Water of Nations

Assinaboine River at the Forks.jpgOver the years I have been giving thought to the manner in which we have allowed our water systems to be exploited. So long as the leaders of our peoples regard our water systems as a resource to be directly and indirectly exploited, colonization of our lands will continue to persist. Diversions that are constructed impede upon the surrounding water systems and land. Wastewater systems introduce on mass, chemicals and pollutants that impact the delicate ecosystems around them. Entire communities continue to go without clean water to drink, while colonization practices allow corporations to cheaply remove millions of litres of potable water from our watershed for sale to those who suffer without and in doing so, have no contribution to the corrective actions required to solve the root of the problem. I intend to demonstrate that systems of oppression and colonization still exist within the attitudes of those who claim ownership over one of our most precious resources, water.

As a child, I would go camping in various areas of Manitoba with my parents and grandparents. Manual water pumps were used in many of these areas to access water for washing and drinking that we would pump into containers and carry back to our camp. My grandfather explained to me how underground rivers ran for miles beneath us carrying water to and from the many areas around us in order to make sure the land continued to thrive. He explained to me the importance of caring for the land so that it would not impact the water that runs through it much like the blood that runs through our veins.

Children at Beach.jpg

I was born in Winnipeg, Treaty #1 territory and home of the Metis, and while I am a decedent of those who have colonized these lands, through my life I have always maintained a strong connection to the land from which I came. I was raised to respect the natural world around us, and see the beauty and glory it possess, but also the dire consequences that will be and currently we are facing should we forego our responsibility as caregivers to the earth. More specifically for the purpose of this paper I will focus on the many ways we are damaging the systems that ensure the blood of our earth continue to provide life to us all.

Colonization brought with it a shift in the cultural landscape of Turtle Island. Foreigners would arrive from distant lands for a number of reasons, but mainly the attitude was to escape dire consequences in their homeland or to exploit the resources and strive for economic gain. The majority of those who arrived did so for the purposes of the latter as described by Mackintosh (2012):

“The first viable commercial railroads appeared in the early 1830’s, but they were mostly short –and medium-range carriers until large corporations, wielding impressive amounts of capital, began to consolidate the shorter lines.”

The attitudes capitalism brought with it are described well by Weeks (2016), “Americans, coveting this region, for some time had complained bitterly that there was far more land in the Indian Territory than the Indians could ever use productively. Increasingly, they demanded the following actions from Washington: concentrate the tribes, then convert the forfeited land into organized federal territory; permit white people to settle there; and finally allow those settlers to craft new states for the American Union.”

Increasingly the attitudes that threatened the custodianship of life giving resources on Turtle Island would permeate the land and spread like a disease. Similar to smallpox the spread would continue and blemishes on the land would continue their travel westward with attitudes from the highest levels of leadership adding strength to the epidemic as described by Hukill (2006):

“Tribes and nations were stripped of culture, religion, and language. Individuals were not only stripped on Indian names and given “Christian” names, but Native children were also punished in boarding schools for using Native language. Native parents were not notified of a child’s death in boarding school, and the view of the dominant government at the time was reflected in President Andrew Jackson’s statement, “What is one more dead Indian?””

While not as flagrantly dismissive of those who care for the conservation of the life giving ecosystems that we live within, the current government and corporate attitudes reflect the same message when it becomes clear that the interests of oil and beverage companies take priority over the ability for our nations to drink clean water, and eat food not born or cooked within countless contaminants that permeate the natural habitats from which they came. The water crisis in Attawapiskat as demonstrated through the story covered by D’Amore (2019) is a clear demonstration of this vile disregard for the health and safety of us all. This high profile case is among many that impact our water systems. In fact as reported by The Council of Canadians, in May of 2018, there were 174 water advisories in over 100 First Nation territories alone.  Furthermore it is clarified by Palmater (2019) that the numbers available to us don’t actually describe the entirety of this monstrous issue:

“The federal website counts advisories only for First Nations south of 60, and it doesn’t track First Nations in BC and parts of Saskatchewan. Ottawa also doesn’t track homes and community buildings that are not connected to a public water system: in other words, communities or homes that don’t have access to running water don’t get included in the advisory counts. So the water safety issues of a community that gets water shipped into contaminated cisterns and not through a so-called public system don’t get counted. We don’t get the full picture.”

Another example that clearly demonstrates the unfairness of the circumstances surrounding clean water is within the community of Shoal Lake #40 reserve. The very lake that produces the drinking water for the city of Winnipeg houses a community that has been under a boil water advisory since 1997 according to The City of Winnipeg’s website. This demonstrates that leaders in our communities have been aware of such circumstances for over 20 years, with little to no investment in resolving the matter, even though hundreds of thousands of others reap the benefits from this situation every day.

To this end, the many areas where I recall drinking water from the water systems that my grandfather once told me about would not even be listed in the advisories made available to the public. It is uncertain if these wells and underground rivers have even been tested at all. This is a scary concept when we take into account the level of disfranchisement that is being perpetuated by our existing leadership in open forums that are more transparent to public scrutiny. It is clear to me that areas that go unobserved may be at greater risk and still the network of underground water systems would simply carry these contaminants much like cancer spreads through a human’s body until it dies. The proliferation of contaminants throughout the watershed is articulated well by Sprague (2018) with regards to the study that was conducted in Ontario, Canada:

“This study has provided new and important data from lakes in the Cobalt and Silver Center mining areas. Not surprisingly, this resulted in the identification of many lakes that, prior to this study, were thought to be in a pristine state but are now known to be contaminated from the nearby mining activity. This study has shown that arsenic contamination throughout the region in areas influenced by early mining activity is severe and widespread throughout the water network.”

photo of plastic bottles

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

To add further insult to injury, the modern day solution currently being used by many people is simply to buy bottled water. Again, the capitalistic colonial view of this being a suitable solution is deplorable. Not only have leaders of our people allowed industry to pollute our water, but now they allow industry to profit from the ongoing ailments that propagate through the once life giving water systems we all rely on. This profit is achieved by bottling the water from areas where contamination is void or re-mediated and then sold in such volume to others impacted by trauma or fear based tactical marketing. An example of such exploitation is Nestle, a diverse company that has a product line of bottled water. In an article through media giant The Globe and Mail (2018) we learn that Nestle has numerous permits to collect, bottle and sell nearly 20 million litres of water it removes from our water systems for a mere “$3.71 per million litres”.  Nestle is not alone however, there are others who also profit in a similar manner:

“Other bottled water companies with large water-taking permits in Ontario include Gold Mountain Springs at 6.1 million litres a day, Gott Enterprises at 5.8 million litres and St. Joseph Natural Spring Water at 5.5 million litres.”

Without providing viable alternatives and by allowing companies to profit through the exploitation of those who are suffering it becomes clear that the ethical standards applied by community leaders to these situations is lacking. It should also be viewed that consumers with alternatives available to them who choose to support the product distribution from the organizations that profit from these circumstances, lack the strength of character to dis-empower such practices.  If you consider the level of mark up on each bottle of water that is sold for anywhere between two and three dollars a bottle, you could also imagine the billions of dollars that are being made from the companies selling them. Clearly, the ratio of wholesale pricing provided by our leaders compared to the level of profit derived through the exploitation of resources should be viewed as inequitable, and further to this, there is additional environmental levies attached to products sold in plastic bottles. The plastic bottles themselves are additional environmental threats through their disposal and also as a product of the oil industry which in modern day is responsible for various levels of contamination throughout the land and water systems. The whole system is poised to damage our ecosystems, poison those within proximity, and profit from the contamination.


photo of plastics near trees

Photo by Stijn Dijkstra on Pexels.com

The solution I present to you is simple. Become an activist. Do not remain silent. Resign from being apathetic. If you have an alternative means of obtaining clean water, stop buying bottled water. If need be, install an additional filter in your home, but stop providing gross amounts of profit to organizations that are capitalizing on the detriment of others. Furthermore, take a moment to speak or write to our leaders in the community about our disappointment in the lack of response by them, and the lack of investment for communities in need made by corporations who profit from the extraction of the resource they need so badly. With the extraction of 20 million litres of day, an additional five cents per litre could contribute one million dollars a day or $365 million a year to a fund for building sustainable water systems for communities in need.  Let us band together to insist that every community has access to clean water as a human right, not a product or service.


Weeks, P  (2016) “Farewell, My Nation” : American Indians and the United States in the Nineteenth Century. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons Inc

Mackintosh, W (2012) . “Ticketed Through”: The Commodification of Travel in the Nineteenth Century. Journal of the Early Republic, 32, 61-89.

Hukill, S (2006) . Violence in Native America: A Historical Perspective. Journal of Transcultural Nursing. Vol. 17, 3, 246 – 250.

D’Amore, R. (2019, July 10). Water quality concerns spur state of emergency in Attawapiskat. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/5479392/water-quality-state-of-emergency-attawapiskat/

Safe Water for First Nations. (2019, June 26). Retrieved from https://canadians.org/fn-water

First Nations water problems a crisis of Canada’s own making. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/february-2019/first-nations-water-problems-crisis-canadas-making/

Sprague, D. D., & Vermaire, J. C. (2018). Legacy Arsenic Pollution of Lakes Near Cobalt, Ontario, Canada: Arsenic in Lake Water and Sediment Remains Elevated Nearly a Century After Mining Activity Has Ceased. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 229(3).

Nestlé continues to extract water from Ontario town despite drought: Activists. (2018, May 17). Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/nestle-continues-to-extract-water-from-ontario-town-despite-severe-drought-activists/article31480345/

Winnipeg, C. O. (n.d.). Related Links. Retrieved from https://winnipeg.ca/waterandwaste/water/shoalLake.stm

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Should employers pay wage premiums for religious holidays?

Finlay Kids 2018 Christmas - Picture with SantaHaving recently read an article published by CBC Canada and written by Stuart Rudner: Time to give all employees the right to honour their own religious holidays, says employment lawyer I would suggest that it is also time to give all employers the right to provide their goods and services without penalizing them for doing so.

Mr. Rudner asks the question, “Why do most workers get two Christian holidays off without question (whether they observe them or not), but if someone wants to observe a different religious holiday they have to ask permission, and often have to make up the time?” To this question, he provides a valid argument with regards to the nature in which holidays are currently being observed in law. He goes on to point out the inequitable manner in which a variety of religious beliefs find themselves disadvantaged because those who enjoy the Christian based holidays of Christmas and Easter are able to do so without losing vacation days, while others are forced to utilize some form of income protection to ensure they are paid for the days recognized as holy days in their own religion. There is some validity to this line of thinking.

He also points out within his article that a business owner was fined $10,000 for making the decision to remain open on Good Friday; however his article does not contemplate the inequitable nature of the laws that allow these penalties to occur to business owners. Currently in most jurisdictions, business owners are forced to close their doors, pay wages for no work received, or pay a premium in wages should they wish to remain open. So I ask, should a business owner be penalized for trying to offer the public economic choices in the market? Is there a reason why a business must pay premiums to its staff in recognition of the individual religious affiliations of its employees?  Do we create an inequitable society when the financial rewards to employees based on these religious days also penalize those businesses who simply wish to provide choice for people to decide how and when they wish to spend their money and time?

I agree with Mr. Rudner, that perhaps it is time to consider the evolution of our society and contemplate the vary nature of why these systems exist. I would agree with Mr. Rudner that consideration of how these systems continue to perpetuate the inequities that our diverse population is facing. The precedents set in our legal framework provide reason for business owners to be weary of the personal beliefs held by its employees to ensure the business is not in violation of human rights. This same notion has unintended consequences of forcing businesses to wages for days employees are not in the workplace and no productivity is present. So I turn to Mr. Rudner’s statement that concludes this article, “Everyone should have equal access to time off for religious observance”, and I ask, is the goal to ensure people are able to observe those days that are important to them, or to be paid a premium for those days?

IF the goal is to ensure an equitable way people are to have time to observe days that are important to them, then should a business be penalized through premiums in wages to support these only some individual’s decisions in which the business has no say? Would people be content to simply be able to observe the same number of days as anyone else in a year without pay? My last question as a result of Mr. Rudner’s article is; is it constitutional for laws to penalize business owners for providing economic choices for people who wish to work and/or purchase goods on a day that has religious significance only to some?

Contemplate for a moment under the assumption that the goal is to ensure an equitable solution for all in order to participate in customs related to days that are important to the individual regardless of “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, residency, marital status or citizenship” as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let us also consider from the perspective of business owners who wish to offer the means for customers to engage with their businesses and schedule staff based on the availability of labour. In doing so we can view this dilemma in a truly equitable fashion. Business owners could decide what their hours of operation would be based on economic conditions, rather than ideology or dogmatic practices embedded in our legal constructs. Choice is provided to those of us who have chosen to live, work and play in a democratic society such as Canada.

Our governments should not denounce the holidays that have been established as part of our heritage, but instead consider the colonial nature in which these holidays are being enforced through law. What if, the law simply stated that a specified number of days were to be made available to employees for the purpose of observing events important to them without pay? There would be no advantage or disadvantage to any group of people. It would be equal and equitable from all perspectives. Imagine, if as a society we were able to choose days as individuals for which we inform our employers we will be observing or utilizing in a manner expressed through non-conformity away from the workplace with the condition that these days must be used by all. We can celebrate holidays that are important to Canada or whatever jurisdiction we reside in and still have the choice to choose which of these holidays we will observe based on our individual right to do so and without penalty to our employer. With such a concept everyone could rejoice in the notion that they are able to celebrate these important moments with like minded individuals without fear of reprisal from their employer. Their employment is not jeopardized and our multi-cultural heritage and identities are preserved.

From a business owner perspective, let us contemplate this possibility. With the option of opening your business on any day and at any time without being penalized through wage premiums the business would be subject to the economic factors of supply and demand. Through the demand from customers and the supply of labour a business could determine if it was feasible to remain open. This coincides with Mr. Rudner’s comment, “there is no “one size fits all” approach. If a factory employs 500 workers and 495 want Christmas Day off, it is not feasible to remain open on that holiday, just so that a handful of employees can come to work and take a different day off.” A business could examine its available labour force and make the choice to close for that day or not, thus this becoming a regular day off for the entire workforce or perhaps only for some. In the same example provided by Mr. Rudner, it is possible that depending on the industry in which and the position that those 5 employees hold in the organization, perhaps coming to work would be feasible were it not for the penalization of the employer by allowing it. It could be an opportunity for maintenance workers to tend to a matter without the remaining staff in the building as a barrier, or perhaps an opportunity for an office worker to catch up on paperwork without distraction. In Manitoba, where a significant number of employees are working within the retail industry, perhaps it is an opportunity for business owners to fill a need on a day that has no significant value to others whether it be by offering their products or paying wages. Contemplate the values set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and consider some thoughts expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada via R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 SCR 295, 1985.

“In an earlier time, when people believed in the collective responsibility of the community toward some deity, the enforcement of religious conformity may have been a legitimate object of government, but since the Charter, it is no longer legitimate. With the Charter, it has become the right of every Canadian to work out for himself or herself what his or her religious obligations, if any, should be and it is not for the state to dictate otherwise.”

There is also further commentary regarding such issues cited in other legal cases such as R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd., [1986] 2 SCR 713, 1986 CanLII 12 (SCC)

“It is beyond doubt that days such as Sundays, Christmas and Easter were celebrated as holidays in Canada historically for religious reasons. The celebration of these holidays has continued to the present partly because of continuing, though diminished, religious observances of the largest denominations of the Christian faith, partly because of statutory enforcement under, inter alia, the now unconstitutional Lord’s Day Act, and partly because of the combined effect of social inertia and the perceived need for people to have days away from work or school in common with family, friends and other members of the community. These, in my view, are the social facts which explain the selection by individuals, businesses, school boards, and others of particular days as holidays”

Furthermore the writer goes on to state:

“A truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct. A free society is one which aims at equality with respect to the employment of fundamental freedoms and I say this without any reliance upon s. 15 of the Charter. Freedom must surely be founded in respect for the inherent dignity and the inviolable rights of the human person. The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination. But the concept means more than that.

Freedom can primarily be characterized by the absence of coercion or constraint. If a person is compelled by the state or the will of another to a course of action or inaction which he would not otherwise have chosen, he is not acting of his own volition and he cannot be said to be truly free. One of the major purposes of the Charter is to protect, within reason, from compulsion or restraint. Coercion includes not only such blatant forms of compulsion as direct commands to act or refrain from acting on pain of sanction, coercion includes indirect forms of control which determine or limit alternative courses of conduct available to others. Freedom in a broad sense embraces both the absence of coercion and constraint, and the right to manifest beliefs and practices. Freedom means that, subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, no one is to be forced to act in any way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience.”

By upholding the Charter that is embedded in our Constitution, are we not still ensuring our Canadian values  and heritage are being celebrated? Even if legislation prescribed specific days of pause that provided for families to spend time together which were not tied to religious observance, would the goal still be reached without the requirement to pay premiums in labour costs? Mr. Rudner, perhaps the reason this matter remains one that is contentious in nature because society has lost perspective on the original reason these prescribed days of rest exist. With modern day diversity within our communities, perhaps it is time we allow the economic freedom governed through the supply and demand of labour to coincide with fewer obstructions so society is able to celebrate our Canadian values in our own individual manner. In doing so, we maintain the values that preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians without the imposition of colonial style sanctions.


Time to give all employees the right to honour their own religious holidays, says employment lawyer: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/opinion-manitoba-religious-holidays-store-closings-1.5158840

The Constitution Act, 1982: https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/laws/stat/schedule-b-to-the-canada-act-1982-uk-1982-c-11/latest/schedule-b-to-the-canada-act-1982-uk-1982-c-11.html#sec27_smooth

Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/how-rights-protected/guide-canadian-charter-rights-freedoms.html

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 SCR 295, 1985 CanLII 69 (SCC): https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/1985/1985canlii69/1985canlii69.html

R. v. Edwards Books and Art Ltd., [1986] 2 SCR 713, 1986 CanLII 12 (SCC): https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/1986/1986canlii12/1986canlii12.html?searchUrlHash=AAAAAQAxcmVsaWdpb3VzIGhvbGlkYXlzIGNoYXJ0ZXIgb2YgcmlnaHRzIGFuZCBmcmVlZG9tcwAAAAAB&resultIndex=4


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A Moment of Reflection

When I awoke this day, it was to the sound of sirens and doors opening and closing. This is not normal activity to hear on an early Saturday morning in our neighborhood. Flashing lights penetrated the blinds and drew me out of bed to see what was happening. Out the window and across the street I saw a firetruck. My first instinct was someone must have burnt some toast and failed to disarm their fire alarm before the firefighters showed up.  That was, until I noticed the ambulance in the driveway of a house nearby, and it wasn’t leaving.

Suddenly I was filled with concern for those with whom I had many pleasant conversations. I wondered for a moment if I should help or stay out of the way. I chose to stay out of the way. I sat at my bedroom window watching a flurry of activity below concerned about the family whose home was being filled with strangers.  Two more paramedic vehicles showed up followed by three police cars. I knew instantly that something terrible had happened and looked on, I was wondering who would be removed from the home and under what circumstances. My initial suspicion was that some sort of incident may have happened between the normally happy couple. At least that is how I always perceived them, but experience has taught me that you cannot always truly trust your initial perceptions.

This state of uncertainty drove my curiosity to continue gazing out my window. I watched as the firefighters debriefed at the bottom of the driveway before driving away in the firetruck. Shortly afterward one of the paramedic vehicles packed up its gear and left. I anticipated that some clue would be forthcoming to assist me in understanding what was happening. I continued to monitor the situation from within my home. My mother-in-law asked me around this time if I could move my car from the driveway. She had been waiting respectfully and patiently until most of the vehicles had already left. At the same time some police officers were coming down the driveway making their way to the car that was preventing her from attending her appointment.

Still not sure what type of situation unfolded I sauntered down my driveway and approached the police car with the officers inside. I asked them if there was anything I could do to help provide support to the people who lived inside, to which the office calmly looked me in the eye and answered, “not today”. I asked if it was possible to move my car, so my mother-in-law could attend to an appointment and offered them a space to park on the other side of our driveway. The officer politely indicated they were just about to leave but the gesture was appreciated just before they pulled away.

The occasional back and forth of a paramedic from the house to the ambulance transpired, and then the forensics team arrived. My stomach turned, and my heart sank knowing the arrival of this specialized unit meant grim circumstances within the walls of this neighborhood home. My mind raced in a dozen directions once again wondering what could have possibly taken place. I watched on, unable to tear myself away from the curiosity that lingered inside. I contemplated which member of the household would emerge and the different circumstances that might reveal themselves. I watched on as the daughter of the people within this home and her husband were escorted out of the house by two officials. Two more people I did not recognize carried away the youngest child of the daughter and her husband. My bewildered mind reminded of the years I watched this young lady come of age and move on in life was not sure how to interpret what I was seeing. A dark grey and black van arrived, from it emerged two men in black carrying blankets into the home.  Clearly a fatality had occurred, and I wondered which of one of the two who own the home remained, if any remained at all. Again, sadness took hold of me thinking of the many conversations I had shared with these delightful people. I began to contemplate how I might assist or support whoever may still be alive.

It was when the men dressed in black returned from the home that my heart broke completely, and tears began to run down my face. I saw one of these men carrying the lifeless body of a child from the home, delicately wrapped and placed in the van. At that moment I recalled a joyous conversation with one of the people who live there regarding the birth of their grandchildren. The pride and happiness they shared with me was the same as my own for my children. Realizing the child carried from the home was approximately the same age as one of my own children only drew forth the tears that much more. I imagined the heart wrenching pain being felt in our neighborhood that day. I turned away from the window, staring blankly at the floor until my daughter came to me and asked, “are you ok daddy?” To which I was thankfully able to respond to her, “yes I am, but it is a sad day for someone else, and I just want you to know how much I love you.” She smiled at me and gave me a hug, one that in my mind could not be long enough.

Pondering the event and the impact that it brought to our neighborhood these tragic circumstances bring to mind the following:

  • Intuitively contemplating a variety of potential circumstances or possibilities without having a complete understanding of the situation reminds me of some advice I provide often to others. “Pay attention to your intuition, it reminds us of what we have already learned; but make sure you double check your perceptions to ensure your decisions are not clouded with bias formed from your past experiences.”
  • Approach situations from a point of curiosity not predefined judgement. “If you practice patience then the truth will reveal itself so long as you remain open to receiving it.”
  • Appreciate the time you are given with what you have in front of you, because you can never be sure how long such moments will last.


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Was the Winnipeg General Strike a Revolutionary Conspiracy?

WinnipegPhoto1The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was not an attempt to overthrow the government. If one were to ask however if a group of people were conspiring with each other in order to push for a fundamentally new way to organize labour? Was the labour movement determined to form one big union that would tear down the protective walls of capitalism and force business owners to improve relations with those who worked for them? Was the intent of the movement to cause such a disruption to the economy that the government would be forced to listen or perhaps even concede to the demands of the movement? It certainly was, but it failed, initially. The failures however provided the lessons required and the motivation among the population to find other ways of achieving their goals.

Many factors led to the outburst of dissent that crippled the workplaces of Winnipeg. The proceeding era was one through which abysmal working conditions caused illness and at times even death. Wages were not regulated and due to high levels of unemployment the employers were able to take advantage of the market conditions by providing jobs to those who were willing to work for less. Monetary policy had not evolved yet to the point where inflation was controlled which caused a massive influx in the cost of goods throughout the economy. It was a perfect storm of unfavourable conditions that fed the contempt felt by those who started to wonder why it was they were not accumulating wealth like those who were in power. Then, with the success of the Russian Revolution some groups of socialists or left leaning working-class people found themselves inspired by the level of change that Vladimir Lenin had accomplished. For the first time in a very long time, people believed that change was possible. The labour movement organized in to what was known as “One Big Union” and when employers refused to negotiate with the metal and building trades it became the catalyst that launched the crusade for the recognition of the union and worker’s rights to collectively bargain through which higher wages were being insisted upon.

As Winnipeg’s economic mosaic of workers began assembling on mass and in support of each other it soon caught the attention of those in power. Rather than motivating the Government to negotiate, it instead came to the aid of business owners, in order to ensure an already fragile economy was not damaged further through a prolonged demonstration of this magnitude. The level of support throughout the city for the working-class people is portrayed well through the Canadian Museum of History:

“On May 13, the WTLC announced the results: over 11,000 in favour of striking and fewer than 600 opposed. The overwhelming vote for strike action surprised even the most optimistic labour leaders. They expected solid support from railway, foundry, and factory workers, but were greatly surprised by the equally strong support coming from other unions. For example, city police voted 149 to 11 for strike action, fire-fighters 149 to 6, water works employees 44 to 9, postal workers 250 to 19, cooks and waiters 278 to 0, and tailors 155 to 13. With this overwhelming endorsement in hand, the WTLC declared a general strike to begin on May 15, at 11:00 a.m.”

The response from business owners and the government was profound due to concerns that this may be construed as an uprising. In fact, the federal government thought it wise to send some cabinet ministers to assist in controlling the situation and some measures were taken in parliament to broaden the definition of sedition within the Criminal Code and modify legislation that could result in the deportation of immigrants who involve themselves in such unruly behaviour. The climax of the conflict occurred on June 21, 1919 which came to be known as “Bloody Saturday”. The North West Mounted Police (NWMP) were called in to disband those who continued to march through the city in demonstrations. Business owners had also financed “special police” armed with baseball bats and wagon spokes to beat those who were protesting. The federal government, worried over the level of violence that was escalating in the streets of Winnipeg also sent in Canadian soldiers to patrol the streets and roam through the city in vehicles with machine guns mounted on them. Eventually the movement was beaten into submission, the leaders arrested and federal workers were forced back to work through the fear of losing their job. Some workers were provided with an option to return, others were not, and the moral within the labour movement dissipated along with its desire to attempt a forceful negotiation again.

Instead, a new tactic, a political tactic was devised through which change would transpire over time by way of the ballot box where considerable numbers seats and votes were won in favour of the various provincial labour parties. Over time these labour parties have evolved and have changed names. Today we would recognize one such evolution as the New Democratic Party or NDP. Through their persistence in the political arena society has seen the evolution of social services and protective laws that provide and protect the rights of the working class at the expense of others. It is some of these socialist ideas however that have come to define Canada and part of the culture that we have constructed within, as an example, universal healthcare. And while it did take nearly three decades to achieve the goal of union recognition and collective bargaining, eventually it too was done through political and legal means.

It has been debated for years if the Winnipeg General Strike was a revolutionary conspiracy and depending on how one choses to define these terms the debate will likely continue for years. It was however investigated by The Royal Commission which “concluded that the strike was not a criminal conspiracy” and so it will remain simply one of the greatest conflicts to erupt on the streets of Winnipeg to date.


Gonick, CY 2010 January 7, Radical Winnipeg, Canadian Dimension. Retrieved from https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/radical-winnipeg

Labour’s Revolt: Winnipeg General Strike. Canadian Museum of History. Retrieved from https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/labour/labh22e.shtml

Fighting the good fight: Winnipeg general strike of 1919. Canadian Public Health Association. Retrieved from https://www.cpha.ca/fighting-good-fight-winnipeg-general-strike-1919



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Target Canada: a moment in Canadian history


Source, The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service: http://tradecommissioner.gc.ca/canadexport/155736.aspx?lang=eng

According to Yahoo Finance on the day that Target Canada announced that it was discontinuing its operations in Canada there was an approximate 14.5 million increase in volume of its share sales and the stock price rose 3.6%. As an investor this news was exciting. The company had invested $4.4 billion in order to attempt its over ambitious expansion in to Canada suffering $2 billion in losses before it decided to concede this northern territory to those who understood it best (Peterson 2015). Unfortunately, it also meant the Canadian economy would suffer a serious blow due to the sudden loss of jobs for 17,600 people (Malcolm and Horovitz, 2015).

Opening 124 stores in one year (Lindsey 2015) is not merely a daunting task but put simply it is an absurd and reckless idea. Without considerable forethought conceived by strategic masterminds such a venture is sure to fail. It is clear that Target’s overly aggressive push to cut away a portion of the market share in the Canadian retail space was doomed right from the start. This “go big or go home” approach left the retail giant at the mercy of a number of aspects that caused their Canadian dreams of grandeur to run astray. The typical approach of opening a few test stores was ignored by Target, this was noted well by Shaw, “That strategy skirted the path most retailers take in making their first international forays: opening a few test stores and tweaking them in response to consumer demand. If there is evidence of a good appetite, the company can open more.” It is clear that an approach that allowed for slower expansion would have allowed the retail behemoth to educate itself from its mistakes and mitigate the risk of those mistakes on a much more manageable level. To aid in this education process other retail giants like Walmart use properly configured ERP systems that span the diverse aspects of their organization collecting and analyzing data. With such information at their disposal through systems that intertwine between the customer experience, the inventory system, the supply chain, finance and workforce planning, proper strategic initiatives are developed, implemented and evaluated in a timely and controlled fashion.

It was not a lack of appetite from the Canadian consumer that led to the collapse of such a grand opportunity, rather it was a lack of planning, a rush to implement without the appropriate systems at full working capacity. Inventory and automated ordering systems left Target lying at the border like a wounded animal desperately trying to claw its way in to this unknown northern expanse of retail possibilities. This is captured by Shaw as well, “Target was using an entirely new set of systems, supply chain infrastructure and third-party logistics providers in Canada – that proved to be the retailer’s Achilles’ heel.” The resulting distribution nightmare was the reason that too often shelves were left bare and customers would leave dismayed and confused. Target would have likely seen a more profitable future had Target invested in a scalable SCM system and configured it appropriately or in similar fashion to that used by other retail establishments such as Walmart. This would have given Target ample data to analyze and ensure their inventory systems and their automated ordering systems worked interdependently with each other with seamless precision. They also would have recognized what items in inventory were not turning over quickly enough. Understanding what remains for too long in your inventory provides the means to determine how to discount the items for more rapid sales. Stale inventory affects the reputation of the brand, especially if the unwanted items are the only items left to adorn the shelving. Such a sight will only convince customers that they should not return. With such a tool at Target’s disposal and if Target launched their stores in a manner by which they could control the integration of each new store through controlled environments, it is possible Target may have had a fighting chance.

Target’s sloppy expansion into the great white north and its chaotic logistics were not its only failures, it also failed to present itself where a growing number of Canadians make their shopping decisions; online (Sorensen 2015). Instead of canvassing for new opportunities in a growing online market, for whatever reason, Target decided to purchase the leaseholds of the dismally performing Zellers stores. In my opinion the less than optimal locations of these Zellers stores played some significance to the demise of Zellers and HBC was lucky to find “some poor sucker” willing to take them off their balance sheet. The mixture of poor locations along with expensive brick and mortar distribution immediately diluted the potential for Target’s success. A more appropriate alternative would have been to invest in a CRM that could integrate online customer experiences and track customer preferences. This likely would have resulted in better decisions regarding the prices the market was willing to bare and shopping habits of those interested in Target’s wares. With this information I believe that Target would have opened fewer outlets in order to provide the shopping experience at the price that customers were expecting (Lindsey 2015).  Instead however Target will forever be known now as expressed in Supply Chain 24/7, “History will show this as being one of the greatest supply chain disasters in Canadian history.” (Wulfraat 2015).



Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/TGT/history?period1=1388556000&period2=1422684000&interval=1d&filter=history&frequency=1d

Peterson, H. (2015). 5 reasons Target failed in Canada. Business Insider. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from http://www.businessinsider.com/why-target-canada-failed-2015-1

Malcolm, H., & Horovitz, B. (2015, January 15). Target to shutter all stores in Canada. USA Today. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/01/15/target-canada-retailing-liquidation/21798843/

Wulfraat, M. (2015, January 17). Supply chain miseries doom Target in Canada. Supply Chain 24/7. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from http://www.supplychain247.com/article/supply_chain_miseries_doom_target_in_canada

Lindsey, K. (2015, January 21). Why Target missed the bullseye in Canada. Retail Dive. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://www.retaildive.com/news/why-target-missed-the-bullseye-in-canada/354508/

Shaw, H. (2015, January 15). Target Corp’s spectacular Canada flop: A gold standard case study for what retailers shouldn’t do. Financial Post. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/target-corps-spectacular-canada-flop-a-gold-standard-case-study-for-what-retailers-shouldnt-do

Sorensen, C. (2015, January 15). Why Target missed its mark so badly. Maclean’s. Retrieved March 12, 2018 from http://www.macleans.ca/economy/business/why-target-missed-its-mark-so-badly/

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Inspired By: “Big Data: The Winning Formula In Sports” by Bernard Marr

Reading the article, “Big Data: The Winning Formula In Sports” by Bernard Marr reminded me of my childhood and the countless hours I spent watching my father in the gym. He was a professional bodybuilder, and I recall that even in the 1980s data was calculated for the purpose of obtaining peak performance. As mentioned in the article, calorie intake is a particular information stream that professional athletes pay attention to. This is their fuel, it is what allows them the energy they need to train and perform, and while this relevant information contributes to their success it is also closely monitored and controlled to ensure excess weight doesn’t hamper their performance. My father would track his calories using the labels on the food he ate along with a pencil and journal, today online data systems allow people to track their calorie intake using timely and simple information through a few taps on an app available on a smartphone. These apps analyze a person’s calorie intake almost instantly.

Training time was an intense period for everyone in the household as my father tracked every repetition and set of a weight lifted or exercise performed. He would monitor his heart rate by counting his pulse using his index and middle finger to ensure he was training at an appropriate intensity. Today however, as explained in the article training equipment has become not just more sophisticated but a “standard piece of the kit for every player” (Marr 2015). Using the complete information available a diagnostic breakdown can occur real time using wearable technology such as heart monitors and athletes obtain reliable and timely information that can help them understand what their peek performance is, and how long it can be maintained. The ability to ensure peek training levels most certainly contributes to the success of athletes today.

My father’s movements were tracked by someone choreographing his routine poses for the stage through the use of a video camera and a VHS player which could be analyzed afterwards once you found a television to connect the equipment to. Technology today however not only provides us with more accessible information but also more flexible information such as in the example where 8 cameras installed in a stadium give users the ability to, “monitor 12,000 soccer matches around the world” (Marr 2015). This system allows the analysis of players movements and interactions with the ball. It provides insights regarding team and player dynamics by “tracking 10 data points per second for every player” (Marr 2015). Computers then take this digital video footage and filter the information so an analyst can manually code the synergy that players have with the ball. The level of analysis undergone though this process, while perhaps considered by some as intensive produces accurate information that can be used to enhance player performance and team strategy.

While large cable machines used for weightlifting certainly resembled the play structures you typically found in the playground for children through the 1980s, it was made very clear to me the countless ways I could injure myself if not careful. The levels of injury that occur is another area where improvements have been made through the use of wearable technology according to (Marr 2015). Tracking data such as the intensity of the activities being performed by athletes and the impact of collisions reliable information has been collected and analyzed that assist in reducing injuries. Understanding the performance levels where athletes are fatigued will allow teams to schedule rotations of the players that minimize the effects of or injuries caused by poor decisions while fatigued.

Examining archived or historical information produces further insights into longitudinal patterns so long as this is accessible information.  This provides higher levels of validity to conclusions drawn from other types of information so long as that which was documented in the past is also considered reliable information.

The benefits of evidence-based decisions were certainly demonstrated by Marr in this well-crafted article. Illustrating that the use of various forms of information such as: calorie intake, training levels, interaction counts, injury levels and historical can prove beneficial to the entertainment and sports industry. The manner in which this information is collected today strengthens characteristics of the information with regards to accessibility, accuracy, completeness, flexibility, relevancy, reliability, and timeliness of its collection, storage and analysis.



Marr, B., (2015). Big Data: The Winning Formula In Sports. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/03/25/big-data-the-winning-formula-in-sports/#2e03da8a34de

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2017 – Hope and Motivation

When you feel like you are going in circles, sometimes it isn’t that bad.

2017 was indeed a year of hope and renewal, physically, emotionally and mentally for me and carried with it some learning moments as I ventured into new projects.

I must start this year by acknowledging the wonderful team of people I have come to cherish working with. I work for a leader whose profound wisdom provides guidance, yet she still provides acknowledgement and gratitude during moments of humbleness expressing the individual value I bring to the team. This in itself is a refreshing experience. My coworkers and I have come together as a team where our strengths compliment each other so incredibly well that I look forward to each experience we share. These experiences continue to drive us forward towards meeting our goals. Without this fantastic group of people, it would have been difficult to successfully overcome the many challenges we faced in our changing work environment. To those of you that I work with each day, know that I appreciate you and the many efforts you provide every day. I can not express to you how much I appreciate the welcoming environment and leadership you provide to me and with me on an ongoing basis.

Just as welcoming and helpful was the staff that assisted me at the University of Manitoba as I tried my hands as an instructor. I felt this was a rewarding and positive experience, and look forward to my next opportunity to engage with students again.

I have also been attending classes through the University of Winnipeg. I have been taking 3 courses per term in order to enhance my knowledge surrounding topics of interest. While doing so, I have had the pleasure of meeting an array of wonderful people with whom I have shared some fantastic conversations. I was also surprised and honoured this past year to receive an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honour Society through the local UofW chapter. In order to ensure I am able to balance my time, I take one class in person and the others are taken online. I must commend the instructors who provide the online lectures, they are very well done and responsive to the inquiries made by students outside the class environment. The one-hour lectures provided over the internet have also been perfect for me to watch while I run in the mornings on the treadmill at home.

My health was a challenge that I had to face near the end of 2016. I had lost all sense of balance and had allowed myself to reach a weight of nearly 300 pounds. I am happy to inform you that I have lost 38 pounds so far through my quest to re-balance my life. A healthier diet, some exercise, but most of all less stress and sleeping well enough so that I now have enough energy to get me through my day. These continue to propel me towards my goals in a healthy way. One of the moments that provided clarity regarding my progress in overcoming the unhealthy mess I left behind was when my four-year-old daughter innocently said with a smile and a look of surprise in those big brown eyes, “Dad, your tummy is getting smaller!” “Good”, I said, “it is important to take care of your health and Dad is working hard to be healthier.” With that in mind I am glad to know that this experience is providing an opportunity to role model healthy behaviours for my children.

My children continue to give me reason to be proud of each of them. Our oldest is maturing into a wonderful young woman even while occasionally presenting the challenges of being a teen in today’s world. Our most recent adventures together have consisted of her driving through the streets of Winnipeg while I watch and guide her. Our six-year-old is doing well in school, piano, swimming, and dance. Just prior to writing this, we sat together so I could help her read a Star Wars story book. Our four-year-old has progressively demonstrated her passion for play and is also doing well in school, dance and looking forward to skating this upcoming year with her sister. This afternoon she cuddled up beside me after placing a number of stuffed toys around me while I was reading a book for one of my classes. My son at only one and a half years amazes me each day as he develops his motor skills and speech. Just recently he started singing “Paw Patrol” over and over again, apparently, he has become a fan of this show. I can’t express how lucky I feel that I am able to enjoy so many amazing moments with all of our children and watch them develop in to wonderful people. One of our favorite moments to share is of course in our kitchen as we bake all sorts of wonderful things together. One day, my children will be master cinnamon roll makers.

My wife and I have also been working hard to meet some goals. If there is one person I try my hardest to ensure is always a priority in my life, it is her. In the time we have been together we have been through many challenges, but we always come out better for it in the end. Be it through our family, our business interests, our educational goals or those moments we share on our dates to Costco (sometimes you have to take what you can get), I will always strive with the greatest intent to strengthen our relationship so we can enjoy our lives together.

My final thoughts about 2017 are this:

2017 was a time of renewed hope through which the motivation was created to see me through the many challenges that I faced. By embracing change and believing that “better” was “achievable” I created a self-fulfilling prophecy that continues to build momentum into 2018.

2018, even with the many changes and choices I know you are going to bring, I welcome you. I know that no matter what we face, we will always come out better for it in the end.

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