#198 – La Belle at the Ball

Let me disclose this at the very beginning – if there is any Canadian province that I don’t profoundly hate, it is Quebec. I have enormous respect for the Quebecois, a people who I find to be more cultured and interesting than the caker swine who so hypocritcally malign them. Rene Levesque’s Memoirs and his principled response to the terroristic endeavors of the followers of Pierre “White Niggers of America” Vallieres (yes, this is the name of an influential book in Quebecois political thought) influenced me and my political thought profoundly. But Quebec is in Canada, and therefore it is a province with myriad issues.

I need to stress at first that French Quebec has been horrifically mistreated by English Canada. The whole Quiet Revolution thing, which cakers tend to summarize as “grumpy French people who won’t learn English”, was in no small part about the economic disparity on display along linguistic lines. Until the 1960s, English people were almost the entirety of the Quebecois bourgeoisie. Quebec’s siege mentality, I believe, is the result of a real culture having to live next to cakerdom for centuries. Instead of issuing a broad-stroke condemnation of Quebec that I really can’t give (having never really lived with the Quebecois), I’m just going to outline some of the more spectacular incidences of brutality and awfulness lurking in la belle province.

Let’s start with Montreal’s mob and road problem, which the Parti Quebecois accuses the ruling Parti Liberal of stonewalling investigation into because the politics of Quebec are far beyond fucked. It’s estimated that the Italian Mafia in Montreal controls 80% of road construction contracts, and boy do the roads look like it. Oh, and it’s worth noting that among the reasons Montreal is collapsing is the fact that the city raced mindlessly and practically planlessly to finish construction for…Expo ’67 and the ’76 Olypmics! Among the tragic results of this reckless construction, which came with a heaping side order of corruption and Mafia connections within the construction industry was the de la Concorde overpass collapse in 2006. Read the Commission of Inquiry’s findings as to how the overpass collapsed and killed six people and take note of the sheer mass of technical construction issues associated with it.

As anecdotal evidence, I submit that having driven through Montreal in a late 90s Toyota Camry that couldn’t hit 100kph without at least 30 miles of open road, fuck everything about the state of Montreal’s roads.

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(S) Round One of “Canada or Kazakhstan”!

So as to not give cakers any ammo with which to hypocritically attack the French, let’s spend the rest of this post here writing about the familiar bugbear of this blog – Indigenous Affairs! For what it’s worth, Quebec does have the lowest rate of child poverty on reserves in Canada. I only add this to make sure that cakers don’t go and take my condemnations as somehow vindicating English Canada. Right, so let’s talk about the Val D’Or problem. Starting in 2015, Indigenous women reported systemic sexual and physical abuse from police officers in the town of Val D’Or. The consequences of this savagery for the police officers was…nothing. This understandably creates what Pravda refers to as “a climate of tension and mistrust” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. This is being discussed in a Quebec-wide inquiry, which speaks to the prevalence of cruelty within the province’s policing system.

And heaven help you if you live in the North of Quebec, known properly as Ungava. Despite having a bitchin’ name that would do well in any Tolkien-esque high fantasy novel Ungava is in fact a miserable place to live. Ungava is frankly a world apart from Quebec, and cartoonization of the Inuit is a rampant problem. Child and youth suicide is a big problem here as everywhere in Canada; in Quebec the incidence of suicide among these Inuit communities was twenty-five times greater than among Quebecois and three times greater than Indigenous rates in the rest of Canada. Granted, that data is from 1995 – but by the looks of it not much has changed.

So I hoped I pissed on enough cakers by providing a rough sample of Quebec’s failures without giving English Canada ammo to use against the Quebecois. Because frankly, there is plenty of overlap in the problems Quebec has and the problems that the rest of Canada does.

#191 – Saskatchewan, Canada’s ‘Special’ Child

Oh, fucking Saskatchewan. Even within cakerdom this miserable rectangle of reactionary fuckery is regarded as the rural asscrack of the country. What other province has a tradition of wearing fucking watermelons on their heads?

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(s) Captioning this with the word durr is an insult to the letters d, u, and r.

When they aren’t busy putting more intelligent melons on their own melons, what does Saskatchewan do? Among such other activities as waiting for porn to load and setting all five of their remaining neurons to pondering how they became the laughingstock of Canada, a country that for all intents and purposes is the laughingstock of civilization, Saskatchewan likes to give local Indigenous tours. Tours of the “fuck you, now freeze to death” variety. Saskatchewan’s “finest” (if you define “fine” by way of soldier-sniffing knuckle-dragging) are also fans of (theoretically) non-lethally racist policing and prison practices; if you’re Indigenous in the Rancid Rectangle you’re 33 times more likely to get thrown in the slammer. And the rest of Saskatchewan is a fan of racism too, to the point where Premier Brad Wall had to plead on national media for Saskatchewan to go back to using its limited bandwidth and brain cells to look for bad porn and watermelons, respectively.

But hey, you say. Canada’s rural bits are basically Wyoming with shit healthcare and a smug attitude. We demand Saskatchewan’s special brand of suck! But the thing is, Saskatchesuck is such a piece of shit that even its problems aren’t interesting or unique. Let’s go through Saskatchewan’s caker credentials. Shitty hospitals? Check! A fixation on mindless extraction regardless of economic merits? Ding! Hideously expensive produce in a province fabled for its agricultural output? You know it! A runaway housing market that in no way reflects the economic merits of the areas being overbuilt? Chronic gang-related violence coupled with police inaction? A lack of capacity for basic, modern waste disposal? It all checks out, folks. The Wretched Rectangle is a piece of a caker shit!

Saskatchewan’s problems are mostly related to its economic output. Saskatchewan is flat and grows a shit-ton of wheat. The problem with leaning an economy on extraction, as we’ve talked about before, is that shit like this happens and the whole thing goes belly-up. And then, when you try to hide your extractive failure in other festering economic buttcracks, like, say, mindless sprawl, your lack of planning for this new stupid idea comes to firmly bite you in the ass. Saskatchewan is also known for mining potash. It is not, however, known for having anything else to do that isn’t speculative or extractive, meaning that entire towns can get knocked flat off their asses by market forces far beyond their control or understanding. You may recognize this as being Canada’s modus operandi, but somehow even stupider than usual.

Speaking of stupid things beyond reasoned understanding, who the fuck thought a giant metal statue of wheat was going to do anything besides rust and be mocked by cruel people like me? In a province with reams of people claiming that there’s nothing to do, the best thought people had is to build random giant shit and hope that someone cares enough about it to get out of their fucking car for two seconds? Who does that?

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(s) Answer: Cakers.

Seriously – here’s Pravda’s list of things to do in the entire province on a holiday Monday. Please note that this exciting spread of activities is typically found in literally any community that isn’t a fucking hole in the ground. You know you suck when taking a train that’s somehow even slower than VIA Rail’s subpar service is considered an activity. Though this does help to explain the watermelon thing – maybe Saskatchewan’s bored population is so numbed by the mindless miles of absolutely nothing that wearing fruit on their empty skulls like a retarded version of the Chiquita Banana lady is the closest thing to feeling that they have left.

It’s also probably the only unique thing they have going for them, which I think says all that needs to be said about the Wretched Rectangle.

#42: The Job Fairy, Part Two – Hooray for Potemkin Towns!

There are few places as unbelievably sad as Canada’s collection of also-ran tourist towns. Wracked and transmorphed into Potemkin visions of what caker tourists want, these Potemkin towns invariably become centers of sad-sack commercial consumption. Whether this happens through sadsack tourist traps like lethal, abusive novelties like zoos or through a fetishized history actualized through poorly-maintained historical sites, Canada’s small-town tourism tries and fails to present anything of interest in no small part because Canada’s towns themselves are all generic places built on the same principles of sprawl, car dependency, and thoughtless development.

Let’s take a handful of examples to prove my point. As a young child I spent a lot of time driving to pathetic, collapsing tourist attractions. These places are textbook instances of caker business; rather than improving customer experience with income these places instead opt to milk every penny out of the gullible folks who dared to hope that Canadian small businesses might produce something resembling fun. The poster-child for this shit is, of course, Niagara Falls. I won’t deign to do a better job of dismissing the Falls than this unbelievably well-written piece, so I won’t try. The last line from that takedown really says it all: “We invented Vegas, for God’s sake. They have stolen our heritage”. Indeed quite.

Does the prospect of having your experience of a big ol’ waterfall ruined by waddling through an ugly downtown full of tacky has-been enterprises run by one of two families (oligarchy, for the record, is a sure-fire signal of caker business) not turn your crank? Need a “smaller-town” to waste your caker money in? Well, why don’t we turn to the vintner’s Potemkin town par excellence, Niagara-on-the-Lake! First off, you’d better not expect to be getting there any other way save for personal motorcar – there are no public transit options to get to the place, except on Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays. And even then that’s only during the summer. There’s also a touch of cruelty to playing wannabe Victorian noble in an area with atrocious living standards, but then again Canada is not a place known for its ability to recognize social cruelty.

Onwards to cottage country, where towns like Bracebridge and Huntsville milk their remaining specks of historical development while building concrete sheds of box stores and misery around said nubs of what once was. Take Bracebridge as an example. Home to the lovely Manitoba St., one of the rare streets in Canada that actually serves as a relatively enjoyable place to walk. Nice brick buildings, hip and trendy storefronts, the Saturday Farmers’ Market – what’s not to love? I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting Manitoba St. in green on the map below, and drew red boxes around the generic, formless, total shit that is also found in Bracebridge.

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The perfect ratio of bullshit to tolerability!

Oh, and don’t you worry about getting to Bracebridge, a town which was created in no small part because of rail connectivity to Toronto having rail access. You won’t be getting to Muskoka by rail anytime soon! Because fuck effectively moving huge groups of people. To be even more shitty, Manitoba St., which is already an insufferably overpriced den of caker-tchotchkes is actually pretty good in comparison to hellishly poorly-designed mutations like Collingwood, a ski and cycling hub. Both First and Hurontario Sts., which house most of the town’s attractions and commercial activity are insufferable stroads drowning in excessive parking and a lack of accessibility and affordability for car-less locals.

Even Canada’s tourist towns suck ass. Home to Potemkinized visions of small-town Canada, choking on caker businesses and their shoddy practices, and inaccessible to all save those with enough money to waste on personal vehicle ownership, the communities trying to pull tourists into their towns have thus far managed to price residents away and to build generic, boring tripe for non-residents to pretend to be amazed by. What a deal!

 

#38 – Canadian Storytime, Part One: High on Cruelty

Of all of the series that I wanted to go back and clean up, this is perhaps the most urgent. The purpose of Canadian Storytime is to tell the tales of misery and woe that didn’t make it into the national record. Events like the wilful, deliberate starvation of the Plains Cree by John Macdonald and his gang of goons. Or the sudden shutdown of the Hebron Moravian Church, an essential institution for nearby Inuit, by the federal and Newfoundland governments. Did I mention that after that closure came forced relocation? Relocation is one of Canada’s darkest secrets, and this series is here to bring some light to these hidden stories of unimaginable pain. Even when forced relocation was well-meaning, it was poorly executed and invariably led to heartbreak and squalor.

Of all of Canada’s myraid forced relocations few have as stupid an origin story as the High Arctic Relocation. I hope you’re sitting down for this one, because it’s the perfect cocktail of caker self-importance, flagrant disregard for humanity, and the kind of foresight and planning that Canada does best (that is, none at all). It’s the early 1950s; the corrupt, questionable government of Louis St. Laurent rules the Ottawa roost, and the Red Scare is in full swing. Ottawa is acting in a “frenzied” manner, the RCMP is given extraordinary power to detain homosexuals and lock them into something called the “fruit machine” (don’t worry: we’re definitely going to be talking about that one), and nobody is thinking clearly because of media sensationalism and because they’re useless Ottawa kleptocrats and scumbags.

Looking at the source I cited above, you might note the fear that Canada was believed to be a natural battleground between the Soviet Union and the United States. The supposed entry point into Canada was over the North Pole, where Canada had no power projection of any kind. Despite having at best a tenuous claim to lands that they had no clue how to control, Canada was desperate to avoid the ridiculous boogeyman that was the prospect of Ivan coming over Ellesmere Island. And to avoid that make-believe prospect, Canada decided to create a make-believe community which would serve to solidify Canada’s claim to the Arctic – a village of “human flagpoles“, as it were. The two places where deceived Inuit were dumped and left to die are today called Grise Fiord and Resolute.

(S) The construction of which ended up on the $2 bill between 1974 and 1979, because Ottawa loves cruelty.

Since cakers were hilariously racist and categorically unable to themselves survive on Ellesmere Island (which might in retrospect have been a sign as to the likelihood of a mass Soviet invasion of the High Arctic), Canada scrounged around to find a population to dupe into a lifetime of suffering. Naturally, they settled on the Inuit. Seven families were told that they could move to a land of abundance, and if that didn’t work they could leave in two years. Neither of those things turned out to be true. From the source that I cited in the previous sentence, this phrase stands out to me:

The plan was inherently unsound, and the means necessary to carry it out were equally unsound. The failures in execution served only to aggravate the hardship and suffering inherent in the plan from the outset.

So in effect, a hairbrained idea was executed in a slapdash fashion against a non-consenting population that was duped into said hairbrained idea. And just in case you thought that Canada had consulted the Inuit at all and maybe asked them what a difference of 1200 miles in latitude and a total lack of infrastructure might make on their living conditions, rest assured that Canada did not give a single shit. In fact, Canada assumed that the Inuit were simply too stupid to offer advice on their own living conditions. Even worse, the relocation was also serving as an experiment to see if the transplanted peoples would even survive. Yes, people – Canada committed a shoddy, unconscionable experiment with dubious methods in the name of strengthening its territorial claims to lands that it has no idea how to use.

For decades, people who were separated from their families lived lives of deprivation and want. When Ottawa was informed that they had a responsibility to apologize for their unimaginable, boneheaded stupidity, Ottawa immediately leapt into action. By commissioning a report. Which ultimately attempted to exonerate Ottawa by claiming that there was nothing wrong with separating families and moving them thousands of kilometers into an unknown, unsafe environment for the sake of claiming territory. This claim, mercifully, was too flimsy even by Ottawa’s weak standards and the House apologized. In 2010. And then money that Ottawa gave to the victims by way of a trust fund ended up performing so poorly that it stopped paying out to the victims and couldn’t cover its own expenses.

 

 

#34 – Sports and Weather, Part Three: Forecasted Obsolescence

For being a country that incessantly bitches about the stuff, Canada sure fucking sucks at predicting bad weather. This comes to be a small problem when dealing with extractive industry, which frequently involves doing shit outside and which therefore typically needs a bit of a heads-up when shit is about to hit the proverbial fan. It’s a right shame then that Canada not only is home to an obsolete patchwork of equipment for forecasting but also frequently ends up shitting the bed by either failing or being late about providing information about extreme weather. And as per usual for caker country the response is to shrug at a problem for decades before decrying how hard it is to do basic shit.

A good place to start with this is a piece that I found from 2003 which references chaos, underfunding, and “literal rust out” as a sampling of problems affecting Canada’s meteorological infrastructure. An amazing example of this method of forecasting-by-fuck-it-whatever can be found at Mould Bay weather station, a long-standing and strategic asset near the Northwest Passage that was simply left to rot in 1997. Even more fun facts about that one – of the $8 million budget to decommission the place (which was nearly-new when it was abandoned) as of 2008, only $700,000 can actually be traced.

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(S) Even the fucking sign looks mouldy.

And it’s not like things got any better. This is a charming little report from 2012 which features such reassurances as “obsolete” radar stations and notes that available systems aren’t life-cycle managed. That’s a fancy way of saying that nobody’s keeping track of when that shit should be replaced and the only way we know that shit’s fucked is when shit gets fucked. Enter West Sea Otter, a vital offshore weather forecasting system that was down for seven months in 2014. When the place being forecasted on experiences hurricane-force winds you’d think fixing it might be a priority. Oh, and for those counting at home this is at least 10 years of chronic government inability to perform basic meteorological tasks.

But don’t for a second think that the fun stops there! Remember those non life-cycle managed radar systems? Yeah, those have gone down for months too! Here’s the story of the radar system out of Bethune, Saskatchewan, which kept going down during major weather events in the summer of 2015 and even prompted the MP for the area to call for an investigation. Which was probably the right call, seeing as Environment Canada fucking forgot to report on a tornado. Also in 2015 the radar station at Strathmore, Alberta went down shortly before a hailstorm came through. Not like anybody needs to know about that, right? And we can’t leave out Canada’s glorious telecommunications system, which is apparently the cause of this radar station failing to transmit information before and during a tornado touchdown in Taber, Alberta.

Even when they do modernize bad infrastructure Environment Canada manages to fuck up, as happened when the newly-retrofitted station at Exeter, Ontario still couldn’t convince the government to warn people in a timely manner about a tornado in Southern Ontario. It seems that the country can’t maintain a coherent standard for forecasting, which is in line with the 2012 report I cited above. Before anyone blames human error, Canada’s automated weather forecasting stations apparently also suck. A CBC report from 2010, citing the unfindable report titled “Degradation in Environment Canada’s Network, Quality Control and Data Storage Practices: A Call to Repair the Damage” notes that in a single month there are hundreds of cases of missing data and false reports from automated stations.

We’re supposedly getting new radar systems now, years after we were warned that the system was obsolete and years again after said system has demonstrated how shitty it is over and over again. We’ll see if Canada can do a proper fucking forecast after this, but here I’m seeing a 90% chance of scattered bullshit turning into a wave of complacent laziness in a few more years. One key piece of evidence for my forecast? There was no announcement for the new systems.