Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Very Different Trip Around the Sun

A b-day gift from Mrs. Spew

 This week is another Stevefest as I hit another milestone age--half way through my 50s.  The funny thing is that my body is definitely feeling it with reflux and strained calf (which has kept me out of ultimate for a couple of weeks) and other ailments, but mentally/emotionally, I don't feel like 55 or even a grownup on most days.  This has been the saddest year of my life but not the hardest.

Staying at home has not been hard, nor has been baking up a storm.  Taking care of a newborn that didn't like eating and then within two years needed surgery--that was hard. Sleep deprivation that accompanied that was hard as was the intra-marital friction that came along with that.  But it was not a sad period.  This past year h

as been easy on us in so many ways--that none of my immediate family has been harmed by COVID and we have not lost money in the process.  But we have lost a towering family friend, a friend from grad school, a friend from the IR world, and a cat.  And I have been so sad and frustrated for my friends who have suffered far more and for my friends whose kids have had their lives put on ice for more than a year.  We were lucky in that our kid was out of school, that the temporary furlough didn't cost her money, and, that her deferred search for a new job finally paid off this week.  

It has been a year of anger--of failures to lock down and to mask and then of failures to roll out the vaccine and now failures to distribute the vaccine to the rest of the world and the refusals of way too many to take the vaccine.  Similarly, the election should not have been so close, and the Dems' hold on power should not be so fragile--the tie in the Senate, a seat or two in the House.  And Jan 6th.   

But it has also been a year of appreciation--for the friends I have, for the tech that has allowed me to connect regularly with folks from across the profession and from the distant past, for family that have drawn closer together in this crisis, and for the cool place I live.  

Last year's Stevefest post referred to a meeting I had that caused me to dress up (the only time I wore a complete suit in the past year--zoom means never having to wear suitpants) and to thinking about CDS Vance's legacy.  Oh my, the past year has sure put all of that in a different light. I am proud of the year the CDSN had in providing insights and advice on the abuse of power/sexual misconduct scandal in the Canadian Armed Forces.  We had ample opportunity to demonstrate our independence from DND/CAF this past year as we have been quite critical--for example my posts here and my op-eds.

Anyhow, this Stevefest has been different for a couple of reasons.  No comedy shows, only one movie where I went solo.  We did eat out three times and once was even indoors (because I messed up the reservation).  And I embraced the amazon moment, getting my own gifts from sports socks to an oculus.  I am reaching the age when my friends are discussing retirement at our online poker games and when I think about how much longer I will work past 65--at least one year since I won't hit 20 years at Carleton until 66 and there is a pension here (really!).  

Dinner beside the Rideau River was delightful.









Overall, I am very grateful as I mark this birthday.  I know that I am lucky personally and professionally.  I have a great job in a good place, my family is mostly doing well, and the facebookization of birthdays reminds me of all the friendships I have built over the years in all of the places I have lived and studied and worked and played.  And, yes, I get to see my daughter and the rest of my family very soon, and I am guessing the hugs will last much longer this time around.  It has been way too long.

The dessert of the year makes
another appearance! CCC doughpots!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Digging Out of the DND/CAF Hole

 I had a coffee with a really smart person yesterday that got me thinking and then the news that former CANSOF commander MG Pete Dawe was being reinstated got me thinking even more.  What can we do to make real change in DND/CAF?  Last week's roundtable was a progress report, but it reminded me of what isn't being done as much as what is being done.  Again, my expertise is not on personnel stuff or organizational or cultural change but on civil-military relations, so this is a half-baked set of guesses more than a well-worked out plan.  

Monday, July 19, 2021

Understanding the CAF Crisis: Principals and Agents All The Way Down

One of the central ironies of contemporary civil-military relations is that most modern militaries think one theoretical approach should be applied to them while they apply another to those below them.  Huh?  

The Huntingtonian approach to civ-mil says that professional militaries should be autonomous, that professional soldiers/sailors/aviators/etc can be trusted to do the right thing if trained right.  Militaries love this because it tells themselves that they are the sole experts on military stuff, that civilians should tell them where to fight and then leave it at that.

But military folks don't give that kind of autonomy to those below them.  No, they spend incredible amounts of effort thinking about leadership and management.  Consciously or not, they live principal-agency theory--the idea that any delegation will lead to the agent being given discretion/responsibility knowing more about what they are doing than the principal giving them that responsibility.  So, you need to be careful about which agents you select, how much discretion you give them, how you oversee them, and the incentives to reward good behavior and punish bad.

Why are the Canadian Armed Forces so messed up these days?  Let's take a look via those four pieces of the delegation process:

  • Agent selection: who chooses the command staff of the CAF?  The Chief of the Defence Staff is chosen by the Prime Minister and Defence Minister, and then the CDS chooses the rest--the head of the army, navy, etc. This can be good--that a CDS can come in and eventually shape the leadership of the force so that they all push in the same direction.  However, it can also be that the CDS chooses his pals, those who have done him favors over the years, etc.  In this crisis, General Jon Vance picked a guy with a checkered record to be Chief of Personnel.   The unanswered question in all of this is why the hell did he do that?  And where was the Minister when the CDS did that?  It raises questions about old boy networks and the importance of connections.
    • So, step one: fix agent selection.  This is more than just doing 360 reviews, which are helpful at getting junior folks who might be abused to report those leaders who kiss up and kick down.  Will such evals and other testing weigh at all compared to operational performance?  
    • Also, of course, don't put folks who recently served in the military in the position to oversee the military.  That is, select the right Minister/Secretary of Defence.
  • Discretion: how much discretion does the CDS get in picking the command staff?  How much discretion does the CDS get in reforming the CAF?  When Deputy Minister Jody Thomas appeared on our Battle Rhythm podcast last month, she indicated that Vance told her to stay out of the reform effort.  It seems to be the case that Vance had complete freedom to do what he wanted, and, yes, he chose mostly not to implement the Deschamps recommendations.  
    • Step two: dump the Huntingtonian approach of giving the CDS so much discretion.  Tell him what he should be doing, whom he should be doing it with, and what is to be expected.  To be clear, this is not micromanagement as it is not a matter of some civilian in Ottawa using a 7000km screwdriver to operate something happening in Kandahar at seven levels lower in the chain of command but it is management--telling the person immediately below you what their job is and then making sure they do it. 
    • When researching the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, when I interviewed each commander (including Vance), they all referred to the letter of intent they received from the CDS--that defined their "left and right arcs of fire"--what they could and could not do and what they should aim for.  These letters defined their discretion.  
    • Discretion should be related to trust--the more you trust an agent, the more discretion you can give.  The less you trust an agent, the less discretion they should have.  The delegation contract is not fixed--it can change as one learns via oversight how things are going.
  • Oversight: how do you know that the underling is doing what they are supposed to be doing?  Who is responsible for overseeing the agent?  The Minister is the person responsible for overseeing the CDS--there is no one above the CDS besides the Minister and the Prime Minister.  The Minister can use all kinds of other agents to help oversee the CDS--the ombudsman, the Deputy Minister, etc--but the responsibility for keeping informed of what the CDS is doing--whether they are staying within the intent of the Minister--is the Minister's.  
    • Step three: stop saying that looking into what the CDS is doing is politicizing anything.  When the ombudsman wants to give you info, take it.  Have your various agents report back about what the other agents are doing so that one has good situational awareness. In my question to the Minister last week, I basically asked--are you going to change how you oversee this to process.  He still seemed to be taking a very passive approach.
    • The stylized metaphor for oversight is contrasting fire alarms versus police patrols (h/t to the recently departed Mat McCubbins)--do you set up a passive system where you respond only when the alarm gets pulled?  Oh, and in most fire alarm systems, the media is the one pulling the alarm--is that a desirable way to oversee the CDS?  To respond only when things hit the fan?  Or do you set up a police patrol system where you or your other agents regularly look around for trouble and via their presence--the likelihood of getting caught--discourages unwanted behavior?  So, step three is really about setting up a system of oversight that does not rely on Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly, and the rest of the media but either uses the agents one has or develop new oversight agents--an Inspector-General?
  • Incentives: Oversight is not enough--it must be known that good behavior will be rewarded and bad behavior will be punished.  What gets one promoted? What gets one's discretion reduced?  What gets one's career ended early or shunted off to someplace less desirable?  What were the conditions that the Minister told the CDS would get him additional years?  Or that would end his term?  Given the prominence of the personnel file (again, it was moved to the front of the Defence review document even though such a review really should start with threats), you would think that not implementing the Deschamps report would be punished.  That the CDS would be sent off to retirement since he did not fulfill a key part of his mandate.
    • Step four: make clear that there will be consequences for not doing what is expected.  This is really important for sending signals to the rest of the force--that the highest in the chain of command will be help accountable--that they will pay a price when they screw up.  
    • Incentives are not all or nothing--it is not just about firing, although in this case...  One can also visibly reduce an agent's portfolio or discretion.  Increased oversight is seen as punishment, so do that to send a signal and to impose a cost.

There is obviously much more going on.  This framework only addresses a piece of the puzzle, but it is a key piece.  I can't help but think of Bill Belicheck's mantra right now--do your job.  What is your job?  Well, if you are Minister of National Defence, it is managing the CDS--choosing the right person, shaping their discretion, overseeing what they do with their discretion, and providing sticks and carrots.  If you are the CDS, it means managing the generals and admirals under you who then manage those colonels and captains below them and on and on. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Congrats, Canada But Let's Not Get Too Smug

 This weekend, Canada surpassed the US in vaccinating the public!

This is good news for Canada, bad news for the US, and I want to explain why Canada shouldn't get too cocky.  Sure, Canadians like to define themselves by how they are better than the US, but that often blinds them to how they can could be better.

First, how did Canada do this after being so far behind the US?  Well, it takes two to play so first what Canada did right, then the US's problems.

  • Canada invested in a wide portfolio of vaccines.  Trying to work with the Chinese didn't work out, but they had contracts with Pfizer, Moderna, AZ, India's AZ, J&J, and who knows what else.  
  • Conservative politicians in Canada supported vaccination, including publicly getting vaccinated.
  • Less public distrust of government in Canada because government had been doing national health care for a while.  Tis deceptive since it is really a series provincial health care programs but more on that below.
  • Canadian vax hesitancy dropped as the rollout gained momentum and as delta scared everyone.
  • The American problems start with Fox and the GOP.  In the same spirit as fighting Obama and to deny him successes in 2009 in the midst of a severe financial crisis, these actors seem compelled to undermine the vax effort so that Biden and the Dems don't look good for 2022 and 2024.  There is no equivalent to Fox in Canada despite the efforts of Rebel and other far right platforms.  The biggest anti-vax voices in Canada are Americans--Rand Paul, Naomi Wolf, Alex Berenson, etc.  And while they penetrate, they are not as loud in Canada as they are in the US.
  • Americans also have greater skepticism about the government and about public health, so Fox and its ilk had something to play with.  

So, Canada is getting vaccinated..  But it could have gone better and there is more left to do.

  • Canada is more federal than the US so the feds don't really have good data on who has been vaxxed, making the development of vax passports much harder.
  • The communications was mostly awful as conflicting messages about Astra Zeneca and the branding of Pfizer meant some expiration of shots and lots more anxiety.
  • A more targeted rollout at first may have prevented more deaths by vaccinating those most likely to spread rather than those most likely to die: young and working rather than old and retired.  We have a forthcoming podcast at BattleRhythm with a modeler who has good math to prove this.
  • The kids still aren't vaccinated and approval is now likely to be in the winter?  So, how prepared are the schools?   Why aren't teachers and faculty and medical personnel required to get vaccines?  Why aren't students above 12 years old?  The provinces could do far more to give schools cover.  Indeed, the feds should ask the Supreme Court for advice on this--can there be requirements to be vaxxed?  Let's clarify what is required and move on.  

Anyhow, things are going better in Canada. But much of the world needs far more help.  So, as always:



Saturday, July 17, 2021

Reform is Hard, Abuse of Power edition

 Yesterday, I was a participant in a roundtable organized by the Department of National Defence to consult/report on the sexual misconduct and abuse of power crisis.  I went in with very low expectations as it was very, very large for a roundtable: 90 people split between "stakeholders" [academics, activists, advocates, survivors] and folks in DND and the CAF and other government agencies (Veterans Affairs, Minister for Women and Gender Equality) and very little time allotted for Q&A.  Also, it was announced with short notice and scheduled on a Friday afternoon in the summer, which was not too family friendly.  The event surpassed my expectations but not wildly so as some sessions were informative, and we did get to ask some questions.  In terms of message management/PR effort, it was better than the set up suggested it would be, but I think the reactions of folks depending in part on their priors.

Before addressing the meeting itself, I want to note how much I was reminded of the classic quote by Machiavelli:

"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them."  The Prince from here*

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Fighting and Losing: Thinking About Afghanistan

 20 years after the US and then its allies got into Afghanistan, they are getting out, and it may be that the Taliban will return to power.  Maybe the government of Afghanistan will hold on, but much of the terrain over which NATO and its partners fought is falling into Taliban hands.  This week, some of the places where Canadians died have fallen.  What to make of it?  

Lt. General Eyre, the Acting Chief of Defence Staff had a very good statement:

My perspective, of course, is very different as I only spent a week in Afghanistan, and I didn't lose friends in battle.  The starting point, I guess, is thinking about what the troops and civilians were doing there.  In my book, I argue that the primary objective was to support an ally that had been attacked, that Canadians had no intrinsic interests in Afghanistan, but joined the effort to support the US and to support NATO.  And in that effort, Canadians, in and out of uniform, were mostly successful for the time they were there.  Canada left Kandahar before its allies left other combat zones, but while it was there, the CAF was more flexible and more helpful to the allied cause than almost any other ally.  And Canadians paid a higher price as a result.  

While the Canadians were in Kandahar, conditions improved, but there was a limit to what kind of sustainable impact they could make.  As Eyre says in his note, the job of the foreign militaries was to create the space for the political stuff.  No matter the Kandahar Action Plan or the Helmand Plan or the Uruzguan Plan and on and on, the outsiders simply could not change the politics of the place.  Ok, they could affect it, and did so often quite badly as the constitution was a poor fit for the place and as the outside forces often got played by the Afghans, with our "allies" providing tips that often were aimed at hurting their rivals for land, drugs, and power.  As I keep saying, third party counter-insurgencies are third-party for a reason--that the government of the place is not up to the task and that becomes pretty hard to fix.  

Was defeat inevitable?  I am still not sure as there were so many big mistakes early--the US going too light, becoming too quickly distracted by Iraq, putting into place a crappy constitution, and on and on.  But wars get lost--as far as I can tell, no country is undefeated.  How one grapples with that reveals as much or more character than the winning or losing.   The old saying is that victory has many parents but defeat is an orphan.  Everyone will try to disown this war, but we can look at the conflict and figure out what are the limits of power, what are the mistakes that we ought to avoid in the future, and what we do really well.  Trying to forget about this war and moving on, back to Great Power Competition, will only ensure that we are poorly prepared the next time.  The lessons of Vietnam came late to the battlefields of the Mideast, the lessons of Afghanistan may come too late down the road.

The focus now should be on helping those who helped us--the interpreters, the drivers, and the others who are at greatest risk of retaliation.  Of course, this will be one last bit of damage we do as we will be taking from Afghanistan some of the folks who might best contribute.  But our responsibility is to those individuals who we made promises to, more so than the long-term prospects of the place.  With all things in Afghanistan and in counter-insurgency, the choices are between bad and worse.   

It is natural to be angry and sad. The days ahead are going to be full of bad news.  In terms of the big Biden decision, I am not sure how this would be much different if it happened next year or the year after.  Sticking around would have made much more sense if there was evidence that there was progress being made, that the outcome would be different with a bit more time and investment.  I don't think Trump was wrong about wanting to get out of all of these wars--just about how to do it.  Nobody wants to lose a war on their watch, but deferring so that someone else can lose it on theirs is quite problematic.

There is much more to stay about all of this, so I will probably come back to it eventually.  Right now, I am just sad for the Afghans who were let down by their own leadership and by the outsiders. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Quarantine Report, Week 69: The End of the Quarantine for Some of Us

"Filthy Belgian" courtesy of NeXT
 My elder sister asked this week what will happen to the quarantine report now that I am double vaxxed plus two weeks.  The answer is that I will try to keep writing at least weekly, but that it will no longer be a regular status report on being cooped up.  Mrs. Spew and I reached two doses plus two weeks a couple of days ago and marked it by eating out for the first time since last summer.  Last summer, we did take out in various small towns in the Ottawa region, but we did not patio.  So, this week was our first patio/eating at a restaurant since March of 2020.  Even though it rained, we went out to a restaurant we like quite a bit.  A very nice change of pace.

The second major normalization was the start of the summer ultimate season, about six weeks later than usual.  My Monday team is the same I have been playing with since I moved here.  My Wednesday team is almost completely new to me with one teammate someone I have played against regularly in the Grandmaster League (40 and over).  Tomorrow, I play in a Sunday Master/Grandmaster pickup game--we didn't get enough players for several teams, so we will just be switching things up from week to week.   So far, I am not too sore, my throws have mostly been on, I have actually made a decent defensive play or two, laid out for a few disks, and even outsky-ed a, um, shorter person (watching instagram stories of the professional ultimate league may have inspired me to jump up more rather than the usually jumping sideways/down).  So, it has been a heap of fun, great to finally be in groups larger than two as well.  

The third bit of returning semi-normalcy is that I finally got a haircut.  I developed much sympathy for women with long hair as my glasses and mask combo got harder and harder to keep on my face with more and more hair on the sides of my head.  The final straw was that it was getting harder to tie my bandana with all of the hair in the back.  

I have written before about the lessons of the lockdown, but as the quarantine winds down for me (at least for now, and, yes, just for us lucky North American folks), I am wondering what else to take away from all of this.  Again, I found the desperate need to connect.  I also found it hard not to have changes of pace--just the same stuff day and day out for 18 months or so.  I know I got on Mrs. Spew's nerves--she is used to getting breaks from me as I gallivant around the world.  But I also found that we can persist and endure and even thrive a bit.  Hollywood Exec Assistant Spew has been looking for a new position on the creative side of Hollywood, and she has persevered, making it past the first round at a number of places.  The CDSN has managed to keep going, with the transition to online opening up a variety of possibilities for the future, even as we move back to in-person events.

 It has been a very stressful year although not as stressful as the first year or two of baby Spew's life.  I didn't sleep great this year, but I got far more sleep this year than I did 25 years ago.  My job was pretty stable although moving online for classes created more work.  Staying at home day after day got monotonous but not very stressful.  I lost some friends and that hurt--definitely the worst year of my life for losing people.  Plus we lost our cat who spent the last part his life being far more cuddly than the previous 17 years.  So, it was definitely the saddest year of my life, but, again, being a new parent was far more stressful.

Anyhow, when I started doing these Q reports, I did suggest that the pandemic and quarantine could cause me to lose it. 


Well, did I descend into madness?  You be the judge:


Saturday, July 3, 2021

Quarantine Report, Week 68: Compartmentalizing The Disasters

 Man, even as we get towards the downslope of the pandemic in North America, the hits keep on coming.  The brutal heat out west sparked a fire thunderstorm, something that I did not know could happen.  No rain, just lightning sparking fire.  It wiped out a town that had just set the Canadian record for high temperature.  And climate change is only going to get worse--with droughts out west, a real water crisis is emerging, there will be more fires, and people are dying just due to the heat.  At the same time, the bill has come due for GOP domination of court selection.  This week's decision to further gut the Voting Rights Act will let stand all kinds of shenanigans by the GOP to suppress the vote AND change who decides elections--Republican legislators, not voters.  Yet, the Dems still can't get their act together--Sinema and Manchin (along with Feinstein and some others) are entirely too willing to let this happen.  It drives me crazy that the crisis alarm is blaring, and these politicians are letting this all happen.  Of course, even if they were to pass a new Voting Rights Act, Alito and pals are likely to gut it.  Up here, in Canada, it was a very sad Canada Day, as what Canadians should have known has become obvious to all--that the Residential Schools were concentration camps for Indigenous kids, complete with disease-ridden housing and abusive guards priests.

And yet more death.  Mat McCubbins was a prof at UCSD when I was there.  I didn't take any classes from him as I was avoiding all American Politics stuff.  Too bad as the approach he helped to develop and promote--principal-agency theory--has become one that I have been leaning on quite a bit the past decade or so.  Mat was a powerful force in the department.  He helped shape it, and he definitely made a huge impact on his students.  I remember him doing a great deal of pitching to get his students jobs.  My only real experience with him was the football games we played a couple of years around the Super Bowl--grad students versus Mat and his bigger, more physical friends.  But I got a lot through osmosis at the time as his students gave me much feedback on my work, and I learned from what Mat had to say at job talks and the like.  He moved from UCSD, but he made a lasting impression.  My condolence to his family and to his students.

The Canadian civ-mil story got messier.  The Acting Chief of Defence Staff announced he was going to keep the head of the navy on despite the latter's poor judgment in playing golf with the disgraced and currently being investigated former CDS.  The A/CDS, General Eyre, explained that we can't fire everyone and that we need to have some proportionality.  I see the challenge here--that there needs to be consequences but also there needs to be an environment where people who make mistakes can learn and improve.  Zero tolerance, no discretion is a dumb, cowardly way to go that often causes much more harm.  When asked, both Deputy Minister Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau criticized the decision as if Eyre was off on his own, making shit up.  I can guarantee that Eyre consulted widely including with the Minister of National Defence.  So, if Freeland and Trudeau have a problem with this, they should talk to MND Sajjan.  Sajjan hasn't said he was consulted but that he stands by Eyre.  Which is pretty weak.  He should make clear he owns this decision, but perhaps Sajjan still does not understand what his job entails.

So, how do we manage to get through this?  Focusing on the positive, I guess.  Thinking about the things one can control.  Taking some solace in the silly stuff.  The best news on the home front is that on Thursday Mrs. Spew and I will be "fully vaxxed" meaning that we had two doses (AZ and Moderna) and two weeks.  Which will then mean arranging long-deferred dentistry, a haircut, movies for me (my wife will wait on that a bit longer), and more outings including some patio dining.  The number of new cases in Ottawa has been in the single digits this week.  So, I look forward to some drinks with friends soon.

Also, ultimate!  With Ontario moving to stage 2, we can now return to the fields.  I may have overextended myself by signing up for three leagues--playing three games a week--but I was not sure whether any of the three were going to work out.  The Sunday late morning league will be a small affair with two dozen or so players, all "Master" or "Grandmaster".  To be qualified for the former, men have to be over 33 and women over 30 and for the latter, men over 40 and women over 37 (the idea is not that women age faster than men but they tend to be fewer of them, I am guessing).  Yes, there is such a thing as Great Grandmaster--for guys over 50 and women over 47--but we had a hard enough time getting 26 people together this summer with the lower age cutoff.  I know more of the older players so that makes it more fun.  Many are still quite fast, but not quite as many rabbits.  And generally a high skill level.  The two other leagues are open, so I will be playing against men and women of all ages.  My wife is wondering if I will make it through the summer with my hamstrings and achilles still attached.  We shall see, but it will be a short summer session as we are starting late.  Expect more frisbee talk and pics in the weeks ahead.

The other bit of good news was that it was a good writing week. One co-author finished off our revisions of a paper, so that is now in the hands of the reviewers.  I met with Dave and Phil for the big project, and we figured out our July division of labor.  This meant me revising our paper with the two of them working on the first two chapters of the book.  I made a lot of progress swapping out the case studies that had been in the paper and putting in two others.  The advantage of having 15 or so case studies with most nearly or fully written up is that is not hard to plug and play.  The aim is to get the article out this month and to have a draft of the book by the end of the summer.  Alas, summer is now about half over (for those of us who stop teaching in early April).

Time to write a promotion to full letter, so enjoy your weekend.  May the Fourth be fire-free.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Saddest Canada Day

I borrowed this piece of art from a tweet:
Simone McLeod, 2014, Healing All Nations
 This year marks my 19th Canada Day, as we moved here in August 2002.  It is clearly the saddest one because of the accumulation of sorrows.  Canada did not handle the pandemic well with the elder care facilities being decimated last year, and bad governance exacerbating the third wave this winter.  The past week was so hot in the west that not only heat-related deaths exceeded covid deaths but that a fire started, generated a fire thunderstorm (no water, just clouds and lightning) which then started more fires.  And a third residential school's tragic legacy was revealed this week.  The toll of the three schools is over 1,000, and these efforts are just the start.  My wife and I are happy to be Canadians, but are sad that this country has treated its Indigenous people so very badly.

The past is not that far away--the last school closed in 1996.  Welfare policies today do what the old residential schools did--take kids away from their families.  Indigenous women and girls go missing at a far higher rate than anyone else.  Many reserves lack clean drinking water.  The government talks a good game about reconciliation, but continues to resist a variety of changes.  There has been some progress--there seem to be fewer places that are lacking in drinking water although still too many.  One of the most positive parts of the pandemic is that Indigenous communities and peoples were towards the front of the line, a big contrast from the residential schools that were allowed to be breeding grounds for tuberculosis and other diseases.  Of course, there was a great need for the Canadian Armed Forces to provide help to Indigenous communities and for these people to get vaccinated early precisely because they lack the health care infrastructure that could have gotten them through this crisis. 

So, as the vaccination effort and other relief efforts showed, we can do better.  We must do better. We must put pressure on local, provincial, and federal governments to back up their words with real actions.  We must put pressure on the Catholic Church to apologize for how they ran the residential schools and to release the documents.  We must figure out ways to listen to and include Indigenous people.  And we must stop taking Indigenous kids away from their families.