As It Happens

August 11, 2021 Episode Transcript

Full-text transcript

The AIH Transcript For August 11, 2021

[hosts]Nil Köksal, Ali Hassan[/hosts]


NIL KOKSAL: Hello, I'm Nil Köksal, sitting in for Carol Off.

ALI HASSAN: Good evening. I'm Ali Hassan, sitting in for Chris Howden. This is "As It Happens".

[music: theme]


AH: Tonight:

NK: Run on sentence. Canadian Michael Spavor is facing eleven years in a Chinese prison. But our guest says diplomatic efforts could still help bring him home.

AH: Faith in medicine. A Florida pastor who has lost seven parishioners to COVID-19 says he's doing what he can to encourage his congregants to get vaccinated. And he prays those who won't can stay safe.

NK: In plane sight. Sixty years ago, she was a flight attendant on board a plane carrying Inuit children to residential schools. Now she says she's finally realizing the horror that she was a part of.

AH: True colours. A racial justice advocate in Ohio says a pair of back-to-back convictions in the state have strengthened her conviction that the American justice system will sentence Black people to more time -- for lesser crimes.

NK: Fatal Attraction. A marine scientist tells us why certain types of trash seems to attract hermit crabs. And she says says it's time for a sea change when it comes to plastics pollution.

AH: And call me by your name. An upcoming festival of Kyles prompted us to revisit some conversations from our archives about a battle of Joshes and the night of Nigels -- all of which has me wondering what an accumulation of Alis might be called?

AH: "As It Happens", the Wednesday edition. Radio that's all yours. No assembly required.

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Part 1: Spavor Sentenced, Ohio Sentences, Hermit Crabs Plastic

Spavor Sentenced

Guest: JLynette Ong

AH: After his prison sentence in China today, Michael Spavor delivered a message via Canada's Ambassador to China, Dominic Barton. He thanks Canada for their support. He says he's in good spirits, and he wants to go home. A court in China sentenced Mr. Spavor to 11 years in prison and deportation. He was convicted of espionage earlier this year. Mr. Spavor was first detained in China along with fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig in December 2018, just days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada. At a press conference, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau told reporters Canadian and American officials are working behind the scenes.




MARC GARNEAU: I can't go into details on this, but I can assure you, and you heard President Biden comment back in February that the detention of the two Michaels was completely unjustified, that they were treating them as though they were American citizens, and that they were working with us to try to find a solution for the release of the two Michaels. And I can't go into any further details, but those intense discussions continue.




AH: Meanwhile, Ms. Meng's extradition hearing is well underway this week in Vancouver. And Lynette Ong says the timing of Mr. Spavor's sentence is no coincidence. She's a China expert at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. We reached her in Toronto.


NK: Professor Ong, what do you think this prison sentence will mean for Michael Spavor?


LYNETTE ONG: Let's look at it from two perspective. One is this is a trumped-up charge. So 11 years is very harsh. And this is in addition to nearly three years of illegal detention. But the other to look at it is for this sort of crime, which is espionage, the Chinese courts agreed to hand out a life sentence. So in a way, 11 years on the lighter end of the sentence. On top of that, there is deportation. Now, we don't know when deportation is going to take place and under what circumstances, but that also opens up, you know, the possibility of him coming home.


NK: In these cases, you know, from the politicians and families, words are chosen so carefully, they have to be so careful. Michael Spavor's family released a statement that says in part, while we disagree with the charges, we realize that this is the next step in the process to bring Michael home. So hinting at that hope that you mentioned. What kind of wiggle room is there for an earlier deportation for Mr. Spavor?

LO: It is... it is really very, very difficult to predict. But if we see this as a, you know, a game of political bargaining, and I am sorry to put it, you know, so crudely. It depends on, you know, what happens in the Vancouver court. It's like two people dancing. It's people watching for each other's move.


NK: We just heard Minister Garneau say in that clip there that the United States is treating the two Michaels as if they are American citizens. The court case that you described playing out in Vancouver is, of course, tied to the United States. Is that enough, though? Is the fact that the U.S. treating these these men as American citizens, is it enough? And could the U.S. be doing more?


LO: Compared to what happened under President Trump, we are now in a much better position. Because, you know, I think the U.S. government is now taking on this case as if the two Michaels are their own... own citizens. And taking it seriously, and trying... trying to put pressure on China to deal with these cases in a more fair manner. Could they have done a lot more? But, you know, U.S. and China is now, you know, locked in intense competition. So a lot of things are at stake. And I have no doubt that Ottawa is actually… is also trying very hard, putting a lot of pressure on this counterpart in Washington, D.C. to secure the release of the two Michaels.


NK: In terms of putting international pressure on China, the Canadian government has introduced sanctions as well.


LO: Yeah.


NK: Do you think that's making any difference?


LO: I'm not sure whether that's actually making a difference. You know, I think research shows that sanctions typically have, you know, dubious impact. And in return, Beijing has also introduced sanctions against U.S. officials and Western officials. So it could be just a tit-for-tat type of strategy, whether or not that would actually induce more desirable behaviour, I think that's questionable.


NK: What other cards do you think Canada has left to play at this point?


LO: I think the cooler heads should prevail. Calm down and see what's coming up from China. You know, I think Spavor's sentence suggests that things could have gotten a lot... a lot worse. And I'm not saying that, you know, 11 years is justified or is just under any circumstance, but things could have gone a lot worse. And I'm sure Beijing is well aware of the fact that the world is watching. I mean, the strong show of force outside the court and at the Canadian embassy shows that, you know, the world is really watching. So I'm sure the Chinese government is feeling the pressure.


NK: And certainly so is the Canadian government. Almost a thousand days in custody. Canada's ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, was asked whether Canada was negotiating a plan to send Mend Wanzhou home in exchange for the Michaels? He said, quote, there are intensive efforts and discussions. So do you think that that kind of swap is under consideration?


LO: I can't say for sure. But, you know, we know that this is a high-stakes political game from day one. So I'm sure that option is not ruled out.


NK It's hard to imagine a scenario where either side would... would acquiesce or... because neither side wants to be seen as giving in, certainly.


LO: Sure.


NK: But do you think that there's a point where China could overplay its hand? How do you see it unfolding?


LO: This case to them, from their eyes, is... is a bit of a unprecedent the case of high-level financial executives being detained under U.S. law in a third-party territory, in a third country territory. So they are not willing to let this case, Meng... Meng's case go easily. Because if that happens, that may open up the possibilities of the U.S. government applying the same sort of law to another third country on Chinese executives, right? To them, and I think, you know, there's a lot of faith on one dimension and the other... another consideration is it will set a very bad... bad precedent. I think Chinese see this as the U.S. could bully China by a third country. And in this case, is Canada. If they let this case goes, this might happen again.


NK: If Meng Wanzhou is not released, is there any other avenue you think China would be willing to consider?


LO: I'm not entirely sure. I know that people are now starting to talk about, you know, boycotting the Olympics, but that's a more... much more complicated story.


NK: What do you think today's sentence for Michael Spavor might signal about Michael Kovrig's impending sentence?


LO: The degree, the intensity of sentence might be related, but in a way that is very hard to predict.


NK: Well, there is a lot to watch for and certainly for the families to wait and worry about. As I said, almost a thousand days since they were taken into custody. Professor Ong, I thank you for your time.


LO: OK, thank you so much.


AH: Lynette Ong is a political scientist at the University of Toronto.

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Ohio Sentences

Guest: Danielle Sydnor


AH: It's a tale of two separate theft cases by public officials in Ohio -- same prosecutor, different judges, and two drastically different rulings. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Debbie Bosworth, who's white and a now-former town clerk, was sentenced to probation for stealing over 200,000 dollars from her town. A day later, came Karla Hopkins, a black, now-former school official, also charged with embezzlement. She was sentenced to more than a year in prison for stealing roughly 42,000 dollars from her workplace. Activists and civil rights groups are calling this a blatant example of racial injustice. Danielle Sydnor is the president of the Cleveland branch of the NAACP. We reached her in Shaker Heights, Ohio.


NK: Ms. Sydnor, what was your reaction when you heard about these cases and the differences in the rulings?


DANIELLE SYDNOR: My initial reaction was frustration and disappointment that we continue to have large-scale calls for reform, and especially after the amount of uprisings and sort of wake-up call in 2020 as a result of the murder of George Floyd. And people really espousing that Black Lives Matter and that we need to have equal protection under the law and all of these amazing things that we still in 2021, have these types of cases that God only knows what would have happened if the sentencing would not have been in such close proximity to each other that we wouldn't even probably be having this conversation today because this would have gone under the radar. And then just the normal course of business of what happens in our criminal legal system every single day. So lots of frustration.


NK: There's a big difference in the amounts stolen in each of these cases. So why such a comparatively light sentence for Mr. Bosworth?


DS: Yeah, so I think this is a story of two things. It's a story of race, and it's a story of means. And so, in the case of Ms. Bosworth, yes, she stole over almost 250,000 dollars over a 20-year period of time. And so she got pretty comfortable, you know, with doing that. And was in a position, though, where she had much more financial resources. The fact that the state was able to recuperate over 200,000 dollars from her pension and that the day of her sentencing, she was able to write a check for 100,000 dollars. There are some sources that say she stole the Jeep Wrangler, so she had much more financial means coming into her court proceedings. And also, she had the favour of an attorney and a mayor that didn't really want to see her spend any time in prison and were working towards getting her a plea deal that would have given her probation instead of even being able to be in front of the judge to have a decision of, you know, up to 60 years, which is what she could have been facing.


NK: So the fact that the mayor didn't ask for jail time, the fact that she paid it back, you know, some might point to that and say, well, those were reasons why she didn't get a tougher sentence. But you're suggesting, from what I'm hearing from you, that that actually underlines the disparity in this case?


DS: Absolutely, it underlines the disparity. Because what we know in our criminal legal system today is that individuals who are poor and innocent are more likely to spend time in jail and be incarcerated than people who are affluent and guilty. And so what we see in this case is that Ms. Bosworth was absolutely guilty. She had the resources to be able to take care of the situation, to have an attorney that has probably great relationships with many of the people that are on the bench. And you have a very vast difference in terms of the financial situation of Karla Hopkins coming into the situation. And in the United States, this... this disparity of wealth and resources really becomes illuminated when you look along racial lines. And so people who are poor that are going into the system, who are poor and Black, tend to end up with legal sentences that are much more heavy and heavy-handed than someone who is white and affluent.


NK: Just tell us a bit more about Ms. Hopkins' case and her circumstances?


DS: So I don't know Miss Hopkins personally, but from all the information that I've been able to derive from publicly available sources, you have a woman that was working in a first ring Cleveland neighbourhood that was very close to the inner city. So not someone who was coming from a lot of financial means. In her situation, her attorney explained that she was someone who was having some mental health challenges and gambling addictions. And the fact that when she was fired, she didn't have a savings account or a line of credit or something else to be able to ensure that she could continue taking care of herself. The only place that she had to go to get some money from what she's been able to tell public sources is the pension, the same pension that the state would have also tried to take for restitution. So the fact that she was going to try and survive off of this 20,000 dollars that she did have left to her name really paints a picture of the disparity between the financial situation of both of the individuals that we're talking about in these two different cases.


NK: And I understand the judge gave Ms. Hopkins a longer sentence than even the prosecutor had been asking for. Did he give a reason for that?


DS: He did give her a longer sentence. The reason he says that he gave her the longer sentence is because she went into her pension plan, and she took that money, and the state didn't have a chance to recuperate those dollars. Now, in terms of the comparison of probation versus any prison time. You know, the reality is, is this Judge, Rick Bell, had the choice to find another way to give, you know, Ms. Hopkins an opportunity to repay the resources that, you know, she owed to the state. And so I think in this kind of case, what you saw is an inability for the judge to really empathize with her personal situation. Instead of being able to recognise that maybe she didn't have literally any other money to figure out how she was going to pay her day-to-day bills and be able to hire an attorney. And as opposed to creating this narrative that she was taking the money from her pension to try and, you know, not allow the state to get restitution is a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding of the systemic issues that lead someone to be in the financial situation that many of us are and to begin with.


NK: What's your sense of where things go now? There's been all of this public attention, backlash in many cases. Do you think that that might change Ms. Hopkins sentence?


DS: Well, the judge did specify that during the sentencing, he explained to Miss Hopkins and to her attorney his intention to provide what he describes as judicial release. And so I have had a conversation with the judge since all of this happened to really demonstrate and describe the disappointment that myself and members of the NAACP and the Black community have. He has expressed that he is working with her attorney and the prosecutor's office to try and expedite the process of getting her judicial release. So I know that public outcry matters, and I think it's really important that we don't ever shy away from saying the things that we believe that are going to help other members of our community.


NK: Ms. Sydnor, I'm very glad we could thank you for your time.


DS: Thank you so much.


AH: Danielle Sydnor is the president of the Cleveland branch of the NAACP. She was in Shaker Heights, Ohio. For more on this story, visit our webpage at:


[music: world music]

Hermit Crabs Plastic

Guest: Paula Schirrmacher


AH: Have you ever gotten out of a bad relationship and asked for the hundredth time why am I attracted to trash? If you answered yes, you may have something in common with hermit crabs. A new study out the University of Hull in England has found that crustaceans found in the waters off the Yorkshire coast may be attracted to oleamide -- an additive released by plastics found in the ocean. And that attraction could wreak havoc. Paula Schirrmacher is a PhD candidate in the biology and marine sciences department at Hull University. We reached her in Hull. 


NK: Well, Paula, first we need to clear things up a bit. What does it mean when we say hermit crabs are attracted to this chemical found in plastics?


PAULA SCHIRRMACHER: So we, first of all, we did a respirometer test to see if the hermit crabs actually respond to this chemical? And we found that they are excited. They almost get hyperactive. And then we put them in a little behaviour tank, and we see that they walk towards this little filter paper where we've put that plastic additive because that's what we mean with the attraction. And we compare that with their response to a food cue, a food stimulant. And that is very, very similar, same concentration range. And the response looks very much alike.


NK: There have been a lot of headlines, though, suggesting that this is a sexual attraction. Is it?


PS: Yes, I think that was a misunderstanding [NK chuckles] with our press office, unfortunately. However, we did do previous research in Hull, where we found that oleamide is actually part of the sex pheromones of cleaner shrimp, which are very different to hermit crabs. But this indicates that oleamide -- this plastic additive that we looked at -- might be interpreted by other animals in a very different way. So this problem is much larger than this one particular species, hermit crabs, attracted to this one particular plastic additive. There might be more.


NK: Why did your... your research group decide to study hermit crabs in particular?


PS: Hermit crabs are really just a model species for us, so they are... they're small, they're very curious. They have a very diverse appetite. So they are attracted to a lot of different food cues. They are scavengers, so they like the smell of decaying food... almost the smell of death and decay almost. So, yeah, they… they make great model species, really.


NK: You mention the kind of attraction that they have to oleamide. How intense is it?


PS: So we see a response if you take a very low concentrated sample of oleamide, I tend to the minus five per litre we call it, and only 200 microliters in one litre off the tank water. So it's very... it's you wouldn't be able to smell that. So it's the same level that they use to detect their food.


NK: I know this is a small sample size, but how would this... would this kind of behavioural reaction affect hermit crabs in the wild? What effect might it have on them?


PS: Yes, so as you say, this is very early days, and this is just speculation, of course. But we can... we can assume that if they go around looking for food, they are foraging, and they mistake pieces of plastic for food. They would waste a lot of time and energy foraging. And in the world, that's already full of lots of different stressors with climate change and ocean acidification, for example. This is just another stressor that makes them waste potentially time and energy.


NK: And let's talk a bit about oleamide itself. Is it common in plastics?


PS: So it's a... it's quite a common slipping agent, actually. So it's added to plastics, [clears throat] such as food wrappings, pardon me, and it's used to make those plastics malleable, like usable for the... for the food wrapping. So it's quite a common plastic found on beaches, for example, as beach litter.


NK: We're all, of course, still thinking about how we started this week, that alarming United Nations report about climate change. How does your research fit in with the message of that report?


PS: So in our group, we focus on lots of different stresses, so we also look at the effects of climate change on chemically mediated behaviour so that the behaviour of animals in response to odours when they search for food when they search for mates or for predators. So climate change is also a huge stressor for them. It might potentially change certain aspects of their chemical communication. And now, we also see that they just get tricked by the plastic items smelling like food, potentially also smelling like mates or other messages, mixed messages, being sent out by those plastic additives leaching from the litter.


NK: Yeah, as clever as the headlines are, and how interesting it is to think about these hermit crabs being attracted to these bits of plastic, I'm getting the clear message from you that it's not your intention to suggest this is... this is a good thing? Because it takes them off their natural course.


PS: Oh, absolutely. Yes, exactly. So this is definitely a huge problem for wildlife, not just for hermit crabs. And yeah, the plastic pollution is never really funny. It might look cute when the hermit crab has this little bottle cap as a... as a shell. But it is a huge problem that we're facing now. We need to start talking to the industry and find out more really about how plastic additives affect the behaviour of animals. We are always hearing about the toxicity of plastic, right, with entanglement and ingestion of plastic particles by marine life. But what we're kind of forgetting here is why are those animals attracted to the plastic in the first place? And that was one of the main focus of our study here. [a door squeals] 


NK: And for you personally, Paula, you know, as someone who studies climate change and creatures, do you see any hope?


PS: I do think there's always hope, yes. We are... we can learn, and we don't want to cause any harm. I'm sure about that. I think now it's just a matter of time. And how much damage has already been done, how quickly we can learn, and how quickly we can adapt.


NK: Paula, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.


PS: Thank you very much.


AH: Paula Schirrmacher is a PhD candidate in the biology and marine sciences department at Hull University in England. We reached her in Hull. And we have more on this story on our website:


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Stevie Nicks COVID Cancellation

AH: Stevie Nicks knows how to break a heart. As one of the most iconic singers of the '70s, it comes with the territory. Which is why she had no problem cancelling her 2021 tour, even if it broke a few hearts. The 73-year-old Fleetwood Mac singer announced today that she would not be going forward with her solo concerts this year because of the rising number of COVID cases in the U.S. In a statement she said that, while she's vaccinated, she feels that at her age she needs to be extremely cautious. She added quote "These are challenging times with challenging decisions that have to be made. And I want everyone to be safe and healthy." Unquote.

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Part 2: Florida Pastor, Flight Attendant Residential Schools

Florida Pastor

Guest: George Davis

AH: Pastor George Davis has tried to use his sermons to encourage his parish to protect themselves and their community from the coronavirus. But despite his best efforts, he is still fighting vaccine misinformation and hesitancy at his church. He recently lost seven members of his parish to COVID-19. Four were under the age of 35. All were unvaccinated. Their deaths come as Florida continues to have one of the highest COVID infection rates in the United States. We reached Pastor George Davis in Jacksonville, Florida.


NK: Pastor Davis, first of all, I'm very sorry for your loss.


GEORGE DAVIS: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Really appreciate that.


NK: What can you tell us about the seven members of your church who passed away recently?

GD: Well, I can tell you, they're all beautiful people, folks that I have known for a long time, most of them. Our church is about 6,000 members. And so, a lot of people in our church may or may not have known each individual. But I actually happen to know all of them, with the exception of one. One young lady, I didn't really know well. But all very beautiful people who had a great future ahead of them with many years to come.


NK: As we said in the intro, all of them also unvaccinated. Do you have a sense of how many people at your parish are vaccinated right now?


GD: I do not. Any guess I would make would be purely anecdotal. We've been doing our part to help encourage vaccinations. We've had now two vaccination events. We had one back in March. We had about a thousand people that signed up to be vaccinated. And on the day of, we had about 800 that actually showed up. So had a good turnout. And then with the surge in the Delta area... because for our church, all last year, up through July of this year, we had only had one COVID death in our entire church that I'm aware of. Ironically, that was my grandmother, who happened to be 100 years of age and was in a nursing home and contracted COVID in a nursing home. Outside of that, we had had zero COVID deaths and had really seen our people come through without much problem. The rise of the Delta variant, which we had been watching for several months, we have a church in India that we support. And so we were able to see up close and personal what the Delta was doing there in India. So we've been watching this for several months. So when we realized that the Delta had made its way to America, we already knew what it had the potential to do. Florida has really become the hottest of hotspots. And within Florida, Jacksonville has become the hottest spot in Florida.


NK: You've also been having conversations with your parishioners who've been hesitant in the past about getting the vaccine. What kinds of things are you... are you telling them?


GD: Different people have had different reasons why they've been hesitant. We are about a 70 to 75 per cent African-American congregation. And within the African-American community here in America, there's a history of real distrust, mistrust, whereas relates to government as well as the medical institutions. It's not a personal belief or feeling that I have. But I understand that as a pastor and part of what I've had to do is help people to work through some of those things, some things that have happened in the past that have caused people to just not be as open to trusting the government when it comes to their medical needs. And because I think that filter has caused a lot of people to believe some of the misinformation that's out there. And there's a lot of misinformation out there. And some of the social media groups, private groups that exist, even some of the things that I think people have heard even from fairly reputable sources that really have no basis in fact. It's just anecdotal information that somebody thinks or somebody has heard. So we've been pushing back against a lot of that and doing our best to not make anybody feel pressured to get vaccinated, but certainly trying to help educate people and making a commitment as a church to be a trusted source, where people come here to for us to... to celebrate their babies being born, to help them get married, to counsel them in tough times and to... to bury them even in difficult times. And so because we are such a trusted source, our goal has been to... to give good factual information, not be pressured or pressurising people on one side or the other so that people can make a legitimate decision for those who are comfortable being vaccinated.


NK: Those are tough conversations to have.


GD: Very tough conversations. Some of them have happened in one-on-one settings or small group settings, but most of them have just happened as I am sharing and teaching other things, you know, from the stage and explaining why we're having vaccination events. I've then been able to share that as a pastor, I've been vaccinated since I was first eligible to be vaccinated back in February. And we've just been doing our best to encourage people that, hey, if you get an opportunity, it's a good vaccination. We feel very safe about it. My whole family is vaccinated, including all three of my children. My oldest being a 20-year-old, and my youngest being a 14-year-old. And so we feel good about it. And just using our own example has been the best way for us to encourage other people to at least explore it and listen to factual information, not the misinformation that's being spewed all over the place.


NK: But what are the facts that you're relaying to them to counter what they're seeing online?


GD: So I'm relaying facts that are clearly verifiable, but my own experience within our church confirms them. So facts such as here in Jacksonville, the doctors have stated that 90 to 95 per cent of the people right now in the hospital for COVID, and those in the ICU units are unvaccinated people. And I can tell you here within our church that there have been seven people who passed away. Three of them were elderly people, but elderly people who would've still more likely lived many, many years. The four that passed away that were under the age of 35. All of them that were under 35 would be considered healthy.


NK: As convincing as all of those examples are, sometimes it can be really hard for people to... to back down from something that they believe they're entrenched in. Add to that that people don't see science and religion as going hand-in-hand as well in many cases. So how do you navigate all of that to break down those walls?


GD: I don't try. If someone is entrenched in their position...  I have been a pastor long enough to know if people can believe whatever they choose to believe, and if they're entrenched, there's nothing for me to do other than, you know, try to keep it from becoming a contentious matter. So we give people space to believe whatever they believe. As it relates to the matter of religion and science being at odds with each other, I have for 25 years taught that that's not what I believe. I believe that the Bible and science are able to work hand-in-hand. And I specifically believe that faith and medical science work hand-in-hand. I have... I have a daughter who, at birth, was diagnosed with a disease that could have been terminal. And we were given an extremely grim prognosis of what to expect over the course of her life. At the time she was born in 2001, there was no known cure that we were aware of for this disease called sickle cell disease. So her mother and I had no choice but to trust God. And being people of faith and people of prayer, we prayed. And her own paediatrician has told us that we actually walk in a bona fide miracle that for 14 1/2 years, she never experienced one sign or symptom of that disease. But when she turned 15, we found out that bone marrow transplant was now a curative measure for this disease. We prayed and went through the bone marrow transplant process. And the doctors came back and confirmed now that she is now cured. So in our mind, it is faith working because we didn't have a cure initially. We didn't have any option initially. So we had no choice but to trust God. But when a medical science cure was brought to our attention, we then took advantage of that, and it finished the miracle off for us. So both faith and medicine came together and worked. And I don't see the vaccine as being any different than that. In 2020, there was no vaccine, so everybody had to trust that either their belief in God, combined with wearing a mask, washing your hands, that was the only hope we had of surviving this. But once a vaccine came to bear, that has received more study cases than the average vaccine would ever receive. They had already had years of preparatory work because of the SARS virus that they had been working toward. When that vaccination came on the scene, and the FDA in America gave emergency approval for it, that was enough for us to feel comfortable that this is something worth us proceeding with and allowing faith and medicine to once again work together for our good.


NK: Well, Pastor Davis, I thank you so much for your time. I think this conversation might help a lot of people, so we appreciate it.


GD: OK, you're welcome. Thank you.


NK: Take care.


GD: Bye.


AH: George Davis is senior pastor at Impact Church in Jacksonville, Florida. That's where we reached him.

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Flight Attendant Residential Schools

Guest: Sharon Gray

AH: The discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools across the country has confirmed what a lot of Indigenous people knew to be true. For others, it's been a wakeup call. And for Sharon Gray, it brought back a disturbing encounter she had more than half a century ago. Ms. Gray was a flight attendant for the Pacific Western Airlines during the 1950s and '60s. She often worked on flights in Canada's North. And it was during this time that she witnessed a plane full of Inuit children being taken to what she now knows were residential schools in the North West Territories. She first told her story to the Winnipeg Free Press. We reached Ms. Gray in Winnipeg. And a warning, this story contains details that listeners may find hard to hear.

NK: Ms. Gray, what did you think when you heard about what was discovered at the Kamloops Residential School site?

SHARON GRAY: It was early in the morning, and I think it was a Saturday morning. And when that came on, it brought back memories of the flights that I had worked, taking the children to and from the residential schools.

NK: Hearing that news, when that... when that news release first came and the stories that followed, it was a shock and a wake up call to many Canadians. It --

SG: Oh, for sure. 

NK: It reaffirmed what many others in this country, Indigenous people, certainly already said had happened. But how did you process it?

SG: Well, first, I'm not... I didn't believe it. And then with anger... and I was in bed when I heard and I got up and right went to the computer and typed a letter to my MP. And this is how it all started.

NK: Tell me about that anger? And... because it must have taken you back all of those decades ago and to those flights?

SG: Oh, it did. Yes, I worked several flights. But this particular one, there was one that stuck with me.

NK: And what happened?

SG: Well, there was another flight attendant on board. That would mean there were more than 40 seats on the airplane. And there were two girls that sat near the back. They were just almost hysterical with tears. And most of the other passengers, students were the same. And several were very, very ill. We ran out of sick bags. But these two, for some reason, I don't know, I started talking to them. I said, come on to the back. We've got cookies, you know? So they came to the back, and I started telling them. I said, lookit you're going to school. That's a good thing. And I said, the... the Catholics are good teachers. You're going to enjoy this. And, of course, this was their second time. They knew more than I did at this point. And they did stop crying. But you could see that they were really upset. And I couldn't understand that. You know, I went to a boarding school. Well, yes, the first time I was upset, too. Second time, it didn't matter.

NK: Knowing what you know now, that these were not boarding schools, and those children did know... some knew what was going to happen. 

SG: Yes. 

NK: Replaying what you said to them, you know, how do you... how do you deal with that? Because their situation wasn't good, and the people who were supposed to take care of them didn't. The Catholics who were there were not good in most cases.

SG: No, they weren't good. And I think one of the things that bothers me really now is that they must have felt that we were part of this situation. And we were, but we were not known to be part of that situation. And I think that upsets me, too, that I talked to them. And it's almost like I was telling them lies. And, you know, the Indigenous people have been talking about it, talking about it, talking about it. Who else talks about it? Nobody.

NK: And that's what made you want to write that letter to your MP. Tell me more about that?

SG: Yes, what I wanted to do… well, I wrote to him and I said, I'm just going to read just what I said at the end of the letter. It said, I'm in tears writing this as a memory is still with me. I'm asking you to do something I would very much appreciate. Do all you can to ensure that the Trudeau government seizes all the records and documents that are still available. I think only they can, and it has to be done as soon as possible. So that was really the reason that I was writing to my MP.

NK: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission studied the aviation industry's involvement in the residential school system, but they weren't able to get airline workers to take part in those hearings. Why do you think others are not coming forward?

SG: I'm not sure. I really am not. I don't know whom they contacted. If they contacted management types, I think the management types would probably not want to talk about it. Crew members, it was a long time ago. It was what... early 60s? Some of the people are dead, but some of them are still alive.

NK: You heard the news and you reacted. I'm sure --

SG: I did.

NK Some of your former colleagues must have heard it as well. Have you spoken to anyone or are you surprised that they're not coming forward?

SG: I'm surprised they're not coming forward. I was surprised no one is coming forward that I know of. Also, there were trips that were done where they... on the smaller airplanes with pilots only. And I wish the pilots would come forward. They have more credibility or ability to tell a story than... than flight attendants do.

NK: They're in the power... more powerful position.

SG: Yeah, that's right.

NK: They were in a leadership position on the flights?

SG: That's right. Yes. 

NK: Do you hope that the fact that you've come forward, that others might follow?

SG: Yes, I do. I really do. In the beginning, I did not realize why everybody was contacting me, including the CBC. And I finally found out, they said, well, we want this known and we want people to come forward. I said, well, if that's indeed the case, I will help you out if I can.

NK: The fact that you remember that flight and those two girls in particular, do you ever wonder what happened to them and all the other children on that flight?

SG: I do. Yeah, I do. And I always listen to the Indigenous people that are being interviewed about that. And they... they survived. That's true. But it certainly wasn't pleasant.

NK: I heard you say in another interview that you... you don't give up easily. What are you going to do personally to try to make right?

SG: I'm just going to... anybody that wants me to do something that would encourage others to come forward. I will try and do it.

NK: Well, we appreciate you talking to us, Ms. Gray.

SG: Well, you're very welcome.

NK: Thank you.

SG: Bye-bye.

AH: That was Sharon Gray, a former flight attended who witnessed Indigenous children being flown to residential schools. She was in Winnipeg. 

[music: industrial]

FOA: Conclave of Kyles

AH: Generally speaking, having a common name can be a bit of a nuisance. I mean, I'm relieved I'm the most popular Ali Hassan on Google. Yes, I check regularly. But I'm far from the only Ali Hassan out there. What hadn't occurred to me is that this might make it easier for me to become a world record holder. It occurred to the good people of Kyle, Texas though. Their Pie in the Sky Hot Air Balloon Festival is fast approaching. And this year, they've issued a challenge to all the Kyles out there -- urging them to convene in Kyle for the world's largest-ever gathering of Kyles in one place. All Kyles will receive free entry and a free t-shirt. Which is more than Joshes and Nigels can say. But both did beat Kyles to gathering in the name of names.



NIGEL SMITH: About three years ago, I realized that there were no new nigels named in the... in the U.K. in 2016. So I thought that's a bit of a worry, really. Because most of us are of a certain age. You know, we're kind of... we're going to die out soon. So it's important to sort of celebrate our Nigel-ness [CO chuckles] Before... before we'll pop off the planet.

CO: A dying breed then, you say.

NS: A dying breed, exactly. Yeah. If you were a nigel, you got a badge that said Nigel on it. And you got a certificate. And if you wern't a Nigel, you got a badge that said not Nigel on it, just so people were sure.

CO: [chuckling] Yeah, and you had some awards. What were the Nigel awards that you handed out?

NS: So, yes. So we did. The youngest Nigel, who was seven months old, Rupert Nigel. Don't know... his parents, they wanted to give him two challenges in life, being called Rupert and Nigel. [CO chuckles] So, and then we had the Nigel most... most troubled, who's a guy from Texas, who had seen on social media and was really up for it. And his girlfriend decided that was a great idea but didn't have the money. So they put something out on social media for everybody to send five or ten dollars, which they duly did. And the both of them came over specifically for the Nigel Night. So Nigel Stephens, he's our only crowdfunded Nigel that we had there. [CO laughs]


AH: Nigel Smith, speaking with Carol about a 2019 gathering of Nigels at Fleece Inn, near Worcestershire in the U.K. It's an event that may have inspired Arizona's Josh Swain, who called for a convention of Joshes in Lincoln, Nebraska earlier this year. 


JOSH SWAIN: So, I mean, I make jokes on Twitter all the time for friends just to get like 20, 30 likes or something like that. I have always, like, tried to register my name as my username for social media sites like just @JoshSwain. But unfortunately, it's always been taken. And I was wondering like, hey, like, there are apparently so many people that I can never get this username taken that are named Josh Swain. And so, like, as a joke, I thought of that like, we need to figure this out, just figure who is deserving of this title. And so that's where kind of idea spawned is when I added them all to a group chat. And then that eventually evolved through the game of telephone that is the Internet that it just became a Josh event, you know, not just the Josh Swain event. But luckily, we had one other Josh Swain there, and then about 50 other Joshes. 

NK: What is it like to be among so many Joshes?

JS: You know, before, I used to take it as a burden like, oh, like other people have my name. Like, you have to refer to me as my last name or... or, you know, some other aspect of me. But now, I take it kind of like a badge of honour, like I am a Josh, amongst all these other Joshes. Like, we are... we are... we are this community now.



AH:  Josh Swain, talking with Nil about April's Battle of the Joshes in Lincoln, Nebraska. Before that you heard about Worcestershire's Nigel Night. And next month, Kyle, Texas is planning a Conclave of Kyles.