My Dad


Like some men, and as was the practice in some families, my brothers and I did not hug my father a lot. As we got older in places like Montreal, or Kingston, or Dallas or Calgary, we also did not tell him that we loved him as much as we did. With our artist Mom, there was always a lot of affection, to be sure; but in the case of my Dad, usually all that was exchanged with his four boys was a simple handshake, when it was time for hello or goodbye. It was just the way we did things.

There was, however, much to love about our father, and love him we did. He was, and remains, a giant in our lives – and he was a significant presence, too, for many of the patients whose lives he saved or bettered over the course a half-century of healing. We still cannot believe he is gone, with so little warning.

Thomas Douglas Kinsella was born on February, 15, 1932 in Montreal. His mother was a tiny but formidable force of nature named Mary; his father, a Northern Electric employee named Jimmy, was a stoic man whose parents came over from County Wexford, in Ireland. In their bustling homes, in and around Montreal’s Outremont, our father’s family comprised a younger sister, Juanita, and an older brother, Howard. Also there were assorted uncles – and foster siblings Bea, Ernie, Ellen and Jimmy.

When he was very young, Douglas was beset by rheumatic fever. Through his mother’s ministrations, Douglas beat back the potentially-crippling disease. But he was left with a burning desire to be a doctor.

Following a Jesuitical education at his beloved Loyola High School in Montreal, Douglas enrolled at Loyola College, and also joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. It was around that time he met Lorna Emma Cleary, at a Montreal Legion dance in April 1950. She was 17 – a dark-haired, radiant beauty from the North End. He was 18 – and a handsome, aspiring medical student, destined for an officer’s rank and great things.

It was a love like you hear about, sometimes, but which you rarely see. Their love affair was to endure for 55 years – without an abatement in mutual love and respect.

On a hot, sunny day in June 1955, mid-way through his medical studies at McGill, Douglas and Lorna wed at Loyola Chapel. Then, three years after Douglas’ graduation from McGill with an MD, first son Warren was born.

In 1963, second son Kevin came along, while Douglas was a clinical fellow in rheumatism at the Royal Vic. Finally, son Lorne arrived in 1965, a few months before the young family moved to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a research fellowship. In the United States, Douglas’ belief in a liberal, publicly-funded health care system was greatly enhanced. So too his love of a tolerant, diverse Canada.

In 1968, Douglas and his family returned to Canada and an Assistant Professorship in Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston. More than 35 years later, it was at Kingston General Hospital – in the very place where Douglas saved so many lives – that his own life would come to a painless end in the early hours of June 15, 2004, felled by a fast-moving lung cancer.

Kingston was followed in 1973 by a brief return to Montreal and a professorship at McGill. But an unstable political environment – and the promise of better research in prosperous Alberta – persuaded the family to journey West, to Calgary.

There Lorna and Douglas would happily remain for 25 years, raising three sons – and providing legal guardianship to grandson Troy, who was born in 1982. At the University of Calgary, and at Foothills Hospital, Douglas would achieve distinction for his work in rheumatology, immunology and – later – medical bioethics.

He raised his boys with one rule, which all remember, but none observed as closely as he did: “Love people, and be honest.” His commitment to ethics, and healing – and his love and honesty, perhaps – resulted in him being named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995.

On the day that the letter arrived, bearing Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc’s vice-regal seal, Douglas came home from work early – an unprecedented occurence – to tell Lorna. It was the first time I can remember seeing him cry.

As I write this, I am in a chair beside my father’s bed in a tiny hospital room in Kingston, Ont.,where he and my mother returned in 2001 to retire. It is night, and he has finally fallen asleep.

My father will die in the next day or so, here in the very place where he saved lives. He has firmly but politely declined offers of special treatment – or even a room with a nicer view of Lake Ontario.

Before he fell asleep, tonight, I asked him if he was ready. “I am ready,” he said. “I am ready.”

When I leave him, tonight, this is what I will say to him, quietly: “We all love you, Daddy. We all love you forever.”

[Warren Kinsella is Douglas Kinsella’s eldest son. His father died two nights later.]

[From Globe’s Lives Lived, June 15, 2004.]

My latest: do as I say, not as I do

Justin Trudeau paused. Above his black mask, the famous dark eyes flitted around the crowd.

It was Friday, and thousands had gathered for a Parliament Hill protest against racism. They stood close together, the protestors did, trying to get a glimpse of Trudeau, who was surrounded by a phalanx of security.

Trudeau spotted cameras to his left, and pointed in his direction. Satisfied, he slowly eased to one knee and bowed his head.

His only black cabinet minister, Ahmed Hussen, had been walking a few paces behind Trudeau. He got down on one knee, too.

They remained like that for eight minutes or so, the amount of time it took a Minneapolis  police officer to murder the African-American named George Floyd.

The cameras recorded every moment.

Hypocrisy, as always, is Justin Trudeau’s fatal flaw. Every politician becomes a hypocrite, if they remain in public life too long.

But Justin Trudeau has taken hypocrisy to a different level entirely. His hypocrisies are so big, so monumental, so glaring, they practically have their own weather system. They have their own time zone.

He said he wanted more women in public life, and then he brutalized and exiled the two smartest women in his cabinet – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott – simply because they wouldn’t do what he wanted them to. Which was break the law.

He said he wanted to emancipate Canada’s indigenous peoples – and then he defamed and demeaned the aforementioned Wilson-Raybould, a proud Indigenous leader. He sneered “thanks for your donation” to another woman, one who simply wanted him to make good on his promise to end the mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows First Nation.

He said he objected to racism in the Conservative Party – and then tapes and photos emerged, showing Trudeau wearing racist blackface at least three times. Only when he was caught did he apologize.

He said he would return integrity and transparency to public life – and then he secretly took expensive gifts from a wealthy lobbyist. He repeatedly tried to stop the criminal prosecution of a big Quebec-based donor to his Liberal Party.

And on and on. Hypocrisy, thine name is Trudeau.

But the election result seemed to humble him. He got fewer votes than his nearest competitor. He lost his Parliamentary majority. He got quieter. He got a bit somber. The change suited him.

Then the pandemic hit, upending everyone’s life. Trudeau’s performance wasn’t flawless. He had to retreat when a plan to dramatically increase his powers became a controversy. He was criticized for traveling to be with his family, across a provincial border.

But, in the first few weeks of the pandemic, he didn’t do badly. He sounded sincere. He sounded concerned about Canadians. He came up with some good policies to help them.

And, over and over and over, he urged people to stay at home and maintain social distancing.  He said – over and over and over – that nothing was as important as that.

On April 1 – April Fool’s Day – this is what Justin Trudeau said: “The biggest variable in shaping projections is you and your behaviour. While many of you are staying home and limiting grocery trips, many are not. We must do everything we can today and tomorrow to set us on the right path for next week and the week after.”

Reporters asked him why he hadn’t released more coronavirus data, like Doug Ford had done.

Trudeau responded: “Highlighting the range isn’t as important as getting an analysis of what we’re likely to face. It’s all directly linked to how people behave today. That’s why it’s so important that people stay home and continue with social distancing and stay two metres apart and minimize movement so we can get through this in the best way possible.”

See that? “Stay home and continue with social distancing and stay two meters apart.” He said that sort of thing a lot.

And then he showed up a gathering of thousands of people. Him, Prime Minister Coronavirus Blackface.

At times like this, it is fair to wonder what Justin Trudeau is thinking. Does he think he should take a knee for black people, after having been caught repeatedly defaming them? Does he think he should use a crowd of people as a photo op, after having told them all to “stay home and continue with social distancing and stay two meters apart”?

Does he think about how profoundly, irretrievably hypocritical he looks? Does he even think at all?

On the very day that Justin Trudeau had his Black Lives Matter For Photo-Ops, I went to see my mother in Toronto.  She was behind a fence, wearing a mask. I have not been able to hug her for three months.  She has not been able to hug any of us. She is often sad and lonely.

My mother likes Justin Trudeau, but not on this day. She asked me if I had seen Trudeau at the protest. I nodded.

“I am so disappointed in him,” she said. “Why should young people listen to him now? He looks like a hypocrite.”

And that is what he will always be, too.

A hypocrite.

What have Scheer, Marshall and the leadership candidates done to Harper’s legacy?

They’ve destroyed it, pretty much.

And I still don’t understand why the Cons want Parliament back. If they get their wish, these numbers are going to be even better for Trudeau, I suspect.