Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Friendship And Loss - A Tribute To Lloyd

I turn to words more often than not, when my heart needs to express something that cannot be contained.

Tonight, I am writing in tribute and sorrow - because my friend, Lloyd, passed away yesterday. I only found out about it a couple of hours ago, and am still processing the shock.

Lloyd and I "met" through Facebook. He and I had a mutual friend (who, oddly, blocked me in a disagreement but to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for the introduction).

Lloyd and I immediately saw the things we shared: love of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team (even though he was American, he was a McGill University graduate and loved our hockey team as much as our city), political views, a deep respect for words and language, and the fun of wit and wisdom.

We became friends some years ago - and shortly thereafter, he recruited me into a group for people who love language, and cringe at the prevalent grammatical errors we see, especially on social media.

The group became a second home for me online. Whenever I've seen an egregious error in language (whether it's odd spelling, grammatical crime, play on words, or the like), I've been able to go into this group and share it.

I've "met" some great people through the group, as well as through Lloyd, and we found that we had several other friends in common as well.

His love for animals was another thing we shared; Lloyd had rescued his beloved husky, Mikko, not too long after we became friends, and he and I would talk about our dogs all the time. He rescued another husky - and I am still honored that he gave my name as a reference to the rescue shelter.

Lloyd's wicked sense of humor could always be counted upon for a smile, even in times of strife. When our Canadian election went the way it did, knowing how deeply it affected me, he posted an online countdown to the next election.

Lloyd was known for his countdown posts. After Donald Trump was elected - not even in office yet! - Lloyd posted a countdown to the next election.

He posted countdowns to Spring, Winter, Christmas - name it, he counted it down. And he would begin the countdown the day after the event had passed (there were always 364 days left to Christmas on December 26th).

His birthday - the day after mine - will be an empty one this year.

On New Year's day, I messaged him to wish him a Happy New Year. He'd been looking for work, and found it just recently. In my message, I told him that this would be the year his dream job happened. He said "amen" to that, and said that 2017 would be the year we would finally meet face-to-face.

He used to live just across the border, in upstate New York (till some months back, when he took a job in NJ), and I so regret not being able to see him the one time I knew he had visited the city.

But we can't have regrets in life; and I know I'm not alone - I've seen many of his friends say this on Facebook tonight - when I say Lloyd would probably want us to make some really twisted joke right now.

I hope he'll forgive me for not being able to do that. I'm still processing this news, as I know everyone else is as well.

I do NOT regret having always thanked him for his friendship, for making me smile, for posting something that would make me laugh out loud, for his support, and for just being there. I'm glad I am the type of person to be candid and honest like that; it makes me hopeful that Lloyd knew just how appreciated he was.

I had to post, when I found out, on Facebook - because so many of my friends had come to know Lloyd for his wit, his principles, his humor, and his friendly self. And in my post I mentioned that he and I had never met.

My cousin, Nancy, offered these wise words:

A friend is not a friend defined how you met. But how that person made you feel, how that friend was there to listen. There is no need to qualify how the circumstances of meeting. The loss is felt no matter what.

She's right, of course. I experienced this already - some years back, when my friend Bill passed away, never having met him either, but having so much that we shared as well.

It will sink in, as time goes on and Lloyd isn't around to hit the "like" button or the "angry face" emoji on my posts (likes for the fun stuff, angry face for the not-so-great stuff - he did like to emote). It will sink in when he doesn't count down to the next event or occasion, and especially when I cannot share the wordplay as I have so enjoyed doing all these years.

This loss will be felt for a long time to come - because he was almost as prolific as I, on my Facebook page. I could always count on Lloyd to be there with a comment.

Lloyd always acknowledged my posts. Whether it was a single word reply, a whole paragraph or two, a "like", or an emoji, Lloyd was always one of - if not THE first to acknowledge my posts. He acknowledged them, and thus - he acknowledged me. The quiet will be conspicuous, deafening, and a large gap in my online presence.

His sons will miss him the most, and to them, I offer my deepest condolences, and wish that Lloyd's memory be a blessing to them always.

Thank you for letting me pay tribute to Lloyd's memory - he deserves the accolades. There was nothing negative about Lloyd Olsson.

Sail on, my friend. Smooth waters.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Prime Minister Trudeau Remains Silent On McGill Student's Hate Speech

It's been a week since a McGill Student representative's tweet came to light. Asking his followers to "punch a Zionist today", Igor Sadikov has since deleted his Twitter account - but not much else. He doubled down on his remarks a day after a non-apology, and remains in his position of representing students.

His decision to remain as student rep is unfathomable. And yet, at a meeting of the SSMU (Students' Society of McGill University), he was confronted by students who wanted to know how their safety will be protected now that the story has gone wider.

Molly Harris posted publicly, on her Facebook page, exactly what happened in that meeting. Her post begins with the words: "I have never felt so targeted, disgusted, or disappointed in my life."

She goes on to describe what was said in that meeting, and what Sadikov said about Jews ("it is contested that Jews are an ethno-religious group.”. What is more disturbing is how he was greeted with cheers and applause from other students.

I urge you to read this young woman's statement - it is chilling that in this day and age, we are facing a threat whose author is so exposed, so identified - and so untouched by any hand of justice whatsoever.

Deleting his Twitter account? Issuing a non-apology in which he shamelessly tried to invoke his "Jewish heritage"?

Not good enough.

Just this past Monday, the SSMU voted - and rejected - the motion calling on Sadikov to resign from the student union. The motion was rejected in a 5-4 vote. Democracy at work, folks, but where's the justice?

Here's my bigger question: where are the adults in this situation?

In the past few days, a friend and I have been seeking adults to take some sort of stand on the matter. Jewish organizations like B'nai Brith and CIJA are on this case, and working to see what can be done so that students at McGill - and other Universities - can feel safe.

But where is the government?

Canada's former ambassador to Israel, Vivian Bercovici, posted this on her Facebook wall:

The student activist/hater McGill University student who tweeted recently, exhorting fellow haters to “punch a zionist today” continues to dig his hole. He tries to explain his incitement to violence as an expression of his distaste for Zionism. In other words, he opposes the existence of a Jewish state. But – he somehow understands this as being all about peace, love and anti-colonialism and not hatred or anti-semitism.
On the latter point, he invokes his own Jewish heritage. Shameless, disingenuous and downright disgusting. The fact that he is Jewish does not validate his uninformed and hate-filled views. The conspiracy theories espoused by Alice Walker are not more credible because she is American. This nasty piece of work, Mr. Sadikov, is a coward. He deleted the tweet that drew so much attention, and now says that he has not decided whether or not to resign from student government.
That someone so openly hate-filled and violent even has the option to continue screams out for a review of student governance policies. I’m also wondering……where is my Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? He – or one of his high profile Cabinet members – is usually quick to pounce on such disgraceful conduct and condemn it. Jews, Israelis and Zionists are living in a highly toxic environment. Why the silence from Ottawa? Why is this a non-event?
Just this week, Anthony Housefather - Liberal MP - posted this statement on behalf of him and colleague Michael Levitt:

MPP Gila Martow, representing the Thornhill district of Ontario (the largest Jewish community in Canada) released this statement:

These statements are important because those with a platform can use their voices to raise awareness, and provoke action.

I must echo Ambassador Bercovici, who asks, where is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

We have seen PM Trudeau address other incidents - from the tragic, to the expressions of hate.

For example: following the Paris attacks in November of 2015, Trudeau dealt with the sharp uptick in hate crimes against Canadian mosques. Mosques were vandalized, anti-Muslim graffiti was spray-painted on an apartment complex wall, and a Muslim woman was the target of racial slurs, her hijab tugged by the attackers. Serious enough to be criminal, but no serious bodily harm committed. And certainly, unacceptable.

He swiftly condemned those attacks within a day of their occurrence, stating:

"Diversity is Canada's strength. These vicious and senseless acts of intolerance have no place in our country and run absolutely contrary to Canadian values of pluralism and acceptance."
Trudeau also vowed that his government and police would work to protect the victims' rights, and urged Canadians to focus on unity in the face of global terrorism threats.
"Our focus must be on stopping the people responsible for the terror, and continuing to fight hate by embracing Canadian values," he said.
That is as it should be. A Prime Minister should speak up when the citizens of the country he runs are threatened in any way, and in the face of hate speech, condemn those acts.

Yet, it's been a week since a student in the Prime Minister's home town - at the Prime Minister's alma mater and faculty (he holds a Bachelor of Arts from McGill) - has called for violence against Zionists, and there is no statement whatsoever from him.

 One must ask, why not? Is this not enough of a story for him to comment on, when it's been covered and spread internationally? Is this not enough of a story because there's been nobody directly affected (or so he may believe) by the tweet? Or is this not enough of a story because the Jewish community is involved?

I despise rushing to judgment, but this Prime Minister hastens to comment on anti-Muslim rhetoric, and is currently drafting a motion that would make Islamophobia a crime. Motion M-103 condemns Islamophobia, but fails to mention other religious groups.

Considering the fact that Jews are the victims of religiously motivated hate crimes more often than any other religious group in Canada, this shows a definitive lack of inclusiveness in condemning ALL hate crimes.

Statistics Canada - Table Data Specified; Click To Enlarge

For a Prime Minister to be faced with this kind of story taking place over a week, with a continued atmosphere of fear and tensions on campus - spreading to other universities, no doubt - and say nothing?

It is not acceptable, not for a leader who is supposed to be the leader of all Canadians, not just one segment of the country.

McGill University likely wishes this issue would fade away. After all, the tweet was deleted, the Twitter account is gone, an "apology" was issued, and nobody has gotten punched (yet). 

Those of us incensed that this student is still an official representative, let alone still a student at McGill where his hate speech can be surreptitiously spread by him and his minions, will not let it go.

Those of us who want to see him expelled - and at the very least forced to resign his position - will not let it go.

Those of us who read of a student's traumatic experience at a SSMU meeting, where Sadikov spoke, and his supporters targeted dissenters, will not let it go.

Those of us who want our elected officials to speak up, to pressure not just the University but the leader of our country, to denounce, and act upon this egregious hate speech, will not let it go.

If you are a student at McGill, a recent graduate, an alumnus, or even a parent of one, it would be a good time to let Suzanne Fortier know how you feel. She is the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, and her email address is

The more emails she gets, the harder it will be for her to ignore it. 

I also urge everyone to write your MP to ask for a strong statement. The two statements above are excellent examples of elected officials recognizing the problem and doing something about it - even if it is just to speak up.

But we need more.

Find your MP on this site, and if you don't know who it is, you can search by your address.

All you need to do is send a simple email, referencing the story (B'nai Brith Canada published a story last Friday, in which the student doubled down on his hate speech), stating your outrage over his continued tenure as student and student rep, and asking for a formal statement - as well as perhaps asking the MP to introduce a motion to get a formal statement from Prime Minister Trudeau.

It starts with voices. Our voices.

Please join us.

Friday, February 10, 2017

McGill Student Rep Not Backing Down

In a newsletter I received from B'nai Brith, it has come to light that Igor Sadikov - about whom I wrote last night - has doubled down on his hatred, and has been contacted on social media by willing participants to his violence.

From the newsletter:

Igor Sadikov continues to spread anti-Jewish falsehoods, even after his tweet calling on his followers to “punch a Zionist” was exposed by B’nai Brith Canada Thursday. The report sparked a media firestorm.
Sadikov, clearly an unrepentant member of the Legislative Council and Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), issued a statement defending his tweet as “opposition to the adherents of a political philosophy,” but “not an attack against Jewish students,” citing his own “Jewish heritage”. According to Jewish students at McGill who have known Sadikov for years, he has never before publicly identified himself as Jewish or claimed any Jewish background.
Disturbingly, in the space below his “apology” on Facebook, Sadikov “liked” a comment from someone else, promising that “I can punch one for you if your position does not allow you to.” The “like” took place about seven hours after he made his so-called “apology.”

The screenshot:

Students have reported to B’nai Brith that, in a tense meeting of the SSMU Legislative Council last night, Sadikov refused to promptly resign, arguing that Jews do not constitute a legitimate ethnic group and that there is no historical connection between the Jewish People and the Levant. A motion to censure Sadikov for his comments failed by a large margin.
Later in the meeting, a member of McGill’s BDS Action Network demanded that Jasmine Segal, a Jewish member of the Legislative Council, be impeached for “supporting Zionism.” While Segal was not impeached, the President of SSMU and other Council members refused to speak in her defence.
Segal told B’nai Brith that, “A university’s purpose is to promote a free exchange of ideas and thought - it does not matter what you believe or support. The only exception is that there can be no support for violence as a tool to suppress another person's free speech. I had approached the President of SSMU in near tears, explaining my position, and was told that I would hear an apology and a public statement in the meeting. No apology was ever delivered. I am worried for students who are now scared to be a part of student government because of what happened to me today.”
Meanwhile, McGill itself condemned Sadikov’s remarks, saying in a statement, “We believe that they violate a number of our policies” and that “appropriate offices are taking action as required.”
“B’nai Brith Canada is disgusted by the response of SSMU, which allowed the escalation of attacks against Jewish students at McGill,” said Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of the organization. “We have written to both SSMU and the administration, and our Quebec office filed a complaint to police (Thursday) about this matter.
“I cannot stress enough how appalled we are by what’s transpired in the past 48 hours. Rather than condemning Sadikov and distancing SSMU from his offensive position, it has chosen to remain silent about discrimination and incitement to violence toward its Jewish constituents. The McGill administration must move quickly to protect its own elected representatives.”
For more information contact:
Marty York
Chief Media Officer
416-633-6224 x163
Daniel Koren
Media Coordinator
416-633-6224 x172

As pointed out by a good friend, someone who is deeply knowledgeable about these issues, Sadikov should be charged under the Criminal Code, Section 319 as follows:

Public incitement of hatred
  •  (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of
    • (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  • Marginal note:Wilful promotion of hatred
    (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
    • (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Meanwhile, I have forwarded last night's piece to various outlets, including B'nai Brith (the two gentlemen whose contact information is above) and have tweeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to disavow this student.

Of course, Trudeau has yet to disavow the Quebec Imam who prays daily for the annihilation of the Jews. So I'm expecting nothing.

But others ARE speaking up. And this revelation that Sadikov has continued his crusade, even after his "apology" is alarming, to the point where I believe criminal charges MUST be filed.

Please share your thoughts. And speak up.

We must not allow hatred to continue as a result of silence.

Montreal's McGill University Must Expel Anti-Semitic Student Rep

Photo:Paul Lowry, Flickr

Montreal is a city rich with educational institutions. One such venerable university, McGill University, is what many consider to be Montreal's "Ivy League University".

McGill has had its share, recently, of problems with the Jewish community. In February of 2016, almost 60% of those who voted supported the adoption of the BDS movement, a movement that encourages consumers to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction companies profiting from Israeli manufacturing.

The movement has been in existence since 2005, and has faced pushback from the International community - Jewish and non-Jewish organizations alike.

Though they may claim their mission is to help the Palestinian people allegedly "oppressed" by Israel, the very nature of the movement is not to help others, but to punish Israel. This piece very deftly explains why the BDS movement is one of hate, and is not pro-Palestinian.

The McGill vote represented only 3% of the 30,000 students at the University, and when presented for ratification just a few days later, it was struck down 57%-43% (with 6% abstaining).

That left a stain on McGill's reputation, but with the University's denouncement of the movement in the days that followed, things seemed to right themselves again over the past 12 months.

Until now.

On Thursday, February 9, 2017, it came to light that a McGill student representative, in the faculty of arts, had tweeted, urging his followers to "punch a Zionist today." Igor Sadikov tweeted it Monday, but it only became known on Thursday.

The tweet - now deleted - looked like this:

The word spread swiftly, through social media, and there were immediate calls denouncing it - and the student.

B'nai Brith, and CIJA - the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs - called for the student to resign, stating that not only was the tweet anti-Semitic, but called for violence as well.

Sadikov released a statement justifying his tweet - but how such a thing can be justified is beyond me. His statement reads:


See, he - and others who support his point of view - may see Zionists as separate from Jews, but that is a fallacy. Yes, there are non-Jewish Zionists, and there are Jews who are not Zionists. The definition of a Zionist is - from the Jewish Virtual Library:

Its general definition means the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. 

It's truly difficult to justify "punch a Zionist" as anything but anti-Semitic, especially given his expanded explanation. It is thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

Those of us who support Israel, and stand up for her right to exist, also recognize that there has never been a Palestinian State, and rather than go into the why's and wherefores of the conflict that spawned the BDS movement, I will refer you to this short video:

While I have been very outspoken about my love for Israel, and my support of the policies that govern the land in the name of security and safety, that's not what I'm here to do at this time.

This piece addresses the danger, and the infuriating sentiment expressed by Sadikov - and supported by those with the same thoughts.

First of all, he is a student representative - elected to that role by fellow students. Imagine how many of them are Jewish, and had no idea he harbored this kind of hatred.

A report on the incident, in The Algemeiner, states this:

According to Canadian human rights organization B’nai Brith Canada, Sadikov is a prominent supporter of the BDS movement at McGill. He is also the former news editor of The McGill Daily, which, as The Algemeiner reported, openly admitted to censoring pro-Israel content on the grounds that Zionism is a product of “settler colonial ideology.”

Secondly, he is advocating for violence (and his weak justification "I do not condone nor justify violence on the basis of membership in any identity group" belies that). This puts Jewish students in danger, but it goes further.

If this student is allowed to stay at the University, given his initial tweet and suggested action against Jews, it sends a very strong message to ALL who discriminate based on identity in any group.

This puts all students at risk: visible minorities, disabled, LGBTQ, students who speak different languages - or even just French or just English - or even those who are perceived as different from the attacker. Bullies need no reason to target others; intolerant hate-filled individuals go beyond that: their reasons are differences of others, based on identity.

The precedent it sets, should he be allowed to stay, is treacherous for all students not only at McGill University, but anywhere, any level institution, any city, any province, and yes, any country where hate speech is allowed to flourish unpunished.

Note: there is a difference between free speech and hate speech. This is a textbook example of hate speech, which is never to be allowed, and can be prosecuted.

McGill University is an internationally renowned institution. Its international-student body is extensive (roughly one-third of enrolment is international, according to the registration statistics as of Fall 2016):

What would happen, should potential students in the international community were to find out that a known anti-Semite, elected to be a student rep, and remaining untouched by the University itself, is encouraging the rest of the student body to punch Zionists? (And I don't care if the tweet has been deleted, it's out there and has been publicized - the damage is done)

What would happen, should parents/family members in the international community, with students already at McGill University, were to hear that a known hater was allowed to stay, not only harboring hateful thoughts toward those with whom he disagrees, but encouraging violence - and most likely continuing those thoughts among friends and like-minded classmates?

McGill University would lose a great deal of its income, should that happen. Who knows? It may already be happening, with this incident being reported throughout Canada, the USA, Israel, and other countries.

Sadikov has angered an untold number of people, Jews and non-Jews alike. If anyone is not enraged by his tweet, and his attitude, I would urge them to ask themselves why (that is, if they don't already know it is because they agree with him).

History is a perfect, effective guideline for us to use to inform our actions. It may not have been during Sadikov's lifetime - it wasn't during mine - but it was not too long ago that Jews in Eastern Europe were attacked in this very same manner.

Note: I do not invoke comparisons to Nazi Germany casually. I recognize the profound depths of horror that period in history represents, but it's an apt comparison to draw here. Not only because of 1930s Nazism, but because there are anti-Semites who are continuing to perpetuate their hatred even today.

There was no Internet then, but there was media, and there were posters, songs, jingles, and directives from Nazi Germany to perpetrate violence upon Jews. 

Nazi Germany, led by Hitler, and the implementation of  "The Final Solution" to exterminate the Jewish people, was a place and time of hatred, based on identity. There are many, many stories of Jews being accosted in the streets, Jewish men being subjected to scissors cutting off their beards and hair, for purposes of humiliation as well as stripping them of their identity. There are many stories of Jews being tormented en masse, unable to fight back for fear of being killed - because those humiliating them were armed, and sanctioned by Hitler's government.

Jews were subjected to hatred borne by those who needed very little in the way of a reason in order to harm, or kill them. 

And now, Jewish students - Zionists or not - are being subjected to the very real possibility of violence against them, encouraged by a member of the student body who has been elected to represent the students in the faculty of arts.

In fact, the law student who brought the tweet to the public eye (Simon Paransky) stated, in an interview:

“It’s appalling that a student representative is calling for violence against a certain group of people,” Paransky said. “And it is not an isolated incident. It is happening in a context of increased hostility to students on campus, mostly students of Jewish faith but also students of non-Jewish faith who are allies of Jewish students.”

How is the person who unleashed this upon the student community at McGill University being allowed to stay on at the school?

There are many of us, mobilizing to protest this student's existence at McGill. We are protesting his continued status as student rep, and as student at all. We are calling upon McGill University to expel him, or - as the most recent reports say - force his resignation. 

If he is allowed to stay, I hope the community - local, and international - will govern themselves accordingly. Funding should be stopped. Enrolment should be stopped, and perhaps transfers out of McGill become the norm.

Sadly, it is only the threat of financial loss - and/or negative publicity - that will force the hand of the University.

This is not going away. Nor should it. We should ALL be speaking up, we should ALL be railing against the tolerance of violent rhetoric, anti-Semitism, and hatred condoned by an internationally renowned institution of higher education.

Because today it is anti-Semitism - tomorrow it could be any of a number of other groups targeted for violence and hatred.

And the way I see it, if McGill does nothing about this, they are condoning - perhaps even endorsing - the call for violence, and should be consequenced accordingly.

One last note: where is Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau? This story has been circulating for almost 24 hours, and he has always been quick to condemn violence against Muslims, but seemingly silent when Jews have been involved.

As the leader of our country, as a Montrealer himself, he should be speaking up, condemning the student, and adding to the pressure upon McGill to expel Sadikov permanently.

Along with our call to protest McGill's harboring of an anti-Semitic student rep, we call upon the Prime Minister to speak up against this student and join us in our urging McGill University to act.

Folks, not everyone is an activist. Some people just prefer to stay out of it, and disengage while harboring their own private thoughts. 

But even if you disavow this student and what he stands for, in your thoughts, it is not enough. If we all remain silent, what can change? Silence can be deadly.

I will end with the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

If you are as incensed as so many of us are, please speak up. Share this article. Talk about it with your family, friends, kids, parents. Let McGill University know that you do not support their permitting Igor Sadikov to remain on campus, much less a student representative.

You are speaking up for this situation, but you are also investing in the future of humanity - one person at a time.

Will you join us?