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2001 in Review.
January 11, 2002.
[John] How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions? I stopped making them quite a few years ago. Who needs the added stress? Society provides plenty of that itself. I believe we don't have to have a "new year" to start something new in our lives we only need motivation to get us started, willpower to keep it going, and support when we ask for it.
Is it just me, or did our stress escalate a little during 2001? It seems to me that we have all seen a multifaceted array of new concerns to add to the ever growing demands on our psyches every day. My psyche suffered a great deal last year, forcing me to make many changes in my life... and the change is not over yet. As I explained in FactsCanada.ca issue 2001-43Su on October 28, 2001, it was time for me to take a break and try to start "smelling some roses". What I learnt from my time off is that I could have taken a whole year off from this newsletter and I don't think I would have smelled a damn thing! The time I saved by not writing a new newsletter every week was quickly consumed by many other neglected duties, and I still could find no time to myself or for myself. I realise that sounds a bit arrogant, but it's not meant to be. I only mean that we all need some quiet time to allow us to slow down enough to absorb the changes occurring around us every day. After stepping off the treadmill of life for a time we have a chance to properly assimilate these changes, make our little alterations, then take a deep breath and jump back on.
So here I am, back at it again. The production of this newsletter is very difficult for me, mostly because my time is very quickly consumed by research and trying to find just the right words. The joy I experience when I read the final product, after Craig has done his best to make me sound like a real writer, is wonderful but short-lived. I love the final product it only pains me that almost as soon as I am finished reading it, I must start preparing for the next.
What does all of this have to do with you, dear reader, and the trials and tribulations of your own life? Not a great deal, I suppose. Nevertheless, we all have thoughts, ideas, feelings, hopes, dreams, and even fears and apprehensions these are the prices we pay for the thinking, reasoning and cognitive gift we call our intellect, or spirit if you would prefer.
I can take these thoughts no further at least I can't in this particular forum. I know not where they lead, for thoughts are like life itself every day is a new chapter written in our own personal diary. I know not where life leads or how long it will go on, for all the pages ahead are blank and there is an endless supply of these pages ready to be added to the end. We may like to make notes and insert our desires and dreams within the writings on the pages ahead, but there is one factor we can neither ignore nor anticipate, that being the effects of the actions of others on our lives and, ultimately, the final outcome of our personal life's text. Therefore I end this preamble where it now rests, in your minds, and hope that, if nothing else, I have stimulated you to pursue some new avenues of thought.
2001 in Review
By John MacDonald (email@example.com)
Below are some of the events and obituaries of last year. I will stick to stories that relate directly to Canada and Canadians. I chose them in no particular fashion and will certainly not come close to dealing with even a small fraction of what can occur within or to a nation and its people in the span of 365 days. They are presented in the order I recall them, so sit back and enjoy a condensed editorial version of the events of 2001.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Some have come to call this date 911 (9 for the month and 11 for the day). I commented on this horrific event at the time and for a few weeks afterwards, and was as shocked as the rest of Canada that such a terrorist incident could take place so close to home to Canadian citizens. Many things have been revealed since the original attack began hitting our televisions, radios and computers. I am very glad to report that initial death and injured figures declined as the days went by. Here is a synopsis of the first day and how it was reported.
One of our readers was quick to point out that, even though a majority of news reports identified one of the sites of this terrorist-laden day as being Washington DC (including those from the CBC, who referred to "the seat of military power in Washington, the Pentagon..."), the fact is that the District of Columbia was never attacked. In actuality, the Pentagon, which was the target near to the American capital, is located across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia.
Original casualty estimates rose to over 10 000 dead. I am glad to report that the final figure was less than one third of the original estimate.
I refuse to give these events any more press anyone in the world with even a remote connection to the outside world must be aware of them and has, by now, arrived at their own understanding of the results. We must in order to keep on surviving. We all know what happened and do not need more reminders. However, what I do want to provide for you are the names of those unfortunate Canadians who became eternally entangled in the death count. As of November 5, 2001, at least 25 Canadians are known to have died during these attacks. The total number of deaths at this time had declined to somewhere over 4000 people, but only 465 victims had been positively identified.
Canadians that have been positively identified are:
25 Canadians confirmed dead in Sept. 11 attacks
LAWSUIT OVER SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS
Back on November 28, 2001, a $400-million class action lawsuit was filed against the federal government by people involved in same-sex relationships. The suit alleged that gay and lesbian couples have faced years of discrimination when one partner dies.
NEW TEN-DOLLAR BILL
There is a new ten-dollar bill! The new bill comes at a time when we were all resigned to coins being the future of currency in this country. The five-dollar coin is still rumoured to be around the corner, but now we have some new play money.
The Bank of Canada unveiled a completely reworked ten-dollar bill on January 17th, 2001. This is the first of a new series of "tactile" bank notes designed to foil counterfeiters and make it easier for the blind to differentiate between the various currency denominations. The central bank says photocopiers, printers, and scanners are becoming more sophisticated, making it easier to manufacture fake copies of the country's paper currency.
SAM THE RECORD MAN FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY
A Canadian institution, Sam the Record Man, filed for bankruptcy late in October 2001. The chain had been propped up by the Sniderman family in recent years, amid hopes that it could overcome fickle consumers, fierce competition, increasingly narrow margins, and the availability of free music downloads from the Internet. However, in the end the family couldn't hang on. "Until very recently, we believed that if we persevered, we could turn things around," said Sam Sniderman, the 81-year-old son of the firm's founder. "The family's own commitment to the promotion of Canadian talent will continue," he said.
Sam Sniderman Sr. opened his first store in the mid-1920s, and Sam Jr. began working there in 1937. In 1959 he opened his flashy landmark store on Toronto's downtown Yonge Street. At one time Sniderman claimed it was the largest retail record store in the world.
The bankruptcy filing applies only to the 30 stores owned by the Sniderman family. Eleven independent franchises licensed to use the "Sam the Record Man" name are not included in the bankruptcy.
WEST NILE VIRUS
Not a computer virus (for a change), but a real, biological one. On August 23, 2001, in Windsor, Ontario, the provincial government continued increasing efforts to monitor for the West Nile virus. The move came after confirmation that a dead crow found in Windsor two weeks previously did have the virus. Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement said that dead birds throughout the province were being monitored for signs of the virus, and that mosquitos were also being gathered for testing.
MR. DRESSUP DIES
"Ernie Coombs (aka Mr. Dressup) Dies After Suffering a Stroke", read the headline on September 19, 2001. A CBC reporter said "He had a trunk, a couple of puppet friends, scissors, paper and glue. That's all Ernie Coombs used to make this country fall head over heels in love with Mr. Dressup."
From Coombs himself: "I think the reason I liked doing the show so much was I was basically doing things I loved doing as a kid," he once said. "I didn't have to grow up, I could just go into the studio, play with toys, talk to puppets, make crafts, draw pictures, dress up and pretend to be someone else. And get paid for it. Great!"
The Mr. Dressup show ran for more than 30 years on the CBC and over 4000 productions were filmed. Although born in the United States, Coombs was definitely a Canadian icon. Despite Coombs' retirement from production of the show in 1996, reruns on the CBC continue to captivate children six time a week. Ernie Coombs was 73 when he died.
BC LESBIAN COUPLES AWARDED PARENTAL RIGHTS
That's what the headline read in BC on August 29, 2001. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal awarded two lesbian couples the legal right to register as parents on their children's birth certificates. The couples had argued that the Vital Statistics Agency discriminated against same-sex families over the listing of non-biological parents. Previously, the non-birth mother had to legally adopt the child before being recognized as a parent. The couples conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor. Barbara Findlay, the lawyer representing the couples, called it a significant ruling on the road towards full equality of lesbian and gay families.
PRESTON MANNING RETIRES FROM POLITICS
On March 21, 2001, Preston Manning announced that he would retire from federal politics at the end of 2001. First elected to Ottawa eight years ago, he is leaving without achieving his dream. Speaking to the CBC's Don Newman, Manning said he wants to pursue other goals, such as writing and returning to business. He also acknowledged that his primary objective in leading the Reform Party into the House of Commons went by the boards. Now he says it's time to move on.
BOIL-WATER ADVISORY IN NORTH BATTLEFORD, SASKATCHEWAN
On May 4, 2001, came the order to residents of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, to boil their water indefinitely. Officials said that the inadequate treatment of the water appeared to be the cause of a deadly outbreak of a parasite in this central Saskatchewan city. However, the exact cause of the contamination remains a mystery. People in North Battleford were told to keep boiling their water before drinking it or using it for cooking or cleaning. The order will remain in place until further notice.
"Cryptosporidium cysts are still in the water distribution system," advised Dr. Gerhard Benade, the region's medical officer of health. "The boil order will not be lifted until the water supply is determined to be completely safe," he said, adding that no one knows how long that might take.
Three deaths were believed to be linked to cryptosporidium, found in the community's water supply. At least two dozen other people became ill. Doctors say people usually recover from infections unless they have a weakened immune system.
"KING OF KENSINGTON" DIES
The "King of Kensington" died at the age of 65 on January 17, 2001. Canadian actor Al Waxman died after routine heart surgery. Many of us knew him as the star of the CBC television program, "King of Kensington". He also played a key role in the American television show, "Cagney and Lacey."
His family told reporters that the actor underwent elective heart bypass surgery in Toronto the day he died. Relatives said that, while the procedure appeared to go well, there were complications afterwards and his heart stopped beating.
Waxman was awarded Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee Medal and named to the Order of Ontario in 1996. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1997.
MISSING TRIPLETS FOUND
On January 23, 2001, three months after they disappeared, eight-year-old triplets from Stratford, Ontario, arrived back in Canada, ending a search that took police across Canada, the United States and Mexico. The triplets Peter, Gray and Olivia Merkley, were reunited their father Craig at the Canadian embassy in Acapulco.
The children's mother, Carline Vandenelson, was taken into custody by police in Mexico. She and the triplets' father, Craig Merkley, had separated five years earlier, and he had had custody of the triplets since. The children were visiting their mother on October 14, 2000, when they disappeared.
Child Find had reports of them in Halifax, and then in Corpus Christi, Texas. Lori Chapman, who works with the Ontario Branch of the organization, said Vandenelson drove to Mexico before flying to Panama where she was refused entry because she didn't have the proper documentation for the children. The four were spotted in Texas after their story was shown on the American television show "America's Most Wanted". Police say that, before the children disappeared, Vandenelson moved her belongings into storage and cashed in family investments.
CANADIENS BECOME AMERICANS
Nothing is immune to the all-infectious allure of the American dollar, and at the end of January in 2001 the fabled hockey franchise known as the Montreal Canadiens was sold to an American businessman who purchased 80 percent of the team and 100 percent of the Molson Centre in Montreal. The new owner is George Gillett Jr., a ski-resort developer. He paid Molson Incorporated $275 million.
TORONTO CLASSES CANCELLED
Toronto classes were cancelled on Monday, April 23, 2001, for students in the biggest school board in the country. School support workers in Toronto had been on strike for three weeks, and the schools had become too dirty to keep open. Since the 13 000 support workers walked off the job on March 31, 2001, windows had been smashed, washrooms vandalized and garbage had piled up.
FAMILY FRIEND CHARGED IN KIDNAPPING AND DEATH OF FIVE-YEAR-OLD GIRL
From Lethbridge, Alberta, we had the terrible story of the abduction and murder of five-year-old Jessica Koopmans. Her mother, Sylvia Koopmans, felt betrayed when she found out that the man charged with the crime was a friend of the family. Harold Anthony Gallup, 31, was charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder, related to Jessica's disappearance on May 4, 2001. Her body was not found until May 11, 2001, 50 kilometres away. A medical examiner had to use DNA to identify her.
Gallup was the boyfriend of a woman Sylvia Koopmans has known for years. Sylvia recalled how he often played with Jessica and her older sister. The RCMP said Gallup was picked up in High River, south of Calgary, on an unrelated theft charge. He was held for psychiatric observation in Calgary before being returned to Lethbridge on the weekend to face the charges.
SNOWBIRD JET CRASHES INTO LAKE ERIE
Back on June 21, 2001, in Port Burwell, Ontario, one of Canada's famed Snowbirds crashed into Lake Erie following a mid-air collision. The pilot and his passenger ejected and were picked up by a military helicopter. The nine Snowbird jets were demonstrating some of their manoeuvres for local media when two collided over the lake about 40 kilometres south of London, Ontario.
MORDECAI RICHLER DEAD AT 70
Author Mordecai Richler was remembered as a Canadian literary giant so said the headlines of July 4, 2001, after the death of Richler at the end of a long battle with cancer. Author Michael Ondaatje said Richler was the first author to give Canadian writing a modern voice. Calling him "hilariously funny and iconoclastic", Ondaatje said, "I am still moved by his human outrage. He was a wonderful man. A hero."
One of modern literature's most accomplished novelists, Richler's works include "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz", "Solomon Gursky was Here", "Joshua Then and Now", and "Barney's Version". He also wrote the children's favourite "Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang". A writer for more than 40 years, Richler's books dealt with modern urban life, and the complexities of identity and personality.
In May 2001 he was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada, and was the recipient of two Governor General Literary Awards, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and the Giller Prize.
There are dozens more stories I could remind you of from the past year, but I think that what I have provided is a good cross section of items.
\\ PREVIEW //
In our next newsletter, I will ask (and answer) a question about Province House, profile Thomas Dufferin Pattullo, tell you a Martha Stewart joke, and list a whole bunch of birthdays and events from this week in Canadian history.
[Craig] A Friday Feature on a Sunday? What's next? A Sunday Newsletter on a Monday? You guessed it.
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