Sunday, November 22, 2015

Giving Thanks, Giving Back

As I watch the groundswell of knee-jerk xenophobia following the Paris terrorist attacks, I am compelled to invoke the voice of reason. Thoreau said “It’s never too late to give up your prejudices”. The upcoming American Thanksgiving offers a perfect segue from offering thanks to giving up our prejudices.

My Thanks go back many years, first to my parents, who raised me both color-blind and agnostic, leaving me open to the available wisdom of whomever I might encounter in life’s journey. Theirs was probably the greatest gift I have ever received, and so Mom, and Dad, my most heartfelt “Thank You”.

But there are many others to whom I owe a debt of thanks…

Thanks to the Christian family who billeted me on a band trip to Abbotsford in 1965. I never properly thanked you for the lovely hardcover nonfiction book which you asked that I return someday. I never did, but that copy still graces my personal library shelves, and I think of you every time I take it down to reflect on the generosity of strangers.

Thanks too to my oldest friend, a born-again Christian who I met on my first day of college, and who, many years later told me, “Children aren’t the most important thing in life. They’re the ONLY thing…” I sometimes wish I had seen the wisdom in that a decade or two before I did, but as Thoreau said…

 Thanks to the Jewish family who sponsored me when I won an Air Cadet trip to Israel in 1967. Your hospitality was complete and unconditional, even though I was an uncouth gentile teenager who took your generosity for granted, and never properly thanked you at the time.

Thanks to the gregarious Inuit guides who showed me the ropes on northern Baffin Island in 1970. I suspect your religion was some form of animism, but you gave me the benefit of your rich experience, and gifted me a pair of sealskin mukluks which hang beside my desk to this day to remind me of the importance of human contact and support.

Thanks to the Hindu workers in the Quesnel plywood plant in 1975 who took pity on me when I was a green “fishtail” handler, and ensured I made quota each long and lonely shift on the assembly line. You kept me on time and on task when I was ready to throw in the towel.

Thanks to the many wonderful Mennonite colleagues who helped me transition from struggling classroom teacher to seasoned teacher-librarian in Abbotsford from 1978 to 1985. Your support and encouragement kept me in the game, helped me find my niche in education, and set me on the path to 26 wonderful years as an International school educator.

Thanks to the warm and generous elderly Sunni Muslim shopkeepers in the old Souqs of Tripoli who shared with me their sorrow at the travails of their country under Qaddafi.  When I found myself one of the few Caucasians in Libya after the American bombing in 1986, you ensured that I remained a welcome guest of the Jamahirya. When I think of Libya now, I think of you.

Thank you to the gentle Jain, the international school support worker whose kind nature helped me to aspire to non-violence, non-absolutism and non-possessiveness. I have mastered none of these, but I am a better person for having known you and learned even a tiny bit about your religion.

Thanks to the Shia Muslim tour guide who welcomed me to Cairo in 2000 and provided my 35 privileged international school teens with the most wonderful, open and unbiased introduction to Egyptian history, culture and customs that I could have hoped for. Because of you, my friend, I have vowed to someday bring my own children to see your wonderful country.

Thanks to the legions of warm, welcoming and caring Buddhists who bestowed “honored guest” status on me in Thailand in 1985. I learned that any small act of generosity or kindness was repaid a hundredfold over my 25 glorious years there. I returned to Canada in 2011 a calmer, gentler and, I hope, a wiser husband, father and son. Thank you Thailand, and the Buddhist people, for giving me a soulmate, a family and a whole new perspective on life.

Finally, Thanks to the Canadian First Nations community who in 2012 accepted me on equal terms as a non-native Tour Bus Driver and Guide. Your faith in my ability kept me on the path of continual learning and personal growth and your ability to still contribute to an evolving Canadian identity inspires me to see a richer future for Canada than I ever imagined.

My story is the story of Canada. As a once again proud Canadian living in a truly multicultural society led by a Prime Minister whom I can admire, respect, and perhaps in small ways emulate, I welcome refugees of any faith, color or creed to our unique nation. We are ALL guests in this land, and every new Canadian we admit further enriches and diversifies our Canadian cultural mosaic.

Thank you, refugees from the far-flung corners of the world for choosing Canada. Thank you, Canadian voters, for choosing wisely in our recent election. Thank you, the new Government of Canada, for standing up to ignorance and xenophobia and putting Canada back on the path to becoming a world leader in caring, compassion and altruism toward our fellow human beings.

Rob Rubis


Tuesday, August 18, 2015


The weekend that Stephen Harper dropped the writ to launch the longest election runup in modern history, I happened to be on the road, and as I drove the length of BC thinking about the upcoming election, it became clear to me that for the first time in my voting life, I needed to do more than just vote.
Anytown, BC. Storefront after storefront going dark - in "StephenHarpersCanada"
 Full disclosure here. I was overseas for 26 years, and during that time, I did not vote in Canadian federal elections. It was a case of feeling on the one hand, ill-informed about the issues, and on the other hand, unentitled to exercise my voting right since I had chosen to absent myself. In the '80's, it was difficult to be anything other than uninformed in first Tripoli, and then in Bangkok. English language newspapers were non-existent in Libya and rare in Bangkok, and short-wave radio offered only a smattering of international news, usually dominated by the US. So I did not vote.

I remained, throughout my 26 year absence, however, a proud, loyal and nationalistic Canadian. In the '80s, the Canadian flag on a backpack or a cap was a personal protection insurance policy in Libya and an invitation to pleasant conversation in Thailand. I wore my identity proudly, and took pains to ensure that I was never mistaken for an American. Those folks were, after all, loud-mouthed, crass and unprincipled to a fault. No way was I going to be mistake for one of them.

That was, of course, before "Lyin' Bryan" Mulroney, ravin' Rob Ford, "make-off-with-it" Mike Duffy - and, of course, our beloved "clean up corruption" Stephen Harper.

Stephen Harper managed to undo in ten years what I had spent a lifetime in building and nurturing; pride in my country, certainty in the righteousness of our place on the international stage, and confidence in the future of Canada as a leader of the industrialized world. In ten short years, Stephen Harper has turned me into a reluctant defender of Canada as a leader in international human and womens' rights, a staunch advocate for change in Canada's current stance on aboriginal issues, and an apologist for Canada as an international climate pariah. More and more, I find myself unable to justify or defend my country's stance on any any issue of relevance for the future. And although I'm going to vote in the upcoming election, I'm afraid that my one small vote isn't going to carry the weight of the conviction I feel that this man has got to go.

This makes my angry, and although I am realistic about the potential for my small act of personal political action to make a difference, it will make a difference to me. When my children ask me "What did you do in the (climate) Wars, Daddy", I will be able to say, "I did whatever I could to spread the word about what I was seeing, to open people's eyes to the results of one man's twisted vision of a strong, united Canada, and to contribute in whatever small way I could to bringing that man down.

My Twitter hashtag "StephenHarpersCanada" is the result of that decision to act. The photos I tweet show an economy at the leading edges of not just Recession, but outright Depression, a culture in rapid decline, and a civilization teetering on the brink of a final death spiral. It's not a pretty picture, but it's what I see when I finally admit to myself that the King has no Clothes.  It's time that people saw Stephen Harper reflected in the images of what he has brought this country to and took the necessary steps to remove him and replace him with someone, anyone, who will make rational decisions to guide us through the troubled times ahead.
Better Times only seen in the Rear-View mirror - In "StephenHarpersCanada"

Follow my exploration of "StephenHarpersCanada" at Or watch for posts here as election day nears. I'm neither an historian, a media analyst or a political pundit, but rather a concerned citizen who has decided that, like Peter Finch in "Network", "I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm NOT going to Take This Any More!"

A nation that runs on wheels slowing grinding to a halt - In "StephenHarpersCanada"