All posts by ritagracesmith

Girl Power: It’s not given. It’s taken.

Women who want to change the world by working in politics need to be able to say “No” to to intolerable conditions. We need to teach them this; everyone will be better off.

I had a good conversation with my brilliant daughter on Sunday. We talked at length about the sexual harassment allegations against Ontario PC Party leader Patrick Brown; party President Rick Dykstra’s horrific story had not even hit the media yet.

An experienced political staffer, she has dozens of her own stories about politicians making inappropriate comments; one Councillor, upon meeting her, announced “You look like my next girlfriend!” (Given that she is an exceedingly happily married lesbian, this is quite the long shot…)

She got me thinking about what was bothering me so much about these media reports. Maclean’s Magazine’s coverage of the Rick Dykstra story, in particular, hurt my heart. It made me worry a lot about the state of young women’s thinking and attitudes today.

The young woman interviewed by Maclean’s seems not to believe she had any power over her situation at all.

According to Maclean’s:

“At about 1:30 a.m., the woman… decided to go home. Dykstra jumped into her cab and gave the driver his address. When they got there, he was ‘very insistent’ that she go upstairs with him, she says, ignoring her repeated refusal.

She eventually relented. When they got to his apartment, she says he pushed her against the wall and starting kissing her. ‘I was saying no, but I didn’t feel there was much that I could do to stop what was happening,’ she says.

 ‘He brought me into his bedroom and he told me to sit down on his bed…he sat down next to me and was still trying to kiss me… I didn’t feel like I could move.’

‘He pulled down his underwear and forced me to perform oral sex on him.’”

This is an absolutely terrible state of affairs: that a woman in her 20s did not feel she could kick an unwanted man out of her cab? That she had to go to his house? That she had to go to his bedroom? That she could be forced to perform oral sex? Where ever did she get the idea that any job was worth that?

Recently I wrote a column on the concept that Muslims could choose whether or not to be offended by things said by others, because mature human beings get to choose their own thoughts, and Muslims have that power too.

Yet we have raised a generation of young women who believe that they must do what a man tells them to do, or who can be traumatized by the words that come out of a man’s mouth? For goodness sake, accused harasser Liberal MP Kent Hehr is a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair, but women are afraid to ride in an elevator with him. I kind of think, as my son Dave would say, “I could take him.”

I am not in any way condoning the awful behavior of these men, but that is not the point here. In first year psychology you read about having an “internal locus of control” or an “external locus of control.” It’s probably the most important thing anyone learns in life: it has the potential to change every minute of your life, forever after.

If we could give young women the best gift ever, it would not be a world in which she could expect men to behave less like scoundrels and more like gentlemen.

It would be a psyche which gives them the confidence in their own judgement and personal power to kick the scoundrels out of their cab, and the courage to accept the consequences.

And in a perfect world, both.






Patrick Brown. Anonymous interviews. 2018 is ROUGH.

Alone and unstaffed, Patrick Brown runs out of the Ontario Legislature hounded by media.

I don’t like Patrick Brown; I never have.

We were in Ottawa at the same time, when he was a lacklustre backbencher, never rising above the level of an unassigned MP.

One of my friends worked on his Leadership campaign; she quit a few months in, thoroughly unimpressed.

As leader, his flip-flops on sex education and carbon taxes made me groan, and the apparent meddling in local nomination races were worrisome.

So, I don’t like him.

What occurred this week – the release of information detailing his unsuccessful attempts to “seduce” teen-agers – saw him literally running out of the Ontario Legislature, being chased by a crowd of reporters shouting questions. I expect his political career is now over.

Just to confirm what I believed to be true, I checked the Government of Canada website to read: the legal age for sex in Canada is 16. There are some extenuating circumstances, but generally speaking, 16.

(Full disclosure: I met my husband two weeks after my 17th birthday. I am now grappling with the fact that I should believe I was abused; it didn’t feel that way, though. We had our first baby when I was 21, and I have never looked back.)

While it’s illegal to give anyone under the age of 19 alcohol, one of the young women he met was in a bar, already drunk, at age of 18. Probably he did not ask to see her identification card.

Men have to up their game and re-examine their behaviour to be sure; no one is questioning that. It has become perhaps the biggest issue of 2018.

But young women also have to become more aware, A LOT more aware, of the effects of their behaviour on their physical safety.

An 18 year old who goes to a bar, gets drunk, goes home with a man and agrees to visit his bedroom has to know there is more going on than just a tour of his house. Otherwise, she should not be going to bars and getting drunk.

A 20 year old who visits a man’s bedroom after several drinks to view photos on his tablet – the single most transportable device ever invented – is naïve.

Men should not take advantage of women who are drunk, or who are naïve.

But, women should not be drunk and naïve.

At this year’s Golden Globe Awards, actresses all agreed to dress in black to protest the fact that men have been sexually harassing women.

Some of the black “protest dresses” amounted to little more than fishnet and lace, barely covering their vulvas or their nipples, as they hung off of their male escorts, producers, financiers. It is impossible to look at these photos without believing the women are pursuing, and receiving, something out of these relationships.

I made myself somewhat unpopular earlier this year when I proposed that rather than a #MeToo movement, we needed a #FuckYou movement.

“Any time a man proposes something inappropriate or outlandish just tell him, ‘Fuck you’!” I suggested to young women. I offered this advice in the spirit of believing that women possess enough personal power to control the situations in which they put themselves, like the young woman who told an amorous Patrick Brown, “Stop. I don’t want to do this Take me home.”

So he stopped, and he took her home. That was a good outcome. All women should keep that in mind, especially before they give anonymous media interviews that end mens’ careers.



Communications: Builders vs Politicians

My big brothers Jimmy and Wally are twins and both have been in construction their entire lives. They are both smart, generous, hard-working and funny. If my mom could have heard the language they adopted in construction, she would have washed their mouths out with soap. Still, they are the ones you want to have building your house; they are builders, not talkers.

I’ve been invited to sit on a panel at a conference of the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy to discuss the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Pearson Centre is not generally the kind of group that would invite a Conservative like me to address their members. I give all kinds of credit and kudos to them for being open to hearing opposing ideas and opinions.

I’ve thought a lot about what I would like to say, and I keep coming back to the difference between politicians and builders.

In politics, we work in the realm of thoughts, ideas, words, messages, and rhetoric. “Words ARE action in politics,” Ronald Reagan once noted. Sometimes, when I hear people speaking harsh or horrible words, it actually causes me to cringe in physical pain: my ears hurt.

Builders work in a different world, the world of concrete reality. “Matter matters,” my brother Paul observes.

I have six brothers and many nephews, and most of them are builders. They communicate using language so completely different than political rhetoric, I am sure it hurts the ears of many listeners.

My brother Jim, a builder for 40 years, is the best example. He has a repertoire of phrases that still make me laugh after decades.

“C’mon, people, we’re burning daylight!” he barks when the crew is not in action at 6am.

“C’mon, people, we’ve got a dime holding up a dollar!” he exclaims when a petty detail is holding up a project.

One day, Jim fired a man. The man returned to the jobsite the next day; he had a sawed-off cane handle tucked into the waistband of his pants, so it looked like he was carrying a gun.

“What did you do?” I gasped when Jim told me.

“What do you think I did?” he exclaimed. “I shit little blue putty balls!”

Oh….that was not the first thing I would have thought of, but I understood what he meant.

Jim was hired for the television show “Extreme Makeover” as Project Manager on the build of a house to be donated to a family in need, which would be featured on a special episode. The show also hired a handsome and charismatic actor to stand in front of the cameras and PRETEND to be the Project Manager, explaining to the audience what was going on.

Ten hours into the build, the show’s producer approached my brother: “We have a problem. Your team is building so fast, we can’t get all the shots we need. We need you to  slow down.”

”We can’t slow down. The volunteers already have their modified schedules,” Jim snapped back. “You’ll have to shoot faster.” They did.

While Jim’s words might hurt your ears, I have no doubt that if he was building your house, it would be perfect. If Jim did a walkthrough and the floor was not level or there was a gap around a window frame, the air would be purple with profanities. No amount of words, rhetoric, language or messaging could fix the problem: competent subs and trades will fix the problem. You might not appreciate his language, but you don’t want a talker to build your house. You want a builder.

Donald Trump is a builder. I’m sure his words hurt the ears of many listeners, but at this point in its history, I think America needs a builder, not a talker.

Happy anniversary!



Wishing you lots of Epiphanies

Somehow, I ended up with Six Kings, which hopefully means there will be even more Epiphanies around my house.

I must live in a rarefied world.

I was so surprised when a neighbour asked me after Christmas: “Aren’t you going to take down your Nativity decorations now that Christmas is over?”

“You mean, before the Epiphany?” I asked in a state of near-shock. “What would even be the point of putting up the Nativity, if you did not celebrate the Epiphany?”

I understand that much of the world celebrates Christmas on December 25th. As Will Ferrell states clearly in “Talladega Nights,” “Dear 8 pound, six ounce newborn infant Jesus,  with your tiny clenched fists…”

His character, Rikki Bobby, refused to accept the fact that Jesus Christ ever grew up or lived as an adult. He just loved the idea of Jesus as a new born baby, which we celebrate on Christmas morning.

As a child growing up in the Mid-west, however, my big sister Mary taught me the meaning of the Epiphany: Christ might have arrived on Christmas night. Unfortunately, human beings, dull as we are, did not grasp what His arrival meant until several days later. We are slow like that: God and Truth come to Earth one day. We figure out what it means weeks later. That’s just us. It doesn’t make us bad or stupid; it just makes us human. For some people, it takes days or weeks. For others, it takes years or decades; maybe a whole lifetime. The gap between the arrival and the realization is what makes humans, human.

Growing up in a family of 10 kids, doing dishes after dinner was a serious deal, and a real job. However, working with my big sister Mary, it never felt like work. I recall perfectly clearly the night she taught me the words to “We Three Kings” while she washed and I dried the dishes, pots and pans for dinner for 12 people.

“We Three Kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar…

Moor and Mountain

Field and Fountain

Following yonder star”

When we finished the dishes, I had to go find a dictionary to look up the word “moor,” which I had never heard before. Mary was mind-expanding that way; she also opened my mind to the fact that all people do not understand all ideas at the same time.

She introduced me to the ritual of moving the Three Kings around the house, moving them a little closer to the Nativity every day, although they never actually arrived until January 6th, the Epiphany.

Decades later, a co-worker complained to me: “Rita, your life is a series of endless daily Epiphanies!”

“And that is bad….how?” I spluttered. I always assumed an Epiphany is a GREAT thing.

Three years ago, we lost my big sister Mary to Alzheimer’s disease. How, I wondered, could a human being so full of sweetness and love could simply be…gone? It was an Epiphany I did not welcome.

This Christmas, my son David approached me and sighed, “Ma, I’m so sorry. Winner (his 100 pound Rottweiler) came to me with….a camel.” He held out a damaged camel, belonging to one of the Three Kings. The camel’s head had been mostly chewed off, puppy-Rottweiler style.

“Ah, well,” I laughed, “That will teach me to leave the Three Kings around the house, where dogs can reach them!”

Actually, I will still leave the Three Kings all around the house. Mary would have.








Democracy for Iran – finally?

It amazes me that I received these two Persian presents 15 years apart – yet the colour keys are virtually identical. The sight of them on my table makes me so happy.

“Even after all this time,

The Sun never says: ‘You owe me.’

Look what happens with a love like that:

It lights the world.”


I have to say – and perhaps I have a selective memory, but I don’t think so – that every Persian person I have met or taught or worked with has been a smart, hard-working, impressive person.

Possibly it’s because many of the smart, hard-working, impressive people picked up and got out of Iran when the going was good, decades ago. Possibly it’s just baked into their culture….Homa Arjomand, who organized the globe to fight Sharia law in Ontario 2005 was born in Iran. Many of the students in my Carnegie classes (almost always engineers) were born in Iran.

One year, when I was hired to run the Taxis on Patrol program, we had 12 finalist “heroes” to honour, and 9 of them were from Iran. The winner, an incredibly humble man who really did not want to be awarded anything, had a knife pulled on him at the back of his cab. He popped the trunk, pushed the assailant in, and drove to 52 Division Police station.

“I need an officer to come out to my car,” he informed the desk clerk. “There is a man with a knife in my trunk.”

“What is it with Iranians, that they are so proactive they make 9 of 12 nominations in this program? What were you thinking when you locked that guy in the trunk?” I asked the cab driver.

“Well, maybe it’s because where we come from, if you wait for the police, all the damage will be done before anybody comes to help you; so you help yourself. Besides,” he sighed, “that guy with the knife was so old and weak and spindly, he really could not have hurt anyone. I felt sorry for him.”

Imagine my delight when a Persian couple moved in across the street last summer. To welcome them, I made up a tiny paper plate of cookies to leave at their front door with a little “Welcome to Milligan Street” note. The next day, an ENORMOUS pink geranium appeared on my front porch, which bloomed for the entire summer.

A few months later, after a trip to ARZ, I made up a platter of dips and stuffed grape leaves and zucchini so I could “share the wealth” of my favourite store with them.

The next day, my neighbour appeared at my door with an absolutely gorgeous glass bowl for my dining room table. It sits atop a beautiful fabric runner which came from Shiraz, in Persia. (Shiraz is famous for two things: the grapes from which the popular wine is made, and the poet Hafiz.) I have given up trying to out-gift my Persian neighbours: it’s impossible.

Now, thousands of men and women in cities across Iran are protesting in the streets, demanding a Democratic government and better economic policies. I always felt the West let Iranians down during their Green Movement in 2009; I can’t do much now, but here is what Homa Arjomand is asking us to do:

  • Support the movement of people in Iran for freedom, equality, prosperity and secularism.
    • Distribute the news as soon as possible through various social media
    • Join the demonstration in support of people of Iran organized in the West by activists and freedom seekers
    • Request the Canadian government and all other Western governments to put pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to adopt a resolution for closing down all Iranian Embassies around the world.



Rita’s Wardrobe Malfunctions

My favourite Christmas sweater was abused in a “wardrobe malfunction.” It survived the ordeal.

I have had two wardrobe malfunctions in December, one of which was funny and one of which was definitely not.

First, I was driving in a tricky situation wearing “Fake Uggs.” I don’t want to smear Uggs because these are cheaper knock-offs I purchased elsewhere.

I was cheerfully driving up the road to drop off a Christmas bag of cookies, pickles and burritos to Farmer Doug who works the field behind my house. (“Thank a Farmer!”)  I could have just parked on the road, but instead I turned into the entranceway to the field, which is a fairly steep, short embankment which was also muddy.

When I moved my right foot to step on the brake, the rubber edge of my Fake Uggs got caught UNDER the brake pedal instead of resting on top of it. My car slid directly into a fencepost and under a fence board.

The rubber edge of my boot got caught under the brake pedal and did not want to let go! It was a vey scarey experience.

It was a really alarming experience! I cannot get out of my mind the picture of the consequences if that had happened elsewhere, say, at a crosswalk with a mom pushing a stroller, or on the 401 on an icy drive.

The good news is that it happened in a muddy field and a fence post stopped my car.

The bad news is, the impact dislodged my bumper slightly and dented my hood. Not a big dent, but noticeable.

When I got home and was able to survey the damage, I was dismayed. Damn! Money.

Recalling one of my favourite Red Green episodes, I decided to see if I could just hammer out the dent: I picked up a rubber mallet and tapped the bumper. It popped right back into place, which was great!

I decided not to approach the dent in the hood until the car was warmer; I assumed that would be better.

Yesterday, after a long day full of errands and a jolly Christmas party in Toronto which meant I got home at 8pm, I decided it was as good a time as any to see if I could tap out the dent in the hood, too. I was tired and space in the garage was tight; even with the light on, it was still pretty dim.

I propped open the hood and tapped from the underside with my trusty rubber mallet. Unfortunately, I could not tell from the underside of the hood if I was making any difference to the top, so I pulled out the prop rod and let the hood drop so I could check.

Whoops! The hood caught the edge of my favourite Christmas party sweater! “Crap!” I thought. “I hope I did not wreck the zipper.”

As it turned out, that was the least of my problems. Try as I might, I could not pinch the lever that releases the hood. I spent several minutes trying, and then finally gave up, too tired to persevere. “I’ll try again in the morning when the light is better,” I sighed, shrugging off my favourite Christmas sweater and leaving it hanging forlornly from the hood.

The good news is that in the morning, when I was not so tired, I realized that the reason I couldn’t open the hood was because it has to be popped from inside the car first – of course I knew that – and as soon as I did, my favourite sweater was released and the zipper was not damaged.

So what I learned this December: I won’t be driving wearing my Fake Uggs anymore. And I should be grateful for small miracles like helpful fence posts and sturdy sweaters. It’s not my wardrobe that malfunctions – it’s me.

Merry Christmas!















Challenging my American relatives at Thanksgiving

I can’t be in Michigan for American Thanksgiving this year, which makes me very sad.

I have no explanation for this, but I cannot get Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln” out of my mind. While slavery still exists today – horribly – in Africa and the Middle East, thousands of American men gave their lives to extinguish it in the United States of America. Yet somehow, if you consume very much of American media these days, you could come away with the idea that Americans are in SUPPORT of slavery. How did such a ludicrous idea take hold?

When Spielberg’s “Lincoln” was released, I booked the entire day off to attend the opening. I was surprised to see so few people in the theatre, as I assumed it would be considered a blockbuster.

The film lived up to every expectation that I had. Based upon Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals,” with a screenplay written by Tony Kushner (author of “Angels in America”), the story is absolutely thrilling. Lincoln decided, as the American Civil War ended, that all of the blood spilled and losses mounted during that war would be wasted if a new amendment to the Constitution – the 13th Amendment – was not passed. Lincoln made it his life’s mission to get it passed.

Frankly, I think every NFL player “taking a knee” during the national anthem should move to Somalia or Saudi Arabia ASAP.

Also, I am throwing down a challenge to every one of my American relatives: if you have not watched Spielberg’s “Lincoln” with your kids already, you should do so this holiday season.

Now, now, now.


Aunt Rita







Rita’s Nativity Story

Pete Hedemark decided one year to start building Nativity settings….I think I got the first one, in 1999. I loved it on sight! It has been one of my favourite parts of Christmas every year since. Even when it is empty, it is beautiful: we are waiting.

One Christmas, my brother Pete built me a wooden Nativity. I loved it from the first moment I saw it and have treasured it ever since.

A generous friend saw how much I loved the Nativity structure and bought me a set of wooden figurines. Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, the shepherds and angels were rustically hand-carved in Germany and very lovely.

Unfortunately, they were also extremely brittle. I learned this when my cat ran across the roof and tipped it over. Two of the shepherds snapped in half! I was dismayed, but philosophical. I could get by with two less shepherds.

Then, I stopped home one busy workday to be greeted by my housekeeper Krys and her daughter Kirsten. Krys had been part of our family as a babysitter since she was eleven years old, and we had a great working arrangement: after her babies were born, I offered to pay her to look after my house and bring her own kids with her. She did not have to pay for daycare and I did not have to worry about the endless important details of looking after a home. It made for a very happy house, and most days it worked out perfectly.

Except on this day, which was so traumatic I still cry thinking about it.

Krys met me at the door with four-year-old Kirsten, who had tears streaming down her sweet little cheeks.

“Show Rita what you did,” Krys commanded.

Sobbing and hiccupping, Kirsten held out her shaking hands. The Joseph figurine was broken into two pieces. Joseph’s head was in one hand, while his torso was in the other. I have never seen a little girl so frightened and heartbroken.

“Oh my God, those crappy Nativity pieces!” I exploded. “Who makes Nativity pieces that no one can touch?” Without even setting down my car keys, I turned around and left the house.

Krys had no idea of where I was going. She half thought she was going to be fired.

I jumped in my van and drove straight to FlatIron’s Christmas Market.  “I have got to buy some Nativity pieces which are unbreakable,” I told the saleswoman.

“Oh, you need the Fontanini pieces,” she informed me. She led me to the back wall of the store – past numerous locked glass display cases of hand-carved wooden pieces, I observed morosely. Who makes Nativity pieces that no one can touch?

Even when the manger is empty, we still worship: we are waiting. The My Little Pony was added by a little girl who loved this Nativity; I have loved it ever since. She belongs there.

The Fontanini display was incredible! Mary, Joseph, Jesus, shepherds, angels, Kings, oxen, asses, camels, sheep, rams, dogs…all in hard, painted resin which could be endlessly handled and washed. I lost my mind, picking out all the figures I wanted. The Nativity, to me, represented every important thing humanity needs: love, hope, optimism, shelter, warmth, respect, caring. Joy.  Work. Responsibility. Mothers. Fathers. Family.

I bought a duplicate Mary, Joseph and Jesus to give to Kirsten as a gift.

And then, I got to the cash register: $400 worth of figurines. I swallowed hard and presented my credit card; there was no looking back now.

I arrived home with my bags of figurines and enlisted Kirsten to help me set up the new Nativity. “You can play with these all you want,” I assured her. “That is the whole point of a Nativity: kids should play with the people. That’s how you learn what is important.”

Imagine my delight when, a few days later, I asked Krys if I should get my brother to build a Nativity for Kirsten.

“Oh, don’t worry about that!” Krys laughed. “Kirsten emptied out her Barbie house and put Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus in it. They already have a home.”

Love, hope, optimism, shelter, warmth, respect, caring.  Joy. Work. Responsibility. Mothers. Fathers. Family.

Merry Christmas!












Let me flag some information for you…

Flags are important symbols. Anthems are too. To pretend that flagrantly denying the protocols of their use is not disrespectful is delusional.


When I was a political staffer in Ontario, the Protocol Office was run by a brilliant and fabulous man, Ernesto Feu.

He had a dramatic accent and an exceedingly generous nature; calling him to ask a question on provincial, national or international protocol was always a delightful experience.

“Thank you for calling! I am so glad you called! What can I do to help you?” Ernesto’s enthusiasm about protocol was more than impressive; it was inspiring. If the purpose of protocol is to make people feel comfortable, Ernesto Feu was the living embodiment of it.

I called him once to ask about the protocol around the placement of flags on a stage when an international statesman visited Ontario. He carefully detailed for me the exact placement of the flags on the stage so that we would position them as a visiting dignitary would expect. He even sketched it out and faxed it over to me.

I recall, also, unpacking a set of Canadian flags at an event in Ottawa; the young event planner working with me burst into tears when she saw how wrinkled the flags were. She ran out to borrow a hand steamer and was frantically steaming the wrinkles out of the flags right up until the moment the Cabinet Ministers approached the stage.

All of which leads me to the events of the past few weeks, with NFL ball players “taking a knee” during the American national anthem and the flags waving while it is performed.

That’s one thing, I get it, they wanted to protest and opted to take advantage of the attention afforded them by the playing of the national anthem and the veneration of the flag at an NFL game to make the biggest splash possible.

While that has been hard enough to swallow, what’s even harder is listening to their spokespersons on multiple media appearances denying the fact that these actions are in anyway disrespectful.

“We love America! We love the flag! We respect our military!” one kept crying on FoxNews last night. He seemed oblivious to the fact that his words and his actions were in complete conflict.

Earth to the NFL: there are protocols which are internationally agreed upon, acknowledged and accepted, and they have been for centuries. It’s called “civilization.” Some protocols are actually written down and codified; others are only traditional but equally important.

If you feel you must show disrespect for the basic tenets of any nation’s most cherished traditions, at least have the courage of your convictions and admit that’s what you’re doing.

Disrespecting the flag, the anthem and the military and then hoping to get some kind of credit by claiming you love all these traditions is not just an insult to these symbols; it’s an insult to our intelligence. I’m sure there is some kind of protocol, codified or traditional, which states “Do not imply that your fellow citizens are complete gullible imbeciles.”

Ernesto Feu, God rest his gracious soul, must be rolling over in his grave.


Statues no problem for Obama – why?

During Obama’s 8 year presidency, no one ever requested that a Confederate statue or monument be removed. How odd.

There is no happier day for a political activist, a paid lobbyist or a concerned citizen than the day a government which shares their views is elected to office.

Whether you are an environmentalist fighting for protections, a business owner hoping for lower taxes, or a beleaguered driver who despises photo radar, the day “your” team takes over government is a day to celebrate and then double-down on your efforts to achieve regulatory change.

I worked for Canada’s conservative Minister of Health when we decided to ban Bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby products. This move was greeted with ecstatic support by the left wing group Environmental Defense, headed up by former NDP staffer Rick Smith. We worked together for a rare period of time when the desires of both sides of the political spectrum coincided completely.

It was one of the best initiatives on which I ever worked. The day before the event, I mentioned it would be great to have some moms with babies at the announcement.

“Oh, I know lots of moms,” Rick offered. “I can make some calls.”

The next day, a parade of moms came pouring into the media briefing, commandeering the entire front row in order to park their strollers. It was fantastic!

It was a surreal experience to have Rick at our press conference, not criticising our government but instead speaking in full support of the ban. He held his own scrum, competently taking media questions on the political and scientific implications in French and English.

Which leads me to draw a comparison between our BPA ban and the Charlottesville street riots protesting Confederate statues and monuments. In the event that any of my friends actually believe these outrageous violent clashes had anything whatsoever to do with Confederate monuments, I suggest you ask yourself: where were all of these people and their organizations during the eight years Barack Obama was president?

Had these groups truly been motivated to seek change, they would have had Obama’s office on speed-dial the day after his election in 2008. They would have held productive meetings, developed practical plans, and moved forward with the work required to get the Confederate monuments removed.

Obama would have held an announcement event, flanked by supportive members of a wide variety of groups. He would have pointed proudly to the initiative in speeches and press conferences. What could have been better than to have America’s first black president address historic grievances which were causing untold pain for millions of Americans?

Why did none of this occur?

Because the trumped-up Charlottesville conflicts were designed to achieve one goal: discredit President Donald Trump. You have to admit, it looks pretty bad on him; only six months into his presidency, and already race riots are breaking out across the nation.

The good news is, race riots are not breaking out across America. A friend just returned from a vacation in South Carolina and knew nothing of the supposed “race riots” until he read about it in Canada.

“There was no tension anywhere…there were white families enjoying the beach and black families enjoying the beach and Indian families enjoying the beach and mixed families enjoying everything, and everyone existed in harmony,” he wrote. No one was trying to tear down anything, he noted, mystified by the media hysteria.

Most of my family lives in Detroit and they report only booming business, Tiger games and weekend landscaping projects.

Ignore the trumped-up news. The Americans are alright.