We are Saturday night 28 January it is the Lunar New Year, one year ago tonight we were in Charlottetown with our friends looking for a place to eat, we went to the Delta Hotel and crashed the Chinese New Year Banquet Dinner, we then went to The Place Next Door because the Merchantman was full of diners and painters, it was a special evening of Art in the Dark. There we met Nathan and Katie who were moving out of what would become our home in Charlottetown on Water Street.
One year later, here we are with our friends at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery for the opening of the Winter show.
However all is not well, tonight because of the travel ban on 7 countries imposed by Trump, tens of thousands of Canadians can no longer go to the USA because they were born in one those 7 countries. Regardless of the fact that they are Canadians and hold Canadian passports, they are barred from entering the USA. The White House has not bothered to inform my government of this fact. Other Canadians who tried to enter the USA today have been checked to ensure that they do not hold hostile anti-Trump views, carrying an iPhone or a computer leads to verification of accounts, they are reviewed especially Facebook for any comment deemed anti-Trump. Many have been refused entry on the spot. This is what happens in totalitarian States not in the USA, but things have changed.
Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown great courage and decency by upholding the Canadian Value of welcoming those who need our help. At this point we should be reminded that Canada was the founding nation of the United Nation High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) and also of the UN Peace Keeping Corps, our former Prime Minister the late Lester B.Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for that initiative.
Though this week we heard a lot about Mexico and the wall, the fact that President Trump has said he now wants to renegotiate NAFTA, a treaty I worked on during the implementing phase all those years ago, without so much as giving a formal notification to Canada or Mexico and uses language that is condescending and patronizing as if we owed something to the USA, such language and attitude is totally unacceptable. The Government of Canada reminded the White House that 35 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada, we are your #1 Trading partner and Mexico is also equally important, trade imbalance not withstanding.
We will also remind the White House that the use of Torture is unacceptable to Canada and this policy of the Trump administration puts in jeopardy any military or intelligence operation.
When terrorists struck on September 11, 2001 all flights to the Atlantic seaboard of the USA were diverted to Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, we took care, fed and housed thousands of American passengers for several days, we did not have to do it but we did out of decency and in an act of friendship.
When in 1979 the revolution in Teheran cause the departure of the Shah and the US Embassy was overran, it was Canada who saved a group of American Diplomats and their families and sheltered them and eventually arranged secretly to have them leave Iran at great cost to us, I would also like to remind readers that the UK and France had refused to help those same Americans.
It seems that more than 200 years of good cooperation, trade and friendly relations are now forgotten in the blink of an eye because of the election of one man who is surrounded by a bunch of ignorant people, not to mention the Republican party who is silent and complicit. The actions and decrees of Mr Trump this week are a dark stain on the USA and the American people and a threat to World Peace, I am not exaggerating.
Prime Minister Trudeau showing great courage and decency in welcoming Syrian Refugees to Canada, the very threat President Trump denounces.
Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
The header of this posting is dedicated to my father, Denis C. Beaulieu, the painting by Newell C. Wyeth is entitled; Lobstering off Black Spruce Ledge.
He loved the dish Lobster Thermidor and he also loved anything to do with the Sea.
On the afternoon of Sunday 12 July my father died suddenly while shopping in one of his favourite stores, Holt Renfrew in Montreal. He was transported to the Hotel Dieu de Montreal, the oldest hospital in the city founded 1645. My siblings and I cannot say enough good about the kindness, care and thoughtfulness of the hospital emergency staff. We are very grateful for their attention and care they gave to our father despite the fact that he was beyond help. Death came very quickly and he did not suffer according to the three doctors and ambulance para-medics who attended him.
My parents wedding 18 June 1955
Our mother had died on 28 September 2013 after a very lenghty illness. My father was suffering from increasing poor health with an accumulation of heart and lung problems aggravated by old age, he was 85. The weather on Sunday was very humid 90% and very hot around 32C a lethal combination for someone like him.
I arrived in Montreal from Ottawa around 19:30 hrs, I do not really remember the highway drive down, my mind so preoccupied and hoping that I might arrive before he left this world. He died around 18:00. It was strangely peaceful to sit with him for several hours in the hospital room. We had during his lifetime sat in the same room at home in silence both of us reading and exchanging a few words. The two of us had gone to Greece 5 years ago for his 80th birthday, during our trip he and I would often look at the scenery in silence. It was a similar experience and I was able to say my quiet goodbyes. I was happy to have this opportunity, just me and Dad.
My mother always said and it became a family joke, that we were, him and I so alike in mannerisms, figure of speech and voice, people often would think it was my father calling on the phone when in fact it was me. Now it is even stranger as I phone his friends I am quick to tell them it is me calling for fear they might think it was him and I would have to correct them and then announced his death.
After leaving the hospital, I was the first to arrive at his apartment in Westmount and looking around everything was in its habitual place just waiting his return, he had just left for a few hours for shopping, never to return. I just sat there and looked around so many memories in the various objects, many of them going back to my childhood.
My father had an incredible career in the Hotel Industry in Canada from 1960. He was a natural salesman and in marketing he always knew how to present his product and sell it. He also had the memory of an elephant and was able to recall names,places and events, even conversations years later. It was eerie but would fascinate clients who recalling events could not believe that he remembered so many things about them. As children we often lived at the hotel he managed and I being the oldest was able to observe his style, he had a lot of style, from the clothes he wore to the cars he drove, to interior decoration to design in general, to flower arrangements, to the food served or drinks, or the way he lived, life with Dad was never ordinary.
He was a man of opinions and as much as he could charm the birds off the trees, he could be harsh in his criticism if it had to do with hotels or restaurants and or shoddy service. He always believed that if a client paid, he was entitled to full value and then some. Cutting corners to make a fast profit was never his policy and would not put up with anyone even a colleague suggesting it. He was dismayed by today’s hospitality business and the poor service generally, considering the prices charged. He was lucky to work in the hotel field at a time when hotel service was still steeped in tradition unlike today.
Many of his clients through the years were famous people and often repeat customers. I got to meet some of them. He would get to know what they liked and kept notes. When the client arrived they would find the room with a bouquet of flowers they liked or with an item such as fresh juices or that special liquor bottle they favoured. His clients never forgot, he made them feel at ease and would get to know them personally and even be privy to confidences.
Dad and me, He is 30 years old and I am 5 years old. His first born,I am named after his own father who had died prematurely in 1954. This wonderful picture was taken by my uncle, we are reading a book together.
As a father he tried to give us some basics, he firmly believed that hard work would be rewarded. Every job even menial, his example, picking up city garbage deserved to be done well. He also wanted us to know the value of a dollar and look for good value in anything we bought. It was not always easy to be his son, he always had high expectations and would not put up with whatever, you always had to do better. I remember once he had a client who was the heir to a huge corporate fortune who was always complaining that he was so bored. My father could not understand why this fellow did not try to find something meaningful to do despite his fortune. This was an example for us not to follow, no matter what happened in life, always try to be useful to others.
I remember when I was sixteen my father found me a job in Lausanne, Switzerland, the seat of the famous hotel school. He sent me to a friend of his to work at the resort hotel his family managed on Lac Leman (lake Geneva). My father gave me a one way ticket and when I asked about the return portion, he told me that since I would be working I could come back once I had secured enough money to buy a return ticket, it is called learning to manage a budget. I was stunned. For several months I learned the hotel business, getting up at dawn to prepare the dining room for breakfast, polishing silverware and arranging table settings under the eagle eye of the Maitre d’Hotel, everything had to be perfect. I worked long hours sometimes up to 18 hours a day, 6 days a week and we were fed mostly, pig tripe in tomato sauce, not a bad dish, but not one of my favorites. I learned a lot during those months and did not at the time, fully appreciate it. But these were the kind of experiences my father thought were important to prepare us kids against the vagaries of life.
It is strange to think that he is gone. I think even Montreal will not look the same to me without him and mom. I won’t be able to have those conversations with him about restaurants, world politics and whatever or just sit with him in silence. I owe my Dad a great deal and I am very proud of him, I did not always agree with him but in the end as Mom would say, you are his son that cannot be denied.
Typical of him, there will be no funeral and he gave his body to the medical Faculty of McGill University. He did ask that we give a party in his memory, invite his friends and we must serve Champagne, that is what we will do.
Hotels he managed in his career; Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City 1960, Chateau Champlain, Hotel Bonaventure (construction phase and Opening 1966) Montreal. Four Seasons Hotel Montreal. King Edward (re-construction and re-opening) Toronto 1974, Hotel Meridien Montreal 1976, Hotel Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, Hotel Pierre, New York, Hotel Fairfax, 2100 Massachusetts ave. Washington DC in the Reagan years., Hotel St-Paul, in St-Paul, MN, Hotel Bristol, Paris, Hotel Stafford, London and then for many years the Private Club of the Royal Bank of Canada on the 41st floor of Place Ville Marie in Montreal.
After the events of last week in Europe, France, Belgium and Germany involving what I call criminal elements bent on terrorizing society to advance their personal point of view, we heard politicians and experts speak but not convincingly.
Politicians and their experts like to use words like Islamists, Djihadists, terrorists and so on, this is done to give the public an easy target. The politician can then propose more security measures, convincing you that you should allow for less freedoms so they can enforce more and more draconian laws. The so-called experts, nowadays are a dime a dozen, simply repeat the same nonsense, much of it third person anecdotes or use the air time to push the book they just wrote. What really upsets me is how much erroneous information is out there, much of what we hear falls in the category of old wives tales or historical stereotypes. In the old Roman Republic 2700 years ago, there were threats to the survival of Rome and politicians constantly asked for more power and money to solve the problem. The enemy was as exterior force bent on destroying Roman Republican values. Julius Caesar asked for dictatorial powers to solve the problems brought on by the Civil War he had engineered, some people thought it a good idea, though a party in the Senate did not and we know what happened on the Ides of March. Closer to us in the 19th century and 20th century many Nationalistic groups carried out attacks against governments and heads of State.
In 1917 in Russia, the terrorists were called Bolcheviks, in Germany at the same time you had the Spartakist, in 1924 in Croatia there was the Oustachis. in the early 70’s Black September did some spectacular attacks, Germany and Italy had the Red Brigades terror groups. All this to say that various groups at times of troubles will push an agenda based on terror of the masses, the political class always answers in the same way, first minimizing the events and then asking to be given more power for security reasons. After September 2001 the media claimed loudly that the world had changed forever, really, forever? Airports now have so much ”theatre of security” that flying anywhere is unpleasant, each passenger being treated as a potential terrorist, including the 8 month old baby who just pooped in his diaper.
Now we are told by our politicians and the media, the new terrorists are home-grown, it could be your neighbours kids, according to a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen. The kid next door is probably an Islamists or Djihadists, better keep an eye on those pesky neighbours. It would appear that logic has deserted us all together.
The parallel with the books of George Orwell are there for all to see, we are told by the powers that be who is the enemy. In Ottawa and in Montreal we had 2 incidents in October where members of the Armed Forces were killed by so-called Muslim extremists, home grown radicalized youths. I do not buy it, in both cases, they were young men with mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse issues and apparently recent converts to Islam, whose lives where spinning out of control. One was convinced the Devil was going to kill him and heard voices, the other had a life of failures and rejection, no work and estranged from his family, parents divorced and absent from their lives for many years. Both were killed in action and no one claimed them as being part of a greater conspiracy. Though our Prime Minister immediately proposed more powers for himself for the sake of security.
With the events in Paris and the 17 people killed by 3 criminal youth, the media and the politicians again united to vent on the current and present danger these ”Radicalized Islamists” quite the mouthful when you think of it, are out to get us.
What I profoundly find irritating is the fact that most journalists and their friends the experts and police spokespersons know next to nothing of Islam, use non stop clichés and easy images, claim that what is going on in Nigeria or Syria could very well happen here or be exported to our shores. This is truly grasping at straws since none of them wish to appear as not knowing what they are talking about. Ignorance and misunderstanding is spread around and no one bothers to examine more closely the situation or facts or more interestingly the total failure of our Intelligence Services who have ballooning budgets.
In my experience living and traveling in the Middle-East for many years, I never encountered angry Muslims or radicalized or fanatical Islamists whatever you may wish to call them. My work did take me in the field and out of cities, I met rich and poor, young and old, men and women. I also realize that hostility often comes from perceptions, I remember Western women being enraged because they could not enter a Mosque wearing tank tops and hot pants. Same women would have said nothing when refused entrance in a Christian Church for being inappropriately dressed. I heard often in conversations Westerners mocking Arabs, the phrase was ”If they worked as hard as they pray their countries would not be a hellhole”. However I never heard similar statements from Muslims about Westerners, despite the irritating and condescending attitudes they encountered.
As for Europe, the negative attitudes and the marginalization of segments of the immigrant population by natives is nothing new. In many European countries with a long Colonial past, discrimination and racism is part for the course even towards those who were born and bred in Europe. Attitudes are somewhat better in Canada but again we must beware of myths on multiculturalism and diversity which often hide deeper sociological problems.
All this to say that the Muslim population is very diverse and spread around the world in many countries and continents. I know a lot of Muslims, some religious others not. They are funny, generous, kind, respectful, adaptable and do not try to impose their values on others. They too are appalled by acts of terror and afraid of these radicals just as much as anyone else. They also rightly point out that you can call yourself a Muslim or anything else for that matter, but it is wrong to hijack a religion to commit crimes against people.
I know from my reading of the Koran and the Hadith (sayings) of the Prophet that violence is not the way of Islam and the message is one of peace, charity, faith, generosity towards others and good deeds. I am also reminded that Islam comes from Judaism and Christianity, we share all the same prophets, Jesus included and Mary is venerated as the mother of Jesus. This is why when I hear or read stories where Islam is painted as the religion of terrorists, I find this totally wrong and frankly ignorant of established facts. I also do not accept as anti-Muslim arguments selective choosing of some passages of the Koran to attack Islam as a Faith. You can do the same thing with the Bible if you choose certain passages to denigrate Christians.
As for those who commit acts of terror, to me they are criminals pure and simple. They can claim all they want to be acting on behalf of Islam, God or the Prophet, any reasonable person will see that as a bold face lie. Politicians would do well not to give these criminals importance with titles or attributes.
Muslims live in Western democracy and have done so for a very long time and have integrated themselves very well into society, in Canada they represent about 1.5% of the total population. Yes, images of the Prophet are blasphemy and disturbing, but I too am disturbed when Christian religious images are used to mock in making an ideological point or insult a group in our society. Maybe people doing this should think of other ways to express their point of view within our established concept of Freedom of Expression as understood in Western Democracies. Insults are never good arguments and will not win you friends. Only through knowledge of the other can we dismiss arrogant youths and their ignorant beliefs or any other violent criminal groups like ISIS or ISIL or Boko Aram. As for a solution to the problem of violence inflicted on innocent people, vigilance can help and it is up to us denounce such acts as criminal doings and not accept the facile explanation of the Media or grasping politicians.