He’s no relation to us

My son has recently been working on a family-tree assignment for school, so I have become interested in his research. Okay, truth be told, the OCD kicked in and I can’t get enough of those Toewses.

My son has recently been working on a family-tree assignment for school, so I  have become interested in his research. Okay, truth be told, the OCD kicked in and I can’t get enough of those Toewses.

There is loads of information on his grandfather’s grandfather, Cornelius Toews, because he is known as “Delegate” Toews. In the early 1870s, a dozen Mennonite men came to check out the Canadian prairies, to see if the farmland was good, because what they had been promised in then-Prussia had recently been reneged on: freedom of religion, language, traditions.

The “Quiet of the Land” wanted nothing to do with politics and government, but sooner or later some Mennonites realized the Red River Rebellion and Louis Riel were from our area. I found out just last week a portion of the vast tract of “unpopulated” land set aside for my ancestors – I am talking to you, Corny! – had already been promised, in writing, to the Metis. The Metis objected, in writing; and the government said, “We’ll get back to you.” Thirty years later the government said, “Oh, yeah, you were right. Well – there’s all these Mennonites there now, so, um, sorry.”

I apologize, seriously, for Cornelius, his son Johann, his son Cornelius, his son Norman, myself and my son Cam: we have benefitted from the theft of your property.

After World War One and again after WW2, the government of the day looked askance at (Low) German-speaking Conscientious Objectors. Some of the most conservative left, to protect their way of life, and went to Mexico or Belize and to Paraguay.

Steinbach-born Miriam Toews (no relation) has a brand new novel, Irma Voth, about ultraconservative Mennonites who left the Manitoba Red River area for Mexico. I have just finished it, and it is almost as good as A Complicated Kindness and Swing Low.

My sister and my mom and I will attend her reading at Garden City Shopping Centre in Winnipeg on May 1, yes we will. Plus, that is where my hairdresser Celia lives, and I do not begrudge her the plane fare for a haircut. She’s just that good.

Vic Toews (no relation) is currently running for re-election in the federal race for Provencher. He was born in Paraguay in 1952. He enjoys roller blading and jogging. He resides in Steinbach.

On January 19, 2010 Vic was appointed as the Minister for Public Safety.

He has some strong opinions on prisons, and wants to build a lot more, I hear. The “Truth in Sentencing” bill has passed, meaning if you are held in remand, you can no longer get two-for-one for your time in there.

Remand, in Canada, means one of several things. You may be held in a provincial jail awaiting sentencing or be held till your next appearance in court is scheduled. Or rescheduled. Or re-re-re-scheduled.

You may be held in a provincial jail as a person accused but not convicted of a crime. Here is what Juristat (Vol.23 No.7) says about that:

“Remanded persons are under considerable stress and are in a situation of uncertainty, not knowing if or when they may be convicted of the offense for which they have been charged.

“The personal circumstances which may have precipitated their criminal incident, such as mental illness or drug/alcohol abuse may not be resolved.”

I wonder if Vic has spent time in provincial jail. I have.

Every Thursday morning, when I worked for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Halifax-Dartmouth, I went to jail to visit the dozen or so women being held in a corner of the men’s provincial jail. I met them there, and each and every one of those women were there because of addictions: they stole stuff to sell, sold themselves to buy, hung out with guys who would supply them, and one waited in the getaway car.

In brighter news, hockey player Jonathan Toews (no relation) was on the first leg to the Triple Gold Club, the World Championship gold medal. Then he won in the Olympics, and it became Look, Cam, it’s your cousin! When Jonathan won the Stanley Cup, I started demanding of Cam, Why can’t you be more like your brother?


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