Tag Archives: canada

Political gloves are off….


I told local party organizers I was in – willing to help with the next campaign. There I did it. I can’t believe after spending most of my life in the role of ‘non-partisan’ that I’ve openly chosen sides. Well, Mr. Harper, I can thank your track record for that life changing moment. All my life I’ve been objective to a fault, given people the benefit of the doubt – but no longer. Federally, I’m Liberal – provincially I don’t think I can pick because there is too much sameness to provincial politics. Federally, it’s day and night (and dusk).

Today I watched the Conservatives roll out their first attack ad. Less than 24 hours after Trudeau is elected leader of the party, it begins.

Well played, Mr. Harper …. well, not really – not for you – but well played for ‘us’.

You see, Canadians are tired of the negative crap – and that’s the nicest way I can say it – because that’s what it is – crap. I’m so very tired of feeling like I don’t mean anything to you, Mr. Harper. I teach my kids not to bully, yet what I see your party do on national television goes against all I teach them. Talk about leading by example. Why do you not realize, Mr. Harper, that in becoming the ‘parent’ to Canadians (dictating what we can and cannot do, telling us of your decisions without consulting), you have failed in one of the most important parenting jobs – being a role model.

So I did it – I joined the Federal Liberal Party. I voted for Justin Trudeau last week. I vowed I would no longer sit idly by.

I sat by long enough as a journalist, as a journalism instructor, as someone who needed to prove impartiality. With the journalism program winding down this June, and with the political landscape as messed up as it is, I really and truly can’t sit on the sidelines any longer.

When I saw the attack ad today I was floored. There’s also a website called ‘Justin is Way Over His Head’. Wow…wonder what the ads and the website cost the conservatives….aside from their credibility?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Trudeau isn’t perfect, but he’ll create a team and lead the country WITH A TEAM – unlike Mr. Harper, who leads by himself and lets his caucus know what’s going on AFTER he’s made up his mind. No, you are right, Mr. Harper: Trudeau cannot run a country on his own because YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO RUN A COUNTRY ON YOUR OWN.

You are supposed to build a team, create dialogue and lead WITH a group of people from across the country WHO HAVE BEEN ELECTED BY CANADIANS TO GOVERN ON THEIR BEHALF. That’s true leadership, and that’s what I want – check that – that’s what I NEED.


Filed under Politics

Anonymous Comments on the CBC – My letter to the CBC Ombudsman

October 10, 2012

Kirk LaPointe
Ombudsman, CBC
P.O. Box Station A
Toronto, ON    M5W 1E6

Dear Mr. LaPointe:

I am writing to complain about anonymous comments on the CBC – in particular the rebroadcast of these comments from the CBC.CA website on the provincial television program CBC News: New Brunswick.

People are not required to use their real names in online comments attached to news stories.

CBC Radio listeners who want to comment on stories they hear on the Fredericton morning show are required to leave their name and their phone number on the talk back machine in order to have the comments become a part of a future broadcast.  Comments made on the web and broadcast on the supper-hour news program require no such checks and balances.

The web editor chooses what comments are broadcast.  I also understand the comments are ‘vetted’ before they appear on the website.

While I know they ‘choose carefully’, trying to avoid comments that could cause CBC New Brunswick any legal difficulties, I still question the use of anonymous posts.  I do not think these comments add to the collective knowledge of viewers.

When I was visiting my mother over the Thanksgiving weekend I made a point to watch the CBC television news in Nova Scotia.  There were NO anonymous comments from viewers used in that broadcast.  It was, in a word, refreshing.

I think the use of anonymous comments is unethical – more so when you look at the fact one medium in the same city chooses NOT to broadcast anonymous comments (CBC Radio Fredericton) while another medium chooses TO broadcast anonymous comments (CBC TV).

I have personally commented to journalistic staff at CBC Fredericton about this issue.  I have always been told these are ‘things they struggle with’.  I contend they have to STOP STRUGGLING and cease using anonymous comments.  I have posted on the website from time to time – with my full name.  I have never hidden and never plan to hide my posted opinions.  People need to understand the context of my comments, and they can’t do that if I hide who I am.

I don’t think anonymous comments should be used in any medium – on the web or otherwise – but I take particular issue with the rebroadcasting of these comments on the evening television newscast.  I believe the rebroadcast of these ‘comments’ are not only unethical, but they fly in the face of the journalistic policies of the CBC.  I will use direct quotes from the CBC journalistic policies to make my point.

For instance, the CBC must ensure that it is “ open and straightforward when we present interviewees and their statements. We make every effort to disclose the identity of interviewees and to give the context and explanations necessary for the audience to judge the relevance and credibility of their statements.”

The interviewee policy goes on to state that only in “ exceptional cases and for serious cause, we may decide to withhold such information in whole or in part.

I argue that comments directly under a story become PART OF A STORY.  If the people interviewed have to be identified in the story, why shouldn’t those commenting on the story be identified as well?  Some may argue that these comments don’t fall under journalistic standards because they are User Generated Content and the CBC can legally distance itself from these posts.  But can the corporation ethically distance itself from them?

I counter the comments have become PART of the story, not only by their content, but also by their placement with the story.  People go to the story, scroll down, and there, just a sentence away, is the comment section with anonymous sources adding to the web ‘content’.  If they don’t consider it content, then why is it worthy of rebroadcast within another news program?

This leads me to the section on User Generated Content in news stories.

Again, I contend that the comments become part of the story because of their placement on the website and within a television news program.  I believe these anonymous comments violate the CBC journalistic policy on Verification of User Generated Content in News Stories.

“CBC is responsible for all content on its news sites.  This policy covers text, image, video or audio contributions from the public, which are incorporated into news coverage on any platform.  Material that originates from a non-CBC source is clearly identified as such.  Before text, image, video or audio is published, its provenance and accuracy is verified.

I repeatbefore TEXT, image, video or audio IS PUBLISHED, its provenance and accuracy is verified.

How can posting anonymous comments NOT break CBC policy?  How can you verify anonymous comments when people use fictitious names?  How can the publishing and then rebroadcasting of these anonymous comments be ethical?

The policy goes on to state that in exceptional circumstances it may be difficult to authenticate a contribution and that there may be times where, because of timeliness, or if it is in the public interest, we decided to publish without full verification. We are clear with the audience about what we know. The decision to publish material without full authentication must be referred to the Director.

What service does broadcasting these comments provide to the public when the posts don’t clearly identify what ‘interest’ the person has to the story – how they are connected, related, or even beholden to the politician, company or issue at hand?

The policy also states that the decision to use unverified content, when referring to User Generated Content, must be referred to the director.

How often does this ‘referral’ happen at CBC New Brunswick?

In the 14 plus years I worked at the CBC, I was only allowed to broadcast ‘anonymous’ sources/items/letters/talkback on very few occasions.  Any sources had to be identified, all talkback with CBC Radio had to be identified and logged – especially at election time.  Every time anything ‘anonymous’ went to air, we had to have approval from CBC officials at a higher level.

In its policies, the CBC says it strives to be an ethical broadcaster, but yet allows anonymous comments to be attached to stories and doesn’t require the same kind of rigour and ethical approach to this part of its daily content.

Why does it seem that now, in these days of ‘instant’ news gratification, the CBC has forgotten its principles?

Ethics, like spelling, has lost something in this era of social media.

The CBC lays out its mission and values, stating it strives to ‘act responsibly and be accountable.’  They state they are ‘aware of the impact of our journalism and are honest with our audience.’  It also says the CBC strives for ‘journalistic excellence and best practices in all of our journalistic endeavours.’ 

I argue that anonymous ‘user generated content’ IS a journalistic endeavour and allowing these comments to be posted on their website for the world to see IS NOT a best practice and certainly isn’t journalist excellence.  The CBC is my CBC, and as such I take a lot of pride in it – except on the issue of anonymous comments.

The CBC consistently challenges governments to be ethical in their approach to hiring practices, expense claims, and investments, yet in New Brunswick it cannot practice what it preaches.  If they are ‘aware of their impact’ and were ethical in their approach, they wouldn’t allow any anonymous public comments on their websites, or worse, the rebroadcasting of these anonymous comments on CBC News: New Brunswick.  For me, seeing these comments in two mediums adds insult to injury.

The CBC may believe it is providing a ‘public service’ by sharing the posts, but I argue CBC New Brunswick is doing a serious disservice to our province by allowing people to hide behind fictitious names.

I had to file my complaint with my full name, address and contact information because you, as Ombudsman, do not accept anonymous comments or complaints.

I think the CBC could learn a thing or two from its watchdog.


Theresa Blackburn-Chisholm
Journalism Instructor
Former CBC journalist


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My Big Fat Life: Oh, to be nine years old and carefree again!

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, July 25, 2011


Theresa's daughter, Kathryn, left, and her niece, Kaitlan, share a giggle and try not to blow away on the Avon River wharf during their adventures in Nova Scotia last week.

I spent a week in Halifax visiting family and friends. In that short visit, I was blessed with being able to spend three full days with two little girls – one was my daughter, Kathryn, the other, my niece, Kaitlan.

I officially want to be nine again. Oh, to find such joy in everything.

No matter what we did, they found happiness in just being with each other and being involved in the experience.

Whether it was seeing the amazingly colourful Maud Lewis display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, or standing at the end of the Avon River wharf on a cool, windy day, or jumping into the toe-numbing cold ocean waves at Queensland, those sweet, excitable little girls found joy in everything.

Beauty in everything: The girls marveled at the Maud Lewis display at the Nova Scotia Art Gallery - their favourite: Maud's painted stove 🙂

“Look at the beautiful flowers – she painted her STOVE.”

This was the best quote from our gallery gallivant, looking at the beauty Maud Lewis painted on everything, including her oven.

“The wind wants my hair!”

This was the best quote from our stop at the Avon River wharf during our Hants County touring as I tried to snap a picture before the wind swept them away.

“I can’t feel my feet!”

This was the best quote from a smiling Kathryn as she came back to our blanket after jumping in the waves. “Do you want to go home?” I asked, as she stood beside me shivering.

“NO!” she said, incredulous that I would ask such a thing, as she and Kaitlan quickly ran back to the icy waves.

Joyful is the only word that truly describes the human beings they are in this moment in time. No matter what we did, they found laughter; no matter how long the car ride, they found something new to see and point out; no matter how numb their toes, they found other things to take their mind off the cold of the ocean waves they found so fun to jump in.

They look at the glass as half-full.

Pure joy: Kathryn and Kaitlan enjoy the waves despite the toe-numbing water.

I watched them in awe and thanked God for reminding me of that joyfulness. He knows I still possess it, but He also knows I must be reminded to ‘dust it off’ every once and awhile.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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My Big Fat Life: A busy life, a busy future … and the realization that this is what life is all about!

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on Monday, June 6, 2011


Ashley Bent never imagined her life would look like this a few years ago.

In 2007, this young woman was contemplating her future: she was single without any ties; she was thinking about college, looking toward a possible career in business, and she was imagining herself working in a nice, neat clean office.

Ashley and Jonathan pictured with their 'motivators' - son Jake and daughter Sydney.

Fast forward four years and Ashley is now a mother of two, a homeowner, a carpentry apprentice and a woman on a mission. Her partner in crime, Jonathan Dutra, is also a trade apprentice – in bricklaying.

As I write this, the two are separated by geography; Jonathan doing his practicum in Saint John with their soon-to-be two-year-old son Jack in tow, while Ashley tries to finish up her second carpentry block, taking care of their two-and-a-half-month-old girl Sydney, while trying to study for her block exam. These two young people amaze me regularly.

I first met them when they first met – at college – taking business. Both discovered that working in an office might not be right for them.

“That first summer when I got a job working in an office – that taught me a lot. I realized I needed to be outside, I needed to be doing something with my hands.”

Ashley decided not to return and finish her course that fall – opting instead to work and save for a shot at another career.

Ashley returned to NBCC Woodstock campus and took carpentry. And while that in itself is an interesting story, her story becomes much more inspirational when you consider that she did this just two months after giving birth to her son, Jack.

Add to that the fact that Ashley just didn’t complete her year, she graduated at the top of her class, and the story becomes even more compelling.

But the crazy schedules don’t sto

p there. Jonathan enrolled in Bricklaying in January, their daughter Sydney arrived in March, and six weeks later Ashley started her second apprenticeship block at NBCC Woodstock campus.

Ashley says the kids are both the hardest part of this equation and also the easiest part.

“It’s hard, especially when Jack wants to go to the park, and you’re tired and you really need to be doing other things, and then you give in and go and take the kids. Then you realize that’s exactly where you needed to be because all of a sudden you just relax and the only thing you have to worry about is making sure he (Jack) doesn’t fall down when he’s climbing up the slide.”

Will it get easier? Ashley knows probably not for a while yet, but she’s OK with that because she knows how quickly time flies when you have children.

“I think back to Jack and how quickly he grew, so I think I’m going to try and enjoy this busy time with Sydney and Jack.”

Jonathan says he’d like to have more children, but Ashley’s not so sure at this point.

But while they differ on the issue of family planning, they don’t differ on their ideas for business planning.

“We want to start our own company.”

They already have a start on that dream with the recent purchase of a dump truck.

After spending some time with the both of them, I believe they have a great shot at reaching their dreams.

Over the last couple of years, they have proven that they can succeed in anything they put their minds to – no matter their circumstance.

“Oh, yeah, our lives are crazy, but we do it for the kids. I mean they really motivate you! We really want to do what’s best for them,” says Ashley.

I have no doubt that they will.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE


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MY BIG FAT LIFE: I’m shouting from the rooftop and ask you to do the same

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, May 30, 2011


It feels wrong for a grandmother to have to comb through belongings, looking for something special to keep as a memento of her granddaughter.

Life is not supposed to work this way. Sifting through memories – searching for some special keepsake – is something a granddaughter does when a beloved grandparent has lived a long life and has passed on.

It was never meant to happen the other way around.

Last Thursday, at a wake for a 19-year-old who took her own life, I experienced what it must feel like to drown.

Marissa and her brothers on a recent family vacation

Walking down the hall of the funeral home, passing by pictures of her life – milestones, funny faces, gleaming smiles, pictures with siblings, parents, grandparents and friends; vacationing, happy, gorgeous photos, all full of life – I couldn’t breathe.

In each photo I saw my own children … similar experiences, similar milestones, nearly identical happy smiles.

How could this happen?

I was overcome.

I thought I’d have to leave at one point. I had to calm myself down a few times, I talked to my husband, I breathed deeply, I tried not to look anyone in the eye.

When I reached her grandmother in the receiving line – this sweet, quiet, always positive, but now heartbroken friend – I couldn’t hold back. We held each other tightly and wept.

“We don’t always know what another person is going through sometimes, do we,” she whispered through her tears.

This broken family stood for hours consoling loved ones, acquaintances and some strangers – all people visibly hurt and bewildered by what has happened.

The line up started down the side of the road, and ran on for what seemed like forever, up into the entrance of the parking lot, across to the front steps, up and over the threshold, winding its way around the outside of the funeral home lobby, down the long hall to the room where this young, beautiful girl lay in her closed casket, surrounded by family and flowers and pain.

“If she could have only seen the support she had,” said the girl’s mother, gesturing to the long line behind me. She held my hand and then she hugged me – a stranger, weeping before her, someone oblivious to her earlier life, but hurting with the realization of her current one.

I found this more difficult than being at my own father’s wake.

My dad got to live a life, see children born and grow and make him proud, got the chance to travel and have a career and spoil grandchildren.

Marissa never got that chance.

But her family isn’t alone. Many people will read this and feel horrible for her family, able to imagine the pain. Many others will nod their heads and know that pain.

There is such guilt with suicide, and so many are afraid to talk about it after it happens. Some people feel they can’t talk about it with friends and family, that they can’t mourn their loss because of the circumstances surrounding that loss.

A long time ago I received a beautiful email from a hurting mom who found it difficult to talk about her son to friends because of his suicide. She felt many people made her feel ashamed to honour his memory because of those horrible dark last moments of his life.

But she had carried him joyfully for nine months, watched him grow and learn and make mistakes, was proud of him and his accomplishments. He was and will always be a part of her. She loved him with all her heart, and yet, because of mental illness, he felt the need to stop the heart she helped create, to end his life, and in turn, end the life she knew.

She will never stop grieving – no parent does. She will forever feel the guilt and pain associated with what has happened, but there is also sadness in the fact that his life will never be measured in a way others are.

Sadly, suicide is measured differently – with less dignity, with more shame. She mourns not only the loss of her sweet boy, but the loss of his worth. She knows that our society will forever measure his life NOT by the way it was lived, but how it ended.

How can one moment define a long journey?

Why do we let it?

And why do the majority of us continue to sit quietly on the sidelines while people continue to die needlessly.

Suicide statistics are scary.

Suicide makes Canada’s ‘top 10’ list for what kills people in this country.

Statistics Canada’s latest numbers say that in 2007 there were 3,611 people who committed suicide. Out of those, 790 people were under the age of 30.

In the only comparison table I could find, New Brunswick had the second highest rate of suicide in Canada in 2002. A woman I talked with at Mental Health didn’t think the statistics moved much in our favour since then.

The latest published provincial coroners report says 109 people in the province ended their lives in 2008. Provincially, the highest rates were in the Saint John and Moncton regions that year, each logging 31 suicides.

The majority of these people are under the age of 40, with the majority of them ending their lives violently. Hanging and shooting are the top means, with drug overdose coming in a close third.

The numbers are horrific and yet what are we doing, collectively?

Sure, we have small pockets of groups out there. Sure, we have provincial bodies that offer outreach services.

Sure, mental health is a part of our health care system. But why aren’t we shouting from the rooftops, why aren’t we demanding better care, better services, better education and support for our young people?

How many Marissa’s do we have to lose before someone realizes we’re losing beautiful people who could make a difference?

I talked to my kids, I talked to my students, I’m talking to you. I want you to talk to family members, educate your children, speak to the people you care about, find out what’s out there for help, make donations, join groups, start something at your college or university, set up something with your neighbours, ask your employer about mental health workshops for the workplace, talk to your school boards and make them make mental health education a priority and start it early.

Talk to your provincial and federal government representatives. Hound them, write them and make them understand that these lives need to stand for something.

Our young people are in crisis, and we have let this crisis go on long enough. I have no idea why we haven’t been shouting from the rooftops to make things better, but we can start now.

I’ve got my ladder in hand, and I’m making the climb … more voices make change happen. Won’t you join me on the rooftop?

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE


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MY BIG FAT LIFE: Theresa wonders what would happen if …

New Brunswickers head to the polls today. The election will pretty much come down to these two men. Today, Theresa ponders what it would be like if the province woke up tomorrow and had a 'Dallas' moment, where the recent election campaign was all just a big, bad dream...

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday September 27th, 2010

What would happen if we woke up tomorrow and realized the election campaign we’ve just endured was all just a bad dream and that the campaign was actually not over, but, in fact, just starting?

What would happen if the people asking for our votes decided not to make any promises? What if candidates started their campaigns off with a promise not to promise anything because our province is broke.

What if a main party stated, “If you vote us in, we first need to spend some time getting our finances back on track before we can promise anything?”

Imagine being told, “Hey, we don’t have much money so we’re just going to hold the line for a while, get a few smart economic and societal thinkers together to lend us their time and expertise, and then figure out the best action to take before we promise you anything.”

Just imagine.

It’s all about truth, but just like that famous line delivered by Jack Nicholson, politicians sometimes think, “You can’t handle the truth!”, especially when it comes to provincial or federal finances.

It’s our money. We’re not children. I think it would be easy to understand the basics if we were given the right information. Most of us already operate our own ‘government.’

Mind you our ‘government’ is a bit like a dictatorship, but when you look at the big picture, the running of this province, even the running of this country, is a lot like the running of our own family unit. We have those who make decisions and those who are impacted by those decisions.

When my husband was out of work, we sat down with the kids and in basic terms explained that as a family we have less to work with and that some changes have to be made.

We didn’t get to go to dinner as often, we cut out movie rentals for a long while, and there were no allowances for more than a few months. The kids easily understood and didn’t beg for things.

Our belt-tightening over the last two years went quite well. We didn’t lose the house, we didn’t have to sell a car, and we were able to keep our kids in their regular activities.

We also had to patch rust areas of our van ourselves, we didn’t get to reseed the lawn and we had to hold off on fixing a leaky sink. But we also didn’t hide these financial facts from our kids.

Why do the majority of the politicians, at all levels of government, keep numbers hidden? Even when information is released it’s usually compiled in such a convoluted manner that the regular tax-paying citizen can’t decipher what’s going on when it comes to the province’s (or our country’s) piggy bank.

This has always bothered me.

This scenario is partly our own fault, really. We’ve come to expect things in election campaigns. In some cases, we’ve demanded things. And sadly politicians know that. They correlate what they promise to the number of votes they think they’ll get. And we all lose.

They feel obligated to keep some financial situations hidden for fear of the political consequences. They have to backtrack on promises because they find out the real financial picture when they’re finally in office, and then try to spin certain financial realties so they can save face.

But then we blame them for not following through on impossible initiatives we’ve expected them to produce – sometimes forced them to create – and punish them for trying to cover things up so they don’t look bad for NOT following through.

We treat them like children in this respect, and sometimes they act the part, too.

But we’ve put them here. As a society, we’ve created this.

But it doesn’t have to continue. What if we stop trying to make political races come down to the almighty question, “What’s in it for me?”

What if we elect leaders based on integrity and trust and not who can promise the most or pay for the most political ads?

What if we tell them that the only way they’re going to get our vote is if they earn our trust? What if we tell them NO MORE PROMISES!

I’d love for someone in one of the major political parties to someday begin a campaign with, “I will not promise you anything but my dedication. I promise to do the best job I can. If I can’t do something on my own, I promise to work with anyone who can help me, no matter what their affiliation.”

Parliaments and legislatures should work better than they do.

Everyone – ministers, backbenchers, deputy ministers, prime ministers, premiers – needs to be up-front about our coffers, because the key word here is our – it’s our money.

It’s also our parliament and legislature, and we deserve better.

Just because someone is in opposition should not mean they oppose every good idea that comes across the floor.

That also goes for the party in power. Leaders need to stop shooting down private member bills that improve our situation based on the fact the idea has come from the ‘wrong side’ of the house.

Honestly, if a good bill is brought to the floor it should be passed, no excuses, because it’s to our benefit.

In the end, leaders who foster this kind of co-operation can easily take their record to the voters next time around and be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Imagine how wonderful a campaign like that would be.

All a candidate would have to say is, “I’ve done everything I could for you and this province or this country. I’ve worked with people, no matter what their political stripe, to make things better for all of us.”

And if my fairytale ever comes true, guess who’d have my vote and my respect?


Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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