Can’t believe it’s been 43 years.

Happy birthday, Dad

Birthdays are supposed to be fun, light events, which is hard when we miss those who are no longer living. He was born February 20, 1941. And he was tragically killed just thirty short years later. Taken too soon, you hear people say about those who die young. I was just two years old when it happened. He loved me madly, I’m told. 

He died before I was old enough to have memories of him. I don’t know what his voice sounded like. I don’t know what it feels like to be enveloped in a hug that only fathers can give their little girls. So many “nevers” are attached to him. Jake. My dad.

I was his only daughter, his only child. When my parents split, before he died, he fought for custody – something unheard of so many decades ago. It must have been such a painful time but somehow knowing how desperately he wanted to raise me brings some comfort. Given how little time he had left on this earth, I wish he had been granted it.

Life is complicated, whether you live for a long time or not. Hug your kids, even if they’re too young to remember.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Jacob Ernest Goertzen 1941 – 1971


This picture of us was taken just months before he was killed on a snowy B.C. highway. His obituary from the local paper, so many years ago today:

J. E. Goertzen

Driver for D. and D. Transport, Chilliwack, Jacob Ernest Goertzen of 9095 Sunset Drive died December 5 in Vavenby near Kamloops in a highway accident. Pastor George Groening, assisted by Rev. Abram Peters, will officiate at the funeral service December 10 at 2 p.m. in Eden Mennonite Church.

Pallbearers will be Ernest J. Goertzen, Franz A. Goertzen, Werner Bartel, Alvin Epp, Peter Neumann and John Epp. Woodlawn Chilliwack Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

Mr. Goertzen was born on February 20, 1941, in Hythe, Alberta, and lived in this area since 1945. 

He is survived by one daughter Lisa; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Goertzen, Chilliwack; two brothers, Ernest Goertzen, Chilliwack; Franz Goertzen, Sardis; five sisters, Mrs. W. (Frieda) Bartel, Chilliwack; Mrs. A (Margaret) Epp, London, Ontario; Mrs. E. (Elizabeth) Neumann, Richmond; Mrs. J. (Irene) Epp, Vancouver; Miss Ruth Goertzen, at home.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, you always wish you could still be daddy’s little girl. Miss you, Dad.

Don’t mess with the “ladies”

Justin Trudeau is a likeable politician, with popularity not seen since Trudeaumania swept the nation in the late 60s after his father became Liberal leader. For the battered Liberal party, Justin has been seen by many as its savior – the person who could lead us back from our self-inflicted time out, which voters punished us with in 2006.

After the stilted and hapless Stephane Dion, and then the aristocratic, out-of-touch Michael Ignatieff, we needed Justin. Fresh, young and telegenic seemed the perfect prescription for Liberal woes. And, indeed, Trudeau junior’s honeymoon lasted longer than anyone ever expected. It lasted exactly until this week.

In the midst of two crises of government – the ongoing Senate scandal and Toronto’s Rob Ford crack saga – team Trudeau made a mistake that had the ability to break through the near-constant media coverage of these beleaguered governments. No small feat.

The brain trust surrounding Trudeau had decided to hold a “ladies” night event, ostensibly to raise money for the party, in an urban Toronto riding. It was to be an event for women, or rather “ladies,” organized by women. “Who are your real life heroes?” the invitation asked in a swirly font. “What’s your favourite virtue?” I could almost feel young Justin batting his eyelashes at me. (To be honest, when I first saw the invite – complete with Warholian photos of Justin – I thought it was an attack ad, thought up by the Conservative party’s war room. And then I looked again.)

Justin Trudeau, the guy who’s been criticized for being a vapid light-weight, was to be hosting a fundraiser that, from the invite, could only be characterized as being, well, vapid and light-weight. It was also patronizing and demeaning, which I, and about a zillion others, mentioned on Twitter. I mean, look, if Justin is running to be Prime Minister McDreamy then it’s fine, I guess. But I, for one, don’t want my party to be parked on the backbench in perpetuity. So, I would like less glitter and more vision.

In a matter of hours, social media sites were overrun by the #askjustin hashtag. Many women expressed frustration and anger toward being condescended to and being belittled in what was seen to be the worst kind of political pandering. Female MPs such as Conservative Minister Michelle Rempel and NDP MP Megan Leslie – both of whom I like and respect a lot – responded and very clearly articulated their position, with Rempel asking, “What’s the biggest issue facing women? This kind of crap.” “+1,” agreed Leslie.

Event organizers pushed back. “Get a grip, people,” Amanda Alvaro scolded on Twitter after advertising the event as “unconventional,” with an invitation “designed to inspire dialogue.” Well, I guess she got that part right.

And then came the event itself.

Full disclosure, I wasn’t there but I watched the video footage before a TV appearance this morning. A smug Justin Trudeau perched on a stool answering the “ladies” questions. One question in particular stood out.

As David Akin wrote, Trudeau was asked the so-called “unfluffy” question, “Which nation, besides Canada, which nation’s administration do you most admire, and why?” (Over to you, Justin – this one’s easy!)

“China,” Justin answered.

Wait, what? You mean China with the horrific human rights record, particularly against girls and women. That China? After being criticized for hosting a fundraiser that is patronizing and sexist, you go with China?!

And with that, Trudeau again became fodder on social media sites. The hashtag #mostadmiredadministrations provided dozens of humourous posts, all at the expense of our Prime Minister-in-training.

As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.

Rehtaeh’s dad speaks

My heart breaks for Mr. Canning, and everyone who loved this young woman.


A letter from a reformed sexist to his daughter

I liked this so much I’ve posted the letter in its entirety below. Some time ago, while out with friends, one of the men in our group launched into a sexist rant that bordered on full-scale misogyny.  Unlike, this recent exchange when the Ontario NDP leader was called a whore on a radio program, I didn’t hold back. “You are the father of a daughter,” I hissed. “What if one day some asshole talks about her as you are talking about women right now?”

Read this.

Dear Daughter:

This weekend is Father’s Day.  On Sunday morning, you’re going to crawl into my bed and curl up next to me.  We’ll turn on the TV and I’ll feign excitement when Dora comes on, more just to watch your eyes light up.  At some point we’ll get into a tickle fight (which I will undoubtedly start).  We’ll get into a raging debate over which of us loves the other one more.

I’m going to love every minute of it.  Watching you grow up has been the purest pleasure in my life to date.

Which makes it even more jarring to admit that I was once a sexist.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill, woman-hating misogynist who believes God made him superior to the fairer sex.  I’ve always hated that guy.

Instead, I was the guy who didn’t even notice all of society’s subtle sexist behaviors.  Sometimes I participated without realizing.  It wasn’t until I spent months traveling around the country with Hillary Clinton, and then later becoming your father, that I began to see all of this.

The constant stories about Hillary’s hairstyle or pantsuit color, but never about Obama or Biden’s tie color or haircuts.

The questions Sarah Palin endured about whether she could do the job with small children at home, when not one male candidate ever had to answer similar questions. (And it is not easy for me to defend Sarah Palin!)

The sophomoric giggles from late-night talk show hosts about a woman soccer player ripping off her shirt in celebration that got almost more attention than the championship she had just won.

The cable news host who commented on how good women politicians look “for their age.”  The beauty pageant that asks us to judge which young woman looks best in a bathing suit.

It was everywhere.  And it made me mad.

So I pledged to do my part to make sure you always knew that you were an equal to the boys you saw every day.  (Personally, I think you’re superior, but that could just be the dad in me talking.)  I wanted you to never feel discouraged, to know you could do whatever you wanted, and to live a life without this subtle sexism.

The problem is, society is sending you mixed messages.

We tell girls they can be whatever they want when they grow up.  So why are so many people still telling women that they can’t balance career and family?

We tell girls that they can succeed if they work hard and be themselves.  So why is it that a woman in business or politics is seen as cold and harsh if she doesn’t show emotion — but seen as “emotional” or manipulative if she does?

We talk about creating economic opportunities for women.  So why are we still debating whether they should receive equal pay?  Even worse, why are we having a national conversation over whether women in the workforce hurts our “social fabric”?

We tell girls that they can grow up to be soldiers and serve our country.  So why have we allowed a military culture where some of the greatest threats women soldiers face are from their male colleagues?

We tell young girls that they shouldn’t ever rely on a man for their happiness or success.  So why are we telling them that they need to rely on a bunch of men they’ve never met to tell them when they need an ultrasound, where to put it, and what other healthcare decisions are best for them?

As a father, I’m horrified by all of this.  You deserve better from all of us.

A few years ago, Hillary Clinton talked about putting 18 million cracks in the ultimate glass ceiling, so that someone might soon finally break through.   I look forward to witnessing that with you.

But what I really want is for it to seem completely unremarkable to you.

In the past few weeks you have told me you wanted to be a doctor, a pilot, a face-painter, a pizza maker and a princess.  Some days you want to be all of them.

And the most awesome thing is that right now you believe you can be.

That list will only grow in the coming years.  I can’t wait to watch it grow, and see where it leads you.

I only have a few things I want to add to the list.

I want you to be happy.

I want you to truly do and be whatever you want.

I want respect and equality to be the status quo.

I don’t want there to be any more glass ceilings for you to have to break through.

I hope that someday, when both you and your younger brother get older, you’ll read this and neither of you will have any idea what I’m talking about. That would be the best Father’s Day gift ever.



Had he lived, he would be 72 today. 

Happy birthday, Dad.

Dad 1941-1971


My dad, Jake, has been gone 41 years today. Being only two when he was killed, I don’t remember him. Not at all. This picture was probably one of the last ones ever taken of the two of us – and I only saw it for the first time this past summer. I love this photo. I love the way he’s looking at me. I love how much I look like him.

I was his only child. Growing up, his death was never talked about and I knew, somehow, not to ask questions. Instead, I would strain to overhear very adult conversations for any mention of him. One day, I found a photograph of a man I didn’t recognize. Being just seven or eight, I thought this man must be my father. I memorized everything about the man in the well-worn Polaroid. I was a teenager when I was told it wasn’t him.

If it sounds complicated, it is. I only learned his birthdate as a young adult. I also learned he loved acting and football and many other things a young man from a deeply religious family shouldn’t. He was a bit of a black sheep but a beloved uncle to my many cousins. He was fun and funny; a giant of a man – quite literally. He wore a leather jacket (that I wish had been saved) with the collar flipped up, as did many men in the sixties, even though I’m quite sure it was frowned upon.

Everything I have of his fits neatly in a box. Over the years a few of my cousins have given me things that belonged to him. Like the silver pocket watch which, I was told, had been tucked into his jeans the night he was killed. The football he threw around and his camera. And a few other trinkets I’m now saving for my kids. This past summer, his sister shared with me stories I had never heard and another aunt passed along pictures I had never seen.

I learned more, too. But that’s a story for another day.

Many decades have passed since he died. My son has his name – as well as his cheekbones, height and rebellious nature. My daughter has his curly hair, which she hates as much as he did. They ask me about him and I wish more than anything I had more to share.

Dad was killed in a horrible accident – the newspaper said black ice was to blame – on a snowy night on the Yellowhead Highway 41 years ago today. He was a trucker and he hadn’t wanted to go on that run. It was a Sunday and he’d been talked into it. Dad had been told they had to hurry to get on the road before the storm hit.

He asked his friends to pray for him. And then he was gone.