battlefield dispatches from the imaginary "WAR on The CAR"

A past glimpse of another racist Canada worth remembering today

DISCLAIMER: Centuries of racist, xenophobic behaviour on the part of the originally European-based usurpers of North America – and much of the rest of the globe – provide the sordid foundation for the social inequities we Canadians are still struggling to rectify today. And one fully accepts the fact that any senior, white, male who attempts to weigh in on any part of this continent’s shameful political evolution invites whatever manner of righteous criticism be deemed appropriate, especially given the overdue related turbulence in which we now find ourselves immersed during the isolated summer of 2020. Still as we celebrate Canada Day, I wanted to share a small forgotten part of our troubled nation’s much larger story, which has helped foster my own lifelong – at least always aspirational – path as a third generation anti-racist. I do not pretend to tell the whole story here, and recognize that true heroes/heroines involved are those who were/are the victims of what is now thankfully exposed as another sorry example of the too easily manipulated ignorance at the root of mainstream inhumanity’s herd-mentality.


Today, as we Canadians celebrate from coast to coast to coast, we do so under the continuing threat posed by a global pandemic as well as the never before so-glaringly apparent self-realization of the virulent racist story of our evolving country’s past, and present. But hopefully, not our more universally equitable future. 

With that in mind, I would like to share a brief, ultimately anti-racist snippet of local Canadian history, which has long been ignored and/or intentionally forgotten by our carefully manicured mainstream society.

Way back in the first half of the last century, Toronto was just starting to emerge from the economic upheaval of The Great Depression. It was 1938 and then forty-two year old Jim Finlay was just taking over as the newly installed minister of Carlton Street United Church.

The old church was tucked away from Yonge Street, just behind the S. S. Kresge’s lunch counter on the busy intersection’s south-east corner. While Jim had been born in the city, following the tuberculosis-related death of his young Catholic mother before his second birthday, he had spent the intervening years being raised by relatives in various parts of both the southern United States and Canada, where the male members of the clan had worked the railroads, and the women had been devoutly involved with the Methodist church.  

Jim’s new appointment to the centrally-located Toronto church was seen by both the down-to-earth cleric and his wife, and former childhood sweetheart, Aleta, as a God-sent opportunity to serve a burgeoning downtown urban community. Yet much trepidation also accompanied their wholesale shift from London, Ontario, as they moved themselves, their five children, Aleta’s older sister Myrtle, and the family dog, into the three storey, brown brick house at 24 Wellesley Street East, which the Carlton St. church provided as a ‘manse’ as part of their remuneration deal with its presiding minister. 

All moved ahead as well as might have been hoped during that first year, until the reality of the onset of a possible second World War began to monopolize conversation on the street, and within the church. Although, as an already married minister with his first son on the way, pacifist Jim had been conscripted into the Western Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Army during World War I, the carnage had thankfully ended before he was to have been shipped overseas in 1918.

Jim had returned home to his pregnant wife – who had been hospitalized with a severe case of pandemic-deadly influenza – and helped nurse her, and their new baby, back to health. But his life-long anti-war philosophy was already an entrenched part of his world view by the time participation in WWII became a Canadian reality. And this was the message that he now freely and robustly communicated with his growing flock at Carlton Street United. 

As one can well imagine, such an overt anti-war stance rang out in stark contrast to the prevailing mood of the day, especially when the Canadian government was revving up support for the war movement, and many of Jim’s ‘patriotic’ parishioners objected to his steadfast message of Christian-inspired non-violence. Where the majority saw the issue as simply the acceptance of a single duty to God and to country, in his role as his community’s spiritual leader, Jim’s position involved a more nuanced approach that demanded recognition of how one must prioritize one’s own duty to God or truth, as well as one’s separate duty to Canada. 

Jim Finlay had made his choice with studied conviction, and now having made what was to prove the toughest decision of his long life, whatever the next few months/years would bring, he would have to weather the consequential storm.  

By 1939 the ongoing debate within the Carlton St. congregation had spread to the United Church of Canada’s national stage. The Rev. James M. Finlay was one of the eventually 75 UCC clergy-member signatories to a manifesto that appeared in the church’s own magazine, The Observer, entitled, “A Witness Against War.” It is  understood our Jim was closely associated with the creation of said document. Not only did he have a central street-level Toronto base from which to encourage the discussion, his sermons were being broadcast across southern Ontario from 11:05 to 12:00 noon each Sunday morning on CKEY radio.

A rift was growing in his relationship with the United Church’s national executive which had become evermore supportive of the war effort, especially in light of the economic aspects of the entire enterprise and its publicly unspoken win/win of getting all those depression-era slackers off the dole and into a uniform. It would probably even do them all good, it was thought. 

Now the mainstream print media was also taking notice and a writer from The Telegram was in one of the side pews each week reporting on the content of Jim’s pacifism-centred sermons. 

By the spring of 1940 a powerful group of his unpersuaded, more pro-war parishioners organized an official challenge to his ministry. By autumn the result of a full congregational vote on whether or not he would keep his job – and his family’s current home, remember – found that although a majority of members of Carlton Street United Church disagreed with his antiwar stance, they also voted to have him continue as their spiritual leader because they were inspired by his thoughtful conviction that he was right according to the teachings of the church.

A sleazy local tabloid of the day called, “HUSH” had now begun to attack him as a racist and a traitor, arguing that as a perceived enemy of the Canadian war effort, he was himself, a Nazi. 

In the aftermath, many members left Carlton, including some of the older and most socially connected families. The split was regrettable, but such is probably inevitable in any evolving church responding to the real life issues of the age. Those who remained were even more determined to follow the path they believed that their faith’s first teacher would have taken.

Jim Finlay took further incoming criticism – including a rumoured threat of legal action from the Ontario Attorney General – in stride while continuing to minister to the day-to-day needs of his wartime-disrupted community over the following year, until December 7, 1941, when Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbour officially brought the USA into the global fight, and took the still simmering local debate – now also fuelled by Canada’s handling of our own nation’s response – to a whole new level.

As one Carlton parishioner later recalled regarding the government’s – and the general public’s – reaction: 

As in any time of crisis, we usually try to find a whipping boy to hate and blame all our troubles on and the Japanese, mostly born in Canada, were singled out for this purpose: uprooted from their homes, moved into camps and shipped far from their homes, which were confiscated in most cases and sold for a song.

Or as one federal cabinet minister from British Columbia said, in pushing the Canadian government to take action:

It is the governments plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia: No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.

A young B.C. born and raised Canadian was already a medical student at the University of Toronto and had been a member of the Carlton St. congregation for some time prior to the onset of war in the Pacific. He came to Jim after receiving a letter from his also Canadian-born, second-generation Japanese (Nisei) sister on the the west coast, informing him of her young family’s suddenly ongoing plight, asking his minister if there was anything that might be done to help. 

The husband/father of the persecuted west coast-based family in question had been a well-known professional baseball player who was also a Canadian-born citizen, as were their four B. C.-born children who were third generation Canadians. Here he later recalls the experience in a 1984-penned letter to the Government of Canada: 

Almost immediately after the Pearl Harbour attack, I received a letter from the R.C.M.P. advising me to report to their Headquarters. I was not quite prepared for the shocking news that awaited me. They informed me that I would be sent to the road camp in Schreiber, Ontario within a week.

I am a Canadian citizen, and yet I was treated like an enemy alien. I had a wife and four small children ranging in age from four month-old twins to a seven year-old daughter. The mere thought of being separated from my family was the most painful ordealI have ever had to endure. We pleaded with the Security Commission to allow us to stay together as a family but our petition fell on deaf ears. My family prepared to go to one of the internment camps and I to a road camp.

Then about a week before our departure for our unknown destinations, a ‘miracle’, it seemed, happened. We received a telegram from Rev. Finlay inviting us to come and stay with him and his family until we were able to find a place of our own.

I cannot express the deep emotions we felt as we read the telegram. Rev. Finlay had heard of our plight – the tragedy of evacuation from the West Coast, from my wife’s brother whom he had met at Carlton United Church in Toronto, known as “A House of Friendship”.

Despite the fact that the sentiments of the general public in Toronto were not favourable towards the Japanese people, Rev. Finlay had the courage to invite a family of six – total strangers to him – into his home and helped ease the suffering and confusion of those days, inflicted by the blindness and insensitivity of fellow-citizens.

We lived with the Finlays at the parsonage for seven months, during which time we were treated as members of their own family. Mrs. Finlay was a gracious lady, whose compassion and understanding sustained us through our sojourn at the parsonage. I can never repay the debt I owe to Rev. and Mrs. Finlay for all the help they gave us during our most difficult time. I am particularly grateful to Rev. Finlay for taking the time to drive me all over the city to help me find a job and a suitable house for us to buy.

I know that once Reverend Finlay learned the facts of what the Canadian Government was doing to its own citizens, he needed no further encouragement cry out in thunderous protest against “man’s inhumanity to man”. He was the first minister to preach those challenging sermons, concerning the plight of the Japanese in Canada.

– Ed Kitagawa, nominating Jim Finlay for the Order of Canada, Dec. 10, 1984

I can think of no better way to end this chapter of the much larger story referenced in my opening disclaimer, except to leave you with Jim Finlay’s January 1943 note to his by-then former houseguests, as an epilogue:

You will never know how much the Finlays miss the Kitagawas. You never made a great deal of noise at 24 Wellesley. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Finlay and I used to marvel at how quiet so many people could be. But oh! what a quietness has been there since that Friday night. Certainly for a while, silence fell in chunks. It was like a great aching of something close to your heart that had been taken away. To tell the truth, that is what it really had become in the last six months. We shall always be very thankful to God that, if the Kitagawas had to be pulled up by the roots, and go through the very serious adjustments that these days demand, that in it all He gave to us the high privilege of letting you live close to us for a little while. Something very deep and rich has happened to our hearts because of your presence and that of the youngsters with us.

NB/ In that last line Jim Finlay speaks to his compassionate underlying philosophy of teaching by example for those generations that would follow in his footsteps. Two of the “youngsters” to whom he refers who also lived in that crowded house – and would have watched all of this history play out in real time as high school students at nearby Jarvis Collegiate – were the Finlay’s two teen-aged daughters, Marion and her little sister, (and my own dear mother) Lois.

PS/ I am further happy to report that I also see signs of the continuation of that same natural acceptance of anti-racist truth in our own great-granddaughter and many of her generation. 



The Reverend Dr. James M. and Mrs. Aleta Finlay, pictured around Canada Day, 1952, with much of their still growing family at their modest clapboard summer cottage near Brock Beach on Georgian Bay.

Toronto CIty Council approves 40 km of new bike lanes.


As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto has started to implement a plan called ActiveTO “ActiveTO is about making sure people have space to get around while respecting physical distancing.”

Today, City Council took a huge step forward by approving a plan to add 40 km of new bike lanes. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is that the plan includes the westward expansion of the Bloor bike lanes from Shaw to Runnymede, as well as a large part of the Danforth from Broadview to Dawes Rd (between Main and Victoria Park), and the missing section between Avenue and Sherbourne. This provides a continuous 15 km path for cyclists along this important transport corridor.

The other bike infrastructure enhancements planned are:

Dundas Street East, from Sackville Street to Broadview Avenue, Cycle Track

University Avenue / Queens Park, from Adelaide Street to Bloor…

View original post 217 more words

DECONSTRUCTION ZONE: Detailed analysis and responses to media, correspondence, and official documents

The Darcy Allan Sheppard Files







25 May 2020

Dear Sirs:

I am writing in reply to your letter of April 20, 2015, sent electronically to Wayne Scott, my friend and colleague in the pursuit of justice for my late son, Darcy Allan Sheppard.

Mr. Scott has for several years faced serious health challenges that made it difficult, now impossible, for him to respect your letter with a reply. He has given me permission to reply in his place. I do so not on his behalf but my own. I, and only I, am responsible and accountable for what follows.

Mr. Scott and I have had…

View original post 9,364 more words

The establishment, the cradle and the grave.

It's shite being Scottish

This site does not get very many visitors, but there are enough for me to believe that the effort of writing is worthwhile.

View original post 1,811 more words

Letting go

Max and all here send our heartfelt condolences to all involved. Sorry to just be seeing this post now or one would have responded in a more timely manner, Andy. Distracted. OXO ❤

It's shite being Scottish

He used to visit when my mother was alive but she shooed him away, not because she did not like cats, but because she was scared she might trip over him. After she died, every time I came to the house he would visit. By the time I moved in, he seemed to have already decided that this was where he wanted to be. I reopened the old cat flap so he could come and go as he pleased. Every time I came home from one of my adventures or from working in the city, he would be close by, waiting for my return with long stories and much purring.

View original post 582 more words

CAR FREE DAY 2008 revisited

TORONTO’s eighth annual CAR FREE DAY was held 10 years ago today, on September 22, 2008.

This photo was shot on a stretch of Yonge Street devoid of motor vehicles — just south of the centre of the day’s festivities at Yonge/Dundas Square — by renowned Canadian photojournalist, Lucas Oleniuk, and appeared the following day in the TORONTO STAR.


At the time, I was running federally to represent Toronto’s west-end downtown riding of Davenport.

The intended Green Party of Canada candidate in our neighbourhood had pulled out of the race a couple weeks before the campaign was to begin, and the enviro-friendly fringe party had issued an online plea for a replacement.

Despite the understanding that we had no chance of winning the seat, I volunteered to run as part of keeping a personal promise to do “anything and everything ethical/legal” to deny then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party a majority government in Ottawa.

With then-veteran Green Party of Ontario leader, Frank de Jong as my campaign manager, we used my lifelong avowed aversion to unnecessary motor vehicle use*, along with the local name recognition one had garnered ten years earlier from a globally-reported, unanimous federal appeals court victory — which had forced an auto-addled mainstream bureaucracy to recognize foot and bicycle messengers as viable vehicles for the sustainable urban delivery of documents and small-load freight — to garner more than 10% of the vote in Davenport.

Much of that support was also tied to the high visibility GPC leader Elizabeth May attracted with her successful fight to be included in the nationally televised debates. Ms. May would lose her race in 2008, but would go on to become the first nationally elected Canadian Green Party member, in 2011.

I mention all of this a decade later to emphasize the irresponsible reversal in thinking on display, in what passes for Ontario today.

2,300,000 of our fellow citizens recently sold their souls — and their children’s future — for a promise of cheaper gas for their ever-larger motor vehicles.

With so many buying into the backward web of lies spun by Doug Ford and his oxymoronically named Progressive Conservative cult, they exposed a dark fount of deplorably selfish ignorance, that while apparently always having been there, now finds damaging release with the rise of so bellicose a populist champion.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 11.06.24 AM.jpg

We see the same phenomenon, but with even more risk of global peril, south of our border.

On the bright side, however, 3,400,000 Ontarians — a majority of whom reside within Ontario’s largest urban enclaves — voted against those who now hold our province hostage.

With recent related events surrounding the current manipulation of Toronto’s municipal election already focusing attention on the very real threat such poses to our nation’s democratic ideals, it is hoped that all engaged local citizens will work together to oust every municipal candidate with direct ties to wanna-be Despot Doug’s Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, from the 25-seat Toronto City Council.

Many of these incumbent hometown turncoats are easy to spot as they showed up at a Queen’s Park photo-op in vocal support of the ongoing provincial assault on our democratic rights. But it is their corrupt partisan activity on council — some over decades — that speaks even louder.

councillors-ontario-opposition-attack-premier-doug-fords-toronto-council-cuts (1)

If we responsible Torontonians allow them to return to municipal positions of power, we afford yet another foothold from which the currently elected provincial tyrant might attack us where we choose to live, and work, and raise our families.

Please vote wisely dear TORONTO, 2018.  

* Despite more than half-a-century of age eligibility, I have never even applied for a driver’s license, let alone added to Toronto’s pollution/congestion crises by driving a motor vehicle in our hometown.

At this point in my life, it doesn’t look like that almost 53-year non-driving vow will ever be broken.

And while one doesn’t expect anyone to match my zeal, I just put it out there to let folks know that it is indeed possible for every day to be CAR FREE DAY.  OXO



28 Forgotten Facts about Michael Bryant’s killing of Darcy Allan Sheppard

Bryant Watch

On this date six years ago Special Prosecutor and experienced defence attorney, Richard Peck withdrew charges against former Attorney General Michael Bryant in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard. Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. Bryant’s actions were captured on surveillance video and witnessed by several people, and subject to forensic evidence.

Over the past six years most people have forgotten the events of that night and the evidence surrounding those events. Here are 28 Forgotten Facts about the case:

1 One month before he killed Darcy Allan Sheppard in a road rage attack, Michael Bryant told the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Wells  that “road rage is back in my life”

2 Michael Bryant admitted that the months leading up to the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard were a difficult time for him:“I was usually in the dog house that…

View original post 1,385 more words

Ghomeshi v Bryant

Ever more questions, but still no answers.

What is it about Canada’s most controversial vehicular homicide, that the Liberal governments of first Dalton McGuinty, and now Kathleen Wynne, feel justified in keeping from, not only impacted Ontarians, but even more obscenely, the patiently stoic father of the dead man?

Bryant Watch


After the trial and acquittal of Jian Ghomeshi much has been written and spoken regarding his lawyer Marie Henein and her work with another famous client, former Ontario Attorney General, Michael Bryant. In both cases the media attributed Henein’s success to her ability to find exculpatory evidence supporting her clients. The question that has not been addressed is why did Ghomeshi’s case go to trial but not Bryant’s?  Why did Henein reveal her entire defence to the Crown in Bryant’s case, in order to avoid a trial but not in Ghomeshi’s case?

The simple answer would be that Henein felt the evidence, against Jian Ghomeshi (including the exculpatory evidence she had uncovered) was stronger than the evidence against Michael Bryant. The Crown in Ghomeshi’s case went to trial because they believed they had a reasonable prospect of conviction. The Crown in Bryant’s case, represented by special prosecutor Richard Peck and his Ontario agent Mark Sandler determined that there was no reasonable prospect of…

View original post 1,778 more words

Well, This Ain’t Canada

Well, This Ain’t Canada.

dandyhorse photo by Dana Lacey