Muskrat Love

This month, the Canadian RCMP reversed a policy of issuing muskrat fur flap hats. Instead, it wanted to give officers the option of wearing wool toques. While fur is superior in providing warmth in the Arctic conditions much of Canada finds itself in in winter, not every day is reminiscent of the Ice Age, making the woolen hat option sufficient for many officers in many situations.

Canada’s Environment Minister ordered the Mounties to reverse the policy. Leona Agulkkaq, who has no ministerial responsibility for the national police, wants it to remain mandatory for the fur of three dead rat-like creatures be on the head of every Mountie in Canada. She said the change threatened the livelihood of Canadians who depended on the fur trade and blamed the change on “radical animal rights activists.” By that reasoning, we could soon be ordered to smoke cigarettes daily, since not smoking threatens the livelihood of tobacco farmers.

Yes, in this government’s eyes, any protest or different opinion is “radical” and must be stomped out. After all, letting ordinary Canadians disagree with the government could threaten even more important jobs. Their own.

73-year-old fired for making “racy” movies

In the 1970s, a young Jacqueline Laurent Auger acted in a number of soft-core erotic films in Europe. She is now 73 years old. For the past 15 years, she has worked as a drama teacher at prestigious College Jean-de-Brebeuf in Quebec. Until recently. Despite 15 years of distinguished teaching at the school that has educated former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, his son Justin who is trying to become PM today, from Premier Robert Bourassa as well as a long list of who’s-who of Quebec elite society, Ms. Laurent Auger was recently “let go,” informed her services were no longer required since she is presumably a bad role model.

The decision has sparked a morality debate. Besides the reasons for the decision itself, some commentators have commented on the prevalence of “sexting” among students the age of College Jean-de-Brebeuf’s student body and pointing out the school would now be obligated to suspend anyone at the institution found “guilty” of such practices. After all, the school has set the precedence. Worse, this would involve what is legally considered child pornography, not an adult willingly participating in slightly risque behaviour decades ago.

Really, the debate is why those responsible for hiring and harbouring such a morally depraved creature of Ms. Laurent Auger have not themselves been sacked. After all, aren’t they the ones responsible for protecting the morals of their charges? Since they are the ones responsible for exposing the students to a staff member of such questionable character, shouldn’t they themselves be sending out new resumes?

Don’t worry, a soldier is dead, the Prime Minister is being sheltered in a cupboard, but Julian is fine!


On Wednesday, October 22 2014, Canada suffered the second terrorist attack of the week when a single gunman shot and killed a Canadian reserve soldier volunteering to patrol at the Canadian National War Memorial on Parliament Hill by a lone gunman best known for criminal activities and suspected mental health issues.

The gunman then commandeered a car and forced his way into the Parliament Buildings, where he was ultimately shot to death. In the interim, Parliament and much of the capital city, Ottawa, was locked down. The Prime Minister himself was reportedly hidden in a closet.

So what were the first words out of Julian Fantino, Cabinet Member and Veteran Affairs member? While a veteran of the military he was closely associated with lay dead, the leader of his government locked in a closet while other parliamentarians made makeshift spears out of flag poles to protect him, Julian Fantino’s first words in a social media tweet began with “I am fine….”

More’s the pity.

A cautionary warning from a half-remembered genius

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 – 1790)



Newly-defeated Confederate leader Jefferson Davis welcomed in Canada, gives defence tips against American armies

Freshly defeated in the U.S. Civil War, Confederate leader Jefferson Davis came to Canada to give the newly founded country defence tips

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Tristin Hopper | July 25, 2014 7:32 PM ET
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Over July and August, more than five million foreigners will come to Canada on their summer vacation. For the rest of the summer, the National Post presents this series on the revolutionaries, luminaries and criminals who have taken time out from shaping world events to pay us a visit — and how that visit shaped them. Today, the time a failed separatist was welcomed in Quebec:

It was on the spur of the moment when John Henry Hill decided to alight for freedom. In 1853, the 25-year-old Virginia slave was just about to be handcuffed and led to the auction block when he suddenly brandished a hidden knife, sent his terrified captors fleeing, and disappeared into the surrounding city.

Hill soon found himself in the care of the Underground Railroad, the secret network of safe houses ferrying escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. After a nine month odyssey, he disembarked at Toronto and took his first steps into the “Promised Land” of British North America.

Read the entire ‘It Happened in Canada’ series
Errol Flynn, warts and all: How the broke Hollywood film star met his end in Vancouver
Trotsky’s tactical ruthlessness may have won the Bolsheviks Russia. But he almost missed the uprising in a Canadian jail
“I have seen more Pleasure since I came here than I saw in the U.S. the 24 years I served my master,” he wrote to William Still, the Underground Railroad’s main agent in Philadelphia. “Come Poor distress men and women and come to Canada where colored men are free.”

A mere 14 years later, the lands of Canada would seem just as welcoming to a man who could not have been more opposite to John Henry Hill. In fact, it was a man who had given up his political career, his fortune and even his freedom to ensure that men like Hill remained enslaved.

In May, 1867, few Canadians noticed when a train trundled into Montreal carrying Jefferson Davis, the deposed president of the Confederate States of America.

Matthew Brady/Library of Congress
Matthew Brady/Library of CongressJefferson Davis, circa between 1858 and 1860
Davis was a marked man blamed by Northerners and Southerners alike for the deadliest war in U.S. history, and after a harrowing train journey through New York — where he would have needed to avoid the gaze of war widows and crippled veterans alike — Davis was just happy to be in a country where nobody recognized him.

“My trip was so devoid of incident that like the weary knife grinder, I have no tale to tell,” he wrote in a letter to his brother.

There had been a time not too long before where Davis could have assumed that history would remember him as a second George Washington: A hesitant but duty-bound figure who had led a righteous revolution against an overbearing oppressor.

Instead, his Confederacy was under military occupation, 500,000 of his countrymen were dead, and slavery had been permanently abolished.

Davis, gaunt and weakened by two years in a military jail, had headed north to join his exiled family in a crowded Montreal boarding house and begin looking for a job.

“In mining I think there is profitable employment to be found,” wrote Davis in a hopeful letter to his brother. Mostly, though, the 60-year-old was depressed.

As Davis’ wife, Varina, would lament in a memoir, the couple had seen a generation of Southern manhood “mowed down by a countless host of enemies, overcome, broken in health and fortune … sustained only by the memory of having vindicated their honor.”

Davis had planned to use his time in Canada to pen a memoir about the short-lived Confederate Government. But, overcome by solemnity, he shelved the project, telling his wife “I cannot speak of my dead so soon.”

EDWARD LIVINGSTON/ LIBRARY OF CONGRESSHome of Jefferson Davis, three generations
Six years before, Davis’ doomed Confederacy had begun in a burst of parades, bunting, “Secession Balls,” and celebratory cannon fire. The ex-Southern leader was now arriving in Canada just as Canadians were preparing to do the same.

In just a few weeks, on July 1, fireworks and brass bands would usher in the first Canada Day, although Canadians would call the holiday Dominion Day until 1982.

It was no coincidence that Canadian Confederation came together just as the United States was clearing away the ashes of the Civil War.

The 2.6 million inhabitants of British North America had been rightly spooked at the sudden appearance of 2.2 million Americans in arms, and the United States was not coy about the prospect of a third U.S. invasion of Canada.

Northern troops even had a cheery marching song boasting that when they were done with the South, they would swing north to sever Canada “from Britain’s crown.”

Thus, while mid-19th-century Canadians likely disagreed with Davis’ stance on human bondage, they welcomed him as a leader who had experienced exactly what they had long feared: A ruthless, all-out invasion by the armies of the United States.

Edward Wilson/Library of Congress
Edward Wilson/Library of CongressJefferson Davis from a portrait session from his home Beauvoir, near Biloxi, Mississippi, circa 1885
So, for the few months until the chilly Canadian weather sent Davis back home to the land of cotton, he found himself feted as a celebrity.

A Montreal printer, John Lovell, allowed Davis and his family to live in his mansion. At the Theatre Royal, he was welcomed with a standing ovation and peals of Dixie, the South’s unofficial anthem. And, in July, when Davis journeyed to Lennoxville, Que., to visit his son at college, his train was greeted by cheering Canadians.

“I thank you most kindly for this hearty British reception, which I take as a manifestation of your sympathy and goodwill for one in misfortune,” he told the crowd in an impromptu speech.

Canada was only six days old then, and it would soon go on to achieve everything Southerners had hoped for the Confederacy: A nation stretching from sea to sea, a transcontinental railroad and the reassurance of 150 years of secure borders.

Davis told the crowd of new Canadians he hoped they would “ever remain as free a people as you are now.”

“I hope that you will hold fast to their British principles, and that you may ever strive to cultivate close and affectionate connection with the mother country. Gentlemen, again, I thank you.”

National Post

Trotsky almost missed the Bolshevik revolution in a Canadian jail

rotsky’s tactical ruthlessness may have won the Bolsheviks Russia. But he almost missed the uprising in a Canadian jail

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Tristin Hopper | July 11, 2014 | Last Updated: Jul 11 7:45 PM ET
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Over the next two months, more than five million foreigners will come to Canada on their summer vacation. For the rest of the summer, the National Post presents this series on the revolutionaries, luminaries and criminals who have taken time out from shaping world events to pay us a visit — and how that visit shaped them. Today, Tristin Hopper reports on how Canada made Leon Trotsky miss the opening months of the Russian Revolution.

The deadliest war in all Canadian history had just ended, but for 4,000 unlucky Canadian soldiers, another war was just beginning.

As Russia descended into civil war between Bolsheviks and a loose coalition of anti-Communists, Canada, along with its other Great War allies, had promised troops to help patch up what was left of Imperial Russia.

In Victoria, B.C., when French-Canadian conscripts were told they were being shipped to Siberia, they mutinied. Within full view of citizens in the quiet B.C. capital, volunteer soldiers were brought up to whip the Quebecers with belts and march them onto waiting ships at the point of a bayonet.

A ruthless tactician headed the armies these men were being sent to fight. He drove millions of peasants into his ranks by force, held families hostage to ensure a soldier’s loyalty and even revived the Ancient Roman practice of decimation. If a unit retreated without orders, every tenth man was ordered killed.

The idea that human life was sacred, he would say later, was nothing more than “vegetarian-Quaker prattle.”

Read more in the
How John Lennon’s impulsive decision to play a 1969 concert in Toronto helped speed the Beatles breakup
As the Canadian troops began their storm-battered sea voyage to Vladivostok, they could not have known the irony that this man, Leon Trotsky, had been safely locked away in Nova Scotia only a few months before.

In the spring of 1917, Trotsky was a Russian exile living in New York City when he first heard the news that a spontaneous revolution had toppled the 300-year reign of the Russian Tsar.

This was just the proletarian uprising he had been predicting for years, and the overjoyed dissident quickly secured papers at the Russian consulate and booked his family passage aboard a Norwegian steamer bound for the land “liberated by the revolution.”

“We had been sent off in a deluge of flowers and speeches, for we were going to the country of the revolution,” Trotsky wrote in his 1930 autobiography, My Life.

But British intelligence was already on the trail of the 37-year-old radical, and when the ship pulled in for a stop at Halifax, police stepped aboard to arrest Trotsky and a small group of other Russians as “dangerous socialists” set on overthrowing Russia’s fragile provisional government.

Worse still, the British suspected that Trotsky’s passage had been funded by the German enemy.

The Russians got “violent” when they saw the Canadian police, claimed a subsequent report.

Trotsky dropped to the floor and reportedly bit the “armed bluejackets” as they dragged him off the ship. His 11-year-old son then jumped into the melee by punching one of the officers. “It was his first lesson in British democracy,” Trotsky wrote later.

While Trotsky’s family was allowed to stay in Halifax, he and the other Russians aboard were hauled by train to Amherst Internment Camp.

Prison camps had sprung up all across Canada with the outbreak of the First World War, and were notorious for housing thousands of Ukrainian-born Canadians detained as “enemy aliens.”

Wikimedia commons
Wikimedia commonsLeon Trotsky with troops. Troops that he might not have seen if he had stayed in Canada.
Amherst, though, was mostly filled with sailors from the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, a German ship sunk by the Royal Navy in the opening days of the war.

Imprisonment was nothing new to Trotsky. As a Marxist organizer in Imperial Russia, he had racked up plenty of time in jails, detention cells and Siberian exile. At one point, Trotsky had even quipped that he liked incarceration, since it gave him time to read and think without fear of arrest.

But Trotsky had zero patience for Amherst.

“Men hopelessly dogged the passages, elbowed their way through, lay down or got up, played cards or chess,” he wrote in My Life. Some inmates had gone insane, and “we had to eat and sleep in the same room with these madmen.”

And where the Tsar’s fortresses had at least strip-searched Trotsky in private, in Nova Scotia he bristled at having to be subjected “to this shameful humiliation before a dozen men.”

The camp was commanded by Col. Arthur Henry Morris, a hardened veteran of Britain’s pith-helmeted colonial wars.

Even among fellow revolutionaries, Trotsky would become legendary for his grating arrogance, and the trait clashed immediately with the rigid commander, who had directly addressed Trotsky as “dangerous to the Allies in general.”

In particular, Col. Morris objected to Trotsky’s penchant for firing up the German sailors with Marxist speeches.

He gave us a lot of trouble at the camp, and if he had stayed there any longer he would have made Communists of all the German prisoners
“He gave us a lot of trouble at the camp, and if he had stayed there any longer he would have made Communists of all the German prisoners,” Captain F. C. Whiteman, the camp’s second-in-command, told reporters soon after Trotsky’ death in 1940.

Trotsky was completely cut off from the outside world during his time in Nova Scotia, and at one point lamented that it would be futile to complain to the British about his Canadian internment, as it would be like “complaining to Beelzebub about Satan.”

The left-wing Russian press, however, was reportedly whipped into a frenzy by news that a prominent comrade was being held against his will by Canadians.

Amherst’s most difficult prisoner was fast becoming an international incident, and after only one month in Nova Scotia, the British ordered Trotsky freed after receiving an official request from Pavel Milyukov, the foreign minister of Russia’s democratically minded Provisional Government.

The amnesty would not turn out well for either of them. Within six months, Milyukov’s government would be violently overthrown in an operation largely credited to Trotsky.

A few months after that, Trotsky would sign a peace treaty with Germany, prompting a devastating renewal of violence along the Western Front.

For the rest of his life, Trotsky would never forgive Canada, and vowed upon his departure that once in Russia, he would take action regarding the “outrageous treatment of Russian citizens by the Anglo-Canadian police.”

And yet, for all the injustice Trotsky claimed to have suffered at the hands of Canada, it was not long before he was enthusiastically condemning thousands of Russians to his own network of overcrowded concentration camps.

As Trotsky wrote in an August 1918 message to one of his military commanders, “root out the counter-revolutionaries without mercy, lock up suspicious characters in concentration camps — this is a necessary condition of success.”

National Post