What helps productive women more: gender parity quotas or a focus on competence?

What helps productive women more: gender parity quotas or a focus on competence?

Bambi would like to comment on an article entitled “Un homme qui a des couilles” (A man with balls… and, no, the content of this post is not sexual ?). This article is signed by journalist, Ms. Sophie Durocher (https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2019/08/30/un-homme-qui-a-des-couilles).

Ms. Sophie Durocher’s article focuses on parity (women vs. men) in arts and it starts as follows: “I just found my new hero. His name is Alberto Barbera and he is the director of the Venice Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. When he was criticized that there were only two movies produced by women of 21 movies in competition this year, he replied that he would have selected more movies made by women “had more women submitted good movies”. In other words, I do not care about your quotas, my only criterion is quality. Oh my God, I love this man who makes fun of political correctness!”.

Well, in arts, in politics, in businesses, and in other domains, quotas have been used as an instrument for the sake of justice. Some argue the latter is necessary to help rectify under-representation of a target group. In the example above, it is about gender inequity in artistic creation, namely movies. The underlying logic is that a system of gender parity quota would help ensure parity fast (a form of positive discrimination for the sake of equality of outcomes). But the question is: Is parity (always) a good idea, to begin with… and is it so at all costs? Why are we obsessed with the equality of outcomes when we know that each success journey is unique in itself? Why don’t we focus our energy more on the equality of opportunities rather? And, most importantly, what about quality or competence (= excellence, etc.)? Shouldn’t this be our concern number 1 before anything else in any competition: People’s sex or gender, colour or accent, place of birth or religion is not what is at stake here.

Bambi can of course understand that quotas in politics may be tempting to achieve a true representation of the population. The question that could beg itself then would be: Can’t we offer supportive conditions to women who have a potential for political success in order to encourage those of them who want to jump into politics? Wouldn’t this be enough to ensure a high calibre of politicians, whether they are women or men?

Do we really need to have an imposed (or self-imposed) parity to the point of perhaps sacrificing competence for the sake of that parity? At which point do we accept that a certain person X may be more competent than a person Y, even if Y would fill a quota or, even, a genuine concern for parity?

I will give a totally different example related to a system of forced quotas. In Beirut (Lebanon) where Bambi was born, there is a political quota system to fill positions in public service; this system is based on someone’s religion (the latter is most important grouping there). This religious-based tribal system is well disguised in the democracy that apparently seems to work there. From time to time, some would question this system or its unfairness (as there could be manipulation within it by this or that group). Indeed, history has shown that no one wins when one group tries to impose its power on the rest of the groups, regardless of the group in question. However, generally speaking, Lebanese power is well-divided; All the politicians seem to enjoy their piece of the cake of power.

To give a personal fictional example, had Bambi been a resident of Lebanon and interested in politics, she could never become neither the Speaker of the Parliament (held by a politician born in Sierra Leone because his Lebanese parents happen to be Shia Muslims), nor the Prime Minister (held by a politician who must be Sunni Muslim), nor the President of the Republic (a position held by a politician who must be Christian-Roman Catholic, precisely “Maronite”). Bambi can only be nominated as an Ambassador or hold a Ministry usually held by Christian-Greek Orthodox politicians. Do you get the idea?

In relation to gender and not religion per se, it seems that perhaps the most prestigious public service position in the country is held by a woman (bravo!): Interior Minister. In the past, the Head of the General Security has been a very competent woman (now retired). However, despite this, the vast majority of politicians are men. Despite many advances, the country is still characterized by patriarchy and by an apparently modern form of the religious tribalism mentioned above (yet as democratic as the country can be). Let’s not also forget that Lebanon still has its internal and external challenges (related to heavily armed powers in the country itself and in the neighbourhood).

Bambi wonders: Do we want Canada to become like Lebanon where a forced system of quotas was implemented to keep everyone happy and avoid strife? Is this the ideal that we aspire for?

Related to the topic of gender parity quotas, Bambi recalls how last year, it was decided by the media (I believe in the UK’s BBC) that a quota would be imposed to ensure more female experts on TV panels. She remembers having thought to herself: Why? Isn’t this determined by the area of expertise usually rather than the person’s sex? Knowing this, she would wonder to herself the next time she sees a panel of women whether they have been chosen for their expertise or just to fill a quota? She personally finds this insulting, although other media professionals, would not understand her logic.

Same for any other topic like health-related ones. If Bambi needs an urgent surgery of some sort one day, she doubts that she will think of the sex/gender of the surgeon. She does not care if the surgeon is a man or a woman, a francophone or an anglophone or whatever else. All what she would care for would be competence (once again)!

Plus, if we apply this logic to all the domains, Bambi is afraid that we would end up with a mediocre society where the standards of competence are lower.

To come back to Mr. Alberto Barbera, she does not know much about him to decide if he is also her hero (like Ms. Durocher’s hero). Maybe he is not a sensitive man in real life. Who knows? However, he seems to be a courageous artist who did not hesitate to say enough of political correctness: In this edition of the competition, it turned out that the best movies were submitted by men. Live with it. Bambi feels like adding, perhaps next year, the outcome would be the exact opposite. Who knows?

To conclude, Bambi finds it reassuring to read those words of common sense from the current Venice Film Festival Director as well as from an accomplished female journalist from Québec, Canada. The excellence of the end product (whether it is a movie, a painting, or a written piece) should be the main concern/criterion in determining success. Hopefully not politics… and surely NOT (absurd) political correctness.

A senseless saga of censorship


When Bambi first read this article in the Global News, (https://globalnews.ca/news/5809545/tareq-hadhad-ppc-billboard/), she had the reflex to clean her *middle-aged* eye glasses, as she likes to call them ?. She honestly thought the article was by the CBC, not the Global news. You will see why in the following paragraphs.

The article is entitled: ‘Very hurtful to see,’ Peace by Chocolate founder says of anti-immigration billboard in Halifax”. Note how this title omits the word “mass”. Do journalists or title writers think we are that stupid to be able to discern, whether we agree or disagree with the topic?

Mr. Hadhad has been here for 3 years only and he already speaks the language of the Canadian establishment (i.e., video from 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4nJwLBllDM ), except that he is funnier, Bambi has to admit ?.

In the article above, he even allows himself to get *triggered* like this new trend in our society (a real product of his Canadian or Western times); what an exemplary integration!

In the Ted Talk video above (from last year), I find it surprising how an Arab businessman (entrepreneur) seems to insinuate that earning money is a bad thing… So why is he in business then if it is not to earn a living, to begin with?

Yes, of course, for giving back to society and for being kind, just like people who have been kind to him and his family. This is a BEAUTIFUL message. Full of humanity. Bravo also for being grateful but no need to lose one’s soul in the process…

Mr. Hadhad comes from a country that is tragically torn between a dictatorial ruling party and extreme religious freaks. He also comes from a country that SADLY has seen its population being massively displaced (over 1.5-2 million in the neighbouring Lebanon).  

In Bambi’s humble opinion, he should know better about:

1.      The danger of censorship in society (regardless of the message, whether we agree with it or not).

2.      The challenges of *mass* immigration in the world to both the migrants themselves and overwhelmed host countries like Sweden or Germany where many of his fellow citizens relocated. Of course, and thank Goodness, Canada is not Germany; I agree with him that we do not have mass immigration. We are a cold country, we have oceans around and… whether we like it or not, we are somehow protected (for lack of better words) by the United States; Except when our Prime Minister invites people to illegally cross the border to our country (to distinguish himself from the vulgar Mr. Trump). We may not have mass migration (yet) but we are heading towards it, with 350K immigrants per year (instead of 150K or so) in the next 4 years.

Plus, not all our Syrian newcomers are as skilled/resourceful as him (bravo again for his chocolaty success!). MANY families are and may remain dependent on the Government for a living for years to come.

3.      Governments come and go (maybe not in Syria though)… but countries stay. My piece of free advice for him as an older immigrant (who has voted for the Liberal party almost all her life) would be to remember that countries are meant to stay. For that, we need smart policies, including a good immigration plan like what we had in the past.

To conclude this post, coming back to the billboard question, Bambi wonders the following:

Why did this company remove its billboards? Because a few people, including Mr. Hadhad, complained? Why is it that spineless?

Plus, who gets to decide what billboards to keep and what to remove? Certain ads may make sense to some people. Other billboards to other folks for different reasons.

Can’t we ignore those we dislike whilst driving or walking?

In a democratic country, all politicians should be able to express themselves on any issue, especially when it is as important as immigration. This is the essence of a free society.

It is up to us the citizens to decide for whom to vote…or not. We are smart enough to do so. We do not need censorship.

I thought I left censorship behind when I immigrated to Canada.

Where is our critical sense in Canada? Some words of wisdom from Roula Azar-Douglas (out of Lebanon)

Where is our critical sense in Canada? Some words of wisdom from Roula Azar-Douglas (out of Lebanon)

1. Bambi’s introduction:

As Bambi always did since her childhood, she reads ALL the news by ALL journalists to develop her own ideas about what is happening. She reads news analyses by authors she does not agree with, even before reading those she would agree with. This is what Bambi has learned to do during, and after, civil war in her birth country. This is what she will always do, especially in times of what seems like increased thought police, in our (supposedly still) free country. This is what allows her to build an understanding of matters or to challenge her own ideas.   

2. Mr. Richard Martineau’s story:

One Canadian journalist I happen to read sometimes is Mr. Richard Martineau from the Journal de Montréal. Yesterday, I read that some readers, likely *triggered* by one of his articles are now circulating a petition asking for his resignation. In other simpler terms: Censoring him.

Bambi will not get into the details of Mr. Martineau’s controversial article because this is not the point of this post. His paper is entitled “They speak in the name of whom?” and seems to focus on society’s relationship with identity groups/margins.

His paper starts with the following: They speak in the name of the people they are supposed to represent in as much as I speak for white heterosexual men of 58 years old in Verdun. You know why? Because “THE women” does not exist. There are only women (meaning no single type). Same for THE blacks, THE Muslims, THE old” («ils parlent autant au nom des gens qu’ils sont censés représenter que je parle au nom des hommes blancs hétérosexuels de 58 ans nés à Verdun. Savez-vous pourquoi? Parce que LES femmes n’existent pas. Il y a seulement DES femmes. Idem pour LES Noirs, LES musulmans, LES vieux, etc…»). (https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2019/08/18/ils-parlent-au-nom-de-qui).

Mr. Martineau’s article ends by telling the story of his gay friend who does not agree with the label that they wish to stick on him: LGBTQ+: “they want to put us all in the same basket. But, me, I am a man who have sex with men. I find talk of non-gendered or pansexual people ridiculous. Their struggle is not mine. How can we defend diversity when speaking in one voice?” («on nous met tous dans le même panier. Or, moi, je suis un homme qui couche avec des hommes. Les affaires de personnes non genrées ou pansexuelles, je trouve ça ridicule. Leur combat n’est pas le mien. Comment peut-on défendre la diversité en parlant d’une même voix?»).

Why are we trying to silence Mr. Martineau? Why can’t people accept that people have the right to their opinion, even if it differs from theirs? People are free to (fully?) agree or disagree with society’s “orthodoxies”. Why can’t we accept that some people (like the journalist’s gay friend) do not recognize themselves in defined groups?

I will give a different example to illustrate my point. Sometimes, Bambi is being asked if she is “Christian Lebanese” (many think she is Muslim because she is Arab). She sometimes replies: I am Lebanese. Yes, I happen to be Christian (although I could have been Muslim, Jewish or whatever else). Why? Because I refuse to see myself only through a spiritual lens or, worse, through a religious-based identity-lens. I have faith in my heart, but this is a personal matter. This is just one aspect of whom I am; it is no one’s business. I am Canadian period. I am Lebanese period. This is how I see myself. I also happen to be a Quebecer. I am also a proud New Brunswicker for over 11 years now (after having lived in/enjoyed Ontario too).

For me, a country is larger than us. It is above us all. As Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote in the Garden of the Prophet in 1934: “Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation“. This beautiful quote was meant for Lebanon. Sadly, it now applies to Canada more than ever… Extreme views on any issue, including multiculturalism, can easily become a dogma or political orthodoxy. This is especially the case if we do not allow ourselves to question this vision, which has merits up to a certain point. However, beyond that point, it may lend itself to a tragic reality like the one denounced by Gibran (in the Middle East, some identify with their religious fragments or *tribes* more than their country). This is a possible risk even in Canada or in any place (no one is immune), especially if we do not have a high enough opinion of our nation/civilization/ourselves anymore.  

To come back to Martineau’s article, and as well said by Bambi’s own sister, Ms. Roula Azar-Douglas who investigates equality between men and women. Please hang on to the rest of this post to get to know her ?: “Each woman is unique. Same for men, they are diverse too”.

3. Mr. Mathieu Bock-Côté:

As explained by Mr. Mathieu Bock-Côté (https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2019/08/24/au-nom-de-la-tolerance), our society’s obsession with (group) identities can become illogical: What does a person with a black skin born in Cuba have in common with someone whose parents where raised in Congo? Why do we insist on putting people in groups? Why do we forget about the role of culture in all this?

Some insist on seeing one group as the marginalized or victims. Other see another group as the mean offenders… But who did not go trough adversity through his/her lifetime, in one way or in another, at one point or another? In her personal life, Bambi refuses to play the victim game. Bambi has too much dignity to play this game and hopefully enough compassion in order not to fall into the trap of becoming an abuser (power trip of some sort). Instead, Bambi prefers to either change or leave a situation or to modify her own mindset.  

In the case of censorship against Mr. Martineau (or against anyone else), the so-called fight for tolerance turned into an absurd intolerance, calling for a form of professional or public killing… ironically “in the name of tolerance”, like in the title of Mr. Bock-Côté’s article cited above. We may or we may not agree with a journalist. Why can’t we tolerate his/her different opinion?

One must add that Mr. Mathieu Bock-Côté knows what he is talking about. He has ironically published a book entitled the *Empire of the politically correct*. Because of that, we also tried to silence him a few months ago. Many public figures in Québec came to defend him, including other journalists (bravo) and even Mr. François Legault, the Premier of Québec. For me, it is particularly alarming when this suffocating political correctness is also being observed in a province/culture where citizens are known to be more direct in their communication style (than the rest of Canada). Quebecers usually speak their mind and allow others to do so.

4. Mr. Steve Fortin:

Related to Martineau’s saga, I enjoyed reading an article by his colleague Mr. Steve Fortin, denouncing this censorship. Mr. Fortin often does not agree with Mr. Martineau. Yet, he defended his right to freedom of expression (https://www.journaldequebec.com/2019/08/21/les-censeurs). I think of Mr. Fortin even more highly now. In Bambi’s humble opinion, this is how it is supposed to be in a so-called free country. Everyone has the right to the expression of his/her opinion. This is the least. We should all refuse to see others being silenced in front of our eyes.

5. Ms. Roula Azar-Douglas’ wisdom:

As promised above, I would like to introduce now some wise words by Roula Azar-Douglas, Bambi’s own sister (I hope you are still reading to discover her ?). Azar-Douglas is a journalist, writer, and a researcher (she is a PhD candidate in Human Sciences, namely in Information Sciences). She was recently interviewed in Lebanon and what a clever interview (the questions as well as the deep yet direct/simple answers)! The interviewer is a journalist (Ms. Hasna Bou Harfouche) who chose some excerpts from Azar-Douglas’ latest novel entitled “Le jour où le soleil ne s’est pas levé” (The day the sun did not rise). In this interview, Douglas shared her reflections on multiple identities and life/death issues.

Here is one of the citations from Azar-Douglas’s book chosen by the interviewer (the original French precedes Bambi’s free and hopefully not too bad translation):

«Chacun de nous est l’enfant de ses propres expériences, de son vécu, de cet avant que l’autre ne connait pas. Et il n’est pas toujours facile de se montrer à nu et de se débarrasser des carapaces construites au fil des années»     

Original quote by Roula Azar-Douglas

Each one of us is the child of his/her experiences, of the lived experience, of this earlier past that the other does not know. And it is not always easy to get naked and to get rid of the (protective) shells built over the years.

My translation, Roula Azar-Douglas

The interviewer’s last question to Roula Azar-Douglas was: “As a researcher on the equality between men and women, what is your message to the oriental [she means Middle Eastern] man and woman”?

Azar-Douglas replied as follows:

“This is a tough question because when I think of the oriental woman, I wonder who she is? There is no single type of an oriental woman. I am an oriental woman. You (pointing to the journalist) are an oriental woman. All the women who are watching us are oriental, whether they are married or single, with children or not, veiled or not. So, with our diversity all of us as oriental women, I will try to find a message for this group of women who are different from one another. This message would be what my life experiences have taught me. It would be perhaps in contradiction with what we have been taught as children, that loving oneself is selfish (versus being altruistic). I will tell the oriental woman to love herself. Loving oneself is the first step to be able to love the other. Loving oneself is the first step to defend our rights or to get our rights. I will tell all these ladies, with all their diversity, even including those who do not agree with me on some topics: Love yourself and work on your own convictions to get what you want.

To the oriental men who are also diverse, I will give a joint message to men and women. Again, this is not a lesson because I do not have any answer. I am a human being who think about matters and try to offer pieces of answers here and there. I will tell him or tell them all work on your critical thinking. Do not have pre-prepared answers to issues or circumstances in the country. Do not take for granted what someone else has told about how things should be. Think for yourself, according to your rational thinking and convictions, using your own brains”.

Azar-Douglas also talked about the important economic role of women in society, etc. (here is the entire interview in Arabic: http://bit.do/e5x4B).

Roula Azar-Douglas’ published two beautiful novels (the first one, entitled «Chez nous c’était le silence» addressed the issue of domestic violence and the last one is a tragic yet beautiful story about death/dying, which is filled with life, love, and hope. This latter novel is now a finalist in a French-competition called Prix Hors Concours. It was recently chosen, among international books, to be taught to students in French high schools that participate in in the Prix Hors Concours competition (comparative literature).

Roula, to you as my sister, Bambi will allow herself now to insert a personal note here: I so much enjoyed beginning my day watching your interview. Bambi is proud of her eldest sister, “ma grande”, as I like to tease you ?. I miss you and I miss Rania, my other talented sister. Yes, I may be biased by family love… but I know how to recognize talent, even in closer ones.

6. Bambi’s conclusion:

Bambi admires Roula Azar-Douglas’ talent in reaching out to BOTH women and men. No wonder why she is highly respected by all, nationally and internationally.

She lives in a society where patriarchy (truly still) exists, despite Lebanon’s modernity in many ways (this is why when I hear the word patriarchy in Canada, I smile to myself ?).

Sadly, she is also geographically not that far from where there is a *real* “rape culture”, a term also still widely used by many Canadian contemporary feminists. I am referring to ISIS practices in Syria or Iraq… Mind you, there are also executions committed against gay people in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan. Where are our Canadian activists, including those readers who ganged up against Mr. Martineau, to also defend their rights to life!?

Despite all this, Roula Azar-Douglas is a courageous and smart journalist/activist. She has depth, nuance, and subtlety in all the languages she communicates in. She is a feminist in the true sense.

She advocates for women’s rights without putting men down or turning them off. On the contrary, she extends hands, building bridges and friendly allies in a genuine way.

In Bambi’s mind, most men only want the best for their daughters, sisters, mothers, spouses, friends, etc. They aspire for a just equality too, in their own ways.

Together, everyone can make the world a better place for all!

Divest or not divest: Why is this still the question?

Divest or Not Divest: Why is this still the question?

Bambi’s third post is a quick reflection on an interview with Ms. Tina Oh, our former Mount Allison divest star ?, published in NB Media Coop.

The article entitled “Challenging Mount Allison University’s complicity with the fossil fuel industry: Tina Oh” is signed by Mr. Abram Lutes.

Mr. Lutes is a member of the Young Communist League Fredericton (http://theaquinian.net/young-communist-league-fredericton-voicing-the-radical-vision/). Obviously, he is free to endorse any ideology, even a totalitarian one to the left (some may be more attracted by totalitarianism to the right, mind you).

Mr. Lutes is also a student researcher with “RAVEN (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment)”, which “is an activist research project working with rural champions for the environment in New Brunswick”.

Ironically, RAVEN is funded by public funds, *partnering* with agencies from both the provincial and federal governments.

From their website (https://raven-research.org/about/), we can read the following: “Our partners are the NB Media Co-op (NBMC) and the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI).

RAVEN was launched in September 2018 with secured funding until 2022 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), and with in-kind contributions from the project partners NBMC and JEDI as well as Frictive Pictures, a New Brunswick film production company.

RAVEN is an associate member of the New Brunswick Environmental Network, an umbrella network linking more than 100 grassroots and other NGO organizations across the province”.

Mmm… What kind of weird country do we live in where Governments (through people’s tax money) fund initiatives like this one to ruin one if its now formerly vibrant sectors of the economy?

I do not know if I should smile or cry, thinking of where Canada has headed. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Is capitalism that bad? Crony capitalism and wild capitalism are not good… but why would capitalism in a socially-oriented country be bad?

Without a free market in my birth country, my dad (= parents) could have not lifted us from low-income to the middle-class through his innovative entrepreneurship. He is a decent self-made man. My hero!

Wouldn’t it have been more productive and constructive to fund research on renewable energy?

In the article above, it is written that faculty members of Mount Allison University are very supportive of Divest Mount A. False. Some of the faculty members are VERY supportive. Others, like myself, are unsupportive. Yet others do not care either way. 

Why am I not supportive? Well, although I may be wrong, I doubt that the removal of fossil fuel investments from a university endowment will make a difference for oil firms (it would only lower the university’s endowment).

Same for pension plans. The article below explains it better than I would, although I tried on many occasions to explain my point to colleagues.

The article in question is entitled “Fossil fuel divestment doesn’t damage oil firms, just pension funds” and this is exactly Bambi’s take on the issue.

Bambi thinks that any divestment of any pension plan should be perhaps made optional: Those of us who want to divest and live poorer in our older age can do it. Those of us who prefer to pass would remain “free” to chose where they wish to invest their pension funds.

This being said, Bambi is by principle against the idea of imposed boycott. Bambi prefers personal boycott, if we must. Regardless of the topic or issue. This applies to all issues in her mind. Do not boycott politicians you do not like. Do not boycott food from countries that have occupied yours (I have said so many times, if I do so, I would end up eating only “poutine” ?). Do not allow yourself to impose boycott on arts, on institutions, etc. Boycott yourself, if you wish.

Our Canadian public companies may not be perfect (does perfection exist?). They surely remain MORE ethical than other oil companies elsewhere.

Until we find a better, realistic, sustainable alternative to oil to heat our houses, fuel our airplanes and cars, this is all what we have.

However, innovations in vehicle technology (i.e., hybrid cars) are promising—even if our province’s electricity is too expensive to make such choices. In contrast, bravo to Québec; it seems to be the province with the highest number of electrical cars on its roads. I must add here: bravo to our current federal government. Its “purchase incentive program for electric vehicles” may be one of its rare good achievements, according to Bambi’s non-expert citizen opinion; if only for that, Bambi does not regret her past vote…even if her forthcoming one may be different.

The end of the world or… the end of reason in the world?

The end of the world… or the end of reason in the world?
This post is a reaction to an article in La Presse published on August 13, 2019 entitled “Reflection on ecoanxiety: A child against the background of the end of the world. Letter to my son Leo” signed by Geneviève Dorval” (http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/8c78fc35-b0b6-46ea-a095-72d494a08365__7C___0.html). 

Below and first, I will share Ms. Dorval’s translated letter to Leo, her one-year-old son (the original French appears in the link above). Second, I will share a comment to this letter by a reader of La Presse, Mr. Patrick Friset (his original French will follow the English translation). Third and finally, I will share some personal thoughts.

1. The translated letter of Ms. Dorval:

“My love Leo, you’ll be 1 year old tomorrow. You were born during the heat wave last summer, and there was a thunderstorm in the afternoon after we came back home after your birth.

It was a powerful and unreal moment to hold you in my arms. This period is a little vague in my memory, but I clearly remember being so touched by your great vulnerability. You have been dreamed, desired and eagerly awaited, and you are loved deeply.

We decided to have a child on a background of the end of the world. It was a painful decision, not fully enlightened, and totally biased by our deep desire to have a child.

To be honest, we did not realize the seriousness of the situation when I was pregnant with you.

We were obviously aware of climate change, but it still seemed a distant reality. It might be for the next century. We would have time to change our way of life, to find solutions, to raise the next generation in a healthier world than we have been taught. I would like to say that we did not know, but in fact we were also a lot in denial.

At the edge of the disaster

Your birth coincided with the tabling of an alarming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was then that the magnitude and imminence of the catastrophe first appeared to me. I did more research, read reports, articles. I learned that in my lifetime, half of the wildlife on Earth has been eradicated, and to date, a million species are on the verge of extinction. Eighty percent of the world’s forests have been razed. Temperature records are continually being broken around the world and unprecedented forest fires are raging. Glaciers are visibly melting, threatening to raise the level of the oceans. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise sharply.

At the dawn of your first birthday, no week goes by without ever more alarming new reports being published. All the reports basically tell us that we still have less time than we believe to avoid a point of no return and a catastrophic runaway climate.

Seventy years, then 12 years, then 18 months. Time flies. One must act. Radical actions are required immediately to give us a chance to avoid the worst. But at the time of writing, the media is talking about it as a news item, our elected officials are busy attacking ethnic and religious minorities, and everyone continues to live as if nothing had happened. Metro, work, sleep.

Of all the things difficult for children to explain, this climate crisis and widespread inaction will certainly be the worst of our time. How did we get there?

I started a few months ago to live an invasive anxiety. Insomnia, tears, emotions, skin issues, difficulty thinking of anything other than a dark future. I am sometimes unable to enjoy the moment or fully appreciate the happiness of seeing you grow up without fear at the same time. I always have that little voice, as soon as I look into the future, which adds “if we’re still here.”

My anxiety symptoms seem to me a perfectly healthy response to the impending end of the world. I still asked for psychological help, if only to be functional in society and with my family. The doctor who saw me told me that eco-anxiety is more and more widespread, especially among young people. She advised me to start psychotherapy and to act to defend the environment.

In 2019, the effects of climate warming are already affecting us in Quebec in the form of floods in certain regions in the spring, longer and more intense heat waves in the summer and gray and rainy winters. But we have been largely spared so far from the kind of disasters that are already affecting other populations around the world. Ironically, they affect the ones who have often contributed the least to the destruction of the world (I am thinking in particular of island states, vulnerable groups, indigenous nations and other species).

Leo, the future worries me and the present revolts me. But I do not regret having given birth to you. We made the bet that your life would be worth living despite everything. Plus, the world would be better with you than without you.

Your existence is the testimony of my faith in the resilience of the living and the power of social movements – great ones are coming and are already under way.

As a mother, I live a lot of guilt for not being able to guarantee you a healthy environment to grow up in and maybe have your own family someday, if you want.

What can I promise you

I do not have control over everything, but I can make you some promises. I will pursue daily choices to reduce the impact of our family, although I recognize that individual actions are not enough and have never been enough. I pledge never to hide the reality, and to give you the education and the tools necessary so that you use your privileges wisely, that you are resourceful, critical, responsible and guided by compassion.

I will resist as best I can the destruction of the world by civil disobedience. And finally, I make the promise to be for you the best possible example of courage, militancy, faith in humanity and respect for all living things.

This letter is addressed to my son, and I will give him as soon as he is old enough to understand. I chose to share it in the meantime, because at the point where I am, I need to open my heart and make my coming out of eco-friendly. In addition, making my promises public will oblige me to hold them. It’s a personal manifesto. I also hope to reach out to others, start conversations about the environment and mental health, build networks of activism and support, and make another breakthrough in collective denial, perhaps. Thank you for coming here”.

—Geneviève Dorval—

2. A comment by a certain Mr. Patrick Fiset

English translation:

In each era its end of the world

“In 40 years, when your son will visit you with his own children, perhaps you will have realized how much your current state of mind is overshadowed by the hysteria (or delirium) amplified by the media and conveyed to excess by those who have an interest in doing so.

There is no better tool for manipulating the minds than building a surrealist dogma around a proven truth that no one can deny under pain of being called climate-skeptic.

The most disturbing is to see young adults consider anarchy, civil disobedience, no longer children, despair to the point of excessive punctuation rhetoric deadly speech of the end of the world.

Before the 50s, it was the fear of the priest and hell. In the sixties to eighties, it was the spectre of the post-nuclear apocalypse and the fear of communism that served as a scarecrow.

Here, it is climate change that feeds nightmares. In each era its end of the world”.

—Patrick Fiset—

Original French text:

À chaque époque sa fin du monde

“Dans 40 ans, quand votre fils ira vous visiter avec ses propres enfants, peut-être aurez-vous réalisé à quel point votre état d’esprit actuel est excessivement assombri par le délire ambiant largement amplifié par les médias et véhiculé à outrance par ceux qui ont un intérêt à le faire.

Il n’y a pas de meilleur outil de manipulation des esprits que de construire un dogme surréaliste autour d’une vérité avérée que personne ne peut nier sous peine de se faire traiter de climatosceptique.

Le plus inquiétant est de voir de jeunes adultes envisager l’anarchie, la désobéissance civile, de ne plus faire d’enfants, de désespérer au point de ponctuer à outrance le discours de rhétorique mortifère de fin du monde.

Avant les années 50, c’était la crainte du curé et de l’enfer. Dans les années 60 à 80, c’était le spectre de l’apocalypse post-nucléaire et la peur du communisme qui servait d’épouvantail.

Là, ce sont les changements climatiques qui alimentent les cauchemars. À chaque époque sa fin du monde”.

— Patrick Fiset

3. Bambi’s personal thoughts:

To begin with, I admit that it is both generous and courageous of Ms. Dorval to share a letter to her son with us all. When we publish any comment, we can expect that some readers would agree (or applaud!), yet some others would read with a grain of salt (or negatively criticize!).

First and foremost, I am usually VERY skeptical of any movement that wants to convince me that the world is going to end. I will explain in the following paragraphs.

For having grown up in a crazy civil war for 15 years where risk of death was statistically imminent every second, I think highly of parents, like mine, who knew how to protect their kids from the insanity around. Many parents learned how to conquer their own fear (sometimes with the help of anxiolytics). Why? Because remaining calm and rational during periods of heavy shelling, or rounds of violence, is crucial to keep children psychologically safe. Children learn from their parents how to react during stressful times. Plus, children need to remain children in order to grow up in a secure and confident way. Yes, our family can make the whole difference. Children can grow up feeling secure despite the craziness in the world, including their own risk of dying or seeing their loved ones killed in front of their eyes. Even during those 15 DARK years of civil war, my mom managed in protecting us from her own fear, as much as she could. As for my dad, he remained the most optimistic man I have ever known. For instance, I recall how I used to ask him about our family finances, worried to see him going to his store to sell HiFi and electrical appliances, ironically during times of constant power outages. My dad used to answer me: “Thank God, things are good”. To come back to my mom, I will never forget her silent tears after the sudden death of her sister, ironically in a shelter. This happened in heavy shelling during the (Syrian) occupation of Beirut. Yet, my mom tried her best not to transmit to us, my sisters and I, her sadness and despair.

Why am I sharing all this? Basically, I am trying to say that the world never ends, even when it ends to us for a second when we learn the death of a loved one, even when we see the bodies of neighbours killed under our balcony. We feel hopeless and angry, all at once. We feel sad. We may even feel guilty for having survived. Why us and not them? Why them and not us? This absurd and random life moves on… and, yet again, the world does not end. I have news for you: The world will not end, even with our own death! So, no, I do not buy the end of the world in 12 years. As Mr. Friset wrote “before the 50s, it was the fear of the priest and hell. In the sixties to eighties, it was the spectre of the post-nuclear apocalypse and the fear of communism that served as a scarecrow. Here, it is climate change that feeds nightmares. In each era its end of the world”. As far as I am concerned, I prefer to remain calm and carry on with my life.

Second, I am skeptical neither of climate change (both natural and men-made), nor of the critical need to protect our environment. I just question trendy psychiatric novel entities such as ecoanxiety (or solastalgia). The concept may be a sexy entity to politicians, to journalists, to radical environmentalists, to professionals benefiting from other people’s psychological misery and/or to organizations relying on government’s funding, etc. However, I question ecoanxiety as an objective and distinct clinical entity: What are its signs or symptoms? Do laboratory studies show us it is distinct from other anxieties or other syndromes? Any identified natural history or distinct family history?

Third, what worries me the most is dogmatic thinking. We can see the latter in religions or “non-religious religions”. In this case, generations of youth have been radicalized in their environmentalism, at younger ages. I am thinking of all those “youth-led” school strikes (and adults convincing themselves that kids are our world leaders). Related to this, I recall how as a teenager I once wanted to skip school because of my involvement with the Lebanese Red Cross. At the time, we had received emergency materials from Switzerland. I recall having tried to convince my parents to allow me to skip school to distribute these materials to shelters in Beirut. My parents refused. My mom, a trained nurse with the Red Cross herself, understood my passion. Yet, my parents told Bambi: “no; not during school time” (especially after having been out of school for weeks or months due to a round of heavy shelling). At first, Bambi was frustrated. She even tried to pretend she was sick (she overheated a thermometer ?). Thinking back, Bambi thanks her parents for their wisdom: Any volunteerism can wait after school hours.

Fourth and last, Ms. Dorval had a child and does not regret it (good for her!). However, I heard comments from former female graduates of Mount Allison University and other schools who are now in their mid-to-late twenties that they do not want to have children because of ecoanxiety. I urge these young women to think twice before taking drastic decisions that would mess their fertility up. As a 47-year-old woman who does not have children (after three miscarriages), I have a piece of free advice to them: Having or not having children is a PERSONAL matter. It is your OWN choice. No cause, even one that claims that the wold will end, is worth such drastic decision. Do not let anyone’s ideology, or your own related dogmatism, dictate your personal fertility journey. Remember that your ovaries will know your biological age.

Life is beautiful. Please, do not spend too much time and energy trapped in “eco-dogmatism” (or any other form of dogmatism).  

Meet Nancy Mercier who was prevented from visiting our Sweet Little Sackville by a handful of *unsweet* citizens

Ms. Nancy Mercier, Beauséjour MP Candidate for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC)

Bonjour Madame Mercier)/Hello Ms. or Pastor Mercier:

To make an informed voting decision, “Bambi” started doing its homework educating herself on political parties in the spring/summer of 2018 (way before the October 2019 federal campaign).

On May 27, 2019, you were supposed to come to Sackville, NB, to the Painted Pony Restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/paintedpony99/) for a “Meet & Greet” dinner-event. A large number of people were interested in getting to know you and your new party’s platform/ideas, including myself. As far as I am concerned, I was highly motivated to meet you for two main reasons. First, to learn about you as a person, after reading your inspiring story/bio (https://pastornancymercier.com/about) which started with the following words:  “In January 1995, Pastor Nancy Mercier had a Near-Death-Experience (NDE) caused by a broken neck or spinal cord injury from a serious car accident, which resulted in severe and permanent paralysis or quadriplegia (C5 level)”. Second, I was of course curious to see who is the Beauséjour federal candidate with the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) established by Mr. Maxime Bernier.

Sadly, your Meet & Greet event in Sackville was cancelled at the last minute because a small group of fellow (“fascist”?) citizens threatened the restaurant in question and prevented the event from occurring.

To get to know you, Bambi and her spouse travelled miles away to Shediac where a successfully well-attended Meet & Greet event took place the next day. I recall having met around the dinner table a DIVERSE group of people from all sorts of backgrounds—both demographically and intellectually. How refreshing to see this sort of diversity for a change ?. The group talked about many topics of interest in both English and French. We exchanged stories and ideas. We talked about the economic platform of the PPC (great ideas, I find). We talked about other topics, including the sad story in Sackville.

I thought to myself: What a lady Ms. Nancy Mercier. You handled the situation with leadership and intelligence. I personally admired how you talked about your political competitors, for a lack of better words. You had words of respect and compassion for Mr. Dominic Leblanc (after all, we held our meeting in his stronghold). I like your attitude.

The “unsweet” group from my town wrote on social media platforms that you were homophobic. I learned that you marry gay couples. How ironic. I discovered a woman FULL of ENERGY! Bambi was happy to spend a fun evening with enriching people. What a loss for Sackville ☹.

Today, I am interviewing you to share with the readers of Bambi’s Afkar blog two points of interest to me personally: (1) your resilience and (2) your political vision, as a PPC candidate in my riding (Beauséjour) running with the new PPC federal party of Mr. Maxime Bernier.

I appreciate your time on the phone today. Thank you for having accepted my invitation. I will ask you four questions only. Please feel free to elaborate as much as you wish.

If you are ready, let’s begin….

QUESTION # 1 by BAMBI: What can you tell “Bambi” about your resilient journey (in general since your tragic accident (i.e. your near-death-experience) and/or currently on a daily basis?

ANSWER # 1 by NANCY MERCIER: “Well, it has been 25 years, this coming January 1st that I had my car accident that caused my spinal cord injury and consequently my paralysis. From the very beginning, my near-death-experience in itself left no doubt for me that there was something else greater than what my own fear facing my accident and the resulting change in my life. I didn’t really know what to think about this at the beginning. Did I cope at the beginning by thinking of God or growing spiritually? I do not know that I identified it as something related to God at the very beginning. I just knew that I had an incredible experience. It took me some time to figure out all this and to seek out information to understand my journey since the accident. Nevertheless, from the very beginning, I felt that there was a power greater than I. Of course, putting trust in in God is difficult, regardless of the nature of tragedy that we face. With life adversities, we do not have as much control as we may think. However, we have the choice to chose how to react to adversities and exert control over how we feel, behave, and act. I asked myself questions like: Do I want to understand what happened? What do I do now? How do I survive day after day? I educated myself about my injury. I learned about it and this has allowed me to regain control of my life. For example, I learned how to avoid risk by either modifying my behaviour or equipment to ensure an independent life. This was a great learning experience not just for me but also for my husband and family. I would add that I grew up spiritually during my coping journey. This has perhaps helped me understand aspects of life that we usually do not take the time to think much of, like how life is purposeful, life life/death and the soul, etc. I strongly believe that hardship is meant to be overcome to learn from there and move on.

To sum my point and answer your question about resilience in overcoming hardship, I made a conscious choice not to live in fear or anger but rather in peace. Of course, the latter comes with good and bad days. Life is life; Good/bad days are part of everyone’s life. In my case, I learned to have faith in God. I moved on with my life and things have worked out by themselves with time”.

QUESTION # 2 by BAMBI: Why have you decided to run for the PPC party of Mr. Maxime Bernier and what are the main points of the PPC’s platform that the citizens of our riding would benefit from learning about?

ANSWER # 2 by NANCY MERCIER: “I guess my reason was like Maxime Bernier: To do politics differently. His message of putting Canadians first attracted me. It resonated with me.

The PPC’s platform will help restore democracy, sovereignty, the eroding constitution, the economy, which is in bad shape. Furthermore, his plan for the health care system(s) (a personal issue to me) will give provinces the incentives to deal with wait times and rising costs. This will ensure a better access to health care and create conditions for innovation. In addition, as a person living on the disability pension, I know the struggles and barriers that people with disability encounter. When it comes to economy, in addition to reducing the Government spending, the PPC’s platform will help attract more businesses to our area by facilitating commercial exchange among provinces, by de-regulating, and by creating the winning conditions for businesses to create jobs and innovate. Of course, this in addition to simplifying Canadian tax system and cutting taxes. So, basically more money in people’s pockets. All these points are important to the citizens of our riding who sadly are working harder yet for less money. Last but surely not least, the PPC brings transparency that Maxime Bernier established, by telling the truth himself.

Beyond our riding and province, I want Canada to improve ultimately. Sovereignty and freedom are the fabric of our country. I would like Canada to remain unique to what it is to the rest of the world; of course, with improvements (there is always room for that), not just preserving things. I also believe there is so much to do in terms of the fragility of freedom and the threat related to globalization and Islamism. If a country lacks freedom, there is no democracy, there is nothing left. Canada is no longer the same. For me, things like our heritage, way of life, and values matter.

To sum, the PPC will help ensure that our freedoms are restored and that the economy is doing better (simplifying the Canadian tax system and reducing taxes, removing regulations, not meddling much in business). This means increased prosperity”.

QUESTION # 3 by BAMBI: Where do you dream to see Canada in the next 5 to 10 years?

ANSWER # 3 by NANCY MERCIER: “I dream of a Canada that is stronger, freer, and with more prosperity. That would be absolutely the goal if we form the next government. Not just for 5 or 10 years. Then, it would be for the next 25+ years. In that sense, this is my dream. I would add to this maintaining our country, restoring what is lost (e.g., freedom), respecting the constitution the country is founded on with improvements”.

QUESTION # 4 by BAMBI: Any concluding words for the citizens of Sackville who were prevented from meeting you in Sackville? Or to the handful of citizens who acted in a non-democratic/legal way?

ANSWER # 4 by NANCY MERCIER: “I will answer this question with our platform’s values: Respect, Fairness, equality, responsibility (Ms. Mercier is referring to PPC’s values of Individual Freedom, Personal Responsibility, Fairness and Respect). I have respect for the citizens. So, in the context of what happened, I respected the citizens. I decided not to pursue further and not to make a complaint (to lay charges), although what happened is illegal under Canada Elections Act (risk of jail time even). We did not go down that road as we immediately realized that the owner of the restaurant refused to host our event because of fear. We decided to give a chance to other ways to let people know about us and about our platform. Maxime Bernier is coming to the area and he plans to come to Sackville. We are working on this, although no fixed date yet. I will also come to the Fall fair on September 25th, 2019. I plan to host a rally, with or without Maxime Bernier (ideally with him, added Ms. Mercier; Bambi allowed herself to agree by nodding ?). I have also accepted and invitation to a debate at Mount Allison University on the evening of October 3rd at 7 PM (previously posted as October 7). We did not get the full details about the event yet, just the invitation. However, I heard that only the Green party candidate and myself have accepted the invitation”.

Well, we have reached the end of our interview. Many thanks again, Ms. Mercier, for your time, clarity, and generosity. All the best to your campaign.

As a conclusion to this post, someone asked me when Sackville became home for us if I minded small towns. I remember having replied jokingly: I love small places; I was born in a small country and… I am small myself ?. More alarmingly though, what I mind the most in life is the small-mindedness rather than (geographical) smallness per se.  This being said, best wishes to our big Canada!