Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the children of veterans

On Sunday, March 16, 2014, the lead item on CBS Sunday Morning was about how the trauma of war is often passed on to the children of veterans.  The item concentrates on the current crisis with U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and also touches on Vietnam through the story of Christal Presley who took years to understand the war had affected her father.
The item is reported by Martha Teichner.

Christal Presley created a blog for the children of veterans with PTSD United Children of Veterans.

On her blog, Presley linked to an article I wrote for CBC News in March 2007 on the problems faced by children of traumatized veterans. Unfortunately, that story has now disappeared from the CBC website. So I am reposting it here.


When war’s trauma spills over to the kids

Last Updated March 2007
By Robin Rowland, CBC News
In late February 2007, media reports revealed that more than 40 children, all of soldiers who had served in Afghanistan, were suffering from some form of trauma.

To make things worse the children were waiting for treatment, caught in a bureaucratic squabble between the federal government and Ontario over who should pay. Most of the soldiers and their families are based at Camp Petawawa near Ottawa.

National Defence is responsible for the well-being of the soldiers themselves, but not for their families and maintains that the mental health of a family member is a provincial responsibility. Ontario Minister of Children and Youth, Mary Anne Chambers, told the Globe and Mail that the province had no money to clean up a problem that was a “direct consequence of federal government initiatives.”

The base commander at Petawawa, Lt. Col. David Rundle, says the bases family resource centre has provided $90,000 to a private group called the Phoenix Centre that provides services to the local community. It is supplying two clinicians to help with the problem. But according to Rundle, the money did not come from either level of government. In a letter to the Globe and Mail, he said, the money “came from funds donated by local businesses showing support for the troops and their families.”

Such largesse is commendable, of course, but probably misses the point. The possibility that children of adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder could have their own problems has been known and studied for more than 40 years and should have come as no surprise to either the federal or Ontario governments.

It was probably also no surprise then when Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, announced on March 2, 2007 an investigation into the matter, saying, “We’ve got 40 children who are suffering from psychological trauma and you’ve got, essentially, both levels of government washing their hands of it.”

Secondary traumatization

What is happening with these kids is what mental health professionals call “secondary traumatization” and “intergenerational transmission of trauma,” according research that can be found on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

In Israel, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, psychiatrists and psychologists began to notice that some of the children of Holocaust survivors had many of the same symptoms as their parents.

One of the first major studies of intergenerational trauma took place at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital where, beginning in 1972, Dr. Vivian Rakoff and her colleagues studied 144 families of Holocaust survivors. Her 1973 paper, “Some Second Generation Effects of the Survival of Nazi Persecution,” is considered a landmark and concluded that there was “homogeneity” between the behaviour of the children and their parents.

It also found that teenagers of Holocaust survivors had greater problems coping when compared to their peers in a clinical control group.
Not all children of Holocaust survivors demonstrated PTSD symptoms. But for those who did, the Israeli and other studies showed that the children’s behaviour varied from abnormal aggression to passivity. What most did demonstrate, however, were higher levels of anxiety than others in their age group.

A long history

Although initially confined to the professional literature, Helen Epstein’s 1979 book Children of the Holocaust became a best seller and brought the issue of multi-generational PTSD to broad public attention. Children and even grandchildren of Holocaust survivors continued to suffer because of the effect on their traumatized parents and because of the fact large numbers of their families, their support network, had been wiped out by the Nazis.

Subsequent studies have shown that children of traumatized war veterans around the world have faced similar problems.

For example, Betty Peters, a nursing research coordinator at an Australian repatriation centre, looked at the wives of veterans who had been imprisoned by the Japanese during the Second World War. She found that while some former prisoners saw their children as a lifeline and took great joy in their upbringing, others, usually the more traumatized ones, were impatient with their offspring and unable to communicate with them.

Many of the former POWs, Peters found, preferred to spend more time with their former comrades than their families since they felt that only their “mates” could truly understand what they went through.

A shopping cart of problems

How well the children of traumatized veterans cope seem to be dependent on a number of factors, including how well the veteran adjusts to civilian life and how the family as a whole deals with the situation.

Most of the recent studies have been done in the U.S., concentrating on the children of Vietnam veterans and, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the results have generally revealed that children with PTSD are at higher risk for behavioural, academic and interpersonal problems.

What’s more, their parents tend to view them as more depressed, anxious, aggressive, hyperactive and delinquent compared to children of non-combat, Vietnam-era veterans who do not have PTSD.

These studies also indicated that chaotic family experience can make it difficult to establish positive attachments to parents, which in turn can make it difficult for children to create healthy relationships outside the home.

Combat stress alone may not be the one factor behind these intergenerational problems. One U.S. study published in 1995 looked at both PTSD and the level of combat that had been experienced and concluded, “it was shown that child behaviour problems and marital adjustment were predicted primarily by PTSD rather than combat level.”

A 1999 study of Vietnam veterans from Australia came to similar conclusions about the transmission of PTSD within families. It reported that the partners of Vietnam veterans showed significantly higher levels of physical problems as well as anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction and depression than the control group.

It also found that “the children of these veterans reported significantly higher levels of conflict with their families. However, the children showed no significant differences on measures of psychological distress and self-esteem from their counterparts.”

A follow-up study in Australia in 2001 compared 50 children of Vietnam veterans with 33 civilian peers and concluded: “Unhealthy family functioning is the area in which the effect of the veteran’s PTSD appears to manifest itself, particularly in the inability of the family both to experience appropriate emotional responses and to solve problems effectively within and outside the family unit.”

In 2004, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of the PTSD among U.S. veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. It found that measurable levels of PTSD were highest (17.1 per cent) among those who had served in Iraq, as compared with those who had served in Afghanistan (11.2 per cent), Vietnam (an estimated 15 per cent) or the general population, where stress disorders are in the three to four per cent range.

(It also noted that combat stress was higher in Iraq where approximately 11.6 per cent of U.S. soldiers were wounded or injured, compared to Afghanistan where only 4.6 per cent suffered that fate.)

The authors pointed out that in the past most studies of post-traumatic stress in combat veterans took place long after the conflict while current studies are more immediate and are filling in the gaps.

They also observed that many U.S. veterans are reluctant to report or go to counselling for PTSD because of a perceived stigma attached to the condition. This is a problem that has also been reported by the Canadian Forces. And if the veteran is reluctant to get help, that means the family also will likely not get the help it needs.


 Related links


Marmite kept my father alive

Ronald Searle, war artist (and cartoonist) dies at 91. He was posted to Iraq but ended up in Singapore and on the Railway of Death


My book
A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai TribunalA River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal was only published in Australia.
Webpage for A River Kwai Story:The Sonkrai Tribunal
A River Kwai Story can be ordered through the ABC network bookstore at this link.
Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD (Canada)
Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD

Marmite kept my father alive.

Updates with CFIA statement saying Marmite not banned


My jar of Marmite showing the ingredients

When I was a little kid my father insisted—yes insisted—that I eat my Marmite.

This morning I woke up to the news that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has apparently banned Marmite, a yeast extract spread, in this country, along with some other British “comfort foods.”

(After 48 hours of world wide news coverage CFIA issued a statement–below–saying Marmite is not banned. There are however, questions remaining, and it’s a fun story)

The news is hot enough for the British media, from the tabs to the respected national broadsheets to the BBC, to relegate Justin Beiber to the back pages (now that he’s out of jail) and collectively express their amazement that this country would not only have a drunken, crack-smoking mayor for its largest city but that Canada would actually ban something most people in the world consider not just a comfort food but healthy.

According to media reports, the CFIA doesn’t like Marmite because it may—repeat may– be illegally enriched with vitamins and minerals, even though the label doesn’t say that.

So why did my father insist that I eat Marmite? Why did he say it kept him alive? My father was a prisoner of war on the Burma Thailand Railway, where allied prisoners, starved by the Japanese were forced as slave labourers to build the infamous “Railway of Death.” (The story made famous for an older generation in the Oscar winning movie Bridge on the River Kwai and chronicled in my book A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal).

The Japanese kept the slave labourers, both POWs and local forced labour on a minimal starvation diet. One of the problems was that the Japanese served polished rice which, in combination with the lack of other food, created a Vitamin B deficiency. Polishing removes the outer husk of a grain of rice and it is that outer husk that is rich in vitamins. That Vitamin B deficiency causes a disease known as beriberi.

As Wikipedia says:

Symptoms of beriberi include weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception, weakness and pain in the limbs, and periods of irregular heart rate. Edema (swelling of bodily tissues) is common. It may increase the amount of lactic acid and pyruvic acid within the blood. In advanced cases, the disease may cause high output cardiac failure and death.

Today beriberi is rare, found usually where people have been displaced by war or natural disaster and have no or little access to proper nutrition. In even rarer circumstances people with HIV/AIDS or eating disorders may show symptoms of beriberi.

The POWs desperately needed a source of Vitamin B and luckily, at least at the beginning of their imprisonment in Singapore, the city had large stocks of Marmite, which were recovered from warehouses in the city and stored, then rationed to the prisoners.

Marmite is a yeast extract, a healthy by product of brewing beer and thus is very rich in Vitamin B.

Unless there’s a problem with the ingredient label in Canada, the British  Marmite label says it is “100 per cent vegetarian”  (that line is excluded in Canada so the French can be put on the front)

Marmite label

UK label for Marmite says it is 100% vegetarian.

Daily Telegraph Canada bans sale of Irn Bru, Marmite and Ovaltine

BBC Canada orders Briton to stop selling Marmite and Irn Bru

Daily Mail  We hate it! Canadian food inspectors ban MARMITE for ‘unapproved ingredients’ along with Ovaltine, Irn-Bru and Lucozade

Globe and Mail Marmite crackdown in Canada has Britons outraged

According to most media reports, the CFIA intercepted a shipment bound for Brit Foods in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, then local food safety officials raided the store and removed the offending items from the shelves.

The other items banned are all favourites in Britain including Ovaltine, Bovril, Lucozade and Penguin bars.

Bill Hotchkiss, owner of Mrs. Bridges’ British Bakery in Toronto, told CTV News that the crackdown is going even further.

Hotchkiss has been operating his store for 20 years, but says crackdowns in the last five years have made it hard to keep his small business afloat.
The problem, he says, is that CFIA rules on imported products are constantly changing, and shop owners aren’t made aware of changes on restricted ingredients.

Hotchkiss says products that contain certain food colouring have been barred, but he says he has been most affected by crackdowns on fish products. Customer favourites such as fish paste, salmon spread and pressed cod, which were sold in his store for about 10 years, have recently been taken off the shelves because they don’t meet CFIA regulatory requirements.

The CFIA, of course, is the same agency that considered listeria and other problems in Canadian meat a public relations problem rather than a food safety problem.

It also appears that CFIA is aiming at those who have few resources to fight back like British specialty stores.  I get my Marmite at Overwaitea, owned by entrepreneur Jimmy Pattison. So far no reports of the CFIA taking Marmite off the shelves of the big supermarkets.

What about Vegemite?

There are no reports of the CFIA cracking down on the Australian version of Marmite, called Vegemite, created by the Aussies in the First World War when they couldn’t get Marmite. Australians are weaned on Vegemite, every Aussie friend I have is addicted to Vegemite. When I was living in London in the early 1980s New South Wales House had a huge display of Vegemite in its window.

Warning to Stephen Harper, if the CFIA continues with this ridiculous crackdown and extends the Marmite ban to Vegemite, it is highly likely that Australia will break off diplomatic relations (at the very least).

It took 48 hours of world wide coverage for the vaunted Stephen Harper media machine to wake up and realize the world was paying attention to this story while was gazing at the ruins of Petra.

CFIA Statement on Rejected Shipment of Products from the UK

Irn Bru and Marmite are not banned for sale in Canada. These products have been available on Canadian store shelves for more than a decade and will continue to be sold in stores across Canada.

Recently, a shipment containing a number of products imported from the UK was detained in the course of regular border activities because it contained meat products that were not accompanied by the required documentation.

Appropriate certification of meat products is required to assure food safety and protect animal health in Canada.

The CFIA determined that the rejected shipment also included other products, including Irn Bru (drink) and Marmite (a yeast-based spread).

Imported products, including Irn Bru and Marmite, that meet Canadian requirements under Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations are and will continue to be available for sale in Canada.

The CFIA will work with the food seller to ensure they are accessing the correct products, destined for Canadian markets.

Food safety remains a top priority for the Government of Canada, and is the primary focus of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) food inspection action.



The salmon of wisdom The raven of war Legends from the Celtic northwest

The salmon of wisdom The raven of war

Legends from the Celtic northwest

Kitimat Museum and Archives
Annual General Meeting &
An Illustrated Talk by Robin Rowland, beginning at 7 p.m., May 28, 2013

For most people today, the image of Wales, Ireland and England conjures up Downton Abbey, with its rolling hills and green fields dotted with white sheep.

Two thousand years ago and going back thousands of years, the northwest coast of the British Isles was known for thick, often impenetrable forests, rivers teeming with salmon and oceans with raging storms.

Sound familiar?

The climate and ecosystem of northwestern Europe two thousand years ago was very similar to northwest BC today.
From those forests came the ancient legends still loved today, including the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood.

There is much more to the legends of the Celtic northwest than Arthur and Robin.

To the ancient Celts, the salmon granted wisdom.
Across ancient Britain, Wales and Ireland, the raven was the symbol of war. With the dark image of the raven, it is the crow that is seen as the trickster. In ancient Welsh, the word Artos means bear and the bear has always been associated with King Arthur.

We are all somewhat familiar with the role the salmon, the raven and crow, or the bear played in the culture of BC’s First Nations. Find out the legends and tales the from the rich culture of the ancient Celts, stories told of many of the creatures we all see here in the northwest.

Robin Rowland is a Kitimat visual journalist and author. He lived in Kitimat as a boy from 1957 to 1965 and returned in 2010 after taking early retirement from CBC News.

Robin is known for writing the first book on how to do research on the Internet, published in 1995. His other books are “King of the Mob, Undercover Cases of the RCMP’s Most Secret Operative” and “A River Kwai Story, The Sonkrai Tribunal.”

He currently works as a freelancer for GlobalBC, the Canadian Press, Reuters and CBC News. Locally, he is editor and publisher of the website Northwest Coast Energy

Salmon of Wisdom talk  (pdf)

Snowmaggeden? Not for Kitimat, but still a bit too much snow

The snow storm starts to get nasty January 21, 11:21 pm.

It’s been snowing in Kitimat since Friday. With Kitimat called “Snow Valley” and the word Kitamaat meaning  “people of the snow” in the language of the Tshmishian First Nation, snow in Kitimat is not usually news.

The gauge at the FireHall says 91 centimetres between 6 pm Friday and 9 am Monday.

Environment Canada records 18 cm on Jan, 20,  40 cm on Jan. 21, with figures for Jan. 22 and 23.  There is an Environment Canada weather warning for Kitimat for today and tonight, calling for a total of 35 cm in the current 24 hours.

Snowmaggeden? Certainly a small amount of snow would be snowmaggeden in the big cities, especially down in the US.  Here, so far, it’s been just a bit much. When it takes 90 minutes to dig out your driveway, well, let’s say, people aren’t happy.

Photographs in chronological order


back Jan 22 1023

My back deck, Jan 22 10:25 am

Jan 22 snowcovered car

My car, covered in snow, Jan, 22, 10:30 am

Jan 22 - house

My house, Jan. 22 at 10:30 am

Snow clearing Jan 22 2012

Snow clearing on my street Jan. 22 11:32 am

Storm continues Jan 22 504 pm

The snow storm continues, Jan. 22, 5:04 pm

Backyard Jan 23 1006

The back deck, Jan 23, 10:06 am

Snow covered car Jan 23

The view from my garage door. My snow covered car Jan, 23, 10:13 am

Snow covered house Jan 23

The snow covered house, Jan 23, 10:14 am

Snow clearing Jan 23

Snow clearing Jan. 23. 10:14 am

Snow covered house Jan 23

After more than ah hour of digging out the driveway. 11:46 am

A bit of an explanation here. The snow clearing crews grade the road, leaving a large ridge of snow in the middle of the road. Then the District snowblower comes along and sends the snow into those big piles of snow in everyone’s front yard. With me, the wind blows the snow over the retaining wall on the right side of my driveway, making clearing even more of a hassle

Snow bank

A fire hydrant and the pole that marks it are buried under the snow

There’s a fire hydrant in front of my house. Normally in winter it is marked by a large stake and District crews normally come to dig it out. So far there’s been so much snow, the hydrant hasn’t been dug out.

Beauty shot jan 23

Still the trees still look beautiful. Jan. 23 11:47 am

It’s still snowing! (More to come)

Ronald Searle, war artist (and cartoonist) dies at 91. He was posted to Iraq but ended up in Singapore and on the Railway of Death

Ronald Searle died Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at his home in Draguignan, in southeastern France. He was 91.

When the news of Searle’s death was released today, Jan. 3, 2012, most of the world’s media paid tribute to Searle as one of Great Britain’s best contemporary cartoonists, the creator of the nasty girls at St. Trinian’s school, which became one of the favourite British comedy movie series in the black and white 1950s.

He also created the delightful opening cartoon credits for the movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

Ronald Searle Cholera

Ronald Searle's sketch of a POW dying from cholera

Most of the obituaries have concentrated on Searle’s movie career, that is what is most known to the public. Many of those obits only touch on the fact that Searle was one of the great war artists of the Greatest Generation, those who served in the Second World War.

That is how I first came to know Searle as a kid, as a war artist. My father, who was prisoner of war on the River Kwai, along with Searle, had one of the several early books that used Searle’s secret sketches of their lives in the Japanese prisoner of war camps.

One night my father took the family out to see a movie. The first time he said we had to see a movie was a re-release of Gone With the Wind. The second was to see the movie based on his old acquaintance Ronald Searle’s imagination when a St. Trinians movie to came to town. (and it was hilarious, especially if you were a kid at school)

It was in the prisoner of war camps along the River Kwai that Searle secretly sketched the life in the camps and the Japanese atrocities against the prisoners. He did the sketches on any scrap of paper that was available and like a few other POW artists and diarists, kept the material hidden from the constant searches by Japanese guards (where discovery would have meant execution) until liberation came in 1945 and he returned home to the United Kingdom.

Searle had an exhibition of the drawings in Cambridge, and the sketches were used in various history books about the prison camps until published in 1986 To the Kwai — and Back: War Drawings 1939-1945.

While he became known as a cartoonist and illustrator, not only for the movies, but by creating covers for The New Yorker, and for advertising,  Searle also continued his serious work, covering John Kennedy’s presidential campaign and the Adolph Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for Life. He also drew editorial cartoons for Le Monde.

Like Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Searle came to detest the way St. Trinians had taken over his life and once tried to get rid it of it all by drawing the girls at St. Trinians blowing up their school with an atom bomb. It didn’t work.

There are lots of links below to the various media tributes to Searle.

There is one story about Ronald Searle that the media has missed, especially the media in both the US and UK, perhaps only the son of a POW who has read Searle’s book (and who has written his own book on the prison camps) would know.

It was an accident of history that sent Ronald Searle and his unit to Singapore to fight the Japanese. He was part of the British 18th Division and in November, 1941, that division was part of a super secret joint British and American mission to Iraq. Even though the United States was officially at peace, President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed on a mission that would secure the Iraqi oil fields in case the Germans ever broke through either in Africa or the Caucuses. So the 18th Division was shipped out, under secret orders, to Halifax, where it picked up a United States Navy escort. Sketches of life on board the American transport ships escorted by the US Navy (where Searle said the food was wonderful compared to what they had in wartime Britain) are in Searle’s book.

On Dec. 8, 1941, the secret convoy was just off South Africa, when news reached them of the attack on Pearl Harbour. The US Navy escorts were ordered back to the mid-Atlantic, and the 18th Division, trained and equipped for desert warfare, was diverted, ill-prepared, to help defend Singapore.

One wonders what would have happened if the convoy had arrived in Iraq before the attacks of Dec. 7 and 8, 1941. Would the subsequent history of Iraq been any different? (a great subject for “counterfactual history” or “alternate worlds”) Or would Searle’s sketches of that Iraq mission been used again in the early years of the 21st century?

The Hollywood Reporter quotes John Lennon as saying, “I started trying to draw like Ronald Searle when I was about eight. So there was Jabberwocky and Ronald Searle I was turning into by the time I was thirteen. You know, I was determined to be Lewis Carroll (giggles) with a hint of Ronald Searle.”

A full statement from Searle’s family read as follows: “Ronald William Fordham Searle, born 3 March 1920, passed away peacefully in his sleep, after a short illness, with his children, Kate and John, and his grandson, Daniel, beside him, on 30 December 2011 in Draguignan, France.
“He requested a private cremation with no fuss and no flowers.”


Guardian: Ronald Searle A Life in Pictures

Guardian obituary

BBC gallery In pictures: Ronald Searle

BBC obituary (print and TV item) St Trinian’s cartoonist Ronald Searle dies

Daily Mirror Ronald Searle dies aged 91: Cartoonist’s talent stretched from River Kwai to St Trinian’s (The Mirror reporter is the grandson of a POW)

Washington Post blog. RIP, RONALD SEARLE: A cartooning star pays tribute to the ‘tidal pull’ of a British genius (includes animation test for a St. Trinian’s movie)

New York Times obituary Ronald Searle, Slyly Caustic Cartoonist, Dies at 91

There’s a reason they call the Toronto night bus the vomit comet

527-TTCnoservice.jpgToronto Executive Committee will soon consider eliminating Toronto’s vital night public transportation service.  (Robin Rowland)

Memo to: Toronto Mayor Rob  Ford, the Executive Committee and TPS Chief Bill Blair

The Toronto Transportation Commission calls the overnight bus service the Blue Night Network.  But for more than 30 years the outbound buses that move out of the downtown core after the bars close have been somewhat affectionately called the “vomit comets.”  For good reason. The term first applied only to the Night Yonge bus which would crawl up the city’s main artery packed with mostly young people heading home after a night in the bars, clubs and discos.  Inevitably some of those who had over indulged that night would vomit.  Sometimes the driver, warned of an impending eruption would let the  kid off the bus and wait while he or she completed what had to be done.

With the TTC’s expansion of night service in the past decades, the vomit comets has come to refer to all the night services, street cars and buses, that snake out of downtown in the early hours of the morning. (And with the growth of business in the suburbs that means there will also be people heading in town from suburban entertainment locations)

I left Toronto a year ago and have watched with horror the devastation that Mayor Rob Ford wants to impose on what was once called “the city that works.”

I have also waited for my former colleagues in the media who were quick to see the problems that closing libraries would cause to pick up on the utter and total stupidity of eliminating, cutting back or making the night bus service a “premium service.”     Unfortunately, the Toronto media hasn’t yet picked up on this story. Today’s stories were all about subway and bus over crowding.

The Toronto Star
reports on the recommendations going  before the Executive Committee for cuts here

TTC: Consider rolling back some of the service improvements implemented under the Ridership Growth Strategy, including changes to the crowding standard.  Also consider reducing/eliminating the Blue Night Network or making it a premium service by raising fares;

This recommendation that  first came from the consulting firm KPMG is a prime example of the kind of short sighted bubble minded thinking that led Conrad Black (someone who I seldom agree with. This time I do agree) with to say in the National Post that United States wasted $1-trillion in consulting fees in 2008.
It certainly appears that the KPMG report was a waste of taxpayers money,  one has to wonder what city they were talking about?

Unfortunately this elimination of service is now apparently favoured by the city staff and Mayor Rob Ford and his allies on council.

So a question for the Lincoln driving consultants at KPMG and for Mayor Rob Ford, who apparently wants to get everyone into cars no matter what, is this: once you close down or cut back the night pubic transit network, how many deaths and injuries from impaired driving are willing to tolerate? In your budgeting on the eliminating the night buses, did  you count the costs of dealing with all the accidents that will result?

A second question, for the over paid KPMG consultants, is how are people who have early shifts going to get to work in the morning before the subway opens at 6  am six days a week, 9 am on Sundays?

The last time I used the night bus wasn’t that long ago,  about six months before I left Toronto, sprung from a medical clinic after an overnight test at 5:30 am, no taxis in sight, I grabbed a bus down Yonge St and then a second along the Danforth to my former home in the Pocket off Jones Avenue.

When I was much younger, living in a cheap, roach filled apartment on Yonge Street north of Lawrence, in the late 1970s, I often used the night bus, both to get home and to go to work.  I was an editorial assistant at CBC and worked all kinds of odd hours. That meant you could get off work at 3 am on some shifts,  start work at 4 am on other shifts.  The only way home and the only way to work was that night bus.

In my 20s, I also enjoyed  all the advantages of the nightlife of downtown Toronto, grabbing the Night Yonge bus at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning.  The bus, no matter the early hour, was often packed  full of people, mostly young, but also older,  some who had too much alcohol or other substances. 

Many years later, in the 1990s, when I was an early morning lineup editor for what was then Newsworld  it was back on the night bus, to head into work, along with other people whose jobs called for them to be at their desks or work places long before the subway began running.

Most of these folks were not relatively well paid TV news lineup editors. So I have to wonder if they can afford the premium fares? One wonders if the consultants, senior city bureaucrats and council members actually know who ride the night buses? Why would the  consultants and the city even consider premium fares for cleaners heading home  after a night of pushing brooms or the barrista who cheerfully gives you that morning coffee? Of course the consultants don’t have to be a work at 5 am, the barrista is brewing coffee hours before those consultants get their lattes and senior city bureaucrats grab their double doubles before heading to their plush offices.  Then there are those politicians who only order a double double when the TV cameras are rolling.
I am most concerned about what might happen in the downtown Entertainment District, which is already a headache for the Toronto Police Service.   The few times in recent years that I worked past the subway closing at the CBC (now on Front Street) and would grab the Queen car home, my fellow passengers on the streetcar,  coming out of the Entertainment District bars, showed nothing had changed in more than 30 years. Teenagers and people in their twenties still come downtown for a good time, stay past the subway closing and then take the TTC home and many still can’t handle the booze.

Now consider what happens when the night service is eliminated.   How are  all those people from eighteen (or younger if they are drinking illegally) to eighty (after too much wine at more elegant setting) going to get home, especially if they’ve had too much to drink or have used other entertainment chemicals? Some have always taken taxis, perhaps more will. But a lot of them, who would have taken public transportation, will try to drive and they will impaired.

That means that there will be more police needed to patrol the streets and highways of Toronto at a time when the report recommends:

Toronto Police Service: Consider reducing the size of the police force through budgetary means, and a business based approach to efficiency, and effectiveness.  This could include reducing or temporarily eliminating hiring of new officers, providing incentives for early retirement benefits savings, and one-officer patrols in appropriate circumstances;

 If the drunks get into accidents, and they will, that means a greater, not lesser need for  Toronto Fire and EMS. But the report recommends.

l.          Consider reducing the range of medical calls to which the fire department responds;
m.        Consider the opportunities to improve fire response times and decrease equipment requirements through dynamic staging of equipment;
n.         Consider integrating EMS and Fire organizationally and developing new models to shift resources to EMS response and less to fire response over time;

So if more drunks are on the road and we need more cops to stop  those drunks,  more fire and EMS to respond to emergencies, that means the first responder resources will be taken from other areas

Then of course, if people are injured, there are hospital costs, borne by the provincial taxpayers.  If they are charged and many will be charged there are court costs. If convicted and jailed, provincial or federal prison costs (lots of room in the jails Harper and Toews want to build). City road staff may be called upon to cleanup accident sites.  Hydro staff to put up the hydro poles that are knocked down by drunk drivers.

Have the insurance companies thought about what eliminating night bus service will do to their bottom lines?  Probably not, but I am sure if the TTC cutbacks go ahead, the CFOs of insurance companies are going to love Rob Ford and then they will raise the already high premiums for residents of Toronto another notch.

The trouble with short-sighted ill-considered slash and burn budget cuts is that there is never any consideration of the “for the want of a nail, want of a shoe” consequences.   Closing and cutting libraries is foolish, it threatens the long term viability of society by eliminating places that people can learn and improve themselves.

Closing night public transportation is actually a threat to human life.

(Note this blog hasn’t been that active. I use it for occasional personal writing,  See my new news site Northwest Coast Energy News and Robin Rowland Photography)

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Snow snow and more snow

El Nina and the Pineapple Express brought heavy weather to Kitimat over the past few days. Neighours and friends say it is hard to remember so much snow in a few days even in Snow Valley, home  of People of the Snow.

I heard there were 30 centimetres at the local firehall overnight Saturday to Sunday. Forescast was for 10-15 cm Friday, 10-15 cm Saturday and snow and freezing rain today Sunday;  (Local media reported that total in the weekend was 64 cm or 25.2 inches)

Where’s my car?????


Taken 1121  PT Sunday January 16.

Friday was near blizzard conditions.  Saturday January 15. Taken at 1249.  I dug out the driveway three times on Saturday.

The snow kept coming.


Taken 2250 January 15.  Snow and blowing snow create an abstract pattern  with my car.Taken with my Sony NEX5 set 12800 ISO.

A man makes his way through the blizzard at 2255 Jan.  15.


I open the garage door at 2307.   Snow is building up as the blizzard continues.  I go to bed to see the car covered completely the next morning as seen in the first  picture.


At 1230 I  start digging.   The snowpack has blown  off the retaining wall to the left of the image. The situation is far too much for my small snowblower.


At 1436, after much digging and with help from two of my neighbours, there is a narrow canyon in the driveway and I can get the car out.

By the way, this is how the driveway looks in the summer,


For better and prettier photographs of  snow in Kitimat, view my photoblog.

Browsing the State Department’s old style analog paper Wiki

A quarter century ago, the US State Department had its own
analog, paper-based Wiki that covered almost every diplomatic dispatch going
back centuries, millions of three by five inch index cards. And that tells a story  more complicated than the current Wikileaks data dump.

My story for CBC News Online

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Robin needs to know, what’s next from the State Department Bat Cave?

Ever since I was a little kid, and because my name is Robin, I have always admired my junior namesake of that dynamic duo, Batman and Robin.

Now with Wikileaks, and probably, only a Robin would notice this, the U.S. State Department seems to be seeking humint  (human  intelligence) from the bat cave.

Two stories today from different embassies use the Batman and Robin comparison, which I first noticed on the New York Times Ipad app.

The cable that got the most play was a dispatch from Moscow as quoted by one of the Wikileaks prime sources The New York Times on Vladimir Putin and Dimitri Medvedev

The cables sketched life almost 20 years after the Soviet Union’s
disintegration, a period, as the cables noted, when Mr. Medvedev, the
prime minister’s understudy, is the lesser part of a strange
“tandemocracy” and “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.

Right beside the Russia story on the Times app and on the Times website is a story from Washington about a dispatch from Ottawa with the same analogy:

A trove of diplomatic cables, obtained by WikiLeaks
and made available to a number of publications, disclose a perception
by American diplomats that Canadians “always carry a chip on their
shoulder” in part because of a feeling that their country “is condemned
to always play ‘Robin’ to the U.S. ‘Batman.’ “

That leaves me wondering, how many other references to Batman and Robin exist in the Wikileaks State Department data dump?

Unfortunately, the Guardian’s searchable database only refers to real people, not fictional characters. Perhaps the Guardian should update its keyword search system.

Robins around the world need to know.

Remembrance Day, Kitimat, BC, Nov. 11, 2010

238-kitimatremembrance2010.jpgSnow began falling in Kitimat, BC, for the first time this winter, at about 9 in the morning Pacific Time. and by the time the residents gathered 90 minutes later for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph, it was still snowing. A photo gallery of a small town Remembrance ceremony.  In Kitimat, children lay the wreathes for those who cannot attend, which is why I call this image, Passing the Torch.

Slideshow  of the Remembrance Day ceremony in Kitimat.

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