Friday, December 16, 2005

Speech at Carleton University

On November 16, 2005 I was part of a panel speaking at Carleton University on Violence Against Women. My speech was about missing women and I focused in on the missing and murdered sex trade workers in Vancouver and Edmonton.

I've made several attempts to upload the speech here on the blog but whenever I do, it knocks out my entire link section. So, if you'd like to read the article, Bekkie of Seen Me Lately has kindly posted it on her web site about sex trade workers.

As usual, I've stated some controversial views. Those who know me and read this blog regularly know that I welcome disagreement and debate. If you have any thoughts after you read it, please come back and make comments here on the blog or in my guestbook.

Thanks :-)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Reward offered for information on Jennifer Teague

Earl McRae of the Ottawa Sun reported that an anonymous donor has stepped forward to offer a "substantial" amount of money -- possibly as much as $50,000 -- as a reward for anyone who has information on the death and disappearance of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague of Barrhaven, which is part of Metropolitan Ottawa.

McRae also noted that many readers were curious as to why the police had not released any details about the cause of death. He posited some explanations: sometimes people who are unstable or just wish to cause trouble may falsely confess to a crime. If police withhold specific information, it makes it much easier to rule out those false confessions. Moreover, all of the forensics are not in. It's possible that the police still are uncertain of the exact cause of death.

Apparently, 10 investigators have been working diligently on the Teague case and will continue to do so until they find her killer. To quote the end of McRae's column today:

"If you have information, no matter how minor it seems, that might help find the killer of Jennifer Teague, the police want and need to hear from you -- confidentiality guaranteed. E-mail: -- phone (613) 236-1222, ext. 5477."

Sigrid Mac

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Rules by Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider - Book Review

Reading The Rules was like sitting in the dental chair - it was painful! I forced myself to read the book because last year I read He's Just Not That into You. I expected to hate that book, too, but I didn't. It was just so laugh-out-loud funny that I couldn't help but like it. Also, the message was clear, albeit simplistic; if a man isn't calling you, he's just not interested.

The Rules is definitely retro. I've heard it described as a book that advocates women going back to the fifties. True enough, but not the 1950s -- the 1850s! I could easily imagine Jane Austen writing this book and young women waiting for their gentleman callers in their mother's parlor.

For those who are not familiar with the material, The Rules are a set of guidelines for women to follow that are designed to prevent them from enduring heartbreak and rejection in love. They consist of the following suggestions:

-- Don't speak to a man first in a social setting. Don't ask him to dance, don't stare at him and definitely, don't call him on the phone! A Rules girl needs to play hard to get.

-- After a man calls you up, don't accept a date unless he's given you ample notice. And don't return his phone call if he happens to get your voicemail. You don't want to seem too eager.

-- Clearly, having sex is not an option. You must wait several months, meanwhile seeing the man no more than two to three times a week. And you will be certified as a suicide relationship bomber if you initiate sex! Don't pay for the date, don't meet him halfway and -- get this -- don't talk on the phone for more than 10 minutes every time he calls you. Pretend to have something else to do so that you seem busy.

-- If you want a man to marry you, don't live with him. Hold out for that ring.

Now, before you dismiss all of this as preposterous, as I was tempted to do, keep in mind that the purpose of the book is to prevent women from suffering. The authors argue that men and women are biologically different and as a result, men need to pursue women. If men don't initiate, they will lose interest. If women don't play hard to get, they will never instill a sense of chronic longing in their man. Moreover, The Rules encourages women to be busy and independent, so that they won't view their man as the center of their existence.

As a longtime feminist who has broken all of the rules all of my life, I must concede that some of them may have merit. Whether it's biological or sociocultural, men are different from women. There is still a double standard in society. If a guy goes after a woman for a year and she shows no interest in him, he is simply persistent. If a woman does the same thing, she's desperate. There's no term for a man who "chases" women because that's what a guy is supposed to do (I'm not talking about a womanizer or a stalker. I'm talking about an ordinary guy going after an ordinary girl/woman.) Why is the word "chase" always used in reference to women, kind of like the words "loose" or "easy?" (Heard of any men who were called sluts recently? I rest my case.)

Now, I think that the double standard is completely wrong and that's why I've always violated it. However, the end result has often been that I have pursued men who were not interested in me, or who have ended up being quite passive later on in the relationship.

In my book, D'Amour Road, my main character has an unrequited crush on a younger man. That scenario resulted directly from my interest in this topic of women pursuing men. Theoretically, it's a good thing. The sexes should be equal. In all of my interactions with men, I always try to treat them the same way that I treat females. But the sad fact is that they're not females, especially when it comes to sex and romance.

If The Rules sound antiquated, they are. But that doesn't mean that they may not be effective. I can't imagine following them all religiously, particularly the one about not returning a man's phone call, which seems incredibly rude. But I can see embracing a modified version of The Rules for self-protection and to simplify my life.

Let's face it. If a guy is interested in me or in you, he can pick up the phone. How hard is that? If we as women keep making the first move -- which should be our right -- how will we know if the man was interested beforehand? Is he just responding to our friendliness? Fein also cautions against revealing too much about yourself during the first month or two. Sounds Stepfordish but if you think about it, why do we need to tell anyone who is brand-new in our life all about the baggage that we carry around day in and day out? That's true of new female friends, new male friends or budding relationships.

Yes, The Rules are at least 150 years out of date and they are extremely irritating and disheartening to anyone with a feminist or postmodern perspective, but I found them to have *some* redeeming value. And I'm going to test them out, just for the hell of it.

Sigrid Mac

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tribute to Jennifer Teague

36-year-old Todd Sterling from Elliot Lake is a songwriter, who was deeply moved by the tragic disappearance and death of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague from Barrhaven, Ontario. So moved, in fact, that Sterling wrote a song about her called "Jennifer's Song."

Earl McRae of the Ottawa Sun described the process that Sterling went through when he took his song down to Nashville and sold it to professionals under the name "September's Child." Despite the name change, Todd Sterling maintained that the song was for Jennifer, and he gave a copy of it to her father, Ed Teague, who was deeply moved.

You can listen to Jennifer's Song at

Right on, Todd. How beautiful of you.

Sigrid Mac

P. S. Still no arrests or suspects in the case.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Update on Jennifer Teague

The police sound more optimistic about locating Jennifer Teague's killer, according to her father, Ed, who was quoted in the Ottawa Sun newspaper. Earl McRae reported that there are three field investigators and 18 other people working on Jennifer's case. That's comforting.

I know that when Louise Ellis went missing in Ottawa in 1995, I was part of the search team that looked for her. She was "gone" for three months and to me, it seemed as though the police were doing nothing during that time. Ha! Was I mistaken. All along, they were diligently gathering information which eventually implicated her partner.

It's hard to say if there is a suspect in the Teague case right now because police are being quiet about it. "I have a feeling they (police) have more than they're prepared to disclose," Ed Teague was quoted as saying. Let's hope that that's not just a desire on his part to hear good news but rather an intuitive sense that he is receiving from the police.

OTOH, I can't help but feeling that the arrest of Chris Myers in the Ardeth Wood case had more to do with luck than skill.

Sigrid Mac

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Redefining friendship

How do we define friendship? That used to be an easy question for me. Friends were people who I saw regularly, trusted and confided in. There were my close friends and my less intimate friends. Some were separated by geographic distance but not by devotion; I had many friends who lived in other provinces or states. We may not have talked for months or even years but when we did connect, an "instant karma" kind of rapport was present.

Then there were my acquaintances, usually people who I worked with or knew from various clubs or political organizations. Maybe I'd gone to high school or college ("university" to you Canadians!) with them and we didn't socialize on a regular basis, but I knew them fairly well. Or perhaps I did see those people frequently but we didn't have a lot in common, hence, I didn't call them "friends."

But the world has changed, largely as a result of high-tech innovations and the democratization of communication via the Internet. I've been reading a lot about globalization lately because someone I know turned me on to the book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. I read that and another by Lessig -- both highly recommended -- and am currently reading The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman.

One point that all of these books makes is that the world is getting smaller and nation borders have become less important. As a result of chatting with so many folks via e-mail, discussion boards, my blogs, and instant messaging, I have slowly noticed a change in the way that I define friendship. There are some people on thyroid that I've been talking to for five or six years. I consider them to be my friends. Likewise with people who I've met on my blogs, who post comments or talk to me every week. Admittedly, they're not my best friends but I would be hard-pressed to dismiss some of them as mere acquaintances.

I've encountered a number of wonderful women on a spiritually oriented web site called Boomer Women Speak where I participate in discussions on their writers' forum. I think nothing of signing my private messages to these people (or to my sister's New Age friends whom I have never met), "Love, Sigrid." And I routinely use the sign off "YF," which means "your friend." Sometimes, I use it as a statement and other times I use it as a question -- i.e. "Wanna be friends?"

This has all made me rethink my relationship with Louise Ellis, the woman who disappeared in Ottawa in 1995 and was murdered by her partner. The woman who inspired my book, D'Amour Road, and to whom it is dedicated. The woman who was a member of my David Milgaard Support Group and who I have called "my acquaintance" in almost all of my references to her.

Were Louise and I really acquaintances or were we friends? If our relationship had taken place on the Internet instead of the phone, would we have been in touch more often? Is frequency a determining factor in defining friendship or is it the nature of our feelings towards the person? Because I love Louise Ellis.

When she was alive, I liked her very much but since her life was cut short, I have been unable to stop thinking about her, so my feelings have grown. I've developed a preoccupation with missing women. I lie awake at night wondering what kind of a person Louise was. Did she have a sense of humor? How did she pass her free time? What did she value most? And what kind of a person would she have been today if she lived until age 56? I wish that I had known her better or made some social overtures in her direction when I had the chance because now it's too late.

I miss her. I care about her. And I have remorse about the fact that we never met in person because our relationship took place on the telephone; we talked regularly over a two-year period. I would have wanted to be her friend.

This morning, a woman who I know fairly well but have not yet classified as either a friend or an acquaintance, invited me to do something that I'm not particularly keen on doing. But I like this woman and it would be great to see more of her, so I accepted her invitation. I don't want to live with guilt about things that I didn't do and people that I didn't cultivate well enough when they were here and I had the opportunity. What's a little sacrifice compared to a lifetime of regret?

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More Police Errors in the Ardeth Wood Case

A 76-year-old former RCMP Officer saw Ardeth Wood on the day that she disappeared. She was on the bike path and he had been cycling. He said to her that it seemed awfully hot out and she agreed. Then she continued on with her biking and the former officer, Al Dzikowski, noticed a younger man on a bike who followed Ardeth. He thought nothing of it at the time but after he read about Ardeth's disappearance, he called the police right away and left a message on their answering machine.

What did they do? They ignored him. This did not deter Dzikowski, who contacted the Wood family directly. In turn, they called the police but police still did not meet with the former RCMP man or request that he look at a lineup of suspects or mug shots.

In fact, it took the police more than two years to contact Dzikowski, who now believes that Chris Myers was the man on the trail. When the police finally did call Dzikowski in September of this year, they conscientiously took down his name, address and phone number. Only problem is that they took down the phone number incorrectly, so they never called him back! Sounds like a Monty Python skit except that it's not funny.

As if it wasn't bad enough to extradite Myers from Arnprior to North Bay without realizing that he bore a resemblance to the composite sketch, Ottawa Police have managed to compound their error by incompetently handling a tip from a man who actually spoke to Ardeth Wood on the NCC path!

What I have said previously about eyewitness testimony being unreliable notwithstanding, things are looking bad for Chris Myers. The original description of the suspect in the Wood case was a man in his mid to late twenties but Dzikowski always maintained that the person he saw looked much younger -- somewhere between 18 to 23. That would fit in with Myers' profile since Ardeth Wood was murdered in 2003 and Chris Myers is 25 right now.

Police Chief Bevan has a lot of explaining to do.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chris Myers suspected in Sudbury murder

25-year-old Chris Myers of Ottawa, who was arrested the other day and charged with the murder of Ardeth Wood, is now a suspect in the death of Laurentian University student, Renee Sweeney. 23-year-old Sweeney was a history major who was stabbed to death one night on January 27, 1998 when she was working alone in a video store. The store was robbed of less than $200, the Ottawa Citizen reported, and evidence was discovered at the scene of the crime including footprints in the snow, a pair of gardening gloves, a bloodstained jacket and DNA.

But Sweeney's father is dubious about this possibility. He reminded Sudbury police that Chris Myers would only have been 16 years old at the time and he lived in Ottawa not Sudbury.

Once again, Myers is being suspected of involvement in this case based on the composite sketch. I find that to be somewhat unnerving. To begin with, when I looked at the composite sketch in the newspaper and compared it to the picture of Chris Myers, I didn't see a resemblance. Secondly, when Ardeth Wood was killed back in 2003, I clearly remember the police were looking for a suspect who was tall with sandy colored hair and had an eagle tattoo. Chris Myers has dark hair and no tattoo. He also does not appear to wear glasses whereas the composite sketch from Sudbury had a guy wearing glasses; and that man looked considerably older than 16 or 17 years of age!

I'm not saying that Myers had nothing to do with the tragic death of Renee Sweeney. I know nothing about that case except what I read today. What I am saying is that it's dangerous for people to base their reactions around a composite sketch, which may now be having a snowballing effect (e.g. Sudbury police read that North Bay police think that Myers matches the picture of the Ottawa sketch, therefore, Sudbury suspects him in their own unsolved murder).

Recently, I read that about 40% of all of the Death Row cases that have been overturned were convictions that were originally based on eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable! The only thing that might be more unreliable than eyewitness testimony is a composite sketch!@! We have to be damn careful about jumping conclusions here.

This is in no way meant to be any kind of defense of Chris Myers, who appears to be a serial rapist and may indeed be involved with the murder of Ardeth Wood. But before I reach that conclusion, I would like to see some evidence.

Sigrid Mac

Monday, October 24, 2005

Seen Me Lately?

Sex trade workers keep disappearing in droves. First Vancouver. Then Edmonton. Now Calgary. Where will it end?

A group of concerned women have started an innovative project called Seen Me Lately. They're getting the phone numbers or contact info for women on the street and making sure that each person checks in with somebody else everyday. That way, if an individual goes missing, it won't take months for other people to figure it out.

For example, on September 13, a 40-year-old woman in Edmonton disappeared off the radar. Her friends and cohorts could not find her so Seen Me Lately put out an SOS. 10 days later they discovered that she was in the hospital. What a relief! Meanwhile, the group posts details about the people that they're concerned about on their web site. They have a live chat, a group discussion forum, and lots of cool links to aboriginal women's sites, sex trade workers of Canada and sites that are devoted to missing people and children. Check them out at

Sigrid Mac

Friday, October 21, 2005

25-year-old man arrested in the Ardeth Wood case

This morning, my mother said to me, "They've got Ardeth Wood's killer!"

"Really?" I asked. I was excited. After 26 months, I thought that the police had finally discovered the brute that sexually assaulted and murdered 27-year-old university student, Ardeth Wood. But when I queried my mother in more detail, I realized that the police had arrested a suspect. As those of us who work in the field of wrongful convictions know, that is not the same as "finding the killer."

Chris Myers of Ottawa was arrested yesterday and appeared in court today after a North Bay detective was led to believe that Myers was involved in Wood's death. Police will not reveal the evidence against Myers except to say that he has also been charged with four other sexual assaults in Ottawa -- three of which occurred after Ardeth's death -- and another assault in Gatineau.

North Bay Detective Constable Noel Coulas recognized Myers from a composite sketch that was devised and circulated throughout the country in the aftermath of the Wood murder. Coulas encountered Myers when he investigated him in May as a suspect in a sexual assault in North Bay. Ironically, Myers was sent to North Bay by the Ottawa police, who picked him up in Arnprior, and thought that he might have been involved in the attack in North Bay.

Why didn't it occur to the Ottawa police that Myers may have been involved in Ardeth Wood's death? If Coulas noticed a resemblance between Myers and the composite sketch, why didn't the Ottawa police see that same similarity? Surely, they must have the composite sketch plastered on the walls of their offices. In addition, Myers was one of the 1700 people who were interviewed in the Wood case, and he has been charged with five or six sexual assaults in at least three locations, including Ottawa, Gatineau and North Bay.

Coulas was very modest about his role in identifying Myers in the sketch. Ottawa Police Chief Vince Bevan said that often "hard work and luck" paid off. Bevan has never recovered his reputation after bungling the Paul Bernardo case. (It took the police almost two years to analyze Bernardo's DNA; meanwhile, he was out murdering schoolgirls.)

Bevan and the Ottawa people could have been a lot more proactive here. Essentially, they found a man who was on their list of suspects -- sorry, "persons of interest" -- in the Ardeth Wood case AND they handed him over to North Bay! Moreover, this took place in May and we are now almost at the end of October. What transpired during those five months? Why did it take so long to pick Myers up? A lot of questions remain unanswered.

Chris Myers maintains his innocence. You can read more about this breaking news at

Apparently, Ardeth Wood's brutal murder and the search for her killer has been one of Ottawa's most costly investigations; so far, it has cost approximately $675,000. That is just the financial toll, which doesn't include the horrific pain and suffering of the Wood family.

Since I've been working in the field of wrongful convictions for approximately 13 years, I urge you to reserve judgment on this arrest until we hear the actual evidence. I would like to jump for joy by concluding that perhaps we have the real killer after all this time, when it had been looking so hopeless. But without a confession or a statement from the police as to the nature of the exact evidence against Myers, I will try to maintain a neutral position. All I can conclude at the moment is that it definitely sounds as though this man is a serial rapist. He rides a bike, he was seen on 24 separate occasions on the bike path that Ardeth Wood traveled on, and he left the Ottawa area several weeks after her murder. He could be our man but we'll have to wait and see.

Sigrid Mac

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Should We Legalize Prostitution?

Linda Slobodian of the Calgary Herald wrote a fantastic article on Sunday called "Taking Prostitutes off the Streets." It describes the current debate in Canada's Parliament over whether or not to legalize or decriminalize prostitution. In earlier posts, I have advocated legalizing the sex trade industry but there were certain things that I was not taking into account that Slobodian pointed out.

Firstly, other countries such as Australia, Holland and New Zealand have legalized their red light districts, but instead of making the occupation safer for women, the result was that organized crime took over. In addition, many of the brothels took a large part of the salaries of the workers.

Secondly, former policeman Ross McInnis asked what would happen to prostitutes who were underage, addicted to drugs or who had STDs. Would their work be decriminalized? Of course not. Consequently, we would continue to have a black market composed of the youngest and most vulnerable members of the sex trade while those who do massage or work at escort services are protected.

New Democratic Party MP Libby Davie believes that sex trade workers should have the right to work out of their homes. But reports from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Australia suggest that legalization would further exploit women and encourage the sale and slavery of children.

This issue is nowhere near as simple or straightforward as I had once imagined. I can understand arguments on both sides of the debate. It will be interesting to see how Parliament resolves the dilemma. Many thanks to Slobodian for her extensive research and thought-provoking article.

Sigrid Mac

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I've got HP6!

Although it sounds like a mutant strain of the herpes virus, HP6 actually stands for Harry Potter Six, otherwise known as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I started out tonight with the intention of writing about Taylor Behl, the bright and beautiful 17-year-old who was murdered recently in Virginia. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't face the thought of talking about one more dead girl. One more wasted youth. One more senseless tragedy.

I started to think about how overwhelming the news has become. Earthquakes, hurricanes, subway terrorist threats. Millions of people evacuating their homes and images of dogs roaming in packs, desperately trying to survive the fallout from Katrina, lingered in my mind. I used to be a news junkie. I read two newspapers a day. My TV was permanently set on CNN, since I grew up in the US.

Now, I find myself watching Comedy Central and shying away from shows like CSI and Law and Order. I'm spending more time reading lighthearted books and talking to people on the phone. I need to get away from death and destruction because life is all about balance. We never read headlines that say, "Woman left home at 7:30 a.m. and arrived back at her apartment safely as usual that evening." Of course, that's the norm but it's not newsworthy. Even those who are affected by violence -- or should I say, especially those who are affected by such horrors -- need some humor in their lives. Something creative, fun, different and not terribly cerebral.

More than 25% of JK Rowling's fan base is adult. I began the Potter series in order to have something to discuss with my young nephew, but I quickly became addicted and I've read all six books. One thing about the Half-Blood Prince that impressed me is that there was a lot of media hype about one of our favorite characters dying at the end of the book. HP6 was released on July 16 and I was convinced that someone would spoil the surprise by telling me which one of my Hogwarts' favs had departed. (Yes, I can't escape death even in Harry Potter!) But I must say that no one was rude enough to ruin the book, so it came as a shock when I learned that #@#@#@#@# had magically passed on.

All of you Potter fans know the sheer joy of escaping to Diagon Alley; for those who have never traveled on their broomstick or apparated, I would highly recommend it. My only complaint about Rowling is that she tends to be quite wordy, but I'm usually content to let her ramble and sad as hell when her magnificent stories end.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My first Magazine Review by She Unlimited

The Review Diaries "D'Amour Road by Sigrid Macdonald", October 7, 2005
Reviewer: She Unlimited Magazine "Veronica Marie Kettler" (World Wide) - See all my reviews
The Review Diaries D'Amour Road by Sigrid Macdonald
She Unlimited Magazine Review by Veronica Marie Kettler

A Powerful book Based on a true story, taking place in Ottawa Canada. Sigrid Macdonald vividly makes us aware of this growing and ignored epidemic. Missing Persons is an epidemic ignored by many, and as this story unfolds, it is amazing how our eyes are open wide shut.

The title of the book is a masterful description which clearly depicts the pages ahead. Based on a true story, it is an astounding book on women's passage in society based in modern Ottawa. One women's life, but many are still missing. I closed the last flap of the book feeling empathy, and compassion for those unfound and the painful footprints left in those still looking.

The characters are real and the story is profound. It is original with a roller coaster ride that explores the reality of a social problem everywhere. Macdonald establishes D'Amour Road, the road of love, also a road to tragedy and unsaid mystery as the search begins for Lisa.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Still looking for Tamra Keepness

Good news. Apparently, the police are still looking for little Tamra Keepness, a five-year-old Native girl who disappeared from her home in Regina in July of 2004. I haven't read anything about Tamra for the longest time, so I'm glad to hear that she is not a "cold case file."

According to the Canadian Press, specially trained cadaver dogs from Calgary are supposed to search certain areas of Regina this weekend. Lara Rostad of the Regina police said the search is not based on any new information, but rather is a part of the ongoing investigation into Tamra's disappearance. Rostad said the Calgary team would spend "three days searching Wascana Lake, Wascana Creek and north Winnipeg Street with dogs trained to locate bodies and human remains."

There have also been comprehensive searches inside the family home and surrounding area, and air searches of the city, along with a search of an area near Echo Lake on the Pasqua First Nation. CP stated that six investigators have been assigned to the case. That's very encouraging.

I'm not hopeful about finding Tamra, although stranger things have happened. Who would have thought that Elizabeth Smart would have emerged from her kidnapping ordeal? Until proven otherwise, we must assume that Tamra may still be alive. Either way, her family deserves to know what happened to her. Let us hope that this intensified measure helps to bring some closure to a terrible situation.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When Love Is Not Enough

In Missing Sarah, Maggie de Vries writes a provocative and heartbreaking story about her sister, Sarah, who was one of 69 women who went missing from the Eastside of Vancouver in the 1990s. Shockingly, Sarah's DNA was discovered on Robert Pickton's farm, yet that evidence was not sufficient for the police to charge him with her murder.

A professional writer, Maggie goes back in time to give us a detailed portrait of her sister in the earlier years. A child of mixed racial descent, Sarah was adopted into a Caucasian family; she was taunted at school and mocked for her ethnicity. Although the family adored Sarah and vice versa, this devotion was not enough to surpass the pain from the racist insults that Sarah received. She became a troubled teenager, feeling that she did not belong anywhere. Sarah began to run away, and eventually felt more comfortable in group homes and in her own low-rent apartment than she did with her family.

Maggie traces Sarah's journey into drugs and prostitution. She also analyzes different factors that have decreased the safety of sex trade work. According to Maggie, between 1960 and 1974, only one prostitute was the victim of a violent death in British Columbia. From 1975 to 1980, the number increased to a total of three women. It started rising in the 90s, resulting in 24 dead sex trade workers in B.C. before the maniacal actions of Robert Pickton.

This is an important book. Not only do we get to know Sarah de Vries as a person, rather than a faceless, drug addicted prostitute, but we also get a sense of how terribly wrong it is for our hypocritical society to push sex trade workers into the deepest and darkest corners of the city where they will inevitably be easy prey for perverts and malevolent men. Policymakers as well as the general public should take heed. Sex trade workers, who are often only teenagers, need our protection.

Missing Sarah makes a strong argument for the decriminalization of drugs since many prostitutes cannot leave the job because they need to work to feed their habit. It also advocates the legalization of sex trade because this would provide the workers with a safe physical location. That way they don't have to solicit on corners and get into cars with strangers who may beat, rob, rape or kill them.

Robert Pickton is currently behind bars but there's a dangerous serial murderer stalking prostitutes in Edmonton. What are city officials there doing about it?

Sigrid Macdonald
Book Review, posted on and

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Our Native Sisters

Over the last 10 to 15 years, hundreds of Aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada. Some sources say that the figure is close to 500 but others say that's debatable. Regardless of the exact figure, the situation is alarming. Imagine if we were talking about white women! Premiers would be declaring an epidemic. Members of Parliament would be lobbying for better law enforcement and accountability. Parent groups would be organizing to make their communities safer. But because we're talking about a group of people who are already marginalized; at a higher risk for poverty and family violence; more likely to be abused sexually and physically; and more prone to ending up in prison or working in the sex trade than their Caucasian sisters, no one is terribly upset.

As many of you may know, 69 women have gone missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Approximately 27 have been confirmed dead and notorious serial killer, Robert Pickton, the modern-day equivalent of Jack the Ripper, is behind bars. According to Wayne Leng, approximately 17 of the missing women in Vancouver were Aboriginal and two were of mixed race. Wayne runs an incredible web site entitled Missing People Net as a tribute to these women, so that they will not be remembered as simply "prostitutes." They were people and each one was unique. He has posted a picture of every woman on his site to remind us of their individuality.

Today, Wayne sent me an article that was published in the Vancouver Sun. It said that last year, the Missing Persons Unit in Vancouver received 3847 complaints. A large number of these were about runaways but 315 had to do with unsolved homicides. Apparently -- hope that you're sitting down for this one -- there is ONE person operating the Missing Persons Unit in Vancouver! Gosh, I hope that he takes large doses of vitamin C. If he were to come down with a common cold, the entire department could be crippled. Worse, this one individual is also the liaison to the coroner's office, so he can't completely devote the little time that he has to the job at hand.

Clearly, we need to restate our priorities. White women who go missing get their pictures flashed all over TV until something more exciting like a big hurricane comes along.

Little Tamra Keepness disappeared from Regina last year when she was five. She has never resurfaced but I have yet to hear updates on her story on Canada AM. And Tamra was just a cute little girl. She wasn't a sex trade worker with a heroin habit, which would make her absence even less interesting to the major media.

Right now, I'm reading the book Missing Sarah by Maggie de Vries. Sarah was one of the unfortunate souls whose DNA was found on the Pickton pig farm but for some inexplicable reason, that doesn't seem to be enough evidence to convict him of her murder. When I'm finished with this emotionally charged and illuminating book written by Sarah's author sister, I will post more about it here. Suffice to say that it is well worth reading and remembering the continuing role that color plays in our multicultural and supposedly accepting society.

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Alberta Justice

We Canadians talk a lot about Texas Justice, which gives us the opportunity to feel superior to the Americans, but our own justice system is in pretty sad shape. Not only do we have wrongful convictions but oftentimes, guilty parties go free.

Holly Desimone knows all too well about the failings of the Alberta justice system. Back in 1990, when she was 29 years old, Holly went over to her friend's house one night for dinner. She met her friend's brother, Ali Rasai, a seemingly nice guy who was a newcomer to Canada. She thought nothing about inviting him back to her apartment since she had no idea that he had fled a rape charge in Australia. Rasai sexually assaulted Holly, who feared for her life.

It took her more than three months to report the rape due to the emotional trauma and fear of not being believed. When she finally came forth, she discovered that Rasai had been charged with sexually molesting two other women in Alberta -- one in Red Deer and one in Edmonton. After he was charged, he was granted bail and his victims were never notified.

Worse, Rossi skipped town. He left the country and it took years for him to be located. Holly launched a tireless campaign to find him, similar in many respects to Joyce Milgaard's one-woman "gumshoe" campaign for justice. She worked in tandem with Rasai's other rape victim from Red Deer, and made the painful decision to go public in order to find this man. Most rape victims are covered by rape shield laws and do not have to disclose their identity to the press but Holly decided to give up her anonymity.

She appeared on America's Most Wanted and has been written up in Reader's Digest. After struggling for years, finding dead ends and dealing with bureaucratic red tape that allowed Rasai to stay in countries like Norway, Holly finally found some measure of justice when Rasai was apprehended. Nearly six years after the rape, he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. Too little, too late, but at least he's behind bars now after having slipped out of police custody so easily here in Canada to live abroad.

You can read more about Holly's courageous story on my link entitled Holly's Fight for Justice. She has a large web site with extensive links and resources for crime victims. Check it out! Then come back here and post your comments.

Sigrid Mac
crossposted to D'Amour Road and my Milgaard Inquiry blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Teague investigation begins

Police have received approximately 400 tips regarding the murder of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague. She was discovered in a marshy swamp off Moodie Drive. Jennifer had been walking home late at night from her job at Wendy's and was on a National Capital Commission walking path.

Two years ago in August of 2003, graduate student Ardeth Wood was on an NCC biking path when she was murdered. The Ottawa Sun asked if we have one serial killer on the loose or two separate killers -- two equally undesirable situations.

Aside from both young women being strong, independent and athletic, and both of them traveling on NCC paths, their deaths seem to have little in common. Ardeth was abducted during the day whereas Jennifer was last seen around 1 a.m. She finished her shift at Wendy's at 12:30 a.m. and called her mother to ask her to lay out her pajamas on the chair. Then she hung out with her friends for a while and began walking home around one o'clock. The suburban streets were dark and deserted but the area was well populated with homes. In fact, Jennifer's job was on the same street that my doctor's office is on! It's not an area where anyone would feel threatened.

According to reporter Lisa Lisle, Jennifer was a "spunky" teenager who was a terrific goalie. She had an interest in the environment and worked so hard and well on a particular project that she and her team won a David Suzuki award. Apparently, Jennifer had a web site where she listed her favorite things. Instead of going on about music or clothes, she cited her six best friends as her favorite things.

It's hard to know what responsibility Wendy's has in this matter. Is it right for them to employ young girls on the night shift and then to lock the doors of the restaurant before these girls have been picked up? Do they have a moral or ethical responsibility to their young staff? Wendy's has said that they are going to look into their policy about having young people working the night shift. That's good but it's a little late for Jennifer Teague.

I'm not blaming Wendy's. And I certainly wouldn't blame Jennifer for walking home alone at that hour, although in retrospect, it's easy to see that wasn't such a clever thing to do. The real fault lies with her killer and it's a big concern as to whether or not he will be found since Ardeth Wood's murderer is still at large.

Andrew Seymour of the Ottawa Sun quoted a U.S. Department of Justice study that claimed that about two thirds of all female victims of violence know their attackers. Aside from the men in Jennifer's life from school, I wonder if one of her customers was watching her. It sounds as though someone knew her hours; maybe someone had been checking her out and was aware that she walked home alone in a desolate area late at night.

Will see if those tips to the police pan out. The least that we can do for the Teague family now is to find the perpetrator.

Sigrid Mac

P. S. I'm updating this on September 22 and police have received close to 800 tips now. Please add your comments and thoughts to this post. I welcome discussion and discourse.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Betty Ann Adam Rocks!

I'm very excited!

I wrote to Betty Ann Adam of the Star Phoenix last week to tell her about my novel, D'Amour Road. D'Amour Road is loosely based around the disappearance and tragic death of Louise Ellis, a member of my Milgaard group. As many of you know, I was the former co-coordinator of the David Milgaard Support Group here in Ottawa.

Louise was a freelance journalist who was interested in writing a book about David. Consequently, she attended the Supreme Court hearings to get more information about his case. It was there that she had her fateful meeting with Brett Morgan, a jailhouse informant, who testified that Larry Fisher had confided in him when they were cellmates; apparently, Fisher had boasted that he had once killed someone but someone else was doing the time for it. Louise admired Brett for coming forth with this information, which was dangerous for a convict.

No one likes a tattletale and I'm sure that it didn't make him very popular in prison. She struck up a correspondence with Morgan and traveled back and forth to see him at the penitentiary. Louise took money out of her own pocket to hire lawyers to get Morgan out of prison early. He was in for manslaughter -- should have been murder -- because he had killed a woman by the name of Gwen Telford in Edmonton (In many newspaper articles, Telford is only referred to as "a prostitute" which really pisses me off!)

Louise and Brett fell in love. She took him into her house when he got out of jail. He got a job and about nine months later, Louise went missing. I was part of the search team that went looking for her. Since Brett was actively involved in the search and vehemently proclaiming his innocence, it was awkward for all of us who were looking for her.

I met with Brett once in person and spoke to him several times on the phone. If I hadn't known that he had killed one woman and that his girlfriend was missing, I would've thought that he was charming. He was earnest and personable and appeared to be perfectly normal.

Brett led a private detective directly to Louise's body about three months into the investigation. He was charged with first-degree murder and was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence. He died of Hep C in prison; can't say that I shed too many tears over that. I was profoundly affected by the death of my cohort, Louise Ellis.

My novel is not biographical. I did not trace the exact relationship of Brett and Louise; instead, I asked myself what the situation would have been like if Louise and I had been best friends. How would I have felt then? What would I have done differently? How hard is it to balance the presumption of innocence with the realization that I don't want to be an idiot and overlook the fact that male partners are often involved in female disappearances; ex cons are even more suspicious!

In my book, I tried to make the male character a cross between Scott Peterson and Brett Morgan. The book is told mainly from the perspective of the best friend of the woman who disappears. It takes place in Ottawa and I examine issues like the presumption of innocence, the ever present possibility of a wrongful conviction, violence against women, midlife issues and unrequited love. You can read a preview of the book at or find it directly on Amazon.

Keep your fingers crossed that Betty Ann Adam likes it and that the Star Phoenix will review it. She has been writing about Milgaard for years and was not aware of this spinoff from the case. In fact, she told me that the inquiry only heard about Morgan on Monday when one of the ex-cops suggested that it would be nice to have Morgan testify (from Six Feet Under?)

David Asper also has a copy of my book and is trying to get it reviewed for me in between his scrapes with the Blue Bombers. LOL.

Sigrid Mac

Crossposted to my D'Amour Road and Milgaard Inquiry blogs.


Police have confirmed that a body that was discovered yesterday on Moodie Drive is that of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague, who had been missing for 11 days. This is the news that we dreaded to hear and residents of the suburban community of Barrhaven were shocked and saddened. (I live in Nepean, Ontario and technically, Barrhaven is part of Nepean.)

That was all the information that I could glean from the evening news -- nothing about cause of death or any possible suspects yet.

Carol Ann Meehan of CJOH TV asked a store owner in nearby Stittsville if kids are required to be home by a certain hour under the curfew law. He didn't know but that hardly seems relevant to me. 18 years old is not a kid -- it's a young adult. And she wasn't out loitering; she was walking home from her late night shift at work! I don't see how a curfew could've been helpful or even appropriate in this instance, however, CJOH did show some interesting martial arts clips to instruct people, especially women, about what to do if they were apprehended.

Jennifer, you should have had five or six more decades. Your life was only beginning. My heart breaks. RIP

Sigrid Mac

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Jennifer Teague -- missing for 10 days

An 18-year-old by the name of Jennifer Teague went missing here in Ottawa about 10 days ago. She lives in Barrhaven and was coming home from her job at Wendy's at about 12:30 a.m. -- 1 a.m. in the morning.

In a front-page article in the Ottawa Citizen today, journalist Ian MacLeod asked why the police would presume foul play (My response -- DUH!!!) He suggested all kinds of scenarios that might explain Jennifer's absence and said that the best case scenario would be that she had run away.

Of course, I know that not all women who disappear are harmed. But here's a girl who was on her way home from work late at night. Really, if you're going to stage your own disappearance, why not go somewhere at two in the afternoon when you have a decent amount of energy? According to her parents, nothing unusual was going on in her life and she had plans to do stuff like take her cat to the vet, and play in a big soccer game.

Sounds a lot like the situation with Alicia Ross in Markham except that Alicia's been missing since late August. Alicia had just been promoted at a job that she really loved. She was excited and looking forward to going to work the day that she disappeared. I think the police suspected some admirer or former boyfriend but I lost track of that case.

Here in Ottawa, we still have the unsolved murder of Ardeth Wood, which occurred several years ago. Ardeth was a beautiful and brilliant doctoral student who came home to visit her parents one day to take a break from her studies in Waterloo. She went off on a bike ride on the Aviation Parkway and never returned. Her killer is still at large. MacLeod wondered if perhaps that man had resurfaced.

What could have happened to Jennifer Teague? She could have voluntarily left town, she could've taken off with someone that she knew, she could've been apprehended by a stranger, she could be held somewhere now against her will. Or God forbid, she could have been irreparably harmed.

The police have been conducting a massive search by ground and air but have called it off in order to focus on more than 300 leads. Fingers crossed that some information about this missing girl surfaces ASAP. My heart goes out to her family and I pray that they are not left in limbo.

Sigrid Mac

Read more on Stupid Angry Canajun at

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Kalpoe Brothers

The Kalpoe brothers were re-arrested on Friday along with another individual named Freddie, a friend of Jordan van der Sloot's. Police suspect that the brothers may have drugged and sexually assaulted Natalee (it's unclear as to whether or not Freddie was involved).

Satish, 18, and Deepak Kalpoe, 21, were arrested along with van der Sloot (now 18) but the two brothers were released in July after a judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence to connect them to Holloway's disappearance.

Nancy Grace said that there were rumors about use of the date rape drug Rohypnol, otherwise known as "roofies." She suggested last night that the boys' conversations could have been taped because the police now have new facts and evidence to justify the re-arrest. Grace also mentioned that Joran van der Sloot has now officially presented 23 different versions of what happened that evening!

Hopefully, this turn of events will shed some light on a puzzle that had been looking quite insoluble.

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Our Fascination with True Crime

I have lost count of the number of days that poor Natalee Holloway has been missing. Like many other people, I fear that her case may remain a mystery unless her body washes up on shore or one of the guys gets drunk and says something idiotically incriminating. It's a tragedy, however, the more I see of Natalee and her family on TV, the more worried I become about the way that we report the news.

There is such a fine line between reporting and sensationalizing. Long ago, both network and cable TV realized that true crime was profitable. Viewers are fascinated. People tuned in in droves to watch OJ's famous car chase. I can hardly remember the car that I drove 12 years ago but I will never forget OJ's Bronco!

As sad as the disappearance of Natalee Holloway is, how did it manage to displace Africa or Iraq in the news? Why is it more important than the bombings in London? Is it because the news itself is so horrific, overwhelming and unbearably depressing that we would prefer to focus on one single individual rather than to mourn for the multitudes? There is a phenomenon called "compassion fatigue." That's what happens when people are subjected to too much sorrow or bad news. They can't respond appropriately anymore; they have to numb themselves out a bit.

Perhaps it is easier to compulsively follow true crime stories such as Laci Peterson, Lori Hacking, Elizabeth Smart, JonBenet Ramsey, and Cecilia Zhang. That way we can relate and identify with that one individual. We can collect data and follow the facts day in and day out, so that we try to be amateur detectives. Does this explain the popularity of shows like Law and Order or CSI and authors like Ann Rule?

I'm not saying that Natalee doesn't deserve media attention. She does, however, the publicity that she is receiving is way out of proportion to her place in the world.

OTOH, we seem to have very ambivalent feelings about true crime. For example, the recent movie about Karla Homolka, and her sociopathic husband Paul Bernardo, was banned at the Montreal film Festival. I know that the families of the victims did not want that movie to be made and I sympathize with them. Truly, my heart breaks for the Frenchs and the Mahaffeys.

However, the movie MONSTER was a blockbuster hit in the theater earlier this year. It was all about one of the first female serial killers. What about movies like Hotel Rwanda or Schindler's List? Are people only allowed to make movies about war and murder if there is some redeeming social value to them? Ridiculous! We can't pretend that these events never happened like the Holocaust deniers. Better to analyze them out in the open so as never to forget what the dark side of human nature can do.

You may not agree with my opinion. I welcome dissent and discourse. Please sign my guestbook or make a comment on my blog. Thanks!

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mrs. Missing

There are a number of different ways that women can disappear. They can be kidnapped and murdered, or they can leave town or get married! Excuse me for being facetious tonight but this afternoon I made 32 phone calls trying to track down an old friend of mine from grad school.

Firstly, women disappear because Bell Canada encourages them not to list their full first name in the phone book. When I lived in Toronto, Bell wanted me to list my name as S. Macdonald but I refused because there were dozens of S. Macdonalds in the phone book. I knew that no one would be able to find me that way whereas everyone would find Sigrid immediately because it's so distinct.

Secondly, women fade into that huge Bermuda Triangle once they get married since they usually take on their husband's name. I seriously doubt that my good friend from grad school has been abducted by aliens, and I have ruled out her listing herself by her initial by my 32 ambitious phone calls. Thus, she either moved, had a sex change operation or got married.

I have nothing against marriage but it's awkward for everyone when women give up their maiden names -- or even their names from their first marriage -- because it makes them so damn difficult to locate. WOMEN - Sign up with so that all of your old friends can find you!

Sigrid Macdonald

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Taking people for granted

I have a friend in Winnipeg who will be turning 103 at the end of October. He is the "younger" friend of my late grandparents. We have been communicating by phone or by e-mail for the last six years since he was 97. Because of his advanced age, I am diligent about keeping in touch with him. I make a point of calling him up even though I may feel too busy, and it's hard to talk to him because he can't hear well. I find the time to write notes to him. After all, he's 102! How much longer can he last? In the back of my mind, ever since I met him in 1997, I've been worrying that he might pop off. I make him a priority.

I wish that I could say the same for the rest of my friends and family. There are so many times when I don't feel up to contacting people. I have too much work. I have a headache. I'm too tired. There's always tomorrow. I have all of the time in the world. Or do I?

D'Amour Road is dedicated to an acquaintance of mine who went missing and never resurfaced alive again. We don't expect people in their forties to disappear and die. Most of us in the First World expect to live well into our seventies and eighties. But are we living lives of quality where we have ample time for reflection and relaxation?

When I was doing my undergraduate work in psychology, I remember reading a book by Alvin Toffler called Future Shock. It postulated that in the future -- i.e. now -- everything would be automated. People would have so much free time that they wouldn't know what to do with it.

HA! I don't know anyone who has free time. Most people I know are working 50-70 hours a week, raising kids or traveling as part of their job requirement. Many businesses are now open 24 hours a day. Employees used to be able to take a break on the weekends or when they were on vacation. Now we have cell phones, Palm pilots, e-mail, pagers and fax machines. People feel pressured to be available when they really should be off duty.

It's hard to take time for ourselves. Some things have become antiquated like writing thank you letters or staying in touch with elderly relatives. Not everyone can decide that they will spend more time with their kids or skipping stones across a pond because they are being held hostage by their jobs. But all of us can take a hard look at the way that we spend our time because it's a fallacy to assume that our loved ones will always be there.

Recently, I heard of two people in their forties who died suddenly without any warning. Actually, one died and the other one is currently on life support, but has been pronounced brain-dead. We never know when our number is up or when we could lose the most important people in our lives. I would like to believe that I can start treating most, if not all, of the people in my life the same way that I treat my 103-year-old friend: as precious and temporary, thus, to be treated with great love and respect at all times.

Sigrid Macdonald

Monday, July 18, 2005

50 days and counting

Not knowing is worse than knowing. The poor Holloways are being tortured, waiting for news about their missing daughter, Natalee.

Today a strand of blonde hair wrapped in duct tape was found on the beach but we don't know if it belonged to Natalee. There have been so many false leads in this case including a supposed confession and retraction and blood found on a mattress, which was later discovered to be dog's blood. If nobody talks and a body does not wash up, this case could drag on forever.

Normally, I do NOT agree with Nancy Grace. In fact, I think she is an overreacter who goes on the presumption of guilt (e.g. she jumped all over the Runaway Bride's fiance without any evidence that he'd been involved), and she's slow to say "sorry" or admit that she was wrong. [The fact that her book OBJECTION is number 424 on Amazon is shocking! Clearly, Nancy has a lot of fans who are not keen on civil rights.] But in this instance, I concur that it looks bad for Joran van der Sloot.

If he's innocent, why did he have to invent several different stories? What happened? He wanted sex, Natalee refused, and he got rough with her? He and his friends drugged her, assaulted her and disposed of her with the help of the boat guy? He did not leave her on that beach alone at 2 a.m. Not credible. Nor did she willingly disappear. No way.

I pray that we discover the truth about Natalee's disappearance soon for the sake of her poor distraught family.

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The civil rights of the uncivilized

Canada's most notorious female criminal, Karla Homolka, was released from prison yesterday. She granted a rare interview to the press in Quebec, trying to reassure the public that she is no longer a menace and deserves to live a life free of harassment.

For those outside of the country who have not heard of Karla, she and her husband Paul Bernardo kidnapped, sexually tortured and murdered several teenagers back in the nineties. Karla also "gave" her younger sister Tammy to Paul because Paul wanted to take Tammy's virginity. In addition, he took her life.

Fortunately, Bernardo was given a life sentence. However, Homolka led the court to believe that she was a battered woman who was under Bernardo's influence, and that she only went along with the kidnappings because she was afraid for her own safety. Right after Karla signed a sweetheart deal with the Crown, videotapes that showed Homolka's active participation in the killings surfaced. But it was too late. Karla was sentenced to 12 years in prison. She served her time and now she's out. Rumor has it that she has been corresponding with an inmate who has a history of manslaughter, and that the two of them have a romantic relationship. What reason do we have to believe that Homolka has changed?

She was an exemplary prisoner, she claims, and served as a counselor to help other women. She wants to live in Quebec because she believes that the media there presented less sensational coverage of her story, so there may be a chance for her to establish a second life.

Meanwhile, Homolka has been receiving death threats. People on the Internet have been talking about her like she is the lowest form of humanity. And she is, but the question remains: How do we treat people who have served their time? Does Homolka deserve police protection if her life is in danger? Should we care about Karla Homolka or should we turn our backs and hope that someone takes care of her the way that someone took care of Jeffrey Dahmer in the slammer?

This is a no-brainer for me. I despise what the woman did although I recognize that to some extent she was a victim of Bernardo's. (Handsome, charismatic Paul Bernardo was also the Scarborough Rapist before he graduated to murdering high school girls in St. Catherine's, Ontario. He was a tyrannical and domineering partner to Karla.) But being under his thumb does not make her any less culpable in my eyes. Kristen French, Leslie Mahaffy and Tammy Homolka would be alive today if it weren't for the sick, codependent, "I'll Do Anything to Please My Man" attitude of selfish, sociopathic Karla Homolka.

Having said that, two wrongs don't make a right. The only time vigilante justice is cool and exciting to watch is on old movies like Billy Jack and Walking Tall. In real life, we make a decision as to whether or not we are a humane and just society. If we are, then we must concede that through a legal loophole, Karla served her time. No matter how despicable her actions were, she needs police protection if her life is in danger.

Homolka is still young. She may live among us for many more decades. Harassing and persecuting her will only creates stress that may cause her to become alcoholic, drug addicted or to re-offend by becoming involved with another male criminal. She's out. Let's leave her alone.

Sigrid Macdonald

Thursday, June 30, 2005

32 Days

For those of us who have been counting, it has been 32 long days since Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba. The 18-year-old honor student from Alabama was celebrating her high school graduation with 123 classmates and 7 supervisors. Natalee was out dancing and took off with several guys. She has not been seen since.

Because Aruba is a Dutch protectorate, it follows the laws of the Netherlands. They leave much to be desired. A person can be picked up by the police and taken into custody and held for up to 116 days without any charge being pressed against him or her. That's pretty appalling! So far, I think five or six different men have been detained including several boys who were with Natalee that night, and a high-ranking judge, who was the father of the boy that Natalee saw last.

17-year-old Joran van der Sloot has changed his version of events 8 separate times, according to Nancy Grace of CNN and Court TV. It looks like Natalee and Joran took off for the beach with two other young men. Joran is now saying that he left Natalee alone on the beach at two in the morning -- an unlikely event and not his original statement.

Joran's father, 53-year-old Paulus van der Sloot, was arrested on suspicion of complicity to commit murder and kidnapping, but he was released last week. Joran and two other men, 18-year-old Satish Kalpoe and his brother, 21-year-old Deepak Kalpoe, remain in custody. However, very little progress seems to have been made in the investigation.

My heart goes out to Natalee's family, who seem so strong and brave. They are beyond frustrated with the slow pace of the search. Dutch law also dictates that certain details of the investigation cannot be disclosed; if that were to happen, the case might be thrown out in court.

Fortunately, the Prime Minister of Aruba has called in the Marines. We hate to think of a Laci Peterson scenario but certainly, the water should be scoured for any signs of the missing 18-year-old. For up-to-date information on the Holloway case, visit the Birmingham News at .

Sigrid Macdonald

Friday, June 24, 2005

When the Music's over, Turn out the Lights

I'm an audiophile. That doesn't mean that I'm an expert on the subject; it just means that I love music. It's been an integral part of my life forever and every memory that I have of a certain time period or event or person can be easily summoned by a sound clip of a particular song.

Although I enjoy all kinds of sounds from folk to jazz to hip-hop, my favorite is rock. And, I must confess that I have a bad case of arrested development in my musical tastes. I just bought tickets to see Simple Plan at the Ottawa Bluesfest. Actually, "see" may be a poor verb choice because chances are that I won't get anywhere near the band in order to see them, but I'm sure that I'll be able to hear them a mile away!

In D'Amour Road, I've attributed my musical tastes to younger people like the hot 24-year-old guy that 39-year-old Tara Richards likes or to Tara's 14-year-old son, Devon. Alain, the 24-year-old, loves Pearl Jam, Sam Roberts, Coldplay and Wheatus. Devon is a consummate rapper and a big fan of Eminem's.

I'm certain that I'm the only person who has ever mentioned Eminem in a book on total hip replacements, and I spent an ample amount of time talking about him in D'Amour Road, too. That's because I'm a feminist and I love Eminem. Sounds like an oxymoron or a contradiction, but the way that I view it is that firstly, Eminem is extremely talented. If we were to remove the lyrics from his songs, I would still love the rhythm. Of course, I would never want to remove the lyrics because that's where Marshall's real brilliance lies -- he is the most amazing rhymer that I've ever heard.

Secondly, I feel for him. Now before you get out your virtual pencil and start sending me hate mail, reminding me that Marshall Mathers is an egocentric, misogynistic homophobe, I will beat you to the punch. I know that. But what makes Eminem's rants about his wife and his mother so intriguing is that it's obvious that he was traumatized by his mother's manipulation, controlling nature, negligence and emotional abuse. Since I've been an advocate for women for years and have been active in the battle to fight sexism, domestic violence and child molestation, I had to ask myself, "Is it right for me to sympathize with women who've been abused as children but to turn my back on men who've experienced a similar plight?"

Yes, Marshall is hostile towards women but is this any different from women who have been raped or harmed and consequently fear or hate men? Unfortunately, many pedophiles and men who become rapists have been abused as children. That's another complicated issue that I address later on in D'Amour Road when I deal with the character of Ryan, the partner of the woman who goes missing. It's so easy for us to feel for men who were hurt when they were kids yet all that compassion disappears in a flash the minute they turn from victim to victimizer.

At any rate, it's been interesting to watch Marshall mature over the years. After all the screaming that he did about Kim, the wife who wronged him, he not only got back together with her but also willingly parented a child that she had fathered by another man. Marshall's rage? Fueled by pain, angst, humiliation, jealousy, deja vu back to Mommy, and the anguish that goes along with having someone you love betray you.

Recently, my 15-year-old neighbor and I were shooting the breeze on the driveway. I asked him what kind of music he liked and he said "oldies".

"Oh, you mean stuff from the 90s?" I retorted, in my usual sardonic manner.

"No! Led Zeppelin," he replied.

I led the boy down to my basement where I had about 200 old albums including five by Zeppelin, 10 by Hendrix and an original by the Sex Pistols. He and his little friend left an hour later carrying a big box of about 50 albums! I was so happy that the 15-year-old and I had found a common ground.

Music unites, exalts, provokes, and stamps an indelible mark on certain occasions. It's one of the few things in life that brings pure joy whether you prefer opera or punk. When the music's over, you can surely turn out my lights :-)

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Those damn reading glasses

A few weeks ago, I was at a restaurant with some friends. We were celebrating my mother's birthday and my friend's husband's birthday, which both fall on the same day. I was the only adult at the table who could not read anything on the menu. Why? Because I never remember to bring my reading glasses out with me in public!

This might be understandable if I had just required reading glasses a short while ago, but I've needed them for the last 10 years. As Al Franken says, "Denial is more than a river in Egypt!" I think vanity plays more of a role than denial, however, they are closely related. By leaving my reading glasses at home, I can somehow manage to convince myself that I am someone who does not require extra magnification, and this makes me feel younger. Of course, I don't feel young at all when I'm squinting and whispering to the person next to me, asking whether or not vegetables come with the main entree!

Some people accept the aging process and the various changes that it causes in our body graciously whereas others, like me, fight it every step of the way. Everyone else at the dinner table was wearing glasses and glasses aren't even really a sign of being old. Lots of young people need glasses. My nephew has been wearing them for years. But I hate anything that draws attention to my declining bodily functions, which is a lot like living in Canada and disliking the cold.

Declining vision is part of the territory that we pass through with each decade. I'm lucky that my eyesight is pretty good. Some people struggle with glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa and other serious eye diseases. That doesn't make me feel any younger but it does help to put my trivial embarrassments into a more mature perspective.

Sigrid Macdonald

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Article about D'Amour Road in Nepean This Week

Nepean This Week
Friday June 10, 2005

Mystery simulates Baseline Road, murder of Louise Ellis by Christie Mailey

We often read about New York City and other high profile locations in the world of fiction. Alternately, we read about simple American towns and the interesting characters that reside there. But Sigrid Macdonald, author of D'Amour Road, is a resident of Nepean and she wanted to write about what she knew.

"How often do you pick up a book and read about Baseline Road?" asked Macdonald. "Reading about Ottawa is new information to readers."

In addition to Baseline, Macdonald also mentions downtown locations such as the ByTowne Theatre and Nate's Deli, and also Le Skratch Billiard Hall on Merivale Road.

D'Amour Road is Macdonald's first novel, but second book. Her first book entitled Getting Hip: Recovery from a Total Hip Replacement came out in November 2004 and has sold over 350 copies in just six short months.

"It was really great to write a novel. I loved it," said Macdonald of her transition from non-fiction to fiction.

"I found that I had to become a real observer. I had to really pay attention to things that had been in front of my nose all the time like people's accents and inflections. And how each person is different from one to the next whether it's a teenager, an elderly person, a Christian, or a fundamentalist."

D'Amour Road is the story of two female friends about to turn 40, Lisa and Tara.

Lisa goes missing and Tara is on a mission to find her. Lisa's boyfriend has a history of battery and Tara fingers him as the prime suspect.

The story is loosely based on Louise Ellis' murder, an Ottawa area writer who was murdered by her boyfriend who had previously served time for manslaughter, but Macdonald's novel and characters are completely fictional.

"I knew Louise Ellis and I was involved in the search for her. I met her murderer and had coffee with him because he was involved in the search too," said Macdonald.

"When women go missing it's not usually a happy outcome and I found it so hard not to blame Louise for picking someone with a criminal past."

Macdonald is a part of the Milgaard group against wrongful convictions and somewhat of an advocate for women.

"Women can sometimes choose unsavory characters and the subject matter of the book sends the message to be careful," said Macdonald.

Macdonald finds pieces of herself in the characters in D'Amour Road. Tara is a frumpy, straight and narrow-minded woman who has fallen for a younger man and is very insecure because of her age.

"The main character is much straighter than I am, but I dealt with her same issues of growing older," said Macdonald. "There's a panic reaction to turning 40. Before 40 it feels like there is so much left for you and after 40 is something else."

Because Macdonald's books were published so close together she has spent much of her time marketing the first book, which can be found in Chapters, Coles and online at

D'Amour Road is currently available as an online download from"

**I would like to add that D'Amour Road is also available in print from Lulu by clicking on the icons to the right that say "Buy Now." It will be up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in 4-6 weeks. Sigrid Mac.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Acclaimed author Dannye Williamsen calls D'Amour Road stunningly original!

"In an auspicious debut novel, D'Amour Road, Sigrid Macdonald draws the reader into the free-flowing associative thinking of Tara Roberts, whose mid-life crisis is punctuated by a desperate search for her best friend, Lisa, her life sponsor, the one to whom she turns when she trips over life. Lisa's disappearance drives Tara headlong into the complex psychological and social dilemmas that define her mid-life crisis.

With stunning originality, Macdonald thrusts readers into a non-stop ride that explores both the mundane and the soul-stirring themes that color the human landscape. In a well-conceived metaphor, Macdonald establishes D'Amour Road, the road of love, where Lisa's car is abandoned as the focal point for the search for Lisa as well as the psychological search for Tara. Beginning with doubts about everything, Tara's search ends in certainties that are rooted in love and trust in herself:­ certainties that transform the old age of her youth into the youth of her old age."

Review by Dannye Williamsen, co-author of IT'S YOUR MOVE! Transform Your Dreams from Wishful Thinking to Reality.

Monday, June 13, 2005

May and September romances

I've been watching a fascinating video series on Pierre Trudeau. As far as I'm concerned, he was Canada's most dynamic Prime Minister. Love him or hate him, you must admit that this controversial statesman was brilliant, inspired, and courageous and he had an epic vision for Canada.

He also fell in love with a woman 28 years his junior. Now, I'm not a Margaret Trudeau basher -- and while I'm on the topic, I'm not a Justin Trudeau basher either. I thought it was quite rude of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper to publish an unflattering article about Justin right after he got married -- but I know that Maggie is not held in high esteem by many Canadians.

Since I grew up in New Jersey, I didn't realize that so many Canadians were critical of poor Margaret. So she smoked pot and went a little crazy with the Rolling Stones. Let's try to put that in a cultural perspective. Moreover, Margaret was 19 years old when she met Pierre Elliott Trudeau. No wonder she couldn't adjust to the uptight, upright life of a politician's wife. I sympathize with her and I have always liked and admired her. But I digress.

My point about Pierre and Margaret is that somehow they transcended a huge age barrier. They fell in love and couldn't have cared less what other people thought about their relationship. Was it doomed to fail because of the age difference? Probably. Certainly, Pierre was criticized for his choice but just try to picture the scenario in reverse. What if Margaret had been Prime Minister and she had fallen in love with a 21-year-old university student? (ala Bill Clinton.) She would have been considered a laughing stock.

The whole business of older men and younger women reeks of sexism. Men have chosen younger mates for centuries. Just think of Jack Nicholson, Henry Fonda, Ed McMahon, Frank Sinatra, Tom Cruise, and the highly contentious relationship between Woody Allen and his step-daughter. Occasionally, we see the role reversal where someone like Demi Moore or Jerry Hall, Mick Jagger's ex-wife, is dating a younger man.

But I read a disturbing article about Jerry recently. Apparently, she's 48 years old and loves to go out with twentysomethings. But she doesn't want to bring them home to meet her four children, nor does she wish to meet their friends or have to suffer by listening to their music. She was quoted as saying that she thought that Demi's long-term relationship with Ashton Kutcher was "ridiculous" because why should anyone become "serious" about a young boy?

Jaded? You betcha! Sounds like payback time to me -- she got tired of her own Rock Star God husband cheating on her, so she decided to use younger guys as sex toys. Not very admirable as far whereas Demi's relationship with hot "You've Been Punk'd" Kutcher is sweet. At least they love each other and she treats him like a human being rather than a plaything.

In D'Amour Road, 39-year-old Tara falls for 24-year-old Alain. She's not trying to use him. She doesn't think of him as some stupid baby or trophy that she can show off to her friends. She genuinely adores him. It happens. It actually happens quite often in midlife -- think of American Beauty where the Kevin Spacey character went crazy for his daughter's friend. Was he a pervert? Nah. He was just having trouble coming to terms with his age. Instead of buying a Corvette, he lusted for the girl.

I don't think there's anything wrong with sex without love. As far as I'm concerned, they're two completely separate things. I'm not judging Jerry Hall because she doesn't love these young guys; I'm judging her for her contempt towards them.

Sigrid Macdonald

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Runaway Bride

I've been procrastinating about writing anything on the Jennifer Wilbanks' case because it's so complicated. On one hand, I would never want to blame anyone who was so anxious and troubled that she ran away on the night before her wedding. I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes in my life and I understand what it's like to have bad judgment or to do something really stupid.

On the other hand, what Wilbanks did was the equivalent of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Thousands of people went looking for her and she took up precious time, energy and money from law enforcement. Worse, her voluntary disappearance may have an adverse effect on the real disappearances of other women and children.

Last night I was listening to CNN and following the tragic story of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, who was on vacation in Aruba with her friends when she disappeared. The newscaster asked one of the police officers if Natalee may have taken off on her own accord as Jennifer did.

I'm sure that those things happen, although I don't have access to the statistics at the moment. Not everyone who goes missing has met with foul play. But every single missing person case must be taken seriously. I think that Willbank's actions did a disservice to other people who are genuinely in trouble.

Simply disappearing is not a crime. But when Wilbanks claimed that she had been accosted, she lied to the police and that's illegal. Many people, especially women, believe that Wilbanks should not be charged or fined for her actions but I disagree. I think that the penalty that she received last week was appropriate.

It's a messy situation and by holding her responsible, it's hard to know where to draw the line with someone else. Should people who make false allegations of rape be charged? That's a tough one. IMO, if someone deliberately and maliciously makes a false claim, they should be penalized. But would that apply to the accuser in the Michael Jackson case if he was coached by his mother? Ouch! You can see why I didn't want to write about this one.

Wilbanks' case is different. She was simply trying to protect herself and her pride but her actions were negligent, irresponsible and criminal. Having said that, I feel extremely sorry for her.

Sigrid Macdonald

Friday, June 03, 2005

More reviews from my readers

"D'Amour Road is a page burner. The book holds your attention from start to finish. The writer obviously knew hospital operations inside and out and she must have done a lot of research in this area. The list of characters made sense. She has a great future in writing and I hope to read her next book."

Margaret Henderson, Edmonton

"Ravishing is one of the words that came to my mind when I finished D'Amour Road by Sigrid Macdonald. The commentary of Ottawa and its surroundings is fetching. The novel is full of humor although the story line is serious and melodramatic. The author is preeminently clever when it comes to defining human nature. Plaudit to Sigrid Macdonald."

Magnus Hardarson, Iceland

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Let's Hear It for the Physiatrists

Several people have contacted me to tell me that I have misspelled the word psychiatrist in my book. Now, psychiatrists are not my favorite people. The way that I view these professionals is that they are folks that we go to see when we feel bad who inevitably make us feel worse. However, I know that there are exceptions to that rule and I would never deliberately misspell their names in order to exact revenge.

When I checked this out in my book, I realized that I had been referring to a physiatrist not a psychiatrist. A physiatrist is a specialist in physical medicine. Since my main character works in a rehab unit at a large hospital, she is in touch with physiotherapists, occupational therapist and -- you guessed it -- physiatrists! But she also works with family doctors and a psychiatrist, so apparently there was some confusion about who I was referring to. I will probably go back in and clarify that info about the physiatrist so that my readers do not conclude that I am illiterate :-)

Sigrid Macdonald

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Read a preview

To read a preview of D'Amour Road, visit my storefront at Lulu at and click on "Preview this book." I have posted the first six or seven pages so that you can see whether or not this book is for you.

Sigrid Mac May 28

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My first book review!

This was written by Joan McEachern, a former teacher at Algonquin College and an active member of two Chapters' book clubs.

"I started this book at 9 a.m. and finished it at 7 p.m. To say that it held my interest is an understatement. The author uses a personal experience to weave a tale that is both riveting and spellbinding. The details of the Ottawa and Aylmer/Hull backscape are accurate and add in making this adventure real. I felt I was tracing the steps of the principals within the city. A valiant attempt for a first novel. Cudos to Ms. Macdonald."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The ugly American

The other day I was talking to a friend who made a disparaging remark about Americans.

Right away, I reminded her that I had grown up in New Jersey. I'm kind of a hybrid in that I was born in Canada but I left at the age of five. Because my parents are Canadian, we returned to visit every year but basically, I grew up as a Yank. I went to grad school in Toronto and have lived in Ottawa for the last 17 years, so I'd like to believe that I'm a North American and that I don't have quite as many prejudices as someone from either Canada or the United States.

It's funny. Here we are in the age of extreme political correctness. Most people would never make a negative comment about blacks, women, or gays in public. But the same people would think nothing whatsoever about bashing Americans.

I told my friend that it was pretty hard to generalize about Americans given the fact that there are 291 million of them! Moreover, since when does the government represent the people? Just because someone agrees with George Bush's policies -- and that would certainly count me out! -- doesn't make them anti-American. The people and their political leaders are two completely different things.

Only slightly more than 25% of the people actually put a President in office. That's because only 50 - 55% of the registered voters even bother to show up at the polls. Is that apathetic? Not necessarily. When the next Canadian election rolls around, I'm not going. If you're given a choice between one idiot and another idiot, that's not much of choice.

In my novel, D'Amour Road, the woman who goes missing is American. Her best friend's husband is biased against Americans. This character isn't meant to be a stereotype or to represent all Canadians. He's just one guy who believes that George Bush, aggressive American foreign policies, and tacky Hawaiian shorts reflect the American populace. He's wrong! There's also that crazy woman who claimed to find a finger in her Wendy's chili bowl :-)

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member

Last week, my 18-year-old nephew went to his high school prom. My mother asked me why I didn't attend my prom, and the only reason that I could come up with was that my crowd and I were down on our school. I graduated from high school in 1970 and prided myself on being an anti-establishment kid. If a club or an event was associated with the school, I didn't want any part of it.

In my twenties, I discovered certain clubs that I did want to belong to like SDS (Students for a Democratic Society,) NOW (the National Organization for Women) and the Feminist Party of Canada, which I believe existed for about 10 minutes. I also supported the New Democratic Party in Canada and the Democratic Party in the US. I was a party person! I had become a joiner but I always tried to join groups that were in some way "against" other groups.

Now I have reverted to my original stand. The only clubs that I belong to today are innocuous and uncontroversial like Toastmasters International and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Who can be FOR drunk driving? We'd be hard-pressed to envision a lobbying group that fought for the rights of drunks to get behind the wheel.

I used to participate in various women's collectives and women's centers, but I don't do that anymore. As much as I love other women and support most of the issues that collectives fight for, I find academic political correctness intolerable. Dissident feminist, Daphne Patai, has written extensively about the suffocating academic environment and the restrictions that many people find on campus in their Women's Studies classes. For a while, I considered myself one of the dissidents but then it seemed to me that the main purpose of groups like Women's Freedom Network was to criticize the traditional women's movement. That was never my goal, so I left the dissidents as well.

In D'Amour Road, my main character Tara is a devoted but ambivalent member of a local women's collective. The group is dedicated to eradicating sexual assault and raising public awareness about this horrific issue. Tara wholeheartedly supports the purpose of the group but she does not share their antipathy towards men. My fictional women's collective sees most issues in terms of black and white - e.g. everything is the fault of the patriarchy -- whereas Tara and I both see the world in terms of very complicated shades of gray.

There's a great sense of comfort and camaraderie in being a part of the group. It can be reassuring, reaffirming, energizing and empowering. But it can also be disturbing, confusing and alienating to belong to a group if you disagree with their policies or practices. I'd like to see certain social and political groups making more of an effort to accommodate different points of view. Debate is healthy. Disagreement is normal. I have Democratic friends who won't have lunch with Republicans! That's insane. Many people can find a common ground if they look hard enough for it. Meanwhile, I'm happy to echo Groucho's old saying, when he sent a telegram to his group stating, "Please accept my resignation. I don't want to be a part of any club that will have me as a member."

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The woman who shot her hairdresser

A couple of weeks ago, a woman shot her hairdresser because she was unhappy with her haircut. I found out about this bizarre episode by listening to CNN's "American Morning" with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien. Bill made the serious announcement and seemed puzzled as to how this could happen. Soledad paused and said, "Well, Bill, have you ever had a bad haircut?" My sentiments exactly.

Folks, today I'm having a very bad hair day! No matter what I do with my hair, I look like Anne Heche.

In D'Amour Road, Tara develops an obsession with her hair. Her best friend, Lisa, goes missing and as the situation becomes more desperate, Tara becomes increasingly preoccupied with changing her hair. On one hand, I used this storyline to add a little levity to an otherwise dark tale. On the other hand, I wanted to portray the different types of distractions that people use to cope when they are under stress.

When my father was dying of leukemia, I changed my hair color faster than most people change their underwear. I colored my hair brown. I bleached it platinum. I made my hair dirty blonde and then added heavy highlights. I permed it until it had the consistency of a Brillo pad, and then I cut it off so that I had less hair than Donald Trump. By the time my Dad died, I was almost bald!

Playing with my locks seemed to be one of the few things in life that was under my control at the time; certainly, my father's health was not. I hope that you will find Tara's obsession to be amusing, understandable and cathartic. There's just nothing like a day when our hair looks exactly the way that we want it to be. Or at least, that's what my inner Ally McBeal tells me :-)

Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Tunnel of Love

About two weeks ago, I created a post about unrequited love. Shortly afterwards, I received criticism about disclosing too much personal information about myself. Also, I got several phone calls from a young guy who said that he was the man for me! I suspect that the calls were a prank -- and they were certainly intriguing -- but I decided to pull that post. That doesn't mean that I don't want to address the topic.

In my new book, D'Amour Road, a 39-year-old nurse and mother by the name of Tara, falls in love with Alain, a 24-year-old assistant manager at the grocery store. Since Tara is not a dazzling beauty like Demi Moore, she frets about her infatuation with this man who is 15 years her junior. Much of the dynamics between Tara and Alain are based on my own relationship with a 26-year-old guy, who I will call AJ.

I wanted to add the story about Tara and Alain to illustrate that there are many types of relationships that are ill-fated. 39-year-old Lisa Campana has gone missing and the main suspect in her disappearance is her boyfriend, Ryan Whitman, who has a history of battering. At first glance, Lisa's best friend, Tara, appears to be quite together because she is married to a nice solid man. Closer scrutiny reveals that Tara is miserable in her marriage, and has developed the hots for a much younger guy.

There are many ways in which relationships are doomed to fail and all three of these interactions -- that of Tara with Alain, Tara with her husband Mark, and Lisa with Ryan -- illustrate that point. The title of the book "D'Amour Road" is also a double entendre. On one hand, it's the name of a real-life street in Alymer, Quebec, which will play a role in my story. On the other hand, the title is meant as a warning that says that the road of love can be dissatisfying or even dangerous. I've always liked the lyrics to the Springsteen song, The Tunnel of Love, which go something like this: "When the lights go out, it's just the three of us -- you, me, and all that stuff we're so scared of."

Tell us your stories about unrequited or unfulfilling love. If you've managed to break away from an abusive or unhappy relationship, pat yourself on the back, and write about it in the comment section. Use a pseudonym to protect yourself if necessary.

Sigrid Macdonald

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Carolyn Gardner

This morning, I had the pleasure of being on CFRA radio with Shirley Roy on The Broad Perspective. She had an interesting panel of men and women including Carolyn Gardner, whose sister Sheryl was brutally murdered in 1981 at the tender age of 15. Ralph Power, the man who committed this unspeakable act is currently eligible for day parole. He has never shown any remorse for his crime, and his DNA will not be automatically submitted into a national bank because this was not a legal requirement at the time that he committed the act.

Sometimes the law is so damn picky! Retroactivity is a ridiculous technicality in this case. A potentially dangerous man may be released from prison. The least that the law can do to protect future victims is to take a sample of this man's DNA.

Carolyn has started a petition opposing parole for Ralph Power. Please visit her web site at to read about the details of her case and to support her efforts.

Many thanks.

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Why does God allow suffering?

It is impossible to discuss adversity or grief without bringing up the concept of God. When I was doing my B.A. in Psychology, I did an honors thesis on the coping mechanisms of concentration camp survivors. I was surprised to discover that many had relied on religious faith to get them through the horror of the camps. I couldn't understand how persecuted people like Viktor Frankel could trust in a Higher Power who allowed such atrocities, let alone how Frankel was able to find meaning in a place as dismal as Auschwitz.

Some people gravitate towards prayer during difficult times whereas others lose their faith. I'm not religious. I'd like to believe but prayer for me is like dialing a phone number that rings and rings, but no one ever answers. My spiritually-inclined friends tell me that I'm looking for the wrong kind of answer. The answer that I want is an eradication of the worst kind of suffering and torture in this world -- suffering that is distributed so randomly. Of course, I will never receive that kind of answer to my pleas.

In his book, When Bad Things Happen To Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner tackles the tough question of where is God in the midst of our pain and distress. Kushner postulates that God must be either all powerful OR all good, but He cannot be both at the same time. He cannot and does not intervene in our lives because He has given us free will. Our bodies are mortal, therefore, subject to debilitating illness and disease. One person's exercise of free will can interfere with another's. Kushner's argument makes sense to me intellectually but is of no comfort emotionally.

Kushner says that we shouldn't ask God to heal our cancer, protect our children from pedophiles, or prevent Africa from sliding off the face of the continent due to HIV infection, famine, war and other calamities. These are the wrong types of prayer. Instead, we should request qualities from God such as strength, courage and tenacity to deal with hard times. Even Jim Morrison said, "Do Not Petition the Lord with Prayer!"

Some Eastern religions and New Age groups believe that the right type of prayer is to simply give thanks for all of the good things in our lives, and to learn to accept the more challenging ones.

The way I see God or a Higher Power is as a neutral force. I believe that there was a creation, and hence a Creator, but I view the Creator as neither benevolent nor malevolent. If the Creator made all things, then it made everything -- the good, the bad and the ugly. I find it strange that people attribute all of the goodness in the world to God, and all of the bad things to someone or something else (Satan, humanity itself, Rush Limbaugh. LOL.)

A good friend of mine is a Christian Scientist. Once she told me about a hurricane in Florida that had hit a particular area but had missed all of the Christian Scientists' homes! She thought that was amazing and wonderful, but I thought it was ridiculous and discriminating. Why would God choose to allow a fierce storm to destroy the homes of the non-Christian scientists? Why is it when parents pray at the bedside of a desperately sick child that they thank God when that child recovers? But they don't blame God if the child dies.

I don't blame God for anything. I don't think He or She exists, but I'm certainly in the minority. 90 to 95% of all of the world's people believe in some sort of power greater than themselves. I wish that I were one of them. I would especially like to believe in an afterlife -- to think that I will be reunited with my father, my good friend, Meg, who killed herself at the age of 25, my uncle and my grandparents.

Belief in the hereafter has sustained many families of murder victims. In her book Lovely Bones, Alice Seybold describes the graphic murder of young Susie Salmon, who narrates her story from Heaven. It's an interesting concept and by and large, Seybold did a good job. My Mothers Against Drunk Driving group had a spiritualist at one of their functions last year. They were widely criticized for doing so but this man brought comfort to those who had lost a loved one at the reckless hands of an inebriated driver. Who am I to judge the ways in which the injured derive solace?

What are your thoughts on God? Where is He when women and children go missing?

Sigrid Macdonald