The Bookworm Club (non-fiction)

There are only two things which have truly helped me through the long grey winters and their long black nights: whiskey and books. While drinking yourself into a stupor can pass the time, it’s not exactly edifying and I can’t recommend it on a long-term basis.

I enjoy non-fiction, and whenever I try to find a list of ‘greatest’ works I come across contrived junk. In one list Confessions by Augustine was third place! If you think I’m a whiner try slogging through that book. (Maybe one day they’ll compile my tweets in a book and call it Confessions by Beaver – at least it’d be more entertaining.)

So for the hardcore readers here are some tried, tested and true books to get you through the half year of mind-numbing snow or pouring rain and continuous grey:

The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William L. Shirer

Guns, Germs & Steel – Jared Diamond

Ireland – Gustave de Beaumont

The Operation Reinhard Death Camps – Yitzhak Arad

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Other notables:

Mindhunter – John E. Douglas

Wild Swans – Jung Chang

Shake Hands With the Devil – Romeo Dallaire

Escape from Sobibor – Richard Rashke

The Last Days of the Incas – Kim MacQuarrie

Personal Favs:

Dracula, Prince of Many Faces – Raymond T. McNally & Radu R. Florescu

Public Enemies – Bryan Burrough

I’ll add more as I read or remember them. Hope this keeps you busy. And if you’re bored as hell you can always read about Canada too.

Aboriginals in Canada: is it genocide?


After mulling this topic over, I’ve realized the answer depends on your definition. I’ve always considered “genocide” to be the attempt to completely eradicate a group of people. For example: trying to eradicate Jews by hunting down every single one who can be found and killing them all. To try to exterminate a group of people from the face of the earth.

Aboriginal people were made into slaves, had treaties broken, were scammed, put onto reservations; the children abducted by the state and put into residential schools. The children were killed en masse by the state because of its policies which essentially forced them into contracting tuberculosis, which then killed anywhere from one-quarter to half of them.

To me, this sounds like state crimes and mass murder, but not genocide in the strictest sense. The objective wasn’t to hunt down every single Indigenous person and exterminate them; it was to convert them to European norms, without caring how many died (likely the more the better). Consider it a sort of ‘culling’ of the numbers without destroying the whole flock.

In my opinion Canada has participated in the mass murder of Aboriginal peoples and attempts to annihilate their culture, but not genocide. This may seem like a minor distinction but it’s not – actions matter. However odious, sick, and twisted the treatment of Aboriginal children was, it wasn’t on par with trapping them in concentration camps and then gassing them with the intention none were left alive.

However when you look up the term “genocide” according to the United Nations (which has it as a crime under international law), recognized by the International Court of Justice, under the Genocide Convention, article II it says:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

a. Killing members of the group;

b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

This is a pretty broad definition and can arguably include Canada which has done a, b, c, d, and e. Because not all crimes are of the same severity, the next reasonable conclusion is that there are different tiers of genocide, the Holocaust being top tier, and Canada’s crimes some level down. So while cries of “Canada’s Genocide” may seem exaggerated, they are apparently technically correct under international law.


They often use the term “cultural genocide” here, which I dislike. I think cultural annihilation is more appropriate. To me, genocide is a term used to describe the worst acts imaginable against human beings. And as awful as taking away someone’s culture is, or destroying it, it’s less severe than killing living human beings and trying to exterminate them. To me the word annihilation still conveys the impact of the destruction, while separating it from the loss of human life.

But they do choose to use the term ‘genocide’ here, in an attempt to communicate the severity of the destruction and its generational effects on a group.


Recently a man killed almost an entire family by running them down with a truck, simply because they were Muslim. The media began decrying the ‘terrorism’, which I found odd. I’d always believed that terrorism was defined as physical violence and threats made for a political agenda or ideology. To me, it seemed like a hate crime perpetuated by a disturbed individual, because of skin color, religion, or probably both. If he’d had an organization helping his endeavor (ex: Ku Klux Klan) it would be different. I felt that words such as ‘genocide’ or ‘terrorism’ were being diluted.

The Oxford dictionary defines terrorism as:

the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

But according to Canadian law (section 83.01 of the Criminal Code) it is defined as:

an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public ” …

London Police note:

“The perpetrator Nathaniel Veltman is being charged with terrorism since “the murders and the attempted murder also constitute terrorist activity.”

Although the terms seem exaggerated or misused, talking about ‘genocide’ and ‘terrorism’ in Canada is technically legally correct, and apparently a spectrum of sorts.


As a half-Indigenous person, I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe in the government narrative that the residential schools were created to assimilate First Nations people. They considered their non-European ways inferior and uncivilized and wanted to force social integration upon them, and everyone acknowledges this.

Researchers and those in the TRC have discovered hints of experimentation on Indigenous children regarding nutrition, medicines, vaccines and medical tests. Former patients at ‘Indian hospitals’ (sanatoriums) have made claims they were used as guinea pigs (without their knowledge or consent), which I personally believe is true, regardless of whether the government ever provides documentation or not.

I think when you take into account the era and its racism, the residential schools, the abuses that went on there, the other partially documented testing, and the memories of survivors, it seems completely feasible.

Everyone knows that sexual, physical and emotional abuse ran rampant in the schools, and this isn’t disputed. Some former students have made claims of murder, illegitimate children being birthed, torture and cover ups. I believe them. Some claim to have witnessed children being shoved out windows, beaten, kicked down stairs and so on – I find it credible. It’s not difficult to go from sexual abuse and rape to illegitimate births and secrecy. When numerous people claim to have seen children’s deaths, bodies and burials, it seems likely the incident happened, and given all the information we now know, the prospect of cover ups, silencing, and destroyed or “lost” documents seems legitimate.

There’s no suggestion this was approved policy or conduct, but clearly the issues were systemic, permeated the establishments, and would naturally extend to denials, document destruction, and silence from those responsible. Unless evidence was collected in a timely manner, all that would be left decades later are the memories of survivors.

At least 500 children remained nameless in the end-of-year death reports (could have been falsely noted, or altered) until 1917, where they were stopped altogether.


The biggest dispute surrounds intention and tuberculosis. The government claims it inadequately cared for Aboriginal children; that TB spread in the population and killed off a significant portion, and while shameful and regretful – it’s all down to penny pinching and ‘benevolent neglect’.

That might be believable were it not for Peter Henderson Bryce, who exposed the schools’ shortcomings and the fact that a quarter of all Aboriginal children died, up to seventy percent in one school. He suggested changes to stop the deaths, which were ignored by his superiors, effectively condoning and continuing the trend of killing children. After attempts at silencing Bryce, he published his pamphlet The Story of a National Crime.

Many claiming to be voices of reason argue in favor of “benevolent neglect” and against the intentional mass murder of children by tuberculosis. In their minds, the lack of typed meeting minutes accompanied by signatures proves no intentional crime was committed, despite Bryce’s department letters, pamphlet, efforts and the historical record.

But to quote the Canadian Medical Journal Association:

…he lamented the indifference of Canadians to the medical wellness of First Nations children and underscored the extent to which the mass apprehension of Indigenous children was not merely a cultural but a biological genocide. He also risked his professional career to do so.”

First Nations Women

After mentioning all of the above, it’s worth noting that both Justin Trudeau (Liberal leader and Prime Minister) and Jagmeet Singh (NDP leader) have called Canada’s actions against Aboriginal people and women ‘genocide’. Then leader of the Conservative party Andrew Scheer refused to do so, saying:

… That being said, the ramifications of the term genocide are very profound. That word and term carries a lot of meaning. I think the tragedy involved with missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is its own thing, its own tragedy, and doesn’t fall into that category of genocide.”

Marion Buller of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) said the term could still be applied based on the UN’s convention on genocide (as mentioned earlier).

Trudeau tried to straddle the fence by saying he preferred the term “cultural genocide”, while Romeo Dallaire, (the Canadian who oversaw the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda) was understandably perturbed by the term’s use. He witnessed the Rwandan Genocide first hand and later wrote a book about it: “Shake Hands With The Devil.”

Having read his book years ago, as well as extensive studying and reading about the Holocaust, I understand the distinction and discomfort. Canada has systematically brutalized, subjugated, demeaned and killed its Aboriginal peoples (and intentionally, I believe). Even saying so, I feel more comfortable with terms like “state crimes” and “mass murder”. If you subscribe to the spectrum-of-genocide theory then Canada still technically qualifies, but not at top tier level. (Note: I have used the term in a title before, but that was more of a literary middle finger to Canada and I’ve since changed it).

So now we come to Aboriginal women, where over 1000 (or more) are murdered or missing; where despite being 5% of the population they made up 25% of female homicide victims, down to 16% and 10% of the missing. The stories are countless, similar and grim. After sustained outcry, a national inquiry was commissioned to study the issue and released a final report a couple years ago.

(When I have time I will get to it. I’ve already covered the issue a few times: NWAC report (older), a basic RCMP report (overview) and Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal women.)

Again, we come to shifting terms and definitions. To me, the matter is quite simple.

Most serious crimes are perpetrated by men: pedophilia, rape (spousal and stranger), kidnapping (with the intent to rape or have a sex slave), murder of children (after kidnapping and rape), sex trafficking, child pornography creation and distribution, etc. Almost all school shooters, spree killers, mass murderers and serial killers are men. So it reasons that the victims of sex crimes and ensuing murders are likely to be women, since they’re perpetrated by mainly heterosexual males.

When it comes to rape, stranger abduction, being held hostage, and being murdered to hide evidence of sex crimes, women will be victims. Men being more likely to be victims of other males when it comes to robberies, physical fights, kidnapping for money, drug dealing gone awry, homosexual activities, etc.

Aboriginal women are among the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, so again, they’re most likely to have crimes committed against them. Is there a racial component? No doubt there are racists, and many Canadians have racist tendencies, but I have yet to see evidence they are targeted for death specifically for their race. It seems obvious these are crimes of opportunity: taking advantage of the weakest, with no resources, and the least likely to be missed. This is femicide with a streak of racism.

Femicide is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘the intentional killing of women because they are women; however, a broader definition includes any killings of women and girls.”

These women are being killed because they are women, not because they are Aboriginal. Their race is incidental since they make up the most disadvantaged, and due to historic racism they’re less likely to be searched for right away. Also take into account that in the poorest, rural and northern areas, you’re more likely to encounter Aboriginal women than in major urban centers. This perfect storm of poverty, isolation, disadvantage, generational trauma, and lack of immediate concern, conspires against the impoverished First Nations woman. I do think race is a factor, and at times a contributor, but not the sole cause or reason.


TL;DR: Canadians have been in-denial, racist hypocrites for ages. They are now acknowledging facts and realities that truth seekers have been discussing for 20 years. Canadians are assholes; Canada sucks ass. Terms are debatable, but in the end Canada needs to do better, especially since it claims to be better.

More Destroyed Records

After the discovery of a mass grave of over 200 children at a Kamloops school, the media was finally forced to deviate from the traditional caker narrative.

Any regular readers of this blog will know the ol’ “we don’t have the data” standby excuse. Since this discovery led to a spotlight on the issue – uncomfortable questions had to be asked. Now we get the ol’ “golly gee shucks records have been destroyed” standby excuse.

But we are witnessing progress in Canada … they do admit records have been destroyed or no longer exist.

Like a glacier dripping drop by drop … progress commences in Canada!

I’ll also note with amusement that the video (in classic CBC style) doesn’t allow any comments, since freedom of speech isn’t that important in Canada, and notably nothing on this topic can be posted without barrages of racist commentary, which they feel the need to hide.

Family wants answers after Quebec woman posts video begging for help in hospital, dies 2 days later

Article from CBC:

In video, Mireille Ndjomouo claims hospital staff were giving her penicillin despite allergy

Mireille Ndjomouo posted a video in visible distress from a hospital bed in Longueuil two days before her death. (Justice Pour Mireille Ndjomouo/Facebook)

The Quebec coroner is investigating the death of Mireille Ndjomouo, who posted a video on social media two days before she died claiming staff at a hospital on Montreal’s South Shore had ignored her allergies.

Ndjomouo, a 44-year-old single mother of three from Cameroon, posted a video to social media last Sunday.

She repeatedly said staff at Charles-Le Moyne Hospital in Longueuil had treated her with penicillin, even though she said they knew that she was allergic.

In the video, Ndjomouo begged anyone watching to help her get transferred to another hospital.

“Help me, I don’t want to die and leave my kids. I’m suffocating. I’m allergic to penicillin but then they injected me with penicillin, knowing full well that I’m allergic,” she said.

Ndjomouo repeatedly said in the video that she was having trouble breathing, had pain all through her body and that her stomach was swollen.

She also said she was injected with penicillin over the course of three days.

Ndjomouo said the injections stopped when a nurse noticed that her lips were swollen and said the reaction wasn’t normal.

After seeing the video online, members of the Cameroonian community in Montreal went to the hospital with Ndjomouo’s sister and arranged to have her transferred to the Jewish General Hospital.

Ndjomouo died there on Tuesday. The cause of her death is not yet known.

The regional health authority that oversees the Charles-Le Moyne Hospital, the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre, told CBC in an email that it can’t comment on the case due to confidentiality, but did say that the quality department is looking into it.

The Jewish General Hospital would not give details about Ndjomouo, citing patient confidentiality.

On Saturday, friends of Mireille Ndjomouo held a demonstration outside the Charles-Le Moyne Hospital, demanding answers about what happened to her. (CBC)

On Saturday, friends and family of Ndjomouo held a demonstration outside of Charles-Le Moyne Hospital, demanding answers.

“She’s gone, but many questions still remain about what happened to her,” said Christine Ndjomouo, Mireille’s sister.

“I keep hearing her voice saying, ‘Come and save me. Come and save me, they’re going to kill me. I’m all puffed up. Get me out of here.’ That’s what I hear every day since it happened,” she said.

Christine said her sister lost faith in the personnel at the hospital and wanted to leave. She said it took five hours of negotiation before the hospital agreed to transfer her sister.

Friends have started an online fundraiser for the family, to help support Ndjomouo’s children and repatriate her body to Cameroon.


I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile. Weeks later there are still no answers, although a coroner is investigating. Canadians are often racist, but the Quebecois are notoriously racist/xenophobic.

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say this woman was deemed incompetent or an idiot because she had an accent, “funny” name, dark skin, and possibly wasn’t dressed in a western style. They therefore assumed they could disregard her claims about her own health since they knew better. The disregard is shocking, but unfortunately all too common.

Related: Joyce Echaquan Video

Why I hate Canada

I decided to repost a very short, simplified version.

Cultural poverty.

I could talk about temperature, weather, cost of living, crime, racism, economics and more. All the negatives can be found in other places, so what sets Canada apart?

To quote another’s perfect assessment: the people are drab and dull. It’s a nation of apathetic people sleepwalking through life. There’s little history, no culture, it’s like living in a zombie nation. Canada is the ‘waiting room’ of nations.

I need culture. I need excitement. I need lively people. I need to feel alive!

Try living in different cities or provinces but it’s all the same: you can’t change the people.

I guess to whittle it down to the very core: it’s the people. That explains why other places are endurable even with the same basic problems.

Canada could change in time, as demographics morph and all projected growth comes from immigration. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. All I know is we each only have one life … it’s not worth wasting here.

Residential School Survivors’ stories and experiences must be remembered as class action settlement finishes

Written by Cindy Hanson, Curtis J. Shuba, and Sidey Deska-Gauthier.

Article from MSN:

March 31 marks the conclusion of the largest class action settlement in Canada’s history. After 14 years, the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) — a compensation process established to resolve claims of serious physical, sexual or emotional abuse suffered at Indian residential schools — is officially over.

(William James Topley. Library and Archives Canada, C-015037) Students of the Metlakatla Indian Residential School, B.C.

Despite the fact that it collected claims from more than 38,000 Indian residential school survivors, the IAP remains relatively unknown.

The court-ordered destruction of IAP testimonies and records, the biased and superficial mainstream news media reports and the continued emphasis on compensation and costs ensure that if it is remembered, it will be through a colonial gaze.

This gaze represents the perspective through which the process is framed, what is explicitly valued or absent, and whose story is remembered: the colonial narrative is privileged and the Indigenous voice limited.

Our national study seeks to understand perspectives and the framing of the IAP to create public knowledge, in the wake of the destruction of records. The study analyzes government documents (Hansard Index, the traditional name of the transcripts of Parliamentary debates), national and Indigenous media, along with transcripts produced through interviews and focus groups with survivors, health support workers, adjudicators, judges and lawyers. The results presented here are preliminary.

A bit of background

Of the 38,000 survivors who applied to the IAP, almost 27,000 attended adjudications — an out-of-court process. The adjudication gave survivors the opportunity to tell their story of abuse to an adjudicator and government representative, with optional supports including a lawyer, health support worker, elder, translator or family. The fate of the records and testimonies from these hearings — 800,000 documents — was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2017.

The court upheld the position of the Indian Residential School Adjudication Secretariat, the body responsible for administering the IAP, that the testimonies would be destroyed unless individual survivors decided to claim or share their records. Currently only a handful of survivors have requested their transcripts or offered to make (sometimes redacted) versions publicly accessible through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). In 2027, any remaining survivor testimonies and records will be destroyed.

In January 2020 an Ontario Superior Court ruling blocked the creation of static reports. These included information the secretariat gathered during the IAP about variables like the child’s age and sex, particularities of residential schools, types of abuses and community impacts. The case was appealed by the NCTR and the Ontario Court of Appeal’s judgment is pending.

Coverage of the IAP: Colonial and wanting

Media coverage of the IAP is sparse. Preliminary results of our study reveal a focus on the trials and tribulations of a bureaucratic process that attempted to combine class action law with reconciliation-based gestures. Lost in this narrative is the survivors’ lived experiences within the IAP and a critical evaluation of the IAP’s overarching goals: healing and reconciliation.

Through our study, “Reconciling Perspectives and Building Public Memory: Learning from the Independent Assessment Process,” we established factors that played key roles in healing: giving testimony, and supporting, believing and validating the survivors. This perspective was largely forgotten by the media and instead reports often focused on the credibility of survivors’ claims of abuse, financial compensations and court cases. It was, however, acknowledged in the IAP’s final report.

(Bud Glunz/Library and Archives Canada, PA-134110) Cree students sit in class at All Saints Indian Residential School in Lac La Ronge, Sask., in March 1945.

The dominant narrative conflated success of the IAP with compensation. For example, the secretariat reported success when the claimant garnered a cash settlement (89 per cent success rate with an average of $91,000 in compensation). And although compensation metrics are certainly one indicator of success, the experiences of survivors telling their stories are key to considering the IAP’s larger goals.

The defensive posture of the federal government recently surfaced. An independent review of claims (specifically those from St. Anne’s Indian Residential School) was recently announced following critiques by survivors and public officials like former senator Murray Sinclair and MP Charlie Angus.

Elected officials in the House of Commons had an opportunity to contribute to public memory based on meaningful reconciliation, but it was largely swept away in partisan politics. Looking at Hansard Index debates from 2004-19, we found the IAP was discussed only 28 times.

The significance of Indian residential school abuses, the damage the system did to families and communities, the litigation and compensation settlements that came after the IAP can only be fully comprehended within Canada’s long history of denial of Indigenous human and gender rights.

The move from explicit systems of violence to concealed structures of domination cannot be mistaken for reconciliation. We must examine the ways in which Indigenous rights are both explicitly and implicitly advanced or denied: this was highlighted in an earlier IAP study that found that although residential schools taught girls domestic tasks, unpaid work caring for children was not acknowledged or compensated in the IAP model.

Remembering for a common future

We fear additional tragedies are inevitable without abundant data regarding abuse factors, or intergenerational and community impacts. These data add a quantifiable dimension to the horrors of residential schools and remind us of the consequences of racist public policy. Such policy is not just about the individuals impacted; it affects the consciousness of collectives and communities.

Public records are valuable for understanding how public memory is created, and who is directing its narrative. Unless attention is paid to the ways in which the media and Canada continue to decentre Indigenous voices and experiences the colonial gaze will endure.

How residential schools and the IAP are remembered is not only relevant to Canada’s identity but for government-Indigenous and public-Indigenous relations, now and into the future.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Of course we have the ol’ caker method of refusing to collect data in order to deny facts, whitewash history, and prohibit later necessary action. Now throw in the destruction of critical evidence and testimonies under the guise of “privacy” for individuals. Not even statistical data is allowed to be collected, proving how hollow privacy claims are.

Naturally no individuals or entities are prosecuted or publicly held to account, it is the mere giving of money to shut people up. Of course these survivors deserve compensation for their suffering, but how telling the behavior is – cutting cheques for absolution, while doing nothing else.

But … my Mountains!

But … muh mountains!

— Vancouverites
Salt Lake City, Utah
Los Angeles, California
Denver, Colorado
Boise, Idaho
Anchorage, Alaska
Reno, Nevada

I think I’ll end it here … the point is sufficiently made. (This isn’t even including all the little mountain cities and gorgeous resort towns that easily compare with Banff, etc.) I won’t even bother with a section on the coastal cities/beaches.

But I know … Vancouver’s are better because they’re Canadian !

Alberta (wild bros country)

Alberta is a province in western Canada with a population of just under 4.5 million people. Its two major cities are Calgary and Edmonton, these are followed by a sprinkling of minor and small cities.

Capital city

I’ll get around to Calgary soon enough, but if we take a look at the second largest city and capital Edmonton what do we find? A city with lots of stabbings, crime, rapes and sexual violations against children.

For years Edmonton was known as ‘Stabmonton’. Its stabbing rate for homicides ranged anywhere from 25 – 50% leading to its own news subsection. Additionally sexual assault cases continued rising, beating out other major cities per capita, with the second highest rate by 2018. (And of course rising by 44% in just a few months during the recent pandemic.)

As of 2020 it has the highest per capita sexual assault rate of all the major cities at 98.61 per 100k, well ahead of second contender Vancouver at 85.06

A 2020 study found that almost half of Albertans experience sexual abuse! 34% of kids, then up to 45% as adults.

Aside from Calgary (1.5 Million Pop) and Edmonton (1.4 Million metro pop) – what else is there in Alberta? After the two “big” cities there are a bunch of small shit cities sprinkled around … most of them around the 60,000 pop mark.


Let’s take Grand Prairie: it has a population of 63k and was the most dangerous city in Canada in 2018 and 2016.

How about Wetaskiwin? (Pop: 13k) It was the most dangerous place in Canada in 2019; dropping to 6th in 2020. (At least that’s an improvement over its third place listing in 2018.) It was fourth for homicide in 2020.

How about Red Deer? (Pop: 100k) It was the second most dangerous place in Canada in 2019 and third place in 2016. How about Lethbridge? (Pop: 101k) Naturally it was the third most dangerous place in 2019. How about Cold Lake? (Pop: 15k) It was sixth place that year too and rounding out the top 10 for homicide.

OK you get it. There are a bunch of small, shit cities in Alberta with violence and crime, listed as most dangerous according to the Crime Severity Index. I could go back into their rankings over the past 5-10 years as they move up and down but I’m sure the point is made.

We already know that outside the few major cities this country is full of violent shit holes that make up the small cities. Nothing new here but that’s exactly the point. You’re getting nothing new in Alberta: there are the same problems you find in small cities in Ontario, B.C., and the prairies.


After Ontario and B.C. (evenly matched), Alberta has the next highest percentage of immigrants at 21%. It also has the third largest visible minority percentage at 23%. But does this tell the whole story?

The Edmonton-area comprises 32% of Alberta’s population; Calgary-area has 34%. These two major metropolitan areas (“Calgary-Edmonton Corridor”) house over 60% of Alberta’s residents.

Ten percent of Edmonton-area residents are not Canadian citizens; 23% are immigrants, mainly economic: largest number from Philippines, India, Europe, Africa. 11% of Calgary-area residents are not Canadian citizens; while 29% are immigrants: mainly from Asia (Philippines, India, China), followed by Europe and Africa. It can be safely assumed the majority of minorities/immigrants live in the two main cities if they aren’t working specific oil and gas related jobs elsewhere. The small towns and little cities are more likely white and Canadian-born.

Overall: 70% of Albertans are of European heritage; 6.5% are Indigenous and the rest are visible-minority. More than half of Albertans are Christian and it’s known as a ‘conservative’ province.

[*Data from Statistics Canada 2016 profile]

Are you following?

Bored yet? I am. Okay let me try to shorten this up: Alberta is a small province housing around 12% of Canada’s population. It has two ‘major’ cities – being dumps with less than 2 million each. Outside of those there are a bunch of tiny shit cities and towns that sprung up around oil and gas jobs and are full of rednecks with tendencies towards violence. There are a lot of immigrants but they’re in the ‘big cities’ and the rest are white and conservative everywhere else.

Edmonton is a dismal dump with shit weather (averaging about -15 C for at least 3 months of the year) and no claims to fame other than a big ass mall, stabbings and being rapey.

Calgary is flat, ugly, alternately super hot or cold and has nothing pretty nearby. Its claims to fame are faux-cowboy honky tonk crap, and the “Stampede” (annual rodeo/festival).

Whenever Canadians talk about Alberta they laugh it off as the ‘Texas of Canada‘, and by that they mean: wannabe cowboy culture, conservatism, and oil (probably how the whole association began).


Historically Alberta has been known for its primary economic sector (oil and gas). Extraction industries provided a lot of well-paying jobs for decades and brought the province a good deal of wealth and economic migration. Even now it accounts for 16% of its GDP. Then there’s construction at 10%, and finance and real estate.

Whenever clean energy is put into use Alberta is going to have big issues: almost a fifth of its GDP will be gone (or significantly diminished) and the other sectors relying on the money and population growth connected to that will contract.

People often associate Alberta with farming and ranching but over 80% of its residents live in an urban setting and only 3.3% of the workforce is employed in agriculture-food industries. It is the largest cattle producing province however and does most of the nation’s beef-processing.

So what’s good?

Banff and Jasper are two national parks located on the western edge of the province by the Rocky Mountains – they are truly beautiful and worth checking out. A road trip in some of the more scenic areas of the province could be fun.

I guess I’ll end it here. I’m not sure why anyone would move there unless they have an extremely well paid job lined up. It’s not a place with great weather, or full of tradition and soul. It’s slightly better than the prairies and cheaper than B.C. (Maybe that can be their new slogan!)

Final verdict: not the best, not the worst … just not much at all.

O Canada!

Vancouver (aka Gotham)

If we scratch beneath the surface does Vancouver really live up to the hype? I don’t feel like wasting too much time on this place so I’ll try to keep it to the point.


The Vancouver area has the mildest climate in Canada: it doesn’t usually get snow or the extreme temperatures of other places, but it has plenty of rain, dismal weather, and months of depressing overcast (hence being dubbed “Gotham”).

It rains an average of 165 days per year, with a little over 50 inches annually. (That’s 45% of the year!)

Keep in mind this is merely the days of rain, it doesn’t include all the days of grey skies and overcast gloom.

The darkness, grey, rain, and overcast become oppressive as they continue for months on end creating a sense of depression and despair for those who aren’t accustomed to it (and even those who are). December averages 1.8 hours of sun a day.

The warmest months are July and August where the temperatures average 22 C (72 F). The sunniest month is July; late spring to early fall gets the nicest weather. The average yearly hours of sunshine: 1940. (That’s roughly 22% of the year.)


Generally the rest of Canada (including Toronto) gets a vicious winter season that lasts half the year with temperatures dropping as low as -30 C (-22 F). As Vancouver is the warmest place in the whole country, people of means flock to the city driving up the price of housing and rentals. This helps explain why its pricing is on par with Toronto despite its metro population being roughly one-third the size.

The average house price is now around $1.1 Million (after declines). A detached two-story home is $1.4 Million; a bungalow is $1.1 Million while a condo is over $600,000.

Despite a downturn due to the pandemic a two-bedroom rental is around $2,636 and a one-bedroom $1,865; this is predicted to rise again in the future. You can add or subtract a few hundred dollars off those prices depending on your location in the metro area.

Only 282,355 people live in a single detached house: around 29% of the entire Vancouver CMA (that includes cities like Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, Coquitlam, etc. How many people live in a house in Vancouver proper? Few.) Roughly 60% live in apartments and 53% are in an “other-attached dwelling” (basement suites?).


The population of the Vancouver area is 2,463,431- quite small by international standards, even by Canadian standards it’s only the third largest.

Despite the high cost of living, the average individual income is $33,000. And 18% of adults 18-64 are low-income, which rises to 20% for seniors.

The city is quite diverse but the bulk of immigration is from Asia (70%), followed by various European countries, the Americas, and Africa.

13% of residents are not Canadian citizens.

19% of immigrants are from mainland China, with another 7% from Hong Kong.

Almost 13% are immigrants from India, followed by nearly 10% from the Philippines.

40% of Vancouver area residents are immigrants, having come any time within the last several decades.

‘Asian Invasion’

As with any large immigration influx, there are resentments among the native locals. Vancouver was so often called ‘Hongcouver’ that it actually became a blog topic with the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Just over 10% of residents are Chinese, and as with any group it’s a mixed bag: some are here to escape the Chinese government, some to launder money and participate in crime; some simply want a new or better life.

The Triads have infiltrated Canada’s economy so deeply that Australia’s intelligence community has coined a new term for innovative methods of drug trafficking and money laundering now occurring in B.C. It is called the “Vancouver Model” of transnational crime.

Global News

There are the criminals who may live here part-time, full-time or travel often; they may or may not be permanent residents and citizens.

There are many wealthy Chinese (“capital flight”) who do business, dabble in real estate, own summer homes or just want Canadian citizenship as a back up plan.

Many Chinese have no wish to integrate: they keep in their own communities, ignore all others and are bigoted towards non-Chinese. Many are dismissive of Canadians as convenient idiots to be used for their land, economy, and citizenship. (Not too far off the mark.)

Others are first generation and have difficulty integrating so it’s easier to stay within their own group. Many also integrate successfully into the community, co-mingle, have interracial relationships and are standard Vancouver residents.

(Note: the core of these observations can also be substituted onto East Indian immigrants and others.)

Some areas have such a large population that everything is written in Mandarin and you can’t find English signs or speakers.

One notable thing about the Chinese: the lack of vulgar behavior. Chinese men don’t shout at and sexually harass women. You won’t see drunk and drug addled Chinese addicts stumbling around in the street or causing scenes. You don’t see Chinese youth panhandling or begging on corners. They keep to themselves, don’t engage in obnoxious behavior, and if anything will simply ignore you the majority of the time. You won’t feel harassed, threatened, or unsafe in their presence, generally speaking. (This is something Vancouverites should remember and appreciate amidst all the complaining.) At most you will see poor elderly collecting cans and bottles in the early morning hours.


Let us get to the point. All medium to large sized cities have the following: restaurants, clubs, bars, pubs, casinos, stores, shopping malls, movie theatres, museums, concert venues, parks, galleries, little ‘market’ districts, a ‘Little Italy’, a ‘Chinatown’, fancy hotels, golf courses, Quay by river/seaside (coastal city), walking trails, gardens, red-light district (legal or illegal), drug areas, strip clubs, criminal underground … what am I forgetting? Point is: all of these things can be found in pretty much any city you point to on a map.

What actually makes Vancouver truly stand out? What makes it unique? Does it even have a culture? Short answer: nothing and no.

That question guarantees three responses: 1) the mountains, 2) the ocean, 3) no snow. (This is going by Canadian standards.)

If you look at the U.S. alone, you’ve got many cities along the west coast which have: the ocean, mountains, beautiful landscapes; where you can sail, ski, see world renowned parks, go to resorts, and do outdoor activities (without snow or cold winters). Many parts of the Pacific Northwest have the same topography and climate as Vancouver and also have First Nations people and large scale Chinese immigration (Seattle for instance).

Vancouver is only ‘special’ by Canadian standards, but even so it’s still pretty uninspiring. Your “experience” will vary according to your financial status.

One thing everyone can enjoy is the lack of cold snowy winters. Aside from that, enjoying the ‘mountains’ and ‘ocean’ depends on where you live, how much rent you pay, and if you have a car. Accessing all the “nature” may be a 40-60 minute bus commute or 30+ minute car ride away – if you don’t live in the downtown core or a nicer area. How much time, energy and money you’ve got to enjoy “nature” will also depend on your job hours, commute, traffic, salary, etc. It’s a myth that everyone in Vancouver lives by beautiful natural scenery and can access all the things tourists enjoy on a regular basis. (The only truth is they can all view the distant mountaintops.)

Besides this is all geography, what about CULTURE? Toronto and Montreal are the major cultural hubs of Canada. Vancouver has a lot of film industry (as do those cities), pretty standard art and music scenes, and “Asian culture” – which in Van lingo means: sushi, lots of Chinese immigrants, Chinese signs, and a Chinese New Year parade. That might also include: Indian food, Indian immigrants, and the Vaisakhi parade.

Ask a non-Asian to speak one of their languages? Can’t. Expound on Chinese history? Can’t. Explain the difference between Sikhs and Hindus? Can’t. Know any of the major religious texts? Nope. Watched a Chinese or Indian film recently? Nope. Living beside people you barely interact with, know nothing about, consider yourself superior to and whose food you sometimes enjoy is not a “culture” Vancouverites! Culture is something you actively participate in. People mostly live grouped together in various places but their lives don’t intersect in any meaningful way. Moving on …

Indigenous people (First Nations, Metis, Inuit) make up around 2% or less of Vancouver’s population. They overwhelmingly represent the poorest in the worst areas and also live on reserves – most of which are pretty damn depressing. There are some totem poles and Haida art sprinkled around the city for tourists, with a few museums or galleries. You can also attend a ‘Pow Wow’ in the summer, which feels like an opportunity for white people to gawp at them while buying trinkets and salmon.

Again, Vancouverites couldn’t tell you a damn thing about them. Ask someone to name four Coast Salish Bands … and keep waiting. You’ll basically hear some variation of: reserves, residential schools, totem pole, drug addicts, and maybe referencing Haida art or a Pow Wow. They know almost nothing, have no interest, and many resent them because of land disputes, treaties, and considering them spongers, etc.

Let’s round this off by looking at the Black population: pretty much non-existent at 1% in B.C. (failing miserably next to Ontario) and the same in Vancouver. There are no real Black enclaves (ex: Chinese in Richmond/ Indians in Surrey) and very little Black history. To put it bluntly: you never see them, you don’t know they’re there, nobody cares and it helps explain Vancouver’s lack of culture and soul.

Since Seattle is the ‘American edition’ of Vancouver, let’s take a look at its cultural contributions: rock, grunge (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc); birthplace of Jimi Hendrix; coffee culture (spawning Starbucks); bohemian and hippy subcultures, etc. While Vancouverites were rioting over the Canucks’ loss in 1994, Seattle rioted over the WTO in 1999 – the stark difference shows right there. Even comparing Vancouver to its American carbon copy, it still comes up empty, stale, hollow and second place. Vancouver has in no way contributed culturally to Canada the way Seattle has to the United States.

Let’s move on, this could go on forever…

DTES (Downtown East Side)

Of course we couldn’t go on ignoring the elephant-sitting-on-a-syringe in the room now could we? Welcome to the cold sore of Vancouver: it’s there, you can’t ignore it – the more you try, the more it’s all you can see!

It’s extremely brutal and depressing so I’ll try and keep it short.

The DTES is a chunk of downtown Vancouver that houses the poorest and worst off in the city: it’s skid row. It’s a place where roughly 7000 people wander, sleep, live … as they shoot up or smoke crack pipes on the street (beside you) and in alleyways. It has to be seen to be believed … a modern horror.

What’s interesting about the DTES is how prominent it is. Every city has a skid row but usually it’s located somewhere on the fringes or in poor districts where it can be ignored and mentally avoided. The DTES is literally smack downtown in one of the oldest areas on the waterfront, by expensive districts, tourist hotspots and pricey shopping streets.

The whole mess started when the Japanese were interned (never returned there), and the area gradually became poorer. Eventually occupants of the cheap motels nearby were kicked out for tourists; crime and drug use conglomerated there making it worse. The mental hospitals were closed down so the ill could “integrate into society”. Essentially dumped and left to fend for themselves, schizophrenics and other psychiatric patients became homeless and all began living there, wandering around untreated.

Things festered and decayed: by the late 1990s the HIV/AIDS epidemic was so bad it made international news and was declared an emergency. Rates of infection were worse than anywhere outside sub-Saharan Africa! So the city started providing clean needles for shooting up, gradually leading to ‘safe injection’ sites where people could shoot up, and now there’s talk of providing free, clean, ‘safe’ drugs to addicts.

Despite pouring money into shelters and programs little has changed or improved in the last 20-30 years, other than HIV rates declining.

Let’s get straight to the point: there is no will power to fix it because there’s no money to be made by fixing it and it will cost more than they already spend. They would have to reopen mental hospitals, provide free rehab (multiple stays), have live-in facilities and other things that would cost major dollars.

So people will tsk and cluck on the subject but avoid doing anything constructive. Gracious souls will continue to volunteer and work there with the downtrodden; they are the kind minority who care and do it without fanfare. Everyone else is content to walk around the problem (figuratively and literally) letting these people continue dying because they’re addicts, Indigenous, poor, sex workers and ultimately seen as disposable even though no one says it aloud.

Now, with that being said …

Is there anything good?

The summers are decent when the weather is nice and you can enjoy the outdoor activities. The aquarium and art gallery are OK. The anthropology museum is cool. Stanley Park is great. There are a lot of nice hiking trails or camping spots. If you have the cash you can go to Whistler.

Gastown, Granville Island, and Kitsilano are overrated but still fine for a day of wandering and shopping. If you have the cash and inclination you can go whale watching or take a trip to Vancouver Island for more nature.

I mean honestly that’s about it. Of course there are plenty of restaurants, malls, kitschy overpriced tours, etc. These are essentially the best things and on all the “to do” lists; they don’t take up a whole year though, and is doing them yearly worth $30-$40k rent, plus other expenses? Hell no! Skip the grief, do it all in a summer and save your financial and mental wellbeing.

Aside from that, what have we got? If you’re single there are loads of beautiful Chinese women. The rain is miserable but won’t kill you – so if you wind up homeless you should survive the winters (unlike in the east). Quite convenient if you’re becoming a realtor, into organized crime, and need any or all drugs. And unlike the ONT/QC regions, you won’t see women walking around in burkas – that’s a big plus. There is the average city crime and violence but the worst of it is gang and drug-related, so if you’re not involved in those you should be fine.


Overhyped. Overblown. A waste of time.

People rave about it because they’re delusional and desperate. Vancouver is the Canadian version of Seattle: only crappier, with less culture and social-conscience.

Immigrants and criminals come here because they can’t get into the United States and this is the ‘warmest’ place in Canada (which isn’t filled with ugly 70s-era concrete infrastructure).

Canadians come here because it’s the ‘warmest’ place in Canada and they’ve got nowhere else to go. They can trade snow for rain and pretend they’re cosmopolitan. They may have tried other places and this is the only one left; some may be here for work or because of family.

Everyone else? They don’t bother. They live in real world class cities but might come here for a visit, vacation, to film a movie, to play a concert, for business, for criminal enterprises, their fifth home, etc.

Vancouver is a waste of money, time, and life. Don’t come, don’t stay, don’t bother.

But Vancouverites have to continue claiming it’s “world class” because this is the “best” Canada can do; they have to justify the million dollar bungalow, low wages, half year of rain, constant gloom, Gotham-atmosphere, drug crisis, no culture, no community, average city amenities, with a few months of sun, a nice landscape and ever-rising prices.

To finish, have you ever heard the expression “you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife?” Don’t commit to Vancouver – the biggest hoe of Canada!

See: 150 Reasons to Hate Vancouver

The Highest Suicide Rate in the World

(Article by Helen Epstein for The New York Review)

“Sam was making toast at around 6 AM when he noticed the slit of light beneath the bathroom door. Minutes passed, but no one seemed to be moving inside and no one came out. In a dream that night, his wife, Maureen, had heard someone calling their daughter Sarah’s name, and she knew what had happened as soon as Sam shook her awake. Clinging to the wall, she approached the bathroom. And then she saw Sarah hanging in the shower stall, dead at age seventeen.

The girl, Maureen told me, had just come back from visiting relatives in another village and had spent the previous afternoon sorting through clothes she wanted to give away. Then the family settled down to butcher and eat a seal—raw, in the traditional Inuit way—on a piece of cardboard on the sitting room floor. Afterward, Sarah put on some makeup and went out. She’d just broken up with an older boyfriend of whom her parents did not approve, but they’d had so many fights about it that Maureen didn’t dare ask where she was going.

If Nunavut, the semi-autonomous Canadian territory that is home to roughly 28,000 indigenous Inuit people, were an independent country, it would have the highest suicide rate in the world. The suicide rate in Greenland, whose population is mostly Inuit, is 85 per 100,000; next highest is Lithuania, at 32 per 100,000. Nunavut’s rate is 100 per 100,000, ten times higher than the rest of Canada and seven times higher than the US. When I visited Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, in July, virtually every Inuit I met had lost at least one relative to suicide, and some recounted as many as five or six family suicides, plus those of friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances. Three people in my small circle of contacts lost someone close to them to suicide during my nine-day visit. Acquaintances would direct my attention to passers-by on the street: “his older brother too,” “his son.” Almost one third of Nunavut Inuit have attempted suicide, and most Inuit I met confided, without my asking, that they had done so at least once.

Two recent books, Too Many People: Contact, Disorder, Change in an Inuit Society, 1822–2015 by Willem Rasing and The Return of the Sun: Suicide and Reclamation Among Inuit of Arctic Canada by Michael Kral, trace the origins of the suicide crisis in Nunavut to the mid-twentieth century, when these traditionally nomadic people moved off the land into towns. Until then, suicide was rare, and among young people, almost unknown.

The Inuit migrated across the Bering Land Bridge from what is now Siberia and in 1000 AD settled in what is now northeastern Canada. In the long winter darkness, the wind is so strong that blowing snow can draw blood from exposed skin, and the temperature sometimes plunges to–60º Fahrenheit. In summer, swarms of mosquitoes can exsanguinate a caribou. Nothing grows except berries, moss, and wildflowers, so the Inuit hunted seals, fish, birds, polar bears, caribou, walruses, and whales. They made houses from snow, skins, and moss, and wore fur clothes sewn with sinew threads and needles carved from slivers of walrus bone. They constructed dogsleds from antlers, with frozen fish wrapped in sealskin for runners, and ingenious eye-slit goggles carved from caribou bones that protected them from the blinding light reflected off the snow.

But the Inuits’ most remarkable innovation may have been in the realm of interpersonal relations. Until the arrival of missionaries in the late nineteenth century, they had no written language, so all that is known of their culture before that time comes from the observations of explorers and ethnographers and the memories of older Inuit passed down through generations. These sources all agree that traditional Inuit society was remarkably peaceful and free of discord among them.

“The different families appear always to live on good terms with each other,” wrote the British explorer Sir William Parry, who spent eight months among the Inuit of Baffin Island beginning in 1821. “The more turbulent passions which…usually create such havoc in the world, seem to be very seldom excited in the breasts of these people.” Inuit children were “affectionate, attached, and obedient,” concurred Sir John Ross, who arrived a few years later. “These people had attained that perfection of domestic happiness which is so rarely found any where.” If conflicts did arise, wrongdoers would be counseled by their elders, and if that didn’t work, singing duels would be organized in which the disaffected parties would defuse tension by making fun of each other.

Today, homicide, domestic violence, child abuse, vandalism, and alcoholism—as well as suicide—are tragically common among the Inuit. The weekend I arrived in Iqaluit, population 7,740, there was one murder and four fires, three of which had been set deliberately. A brawling couple, the man bleeding from his head, the woman hurling abuse at him, nearly reeled into me in a shop one afternoon. A teacher told me that angry children have been known to throw furniture around the classroom. According to Rasing, over half the population uses drugs, mostly marijuana, but also stronger substances, including anything sniffable: starter fluid, spray paint, nail polish, and gasoline.

Most Inuit are law-abiding shop assistants, artists, government officials, and so on, but the relatively high rates of violence against property, the self, and others perpetrated by a minority of them raise urgent questions about what befell this once strong and peaceful culture. Everyone agrees the trouble started in the 1950s, but there is considerable disagreement between the Canadian government and most Inuit as to exactly what happened and why.

The Canadian government maintains that during the late nineteenth century, many Inuit came to depend in part on money from the fur trade, which enabled them to purchase commodities like flour, sugar, guns, and knives, even as they maintained their traditional nomadic lifestyle. The collapse of the fur trade during the Great Depression, along with a cyclical decline in game populations, led to hardship, including cases of hunger and starvation. Many Inuit also succumbed to tuberculosis, measles, and other infectious diseases introduced by contact with whites. Patients were airlifted to hospitals in southern Canada, where they were sometimes confined for months or years and had no contact with their families. Some never returned.

The Canadian public demanded humanitarian intervention, so the government constructed houses for the Inuit around the old trading posts in the 1950s and 1960s. Clinics, schools, government offices, and shops were built, and some Inuit were employed as fishermen, clerks, cleaners, garbage collectors, and cooks; others received state welfare. By the late 1960s, virtually all Inuit had moved into towns.

Most Inuit look back very differently on this period. Their version begins shortly after World War II, when the US and Canada jointly established a line of radar stations across the Arctic in order to spy on the Soviets and monitor the skies for potential attacks via the North Pole. The Canadian government, keen to prevent the US from claiming sovereignty over this potentially mineral- and natural gas–rich area, hastily established towns and forced the Inuit to settle in them. Older Inuit told me they remember armed police officers arriving at their camps unannounced and ordering everyone to leave. Sled dogs—even healthy ones—were slaughtered before their owners’ eyes.

“One family I know was sitting in their house in town when the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] showed up and shot all their dogs,” said Alice, who collected testimonies for an Inuit- initiated inquiry into the dog killings. “They even shot under the crawlspace, right below where the family was sitting.”

The government concedes that thousands of Inuit children, some as young as five, were sent to boarding, or “residential,” schools, where they were cut off from their families, given Christian names and ID numbers, punished for speaking their native Inuktitut language, required to wear Western clothes, and taught a Canadian curriculum that had no relevance to the world they’d been born into. Many were also beaten and raped by their teachers. Some went to the schools willingly, but many reluctant parents, informed that if they didn’t send their children off, they’d be denied government welfare benefits or credit from fur traders, surrendered them in tears.

Memories of these horrors haunt the lives of older Inuit today. One elder told me she was terrified of the teachers at her residential school. When she was in third grade, she was asked to write the answer to the problem 5 x 3 on the blackboard. “I hadn’t even finished writing the number 12 when the teacher hit me so hard, I went flying across the room,” she said. Then he hit her again. He only stopped when he saw her nose was bleeding.

Across Canada, some 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and other aboriginal children attended residential schools. Some did well, but thousands died from disease and hunger at a rate comparable to that of Canadian soldiers during World War II. The Canadian government has paid out over CAN$3 billion in compensation to tens of thousands of former students who suffered sexual or serious physical abuse in the schools. In a 2015 report by a truth and reconciliation commission that examined abuses in the residential schools, Canadian officials admitted that the schools’ effect on aboriginal cultures amounted to a form of genocide.

Inuit suicides remained rare while the worst of these abuses were underway. According to the University of Saskatchewan researcher Jack Hicks, who prepared a report on the subject, during the 1960s there was only one suicide in what is now Nunavut (once part of Canada’s Northwest Territories, it officially became a separate territory in 1999). But as the children of the people who lived through the move to the towns became teenagers in the 1980s, they began taking their own lives in huge numbers. In 1973, the suicide rate in Nunavut was 11 per 100,000 people, about the same as in the rest of Canada. By 1986, it had quadrupled, and by 1997 it had increased tenfold, to 100 per 100,000. Most of the increase was due to a rise in suicide among young people aged fifteen to twenty-four. In the early 2000s the suicide rate in this group peaked at 458 per 100,000; since then it has fallen to around 270 per 100,000. During this period the suicide rate among young Canadians in general remained below 20 per 100,000.

How is trauma transmitted from one generation to the next? How do our experiences affect the emotional lives of our children and grandchildren? The answer isn’t obvious. African slaves took their own lives in large numbers, especially on the ships en route to America and when they first arrived, but despite segregation, police brutality, mass incarceration, and other outrages, the suicide rate of African-Americans has been consistently lower than that of US whites since recordkeeping began in the 1930s. Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe also killed themselves in large numbers, inside and outside the concentration camps. But their children are no more likely to commit suicide than the children of Jews who lived outside Nazi-occupied lands at the time.

Certain groups, however, including Australian aborigines, New Zealand Maoris, and the Inuit of Alaska, Greenland, and Canada, along with some other Native American groups, are particularly prone to youth suicide, generation after generation. People in every society take their own lives for myriad reasons, and it’s obviously risky to generalize. Certainly, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and schizophrenia are important risk factors for suicide everywhere. But such disorders often have social causes, and it’s worth asking if there are any that might be responsible for the high suicide rates among these people.

One clue is that virtually all these groups lived until recently in small communities of one or a few extended families and then underwent a forced, rapid, and harrowing transition to modern life. Mastering technology—telephones, cars, computers, etc.—was easy, but psychological and emotional adaptation has been far more difficult. Both Rasing and Kral cover this transition in great detail, but fail to convey its emotional impact because, perhaps for reasons of confidentiality and scholarly reserve, their accounts of individual Inuit lives are brief and superficial. Their books contain many statistics, as well as convincing descriptions of abstract changes such as the “breakdown of…social control” and “the dynamics of Inuit social transformation,” but without personal stories, it’s hard to see what it was about these upheavals that led to such widespread mental turmoil.

For a deeper perspective on what might have happened, it’s helpful to turn to the anthropologist Jean Briggs’s remarkable 1970 monograph Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family, one of the last firsthand accounts of presettlement Inuit life. Briggs suggests that the equanimity that so struck Parry and others was produced by patterns of thought and behavior, in particular consideration for others and a tendency to privilege the welfare of the group over the self, that may have been essential to Inuits’ survival on the land but could have made them especially vulnerable to emotional difficulties once they settled in towns.

In 1963 Briggs, then thirty-four, set out for Gjoa Haven, a trading post in what is now Nunavut, with the aim of studying the most remote Arctic community she could find. Previous anthropologists had documented Inuit material culture—how they hunted, built igloos, and made clothing—as well as their religious and cosmological beliefs. But Briggs was part of a school of anthropologists who maintained that just as different cultures had different music, foods, and rituals, they also expressed different repertoires of emotion. For seventeen months, Briggs lived with a man named Inuttiaq and his wife and children, pitching a tent beside theirs in the summer and sharing their igloo in the winter. At first, she worried about living in such close quarters with people whose culture was so different from hers, but like other observers, she was quickly beguiled and moved by the tranquility of Inuit domestic life: “The human warmth and peacefulness of the household, and the uncanny sensitivity of its members to unspoken wishes, created an atmosphere in which the privacy of my tent came to seem in memory a barren thing.”

This peaceful surface, Briggs would discover, was undergirded by a powerful system of emotional control and social regulation. Expressions of anger, shock, romantic ardor, and other strong feelings were all but absent from everyday life, except among very small children. One informant even denied that the Inuit language had a word for “hate”—although of course it does. Briggs’s host family’s oldest daughter was among the first children to attend a residential school. When she returned for the summer, she brought back horror stories of a “strange [white] world where people are always loud and angry…where they hit their children, let babies cry, kiss grown-ups, and make pets of dogs and cats.”

Children learned early how to manage their feelings, through what Briggs describes as a process of emotional weight training. Toddlers were indulged, doted on, and seldom disciplined, but they were also subject to joking questions from parents and other adults that must have been confusing and scary to them:

Why don’t you kill your baby brother?

Why don’t you die so I can have your nice new shirt?

Where’s your father? [to an adopted child]

Your mother’s going to die—look, she’s cut her finger—do you want to come live with me?

An adult would never ask such questions when a child was upset, and would stop and offer a hug at the first signs of distress. Briggs interpreted these exchanges as immunization against the offhand insensitivity of others and life’s ordinary misfortunes and disappointments. “Adults stimulate children to think by presenting them with emotionally powerful problems,” she wrote. The goal was emotional strength and rationality. In a harsh environment, mutual understanding and trust are essential to survival. An unhappy person is a dangerous one.

As Briggs would soon learn the hard way, everyone was on guard against the slightest increase in the emotional temperature. Her hosts were fox hunters who traded with whites in a town several days away by dogsled from their winter camp. Fried bread made from store-bought flour was a great delicacy, and one day, as Briggs was preparing some with the others, a piece of dough slipped off her knife and fell into the fire. “Damn!” she said under her breath.

Over the following days, weeks, and months, Briggs noticed a change in the family’s behavior. They came to visit her tent less often and left quickly when they did. They seemed even more solicitous than usual, as if she were afflicted with some sort of disease. They made sure she was warm and had enough to eat but didn’t invite her on fishing trips. Gradually, she realized that she was being ostracized, not just for the fried bread incident, but for other flashes of irritation, such as when Inuttiaq insisted on leaving the igloo doorway open, making it too cold for Briggs to type her fieldnotes.

Imagine the shock of these polite, dignified people when some RCMP officers killed their dogs and ordered them into the settlements, when some residential school teachers abused them, and other powerful qallunaats—as whites are known in the Inuktitut language—insulted and patronized them. Many of the residential school children, in particular, came back angry and alienated. The emotional training they’d received as toddlers was no match for the arrogance, insensitivity, and stupidity, let alone brutality, that they encountered in the qallunaat world. With no language to describe their hurt and loneliness, they turned away from their families.

The residential school student in the family Briggs lived with avoided her parents and tormented her little sister, deliberately stepping on her toes, snatching her toys, and making her cry. When asked to do something, she pretended to be deaf. As adults, a great many of the former residential school children resorted to alcohol to tame their emotional turmoil. Their children, raised in the 1970s and 1980s, largely escaped the residential schools, which were already being replaced with community schools. But their parents had never managed to come to terms with their own anger and grief, and were often drunk and violent. In this way, the first suicide generation was born, and their children in turn continue the trend.

For The Return of the Sun, Kral interviewed dozens of young Inuit men who had attempted suicide. Most told him that they tried to take their own lives after a fight with a romantic partner. Coroner reports from the 1990s also found that some 70 percent of suicides occurred after a romantic breakup and another 20 percent occurred while awaiting trial for an alleged crime—mostly break-ins and marijuana use. These ordinary predicaments occur everywhere. Why are Inuit youth who experience them so much more likely to resort to suicide?

“The theory I have is that [Inuit] who commit suicide are doing it to protect the community,” Bonnie, an Inuit government official, told me.

When we lived in small groups, we had a contract for survival. You lived for the collective, not for yourself. We’re in this together. Children are conditioned to be calm. If someone explodes, that person is a threat to everyone. Then [the one who explodes] thinks, “Everyone will be better off without me. I’m a problem because I can’t handle my emotions.” It’s hard to get that out of your head, because we’re conditioned not to be a burden to others.

There are no simple answers to the Nunavut suicide crisis. The penultimate chapter of The Return of the Sun describes a recreation center Kral helped establish with a group of young Inuit in the town where he did his research. He claims that while it operated, the number of suicides there fell to zero. Data from the coroner’s office cited by Jack Hicks indicate that this is not the case. Similarly, a 2005 ESPN feature claimed that the number of teen suicides in the Nunavut town of Kugluktuk also fell to zero after a visiting teacher launched a popular lacrosse team. In fact, there were twenty-one suicides among people aged 13–56 in Kugluktuk in the following decade. These communities are so small—average populations are around 1,500 each—that suicide rates may vary from year to year just because of chance. A high-suicide community may have no suicides at all for several years, creating a temporary illusion of success, even when the long-term trend is stable or increasing.

In 2017 the government of Nunavut launched a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy that includes mental health services, early childhood programs, community awareness programs, anti-bullying programs, youth centers, housing assistance, poverty reduction, crime and substance abuse prevention, and many other initiatives. Such multifaceted approaches have been shown to reduce suicides in other communities, such as the White Mountain Apaches in the US, and there’s every reason to believe that Nunavut’s new strategy will help.

Last winter, the local radio station in Iqaluit broadcast a call-in program on suicide. Alice, whose son Martin took his own life in 2018, called in to say that the community needed more counselors, and if there weren’t enough, then the people should just form their own support groups. “Talking is part of healing,” she told me. “People have been quiet for too long.” Alice herself had been sexually assaulted when she was seven—she didn’t discuss the circumstances—and believes she would have become a drunk on the street if not for the counseling she eventually received in her late twenties.

Other listeners phoned in to say they supported Alice’s idea. Elisapee Johnston, who works for the Embrace Life Council, a local NGO funded under the new suicide prevention strategy, was listening. She tracked Alice down, and the two women agreed to work together. In the spring, they launched a bereavement group that meets weekly at the Embrace Life Council’s office in downtown Iqaluit. Anyone who’s lost someone to suicide, or who is simply worried about it, is welcome. “Young people really need coping skills,” Alice insists, but getting people to turn up at meetings has been a challenge. “People come up and hug me on the street and say, ‘Thank you, thank you for all that you are doing,’ but only when they’re drunk.”

It’s just not the Inuit way to talk about yourself. Another Inuit elder told me that when her family’s dogs were killed, no one discussed it: “They must have been angry, but they didn’t show it.” For years, she’d taught elementary school but objected to elements of the Canadian curriculum. “I had to teach a kindergarten unit called ‘All About Me.’ In our culture, that age group is supposed to think about others.” An anthropologist I met told me she’d struggled to collect Inuit testimonies about trauma that filled more than half a page. Such modesty and discretion is refreshing in these self-oriented, tell-all times, but if people won’t talk about themselves, it’s hard to see how they’ll manage to make sense of their feelings.

Alice and Elisapee are not giving up. They can take heart from the experience of other traumatized groups, including African-Americans and the descendants of Holocaust survivors, who, though disproportionately subject to some mental health problems, have relatively low suicide rates. What enables them to endure? It’s worth noting that mourning, sharing experiences of personal suffering, and the ongoing search for a promised land are integral to the religions and cultures of both groups. So is the belief that anger is sometimes justified, and that living, hard as it may be sometimes, is also a form of defiance.”