Allayah Yoli Thomas had only been 12-years-old for two months before she died of a drug overdose, likely from fentanyl.
Every death is a tragedy, but having been a substitute teacher for a time and working with kids who were Ally’s age, I was struck by her story. I imagined what it would be like to get the news that one of my students wasn’t ever coming back to my classroom again.
This was not Ally’s first overdose. From November 2020, she had been brought to the Victoria General Hospital three times for overdoses, staying in the psych ward for a week once. When her mother, Adriana Londono, asked that her child be taken to rehab, both the medical professionals as well as social workers informed her none of the current facilities were meant to take children so young into their care.
A few images of Ally have circulated since the story broke – in all of them, one could easily mistake her for being two or three grades older. Adriana says social media negatively influenced her daughter, both by the people it put her in contact with and how it changed her self-perception. On the day she died, Ally had gone with older friends to purchase drugs; aping the behaviour of older peers took her life.
Mental health and addictions, particularly in adolescents, is a familiar topic to me due to the fact my father has been an adolescent psychiatrist for over 20 years. The fact that Ally had started her descent into hard drug use by smoking marijuana would not surprise Dr. Giede. Quaint as it might sound, pot is still a gateway drug, especially in our times of “lacing” and particularly when it comes to teenagers, even recreational use can trigger schizophrenia. Combine all this with negative influences from social media as well as peer pressure, and you have a perfect storm brewing for irreversible tragedy via overdose.
It also ought to be noted that thanks in large part to the continuing lockdowns, my father is doing more intakes for attempted suicides than ever before. So while we fret over a disease that rarely takes young lives, the depression and stress it’s causing has resulted in our psych wards being over capacity for the last 15 months. It turns out lockdowns and job losses are terrible for our mental health. So, too, is disrupting school and life for our children.
More people have died in British Columbia since 2019 of the opioid crisis than of COVID-19. Indeed, as COVID deaths lessened, deaths caused by drug overdoses have increased and do not appear to have any natural plateau. Herd immunity will one day be achieved for the coronavirus, but no such path exists when it comes to deadly hard drugs – either behaviours or the source needs to change.
Important to Ally’s tragic story is the resources required to take younger people, even young children, into rehabilitation is badly underdeveloped. Because we live in the 21st century, far away from a time kids were given beer as water or cigarettes in place of lunches, we don’t think of addiction to hard drugs as a child welfare issue. Children might obtain tobacco or drinks, but hard drugs? It’s beyond the comprehension of many of us.
But this tragedy proves that opioids – and one must assume other hard drugs – are already known of by many children, and not necessarily in a negative light. Children are perfect mimics, imitating elder role models. Ally clearly observed older peers taking drugs, and social media had influenced her perception about what was “age appropriate.” These sources of peer pressure lead to her death.
Pulling her away from all of it through a rehabilitation program, might have been the only solution – but no such resource existed. Ally had an advocate in her mother, but the tools necessary to help her couldn’t be used due to her age. Like all government policy, yet another arbitrary rule has resulted in total tragedy. If ever there was a poster child for reform and resources in this area, Ally Thomas is her.
Someone might want to tell Dr. Bonnie Henry what the most deadly pandemic is for our young, based on the data. The opioid crisis is observable on our streets, in our communities, and now, apparently, in our elementary schools . If Ally’s death is not taken seriously as a grim sign of our times, you can expect more deaths among those who lives have barely just begun.
Rest in peace, Ally.
Nathan Giede is the BC Political Columnist and host of Mountain Standard Time for the Western Standard
ZAGAJA: Eastern Europeans have well-established reasons to distrust the state
“Jozef returned to the office to perform the most dangerous clerical work of his young life: forging fraudulent identity documents called the Kennkarta.”
Guest columnist Jon Zagaja teaches English at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener, Ont.
In recent months, stewards of Canada’s Covid 19 response began directing their attention at those intransigent Eastern Europeans who in disproportionate numbers seem incapable of apprehending the manifold benefits of experimental MRNA vaccinations. This past October, thirty-six percent of the staff of Copernicus Lodge in Toronto’s Polish district of Roncesvalles were laid off due to refusal to get vaccinated, a trend across provinces this fall which prompted the University of Toronto’s infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch to tweet that “tailored outreach to Eastern Europeans living in Canada would be helpful.”
His patronizing comments, shared mere weeks after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called unvaccinated Canadians “racists” and “misogynists” on Quebec television, projected a sage and paternalistic concern for a seemingly unwashed segment of the Canadian population, but percolating beneath this veneer of tolerance was the same dark arrogance and authoritarianism that is rearing its ugly head around the globe.
The term “tailored outreach” has become a favourite euphemism for Covid camps, vaccine mandates, travel restrictions, fines, and punitive taxes being planned or already implemented in the world’s once-great democracies, where countless human rights, paid for in blood by heroic ancestors, have been tumbling like dominoes.
A cursory glance at the New York Times Global Vaccination Tracker for January 13, 2022, reveals that the percentage of fully vaccinated citizens in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic, and Latvia is 32, 28, 41, 56, 62, 53, 63, and 67 respectively.
Apart from pinpointing for Justin Trudeau where the motherlode of racists and misogynists on the European continent congregate and reassuring his acolytes that Canada, with a vaccination rate hovering around 80%, has a comparatively small cohort of these Neanderthals within its borders, a curious observer might what ask what is it about the thousand years of lived experience in these nations that makes their citizenries reluctant to reflexively endorse their government’s Covid response?
Could Canadians’ blind faith in peace, order and good government, and penchant for compliance and obedience, signal a still youthful nation’s naiveté and weakness, rather than enlightenment? Has the simple fact that the Canadian governments have typically not pulled citizens from their bed into waiting vans in the middle of the night, or crushed protestors in the streets with tanks, or built concentration camps with barb wire for political dissenters, or worse – has this enchanted history made Canadians soft, ill-prepared and oblivious to signs that their leaders may be morphing into tyrants?
In our country, government actuaries, blissfully immune to the possibility that history may pronounce the two-year response to Covid by western governments a cacophony of missteps, miscalculations, and outright malice, have latched on to indigenous, black, and Eastern European Canadians as the scapegoats du jour needed to assuage the anxieties of a compliant and histrionic majority too paralyzed with fear, and mistrustful of their vaunted full vaccination status, to reclaim their lives.
When unvaccinated dark-skinned or heavily accented Slavic Canadians start receiving their tailored outreach from government minders – a ride to a Covid isolation camp, a fine for trying to board a plane to visit a loved, a punitive head tax for Covid-related hospital costs incurred by the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike – each will doubtlessly have a lucid explanation for taking a pass on an experimental Covid vaccine for whose known side effects no sanctimonious politician, bureaucrat or pharmaceutical executive is prepared to assume one iota of liability.
For my part, should the newest generation of odious brown shirts deign to listen, I will take the opportunity to detail my family’s persecution in Nazi-occupied Poland during WWII, and in particular to the quiet but perilous work of sabotage by my Uncle Joe.
When I first met him at his Ealing Common flat in London, England, in June of 1988, his mannerisms making morning toast or preparing afternoon tea had a precision and rhythm likely forged during years working as a meticulous bookkeeper in the municipal office of Wojnicz, Poland, a small village near the family home not far from Krakow. I was not aware until that meeting of the depth of his involvement in the wartime resistance movement. As was common with most partisans after the war, Jozef Zagaja kept details of his former life obscure.
He revealed that while my father Władysłwa’s platoon was blowing up rail lines to stymie train cars supplying Hitler’s invasion to the east and destroying German munitions depots, he spent the days at his desk meticulously reconciling balance sheets, recording taxes, and updating the village’s financial ledgers.
But that wasn’t all he did.
Later in the evening, under the cloak of darkness, Jozef returned to the office to perform the most dangerous clerical work of his young life: forging fraudulent identity documents called the Kennkarta. Creating these cards was a highly subversive act punished by the German invaders with summary execution.
Introduced in Germany in 1938, and instituted in Nazi-occupied Poland in June 1941 by German lawyer Hans Frank who headed the new government, the Kennkarta was a thin piece of cardboard paper, measuring twelve inches by six when unfolded. A mandatory identification document under the Third Reich, one’s ethnicity determined the colour of the Kennkarta issued. Poles’ received grey cards, Jews had yellow ones, Russian and Ukrainian cards were blue. Letters on the Kennkarta – Z for Romas – denoted a range of ethnicities. Fingerprinted after receiving them, Poles with a certain parentage and ethnicity were also obligated to declare themselves members of the Aryan race.
By the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of forged Kennkartas were circulating in occupied Poland due to sophisticated forgery operations headed by freedom-loving Poles like my Uncle Joe.
Whether used to create new papers for vulnerable resistance fighters on the Gestapo’s liquidation list, help hunted Jews establish new identities as Polish Catholics, or simply gain access to countless privileges reserved for those collaborating with the new ruling elite, fake identity passports became a powerful tool for helping the oppressed regain a small measure of life, liberty, and dignity in a darkly fallen world.
In a poem found in the appendix of a war journal he kept, my father detailed the heroic actions of a brave young patriot with the pseudonym Krystyna who was captured in October of 1942 during a routine check of identification papers by the Gestapo when attempting to board a train in Krakow. A daring member of my father’s courier cell, she secretly distributed seditious Kennkartas, newspapers, and leaflets from the Home Army’s underground press in Krakow to help lift morale during the occupation.
Shackled in her cell and pressed to reveal her leader, after thirty-eight hours of torture at the hands of her interrogators, in the twentieth year of her life, Krystyna delivered her last breath. Not once during her horrific persecution did she reveal my father’s identity or betray any of the highly sought couriers and counterfeiters in his underground network. With fierce courage, loyalty to her fighters, and unshakable faith in a free nation, she sacrificed her life so my father could live, and my sisters and I, and our children too.
Affirming the primacy of the free exchange of ideas in an open society, trusting observable conduct and speech when making judgments about people instead of assigning retributive guilt to the living for their ancestors’ sins, tenaciously guarding hard-won freedoms of speech, movement and worship even during a pandemic – these ideas framed many discussions around our dinner table. Having witnessed unimaginable violence in his homeland, his deepest hope was that by providing a new beginning for his children on Canadian soil, we would never personally face the heart-rending experiences he carried within him.
For many Canadians of Eastern European heritage, legitimate questions surrounding the origins of the pandemic, vaccine efficacy, side effects, and natural immunity have, like the current array of Health Canada approved experimental inoculations, quickly faded in the face of an alarming assault on civil liberties. They are shocked that an underground press is flourishing to help fired academics and medical professionals pose their questions and share their vaccine concerns.
They are stunned by Justin Trudeau’s dogmatic claims that countenancing unvaccinated citizens to sit down in a coffee shop or restaurant will swell ICUs when data from around the world shows the fully vaccinated are transmitting Covid and visiting emergency wards in ever-increasing numbers.
They watch in horror, as Trudeau, Macron and their ilk, through their venomous demonization of the unvaccinated, become grotesque caricatures of the most vulgar leaders in modern history, strategizing and ruminating, as in a new whimsical parlour game, what new indignity they bestow on the unvaccinated to elicit an even bigger roar from the delirious mob in the coliseum.
Vilified by neighbours, lectured by coworkers, and shamed by the mainstream media in a manner never before experienced since making this country home, countless Canadians of Eastern European descent watch in dismay as the fabric of the country they love is irreparably torn.
Like canaries in the proverbial coal mine, attuned to ordeals much more perilous than those facing the world today, they retain a firm conviction that Canadians possess the character to craft a response to the Covid 19 outbreak without destroying their nation’s soul.
Guest columnist Jon Zagaja teaches English at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener, Ont.
MORGAN: A cult of fear won’t let the pandemic go
“As with any cult, there is no reasoning with the adherents of this one.”
As the Omicron variant proves to be much weaker than previous incarnations of COVID-19, we should be thrilled. We should be celebrating how while the variant is spreading like wildfire, the symptoms are remarkably weak. Most people don’t even realize they are infected until they actually test positive for it.
Alberta’s official COVID-19 active case count is 62,733 people. Dr. Deena Hinshaw has said that the number is likely ten times that. That means over half a million Albertans are currently infected with Omicron — so how is this turning out for our hospitals?
Among ICU admissions in Alberta, 11 are identified as Omicron infections. Of hospitalizations in general, a mere 66 are Omicron cases. These are the sort of medical pressures that a bad outbreak of the common cold presents.
We got lucky. The virus could have mutated into something more rather than less deadly. The high transmissibility of the Omicron variant may be a hidden blessing. While we are seeing pressures in workplaces due to staff calling in sick, we are also seeing people gaining a new level of immunity against COVID-19 through a low-risk infection. Researchers have found that many people who have been vaccinated and then become infected with Omicron are gaining what they are tentatively calling “super immunity”. They may have as much as a 1,000% better resistance against COVID-19 than somebody who has not been vaccinated or infected.
So how are the usual doomsayers responding to these new developments?
They are working to raise the level of fear, demanding more lockdowns and even calling for mandatory vaccination across the country.
A number of unions in Alberta are calling for complete lockdowns of the province. Why? Our hospitals aren’t even close to being overwhelmed at this point.
Some journalists have gone completely off the rails.
Randy Boswell wrote in a Global News column: “How hard should Canada be pushing unvaccinated citizens to finally get inoculated against COVID-19?
We should be pushing them extremely hard. We should be persuading and pressuring vaccine holdouts in every way we can think of — educating, incentivizing, penalizing — short of all-out public shaming or frog-marching them to clinics and forcing needles into their arms. “
Not sure where Boswell thinks he has stopped short of public shaming of those who choose not to be vaccinated. The entire rest of his column is dedicated to shaming them and inflaming public sentiment against them. The measures he proposes and supports to “push” people into vaccination are not terribly short of the frog-marching he spoke of.
While children are at very low risk of harm from all variants of COVID-19 so far, panic-mongering advocates are demanding school closures and the implementation of even stronger masking mandates.
We do have a new subculture of people doing harm to the entire nation due to their ideology. These people need to be called out and shamed for the damage they are doing. I am not talking about the unvaccinated though. I am talking about the lockdown cult.
There are some people who have built their entire essence around the COVID-19 pandemic and terrorizing people over it. They have taken the most negative approach to every development of the pandemic and they have built a sense of purpose around it. These people are self-styled heroes who believe they are saving the world from itself by pressuring governments to reduce individual liberties as much as possible. They do not want the pandemic to end as they would suddenly lose this feeling of purpose and superiority over the unwashed who haven’t joined them on their rollercoaster of fear.
These purveyors of panic get outright giddy when case counts rise and warn of doom and gloom being but two weeks away whenever case counts drop. They have adopted a zero-risk outlook towards pandemic control despite it being impossible. They overlook all damage caused by government restrictions while actively exaggerating harm caused by the virus itself.
For every example of something positive, these zealots will seek out something negative to counter it. They were almost jubilant when a 14-year-old Albertan was listed as the province’s first COVID-19 fatality. Their sanctimonious cries of “I told you so!” were hard to miss. The disappointment was evident in them when it was found that the death of that young man had nothing at all to do with COVID-19. They then scoured the Internet to find outlying cases of young people succumbing to the virus in other parts of the world in a desperate hope to maintain the illusion that COVID-19 threatens kids. They just don’t want to accept any good news.
As with any cult, there is no reasoning with the adherents of this one. We can only learn to sideline them and ignore them just as we would any other lunatic howling that “The end is nigh!” while accosting people on city streets.
We may be nearing the end of this two-year nightmare and we should be looking ahead to better times. The people who have learned to love living within this emergency don’t want to let it go though. Their voices are getting ever more shrill and their predictions direr as they face the prospect of normalcy in people’s lives.
Let’s work to ensure the voices of reason begin to dominate the discussion as we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The doomsayers have disproportionately loud voices for their numbers. We can shout them down with a message of cautious optimism. To let them win now is to accept a perpetual state of restrictions.
Cory Morgan is Assistant Opinion & Broadcast Editor for the Western Standard
MAKICHUK: Magawa vs. Trudeau: A political Tale of the Tape
“The biggest danger he has faced is the threat of a possible rogue wave while surfing off Tofino.”
Whether you are a hockey star, a football star a baseball star or even a lowly politician, comparisons are inevitable, aren’t they?
How many of my friends have told me, no way could Gordie Howe play in this era. I also say no way Wayne Gretzky could have played in the Original Six era.
I think he would have got his ticket punched in Game One.
But hey, I’m a Red Wings fan and always will be.
Getting back to comparison, I recently came across this remarkable story from Cambodia, about Magawa the famous mine-clearing rat.
Up to 6 million landmines were laid in the southeast Asian country during its three-decade civil war which ended in 1998, causing tens of thousands of casualties, The Independent reported.
I was impressed with this fellow’s heroism and the thought occurred to me, how would he compare with our current Prime Minister, the Honourable Justin Trudeau.
I’m not saying, of course, that Justin is a rat — of course not. I’m just wondering who truly is the better man or well, the better whatever. You know what I mean.
Look at it as a kind of Tale of The Tape that they used to do in the sports sections in the old days, anytime there was big heavyweight boxing match on tap.
It should also be noted Magawa, who recently retired, didn’t get to enjoy much of his final days, passing away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 8.
So here goes … may the best … thing(?) win!!
1. Trudeau won a second term in the PMO, albeit with a minority Liberal government. Magawa had no interest in politics of any kind nor brandished any political stripe, in fact he preferred cheese and any kind would do.
2. Magawa, who was bred in Tanzania, had to undergo a year of strict military training before uncovering bombs in Cambodia. Trudeau never did any military service.
3. Weighing 1.2 kg and 70 cm long, Magawa (an African giant pouch rat) was able to search a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes, something that would usually take a person with a top of the line metal detector up to four days. While that is far larger than many other rat species, Magawa was still small enough and light enough that he did not trigger mines if he walked over them. Trudeau has no special skills.
4. Trudeau is known for his nice hair and teeth. Magawa, as well, prided himself on his cleanliness, and generally speaking, was a handsome rat.
5. Magawa was awarded with a gold medal by the UK veterinary charity PDSA (sometimes described as the George Cross for animals) for “life-saving devotion to duty, in the location and clearance of deadly landmines in Cambodia” — the first rat to receive the honour. You might say, he broke the “rat glass ceiling” for rodents. Trudeau, of course, has no such honours for bravery. In fact, when protesters threw tiny pebbles at him and his RCMP guard during the election campaign, they ran away like scared little girls.
6. Trudeau has faced the ethics commissioner three times, getting grilled over each breach. Magawa has a squeaky clean record and never was called on the carpet for rat transgressions of any kind. Apparently, he was a straight shooter. And those who knew him said he was the same rat after work, never bragging about his heroic exploits.
7. Trudeau has said kind things about leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, which has irked some folks. Magawa has never said a mean squeak about anyone including politicos. In fact, he’s never said a word. Period. It’s not his style.
8. Justin has rich friends. Rich, rich friends. The Aga Khan, for instance, who is super wealthy and owns his own personal island in the Caribbean. Magawa has no such friends. In fact, other than his handlers, he has led a humble life and shunned the celebrity spotlight, as well as interviews.
9. Magawa risked his life every day on the job, sniffing out more than 100 landmines and explosives in Cambodia over an illustrious five-year career, clearing the equivalent of more than 141,000 sq m of land – roughly 20 football pitches. Justin, who never really had to work in his life and probably doesn’t know what it takes to earn a buck in today’s world, has no such accolade of gallantry nor is it on the horizon. The biggest danger he has faced is the threat of a possible rogue wave while surfing off Tofino.
10. Magawa has left a stellar life-saving legacy, clearing the way for other landmine rats to follow in his paw steps at the Cambodian Mine Action Centre. Meanwhile, Trudeau’s overspending has driven the federal debt to 1,201,044,764,748.73 (as of today), leaving a devastating legacy of taxation on future generations of Canadians.
In closing, let’s summarize.
According to Magawa’s handler, Malen, with the Belgian charity APOPO: “He is small but he has helped save many lives, allowing us to return much-needed safe land back to our people as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
“Magawa’s performance has been unbeaten,” she added, “and I have been proud to work side by side with him.”
Trudeau, on the other hand … well. According to esteemed political pundit, Rex Murphy.
Justin’s reign, is: “A mess. It’s a shambles. It’s an embarrassment. It is the worst ever by any reasonable measurement.”
So, there you go. The Western Standard, which spares no expense, fed these independent results into a giant quantum supercomputer, hidden on the Canadian prairies where the Mounties can’t find it. (Kind of like a still.)
Anyway, after hours of computer analysis, it came up with this result: Magawa wins a decision on points.
Completely fair and we had no say in the results, just so you know.
RIP Magawa, we will miss you pal.
To quote APOPO: “A hero is laid to rest.”
Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor.
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news
Three unvaxxed U o W staff suing province
ZAGAJA: Eastern Europeans have well-established reasons to distrust the state
Canadians want more indigenous representation on Parliament Hill
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Trudeau calls the unvaccinated racist and misogynistic extremists
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