Preserved Stories Blog

Conserving Long Branch – August 2016 Update from David Godley

The Photoshop overlay is from David Godley.

The Photoshop overlay regarding 9 Meaford Ave. is from David Godley. Click on image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

The following message is from David Godley of Long Branch:

Summer Greetings form Long Branch

New applications

11 Walnut, Variances. Scheduled Sept. 1, 2016 Committee of Adjustment (COA)

5 Ramsgate, Severance and variance for soldier houses (3 storey soldier houses 0.35 to 0.69 density) [Note from Jaan Pill: Soldier house is a local expression for a very narrow house, standing tall at attention on a very narrow lot. The soldier house usually also takes up most of the back yard of the lot.]

5 31st St, Severances and Variances for soldier houses (3 storey soldier houses 0.35 to 0.59 density)

40 37th St, Severances and Variances for soldier houses (3 storey soldier houses 0.35 to 0.69 density)

22 33rd St, Severances and Variances for soldier houses

July 7, 2016 decisions at COA

93 Lake Promenade, 9 Meaford, 20 Elton DEFERRED for further input

16 25th Approved

This information is not available for Etobicoke York on line currently so no details are given.

The change over to digital applications will improve service soon so that elevations can be viewed online.

Committee of Adjustment Staff will make the information available at their counter in the interim.

August 4, 2016 agenda at COA

2 Shamrock. Severance and variances for two 3 storey soldier houses from 0.35 density to 0.62.(4pm). This could mean 6 soldier houses in a row since 4 Shamrock has been appealed to the OMB (October 17 hearing).

78 29th St, Variances to increase a single house in an area of bungalows to 3 storeys and density of 0.72 from 0.35.(5pm)

Planning comments

The neighbourhood has been shocked by Planning Department’s comments on 9 Meaford severance and variances.

The Department has no concerns about two 3 storey soldier houses at 0.70 (double the density permitted) on a low density street.

This issue has become a lightening rod for Planning’s future role. Is this a “one off” or a new strategy.

This is particularly surprising in view of the Planning Act’s recent inclusion that “A sense of Place” is now a consideration for all planning issues.

In addition the OMB have twice ruled that where a proposal exceeds a feature of an area eg 3 storey compared to existing 2 storey, this does not match the test of respecting and reinforcing character.

This is referred to as the “parameters” test.

July 29, 2016 letter from David Godley [headings have been added, for ease of online reading]

Hello Neil and Jill,

Trust you are making the most of our summer weather.

Thank you for Jennifer Keesmaat’s letter dated 11 July [see below] and undertaking presence of Urban Design staff at the 9 Meaford community forum.

I am still trying to come to terms with the consistency of the 9 Meaford Planning comments. I am sending this letter without full information as to why the comments seem so different to previously. If I have made incorrect assumptions please let me know.

9 Meaford Avenue

I suspect the change of direction in Planning Department comments (on 9 Meaford) must have come from an administrative source.

I also suspect this is a new strategy rather than a “one off”. The community will be interested in Planning comments on future applications.

I can see the Department and the City is making limited headway with the OMB in that 70% of refusals supported by Department (and local community) have been approved by the OMB (erroneously in my opinion). The OMB therefore is responsible for lots of valuable planner time having little impact.

The old axiom that appearance/aesthetics is not part of planning is rampant at the OMB because they have little comprehension of urban design.

Urban Design policy in Official Plan

There are 11 pages of policy on Urban Design in the Official Plan and the Neighbourhood policies are mostly about the third dimension.

Planners also often do not have urban design training, especially the development-oriented planners; or they are hiding it well!

There is no input from the City’s Urban Design section on severance and variance applications.

So the whole thrust of the Official Plan, including direction of density away from neighbourhoods, is being lost. And so is the character of Long Branch.

Leaking basements, underground streams

Another issue raising its head in Long Branch is that there is an overall problem with leaking basements due to underground streams, so much so that owners have to pay increased insurance premiums. I believe this has been taken up by our Councillor.

However there is cause for hope in that we now have an enlightened chief executive at the helm of ELTO and therefore OMB. [Note from David Godley in response to question from Jaan Pill: ELTO (Environmental and Land Tribunals of Ontario) is the umbrella group for OMB, Assessment Review Board, etc.]

Bruce Krushelnicki is actively participating in the Province’s Review of the OMB, even proactively initiating consultations of his own. There is a possibility of real change.

Local Appeal Board process

Also the LAB process should kick in shortly and promises to be fairer. Repeat refusals in line with the Official Plan would staunch the flow of new applications.

In OMB decisions PL151145 and 150665 there is an analysis on character respect and reinforcement.

Both decisions draw on the parameters of the existing neighbourhood development and find that going beyond the parameters is not in accordance with the Official Plan.

For example if there are no 3 storey houses in an area of consideration then a three storey house does not meet respect and reinforcement of neighbourhood character.

The community depend almost entirely on the Planning Department to be able to shape their neighbourhood.

At present the citizen, who is most impacted, has the least say.

The Planning Department having no concerns about applications, such as 3 storey soldier houses, leaves the community, the Councillor and the overall City in the lurch.

If the “U turn” comments are based on administration then at least the Department’s stand should be neutral.

Defense of Official Plan

Perhaps increase in severance application fees could enable staff to carry on defending the Official Plan.

Without Planning staff attending appeal hearings the Department has no accountability.

Also for specific staff I believe they are having to compromise their planning principles.

I am still pushing for detached houses with secondary suites as a solution to splitting lots.
Affordable housing and one person households with “accessibility” are the needs of the future.

25% of households here are single and increasing; in Scandanavia they are heading towards 50%.

A single person suite with verandah in a neighbourhood is the socially acceptable solution. In addition there is no incentive for an applicant to compromise at a community forum.

Prospects for Urban Design Guidelines Study

Any recommendations from the Urban Design Guidelines Study will be emaciated.

I am particularly interested in the process. Without a sound process we will never have sound planning.

Sometimes it seems like one step forward, two steps back.

If you have any information or comments that could help I would appreciate receiving them.

Yours truly,

David Godley

401 Lake Promenade
Toronto M8W 1C3

[End of text]

Letter from Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner and Executive Director, City of Toronto, to David Godley regarding 9 Meaford Avenue

Click below to access the letter as a PDF file:

Letter to David Godley – 9 Meaford Avenue-2

The text reads:

David Godley
401 Lake Promenade
Toronto, ON M8W 1C3

July 11, 2016

Dear Mr. Godley:

Committee of Adjustment Application for 9 Meaford Avenue (B29/16EYK, A338/16EYK and A339/16EYK)

Thank you for your email dated June 30, 2016. I understand through communication with West District Planning staff that this was a very difficult application and that much thought and consideration went into arriving at the position. I appreciate your concern and want to assure you that a fulsome review was undertaken against all of the relevant policies in the Official Plan, including in particular, Section 4.1.5. Staff also reviewed the application for conformity with the new Neighbourhoods policies adopted through Official Plan Amendment No. 320.

Although Staff were of the view that the application met the requirements outlined in the Planning Act, due to the community concern in Long Branch, staff recommended a deferral for a community meeting, which the Committee of Adjustment concurred with at the July 7, 2016 hearing. This will provide members of the community an opportunity to discuss concerns and potential revisions with the applicant. Your point regarding involving Urban Design staff is well taken. Urban Design staff will assist at the upcoming community meeting (date to be determined).

I am very pleased to hear that the Neighbourhood Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project in Long Branch is off to a great start. I truly appreciate your participation in this important initiative. The design guidelines will assist neighbourhood associations, community groups, home owners, and land owners interested in redevelopment as well as City Staff, the Committee of Adjustment and City Council in assessing future proposals in terms of how they will ‘fit’ with the context and existing neighbourhood character.

Thank you for your continued involvement.   Your participation is valued and is of great assistance.


Jennifer Keesmaat, MES, MCIP, RPP
Chief Planner and Executive Director
City Planning Division

c, John Livey, Deputy City Manager

[End of text]

Previous posts regarding Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project

How to read the streets of Long Branch: Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project is now underway

Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project has been launched in Long Branch

Please spread the word among your neighbours regarding situation involving property damage along Long Branch Avenue

Neighbourhood Urban Design Guidelines Template, “How To” Manual and Pilot Project

You can find additional posts by searching for “Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines” at the Preserved Stories website.

Previous posts regarding 9 Meaford Avenue

Click here for previous posts regarding 9 Meaford Avenue >

Among the latter posts is a post entitled:

Options regarding Photoshop overlays depicting severance proposals related to Committee of Adjustment & OMB meetings


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A significant and valuable July 29, 2016 Guardian article by Stephen Hawking, who like some others of us is disabled

A July 29, 2016 Guardian article by Stephen Hawking is entitled: “Our attitude towards wealth played a crucial role in Brexit. We need a rethink.”

The subhead reads: “Money was a key factor in the outcome of the EU referendum. We will now have to learn to collaborate and to share.”

The opening paragraphs read:

Does money matter? Does wealth make us rich any more? These might seem like odd questions for a physicist to try to answer, but Britain’s referendum decision is a reminder that everything is connected and that if we wish to understand the fundamental nature of the universe, we’d be very foolish to ignore the role that wealth does and doesn’t play in our society.

I argued during the referendum campaign that it would be a mistake for Britain to leave the European Union. I’m sad about the result, but if I’ve learned one lesson in my life it is to make the best of the hand you are dealt. Now we must learn to live outside the EU, but in order to manage that successfully we need to understand why British people made the choice that they did. I believe that wealth, the way we understand it and the way we share it, played a crucial role in their decision. As the prime minister, Theresa May, said in her first week in office: “We need to reform the economy to allow more people to share in the country’s prosperity.”

[End of excerpt]

Later in the article, Stephen Hawking notes:

So I would be the last person to decry the significance of money. However, although wealth has played an important practical role in my life, I have of course had a different relationship with it to most people. Paying for my care as a severely disabled man, and my work, is crucial; the acquisition of possessions is not. I don’t know what I would do with a racehorse, or indeed a Ferrari, even if I could afford one. So I have come to see money as a facilitator, as a means to an end – whether it is for ideas, or health, or security – but never as an end in itself.

Interestingly this attitude, for a long time seen as the predictable eccentricity of a Cambridge academic, is now more widely shared. People are starting to question the value of pure wealth. Is knowledge or experience more important than money? Can possessions stand in the way of fulfilment? Can we truly own anything, or are we just transient custodians?

[End of excerpt]


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Please spread the word among your neighbours regarding situation involving property damage along Long Branch Avenue

Goldfish from pond; the lens cap is included to provide a sense of scale.

Dead goldfish from pond at back of house on west side of Long Branch Avenue. The lens cap is included to provide a sense of scale: these are large goldfish. The fish died when the pond was poisoned. The incident occurred in July 2016.

I would like to follow up on a recent post at the Long Branch Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group.

At the above-noted Facebook group, I have described instances where plants at the back, front, and sides of a house on the west side of Long Branch Avenue – between Dominion Road and Muskoka Avenue – have been damaged or destroyed through application of a noxious substance.

Property damage including a broken glass panel at the front of the house and a destroyed doorknob at a shed has also been observed.


As a result of the Facebook postings, several neighbours have become involved in discussions related to the ongoing situation. In some cases neighbours are getting to know each other for the first time.

What each of us as Long Branch residents can do, regarding such a situation, is to spread the word.

The situation involves entry to the property from a direction that avoids security cameras at the house in question.

At the post you are now reading, I’ve shared some photos documenting the damage that has occurred at the house – and, as I understand at other houses in the area – over a period of time including in October 2015 and July 2016.

Damage associated with application of a noxious chemical.

Damage associated with application of noxious chemical.

Fish in a pond have been poisoned, and many garden vegetables at the back of the house such as rhubarb, corn, wild ginger, and beets have been affected along with many trees.

I have discussed with the owners possible next steps in addressing the situation.


Hibiscus – the plants on the right have withered following application of noxious substance.

I have suggested that, along with other steps, it would be a great idea to establish contact with the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association (currently in the process of being formed).

How can you help? You can help by spreading the word and by maintaining vigilance in the event you live in the area.

The concept behind Neighbourhood Watch is that we keep our eyes open on behalf of our community, and keep each other informed. Tremendous value in working together!

Does a nearby neighbour have a pool?

One of the discussions at the Long Branch Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group involved a question about possible other causes for damage to the plants.

Question: Jaan, do you know if a nearby neighbour has a pool? Prior to us moving into our current home [on another street to the west of Long Branch Avenue], there was a neighbour who would drain their pool water onto adjacent lots rather than toward this street. This ended up killing many plants and a tree in our backyard. Just a thought.

Broken door panel,

Broken door panel.

Jaan: I have been to the site. There are indications of stems and leaves of plants having been cut. Tree bark on many trees has been cut, and a chemical, harmful to the tree, has been inserted into the cuts.

Plants on left have been poisoned.

Plants on left have been poisoned.

This has been happening over a considerable period of time, as some of the cuts in the trees are still visible but have healed over. Some plants have been harmed but not destroyed; some have been destroyed.

Attempts have been made to destroy a particular tree by inserting some chemical at the point where the limbs reach out from the trunk. From my site visit, I do not see any evidence that would suggest that drainage from a neighbour’s swimming pool would account for damage that is observable.

[End of Q & A]

Has Toronto Police Service been notified?

Toronto Police Service has been notified. They have taken a report by phone, and have indicated that a surveillance photo is what TPS requires, as I understand.

Black elderberry, which has been subjected to slashing and poisoning.

We have subsequently received the following helpful information from a member of the above-noted Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group:

Toronto Police Service has consistently emphasized the importance of having officers dedicated to neighbourhoods in order to:

• build trust and strengthen community partnerships,
• aid in the understanding of the local environment,
• identify, prioritize and reduce crime and disorder, and
• assist in developing solutions to reduce crime and disorder.

Poisoned corn plant.

Poisoned corn plant.

Community members interested in speaking with their assigned Neighbourhood Officer(s) are encouraged to telephone the 22 Division Community Response Office at 416-808-2219.

Const. Matt Steele #10460
Const. Mario Kulina #90056

Email also works – e.g.,

In the centre of the photo is a tree that has been poisoned.

Tree in centre has been poisoned.

Closer view.

Closer view.

[End of comment at Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group]

I have passed the above-noted information, about the Community Response Office, to the owners of the house in question.

Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project

I learned about the recent property damage by coincidence.

I belong to the Community Advisory Group that has been set up in connection with a city initiative known as the Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines pilot project.

I have outlined the project at a previous post entitled: How to read the streets of Long Branch: Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project is now underway.

Walk route superimposed on Long Branch Subdivisions map

June 28, 2016 Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines Walking Tour route, superimposed on Long Branch Subdivisions map. Click on image to enlarge it.

On the right is a map on which the route of a June 28, 2016 Walking Tour, which was organized as part of the Guidelines Pilot Project. I did no attend the Walking Tour, as I was at that time not yet a member of the Advisory Group.

However, a few days after the walk I learned that, in response to an earlier request, my name had been added to the Advisory Group. I originally became interested in joining the latter group, after an email from the interim chairperson of the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association, asking if I would be attending the June 28, 2016 Walking Tour.

Since that time, I’ve made a point of walking, cycling, and driving along the route on many occasions, in order to develop my own sense of how the eight segments of the Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines Walking Tour are different from each other, and how they are similar.

Doorknob at shed door has been destroyed.

Doorknob at shed door has been destroyed.

At the time when I learned about the situation, that I’ve described, at a house on Long Branch Avenue, I had been spending time walking up and down Long Branch Avenue, which is part of the Guidelines Walking Tour route (that is, Long Branch Avenue between Lake Promenade and Dominion Road), closely observing and taking photographs of the streetscape.

Pond where goldfish have been poisoned.

Pond where goldfish have been poisoned.

Long Branch Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group

My interest in the Long Branch Avenue streetscape prompted one of the owners, of the house in question, to ask me one day what I was doing.

I explained, gave him by business card, and he explained what had been happening at his house. Following the conversation, I posted a couple of reports at the Long Branch Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group.

Plant at front of house that has been damaged.

Damaged plant at front of house.

Problems and opportunities

We have a problem, as I have described, and an opportunity.

The opportunity is that in addressing the problem, we can foster stronger relationships within our community. In dealing with such a problem, we can affirm our relationship to our natural environment, and our desire to protect it.

Please contact me, in the event you have questions or information to share; you can reach me through the Preserved Stories website or by email at

Detail from plant in previous photo, indicating where a stem has been slashed and a topic chemical has been applied.

Detail from plant in previous photo, indicating where a stem has been slashed and a toxic chemical has been applied.

History of Long Branch Avenue

At a previous post, entitled History of Long Branch – Draft 4, I’ve included a Long Branch Park poster in which Long Branch Avenue is a central feature.

I was most interested to learn, in recent conversations about the history of the street, that a number of quadrangles (which is a term I’m using on a provisional basis not knowing of a better term), with laneways off of Long Branch Avenue and other streets, were located in Long Branch Park beginning in the late 1880s during the Cottage Country Paradise era when affluent summer vacationers travelled to Long Branch by boat.

You can click on each image to enlarge it

Poster of Long Branch Park development

Poster of Long Branch Park development. The poster is entitled: “Long Branch Summer Resort lot no. 9, broken front concession, Etobicoke villa lots for villa residence, summer cottages, camping, etc.” Details on how to order a copy of the poster are available at a Toronto Public Library webpage entitled: “Collection Reproduction and Digitization on Demand.” The current names of streets in the area can be accessed at an archival document: Long Branch Street names – May 13, 1935.

If you click on the image of the Long Branch Park poster at the right, you can get a close-up view of the quadrangles.

It’s my understanding, and I look forward to getting definitive information about this topic, that the quadrangles were populated with trees that provided shade for horses.

Cottagers at Long Branch Park would park their horses at one of the quadrangles when they weren’t riding about on their horses or in their horse-drawn carriages.

In the event you can direct my attention to archival resources where such details are explained, please let me know.

When possible, I prefer to interview long-time residents about local history rather than spending many hours in archives. There is value in archival research but that is not, or has not been until now, a primary focus for me. My primary interest is in putting together evidence-based stories, and often the stories based on interviews tend to be of more interest to people, in my experience, than recitations of facts based upon archival research. This is something that I learned many years ago, when I was working as a freelance writer.

Please let me know, in the event you may have information, perhaps passed down from family members or other sources, which would enable me to learn more about the above-noted quadrangles and details of the purposes for which they were designed. I have interviewed many long-time Long Branch residents over the years (whether they were still living in Long Branch or have moved away) and am keen to continue such interviews.


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Benefits of healthy watersheds: Impressive infographic at Watershed Checkup website

The Watershed Checkup website outlines the Benefits of Health Watersheds.

The opening paragraphs read:

Our natural ecosystems are made up of forests, wetlands, water sources, plants and animals, and provide multiple goods and services that contribute to a healthy economy, environment and people. Every day, we rely on ecosystem goods and services – they connect us to our environment.

Conservation Authorities deliver practical, cost effective programs that ensure healthy ecosystems which enable them to generate and maintain valuable goods and services, often preventing the need for costly technological solutions to environmental problems.

[End of excerpt]

The infographic (below) is from the above-noted website; you can access a close-up version of the infographic by clicking here.



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Comment regarding post about an archeological dig in south Mississauga before QEW Credit River Bridge twinning

The photo is from the May 13, 2016 Mississauga News article for which a link is posted at the page you are now reading. The caption, from the news story reads: "Dig - Photo by Bryon Johnson - An archeological assessment is taking place at a former residential property on Stavebank Road."

The photo is from the May 13, 2016 Mississauga News article.  The caption, from the news story reads: “Dig – Photo by Bryon Johnson – An archeological assessment is taking place at a former residential property on Stavebank Road.”

A previous post is entitled: Archeologists dig in south Mississauga before QEW Credit River Bridge twinning – May 13, 2016 Mississauga News article

The Comments conversation at the above-noted post reads:

Wally Russell: Thank you for this article. This was our Family home, built by my Father,John Russell around 1948-1949.

Jaan Pill: 

That’s a beautiful house. I’ve met a number of people in Long Branch, to the east of Mississauga, whose fathers built their family homes in the 1930s or 1940s. It’s wonderful to be in touch with you Wally, given your connection to a family home built in Mississauga in the 1940s.

I very much like the fact that the properties and natural heritage features along that part of the Credit River are now part of a protected cultural landscape – that is, protected, as I understand, under the Ontario Heritage Act. That is a wonderful and ongoing story of preservation of a significant cultural resource.

The story of the First Nations connection to the land is also strongly of significance, as a key part of the history of the Credit River and of Southern Ontario. It’s wonderful to know of the archaeological investigations that have been conducted in the area, recently and in previous years.


An Aug. 10, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Popular theory on how humans populated North America can’t be right, study shows.”

An Aug. 21, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “‘Trained our entire lives to ignore': Gord Downie’s call to action for Indigenous in the North: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised because ‘he cares about the people way up north'”.

An Aug. 22, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Sixties Scoop survivors’ day in court finally arrives Tuesday: Indigenous Canadians taken from their homes and their culture suing Ottawa, decades later, over the federal government’s duty to them.”


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New comment regarding Cartierville School in Montreal

Cartierville School, May 2015. Scott Munro photo

Cartierville School, May 2015. Scott Munro photo

A new comment has been added to the post entitled: Cartierville School in Montreal.

The comment – which I’m featuring as a separate post, by way of bringing attention to it, is from Frances Ipsen (nee Oppenheimer) and reads:

Hello everyone

Gosh I have fond memories of Cartierville School.. Teachers that I remember asise from Mrs Findlayson, nee Snyder. Not only was she the Principal but she was also my grade 7 teacher. and there was Miss Hughes, and Mrs Carpenter. Does anyone recall Mrs de Courville. She was so nice.. Students I remember Roslyn Forman, Louie Whitehouse and his sister Doreen, Judy Ross, Eleanor Powell, Rankin Caldwell, to name a few My favourite thing was, the skate party in February when all the students wore costumes and a panel picked out the best one in a number of categories an prizes were given out. I won a few times. Boy it is nice to think about those days especially with all the violence going on these days. I could go on and on but I like I will end it here. All the best to everyone

[End of text]


It’s a delight to read of your memories Frances!


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Brexit Blues – July 28, 2016 London Review of Books article by John Lanchester

A July 28, 2016 London Review of Books article by John Lanchester is entitled: “Bexit Blues.”

The opening paragraphs read:

The ‘Overton window’ is a term from political science meaning the acceptable range of political thought in a culture at a given moment. It was the creation of Joseph Overton, a think-tank intellectual based in Michigan, who died in 2003 at 43 after a solo plane accident. His crucial insight, one which both emerged from and was central to the work of the think tank Right, was that the window of acceptability can be moved. An idea can start far outside the political mainstream – flat taxes, abolish the IRS, more guns in schools, building a beautiful wall and making Mexico pay – but once it has been stated and argued for, framed and restated, it becomes thinkable. It crosses over from the fringe of right-wing think-tankery to journalistic fellow-travellers; then it crosses over to the fringe of electoral politics; then it becomes a thing people start seriously advocating as a possible policy. The window has moved, and rough beasts come slouching through it to be born.

British politics has never seen a purer example of the Overton window than the referendum on membership of the EU. In 1994, the billionaire James Goldsmith founded a political party whose sole purpose was to advocate a referendum. The Referendum Party was a long, long way outside the political mainstream, and a significant number of its members were openly mad. The party’s one moment of – ‘success’ is the wrong word – mainstream attention came when Goldsmith himself stood in the 1997 general election in Putney against David Mellor, the cabinet minister who had been caught having an affair with an actress. Her fuck-and-tell story ran in the tabloids and included the fictional detail that (to quote the front page of the Sun) ‘Mellor Made Love in Chelsea Strip’. In a better-ordered society, making up things like that wins you the Prix Goncourt. Goldsmith did poorly, coming fourth with 1518 votes, but Mellor lost anyway. At the declaration of the result, Goldsmith and his supporters chanted ‘Out! Out! Out!’ while Mellor was making his concession speech, the words sounding a lot like ‘Raus! Raus! Raus!’ and providing one of the 1997 election’s most memorably ugly moments. The Referendum Party contested 547 seats and lost all of them.

The story of how that idea, self-evidently ridiculous in 1997, came to be a reality in 2016 is going to be often retold as we live through its consequences over the next few decades. One of the characteristics of the story is a distinctly British unseriousness: tragedy and farce, as so often in this country’s political life, were hard to tell apart. The climax was the referendum itself, which was promised in 2013 at a point when David Cameron was sure he wouldn’t have to deliver. The evidence strongly suggested he’d be able to do the same thing in 2015 as he’d done in 2010: blame his Lib Dem coalition partners for negotiating away manifesto commitments. When the campaign came, its main protagonist, Boris Johnson, was a man known not to be in favour of his own arguments, manoeuvring for position in the Tory leadership battle due to come at some point between a Remain victory and the 2020 general election. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in British politics when so many people in public life spent so much time loudly declaring things they knew not to be true.

[End of excerpt]



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Strangers on a train: GO riders unite to help Syrian family get to their destination – July 23, 2016 CBC report

A July 23, 2016 CBC article, which I found very inspiring, is entitled:

“Strangers on a train: GO riders unite to help Syrian family get to their destination.”

The subhead reads: “Some 50 people came together to ‘do the right thing’ “.

The opening paragraphs read:

When Valerie Taylor spotted a family of newcomers looking lost in the hustle and bustle of rush hour at Toronto’s main Union Station on Wednesday, she offered to help them find their train. What she didn’t know was that some 50 people would do the same, on a day that would turn out to be one of her most memorable trips home ever.

Taylor, a psychiatrist at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, said she was heading home on Wednesday after what had been a hectic few days. The heat was blazing, she was tired and looking forward to getting home, when she spotted a family of seven with two baby strollers and several heavy bags.

They looked confused, she said, and a young woman was trying to help them.

Taylor went over to see if she could lend a hand.

“Are you new here?” she asked. Only one of the children, who said he was 11, could speak English.

“Yes,” he said. They had just arrived from Syria four months ago, he told her, and were looking to get to Ancaster, about 85 kilometres southwest of Toronto, to spend a few days with family there.

[End of excerpt]


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July 21, 2016 Brookings article discusses legacy of 20th century European empires

In recent years I’ve written extensively about world military history, a project that began with an interest in the history of police services in the Toronto neighbourhood were I live.

Click here for previous posts about world military history >

Given my interest in military history, I found a July 21, 2016 Brookings article, entitled “Europe risks repeating past mistakes on Islam,” of interest. History, in my view, has the power to explain things to the extent that the accounts of it are accurate and balanced. By accuracy, I refer to the archival and other reliable evidence on which accounts of history are based. By balance I refer to the frames of reference that historians brings to the framing of the accounts.

The opening paragraphs of the Brookings article read:

Many have recently sought to understand and explain today’s crisis of legitimacy within Islam, with some analysts placing the blame for that crisis squarely on Islam itself. In my view, today’s crisis of Islamic religious legitimacy and the spread of Salafi ideology are a direct legacy of 20th century European empires. I don’t mean that as a moral cudgel, nor as a plea for political correctness. But to avoid making the same mistakes again, we need to understand both the contingency of that history and the vacuity of the term “Islamic fundamentalism,” which is used as a stand-in for everything from traditional views of gender roles and homosexuality to religiously-inspired mass murder.

Europe’s 20th century mistake. How did more rigid and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam prevail over the relatively tolerant brand of Ottoman Islam? Let’s look to history. One century ago, in summer 1916, European powers started a chain reaction that enabled and sanctioned the 1924 Saudi takeover of the Hijaz—including Mecca and Medina. In one seized territory after another, Europeans continued to interrupt traditional ties of Islamic authority and religious education between their new colonial subjects and the Sultan-Caliph in Istanbul. The new imperial rulers cut off the circular flow of judges, muftis, seminaries, and mosque projects between the Ottomans and Muslims in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Near East. Centuries-old religious endowments and religious leadership configurations were uprooted in favor of institutions that Europeans thought they could control.

[End of excerpt]


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‘You can’t just blame pedestrians and cyclists:’ Safety advocates call for meeting with Toronto police – July 18, 2016 Metro News

A July 18, 2016 Metro News article is entitled: ” ‘You can’t just blame pedestrians and cyclists:’ Safety advocates call for meeting with Toronto police.”

The subhead reads:

A coalition of cyclist and pedestrian advocates have written a letter to police asking for a meeting to discuss how fatal collisions are reported.

The opening paragraphs read:

Victim blaming has to end.

That’s the message from a group of cycling and pedestrian advocates asking for a meeting with Toronto police to discuss the way officers report on fatal collisions.

The meeting was requested by Bike Law Canada founder Patrick Brown after what he and others — including Cycle Toronto and Walk Toronto — consider a series of recent missteps by police.

In particular, Brown pointed to the case of a cyclist who died July 5 after he swerved to avoid a turning vehicle on Dupont Street and collided with a parked car.

Police spokesman Const. Clinton Stibbe initially told media the cyclist was travelling too fast and without due care and attention. He recanted the following day and admitted the 71-year-old cyclist had the right of way.

[End of excerpt]


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