Dear Facebook: It’s not me, it’s you.

I didn’t like you very much, to tell the truth, when we were first introduced.

But all my friends kept telling me how wonderful you were and that I should give you a chance, so I did.

It was great at the beginning. You were hypnotic. You gave me attention I never got before, made sure my whole friends list remembered my birthday and that made sure I got invites to all their parties.

Then you started getting a bit pushy. You started trying to get me to play games I didn’t want to play and buy things I wasn’t interested in buying. There was that incident when you got my mother involved in our life. There are some things a girl does not need her mother to know.

Not that it’s all your fault. Being with you meant I could show off. The voyeur in me wanted to know all your hot gossip. How that girl from high school (the girl everyone thought was so hot) got really fat after she had her baby. It’s awful but you made me feel really good when you showed me how bad she looked in her profile picture.

But you were taking up so much of my time. You were an addiction and it didn’t help that you were so good at making me think people were actually interested in me. I was obsessed, checking in a few times a day just to see what news you had to feed me. I just couldn’t quit you.

There was that last straw. One thing to remind me just how awful you were.

Remember when I found out, in public, that you weren’t even into me? You were just using me to get my information and sell it to the highest bidder. It made me feel cheap, deceived.

I know it’s just business but I really fell for you! You said you were sorry, you’d change. You offered me a way to make sure it never happened again. Offered more privacy.

I never really got over that betrayal.

I guess I wanted it to be OK, so I accepted your apology and went on spending time with you. But it wasn’t OK.

Let’s be honest: the magic is gone.

You’re just not the same anymore, Facebook. You’re not a social network, you’re a social black hole and I was getting sucked in.

It’s over, Facebook. I’m hiding your statuses from the wall of my life. I’m deactivating my profile for the last time. And don’t even bother sending me an e-mail because I’m not going to answer.


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Vive le Canada: a history lesson.

On July 24 1967 then-president of France Charles De Gaulle stood up in front of a large crowd in a Montreal square and made a speech.

This speech was the cause of a very significant turning point in the relationship between Quebec and Ottawa and in the Quebecois separatist movement, which was in its infancy at the time.

De Gaulle had come to Canada by sea, bypassing the diplomatic protocol of starting in Ottawa to visit Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. He opted instead to visit first Quebec City and then Montreal.

This route was meant as an intentional affront to Pearson.

Eleven years earlier as secretary of state for external affairs, Pearson had prevented a land grab by the joint French, English and Israeli armies of the Suez Canal to avoid escalating the war with Egypt for the coveted piece of land connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

By calling for the UN to put a hold on the land and pressuring England to pull out their troops, the war ended and France had no choice but to pull out. The canal was guarded by UN forces and declared neutral.

De Gaulle’s speech was designed to slight English Canada but was most likely aimed at Pearson himself. He called to Montreal as the French city. He compared the spirit of the Quebecois people to the liberation of France from Nazi Germany, referring to his own last victory before retiring from the military.

And slyly, he ends by offering the words “vive le Quebec libre!”

The reference is undeniable. In 1944 De Gaulle delivered a speech to the French people about the fall of Nazi Germany in which he says, “vive la France libre!” The comparison could arguably have been intended to compare English Canada to Nazi Germany.

The effect of this inflammatory speech spread fast. It fueled the fires of a movement that at the time was in its infancy and involved only a very radical demographic. In the few years that followed the Quebecois separatists caused riots and committed acts of terrorism in protest of their continued status as a province of Canada.

The reaction to De Gaulle’s speech has become one of the iconic moments in Canadian history. The video footage of a large crowd in the street below the Hotel de Ville, cheering loudly as De Gaulle compares Montrealers to the French at liberation and as he utters that famous phrase is still a familiar image to Canadians.

The reaction was varied. Some Quebecois politicians rued the damage it might cause, saying that Quebec was trying to work with – not fight with – Ottawa for rights. Members of parliament were furious that a foreign leader would get involved with internal politics and do so in a way that showed complete lack of regard for Ottawa. They pushed Pearson to condemn De Gaulle’s speech.

So did protesters, who took to the streets in front of the French embassy in Toronto and sent nearly 1 000 telegrams calling for action by the Prime Minister.

Pearson himself did not condemn De Gaulle. He condemned his words, saying, in a carefully worded speech delivered the following day “The people of Canada are free” and “Canada… will reject any effort to destroy her unity.”

Pearson followed by stressing that France is an important friend to Canada. He talked about discussing the matter with De Gaulle when he arrived in Ottawa. In fact, De Gaulle was supposed to board a train the next day to Ottawa. A speech, written in both English and French and discussing the issues of Canada’s two languages was prepared.

The speech was never delivered; De Gaulle returned to France by plane without coming to Ottawa and sent for his boat to come after him.

This was a careless speech, a product of a personal political grudge held against Pearson.

But it had profound effects.

Quebec suddenly found an ally in France. That translated to a bargaining chip in Ottawa. Canada formally recognized French as an official language at the federal level three years after the speech.

The separatist party grew and became more widely recognized in Canada. Although De Gaulle never made another attempt to speak in Ottawa, the relationship between France and Canada remains amicable to this day.

De Gaulle was interested in pushing buttons. And did so very well: he permanently changed the course of Canadian history.

The Speech:

Watch the video here

(Translated from French)

It is a great emotion that fills my heart to see before me the French city of Montréal!

In the name of the old country, in the name of France, I salute you! I salute you with all my heart!

I would tell you a secret that you cannot repeat. Here this evening, and all the length of my trip, I found myself in the same sense of atmosphere as the Liberation! And all the length of my trip, in addition, I have noticed what immense efforts of progress, of development, and consequently of empowerment that you have accomplished here, and that it is to Montréal that I must give this statement, because, if there is a city in the world exemplary of modern success, it is yours! I say it is yours, and I permit myself to say, it is ours!

If you knew what confidence France, waking up after immense troubles, now carries for you, if you knew what affection she has started to feel again for the Frenchmen of Canada, and if you knew to what point she feels obliged to further your march that is before you, to your progress.

It’s why she has finalized with the Government of Quebec, with my friend Johnson here, the agreements for which the French on this side and the other of the Atlantic can work together towards the same French undertaking.

And, of course, the aid that France brings here, each day a little more, she knows well that you will reciprocate because you are building the best factories, enterprises, laboratories, which will be an astonishment for all, and which, one day, I know you will allow to aid France.

This is what I have come this evening to say, and that I will bring back from this unforgettable Montréal reunion, an unforgettable souvenir! The entirety of France knows, sees, hears that which is happening here, and I would tell you, she is better for it!

Long live Montreal! Long live Quebec! Long live free Quebec!

Long live, long live… long live French Canada!

And long live France!

Sun safety 101

I love the sunshine. I get as much of it as I can, hiking, biking, swimming, rowing or just lounging around outdoors. I’ve got a pretty dark complexion, and nothing more than the odd freckle. I never really thought much about sunscreen.

A couple years ago I made a thousand-kilometre trek, on foot, through Israel. It was hard work, took three months and slathering on the lotion wasn’t always on my mind.

Last summer, when my partner noticed a freckle high up on my thigh was changing shape and colour I shrugged it off. After all I was just 25. And I’m not fair-skinned. And besides, I never wear shorts that short.

Still, after some persistence, I agreed to show it to a doctor. I expected him to tell me I had nothing to worry about, it was normal, take two aspirin, move on with my life.

What did happen surprised me. Within a week the freckle was removed and sent to a lab in Kingston. Within two weeks I was given the spine-shaking news that the cute little freckle was in fact a melanoma and that it may not have been completely removed.

A second incision and a couple of nail-nibbling months later, a dermatologist tells me I’m clean and that I should wear sunscreen, then turns to congratulate my partner on saving my butt.

Had that freckle gone unnoticed, it would have done me in.

‘Wear sunscreen.’ Young people in Canada have heard that mantra countless times in countless ways. It’s advice almost as wellknown and just as solid as ‘stay in school.’

The Hastings-Prince Edward branch of the Canadian Cancer Society has been participating in putting out that message.

Volunteers have been going around to schools and youth clubs like the Brownies and Scouts with a campaign called SunSense to teach youngsters the importance of sun safety. The campaign reminds kids to “slip, slap and slop”: slip on a t-shirt, slap on a hat and slop on the sunscreen when they’re playing outside.

“A tanned skin is not a healthy skin,” says Kay Quirt, volunteer engagement coordinator at the Hastings-Prince Edward Canadian Cancer Society office. “A tanned skin is a damaged skin. And that’s what I don’t think [young people] get, as far as in the big picture.

And kids at play are not the only people at risk. Anyone who works outside in the summer should protect themselves from excess sun exposure.

“I was at a clinic in Toronto not too long ago and they were referring to one type of cancer as farmer’s cancer,” says Quirt. “The top of the ears, the side of the ears, areas that are exposed but people don’t think about it.Weathered skin is tough but it can still burn.”

There are some basic tips for anyone who wants to enjoy the sunshine this summer. Wear widebrimmed hats and loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts. Keep out of the sun between noon and 2 p.m., and seek shade between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. And don’t forget the sunscreen. Quirt says the biggest mistake people make, young or old, is applying one layer of sunblock in the morning, then forgetting about it. Sunscreen will lose its potency in the course of the day, especially on swimmers.

Along with farmers, Quirt lists construction workers, flagmen, crossing guards, camp councillors and lifeguards, among others, as being high-risk.

Quirt helps get the message out there but there’s no guarantee it’s catching on. It’s hard to get a young person to think about the future when there’s fun to be had in the sun.

Even Quirt has had a skin cancer scare. When a doctor removed a carcinoma from her face, it took her by surprise.

“I had said to the surgeon, I’m the person who doesn’t even cut the grass without sunscreen on my face,” says Quirt. “He said, oh, my dear, that started a long time ago. Probably when I was a kid and had sunburn, because there wasn’t sunscreen when I was a kid. It was something you’d never think of.”

Quirt’s story, like mine, is exactly the reason we tell kids to wear sunscreen. Neither of us thought about it until a doctor told us we had skin cancer.

So take the message to heart. Pass it on. The UV index is already hitting high, so get out that lotion and spread it where the sun shines.