Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day: Here's a Baby

Happy Valentine's Day from Rose's Cantina.
Hope you have a great day.
Turn off CNN and put on a record.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Ashley Simpson: What You Can Do

Last night, the Simpson family won a small victory after Niagara Council voted unanimously to appeal to Employment Insurance and ask the government to relax its requirements for people searching for their missing loved ones.

The council will write a letter on the family's behalf in hopes of easing the financial burden on my cousin John who hopes to return to Salmon Arm to search for his daughter Ashley. Anyone who knows EI understands he is only asking for a pittance to keep him afloat as he braves the wilderness to find Ashley whose case the RCMP now considers a homicide.

Since she disappeared nearly 10 months ago, John can think of nothing else but his daughter's fate. Initially, EI rejected his claim because he couldn't prove that his daughter's disappearance was crime-related. He won his case on appeal but is now being told that he will no longer be able to collect EI if he leaves the province of Ontario, where he resides.

Losing his EI would add to the financial devastation of John's family at a time when John should be thinking about retirement.

In presenting the case, family friend Steven Soos told the council that "it is of the highest importance that...the council act to ensure the fight to find Ashley never stops. However, after 10 months, income supports for her family to continue their search for answers is dwindling."

Employment Standards does provide 52 weeks of leave for crime-related disappearance and 106 for crime-related death. But John's case is uniquely Canadian because it involves two jurisdictions.

What you can do

I am truly hoping that John wins his case, but I do believe it will take more than a letter from Niagara to get the attention of the government. So I am asking you all, those who know Ashley, or who have been following this case, to write or better yet phone Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Here are his coordinates: Jean-Yves.Duclos@parl.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-992-8865Fax: 613-995-2805You can also write a letter. The postage is free.
If you don't know what to say, you can copy this:
Dear Minister:
I am writing on behalf of the family of John and Cindy Simpson of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario whose daughter Ashley went missing 10 months ago in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Her case is considered a homicide by the RCMP who unfortunately have been unable to locate her.
Ashley's father John fought for, and won, an appeal which would allow him to collect Employment Insurance, and provide leave from his job. Unfortunately, he will lose that compensation if he travels to British Columbia to continue to look for Ashley.
This will create undo hardship on the family, and I am asking you to personally intervene in this matter.
I'm sure you understand there is nothing worse in the world than losing a child. It is even worse when there is no closure. The disappearance of Ashley has devastated this family.
Our social safety net was designed many years ago to offer short-term assistance to Canadians in need. Please consider reviewing this case, and allowing John to receive financial assistance so he can help in efforts to locate his daughter.

c.c. (you can find the name and coordinates of your local MP here.)

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Stop Trump, Canada: Boycott Hudson's Bay Company

In desperate need of a new winter coat, I walked into the Hudson's Bay Company today because the store had a great sale.

I looked through all the Calvin Klein and London Fog coats, all deliciously marked down by 50 or 75 percent and I was about to take out my grand new charge card, when something caught my eye.

Over in the corner, in the designer section, there was a display of tunic dresses that looked very familiar. I thought I recognized one from the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States. But of course, I was mistaken. Ivanka Trump wouldn't actually wear one of these reasonably priced dresses that were on display. She just feigns to sell them to the plebes.

I put back the coat I had chosen, and headed for Sears where I bought myself a sensible parka. Sure, I liked the coats at the Bay better, but I couldn't support the Trump brand. I have vowed never to contribute one dime to that hateful man's family.

Sorry, Ivanka.

I won't be shopping for cute togs for my granddaughter at BuyBuy Baby, either. Or Saks Fifth Avenue. Or Lord and Taylor. Seriously, Ivanka, you should go into a new line of work. Your brand will never recover from this.

There's not much we can do about Donald Trump in Canada. We didn't vote for him, and can't vote him out. But we sure as shootin' can vote with our wallets, and that's what I did today. Like many other consumers, I've joined the Grab Your Wallet campaign, and pledged to boycott all things Trump: his hotels, his steaks, his wine (why would you ever buy a wine from a teetollar, anyway?) There will be no Trump mattresses in this house. No cute dresses and handbags.

And here's why.

With several strokes of his pen, Donald John Trump put the world on notice. He told the world that he doesn't much like brown people.  He thinks that Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, and he knows in his heart that every Muslim has a machete under the bed. He wants America to be as pink as the rosacea on the face of Darth Bannon.

Donald Trump wants to put a wall around America to keep out everybody who doesn't look like him. He'd build a dome over America if he could get away with it.

It's the Muslim ban that has me most steamed and why I'm boycotting the Bay.

Last year, I worked at Home Outfitters, an affiliated HBC store. About half the people I worked with came from predominantly Muslim countries. Several of my coworkers were working more than one job. One of them was becoming an engineer, another had been accepted to serve with the RCMP. Like me, they worked for low wages and were treated shabbily, but unlike me, I never heard one of them complain. They were just happy to have been given an opportunity to work in Canada and escape whatever hell hole they came from.

At least a third of the people who came into my store also came from predominantly Muslim countries. I remember one customer, a beautiful tall Somalian woman who glided through the store as if she were on skates. When I got closer, I saw that her hands and feet had been cut off. Her hands were made of wood. Clearly, she was either the victim of violence or disease.

A lot of our customers were nasty to us, complaining that they didn't like our prices, or that we were ripping them off. A few of them actually said they were glad our store was closing and hoped that we, the staff, wouldn't find jobs. Those people left several of my managers in tears. All of those customers were white.

I remember one day helping out a Muslim family who had come to Canada with nothing, and they had to buy all new bedding and towels. The mother didn't speak English, so the daughter had to translate. I spent a couple of hours with them as they carefully picked out their new purchases. Several times, we were interrupted by rude customers who were too lazy to use the store price checkers. Again, all of those entitled customers were white.

After I finished helping this family, I nudged them to the cash because we were about to close. Just before the door were locked, the daughter rushed back in and came up to me.

She gave me a big hug.

"Thank you for being so kind to my family," she said.

It made me want to cry.

I thought of that young girl today, and got a little weepy thinking that she could have been on Trump's hit list.

I thought about my Muslim coworkers, too, who had made my horrible little job a little better. Hamid, the engineer, especially. He always had a joke, even if I could barely understand what it was.

And then I thought about Donald Trump and my blood began to boil.

How could he deny these wonderful people hope, and a future? And how could America have elected such a hateful horror of a human being?

"We must keep evil out of this country," he tweeted yesterday.

Then I thought, good, pack your bags, Donnie and take those horrible little minions with you.

Of course, that won't happen. This is life, it's not a reality show.

But we don't have to feel powerless.

Which brings me to my point, and I do have one.

It's hard to hurt Mr. Trump. He is rich and powerful.

But there is one way to do it.

Grab Your Wallet.

Boycott anything Trump.

Hit him in his pocket book.

Bankrupt the bugger.


Here in Canada, you can make a difference, too.

Write a letter, and tweet to the Hudson's Bay Company -- which by the way is buying Macy's -- and embarrass them into dumping the Trumps.

You have more power than you realize.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Ashley Simpson: Nine Months Gone

What should be concerning to the RCMP in British Columbia is that my cousin John Simpson is quitting his life in Ontario and moving to Salmon Arm to find out what happened to his daughter, Ashley, who went missing without a trace, nine months ago.

John has posted on Facebook that he intends to go back to the scene of the crime to get some answers. As he wrote: "the RCMP don't want to do what was directed by the head of the force to keep in contact with the families...and update weekly.

"And so I go as a father, searching for his missing daughter, who has been gone for nine months and without a clue."

I don't blame John. As a mother, I would move mountains to find out what happened to one of my kids, if they had met with misfortune. I am a mother bear. I will defend my children and the people whom I love to the nth degree, and so I wish him well.

"There is no moving on until this is done, no next step, I have to go west to search. What the heck, there is no better way to enjoy my retirement than to look for you, my girl. So with map in hand, I will go soon."

This is heartbreaking for me, as a family member and as the family blogger who has kept this story alive. I fear for John, and the rage of a father. My best hope is that he keeps safe, and doesn't become yet another victim in this tragic case. Emotions run high as hope fades.

Godspeed, John.

Keep us informed, and we will keep everyone accountable.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Peter Fleming: Farewell to the Maestro!

You won't see many pictures of Peter Fleming.
That's because Pete was more of a "behind the scenes" guy.
He was like that character Red in Shawshank Redemption, who could get things for you from time to time.
Pete was a force around the National Press Club for years. He'd often be seen at a back table with Gus Cloutier, the House of Commons' Sergeant-at-Arms, and many of the honchos who worked on the Hill. Charlie Lynch would be at the table, along with Shirley and Tom Van Dusen Sr., and Art Lamarche.
On a Friday afternoon, they'd be holding court, downing bottles of wine, slurping pea soup and chowing down on roast beef.
The gang was there every Friday for decades.
It was always a fun table, and they were gracious enough to let stragglers like me join them.
I learn a lot. I laughed a lot, too.
Unlike myriad other tables in the joint, when you sat down, you parked your ego -- and shop talk -- at the door. This was story time.

A lot of people didn't know it, but this gang kept the Press Club going through bad times. They managed to hold the line on the rent, and often forgive it, when bar flies refused to pay their burgeoning tabs. Pete was the quiet one, but he was always in the thick of it.
Most people remember Pete, who died this week, as the maestro, the guy who led the National Press Club and Allied Workers' Jazz Band. He also was a force behind the National Press Gallery Dinner Shows. He arranged all the music and worked patiently with the merry band of drunken, off key singers who were allowed to pierce the ears of prime ministers and members of the cabinet, and lampoon the daylights out of them.
The catterwalling was the best part.
And you never knew who would fall off the stage.

I'm not sure what Pete did exactly, as a job I mean.
He worked for the House of Commons somewhere, I think in accommodations.
Back then, the rules were loosely applied while Speakers turned a blind eye.
You could also get a stiffie at 9 a.m. at the Gallery speakeasy.
And you could still get a meal deal in the Parliamentary Restaurant for less than you'd pay for a Big Mac.
There were no Parliamentary budget officers back then.
Only creative thinkers.

The last time I saw Pete, he came to a lunch in honor of Annette Leger, another press club stalwart. We all posed for a picture. Pete was in the front for a change.

He'd been unwell for years, and so I'm glad that today he is out of pain.
And I'd like to think that he and Stu McLeod are up there some place playing Dixie to beat the band.
RIP, old friend.
They broke the mould.
Play 'em out, fellars.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Ashley Simpson Day

Yesterday was Ashley Simpson Day in the media.

I want to direct you to an outstanding series that has been written by St. Catharines Standard reporter Grant LaFleche.

You can read parts one and two here.
And part three here.

The second media site is a podcast out of Idaho called True Crimes and Mysteries. It's run by Rebecca and Mike Duke who explore the underbelly of crime in the U.S. and now in Canada. They are raising some very interesting questions about Ashley's case. They'll also provide future updates, so if you know anything, anything at all, please contact them.

I hope you will take the time to read Grant's stories, and listen to the podcast, and share it. Taken together, they explain a lot.

And if you know something, speak up.

You never know who might be listening!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

St. Catharines Standard investigates Ashley Simpson case

A week back, I got a call from Grant LaFleche, a reporter with the St. Catharines Standard. He said he was looking into the case of my missing cousin, Ashley Simpson. We had an interesting chat about my blog which I have kept up since April when Ashley went missing.

I told him my story. I didn't know Ashley or even her father, John, who is an adopted cousin.

Well, I certainly know them now. And I know, too, about the cases of the other missing women from her neighborhood in Salmon Arm. Wish I had met anyone of them in different circumstances.

Would have bought them a drink.

But there you go.

All through this painful process, I've been hoping that one of my media colleagues would take on this case. Alas, there are few resources in the media these days, especially news organizations that would pay the freight and give a reporter the time to visit her home, mark her last steps, and ask the hard questions.

The Standard did. And the link below is Part One of Ashley's story.

I say thanks to Grant, to my former paper, and to Postmedia for telling her story -- the good and bad of it.

It's an unflinching account, so I caution my cousins and Ashley's friends.

Don't be mad. And troll or throw rocks.

She was no shrinking violet. She drank. She carried on. But she also loved, and hurt, and breathed the rare air of ships, and logging camps.

To quote an old cogger from Butch Cassidy, "She wasn't crazy; she was colorful."

Above all, Ashley mattered.

We all do.

So hug your children tight, and share with them this cautionary tale.

Here is Part One.