Category Archives: Society

Powerful and award-winning Ghosts of Violence ballet returns to Moncton on Friday, Oct. 4

Ghosts of Violence - Moncton - Oct. 4, 2013
Don’t miss Ghosts of Violence at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.

Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada Artistic Director Igor Dobrovolskiy tackles the subject of intimate-partner violence in Ghosts of Violence, the powerful and award-winning ballet that was named Best Ballet with a Conscience by The Globe and Mail Senior Dance Critic Paula Citron in 2012. Written by theatre icon Sharon Pollock, this production is inspired by women who have lost their lives at the hands of an intimate partner and represents a touching and innovative platform for awareness and understanding.

Ghosts of Violence returns to Moncton on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. Click here to purchase your tickets now. (Click on the photo for a larger version of the poster.)

Paula Deen deserves forgiveness after sincere apology

HHump Dayump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Celebrity chef Paula Deen is in hot water this week because she’s admitted to using racist language in the past. Many are outraged. The Food Network has dropped her show. At least one of her sponsors has also bailed, Smithfield Foods. Others will likely follow. Her cookbooks publisher is on the fence, waiting to see if the winds shift in her favour.

Paula Deen crying during June 26, 2013, interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
Paula Deen crying during her June 26, 2013, interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s The Today Show.

No one can condone what she said. Specifically, she’s admitted to using the “N” word on a number of occasions, but she says she’s not racist. Some former employees claim they’ve been mistreated because of their race, while others have leapt to her defence, including African-American friends who know her personally.

Meanwhile, she’s made two videos apologizing for her language and asking for forgiveness. This week, she’ll also be appearing on NBC’s The Today Show after missing an earlier scheduled interview. While I can’t predict what she’ll say, her friends at The Today Show will likely ask some tough questions for which she’d better have some good answers. She’ll likely ask for forgiveness again.

Before this most recent controversy, critics were also being hard on Ms. Deen for the recipes she put forward in her magazine, cookbooks and cooking shows. They say her food is unhealthy and she should know better, especially after admitting to being recently diagnosed with diabetes.

On that particular point, I say it’s a free world. Her recipes are clearly not made for eating day in and day out or you’ll find yourself having the wall of your bedroom being cut out by firefighters as they attempt to get a crane into your bedroom to get you out of your house. While her recipes aren’t exactly health food, a treat now and then won’t hurt you. And if you can’t control yourself, then stay away from her recipes. Pretty simple, if you ask me.

Now, in all this hubbub over her choice of language and the anger it has caused from the public and critics — and the angry reaction of fans toward The Food Network for cancelling her show — one thing has gotten lost in all of this.

The woman has asked for forgiveness. I believe her when she says she’s sorry. I truly do. I know media critics have gone nuts over how bad her first video was (I didn’t see that one), but I did see the second apology video and can tell you that at least in my opinion it was downright pitiful, especially if you’re a Paula Deen fan like me.

I’ve watched her for years and can’t imagine her having a mean bone in her body. Sure, the inappropriate language is not acceptable, but from the African-Americans who’ve been in the media who are friends of hers, they’re defending her. I give a lot credence to that. If there were hordes of people coming out of the woodwork screaming, “Well, it’s about time!” then I may not be so forgiving.

But I have a really hard time not forgiving someone who sincerely asks for my forgiveness. Unless they have done something so heinous toward me, I would hope that I would forgive them. I consider myself a pretty good judge of character, and I just don’t see Paula Deen as some sort of racist monster. I just don’t. Maybe I’m being naïve. Maybe she’s got some Jekyll-and-Hyde thing going on, but I doubt it.

When I see her smile and listen to that southern drawl, I just don’t see or hear the cruelty, fear and ignorance of a racist. I know that many times when someone I know personally or a celebrity does something questionable, I’ll often say, “I always thought there was something ‘off’ about them. My intuition was right!” But not with Paula Deen. Didn’t see that one coming.

I believe her when she’s says she’s sorry. I really do.

Now, many out there may think I’m nuts to give her a break, but let me assure you that likely every one of us would be in her position if everything we’d said in the past would be put in the media for others to judge. Words that are out of context. Words that were said before we evolved and matured. Words that were said out of anger or fear.

As for me, I’m pretty sure people would be crossing the street to avoid me if some of the stuff I’ve said in the past would be put to public judgment. I have a raunchy and politically incorrect sense of humour. Among a select group of close friends, I like to shock people by saying inappropriate things for the sake of humour — and we all laugh. But trust me, if someone recorded what I say and put it out there and out of context, you’d probably rather hang out with Adolf Hitler than me.

Of course, if we offend, we must apologize and we must ask for forgiveness, right? Right. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t we also have some sense of obligation to accept that apology and give the person another chance? Are we really going to throw someone’s career to the crocodiles over one word used in the past — a word they admit was wrong and a word for which they’ve apologized?

My hope for Paula Deen is that she has the strength to weather this storm of controversy. It won’t be easy. My hope for those who are bashing her over the head for this even though she’s begged for forgiveness is that you find a shred of decency in your hearts to give her a second chance. After all, you may be the one asking for forgiveness one day after something you’ve said or done. And we all have to do that at some point.

Excellent satire from the U.S. re: same-sex marriage

I love good satire — and this isn’t just good… it’s great! Although same-sex marriage is no longer an issue in Canada (it’s legal everywhere), it still has a way to go in the U.S., but the tide seems to be turning if gay-friendly referendum results in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington are any indication. For or against it, though, this is pretty clever.

Here, American gay guys tell American straight guys that they’ll start marrying their girlfriends if they don’t start supporting same-sex marriage. Don’t think they can? They make a pretty convincing argument.

Some of the most biting satire is found in humour. (Warning: Some strong language.)

Hump Day: Provincial archives open door to fascinating family histories

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Have you ever found a website that has you obsessed? I’m sure you have. Lately, I’ve become enamoured with a website that has sucked me into its mysterious vortex of fascinating discoveries, family secrets and tragedy.

Believe it or not, I’m talking about the New Brunswick Provincial Archives. On the surface, this probably sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry, but I fully admit I’m now a big fan of the best kept secret in New Brunswick for anyone interested in doing research on the histories of their family, friends and neighbours.

It’s quite fascinating to look through their searchable vital statistics archives, especially the detailed marriage and death certificates from early in the last century up until 1960. While not that terribly long ago, I managed to find out a lot of stuff that I didn’t know before — most of it rather sad, some of it mundane, all of it interesting.

Some of the human errors are downright baffling. I wonder if some of these record-takers were drinking on the job, but then again, maybe there are some deep dark secrets of which I’m not aware. For instance, somehow my uncle Normand became a Melanson instead of a Cormier on his marriage certificate. Not sure how that happened, but there didn’t seem to be any whiskey stains on the photo of the archived document, so the person who wrote the document appears to have been sober, if not distracted.

Every family has mental illness, depression or developmental challenges throughout its history, but thank goodness the terminology has changed for the better.

While I certainly realize that the terminology used for various ailments back in the 1930s was considered fine at the time, similar words used these days would literally cause jaws to drop. Even the outdated and now-offensive term “mentally retarded” would have been kind when compared to the underlying ailment noted on my poor great-uncle Alyre’s death certificate: “idiocy.”

He died in 1933 in the Saint John Provincial Hospital. He was my paternal grandfather’s brother and was born severely developmentally challenged. Back then, with zero support and no idea how to manage these individuals, they were often institutionalized. This is exactly what happened to young Alyre, who died at 34.

My cousin tells me that our great-aunt once told her that, as children, Alyre would sit alone in the corner of the room cowering in fear of the other children. It must have been so sad to see that. No one back then — the 1900s and 1910s — would have had a clue what to do, I’m sure, other than simply send them off somewhere.

And I’m certainly not being judgmental of my great-grandparents. It’s just what was done. With 10 or 12 kids per family and barely enough money to feed everyone, the challenge of caring for a child like this would have been too much for many to handle. Coupled with the lack of education, understanding and support — well, they were simply doomed to be institutionalized, for the most part.

I could just imagine this poor little boy not understanding any of his surroundings and his family not understanding him. While childhood photos of most of the other children likely existed, I doubt he was memorialized on film.

He died on Jan. 14, 1933, after about 2.5 years in the Saint John Provincial Hospital. The death certificate cites chronic myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) as the cause of death, with “idiocy” as a contributing factor. I printed the death certificate and still shake my head. That term seems so cruel in this day and age. I can’t imagine the conditions there in the 1930s. It couldn’t have been pleasant.

Then there was my great-great-grandmother, Julienne Robichaud, who died on May 13, 1923. She was on my paternal grandmother’s side, so no relation to Alyre. She also died in the Saint John Provincial Hospital, much to my surprise when I read her death certificate more closely while researching this column.

Julienne died of loban pneumonia, with the main contributing factor of “recurrent mania” listed. I’m assuming that “recurrent mania” is what we likely call bipolar disorder these days. According to the death certificate, it’s something from which she suffered for 50 years. She entered the hospital on April 4, 1923, and lasted just over a month until succumbing on May 13.

Another death certificate for my paternal grandfather’s sister Emélie clarified that she died of stomach cancer at the young age of 35 on Sept. 29, 1943. Family legend had her dying of lung cancer, but the death certificate is crystal clear in that regard. It even notes that she had surgery in August — likely a futile attempt at stopping the disease or perhaps a way to determine how far it had progressed. There were no MRIs back then.

The terminology on marriage certificates was understandably outdated in those days, too. For an unmarried man, the rather benign “bachelor” was used — a term still used today, especially on reality television. But for women, the horrible term for single back then was “spinster,” an image that conjures up images of an 80-year-old woman living by herself with 35 cats. Today, we just use the word “single.”

If you have Internet access, New Brunswick’s Provincial Archives website is an excellent place to find out more about your family. The good, the bad — and the tragic.

Social Media Matters: Facebook growth seems unstoppable

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, April 27, 2012
Metro section

Facebook growth seems unstoppable

Facebook continues to bulldoze its way into the lives of Internet users – not that there’s anything wrong with that if you are careful with how you use it.

FacebookIn advance of an IPO (initial public offering), the company announced that its user numbers have grown to more than 900 million, while sales in the first quarter of 2012 hit $1.1 billion, resulting in a $205-million profit. According to a CNNMoney report, the number of Facebook users who visited the website in the first quarter of 2012 was 33 per cent higher than during the same period in 2011.

According to the report, of those 900 million users, Facebook estimates that about 45 million (or five per cent) are fake accounts.

Interested in New Brunswick genealogy?

If so, there’s a provincial government website that will set your heart all aflutter if you haven’t already discovered it: the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

The website is definitely one on which you can inadvertently end up spending literally hours, especially if you know the names of your relatives who passed away, were born or were married before 1961. Their searchable vital statistics area is fascinating.

I found copies of death certificates for some of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. These are interesting because the length of stay in the hospital is noted (if applicable), as well as the cause of death. There are many other details, including their birthdates and the names of their parents, making verification of facts that much easier. With so many similar Acadian (in my case) names way back when, it can get confusing. It seems like every boy was Joseph and every girl was Marie.

Mathilde Robichaud
Mathilde Robichaud

For instance, I discovered that my great-grandmother Mathilde (Robichaud) Cormier died on February 11, 1959, at the Hotel Dieu (now the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont University Hospital Centre) and spent eight days there before succumbing to coronary thrombosis and acute pulmonary edema brought on by hypertension (high blood pressure). It even states the funeral home that took care of the arrangements. In her case, it was Frenette’s Funeral Home and the burial took place in the Shediac Road cemetery.

Meanwhile, her mother-in-law was Antoinette (Gautreau) Cormier – my great-great-grandmother. She died on April 25, 1931, at the age of 83, apparently at home because no hospital is listed. Cause of death was a heart attack caused by chronic nephritis and arteriosclerosis. She was buried in the Shediac Road Cemetery on April 27, 1931, and the funeral arrangements were handled by Moncton Undertaking Co.

This week’s featured YouTube channels

Each week, I suggest three YouTube channels for you to check out. Statistics are current to April 24. Have a favourite channel? Let me know about it and I may feature it here!

Cory Monteith
Cory Monteith

1) Straight But Not Narrow (6,893 subscribers): The recent beating death in Halifax of Raymond Taavel has raised questions about whether or not it was a hate crime (because Taavel was gay) or the act of a mentally ill man on an unescorted leave from a forensic psychiatric hospital. It may have been one or the other – or a combination of both. As the investigation continues, this may become clearer. In the meantime, as people throughout Halifax and beyond have come out to pay tribute to Taavel and protest his violent death, there are definitely straight allies for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community out there. Straight But Not Narrow is a YouTube channel hosted by and featuring straight people that is ‘working to positively impact the way teens view and treat their LGBT peers,’ according to its channel description. Celebrities featured on the channel include Cory Monteith – Finn on Glee – and Ryan Rottman who played Shane on the current revival of 90210. (Most popular video: Josh Hutcherson is Straight But Not Narrow – 570,703 views.)

Sharon Gless
Sharon Gless

2) The Trevor Project (14,057 subscribers): According to its YouTube channel description, ‘The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.’ The organization is based in the U.S. The channel hosts a number of videos, including public service announcements by celebrities such as Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey and Queer as Folk, and Chris Colfer who plays Kurt on Glee. (Most popular video: Chris Colfer for The Trevor Project – It Gets Better – 1,120,237 views.)

Dan Savage
Dan Savage

3) It Gets Better Canada (275 subscribers): The It Gets Better movement was founded in the U.S. in 2010 by writer Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller. While the U.S. version of the YouTube channel is much more active than the Canadian version with nearly 44,000 subscribers and 3.5 million video views), the Canadian channel’s only video is worth checking out. The It Gets Better campaign aims to reduce suicides among LGBT youth. The only Canadian edition of the video series features Rick Mercer of The Mercer Report and ballet dancer Rex Harrington, among a number of others. (Most popular video: It Gets Better Canada – 228,568 views.)