it came time to find activities that might interest my own children, I could think of no better fit than Scouting.  My kids love it.  My oldest son has met a group of kids he really meshes with, who share his interests and goals.  My second son is better behaved, more attentive, and shows palpable pride in the things he has realized he is capable of doing independently.  Scouts has been good to me, good to my family, and has strengthened the relationship between me and my boys.  It is no surprise, then, that when I was asked to be a leader of my son’s Cub Pack, I was excited and honored at the opportunity.  The leaders I work with are great- seasoned veterans of scouting who have been helpful and patient with me as I slowly immerse myself back into the program.

As a child, I grew up in a somewhat religious family.  My dad bought a business when I was quite young that prevented us from going to church with any regularity, but God was certainly an ever-present assumption in our family culture.  For this reason,  in my seven some-odd years in scouting from Beavers to Scouts, I paid nary a mind to the religious language and culture present in the program.  It was no more religious than my home, my public school, or my baseball team.

The Problem With the Promise

When I first picked up my Cub Book and welcome package, I was set aback by how tied to religion scouting really is.  God has a mention in every promise at every level of scouting.  The promise is not just an aside to the scouting program, but something children are required to memorize.  It is the “vision statement” of every young Beaver, Cub and Scout.  My children memorized this promise dutifully, as did I- but for my oldest son and myself it is a promise that we have no intent to keep.  My twelve year old son doesn’t believe in God, and neither do I. (more…)

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Death Of A Statesman: Thoughts On Jack Layton.

Posted on August 23, 2011. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Global Warming, Personal, Politics, Social Justice |

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

-Jack Layton, In his last letter to Canadians.

Yesterday morning Canada lost a great voice for social justice.

Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, died surrounded by friends and family- not of the prostate cancer he very publicly battled over the past few years- but of a new cancer that he was diagnosed with just one month ago.

Jack’s legacy can not be overstated.  His tireless work during his 30 years in public office of fighting for the poor and homeless- first as a Toronto City Councillor and later as an MP and Leader of the NDP harken back to the days when politicians were guided into politics out of principled idealism to make Canada better for Canadians.  In an age where politicians seem to care about staying the course, Jack asked us to abandon the well worn trail and search together for a better path.  He sought public office not just to win but to be a voice for those most affected by policies and most disaffected by politics.

Jack laboured his entire career for those who needed a voice the most.  He was an advocate for Aboriginal issues, and helped craft the Government letter of apology for the horrors of residential schools.  He was instrumental in starting the White Ribbon Campaign in response to the Montreal Massacre in 1991- raising awareness of violence against women.  He offered up his home as equity to keep the campaign running, and its first headquarters was the bedroom of Jack’s son, Micheal, now a Toronto city Councillor himself.   He was instrumental in putting Toronto at the forefront of AIDS activism, becoming one of the greatest political champions of the issue. He lobbied Council for a Gay and Lesbian Pride Day in Toronto as early as 1989. His advocacy in Parliament of Same-sex Marriage is no doubt the reason Canadians today can boast of our strides in social equity.

In Toronto, Jack fought and won the battle to make the city one of the most accessible in North America for cyclists.  His commitment to the simple ways we can help the environment will have a lasting impact in Toronto in particular and Canada as a whole.  He was one of the architects behind the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, which diverted monies from the sale of City land toward green initiatives.  His legacy includes wind power initiatives in Toronto, and Enwave, an environmentally sustainable energy company half owned by the City of Toronto- a company that uses Deep Lake Water Cooling to air condition highrises in the city center.

I think that, in politics as in life, we need to be guided by an ideal and govern in reality.

Perhaps the most important thing Jack did was show Canadians that we could be a community of equals, people who work together and for each other; that we could be a country proud of how we treat each other- that social justice and equity were not Utopian pipe dreams, but responsible and attainable goals.  He convinced enough of us that we could do good to make his party the official opposition in the last election.  He did this with a party that was, when he took the helm in 2003, a marginalized socialist labour party that was a perennial also-ran in the Federal landscape.  Who knows what he could have accomplished if his life were not cut short.

The last week or two, I had been mulling over writing a post about what I want to see in my political leaders in response to some of the talk with Americans about the upcoming 2012 elections.  I think if I had have thought long and hard about it, I would have told them to look up Jack Layton.  I think that, in politics as in life, we need to be guided by an ideal and govern in reality.  Jack did this better than anyone, and he made both look possible.  There is always an ideal- a society that exemplifies all those things that are best in humanity- but the real world doesn’t always make it simple or practical to get there.  When you look back at a career that spans almost my entire lifetime, Jack never sacrificed his vision- he never lost sight of Shangri-La.  He was always moving in the direction of Better- always inching toward the best city- the best Country- he could give his fellow Canadians.  Yes, there were realities.  Yes, there were stumbling blocks.  It would be so easy to just lose sight of where you are going and settle for what you have.  The great leaders get it.  They see the reality and ask how they can shape it, they see the stumbling block and ask how they might remove it.

  An Ideologue goes charging blind headlong toward the precipice, a Politician tries to keep us happy on our own side, a Leader asks how we might bridge the gap.  Jack was a leader. 

Here is to you, Jack.

Here is to Heroes, those whose spirit transcends mortality.
Here is to Leaders, those whose determination brings us together.

Jack Layton: July 18 1950- August 22 2011

Here is to Visionaries, those whose eyes are fixed on a better tomorrow.
Here is to Great Men, those whose ranks have lost another.
My Hero. A Leader, a Visionary, a Great Man,
history can do you no justice- it is up to us-
to make our future a testament to your life,
to your vision, to your spirit.
Here, my friends, is to Heroes,
and a man who saw a Hero in us all.
I’ll miss you Jack.



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The Problem With The Abortion Debate

Posted on July 28, 2011. Filed under: Abortion, Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Internet Etiquette, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Religion, Social Justice |

Ed.-Read Pt.2 of The Problem With The Abortion Debate here.

Perhaps it is that me and my beautiful wife are going to be welcoming another member to our already large family this December (#5- if you’re counting)-lately I have been really getting annoyed with the tone of the debate over abortion.  There are the “pro-life” people- forever calling people who disagree “anti-life”, “pro-abortion”, “abortion advocates”, and the like.  There are those on the “pro-choice” side forever bringing up abortion clinic bombings as though every “pro-lifer” is a domestic terrorist– or the constant and droning use of the term misogynist at the drop of a hat.

There are words flying across both sides of the fence that make any reasonable treatment of the topic impossible.  It boils down to two very important and very reasonable positions.  On the one hand, we have the pro-choice camp who believe women need to have ultimate control over their bodies and be given the same opportunities as men.  This seems quite reasonable.  On the other side of the fence lies a group of people who believe in the primacy of existence- that once you create life there is no return policy.  Quite reasonable as well.  Both miss the point when boiled down to this kind of generalization.  Both miss the point when staring down the opposing position.

As  a Pro-Choice advocate, I am most familiar with what frustrates me when trying to explain my

This Graphic: Kind of True....Not Very Helpful.

position to people who have a laundry list of preconceptions, misleading talking points and bad logic regarding what it means to be an “abortion advocate”.  I know some Pro-Life people, and I can sympathize with their feeling that they are generalized and marginalized as well.  This post is meant as a treatment of what frustrates me most when discussing abortion- how I feel that my position is mistreated and misunderstood by the Pro-Life camp.  They surely feel the same, and I’m happy to make room for that conversation as well.

Conversation stopper #1:”You are anti-life”


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Results from the Canadian Election

Posted on May 3, 2011. Filed under: Canadian Politics, Politics |

It is almost midnight as I start writing this post.

The election in Canada is almost over.  The votes are cast, the ballots are counted, and we have a Conservative majority Government.  There are quite a few surprises to report.  Not many people would have guessed a Conservative majority.  Not many people would have guessed that the NDP would form the official opposition.  The separatist movement in Quebec is decimated.  The juggernaut of Canadian politics for the last 120 years, the beloved Liberal Party, has been marginalized to 34 seats, just a hair above 10% of the total seats in the House of Commons.  Two federal party leaders, Gilles Duceppe of the BQ and Micheal Ignatieff of the Liberals, failed to win their own seat in the House.   Lastly, and perhaps the most surprising to me, is that Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party, has one the first ever seat for that party in Canadian history.

After tomorrow, the landscape of Canadian politics will be forever different.  Will we finally see the true colours of the former Reform Party now that the Conservatives need not walk on eggshells?  Has the NDP finally pulled itself out of the wilderness and become a relevant force in Canadian politics?  Will politics in Quebec ever be the same?  Those questions are for tomorrow.

I am, as I am sure you are all aware, more than a little disappointed about a Conservative Majority.  This is not the direction I would choose for my country, and the next four years may be the most dangerous years in Canadian politics.   I can only hope that a vocal NDP opposition will work to temper some of the policies that our next Conservative government will fight for.

But tonight is a night to toast some victories.  The separatist Bloc Quebecois is standing at three seats right now.  The separatist spectre has been, for the time being at least, sent packing.  I hope desperately that the NDP can do the work necessary to earn the trust and respect of a province that has felt slighted and ignored virtually since confederation.  We can all be happy at the prospect of a more unified Canada.

I am happy also that the New Democratic Party has earned legitimacy in Canadian politics.  Long have I wished for a viable Left Wing alternative, a party that had a clear center-left agenda that could counter the complacency of the Liberals and the condescension of the Conservatives.  This is a victory for progressive Canadians.

I can’t help but be exited at the prospect of a Green Party MP in Ottawa.  I hope that this step helps to remind our elected officials that the environment is not a fringe issue in Canada.  I hope that this gain helps to bring the Green Party away from some of their more ridiculous and pseudo-scientific policy positions as they realize that their party has been given an opportunity at relevance.  I hope Elizabeth May never says in her victory speech that “The ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals.”  Crap.  She actually said that? Damn.  Jason will never let me live that one down!

Oh, and for all my talk about how my Liberal MP was a sure bet to win my riding, right now he is trailing by about 100 votes with one poll not reporting.  I’m apparently in one of the tightest races in the whole country.  Maybe I should have voted Liberal after all.

But I don’t regret the vote I cast.  Not one bit.

It’s 12:40 PM and the vote stands at 166 Conservatives, 104 NDP, 34 Liberals, 3 Bloc, and 1 Green.

Who’d of thunk it?

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A Three Sentance Book Review Of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Posted on April 30, 2011. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Canadian Politics, Humour, Random |

This is the best thing I have read on the internet ever!

 There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

From the comments on this site (originally attributed to John Rogers- thanks be to Mary for the correction…)

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My Personal Ruminations On The Coming Federal Elections-Part 1: The Illusion Of Choice

Posted on April 7, 2011. Filed under: Canadian Politics, Humour, Personal, Politics, Social Justice |

There is an election coming up here in Canada.  Most of my American readers won’t have more than just a passing curiosity at that statement; for those who care though, here are my feelings regarding the choices I face.

Canada has a federal election at the discretion of our Prime Minister, barring a vote of non-confidence, about every four years or so- with a single term limited to a maximum of five years.  Does that sound confusing?  You betcha!  What it amounts to is this.  The effective head of our federal government can call an election whenever he wants (with approval from the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada) within his or her five year mandate.  Tradition dictates this happens every four or so years, assuming that the Prime Minister has the confidence of the Parliament.  If the Members of Parliament vote non-confidence, either directly or by refusing passage of important legislation (the budget being the most important), then the Governor General must either dissolve Parliament or ask the opposition if they are able to form a coalition government in place of the current regime.  Still sound confusing?  You don’t know the half of it….The good news is that if you understood everything I just said then you know more than the average voter in this election.

Our current Prime Minister is Stephen Harper, the Emperor Palpatine of Canadian Politics. He is the leader of the Conservative Party, and with 143 of a total 308 seats in the House of

Stephen "Emperor Palpatine" Harper

Commons (Parliament), he has a minority government.  This means that to pass legislation with a 50% majority, he needs to depend on the votes of at minimum 12 opposition Members.  The Last Federal election was October of 2008, when Harper increased his seat count, and this last term was his third as a minority Prime Minister.

The election is scheduled for May 2nd, and it essentially exists as a two horse race between the Conservatives under the leadership of Harper and the Liberals under the leadership of Micheal Ignatieff, the Jar-Jar Binks of Canadian politics- to stick with the same franchise.  If you are a betting man, I’ll place odds right now that Harper will still be Prime Minister May 3rd, but with a slightly smaller seat count.  If it is quite a bit smaller, I also expect an NDP-Liberal coalition in the near future, and this wouldn’t be a horrible thing.  Well, other than having

Michael "Iggy" Ignatieff

to watch the Canadian political equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks on my T.V. more frequently.

So here lie my choices.  There are really four parties that field decent candidates in my home riding, and I’ll introduce those not privy to the intricacies of Canadian politics to those four parties now. If you want to get an idea of who you might vote for if you were a Canadian, or if you are a Canadian who doesn’t know who to vote for, here’s a great little Vote Compass that CBC News is offering. It asks a series of policy questions and places you on a graph with the major parties, including the Bloc Quebecois, which I will discuss briefly at the end of this post. The four National parties, in order of current seat count in the House of Commons,  are… (more…)

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