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A Year of Light and Darkness

Posted by E on December 30, 2016

elisa-dec2016As 2016 comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what has been a very transformative year for me. An extremely difficult one as well since this month marks one year since my mother’s death last December, and her loss still feels altogether raw and very recent.

But it’s also been marked by some personal and professional accomplishments: I travelled to South America for the first time on a research project, and I’ve finally completed my last course for my Social Media Marketing Certificate from George Brown college! I must confess, I was waiting to earn this degree before I publish my new Art of Social Media Marketing for Creatives book, and now it’s going through the final edits before heading off to the printer.

I wanted to also touch upon some memorable highlights. When it comes to publications, there are three I am most proud of this year:

1. In March I published my literary novel Daughters of the Air, which interweaves the tragic tale of Adele Hugo, a retelling of The Little Mermaid fairytale and a modern-day timeline into a story of obsession, reincarnation and exploration of everlasting love. It’s tone is similar to The Red Violin and Posession, in that it’s a haunting love story that spans three continents, three timelines and three hundred years – a search for the root of heartbreak that involves mermaids, political activists and haunted geniuses. It flows from Paris to the Channel Islands, from spiritualist séances to the austere coastlines of Nova Scotia.

I am extremely proud of this book and I really hope you guys will get a chance to read it, because I poured all my heart into this one and it’s by far my most ambitious novel.

Daughters of the Air  CV2 cover  CV2 poem

2. In April, my villanelle poem One Europe was published in one of Canada’s oldest literary journals Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing (CV2). It’s the only national poetry magazine that continues to publish four times a year and I was so excited to be included in the Spring 2016 edition. I was inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art to create a similar pattern, and I’m so very glad that I wrote it. A villanelle has a very complicated rhyming pattern and creating it was a lot of work, but the joy and sense of accomplishment I felt for being able to create something this complex was tremendously rewarding.

3. In July, my editorial article was published in the Canadian Jewish News in a three-page spread. Moreover, it actually made the front cover for that week’s print edition! Nothing beats receiving a congratulatory message from my former university professor, mentor and self-described “Jewish uncle”, renowned Canadian poet Seymour Mayne, praising me for having my article featured on the cover – he’d just received it in the mail hours before Shabbat, and it made our weekend.

cjn-cover cjn1 cjn2

Although I would gladly have written the piece for free, getting a cheque from the CJN for the article was a great feeling. Depending on Patreon, writing grants, freelancing projects crowdfunding sites to keep writing full-time is a haphazard, unpredictable process that can get stressful. A lot of people read my blog but very few realize just how time-consuming writing can be, and how generating money is a persistent issue. If everyone who reads my blog donated a single dollar to my Patreon fund each month, I would have a full-time income.

I’ve been a blogger and freelance journalist for years, but my work often went unpaid. My experience with CJN taught me that I can effectively pitch and sell articles to major publications, which has shifted my perspective and made me more ambitious about pursuing paid gigs with established publications. Who knows, lighting could strike twice and I might get another article to grace a front cover someday!

Elisa HasdeuIn the coming year I intend to work more on commissioned articles and less on regular blogging. Actually, I spent the early part of summer taking online courses to earn my certificate in Journalism from Michigan State University. Although I don’t believe that a formal degree is necessary in an oversaturated field where very few can find full-time employment, I see reporting, blogging and freelance work as a continuum in 21st century journalism. In a world where an increasing number of mainstream reporters are being laid off and digital publications redefine the profession, the lines between mainstream reporter, blogger and independent journalist have become blurred.

But don’t fret, my friends! Even though I will be making paid freelance work a priority, I could never give up blogging altogether – it’s become second nature to me. I started blogging in 2007 or -8 and it’s been such a helpful outlet of emotional and artistic expression for me, not to mention that I’ve met so many great people through it.

But time will be an issue. This spring I am booked for approx. eight to ten speaking engagements throughout Ontario and Quebec. In March I will be a speaker at a conference where Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion, former Attorney General Irwin Cotler and several United Nations staffers will also be presenting. It’s also a great opportunity to meet others involved in human rights, genocide documentation and social justice issues.

Afterwards I will be interviewed for a PBS special which will be filmed in NY state. I’ve also been asked to speak at SUNY that week.

Between the speaking engagements, a commissioned book I’m working on for a client, writing my own memoir and trying to finish my MFA (I only have a semester left), time is a commodity that I will have to plan carefully. Still, the excitement of achieving so many personal goals is more powerful than my ubiquitous jitters of speaking in front of large audiences.

Under a Trump presidency and alt-right governance, more than ever, it’s an important time to be a journalist and activist. I look forward to bringing my story, knowledge and expertise about extremist movements to a broader audience.

This year I was a consultant on a short documentary about Ernst Zundel‘s former home, titled ‘206 Carlton‘, produced by a Ryerson University Documentary Media student. I was also quoted in several articles about the resurgence of the ultra-right wing in Canada, such as:

CityNews: Alleged Toronto neo-Nazi publication expands west, pestering downtowners

National Post: ‘Hitler actually wasn’t that bad’: How Neo-Nazis are using attractive young women to boost their movement

All of this has led to a sharp rise of hate tweets, Facebook messages and threatening emails coming at me from social media trolls emboldened by Trump’s win to the point of delusion. Par for the course, I suppose – though the vile anti-Semitic, misogynist words reveal the persons behind them for the pathetic cowards that they are.

Lastly, I’m proud of an extensive, in-depth interview I did with author Samita Sarkar of Blossoms Writing. It’s a worthwhile discussion to check out if you’re interested in knowing more about me, the story behind Race Traitor and its aftermath.

So on this note, I wish all of you love and light for the New Year. May your 2017 be bright and inspiring, and remember – tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one!

new-year-blank-page

 

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Journey to Judaism: The Day I Became A Jew

Posted by E on August 10, 2015

Elisa Jerusalem cropped

I became a Jew on the day I was born, December 17. Thirty-eight years had passed between the moment my mother gave birth to me in Romania and the day I was formally accepted as a Jew by rabbis in a North American synagogue.

After I’d completed a year of study, my mentor rabbi informed me that I was ready to take the next step toward conversion – writing a formal essay explaining why I wanted to embrace the Jewish faith, and meeting with a Beit Din. For those reading this who are unfamiliar with the term, a Beit Din is a rabbinical court assembly made up of three observant Jews (at least one of whom is a rabbi) who decide if a convert is fit to be accepted for conversion to Judaism.

Embracing Judaism was the last step along a journey of self-discovery that had taken me many years to explore, and I wanted to do this right – it was important to me that I should have a conversion process that followed the halacha (Jewish law) closely, which meant having a Beit Din made up of at least one rabbi, followed by a ritual immersion in a synagogue mikvah – a pool of water derived from natural sources.

It was the beginning of December and with my birthday right around the corner, it was only natural that I would schedule my Beit Din and Mikvah day on my birthday. How could I choose any other date? What better day to experience a spiritual rebirth and be formally acknowledged as Jewish?

The sun was shining brightly when I woke up early in the morning – too early in fact. The excitement and nervous butterflies churning in my stomach made it impossible to go back to sleep. ‘This is the last day I’ll wake up and not be Jewish,’ I thought. I busied myself by having a long shower, brushing and flossing my teeth, washing my hair and scrubbing my fingernails and toenails free of any traces of nail polish – there was to be no barrier between the body and the Mikvah water.

Brilliant sunshine illuminated the path toward the Beth Hillel synagogue where I would be formally interviewed. I knew it would be a beautiful day, and it turned out exactly as I’d imagined – how could such an important day ever be shrouded in clouds?

The rabbis met me in the lobby of the synagogue at noon. My Beit Din was composed of three ordained rabbis, all active members of the Rabbinical Assembly, although one had retired from his congregation. After everyone arrived, we walked over to the meeting room in the back of the synagogue. A long conference table split the room which could have seated twenty. The three rabbis sat on one side of the table, and I took a seat across from them.

“As we begin, I’d like you to tell us what brought you here and why you want to become Jewish,” Rabbi Levine said.

I summarized some of the key points that I wrote about in my conversion essay:

“The feeling that propels me toward Judaism isn’t as simple as breaking it down into words. It’s a feeling, an echo of something within myself that I am just now recognizing and giving voice to.

I feel that I have always been a Jew. I was born in the mid-1970s in communist Bucharest. Under Ceausescu’s dictatorship, Romania didn’t prioritize religion, choosing instead to indoctrinate their people to worship the State. I don’t remember either of my parents being religious in any way. We never went to church. I identified with my father’s family much more than my mother’s side. I stood out among my maternal cousins by being the black-haired, dark-eyed child who didn’t fit in. People said that my father and I ‘looked Jewish’.”

 Iosif Hategan age 15 Iosif and Ana

Above: me at age 11.  Centre: my father Iosif (Josef) at age 15.  Right: My father and grandmother Ana.

We emigrated to Canada when I was 11 years old. My father subsequently decided to return to Romania and died there when I was 13. I never had the opportunity to ask him all the questions I would have liked to know – Why did he hide his own heritage? Why did he feel ashamed of who he was?

I’ve had people tell me, Why bother to convert. Your father was a Jew, you don’t believe in Jesus as the messiah, so what’s the difference? But it bothers me that I am not recognized by all Jews as a fellow Jew because of my patrilineal descent, and I feel the need to undergo this formal process so that I can both learn much more about Judaism, and to feel like a “real” Jew.

In my soul, heart and mind, Judaism is more than a religion for me. It’s a shared history, a family and a connection that has always been there, just outside the realm of my consciousness and yet was always there. Like a pulse that cannot be subdued.

After my father’s death, I lived in a rough low-income neighbourhood with my mother. As time went by, she grew increasingly abusive and I had no choice but to run away. Between the ages of 14-16 I lived in several Children’s Aid homes. In time, I ran away from an abusive foster home and returned to my mother’s apartment. At age 16 I was friendless and desperate. Eventually I became recruited by a neo-Nazi group, the Heritage Front. They became the family I felt I’d never had, and looked after me at a time when my only choice was to live on the streets. They also put me in touch with an internationally-renowned Holocaust revisionist and Hitler sympathizer, Ernst Zundel. Zundel gave me a job working in his basement printing press, fed me and looked out for me.

By the time I turned 18 I knew that what the group was doing was wrong. I wanted out of the organization but they were possessive of me and I didn’t know of a way out. I attempted suicide and eventually I turned to an anti-racist activist, who put me in touch with the director of a think-tank on extremist right-wingers. He, in turn, asked me to spy on the Heritage Front and Ernst Zundel and collect information that could be turned over to the police.

defection 1994-2Hategan articleMetro Toronto

For half a year I gathered as much information on illegal activities, weapons and dangerous persons, as well as stole Ernst Zundel’s national and international mailing list, which consisted of people all over North and South America and Europe who had sent in money to fund Zundel’s Holocaust revisionist projects. In 1994 I testified in court and sent 3 Heritage Front leaders to prison, effectively dealing a serious blow toward dismantling the group.

I was only 19 years old. I lived in hiding and attended university in Ottawa under an assumed name. Upon graduating Magna cum Laude with a Criminology and Psychology double-major, I taught ESL in Seoul, South Korea and subsequently travelled throughout Europe the following year.

I spent some time in Krakow and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. Something stirred in me that summer – an inexplicable familiarity, a sense that I was connected to those places in some undefinable way. When I first heard Ladino songs, it was as though I could almost recognize them. The music seemed familiar somehow. Then there were the places in the south of Spain, as well as in Poland and Hungary that I visited – they felt as though I’d been there before. In Debrecen, the city my father was born in, I allowed my feet to take me where they wanted to go, and I ended up on a narrow, cobblestoned street, in front of a half-burned synagogue with smashed-out windows.

It felt like I had been there before. The feeling was strong, palpable, like a childhood memory – a memory that was just outside the realm of my consciousness.

I eventually returned to Canada and tried to lead a normal life. But something always clawed at the back of my consciousness, pushing me toward a Jewish path. I lived along Bathurst street, in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. I began to read books on Judaism and spirituality. Ten years went by since I first thought of undergoing a formal conversion to Judaism, but something always held me back – I first wanted to discover the truth about my father, my family’s past. I had to know our own past in order to go forward.

Years later, during a visit to my paternal grandmother’s village in Transylvania, I tracked down relatives, old family friends and neighbours, and asked questions. At my uncle’s house, among my deceased grandmother’s possessions, I discovered a box of mementos and photographs that I’d never seen before. The box was marked with the Jewish surname “Kohan” – the Hungarian version of Cohen. I finally began to believe that my suspicions had been true, and that my father had actually been Jewish.

Back in Canada, I ordered a DNA kit from 23andme, sent in my saliva sample and waited for a month to receive my results. When they came in, it was a surreal experience – one of the most significant days of my life. To realize that after so long, what I had suspected was actually true! I burst into tears of joy, knowing that I was no longer alone – at last I had a past, a history. And well over 20 relatives in the 23andme database with the surname Cohen, some of whom offered their help in piecing together our common ancestry.

23andme EH profile  23andme EH profile2 

Part of my conversion essay:

In my soul, heart and mind, Judaism is more than a religion for me. It’s a shared history, a genetic memory, a family and a connection that has always been just outside the realm of my consciousness, yet was always there. The more I learned about Judaism through my study, the more I felt my bond to the past grow stronger.

My father’s denial of his religion and heritage was like an invisible wall that kept me from my past. But with each day and each hour, the wall becomes increasingly transparent. The bricks fall apart and I begin to see a glimpse of something beautiful and mystical on the other side. The shadows of those great-grandparents and the whispers of their lives comes through to me, through me, and out into my very own existence.

I have had thousands of Jewish ancestors from Poland, Russia, Galicia, Ukraine and Romania, whose truth, lives and stories have been wiped off in only two generations. One hundred years. That is all it took to wipe out my family’s connection to their own lineage and heritage.

I look at the world and wonder how many others walk around unaware that the blood of Sephardic conversos or Ashkenazim forced to hide their religion runs through their veins.

I aim to reclaim that heritage.

“Please read your Declaration of Faith for us, Elisa.”

I stood up and read the piece of paper which I had practically memorized over the past year.

declaration of faith Iosif and Elisa Anna-Philip

Left: my declaration of faith. Centre: my favourite photo of me & my father.  Right: grandmother Ana with her husband.

Afterwards, they asked me to sign it and I did so, then handed it back to them. I answered several questions related to holidays and ritual, and recited a couple of prayers. Then one of the rabbis asked me more about my father’s family. “Did you know the biggest group of immigrants to Israel after the war were from Romania?”

I hadn’t known this, and he smiled at me warmly and told me a story about his friends who had come from the same part of Transylvania as my father. Then our conversation touched on the Holocaust, and I mentioned the profound experience I’d had in my twenties when I visited Europe’s biggest concentration camp, the largest mass-murder site in the world.

Rabbi Fertig sat up. “You were at Auschwitz?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“What was it like?”

I gazed into the distance, recalling the summer of 2001 when I had backpacked across Europe, and how my journey to find my roots had led me to Auschwitz. “I went in the summer, when the grass was this high.” I said, lifting my hand to indicate waist-height. “It was a sunny day. A very beautiful day. The sun was high up in the sky, and there was such a vivid a juxtaposition of life and death. The grass was buzzing with crickets and frogs, filled with life….right up among those terrible barracks at Birkenau. I walked inside the barracks and felt that emptiness….the void, the echoes of the lives that had been lost there.”

Rabbi Levine stared at me for a long time. “So many millions perished in the Holocaust – and now you are returning to the fold.”

“I am but one drop,” I said quietly, my eyes filling with tears.

We all fell silent. After some time, Rabbi Brief asked me, “Have you chosen a Hebrew name?”

There was never any doubt in my mind what my Hebrew name would be – Elisheva, of course. The Hebrew version of my own given name. Better yet, it somehow ‘fit’ me. It felt more right than anything else.

“Elisheva Sarah.”

Rabbi Levine cleared his throat. “I am obliged to inform you that although a Conservative Beit Din is accepted by all conservative and affiliated denominations, some Orthodox will still refuse to see you as Jewish.”

I nodded. “Yes, I know this.”

“Do you have any questions for us?”

I hesitated. “Do you think….will I be accepted by a Reform synagogue?”

The rabbis looked at each other in amusement. “They’re going to love you,” the oldest of the rabbis answered. “Reform already recognizes you as a Jew because you have a Jewish father – so just based on the fact that you still went through this when you didn’t have to.”

Rabbi Levine peered into my eyes. “I read your conversion essay and I have to say it really moved me. You’re a very good writer. A very gifted writer.”

Something stirred inside me. Trying to fight back the knot in my throat, I said, “I’m working on a book to preserve the memory of those in my father’s village who have been forgotten. I want to do this for them – I’m the only one left who still carries their stories. Everyone else has passed.”

He nodded, and his eyes communicated such a deep empathy, such a sense of recognition and understanding, that I had to bite my lip to keep from tearing up. My eyes swept the room – the other rabbis were nodding, acknowledging me. I felt, in that moment, that they were seeing the real me – that part of my core I had kept hidden for so long. The vulnerability. The sadness and the truth of what I’d always known to be true. The real core of me.

Rabbi Levine pushed back from the table. “I am ready,” he said. He looked to the others: “I know it’s cutting this short, but I’m satisfied with this. I’m ready to make this woman Jewish.”

my Mikvah my mikvah2

We walked out of the synagogue and around to the side of the building, where another door stood open. A tall, thin woman waited for us there, her hair covered under a beret-type hat. She beckoned us in and we shook hands. “Welcome Elisheva,” she said, smiling at me. “You can leave your coat and stuff here. I warmed up the water really well for you, and have everything set up for you. Come and let me show you around.”

I smiled back at her, and Carol’s eyes glided to my hair. “You have long, gorgeous hair,” she said with a smile, and I instantly read between the lines. The hair was going to be a problem. Making sure there were no tangles was going to be challenging enough. But then she added, “I’m concerned that it might float up when you submerge. Every strand has to go underwater.”

The rabbis sat down on a small bench in the narrow corridor that led to several rooms, including the one where Carol was leading me. It turned out to be a small but perfectly clean bathroom with a shower stall and all the toiletries one could imagine.

She closed the door behind us and pointed out everything, careful to inspect that I wasn’t wearing any nail polish. I started to remove my earring studs and put them in my backpack while she explained what I already knew – I was to scrub off everything once again, wash my hair thoroughly and brush it so there were no tangles anywhere. Then, when I was ready, to walk through another door wearing little bootsies to keep from slipping and only the towel.

“The Mikvah is completely private,” she assured me. “The rabbis will only listen to the submersion and I will be the only one in the room with you. They will hear you say the prayer, but they cannot see you. I am here to make sure your privacy is respected and I myself will not look at you – when you descend into the Mikvah I will hold up the towel and respect your privacy. You can rest assured that your privacy and modesty will be respected at all times. So take as long as you need to get ready, and I will be on the other side of that door.”

After she left, I tried to keep myself from shaking. To think that I was so close to the Mikvah I’d read so much about, so close to the completion of a journey that had taken me years to achieve!

The bathroom was spartan and super-clean. A shelving unit ran beside the sink, and everything I could possibly have forgotten was there: nail polish remover, cotton balls, extra soap, toothpaste, shampoo, dental floss, even a small vial of Air d’Temps perfume that I planned to spritz on after the ceremony was complete (but forgot to, in the ensuing excitement). As Carol had promised, two different kinds of combs lay ready to tackle my difficult hair. I chose the one with the wider-spaced teeth and bravely stepped into the stone shower stall.

The shower itself was as I’d expected, with the worst part being – of course – running the brush through my well-shampooed (but not conditioned) curls. Needless to say, when it was all said and done I lost more than my usual amount of stray hairs, possibly because I was so excited, nervous and emotional about the ritual to follow that I brushed a bit too impatiently and managed to snap off some more split ends.

The last thing to go were my contact lenses. The Mikvah rules were that nothing could stand in the way of the water immersing the body, not even contacts. I placed the case carefully on the sink ledge and wrapped the fresh white towel around my body.

Then I reached for the door handle and stepped into the other room.

The room was low-lit, with several pot lights illuminating only the water – which was as blue as the sea. The Mikvah was larger than I’d imagined, much larger than a Jacuzzi but not quite the size of a swimming pool.

Am I really here? Is this finally happening? I wondered, gazing in awe at the water that would soon immerse every bit of my being. It’s so beautiful.

I kicked off the bootsies and held still while Carol the Mikvah Lady inspected me in order to pick off any stray hairs that may have fallen down my back. I checked myself also and found an additional long hair that I handed her.

After she discarded the loose hairs, Carol came back and stepped behind me. “You can give me the towel and go in now,” she said, holding the towel I handed her up in front of her – as promised, to protect my modesty. Although I’d wondered what it would feel like being completely naked in front of a stranger, I realized that I didn’t feel embarrassed at all – this felt like such a perfectly natural, even maternal process.

I walked toward the Mikvah and began to descend the seven steps that led down to the main pool. I held the railing and stepped down the seven steps–each one representing a day in the Creation story. Then an unexpected challenge arose: by the fourth step I could already tell that the water was too deep. As in, over my head. I’m not a swimmer by any stretch, and have never managed to hold my own in the deep-end of a swimming pool. I would never be able to touch the bottom.

Over the past year I’d researched anything I could find about other people’s accounts of their conversion ceremonies, but had never read about the situation that confronted me now – being only 5’2” tall, by the time I reached the lowest step I was already immersed up to my chin.

I gazed into the shimmering depths of the main pool and realized, not without a fair amount of trepidation, that I would never be able to stand upright in it. The water was high enough to go over my head. Although I love splashing around in water, I’m not a swimmer and have never managed to tread water in the deep end of a swimming pool.

An irrational fear seized hold of my mind. Has anybody ever drowned in a Mikvah? I wondered, cringing inwardly at the ridiculousness of the question. Worst case scenario, Carol the Mikvah Lady was here, along with three rabbis on the other side of the wall partition. Surely somebody would pull me out if I didn’t resurface after a while, right?

My desire to become a Jew was now confronted head-on by my fear of drowning. The combination didn’t make for a particularly mystical experience. Did I want to convert badly enough to risk drowning? Would you rather live as a Christian or risk drowning to become a Jew?

The answer came hard and fast: YES. Yes, I wanted it that badly. Badly enough to jump off into the deep end, where the water towered above my head – not knowing if I would bob back up or sink right to the bottom.

Over the months that led up to this ceremony, I’d imagined this day to be a peaceful, holy, life-changing process. In a way, this was still partly true – with that tranquil blue water so warm and lovely, lapping at my skin, an aura of serenity had surrounded me. But suddenly another part of me was seized with fear. As anxiety mounted in my chest, I realized that in order to become a Jew I would have to conquer my terror.

I took a deep breath and tried to balance myself on the lowest step, which was really hard because the salt water makes you buoy about, making it impossible to keep your feet firmly planted onto the tiled ground.

“Are you ready?” Carol’s voice resounded behind me. “Take your time. When you’re ready, I want you to take a deep breath and jump away from the step. When you’re fully immersed under the water, lift your legs up so that you don’t touch the bottom to make sure that for an instant, you’re floating free.”

I sucked in a deep breath, steadied myself….and then stepped off the ledge. Water flooded into my eyes, mouth, over my head, and suddenly I was up again, sputtering and flailing toward the metal rail in the corner. I seized hold of it and clambered up onto the last ledge again.

Carol looked at my ungainly flop and smiled sympathetically. “We’ll have to do that one over again. Your hair didn’t go all the way under.”

Strands of my hair had floated to the surface since I hadn’t sank deep enough. “Does this happen a lot?” I asked her.

She nodded. “You’re very buoyant – we all are – so what you’ll need to do is really let go and try to jump up a little when you step away from the stairs. The force of you jumping up will ensure you submerge all the way down.”

I took another deep, shuddering breath, and felt determination flow through my entire body. I hadn’t come this far to allow fear to stop me now. I thought about my father, my grandmother, about our family friend Steve Bendersky and the relatives he’d lost in the war, about the numbers tattooed on his arm, about the heritage that had been denied me. I thought about the people who had been killed over the centuries for being a Jew, about all who had walked down this path before me as converts and embraced their Jewish neshama.

I had come this far. I was ready.

It still felt scary, taking that plunge – but I no longer cared about drowning. I wanted to leap as far into that water as I could, to take it all into my heart, to let it remind me of my strength and ability to survive anything.

I was enveloped in a cocoon of blueness and warmth – the perfect heat of a womb made of nature’s own waters that seemed to have always existed in and around me. I opened my eyes underneath the water which coated every pore of my being and thought, This is the day I was born. Back then, and then again today.

No sooner did that realization hit than a force propelled me upwards – the force of my own buoyancy. I hadn’t drowned after all. In fact, I felt stronger than ever.

Carol’s voice echoed throughout the small room: “Kasher!”

I repositioned myself on the last step, filled my lungs with air, and leapt up again. I sank down into the depths of the Mikvah and didn’t fight it this time – I gave myself to it in body and soul.

When I bobbed back up, Carol called out “Kasher” for the second time.

I half-swam back toward the steps, found my balance again and turned to face the blueness. This would be my third jump. When I came back up again, I would be a Jew.

“Take your time,” Carol said softly. “If you want to take a moment to say a silent prayer – just for yourself.”

I closed my eyes and felt tears brimming behind my eyelashes. I mouthed the words of the Shema silently, for everyone before me, and then again for myself – that I be worthy of that painful, beautiful legacy and that I might contribute toward making the world a better place.

And then I took the biggest leap of my life into the waters that had always waited there for me. I lifted my knees up to my chest and spread my arms out to my sides, and the Mikvah embraced me.

And as I came up to the surface as a Jew, Carol called out for the third time, “Kasher.”

My voice shook as I spoke the words of the final prayer, Shehecheyanu, a prayer uttered by Jews for two thousand years: “Barukh Ata Adonai, Elohenu Melekh Haolam, Shehecheyanu, Vekiyimanu, Vehigiyanu, Lazman Hazeh.”

As soon as I said the last word, “hazeh”, voices all around called out “Mazel Tov!” I heard the rabbis break out into applause from the other side of the partition carved in the wall, congratulating me.

I turned around and emerged out of the water slowly, its warmth following me. Carol was beaming at me, holding out the towel. “Mazel Tov, Elisheva.”

I pitter-pattered back to the bathroom where I was shaking as I toweled off, got dressed as quickly as I could, and put in my contact lenses once again. I was too impatient to take the time needed to blow dry my long hair, and as a result I was still dripping water when I re-emerged into the little room where everyone was waiting for me.

The rabbis surrounded me and put their hands on my shoulders, breaking into song. As they sang, said their blessings and gave me all the official conversion paperwork, tears started to course down my face. They sang the old traditional Siman Tov/Shalom Aleichem song and I just folded my arms across my chest and bit my lip to unsuccessfully stop myself from crying. The oldest rabbi, probably close to eighty, wrapped his arm around my shoulders in a way a father might comfort a daughter and as he held me while I cried, I felt the warmth of his joy – I had come home.

Elisa and rabbis my menorah

Above: me with rabbis after the ceremony.  Right: a beautiful antique menorah – my conversion gift

In April 2015, a couple of years after my conversion to Judaism, I left for Romania in order to research my newest book, Remember Your Name. Because Bucharest is only a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv, I decided to make my first journey to Israel. I also fulfilled a secret wish I’d carried since my conversion – to go to the Western Wall and recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for my father.

IMG_9298 Jerusalem arches IMG_9131

It took me a lifetime to realize that my parents had been a by-product of their time – they had suffered so immensely that they had absorbed their oppression and passed it onto others. They made others suffer because that was the only way they could relate, after the pain they had endured. They hurt me because they themselves had been hurt. And then I too, as a child of their hatred, had tried my best to keep that light of hate alive – because I’d never known another way. So many scarred, wounded people have created the world we live in today, where suffering and oppression breeds brutality.

When I was in Israel, a new understanding flooded me – that my story doesn’t end with dissecting my own family’s hatred and buried identity. It doesn’t end with me converting to Judaism. I’m also digging back further into the history of hidden Jews and forced converts in Europe, and the internalization of hatred, the transformation of victim into oppressor. We see this everywhere today – oppressed becomes oppressor, persecuted people turn the brutalization they suffered into outward brutality – from the peasant workers’ 20th century revolutions that turned into communist dictatorships, to the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East.

It’s all a vicious cycle. A cycle where hatred and religion-fueled intolerance supresses the spark of divine essence, the oneness, that connects all beings. A cycle of hate and judgemental intolerance so brutal that it’s pushed me toward feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of suicide for most of my adult life. Until I realized that the future of humankind doesn’t rest with governments and profit-driven policies but within us – that love is stronger than hate. Unity is stronger than division. Kindness reveals much more courage than brutality. That is where everyone’s G-d resides. In deeds of loving kindness. In recognizing our mistakes and showing forgiveness to those who harmed us. And in understanding that our differences are nothing in comparison to the beautiful light that shines within us all.

Elisa TelAviv sunset yad vashem vista

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Posted in anti-semitism, family, hate, identity, jewish, life, news, religion, romania, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Heritage Front makes a comeback

Posted by E on May 25, 2015

heritage front gary schipper 1994-2 WardNews hate

The last time I saw Gary Schipper, he was sitting in the defendants box during the 1994 Human Rights Commission trial that would lead to his conviction and sentence of jail time. He was sitting next to Heritage Front leader Wolfgang Droege (who would eventually be shot dead in 2005) and another group member, Ken Barker. They were all glaring at me, sending me non-verbal messages of intimidation. In their minds I was a stupid kid who happened to be around when they had talked freely of circumventing court orders to shut down their telephone hate-line. Someone who they’d never have thought capable of shutting down a powerful white supremacist organization that had taken several years to build up.

Not even I knew that I had it in me. I was barely 19, alone, abused, and without any support whatsoever. Skinny and scared. Living out of a ratty duffel bag. For the past year I had been on the run for my life, hiding all over Canada, surviving on the generosity of strangers who opened their doors to me and let me sleep on their sofas. To this day, whenever I feel despondent and powerless, whenever those terrible recurring thoughts come back “You’ll never amount to anything / Nobody will ever give a shit about you / You’re worthless / You’ll never make it as a writer” – I think back to that frightened young girl on the witness stand, looking into the eyes of men who wanted her to fail, to break down, to destroy herself – and I feel pride.

Yes, pride.

Because they were convicted. Because right triumphed over wrong.

Because while I was nothing and had nothing, there was, within me, a strength I never knew existed. The strength of a dandelion seed growing through a crack in the asphalt, without water and very little sun. Something not meant to survive, someone who defied the odds. I was a child without a family, without anyone who cared whether I lived or died and without anything to cling to in those nights when the nightmares came hard and fast, when the knifepoint threats made by Heritage Front members came to define the PTSD I suffered through my early 20s.

The only nourishment I had, in those terrible years, was knowing that I had done the right thing. That I had spied on evil, that I sent bad men to prison. That I had done my part to shut down the most powerful network of white supremacist domestic terrorists that Canada has ever known.

Today, twenty years later, Canada is a vastly different place. White racism has gone underground, online, is kept under wraps and, although still rampant, is more carefully-guarded. People know the consequences of speaking vile, hateful things, so they keep them to themselves or relegated to skinhead-full hate forums such as Stormfront, a place frequented by convicts, psychopaths and killers such as Norway’s mass murderer Anders Breivik.

And then comes this – news that a hateful, xenophobic rag called Your Ward News, put together by a network of nutcases and old Heritage Front members, one of whom none other than Gary Schipper himself (under the alias of J.J. / Johnny Jensen),  is being distributed to 50,000 homes in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood by Canada Post. Yes, our very own Canada Post has, somehow, after evaluating the garbage Your Ward News contains, ruled that it didn’t fit their own definition of what constitutes hate material.

So – despite objections from postal carriers, despite articles from mainstream press and articles on activist websites, Canada Post continues to distribute hate propaganda. Which clearly is an offence under Section 319 of the Criminal Code.

I could go into the disgusting material contained in Your Ward News, but I believe Warren Kinsella has already done a succinct job in summing it up on his blog. Excerpts of offensive articles include:

Editorials railing against Jewish postal workers, “ZioMarxists,” “parasites,” and what the paper’s editor calls “the illegitimate Zionist apartheid state of Israel that holocausts Palestinians.”

Advertisements promoting something called the “New Constitution Party,” whose membership cards feature Nazi salutes, and references to “88” – neo-Nazi code for “HH,” or “Heil Hitler.”

Articles promoting Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel, David Irving and Fred Leuchter – and denouncing “mainstream media lackeys” and “cattle” who sought to have Zundel charged with publishing Holocaust-denying propaganda.

Articles promoting Holocaust denial and written by Gary Schipper, the former voice of the neo-Nazi Heritage Front, who now goes by the false name “Johnny Jensen.”

A lengthy anti-Israel polemic describing the need for “Israeli Niggers to go home,” how the Jewish state “murders thousands” every year, that Zionists are “ZioFascists” and racists, that Israel forcibly sterilizes non-white immigrant women and practices Nazi-style eugenics – and repeats the old canard that Jews are not “true Biblical Jews,” a theory favoured by neo-Nazis for decades.

Articles promoting “white nationalism,” skinheads, and the defunct neo-Nazi Heritage Front, in which the author – who describes herself as a “white woman” who favours “white pride” – talks openly about how “white people reserve the right to protest the rape and disfiguration of our country” by non-whites, and calls the New Constitution Party a vehicle for opposing “Racial Marxism.”

A letters column mocking Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for her sexual orientation, and attacking “homos” and “queens” – and a related editorial calling Pride “a freak show on parade floats.”

To read the full article, click here to visit Warren Kinsella’s blog.

Twenty years ago, these hateful bastards – or rather, “unscrupulous fanatics” as Judge Tremblay-Lamer put it in her judgement writ – were ordered by the courts not to RECORD their hate messages. They served their prison time, they scurried underground like the cockroaches that they are. But now they’re back, putting their hate in WRITING. And what are WE as a society doing about it?

Nothing.

Twenty years ago, people who cared about fighting fascism congregated in the streets. They protested, they rioted when needed – they would never have allowed insidious laws like C-51 to be passed in Canada. Today, in the age of online despondency, when news travels faster than ever, people are apathetic. They grumble about the loss of privacy but don’t do whatever it takes to stop it. They don’t take to the streets to stop hate. They watch YouTube kitten videos and Kardashian reality TV. And the Schippers of yesteryear roam the streets again, distributing their hate with impunity.

Worse yet, they have an office now and public funding. And they have Canada Post and the police condoning it, to boot.

Please tell me that everything I did twenty years ago wasn’t for nothing.

TAKE ACTION.

Read my bestselling memoir RACE TRAITOR about being a teenager inside the Heritage Front.

Posted in activism, jewish, journalism, news, ontario, propaganda, toronto, white supremacy, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Rumania, Rumania…lost like the song

Posted by E on May 21, 2015

field haystacks

I’m writing this post while listening to the old Yiddish song, Rumania Rumania. It’s full of nostalgia for a homeland that has been lost and now forgotten, for its sweet wines, hearty cooks and pretty girls – I’m including a YouTube link to the song at the bottom of this post.

My birthplace. My original homeland. The apex of so much pain, grief and longing. A place that has suffered a thousand years of wars, invasions, pogroms, oppression and terror, and is still in transition. Where it will end up in another century, I have no idea. It is a place I love and hate all at the same time, for so many reasons that are all intertwined so tightly in my heart that I could never fully separate the individual strings and emotions which, like arterial veins, crisscross my connection to this place.

Elisa AteneuElisa haystack Romania2015

Romania is a painfully beautiful, lost country. From the moment you set foot within its borders, everybody from taxi drivers to people sitting on a park bench will tell you about the endemic government corruption, how the rich have ransacked the country and left the poor to despair. But what they don’t tell you, as they cling to the Orthodox religion with hateful fervour, is how religion and xenophobia has poisoned their own hearts.

Bucharest’s Gay Pride parade is on Saturday and already the hate and frenzy has begun online – on several blogs I’ve read people suggesting plans to attack the demonstrators in the name of Jesus and morality. Ever since the Revolution of 1989, the Orthodox Church has been growing in influence and, not coincidentally, so has hostility toward any change in humanitarian rights. Homosexuality has been legalized only since 1996 and to this day (despite having been part of the EU since 2007) Romanian courts still have not granted any form of recognition toward same-sex couples. Forget marriage – they don’t even acknowledge the union between a same-sex couple. Gays can’t adopt. Gays can’t donate blood. For all intents and purposes, gays cannot exist as gay without violent opposition.

I found it telling that, in contrast to North American Pride parades that celebrate fun, diversity and having a great time, the local brochure printed by Accept Romania to describe the march is focused on preventing attacks: after the march, make sure to walk away in pairs. Don’t wear things that can identify you for attack. Meet and leave via the metro, rather than on foot. In Romania, taking part in the Pride Parade is an act of defiance, of insurgency, of rebellion. It is the very definition of courage.

LGBT people here are literally prepared to fight for their rights, to risk being filmed on television and fired the next day, to risk being struck with stones and boots – something that we in the West take for granted. The Stonewall riots of 1969 are hardly on our minds as we walk down the street holding hands with our lovers, shoot our water guns and wear rainbow-coloured necklaces during our Gay Pride weekend street parties. It reminds me of the early days of suffragettes – where women who fought for the right to vote were assaulted on the streets and demonized in the press.

Stonewall-Riots-June-28-1969 

anti-gay protesters romania anti-gay-manifestations-romania

The Romanian public’s rampant hostility and religious fervour, along with the idea that “We’re not the sinful West, we don’t have many of THOSE kinds over here” (actual words I’ve read on a blog today) is partially fed by ignorance. They don’t realize that gay people are everywhere, including in their own families, because most gays and lesbians rightfully fear coming out to their families and coworkers. How can they, when they live in a country where gays are often called “sodomites” by people who also refer to Jews as “jidani” and openly express contempt toward those of a different ethnicity (i.e. the Roma people). People here have been beaten, assaulted, sentenced to prison and murdered for their right to love.

On a personal level, it disturbs me how many of my own relatives are so brainwashed by dogma that there is nothing left between us. It’s disturbing how a cousin told me a long time ago that she’d prefer if one of her sons died than become a “poponar” (a derogatory term for gay males). Why should it matter to someone, who I love and choose to live with? Who I sleep with is none of her business – just as I don’t care whether she still has sex with the ugly, irascible, xenophobic husband of whom she often complained. Why is her opinion, anybody’s opinion in fact, more important and valid than mine – who appointed her judge and executioner? How can love for your own child be overwritten by such deep-seated hatred for homosexuality that you’d rather he or she died than be free to love whoever they want?

It’s disturbing how easily the previously oppressed have become oppressors. It’s a process I am still working on capturing in my new book, a process that was recently featured on Romanian news.

So for the record, for the sake of any relatives or former classmates who stumble onto this page: I am and have ALWAYS been gay. I love my partner deeply and I am also proud of my East European background. I am not sick, nor am I confused. The abuse (from both genders) that I experienced as a child has nothing to do with my sexual orientation as an adult. And I promise you that I’m not the only lesbian you’ve ever met. In fact, there are people in your own family, at work, sitting on the bus next to you, people just like you, who are attracted to the same sex.

In the end, I will ALWAYS side with love over hate. I will ALWAYS choose love and human rights over allegiance to blood and nation. And if you’d rather choose Jesus over accepting me, my life, my Jewish religion and my chosen spouse, then I am sorry for you but don’t need your judgement in my life. I don’t want to lose hope, but feel that it will take several generations to wipe out the hate I’ve witnessed over here.

Posted in hate, history, homosexuality, ignorance, love, news, personal, religion, romania | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Heal your Wound, Transform the World

Posted by E on May 6, 2015

By now it seems that everybody in the world has seen yesterday’s Toronto Star article, which featured me and my journey toward understanding hate and its visceral, personal roots. I’m very grateful that Rachel Mendleson, a journalist at Canada’s largest-circulated newspaper, saw value in what I am trying to accomplish and worked so hard to share it with others.

Metro Toronto Screenshot 2015-05-06 2

The sad and painful truth is this: I have had hundreds of hits on my blog and website yesterday, but not many donations to the book campaign mentioned in the Toronto Star article. Which is the whole crux of the matter – for the last two months I’ve begged, borrowed and bothered people in order to fundraise for a project that I truly believe will make a difference in this world. But, with the exception of a few close, dear friends and a handful of people who believe in me, it’s all gone on deaf ears.

I cannot do this without your help. I’m not just talking money here – although without it, the research involved in this book simply cannot take place. But even dropping a word of encouragement. Sharing the story with others. Telling people on Facebook. Or just believing in me.

Anything at all.

But until now, everybody – yes, even YOU reading this – is probably thinking, Hey, this sounds like a cool project, so SOMEBODY’S going to help out. But the reality is, nobody will. We live in an age of indifference and self-absorption, where a guy on Kickstarter gets $50,000 to buy ingredients for a potato salad, and worthwhile projects and causes are bumped from the limelight in favour of potato-salad-guy or kong-fu-baby. It’s the reality of our time, where the trivial and the insipid have come to dominate social culture as we define it today.

So that somebody you’re thinking might be able to help me, after you leave this blog – well, that’s YOU.

There’s nobody else. If I had a dollar, even five dollars, for everybody who has checked out my blog over the last month but didn’t contribute anything, my book would have been funded by now.

There is just me. And you. And this moment – where you can decide to help me or you can walk away. This is, after all, your choice. But please don’t diminish that choice by assuming that there’s somebody else in line to help me out.

Because there isn’t.

If you DO decide to walk away, I don’t resent you. In fact, I’m kind of wishing I could walk away from it also. But the thing is, I can’t. My entire childhood and my adolescence was filled with hate, abuse and continuous trauma, and I realize today, in my 40th year, that running away from ugliness changes nothing. It’s cosmetic surgery of the heart, but doesn’t repair the wound inside your soul.

My wound goes deeper than my own childhood – it goes into the lives of my parents, and grand-parents, and great-grandparents before them. An epigenetic history of hate, oppression and suppression of the self. I carry in my blood the genetic memory of six hundred years of hatred, pogroms, wars, abuses and oppression. It’s a huge family tree of despair and longing to be remembered. Hence the name of my book.

remember meme

In Remember Your Name, I’m digging back into the personal transformations of innocents into monsters, as well as digging back further into the history of hidden Jews and forced converts (Sephardic conversos) in Europe, and the internalization of hatred and the transformation of victim into oppressor.

We see the consequences of this legacy of hate everywhere today – oppressed becomes oppressor, persecuted people turn the brutalization they suffered into outward brutality – from the peasant workers’ 20th century revolutions that turned into communist dictatorships, to the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East. Whether it means torching a police car or turning around and inflicting violence upon someone else, we as human beings are collective beings – which means that, even at our worst, we cannot constrain our emotions. They will spill out, for good and for bad, and impact the universe around us.

Right before I converted to Judaism in 2013, I had to write an essay for the rabbis at my Beit Din (Rabbinical Council) to explain why I wanted to become a Jew. This is a segment of that essay:

“My father’s denial of his religion and heritage was like an invisible wall that kept me from my past, but with each day and each hour, the wall becomes increasingly transparent. The bricks fall apart and I begin to see a glimpse of something beautiful and mystical on the other side. The shadows of those great-grandparents and the whispers of their lives comes through to me, through me, and out into my very own existence.

I feel terribly sad that I have had thousands of Jewish ancestors from Poland, Russia, Galicia, Ukraine and Romania, whose truth, lives and stories have been wiped off in only two generations. One hundred years is all it took to wipe out my family’s connection to their own lineage and heritage. I look at the world and wonder how many others walk around unaware that the blood of Sephardic conversos or Ashkenazim forced to hide their religion runs through their veins. But I aim to reclaim that heritage.”

By reclaiming this heritage, I reclaim the pain and the beauty of everyone whose blood gave birth to me today. Maybe I’m being idealistic or naïve, but I keep feeling that if I could SOMEHOW depict how pain and oppression, innocence and brutality, are so closely intertwined, then I might be able to show that there is no such thing as black or white in this world.

There is no ME or YOU. There is no Jew, Arab or Christian. We all laugh, we all cry. We all bleed.

We are ONE. Your pain is my pain, and my memories are your memories now.

Within each and every one of us there is the potential to be a victim and a victimizer, a tormentor and a tormented soul. There is love, and there is hate. And it is the uniqueness and beauty of our human experience which allows you to make that choice – the choice to get involved, to show kindness and compassion, or the choice to walk away.

Ultimately, it’s your choice.

Posted in ancestry, canada, commentary, hate, heritage front, history, jewish, journalism, love, media, news, racism, religion, revolution, romania, toronto, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Open Letter to Canadian Media

Posted by E on February 19, 2015

Elisa and RT bookFV

My name is Elisa Hategan and I’m a Canadian writer and freelance journalist. Twenty years ago, I was a teenage member of an Ontario-based domestic terrorist group called the Heritage Front. They were a radical white supremacist, neo-Nazi lobby group with ties to organizations that connected into parliamentary politics. After turning against them, collecting information and testifying against group leaders in court, the Toronto Sun broke the story that one of the group’s leaders was a CSIS agent, Grant Bristow. For a period of approx. 4 years, the Heritage Front had been founded and funded in large part by Canada’s own intelligence service, CSIS (Canadian Intelligence Security Service) – the Canadian equivalent of the CIA. They called it Operation Governor.

Hategan article Grant Bristow CSIS

After the official inquiry resulted in a whitewashed report that was slammed by both left-wing activists and Preston Manning, then-leader of the Reform Party which was essentially destroyed by revelations that Heritage Front members had infiltrated its ranks, I went into hiding and tried to forget what had happened. Over the years, however, I realized it was a story I had to tell. So in 2010 I wrote a memoir titled Race Traitor and entered into negotiations with Penguin Canada over the acquisition rights, but after a month and no solid offer I walked away from the negotiation table. I should add that no other publishers, big or small press, were interested in publishing it. “The issue of white supremacy has had its day” Douglas & McIntyre. “ I can’t see a broad market for the book.” – Random House. Last year I ended up self-publishing it: Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-Up

In the month after the book came out, I was interviewed by a senior journalist at the Globe & Mail, Colin Freeze, as well as a Director of Programming at the CBC here in Toronto. They both expressed great interest in covering the story, but afterwards came back at me with excuses that senior editors were reluctant to go to print (or, as in the case of CBC, to air) with it – mainly because it was an old, irrelevant story since it happened 20 years ago. Also, there was the pesky issue that in today’s political climate, and according to Minister of Justice Peter MacKay’s own admission, only religion-based violence can be considered terrorism, i.e. only Muslims can be terrorists. In other words – when a Christian massacres almost 100 defenceless youth on Utoya Island in Norway, murders innocents outside a Kansas City synagogue (on the heels of Holocaust-denier David Irving’s talk two weeks earlier), plots a Halifax Valentine’s Day massacre or shoots 3 innocent Muslims in Chapel Hill execution-style, they are not terrorists but misguided, lone misfits.

Just this past month, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who in the 1980s was a member of the extreme right-wing Northern Foundation, which had Heritage Front and Reform Party members, along with skinheads, anti-abortionists, Holocaust-deniers and Conrad Black) has announced a new bill that essentially duplicates the NSA laws of arrest without warrant, anybody can be detained for a week under the pretext of “terrorism”, etc. Bill C-51 is extremely troubling, considering that they will be giving CSIS far greater powers than ever before, turning it into what many have called a “Secret Police” with far-reaching powers.

Given the context of Bill C-51, it didn’t surprise either myself or the numerous activists, anti-racists and aboriginal protesters I’ve communicated with, that we cannot get any mainstream press coverage in Canadian media. Telling the story of how Canada’s own intelligence agency formed a domestic terrorist group that stalked, harassed and assaulted several left-wing activists in the 1990s would be in direct conflict with what Stephen Harper’s government is attempting to pass into law – a law whose definition is so broad, so undefined, that anyone in direct opposition to our government’s interests (such as Aboriginal protesters and the Idle No More movement) would fall into the category of “terrorist.”

Under Bill C-51, ‪CSIS will have the power to: 1) detain people without charges for up to 7 days; 2) interfere with bank transactions and seize bank accounts if they are “suspected” of potential terror activity; 3) order the seizure of “terrorist propaganda” or order it deleted from an online source; 4) stop any passengers “suspected” of travelling overseas to commit a terror offence to be removed from a flight; 5) seal court proceedings; 6) make it illegal to “promote” or “counsel” terrorist activity – the definition of what this constitutes is, of course, left up to CSIS’ interpretation. Using “disruption warrants,” Canada’s spies will do just about anything: “enter any place or open or obtain access to any thing,” to copy or obtain any document, “to install, maintain, or remove any thing,” and, most importantly, “to do any other thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures.”

Bill C-51 MUST be stopped, or at the very least re-examined. The repeated violations and more violations on the part of the former intelligence unit of the RCMP, which became CSIS, which evolved into CSEC, cannot be overlooked. Neither is Harper’s ongoing use of CSIS as his personal domain pet whenever he wants to keep tabs on anti-fracking protesters, Green Party members, or whoever is opposed to the Conservative Party’s mandate. Such collusion between government and intelligence agencies is insidious at best, and will be used politically to defeat (or even imprison) political opponents.

History has already showed us what can happen when agents run amok: Grant Bristow’s handlers had been inherited from the same RCMP department which preceded CSIS’s inception. Back in the 1970s they were burning barns in Quebec while blaming it on the FLQ. After that scandal ensued and RCMP intelligence was disbanded, they moved over to the newly-minted CSIS and taught neo-Nazis and violent skinheads (some of whom were part of the now-disbanded Airborne Regiment) intelligence techniques, thus contributing to assaults, stalking, harassment and worse. Since they got away with all of the above, I cannot imagine what will happen when they gain autonomy.

meme

There is a wide amount of evidence, press clippings and media sources that back up my memoir, as well as the testimony of activists who had been terrorized. Please consider featuring the story of CSIS’s establishment of the Heritage Front in your media outlets – Canadians have a right to know what their own government has done in the past, in order to prevent it from ever happening again.

Please let me know if you require further information and/or documentation, which I would be happy to provide.

Elisa

If you found this information useful, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar.

Posted in activism, freedom, hate, journalism, letter, news, ontario, politics, racism, revolution | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Auschwitz: Remnants of Sunlight

Posted by E on January 27, 2015

Auschwitz photos birkenau camp pics girl krystina

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I’ve thought for a long time about what I might be able to write, about what I could say to both honour and preserve the memory of such terror coming to an end. Do I write about the time when I was once surrounded by neo-Nazis and Holocaust revisionists who wove a network of neo-fascists across Europe, Canada, America and South America?

Do I write about old Steve Bendersky, who was like a beloved uncle to me when I was a child and whose arm bore the faded blue numbers that I once seriously contemplated tattooing onto my own wrist? Whose Shabbat candles I inherited after his death and which I still light every Friday evening?

Do I write about discovering my Jewish roots, and how my family tree research has come to an abrupt halt as I realize that it’s very likely most of my father’s relatives perished in the war?

If I started to write about the heartache that Auschwitz represents both to me and to Jews as a population, along with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians, gypsies and political prisoners in WW2, I would probably just sit here, start crying and be unable to stop, much less write a single word. So instead, I want to talk about my own memories of the concentration camp.

I visited Auschwitz once, during the summer of 2001, the year after I graduated university and worked as an English teacher in South Korea. Instead of doing something respectable like paying off my defaulted student loans, I decided that I had to journey back to eastern Europe that summer – I had to track down for myself the roots of the hatred that had surrounded my early life.

I took these photos at Auschwitz-Birkenau and I wrote this long poem, Remnants of Sunlight, which I published in my first poetry book. Today, on the 70th anniversary of the WW2 genocide that represents the worst of humanity, I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz than to republish this poem that is so close to my heart here, on my own blog.

Many of the verses and imagery encompassed here were scribbled while I stood there, in the empty barracks of Birkenau – it was a sunny, beautiful day, in contrast to the horror that surrounded me. The planks underneath my feet snapped and crackled as I walked among the barracks, amid the three-tiered bunk slots, touching the worn, rain-soaked wood that had once let in the cold, bitter winter winds that killed thousands of malnourished prisoners.

I listened to the frogs and crickets singing through the knee-high grass, and imagined that the lush, verdant greenery of my surroundings had sprouted up from the ashes and crumbling bones of countless nameless victims. I felt the great big emptiness of those awful barracks corrode through my entire being and leave a huge, empty hole in my soul.

And then I wrote this poem.

REMNANTS OF SUNLIGHT

  1. BARBED ROOTS

Last night, my fate made an unannounced appearance.

She presented herself for dinner uncombed,

long hair spreading like a silver service set

upon my Hungarian lace and Polish linen.

Her lips made the sound of a struck match

and then she dissolved like the flame

and suddenly,

folded between napkins and candlelight,

in clotted ink behind all the spice jars,

I discovered a journey –

 

A pilgrimage of crumbling pages

with scribbles and margins ripped

and a big part missing,

the part about how, one evening in August

my return is inevitable.

 

The coarse grains of history

have become threads between my fingers

as I hold my father’s funeral suit in preparation

and the smell of mothballs finds another fragrance

of yellowed books, copper and sulphur

lingering soft as the light of opals

and the mouldy cellar smell of a dead grandmother

 

chemical powders and twisted letters

weave like high country roads on my tongue;

the sound of predestination

is the hush of waist-high grass among barracks

and the ribbit of frogs leaping

out of a pond of ashes

 

right after graduation I know I must find him –

breathe in the last days of my father’s essence,

find out his ending

I have to revisit the house where my grandmother lived

locate the little girl who was my sister, now missing

 

the boulders that rained upon my childhood

must be swept out

from the floorboards of this house

that I have carried on my back

for more than twenty years

 

The dark house of my memories

where my father who disappeared breathes

the house that nightly perches on my eyelids

and ropes my hair down through the pillow

into the black earth of a country

I left when I was ten

 

I arrange to fly from Toronto to Paris one-way

then train onward to eastern Europe

 

Unfolding in the silence pressed among suitcases

packed with blossoms

brittle like paper, like blouses

I wait

in the centre of the Black Forest

 

weeds protrude through the planks underneath

and I smell the sun and the moon being burned

 

I inherited the wire

my hair grows twisted like that, all black

charred like Romany wagons

and muddy villages

the same colour as the evening branches I reach toward

through the smeared window

of the Krakow-Budapest train

 

Brushing my fingertips against the corrosion of metal railings

I feel the echo of locomotives flowing through them,

the breathing of doves perched on wooden fences.

I pick up little white stones shaped like petals

and a fire is burning in my palms

 

2. KRAKOW, 5762

 

Two hours before you catch

the connecting train

in the middle of nowhere

the birds sing louder, gravel paves the horizon.

Two hours to put down your backpack and breathe in

the smell of corn and sleepless kilometres

lingering like murmuring chords

 

Shadows of firs line your closed eyelashes

pad riverbeds and uncombed hair

an unlit street, a colour

splashing over your shoulder

a bridge rail glinting in the sun

 

you arch, the metal between your fingers

rocking in your palm

a rocks skips across the shallow surface below

emerging on the shore

in the stubble of raspberries and grass against trees

 

like a bell, your mouth

opens to echo the air

swallowing another voice that breaks out

like a burning rash, over autumns without hours

and railroads that glint in the afternoon sun

 

shadows juxtapose across your forehead

cloth is reduced to threads, even-numbered and silent

and the direction of the winds commands

the distant vapour of wheat to start an insurrection

 

your two hands on the railing testify unknowingly

by virtue of their existence

about the arid landscape and the sharpness of language,

the language of grandmothers in old photos

and numbered suitcases in dark rooms;

a language you don’t even speak

of a place you don’t even know –

letters, epitaphs, barometers

are the only coordinates left

in this geography of asphalt.

 

III. THE HIVE

 

The old woman with the glassy green brooches

today forgot to pencil in her brows

not that it makes any difference;

her eyelids still sag under the thick black India ink

but she doesn’t stop writing –

If I am dead, who will write these verses for you?

 

Now enters the smell of white chrysanthemum

carrying the musk of narrow wardrobes

and yellowed newspapers rustling underneath.

 

Outside the open window, bees are humming;

sunshine dust gathers languorous and heavy –

a few slender rays spread like fingers

across my rumpled blue bedspread.

 

From this high window I can see the entire city

how pretty Wawel castle is, how loud the wail

of the dying trumpeter across Rynek Glowny Square

 

and how empty of voices

although on another frequency that only stray animals make out

pressed between the dying weed and cobblestones

there is singing

 

no matter how many hot the day, she remains cold

papery like a delicate leaf in the morning rain

and still here, through the sunshine and foliage

climbing over the windowsill

the fingertips of ghosts continue to cling from the edge

 

in every vacant place, on every park bench

there is a hollowness that becomes testament,

then turns into voice

and the voice speaks the names – all of them

every one of them

 

Darting through my black hair

Auschwitz’s bees search for their stolen honey

buzzing through tall cannibal grass

buzzing in and out of the barracks

 

Don’t touch, don’t search my soul,

she leaves me a folded message on the table

not on such a beautiful day

so hot, so full of brightness

when the circumference of summer

becomes a fragile eggshell

with its yolk missing

 

IV. AT SUNRISE THE FORGOTTEN WILL WEEP

 

At sunrise the forgotten will weep

big tears of stone.

 

So heavy their tears,

they will roll down hills as great boulders

 

and smash into the grey buildings that had crushed

the beating hearts of the nameless

 

such great rocks will fall – thick like rain in the valleys

and the forgotten will once again weep

 

So wet will their tears be

that they will moisten the earth

and make it easier for fingers to dig out

 

fathers and grandmothers

brushing the dirt from their clothes

picking up suitcases, ready to come home

 

So hot the sunrise will be

that it will dry the blood on their faces

and clear a sadness fringed with eyelashes

 

It will call them by name

reacquainting them with the heat of the loved

with the sensation that somebody remembered

 

the names and the dreams they once carried

folded like secret letters

in the depths of their shirt pockets

 

V. FAR FROM THE APPLE ORCHARD

 

In my classroom in downtown Seoul, the windows are always open with voices.

Little kids squeal and climb up my back; we sing about the dog named Bingo

eat kimchi together for lunch, the heat of searing Korean spices

wafting away that other smell of smoke

 

On vacation in Beijing I climb the Great Wall through stinging air,

running up the steps as fast as I can, like a Tibetan mountain goat

trying to reach the heights of Tibetan mountain-dwellers

where the North wind rages so loudly, it silences everything

 

A year later, along the Ponte Vecchio in Florence,

I listen as Michelangelo would have, to the sound of hammer and chisel

drifting across the Arno. Here, the clang of iron is an invocation of beauty,

not the screech of a train coming to a stop, the crash of gates closing

 

Then, on the bus to Mombassa, along the bright coast

women with round syllables and laughter

sing a song of bronze bracelets and colourful khangas

 

So far from the dark, endless woods where songs turn to screams

where the faces of locals are stout and red

as though stained by the blood underneath their feet.

 

As far down as Cusco I feel the breath of cliffs on my back,

The spit of hot springs at Aguas Calientes. Up the trail to Macchu Picchu

I smell chickens in the alpine air: wild fowl, wet feathers, muddy paths.

 

I am like an apple, there are five parts to me –

seed, core, meat, skin, and stem.

Like an apple, I leave parts of myself everywhere.

 

I am the shell of a seed eaten up by villages of rock and dirt along the Danube –

swept along rivers rampaging out of their beds

there is nothing left but my war –

a forest of wolves.

 

The shaman anoints my forehead with red liquid.

His hands smell of fermented herbs, berries, cocoa leaves, leather.

You are a bird that refuses to feed or to fly/

but there is something in you which will not die.

 

My ears pick up the noise of the jungle, rushing water and tall blades of grass.

The heat inside the enclosed hut makes my body sticky;

The air is viscous and green with thunderstorms.

 

This may well be the first time I can see /

this strength that has always evaded me

the will of a body to survive in spite of itself –

a drowning rat clawing out of its own frailty.

 

How much determination is required to breathe?

There are certain things a body will do with or without approval;

(take in air, for example).

A body will fight for survival.

A body will survive pogroms, refugee camps, beatings

while the mind, just a seed raw and torn from its shell

stays wrapped in a peel of green apple skin

around a tea cup glazed with a Spanish windmill,

the last one of a set.

 

 

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An Open Letter to Vertica Resident Services

Posted by E on December 24, 2014

Lucia hospital vertica

Christmas season conveys a warm, friendly time when kindness and human connections trump profit and corporate greed. But somehow, I don’t believe that Vertica Resident Services (and the corporate heads and shareholders behind this company, BCIMC Realty Corporation) believe in such traits.

So, against all odds, reason, and even against the Human Rights Comission code, Vertica Resident Services has proceeded with eviction proceedings against my frail, Alzheimer-suffering, deaf mother.

She is 70 years old, deaf, suffering from dementia hallucinations, Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration (she’s going blind). For the last month and a half, she has been living on the 10th floor of Mount Sinai Hospital.

Although the Toronto Housing Commission has been paying the bulk of her rent for at least 15 years, and she has never been late on her rent with one exception, something terrible happened: last November my mother fell and broke her leg while walking on the street. She has been in hospital for the last two months, suffering from dementia-related hallucinations and a broken limb.

I ensured that her rent was paid in full in the meanwhile – in fact, even December’s rent cheque cleared with no problems. AND I sent them the full payment owing, PLUS January’s payment well before it was due.

Everything was in order – or so I thought.

And then I discovered, while examining the contents of my mother’s purse, that Vertica Resident Services was going to court to get her evicted. Which, incidentally, is against the Human Rights Code of Ontario and grounds for a discrimination complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

After I contacted the building manager, Indira Escobar, I discovered that despite having sent them full payment for all rent in arrears, PLUS interest (to cover ONE bounced cheque), Vertica was determined to evict my mother. In fact, Escobar appeared particularly determined to get my mother out of the building. This is the email she sent me, which clearly indicated that Vertica was at fault for dropping the ball on my mother’s case: “Monica Silva went off on mat leave back in Sept 15, there is no documentation of you or even housing has no info on you. Amir (the current Community Manager) has spoken to the nurse and no info was given to him of your mother, due to the privacy laws.”

So basically, because someone at Vertica went on Maternity leave, and Amir Parekh didn’t bother to ask Toronto Housing Authority for my mother’s next-of-kin info, somehow my mother is at fault?

And then the punch line – Ms. Escobar indicated to me, both in writing and in her rather unsympathetic voicemail, that she would NOT process the rent cheques she was given. Uh, not unless we paid $2000 for Vertica’s legal fees (i.e. when Ms. Escobar jumped the gun and skipped due process by initiating eviction papers).

Are you freaking kidding me? What landlord gets to say, “Ahem, I don’t want any money from you – I’d rather get you evicted instead, so we will not be processing any rent cheques from you from here on forward.”

Newsflash, Vertica Management – this is ILLEGAL. Oh, and you might want to read up on your Ontario Human Rights Code, because evicting someone who is in hospital over a SINGLE bounced cheque – and refusing any attempts to process the payment for the rent in arrears – is also illegal. It’s called DISCRIMINATION. You may want to read up on it – it’s on page 85-86 of the Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing.

So instead of celebrating the holidays surrounded by friends and joyful cheer, I will be spending the last week of December preparing to file an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

So Vertica, in case you’re reading this right now and you didn’t read up on your basic tenant human rights, it is actually illegal for a landlord to evict someone who has been languishing in the hospital. Of course, that didn’t stop Vertica Resident Services from instigating eviction proceedings. And it didn’t stop its manager at 57 Charles St apartments, Indira Escobar, from refusing to accept my cheques for the full amount due.

YES – you read that right: Vertica Resident Services is dead-set on putting my mother on the street in the middle of winter. It’s mind-boggling that the building manager at 57 Charles Street would rather REFUSE full payment of rent just to evict my ill, hospitalized mother. If that doesn’t demonstrate a clear instance of mens rea (I’ll let their legal team explain the concept to Vertica and their questionable management group), then what does?

It seems rather fraudulent to me that Vertica has taken all subsidized payments from Toronto Housing Authority up until today, plus kept processing my mother’s rent cheques all the way through December, but suddenly decides to STOP ACCEPTING January’s rent cheque because they’d rather evict than accept rental payment.

By the way, it’s also discrimination to deny rental housing to someone who is a low-income senior citizen who is suffering from dementia. Of course, that didn’t stop Vertica’s Ms. Escobar from implying that somehow she was in a position of authority to determine whether my mother can live alone in their building…or not. “I will call you and discuss if your mother will be able to live alone after her release,” she wrote in the same paragraph in which she stated categorically, “Unfortunately, we can’t process these cheques.”

Newsflash again, Vertica Management Services – you do NOT get to “discuss” or “determine” if my mother is able to live alone after her hospital discharge. You are not a geriatric expert, are you? I didn’t think so. Nor can you get away with such blatant violation of a vulnerable senior citizen’s basic human rights.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s own guide clearly delineates that wrongful eviction due to hospitalization is grounds for a discrimination suit. But maybe Vertica isn’t counting on people actually reading up on their human rights, or contacting lawyers for legal advice.

Simply put, Vertica doesn’t care. Why should it? As soon as they get my frail, 90lbs mother evicted, they’ll get to raise the rent for a bachelor apartment in downtown Toronto to $2000+.

Corporate profit triumphs once again over human rights.

As soon as the Human Rights Commission offices open in January, I will be filing an official complaint against Vertica Resident Services. And I know I will win. Hopefully the additional thousands of dollars spent by Vertica paying lawyers and Human Rights Commission fines will be worth Ms. Escobar’s refusal to process a $458 cheque. And hopefully these fines and bad karma will teach Vertica a thing or two about Canadian Human Rights and more importantly, kindness and understanding.

But that’s little comfort for spending the rest of the holidays full of stress and worry about a parent who is slowly slipping away, and nobody seems to give a damn.

UPDATE: It was not until I contacted BCIMC Realty Corporation and used several social media platforms to expose the incompetency of Vertica’s manager and the injustice of what was going on in my mother’s case that we got results.

It turns out, BCIMC hired Vertica Resident Services to manage the buildings, since the BC corporation (BCIMC) is primarily an investment company for seniors’ portfolios. The irony! So I got as many top senior emails from BCIMC as I could and wrote them a message informing them of how Vertica had dropped the ball, and THEY were going to get sued. I ended my letter with: “It’s ironic that your company invests senior citizens’ portfolios and thus claims to be concerned about the rights of the elderly, but you will illegally throw a frail, hospitalized, elderly woman on the streets over a $458 cheque which she has already attempted to pay back.”

It’s a shame that BCIMC had to be sent this message, considering they hired Vertica Resident Services in good faith to manage several buildings throughout Ontario. And it would be a shame that Vertica might lose their contract with BCIMC if enough of these sort of complaints reach corporate headquarters. However, since Vertica hires managers who don’t open their clients files to see their rents have indeed been paid up until December and would rather use extortion and bullying tactics to get their lawyers’ fees paid instead of admit to an error, this is a consequence that Vertica may have to learn in order to manage their hiring practices better in the future. At the very least, they avoided a major lawsuit through the Human Rights Tribunal – something they may yet have to deal with in the future if they do not keep a close eye on the strong-handed tactics of their Ms. Escobar.

I truly appreciated that Vertica’s Director of Operations did eventually telephone me on Friday afternoon and was actually humane and sympathetic, something that I never expected from them after the way Ms. Escobar had treated me and my mother. I accepted their apology and the fact that apparently they DO want my mother as a tenant in their building. Having said all this, I will wait until the cheque clears out of my mother’s account and I double-check that her possessions haven’t been thrown onto the street before I consider this matter closed.

Posted in deaf, deafness, discrimination, news, public shaming, shaming, toronto, vertica, vertica resident services | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

An Open Letter to Mount Sinai Hospital

Posted by E on December 3, 2014

image[2]

This is my mother, Lucia. She is currently residing on the tenth floor of your hospital, but if you get your way she won’t be there for much longer.

She has been deaf all her life, is only 70 years old and suffers from diabetes, stroke damage and, worst of all, early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the past few years, she’s had several falls which resulted in a broken hip, a sprained wrist, and scores of bruises. Two weeks ago, she fell somewhere on the street (I don’t know what exactly happened since she has no memory of the incident) and ended up being admitted to your Mount Sinai hospital in downtown Toronto.

I spent the week after her admission trying desperately to get a hold of my mother’s newest CCAC coordinator, who apparently went on an extended holiday. This is the third coordinator my mother has been assigned to in under a year, by the way. I don’t even think the woman remembers my mother without looking up her case file.

CCAC stands for Community Care Access Centre – these are the folks who get to file the applications for people waiting for long-term care homes. They decide when someone is in crisis, and when someone can safely remain in their residence for sometimes years on end, while waiting for a bed to open up.

More than ten days passed and nobody at CCAC bothered to phone me back. As I waited, I did my best to delay responding to the frantic calls of the in-house Mount Sinai social worker, who kept leaving me voice mails indicating they wanted to discharge my mother. Eventually I had no choice but to call Alana back and arrange for a conference call to discuss “transition” plans.

I spent the weekend before the conference call educating myself on my mother’s rights: a huge learning curve. Over the last year, she had already been on a list for nursing homes – at the top of her list is the Bob Rumball LTR Home for the Deaf – located in Barrie, ON and the only home in Canada specially-designed for the needs of deaf seniors.

According to the Long-Term Care Homes Act, an Ontario resident has the right to go to the nursing home of their choice, not the first available bed that opens up. And, as a deaf pensioner, before her mind became clouded with disease and confusion, my mother had tearfully insisted she go to the one place she felt she would be understood – among people who were just like her, who she could communicate with in sign language.

As a Romanian-born deaf person, my mother cannot adequately communicate in English with anybody – thus being locked inside yet another cage of disability and inadequacy.

Worse yet, her eyesight is now failing.

The wait time for the Bob Rumball Centre has been quoted as anywhere from four months to two years. The wait depends on who is deemed to be in crisis and who lucks out with a more hands-on CCAC coordinator. Of course, in order to prevent discrimination the Rumball Centre also takes in hearing people from the community, and thus my deaf mother is likely lower on the list for the only Deaf seniors home in Canada than someone higher on the list who happens to be hearing.

As her power of attorney representative, I owe it to her to ensure that her needs and wishes are met. For someone who worked for the CIBC for over twenty years and received no pension, she has been left penniless and dependent on approx. $650 a month to survive. She cannot afford an expensive retirement home or a private room. And as a writer, I am dependent on contracts and all-too-meagre royalties. I have no extra income to subsidize her care, and I shouldn’t have to – in Canada, seniors are supposed to be cared for by the medical profession.

Or so I thought.

But clearly, the Mount Sinai staff were more eager to clear out a pesky bed-blocker than ensure that my mother won’t starve to death in her tiny apartment. But I was prepared to be pressured – reading this Toronto Star article on hospital tactics to clear out seniors in need was eye-opening and prepared me for what was to come.

“Our medical team has assessed your mother and found her medically-stable and ready for discharge,” I am told by Alana the Mount Sinai social worker. “So we’re contacting you to make arrangements for her discharge.”

Really? Did a team of medics actually assess my mother and found her capable of being on her own? I seriously doubted the in-hospital social worker – whose job is to clear bed-blockers and send people like my mother onto other pastures – had even laid eyes on her.

What made her statement even more hypocritical was the fact that I had visited the hospital a day earlier and spoke with a nurse who expressed her concern about my mother being able to live independently. “But she does use the walker to get to the toilet,” she tried to reassure me. Because that’s what counts, the fact that my mother, for the most part, can make it to the toilet. Sure, she might be unable to feed herself, wash herself, shop for groceries, manage her rent and any kind of bills, but when she starves to death in her apartment at least she’ll have a clean diaper.

But back to the conference call, where Alana and Denise, the in-house CCAC worker, were doing their best to convince me there was no better place for my mother than to be at home. “Oh, but her CCAC coordinator can make sure that she receives daily visits and help with meal prep,” the social worker gushed. “She can’t stay here.”

“But how exactly is this going to happen since she has a track record of not opening the door to strangers? She doesn’t know or recognize most people, and she thinks they’re trying to poison her so she won’t accept food from them.”

My mother might be considered “medically-stable” for discharge, but mentally she is anything but. In a perfect world, her CCAC coordinator would reassess her immediately and deem her to be in “crisis”. Following this, she would receive daily visits from a home care provider until a bed opened up in her nursing home of choice. However, in a perfect world, her CCAC coordinator wouldn’t have gone on vacation for over two weeks and left nobody in charge of my mother’s file.

In a perfect world, someone with broken limbs, deafness, failing eyesight and paranoia (someone who doesn’t open the door to “strangers”) wouldn’t be expected to live independently.

And ultimately, in a perfect world, my mother wouldn’t have Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Perhaps the health professionals at Mount Sinai need some brushing up on the consequences of this terrible disease on a person’s mind and spirit. So, without further ado, let me explain to the Mount Sinai Administrators who are itching to get rid of my mother exactly WHY she is not “medically-stable” for discharge:

PARANOIA:

– sometime last fall, she suddenly decided that the Meals-on-Wheels delivery people were poisoning her food. She made herself deliberately ill several times to vomit the food, and then refused to open the door to the poor Meals-on-Wheels drivers, until we had no choice but to remove her from the program

– her last CCAC coordinator had tried to arrange for daily visits, but my mother – being paranoid and suffering from hallucinations – refused to open the door and allow people inside her apartment.

CONFUSION:

– she doesn’t know what day, month, year it is. She doesn’t know her own age. Heck, she doesn’t even know her address and has forgotten why she ended up in the hospital. She forgot the names of her closest relatives and struggles for a few seconds to remember who I am when I visit her in the hospital

– she forgets to take her medications, which as a diabetic places her life in jeopardy.

POOR HEALTH

– with a broken leg and being too frail to use crutches, she cannot go grocery shopping or prepare meals for herself. The last time she cooked potatoes, she ended up with a nasty burn that left a scar on her arm.

PUBLIC SAFETY

– she insists on still cooking on the stovetop, which places everyone in her building in jeopardy in the event she forgets to turn off the burner. She cannot figure out how to use a microwave or a kettle, and the stove is the only way she remembers to warm her food.

This isn’t the way things should be.

If a hospital stay costs the health care system $1000 per day, why not allow those who cannot afford expensive private rooms in nursing homes the option of taking those empty rooms?

“Have you considered paying for a private room at Bob Rumball?” the hospital’s CCAC coordinator asked me. “She could be in there within two months instead of years.”

If only.

There are rooms that stay empty in every nursing home because they are designated as above the “Basic” guarantee fee the Ontario government is willing to pay for each senior. These private or semi-private rooms – which cost in the range of $2000-$3000 per month – would still be far cheaper than keeping a senior in the hospital for months on end.

But my mother doesn’t have that kind of money, and neither do I.

And in the end, I shouldn’t have to threaten a hospital with a liability lawsuit for prematurely-discharging a frail senior who is a danger to herself. “We’ll have to speak with Administration,” Alana-the-social-worker tells me, and I hear the disapproval in her voice. I know I’ve just made the Admin department very unhappy. “But she can’t stay here.”

I shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer – especially since I can’t afford it. But hopefully through a service like that provided by the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, I might be able to get some free legal advice on how to proceed from here.

I shouldn’t have to walk into my mother’s apartment next month and see her fallen on the floor with another broken hip or leg. Or find her starved to death because she cannot feed herself and often chokes. But it appears that, come hell or high water, both the CCAC and Mount Sinai professionals are determined to send her home.

I suspect that my story isn’t that unique from what thousands of other families all over Canada experience every year. Still, the feelings of utter frustration that I have experienced this month from the medical establishment has left me shaken and profoundly angry. I once believed the highly-touted Canadian health care system placed humans first and profit second. I no longer hold any faith in this being true.

Mount Sinai might serve great kosher food (my mother sends her thanks), but the way they handle the frail and elderly is anything but kosher.

 

Posted in deaf, deafness, mother, news | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Race Traitor – the media library

Posted by E on November 3, 2014

Hategan article

Hey guys,

after twenty years of telling people what happened in our own country, I’m tired of the BS I occasionally encounter from people who are so shocked by my story that they would rather deny it happened instead of doing due diligence and actually researching what is freely in the public domain. See how the denial haunts me to this day and parallels my experience as a victim of sexual assault: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/i-know-what-its-like-not-to-be-believed/

Yeah, I know that the info is out there, but in this day of anonymous derogatory quips and an attention span that makes a fruit fly’s seem genius, I doubt the naysayers will actually take the time to investigate the facts and realize that everything I wrote in my book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-up is rooted in hard, undeniable fact.

The denial ends today.

You will also find this list in the References section of my book. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list of resources, but it should suffice to convince even the most ardent nay-sayer that all this actually took place in a free and democratic country.

I have quite a few affidavits made public in 1993 that I can provide upon request to anyone who is interested in further documentation of what is without a doubt one of the most ruthless and insidious, yet well-documented cases of an intelligence agent gone rogue.

Not included in this list is a transcript of my testimony against three notorious leaders of the Heritage Front, a testimony which resulted in convictions and prison sentences. Also not included (though mentioned in the articles below) is a transcript of my testimony in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in 1994, where I spoke to a Senate Subcommittee on National Defence about the illegal actions of CSIS agent and group co-founder Grant Bristow – actions that I witnessed first-hand while being a teenager inside the domestic terrorist group that was the Heritage Front.

If interested in further research, there are also quite a number of articles in the press regarding the shocking treatment received by Brian MacInnis, a Parliamentary aide who leaked a secret CSIS report to the prime minister detailing the controversial actions of a spy gone rogue. For his effort to expose the cover-up, (this was in the days before the Julian Assanges and Edward Snowdens of the world made leaking documents cool) MacInnis was charged under Canada’s insidious Official Secrets Act and his career was permanently ruined.

Furthermore, there is extensive coverage of the more-RECENT (as in 2010!) illegal actions of Bristow’s new persona, “Nathan Black” in targeting the Jewish former mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mendel for harassment using his old spy tricks. I’ve compiled some of those articles in this post: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/old-habits-die-hard-the-dubious-adventures-of-grant-bristow-or-how-csis-taught-me-everything-i-know-about-phone-hacking/

 

VIDEOS

CBC, The Fifth Estate, October 4, 1994.

Excerpt from the Toronto Star, October 5, 1994, describing the content:

The government-appointed CSIS watchdog, called the Security Intelligence Review Committee, wrote a top-secret 1992 report to Mr. Gray’s Conservative predecessor, Douglas Lewis, warning that Mr. Bristow was involved in ‘unlawful activities’ that could ‘generate controversy.’”

“CSIS is scared Grant will blow his lid,” one police source tells The Fifth Estate.

“What they’re scared of is Grant’s going to say: ‘Yeah, we desecrated Jewish synagogues. We threatened people’s lives. We were throwing rocks through windows and we were manufacturing (violent) incidents and we were doing all of this on the instructions of CSIS’.”

The program says CSIS not only did nothing to prevent these incidents but allowed Bristow’s handler, whom it identified as Al Treddenick, to get Bristow out of trouble with police on several occasions.

It says Treddenick is a former officer of the discredited RCMP security service, disbanded in the early 1980s after it was found to have committed illegal acts against Quebec separatists and other domestic dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. CSIS was created to replace the RCMP security service.”

FIFTH ESTATE QUOTE: “When Elisse came out and said she was going to tell the truth, CSIS was saying they were going to get out and discredit her because at least Hategan was pointing the finger at Grant Bristow… we’ll tear her to shreds”.

White Pine Pictures, “Hearts Of Hate: The Battle For Young Minds”. Peter Raymont, 1995.

It’s About Time, VISION TV. “Racism, Sexism and Belonging.” Sadia Zaman, 1994.

 

ARTICLES

Dunphy, Bill. ” STIR IT UP. Spy Unmasked: CSIS Informant ‘Founding Father’ of white racist group,” Toronto Sun, 14 Aug. 1994.

Dunphy, Bill. “Turncoat spied on racist group,” Toronto Sun, 16 March 1994.

Dunphy, Bill. “Ex-racist’s despair,” Toronto Sun, 17 March 1994.

Dunphy, Bill. “We’ll Squash ‘Em! Manning fears plot behind racist infiltration of the Reform Party”, Toronto Sun, Feb. 29, 1992

Dunphy, Bill. “Reformers boot out ‘infiltrators'”, Toronto Sun, March 11, 1992

Dunphy, Bill. “Top racist in welfare scam,” Toronto Sun, Nov. 29, 1992.

Dunphy, Bill. “White rights groups readying for racial war.” Toronto Sun, 1992-11-29. Includes description of HF leader Grant ‘Briston’

Dunphy, Bill. “Canada’s Neo-Nazis”, Toronto Sunday Sun, November 29, 1992 Includes description of HF leader Grant ‘Briston’

Swanson, Gail. “Fire guts rights activist’s house”. Toronto Star, 92-11-09. involving arson of Jewish community leader’s home

Deverell, John. “Metro constable facing charges”. Toronto Star, December 17, 1993. involving metro Toronto cop member of HF

Mascoll, Philip. “Public mischief charge dropped”, Toronto Star, March 8, 1994 – involving an HF sexual assault on a black woman

Platiel, Rudy. “Front played dirty, court told.” Globe and Mail, 17 March 1994.

Platiel, Rudy. “Front tried to thwart agency, court told,” Globe and Mail, 16 March 1994.

Oakes, Gary “Woman’s hate-crime charges withdrawn,” Toronto Star, 24 Jun 1994.

Salot, Jeff, Henry Hess. “Memo leaker questions CSIS conduct,” Globe and Mail, 27 Aug. 1994.

Swainson, Gail. “Elite soldiers members of racist group, leader says,” Toronto Star, 6 May 1993.

Speirs, Rosemary, David Vienneau, “Commons panel to probe CSIS,” Toronto Star, 25 Aug. 1994.

Speirs, Rosemary. “CSIS told to ‘clear its name’ publicly,” Toronto Star, 24 Aug. 1994.

Speirs, Rosemary, David Vienneau. “Who’s watching whom?,” Toronto Star, 27 Aug. 1994.

Vienneau, David. “Spy agency kept watch on CBC,” Toronto Star, 19 Aug. 1994.

Vienneau, David, Rosemary Speirs, and Shawn McCarthy. Ex-aide admits leaking spy note,” Toronto Star, 26 Aug. 1994.

Cal Millar and Dale Brazao, Parliament set to probe secret actions of CSIS spy Committee to see if Grant Bristow was a spy or racist. Toronto Star, September 12, 1994.

Derek Ferguson, “Report ‘whitewash’ of spy agency mole. Toronto Star, June 14, 1995

Toronto Sun, October 1995 MPs rip Bristow spying scandal: CSIS broke the law, leaked report says”

Clayton Ruby, Fighting racism going out of fashion. Toronto Star, December 13, 1995

Toronto Star, September 10, 1994. “Exclusive: CSIS spy snapped in Libya: Portrait of the vanishing spy: Grant Bristow was a man with great contacts and plenty of money to spend.”

Dale Brazao, “Star finds Grant Bristow”, Toronto Star, Apr 20, 1995.

ONLINE ARTICLE that also discusses what I covered in my book regarding Stephen Harper’s roots in the Northern Foundation, a radical far-right group whose members included skinheads, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, Airborne Regiment soldiers, radical anti-abortionists and Reform Party members: Agora Cosmopolitan

BLOGS

Anti-Racist Canada Collective, A History of Violence, 1989-2011.

http://anti-racistcanada.blogspot.ca/2011/10/history-of-violence-1989-2011.html

Elisa Hategan, Incognito Press. Old Habits Die Hard

https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/old-habits-die-hard-the-dubious-adventures-of-grant-bristow-or-how-csis-taught-me-everything-i-know-about-phone-hacking/

Grant Bristow’s hit list of people to be targeted for stalking and harassment:

hit list grant bristow

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