Our Friday host, Laura Lynch joined Anna Maria in studio to look back at some of our stories this week.
Ending Apartheid: On Tuesday we talked about Canada's relationship with South Africa during the Apartheid era. We heard from political science professor Linda Freeman who said that Canadian policy towards the apartheid regime was more complicated than it is sometimes portrayed.
Brian Mulroney has said that when he took office in 1984 he believed apartheid was unacceptable to most Canadians and that it was time to take a principled stand. Canadian sanctions against South Africa remained in place until Nelson Mandela asked Canada to lift them in 1993 . Mr. Mandela believed those sanctions helped free him.
Hearing this segment prompted Findlay Clark of Pender Island, BC, to write the following:
"I was astounded to listen to your interview with the Canadian official today who claimed that Mulroney's government somehow ended Apartheid for Mandela. This is the height of vain-glorious, self-aggrandizement and delusion.
Mr. Mulroney looks good compared to reactionary racists like Thatcher and Reagan. But it sickens me that Mulroney is being associated with Mandela. The Canadian government and Canadians in general come across looking like shallow fools when they pat themselves on the back regarding Nelson Mandela."
We received a very different take on this from Rick Zerr of Victoria, BC:
"I was in South Africa many months before Nelson Mandela's release and left a few months after. Practically every politically engaged African I spoke with mentioned one Canadian name over and over -- Joe Clark. It was some image of Joe Clark versus Margaret Thatcher that galvanized hope amongst folk I met - in Durban, in the Transvaal Province, in the townships, Swaziland and southern Zimbabwe to Harare. Once I was identified as Canadian, everyone mentioned the name of Joe Clark - a hero to blacks; a traitor to extremist whites."
Bill Addison from Edmonton shared this story:
"Rob and Helen, Canadians who had a long association with the Southern Africa Action Coalition in Vancouver, worked secretly for the ANC in the last few years of white rule when the ANC, still illegal, was infiltrating its leaders in exile back into South Africa. Rob and Helen established themselves in South Africa and operated a safe house for ANC leaders working under cover. One of them, Mac Maharaj, became the Minister of Transport in the first ANC government. The network, known as Operation Vulu, was eventually broken. Some ANC members were killed but Rob and Helen managed to escape the country. After the fall of the white government they returned to South Africa and now live near Capetown. The CBC should talk not only to Mr. Mulroney and the diplomats but to the many Canadians who worked in the anti-apartheid movement for years trying to get the government to support sanctions and isolate the apartheid regime."
And one final letter here from Paul Dehler of Ottawa:
The apparent unanimity of opinion on the great moral standing of Nelson Mandela causes me much discomfort. Was this moral leader not a co-founder, with the South African Communist Party, of the MK, an organization committed to the violent disruption of the South African regime? Was he not on the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008?
The world leaders who gush superlatives at Nelson Mandela see no irony in their ongoing commitment to actively monitor and sometimes violently suppress those who threaten their own political or economic authority. Those who praise Nelson Mandela but make harsh judgments on Edward Snowden and Julian Assange should recall Mandela's words: 'The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices--submit or fight.'"
Nelson Mandela has become an iconic figure because he had extraordinary attributes... He is a symbol of our yearning to be good, ethical beings. He is also a talisman that serves to protect us against the ugly truth of our own fearful submission to authority and our complicity with power. Evoking the virtuous struggle of one man against apartheid would purify our hearts but for most of us the hard work remains. Mr. Mandela has been freed, now is the time to free ourselves."
Healthcare for Refugee Claimants: An update on a story we brought you in the spring of 2012 ... healthcare for refugee claimants. In the past, the Canadian government provided health coverage for people waiting to have their refugee claims heard. Primary health care needs such as doctor visits were covered. So too were were vision, dental and drug requirements.
But since July of 2012 refugee claimants have only been covered for what's considered "urgent or essential" care, or if they pose a threat to public health. Vision, dental and drug coverage are gone. And if the claimant comes from a "Designated Country of Origin" -- a country the Canadian Government deems to be safe -- their coverage is even further limited.
Some Canadian doctors staged protests against the policy change back in 2012. Now they've had over a year of working in the new regime and provincial governments have had the same amount of time to assess the policy's impact.
So we're checking in with Dr. Meb Rashid. He is Director of The Crossroads Clinic at Women's College Hospital and a founding member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. Dr. Meb Rashid was in Toronto.
Social Mobility: On Monday, as part of our Project Money series, we talked about Social Mobility with Eric Girard, a third year law student at the University of Ottawa. He grew up in poverty and ran out of money during his second year of law school. He was told by the administration that he would have to take time off until he could find the money to pay for tuition.
After that interview, we spoke with economics professor Miles Corak, an expert on social mobility. He said that middle class Canadians experience a good amount of social mobility -- both up and down the socio-economic ladder. However, he says there is a lot of "stickiness" at the very top and very bottom.
After that we heard your experiences about social mobility -- or immobility.
TJ Shurland from Mississauga, Ontario, writes:
This black Canadian's experience with the 'stickiness' of social mobility was that it felt more like quicksand than stickiness. Our family was devastated by the failure of a system that allowed for my mentally ill father to fall through the cracks; leaving my mother to raise 3 kids and support my unemployable father on a meager teacher's salary. Being the eldest boy I was profoundly affected by my father's illness...
I continued on in my father's hapless footsteps, getting hooked on alcohol and other drugs, contracting hepatitis C then riding the merry-go-round of Ontario's Correctional system. I, like my father, unstable and unemployable had a child of my own, eventually abandoning her to drug use.
After more than two decades of abuse with nothing less than a tremendous will to succeed, as well as a concerted effort on the part of my mother, special people in harm reduction circles, Narcotics Anonymous, government and community supports I managed to climb out of the abyss and graduate from university; albeit with a mountain of debt.
Although I have my degree, I find my socio-economic ladder missing a few rungs. Short sighted government policies have made it difficult for people such as me who want be productive members of society to be granted pardons. Years of dysfunction have left me without social networks and a resume with too many gaps to get noticed in a competitive job market. I have never given up in the face of hardship and I persevered in trying to climb the socio-economic ladder. Now after all that effort Canada's socio-economic stickiness just has me plain stuck."
Annette Cloutier of Temagami, Ontario added this:
I made it through university but it's difficult to fit into the culture of 'professionalism' because I didn't grow up with lawyer and doctor stories at the dinner table. We need more diverse people to find a place amongst the culture of 'professionals'. It would help create a more equitable and compassionate culture."
Jessica Hadley from Oliver, BC, sent us this note:
I too come from humble origins (farmer stock) and when I applied to the UBC law school the mandatory application form contained no less than four questions about lawyers in my family... such as: Are you related to a judge? Did your father, grandfather, any uncle attend this law school? Etc. I felt like answering "Why would that matter?". Thankfully my LSAT (law school admission test) score was high enough to ensure my acceptance, and I successfully negotiated three years of cultural and monetary bias. Money is not the only roadblock to higher education.
Kaanayo Nwachukwu in London, Ontario, also had a strong reaction to this story. He writes:
Eric Girard's story brought me close to tears because it mirrors my story from Africa to Canada. As the oldest of six siblings in a rural part of Africa, born in abject poverty, I desperately wanted to get out of the situation I was born into. I thought education would help elevate me to a better status and so I embraced it. But it has been a major struggle since childhood.
Before coming to Canada in 1999, I had a bachelor's in linguistics. After regularizing my documents here, while doing menial jobs, I went back to school...
This past June, I graduated with a master's in journalism. Since then, it's been rough trying to get a job. I find the same thing I didn't like in my African country -- not getting a job because I didn't know anyone -- is what I am encountering here as well.
If Eric Girard, a white man born in Canada, could go through all what he has, imagine what it would be for a black man, from Africa, with an accent. That said, I am very grateful for all Canada has given to me because it could have been a lot worse without the universal healthcare and other support systems. I pray I make it so my own children won't go through so much hardship.
Medical Marijuana for Pets: Last month we brought you the story of parents who wanted access to a specific strain of medical marijuana for their young children who suffer from a rare form of epilepsy known as darvet syndrome. Now it seems pet owners want access too.
Kathy Kramer is a veterinarian at the Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital. And she says she has clients who are -- or would like to be -- using medical marijuana on their cats and dogs. Kathy Kramer was in Vancouver.
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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.