Here we have Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa presenting his arguments to debunk fallacies about art. I find it very helpful in my conversations with the public at the Art Gallery.
Canada has a way of choosing it’s political leaders and will often go for the maverick who will present new fresh ideas and has an image of someone truly different who can inspire voters. In this aspect Canada could not be more different from the USA.
The New Democratic Party (NDP), traditionally the party of labour and social democracy in Canada, announced in April 2016 it would be replacing incumbent Federal leader Tom Mulcair in the House of Commons after the party’s poor performance in the 2015 federal election.
It’s the first time that a turban-wearing Sikh has run for the leadership of a Canadian political party. He poses a challenge to the party; generally in rethinking how it presents itself to the larger electorate. Choosing a successor to Mulcair is something of an existential crisis for the party. In Quebec it is a special challenge given the way Quebecers look at the multicultural and diversity question, a very different approach from the rest of Canada. In this leadership contest the other three candidates where white, one from Quebec Guy Caron and Charlie Angus from Ontario and Nikki Ashton from Manitoba.
Jagmeet Singh is 38 years old single man, fluent in French and English and in Punjabi.
Singh has already enjoyed some success in being the first Provincial NDP member to be elected in Windsor at any level of government.
He also served as the deputy leader of the Ontario NDP in the Provincial Legislature from 2015 to 2017.
Born in 1979, in Scarborough, Metropolitan Toronto, Singh is the oldest of four children born to Sikh immigrant parents from India’s Punjab region. He later moved to Windsor, Ontario aged seven.
Singh frequently speaks about being bullied at school for his “brown skin, long hair and funny-sounding name”. The need to stand up for himself fuelled a lifelong interest in martial arts. Among other sports, Singh has practised taekwondo, Muay Thai boxing and judo.
His first foray into politics came while studying at Osgoode Law School, Ontario, where he campaigned against rising tuition fees. He was called to the bar in 2006, before going on to work as a criminal defence lawyer in the Greater Toronto area.
His years spent defending refugees and immigrants inspired Singh to enter politics in 2011 by running as an MPP with the NDP in the Ontario district of Bramalea-Gore-Malton.
Here with his parents, his father is a psychiatrist
With his brother Gurratan on the left of photo.
Jagmeet Singh is younger than PM Trudeau and is better educated and has an international background. He presents himself as someone who wants to contribute, highly articulate and champions social justice and equality. As new Leader of the Federal NDP this will pose a challenge to PM Trudeau once Jagmeet is elected to the House of Commons, he will need to run now for a seat. He will have to give up his seat in the Provincial Legislature at Queen’s Park in Toronto.
We had fun yesterday with all our friends.
On Parliament Hill in Ottawa, huge crowds and lots of rain, but the show did go on.
HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Governor General and PM Justin Trudeau were there. The noontime speech by the Prime Minister had large parts of it in French and he also acknowledged a fact that Canada is far older than the 150 years. In terms of European settlement and history it goes back 500 years and if you had the idea that Aboriginals have been known to live and prosper in Canada for 15,000 years. So we are an old country. Confederation is a political union of various parts into one but you cannot ignore all that went on before.
The Prince of Wales also made his speech in French, many do not think or know that he does speak the language fluently.
The Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Trudeau at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
Here in Charlottetown PEI, we went to see the fireworks at Victoria Park which were spectacular. We had a great view, standing on the lawn of Beaconsfield House facing the open bay. We spent the evening with friends and it was a lot of fun.
In Winnipeg which is a geographical centre of Canada, here is a shot of the intersection of Portage and Main street. Said to be the coldest intersection of the country. The maple leaf is hundreds of people standing in formation.
In Ottawa a street sign in front of a house. In French, English and Arabic.
Here are some views all mixed up.
Point Prim Lighthouse, I often go to the point in the Summer, there is a great little restaurant open only in the Summer. It is a fairly isolated spot of PEI facing the mainland, Nova Scotia is just across. It is the first lighthouse ship will see when navigating to enter the bay and harbour of Charlottetown. Built in 1845 by Isaac Smith, I believe Sam Cunard had a hand in the financing of the construction cost.
Home in Charlottetown
Opening night at the Art Gallery where I volunteer.
Our favorite Coffee shop Receiver on Richmond Street. That picture was taken a month ago.
The salon of Government House where I also volunteer.
One of my favourite photo of us in Rome at the top of the staircase next to the Capitoline Hill. In the background Sofia Loren’s penthouse.
Two splendid views of central Rome
A shirt designed by the master, our dear friend Dr. Spo of Phoenix
In London, Sept 2016, dinner before the theatre
With our friend Simonetta in Rome at a Christmas party at Palazzo Brancaccio, 2009
Presenting a painting in the European wing at the National Gallery in Ottawa 2015
Contrary to what is happening in the USA and all the negative news this week coming from the White House which cause many to shudder and worry about the future of our little planet now that the Doomsday clock is 2.30 minutes from Midnight, loosing 30 seconds since last Friday. The reasons being lost opportunity to tackle climate change, pollution and nuclear proliferation, President Trump simply add to the toxic mix.
Today in Canada several articles gives Canadians hope, one being that the Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that they will set up a special fund and work with The Netherlands to offer support and services in reproductive rights to women who may loose out because of the Trump decision to cut funding on abortion. In Canada abortion is available under our Health Care system to all women from Sea to shining Sea and this for the last 35 years, in other words that battle has been over for a long time in our Dominion. This plan would extend aid to women in third world countries.
The other news also goes a long way to show how Canadians have governed themselves very differently if compared to the USA. In 1990 the Government of Canada at the time under a Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the author of NAFTA, decided to open the flood gates of Immigration to all. Canada has always been a country of immigration, in fact the very first government department to be created by the new Federal Government after Confederation in 1867 was the Department of Immigration. The Prime Minister at the time Sir John A. Macdonald believed that a country as vast as Canada had to increase its population which stood at a few million people. Most immigrant then came from Eastern and Southern Europe. Number of immigrants from Europe started to dwindle seriously in the 1970’s, so a solution had to be found. Today on any given year 40% of our immigrants come from the Philippine, China and India, the balance come from Africa, South America and some from Europe. Many senior Ministers in Provincial and Federal Governments are themselves immigrants, the current Minister of Immigration was a Muslim refugee from Somalia. Our Minister of National Defence is a soldier who served in Afghanistan and Sikh immigrant from the Punjab in India. Others are from Afghanistan, Iran, Chile, etc, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. Quite the mix of population and the same applies to Mayors of major Canadian cities, Canadians don’t care about your background as long as you have that popular appeal. We can understand the alarm and disapproval in Canada when we see how Mexico is being treated, our NAFTA partner. Close to one million Canadians live permanently in Mexico and another million visit each Winter.
The latest statistics from the Federal Government shows that by 2036 in 19 years Canada will have a population mix of 50% brown and 50% white. One third of Canadians will have been born abroad, another 20% will have at least one parent who will be an immigrant. Every large city in Canada will have 33% of its population born abroad.
Canada is officially bilingual, French and English, however by 2036 only 18% will actually have French as a first language and around 53% will have English, the rest will have another language which is not French or English. Already it is fairly common in schools to have upwards of 40 languages being spoken by students.
Canada is losing its old-time religion. Ninety per cent of Canadians identified as Christians in 1970. Today, it’s 66%, and will be just over one 50% by 2036. Christianity is not being displaced by other religions – only 7 per cent, at most, will identify as Muslim by 2036 – but by no religion at all. A quarter of all Canadians today identify with no faith, and that number could reach 33% by 2036. Religion simply does not play much in our Society and not at all in Politics.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming a group of Muslim women in Parliament
The fact that Canada has deliberately transformed the makeup of its population in a way no other country has managed, or even attempted, speaks to the tolerant, diverse society in which we live.
As for Canadian politicians who think they can exploit the Nativist trend like in the USA to get elected, this is very unlikely to work. There is no future courting the angry white vote in Canada. There just aren’t enough angry white voters.
Lastly on the Democracy index compiled by Economic Intelligence groups Canada ranks at #6 in the world in terms of the quality of its democracy and openness in governance. The other five countries ahead of us are the Scandinavians. The USA has dropped at #21 and is no longer considered a full democracy.
This news on the 150th Anniversary of our Confederation is great to hear and makes me happy as a Canadian. It is truly something to celebrate.
Canadians on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Canada Day!
I just realized that four years ago today I was retiring from the Foreign Service after 33 yrs of service to Canada, serving in 8 different posts over 22 years abroad.
I was re-reading the post I wrote in Ottawa on that day and how I came to that conclusion to retire by end of year in 2012. This is the motto I have been following since, which led to our move to PEI.
To invent the life you want to have rather than the life someone says you must have. It takes time.
Old Charlottetown seen from the roof of the Holman Hotel, I can see our house.
In March 2012 I decided to return to Rome to consult with friends, I walked a lot in Rome something I truly enjoy doing, the City is built like a theatre set and anywhere you look there is always something to attract your eyes.
Via Sistina at the top of the Spanish Steps
Looking down this street Via Sistina that morning in March I was just waiting around for Nancy de C. to visit the Convent at Trinita dei Monti, top of the Spanish stairs. So I was just looking down the street, Via Sistina, I took this photo at 9:55 am, if you look all the way you can see at the other end the steeple of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The street changes names twice before you arrive at the other end, to Via Quattro Fontane and then to Via Agostino DePretis. It was busy that morning like all morning in Rome are and I do not know why, but a calm little voice told me, you know retiring would not be such a bad thing after all, you had a wonderful career. Rome and it’s sunlight can inspire.
That is when I decided that I would retire by year end. I came back to Ottawa, told Will of my decision. He arranged a very nice party with friends at our home on the 29 December 2012 and had our florist Minou make the most beautiful flower arrangement for that day.
How many times Will and I lived by that Chinese saying, our home has been the world and now four years later here we are in Charlottetown.
Some example of favourite City and their Christmas tree, 2016.
Milan in front of the Duomo (cathedral) of Milan 2016.
Rome, Piazza Venezia in front of the Altar to the Italian Nation.
Berlin, Brandenburg gate, Pariser Platz
Munich in front of City Hall, Christmas market.
Athens, Syntagma Square in front of the Greek Parliament.
Shönbrunn Palace, suburbs of Vienna
Warsaw, Poland in front of the old Royal Palace.
Ottawa, Canada, behind the Parliament Buildings
Our tree at home in Charlottetown, PEI.
Christmas in Rome 2011, at the top of the stairs of the Church of Santa Maria Ara Coeli in Capitolinum. One of my favourite photos of us on that last Christmas in Rome, I remember it was a crisp but sunny day.
Here are some photos I wanted to share from Twitter.
Andrew King of Ottawa, famous historian who always comes up with the most fascinating stories on Ottawa Rewind, could not find candies at the store so he got luncheon meat and Maggi instant noodles instead, this made me laugh hard. Imagine the face of the kids getting this stuff, priceless!
Our Prime Minister also dressed up to go trick or treating with his kids in the New Edinburg neighbourhood where they live in Ottawa.
PM Justin Trudeau is dressed up as the famous writer Saint-Exupery and his son as the Little Prince, from the story of the book, we all read as kids.
The neighbours also dressed up, cross dressing Queen Elizabeth II, LOL!
How about this spooky cloud formation with the setting Sun in the Province of Alberta, out West.
Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait near Charlottetown, PEI
The ship is described as a beautiful schooner that has three masts (sometimes four masts, as reports vary) with pure white sails, all of which become completely engulfed in flames as onlookers watch. There never seems to be a predetermined place for where the ship will appear; sightings tend to happen when least expected.
Sightings have occurred throughout the seasons, but seem to be more prevalent from September to November. These visions are also apparent before a northeast wind, and folklore has it that this brilliant ghost ship is a forewarning of a storm.
We drove this morning back from Charlottetown to Moncton New Brunswick over the sea bridge and down Hwy 16 and then 15 west to the Airport for our flight to Ottawa. The Hwy 16 and 15 on the mainland is pretty boring, basically forests on either side and numerous signs telling you to be careful of Moose crossing, at 2+ tons in weight you do not want to hit one, it would be fatal for you. The weather in the Maritime is Spring like and the snow is gone, our 10 days was showers and sun and temperature between +4C and +14C. The photo header is what welcomed us home, can you believe it, NO! how can this be it’s Springtime everywhere but here. Another 10 months of Winter for Ottawa at -11C, there is something seriously wrong with this picture even Siberia gets Summer time, but then again Ottawa has the reputation of being the coldest Capital in the World.
Anyway we now have 3 very serious prospects for rental and all in the 1500 to 2000 sq feet range. Ceilings between 12 to 18 feet in height, if you always lived with 8 foot ceilings your life is changed in a transcendental way by ceilings at 12 to 18 feet.
Now comes the fun of cleaning house and getting rid of all the stuff we do not want to move, books, CDs, furniture, clothing, etc..
Tomorrow we are going to retrieve the puppies Nicky and Nora who spent their 7th Birthday respectively at Dachshunds Boot Camp. I am told that Nora loves to chew on Antlers now. This goes well with her personality as a Hunting dog it runs in her family. They are both scheduled for a grooming in the coming week.
Already March and my 60th coming up. Well it was a wonderful 10 days in PEI.
This week I had 3 days of duty as docent at the National Gallery of Canada. One was hosting the Wednesday Morning Lectures-Mercredis Culturels, I coordinate that program in French and in English. Then I had a school group, the students around 9 years of age where quite good and had lots of good questions and observations, the teacher was also interested and helpful, that is not always the case. We also had a training session, unfortunately the NGC is under a lot of renovations in preparation for Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation. The Canadian Galleries are being completely redone, the Bookstore is getting a facelift after 27 years in the same spot. There is also some work installations in the Contemporary Galleries which are taking more and more space at the NGC and slowly eclipsing the other collections. Also all the lights in the museum are being converted to LED, apparently that is better. I also presented a work of art by Matthias Stom, Flemish School of Painting, 1630, entitled The arrest of Christ. I never know who is going to come and listen to my presentation which last about 10 minutes,”officially”. I had a father with his little daughter who was 7 yrs old and she wanted to know what a Museum guide did, she was very attentive and a little overwhelmed. I also had a couple from Spain and a Muslim lady who told me how much she loved the museum and was appreciative of my presentation. Another lady wanted to give me a tip, which I declined.
The subject of this painting from the Baroque period is religious and so I was not sure how it would go over. You cannot count on people knowing about Biblical stories or even being able to identify the Deity nowadays. At any rate I concentrate on the colours, the light and other details of the composition such as facial expression, clothing, hand gestures etc. I speak about the painter and the technique he used and then speak about the frame and how it was made. One person did ask me where this scene was taking place and another asked who was Judas. Christ is looking up towards Heaven and one person asked what is he looking at given the violence around him, I said God the Father which confused them, many do not know who that is. A bit like in another tableau where the Virgin Mary and Jesus are featured, many Renaissance paintings (1300-1600) have a strong religious subject. One fellow asked me who was that women with the baby in her arms, before I had time to answer a 9 year old who was also looking at the painting said, that’s Mary and Jesus, thank you kid and shame on the adult.
Virgin and Child with St-Anthony Abbot by Hans Memling
I take that sort of lack of knowledge as a sign of the age we live in, we think we know a lot but in fact we know nothing and understand even less. To me that is really sad and unfortunate. Quite a few people do not understand why European paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque period feature religious themes, despite the fact that the explanation fact sheet explains where it came from. There appears to be this belief that since we all know religion is bunk then why show it, it’s boring I am told. Sad really, I often have to explain that the European galleries show 900 years of paintings and through the ages style and fashion evolve and we are showing this evolution in human history. The galleries are arranged like a clock when you start you are in 1290 and when you finish at the other end its 1970, still many just don’t get it. Well I console myself, thinking if one visitor I spoke too loved it and was inspired my job is done.
I wonder if anyone has done a study of why more women come to the museum than men. I am sure there must be a thesis some where on the topic. I did observe that in Europe there are more men in Museums in general but in North America it is different, culture no doubt.
Finally, I always make a point of going through the galleries whenever I have a moment at the museum to look at what is new. In the last week I counted 15 new works on the wall. They had replaced other works, so the rotation happens more quickly now than before, the NGC can only show about 1000 works at the moment with the space we have, the basement has over 35,000 in storage. This of course is not counting the sculptures, the Diploma works of the Canadian Royal Academy, the photographies and all the sketches and prints. We do have a very rich collection.
While I was walking in the 19th century gallery, a work by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) caught my eye, entitled Roses, 1885. The simplicity of presentation and botanical accuracy of his still-life paintings prompted many critics to compare him to the 18th century painter Jean-Siméon Chardin.
What I did not know and discovered was that Fantin-Latour would pick flowers from his own garden early in the morning, arrange them and then create a painting of them. He became famous for his delicate portrayal of roses.
Les Roses, 1885 at the National Gallery of Canada.
I also noticed on the explication note that he would cover the canvas with a thin layer of transparent colour that would serve as a background- a neutral colour determined by the bouquet he wanted to paint.
During the Song Dynasty in China (960-1127) painters would do this also on their canvas applying a thin layer, with a broad brush, of black tea and ink.
Unfortunately the reflection of the glass does not help, however I purchased this in Beijing from an artist of the Chinese Central Academy of Arts, Ms. Zhai Wei. She applied a thin layer of black tea and ink before painting the little sparrows on a ficus branch, thus imitating the style of painters during the Song Dynasty.
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Join me as we wind back the time in Ottawa.