Mental health issues will be on the political platforms in the next federal election. Unfortunately, veteran’s mental health has been historically ignored, illustrated recently by the tragic discovery of Benjamin Van Eck’s body in London, Ontario.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told retired corporal Brock Blaszczyk at an Edmonton townhall in 2018, “Veteran’s groups are asking for more than we can give,” it was an insult. Yet it’s not just about money, it’s also an inefficient system that ignores those who need and deserve help most.
Retired Royal Canadian Air Force Major Chris Semchuk was born in Edmonton, Alta. on Christmas Day 1972 and currently lives in Kingston, Ont. He grew up dreaming of becoming an air force pilot.
He signed up in 1997 shortly after university starting as an avionics technician and worked his way up to air weapons controller. Chris excelled and despite dyslexia making French proficiency unachievable, he secured the rank of Major by 2012. A battle with testicular cancer cut Chris’s third tour in Afghanistan short.
In 2014, Semchuck was honoured at Lupe’s Troops, a Maple Leaf’s regular season tradition. It was during the standing ovation that Semchuck suffered his first dissociative episode, indicating he had PTSD, or more accurately OSI (Operational Stress Injury). In 2017 he was given an honourable medical release.
He has been fighting the department of Veteran’s Affairs ever since, and for 1,236 days requested a meeting with his MP, Mark Gerretsen. He got less than half an hour and was sent a letter regurgitating the issues he brought to Gerretsen.
Lionel Desmond, no longer able to cope with OSI, killed his family before killing himself. There is an ongoing inquiry and Semchuck points out how a lack of responsiveness led to the tragedy. He says that the entire situation could have been avoided if a proper transition had been in place.
Since 1992, soldiers were given Mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug known produce significant side-effects. Some believe that problems in Somalia were caused in some part from the adverse effects of this medication. The worst incident was the killing of Somalian teen, Shidane Arone by Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee. Later, Matchee attempted suicide and now lives in long term care due to his injuries. The inquiry into Somalia was cut short by the Chretien government, led to a slashing of the military budget by nearly 25%, and the disbanding of Canada’s storied Airborne regiment.
MP Derek Sloan told the story of serving military personnel being strong-armed into taking the COVID-19 vaccinations. It is strongly implied those who do not comply will see an end to their military career. Semchuck explained when you enrol in military service, you become the effective property of the federal government.
“You’re programmed to follow orders. The training is intense, and it becomes part of you. When you transition out, you do not get deprogrammed. Charities do the yeoman’s work, but accessing these programs is a lot of work for guys who are already struggling.”
The Canadian Armed Forces have been treated like disposable tools for decades, discarded when no longer useful.
Are the servicemen and women, like Chris Semchuk, asking too much? Semchuck still believes in the country he served. He wants Canada to be a “beacon of hope to the world,” an example of fairness and responsibility.
Marginalizing and ignoring veterans is a “waste of human resources and that’s the worst thing,” says Semchuck. “You have people who were willing to serve and still want to contribute. We are all just numbers and labels to this government. They’ve robbed us of our humanity.”
This is the crux of the problem with veteran’s mental health – a government that ignores the human in favour of a price tag or political points to be scored.
Semchuk is giving veteran’s a voice through his social media platforms.
“I have a mission and vision for my life which includes highlighting history and heritage, discussing veteran’s issues and service dog concerns. I have always been a leader – as a swim coach, a serviceman and as a human. I want people to first seek to understand and then do tangible things to help.”
Dignity, respect, and a helping hand; that doesn’t seem like too much for our veterans to ask of the country they bleed for.
Gilly Davis is a guest columnist for the Western Standard
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MORGAN: Free speech in comedy under siege
“What has happened to our society when a comedy festival may turn into a street battle? “
Standup comedians have always been on the front lines in battles over free speech and expression.
In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, most of the pearl-clutching busybodies came from the ‘moral majority’ religious right. They feared obscenity within comedy acts would degrade the moral fabric of the nation and for a while, the law agreed. Comedian Lenny Bruce was convicted and sentenced to four months in a workhouse in 1964 for the crime of spreading obscenity in his act. George Carlin was arrested seven times during the 1970s for his famous “Seven Dirty Words” routine.
Bruce died before the appeal of his sentence was completed. He was posthumously pardoned in 2003. Charges against Carlin were all dropped before he could be convicted. Carlin and Bruce refused to back down and in the end, the state couldn’t win. We will never know how many comedians allowed themselves to be cowed into changing their acts due to state and social intimidation in those days. Not all of them had the will or support bases Carlin and Bruce enjoyed.
The ability for comedians to freely express themselves is just as threatened today as it was 50 years ago. The source of puritanical outrage against comedy routines has changed, though. These days the prigs demanding the curtailment of free speech in comedy acts are the snowflakes of the politically correct left.
Canadian comedian Mike Ward found himself dragged before human rights tribunals and the Canadian courts for nearly a decade over a routine in which he mocked a disabled young Canadian performer. The case ultimately went to the Canadian Supreme Court where it was ruled in a tight 5-4 split decision Ward’s right to free speech was to be protected, and jokes were not subject to judicial review. We came dangerously close to having a comedian convicted for his routine during this decade. The threat to free expression is real and it’s ongoing.
The prime target of the cancel-culture mob lately has been American comedian Dave Chappelle. Chappelle has long enjoyed poking fun at the hypersensitive underbelly of the LGBTQ activist community and has never backed down in the face of the enraged blowback following one of his acts. In Chappelle’s most recent Netflix comedy special he went out of his way to antagonize the usual suspects as he made jokes about transgender ideological orthodoxy. The response to his act was immediate and predictable. Activists demanded Netflix pull the special down and small groups of Netflix employees staged widely publicized walkouts in protest of Chappelle’s act.
Netflix never pulled Chappelle’s special down and Chappelle has remained unapologetic for it. The controversy generated by apoplectic snowflakes in response to Chappelle’s act likely only increased viewership of the special.
It has just been announced Dave Chappelle is going to be headlining a Netflix comedy festival this coming April in Hollywood Bowl. This signals Netflix has done well with Chappelle’s routine despite or perhaps even because of the controversy it generated. In having a set date at a large outdoor venue and in such a populated area, Netflix is upping the ante in their battle with cancel-culture activists. Not only are they saying they won’t pull Chappelle’s older content, but they are also expanding the reach for his next act.
American and Canadian courts have proven they will protect the rights of free expression for controversial comedians, albeit grudgingly. Anti-free speech activists will have to take their case to the streets now and I suspect they will. With as many as 17,000 attendees arriving for a comedy festival being potentially greeted by a sizable number of protesters, things may get ugly.
What has happened to our society when a comedy festival may turn into a street battle?
Chappelle’s showdown this spring could be a turning point for comedy. Will he and Netflix stand their ground in the face of protests? Will local authorities ensure the show can go on even if activists vow to shut it down? This comedy event is going to be an important one.
As with any art, the enjoyment of comedy is subjective. Some people like simple clean humour, some like complex satire, and some like vulgarity-laden shock comedy. The only people who can judge good comedy are the audience and they should only be able to render judgment through voting with their feet (and wallets). In other words, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
Comedians ply their trade by observing the world and poking at sacred cows. They dig into subjects people commonly avoid and force us to think about them through the lens of humour. They provide a public service by pushing the boundaries of free expression and ensuring no subjects are ever out of bounds. They often make us laugh and we need a whole lot more of that these days.
Comedians will not be able to effectively practice their art if they fear censors or legal repercussions. They will be restrained and they will leave subjects that need to be brought before public scrutiny untouched.
If the speech and expression of comedians are allowed to be suppressed, no speech is safe. We need to stand up for our comics for both their sake and our own.
Cory Morgan is Assistant Opinion & Broadcast Editor for the Western Standard
WAGNER: Hydrocarbon based fuels are here to stay
“Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”
Alberta’s future is threatened by a national campaign to dramatically reduce the production of hydrocarbons.
The political and media elite repeatedly assure everyone that such fuels can be replaced by new “green” energy sources such as wind and solar power. People currently employed in the oil and gas industry will supposedly transition into green energy production and life will continue on as before, except with fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indeed, Justin Trudeau’s federal government has committed to transitioning Canada’s economy to producing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Trudeau’s scheme is a fairy tale. Hydrocarbons are going to be required for a very long time because current green energy technology is nowhere near where it needs to be to replace them. Currently, there are no realistic alternatives to oil and gas, so reducing their production will only lead to energy shortages.
As Dr. Henry Geraedts put it recently in the Financial Post, “The ultimate goal of net-zero politics is to impose a radical energy transition that demands a top-to-bottom physical and social-economic restructuring of society, with no credible road map in sight. Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”
Geraedts’ Financial Post column is a brief description of a policy report he produced in June 2021, and how it was ignored because its conclusions contradict the ideological perspective that university professors are expected to support. He didn’t toe the party line, in other words, and therefore got the cold shoulder.
Geraedts’ report, Net Zero 2050: Rhetoric and Realities, is available online at the website of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy which is affiliated with both the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina. It’s a very credible piece of work.
Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons and Geraedts points out “hydrocarbons are nature’s most efficient embodiment of primary energy: the combination of high energy density, abundance, stability, safety, portability and affordability is unmatched by any other source of energy.”
Currently, hydrocarbons comprise about 80% of global primary energy. This is essentially the same percentage as 30 years ago, when the global warming craze began. Despite years of favourable government policies and billions of dollars in government subsidies, green technology such as wind and solar energy remain relatively small contributors to the world’s energy supply.
Geraedts also describes the negative environmental impacts caused by so-called green energy technology. Among the most interesting details he mentions is: “Neither turbine blades nor solar panels nor lithium-ion batteries are physically or economically recyclable. They are instead, at an alarming rate, ending up in landfills leaching toxic chemicals — an estimated 10 million tons/year of batteries by 2030 alone.” So much for protecting the environment.
Geraedts is not a so-called “denier.” He points to data from reliable sources indicating global temperatures have increased by one degree Celsius since 1900. But he also explains “the projections used to justify net zero policies and the Paris Accord, are based on fundamentally flawed computer climate models that overstate warming by some 200%.”
Not only that, but “observational, empirical evidence remains agnostic as to what, with requisite confidence levels, is attributable to anthropogenic influences vs. natural variability.” In other words, it cannot be determined with certainty to what degree the gradual temperature increase is the result of human activities.
But climate change worries aside, there is still a fatal lack of realistic alternatives to hydrocarbons. The International Energy Agency forecasts that even if all countries fulfill their Paris Accord commitments — an unlikely prospect — hydrocarbons will still account for 60% of primary energy in 2040. With accelerating energy demand in Africa and Asia, Geraedts expects hydrocarbons will remain the dominant energy source for decades to come.
This is what it all means: If we put progressive ideology aside and take a hard, honest look at the energy situation, hydrocarbons are here to stay for quite a while. Knowing the ingenuity of human beings in a free society, the discovery of new energy sources is likely at some point in the future. For now, though, we need oil and gas, and Alberta has lots of both.
With strong international demand for hydrocarbons forecast to last for decades, there is no reason why these resources cannot continue to provide the foundation of economic prosperity for the province. The biggest obstacle to such prosperity, of course, is the federal government. Due to its determination to prevent the development of hydrocarbons, independence may be the only way to maintain and increase the resource-based wealth that is Alberta’s birthright.
An independent Alberta could implement policies maximizing economic growth and avoid the suffocating policies of Canada’s central government. A free Alberta would be a prosperous Alberta.
Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard
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