Weekend warriors deserve as much honour as any soldier

What makes the honouring of these regiments is that while the Canadian army did maintain two regular force Black Watch battalions for a few years, today these regiments are made up of citizen soldiers. Sometimes – and not always affectionately – referred to as weekend warriors. These young men and women train evenings and weekends, for them the army is a part-time job or hobby. It is a tradition that goes back a long time. Canada had an active militia even before the War of 1812. Since then, in every crisis, the part-time soldier has been called on time and time again. Sometimes, such as in the Second World War, entire units have been activated; other times, such as Afghanistan, much smaller units, or even individuals, have been called upon. Continue reading →

Even non-collectors must admit these stamps are far out

On a clear night, you can look up and see most of the planets, if you know where to look, with your naked eyes. If you do it often, they become familiar enough that you begin to recognize them without thinking. Jupiter in its glory, blazing Venus, and even Saturn are not that hard to spot, but sometimes elusive in our world of light and atmospheric pollution. Nothing I ever saw prepared me for these dramatic images. What makes it exciting is that these stamps show images of the planets that could never be seen by an earthbound observer. This is the way the solar system looks to us as we begin to explore our tiny section of the cosmos. Continue reading →

War of 1812 myths persist

While I write this, the government’s events to mark the War of 1812 are kicking into high gear. This fall marks a few key events: the captures of Fort Mackinaw and Detroit by Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, and the repulsion of an American invasion at the Battle of Queenston Heights. Of course the war wasn’t over in just two months. Most operations were confined to Upper Canada; essentially modern-day Ontario. In a series of campaigns fought mostly during the summer months, Britain and America battled for control of Canada. Today, the war is 200 years into the past, and both sides claim victory. As funny as it sounds, that may even be true. The war ended, not with a total victory on one side, but with a treaty. Continue reading →

Stamps help Canadian stereotypes stick

They depict, as do dozens of other secular Christmas stamps, Canadians outdoors in winter. My thoughts went to the scene, a man in snowshoes following a woman on a toboggan pulled by a dog. They appear to be delivering a present. It occurred to me that I have never seen anyone successfully get a dog to pull a toboggan. It also occurred to me that, while I have worn snowshoes on a number of occasions, most Canadians I know have never actually snowshoed anywhere. Absolutely nobody I know, anywhere, has actually delivered or taken home a Christmas present using either method of transportation. Sure the image is all warm and fuzzy, but I wonder just how relevant it was, or is, for Canadians. Continue reading →

Early airmail stamps trigger tales of adventure

Today, more than 40 years after man first walked on the moon, and when transatlantic flights are taken with a grain of salt, we have to strain to think about what it must have been like for those early adventurers. First off, they didn’t have autopilot, GPS, satellites, radar, and constant radio contact with the ground. They had compasses, clocks, basic instruments, and if they wanted to know exactly where they were, the navigator used a sextant. The engines were often unreliable and unproven, and even aircraft design was still partly an element of guesswork. Continue reading →

Canadian football worth celebrating

It seems that Canadian football fell out of fashion and everyone began watching the “important” teams from south of the border. You know, those guys who play on a smaller field and need an extra down to try to make 10 yards. The CFL, by nature of being Canadian, seemed to be somehow less, especially in southern Ontario, which despite the lessons of the War of 1812, often draws its cultural identity from our celebrity neighbour. This year, things changed. The CFL managed to get Canadians excited about a big number, the 100th playing of the Grey Cup, a championship that many Canadians often don’t even remember who won. Continue reading →

Stamps disappearing, but the hobby won’t

There is nothing that collectors, Canadian Stamp News, or even Canada Post can do to reverse these long-term trends. However, there is reason to take heart. While the quantity of stamps being issued is dropping, the quality is going up at a staggering rate. By that I mean that we are seeing stamps being produced using interesting security features, such as fluorescent design elements, stamps that interact with our smartphones, and even stamps that we can create on our own, and then have drop-shipped on postcards we create on the fly. These are interesting stamps that catch the imagination. Continue reading →

Personalized stamps need a place in the numbering – now

I believe that some of the personalized postage issues belong among the regular Canada Post listings in references, rather than lumped in the back of the book. The reasons, I believe, are compelling. Now, I am not talking about Uncle John and Aunt Mary standing around the Christmas tree, or even the new specialized issues, but personalized postage stamps created by Canada Post and sold to the public for use on mail. There are a small number of stamps that fit this category. Not, for instance, the Royal Conservatory stamps of last year, which were only sold cancelled on commemorative envelopes. No, the specific stamps I am talking about would be typified by the 2011 Eid, Hanukkah, and Diwali stamps. Continue reading →

Overindulgent stamp issues not always bad

I have to admit that I am a big fan of the British television series Dr. Who. For most of my life I have been watching a succession of “doctors” battle a selection of British actors in rubber masks through space or time. The series, which is now 50 years old, obviously has staying power. Now I am not a “Whovian,” the name given to hardcore fans, many of who dress up as their favourite characters and attend events. Frankly, I think those folks have taken the idea of liking something to a bit of an extreme. I do, whoever, have a Dr. Who poster in my bedroom, but that’s as far as it goes. Really, you have to believe me on this. Continue reading →

Cash crunch streamlines Canada’s postal history

When a successful post office that serves a large number of people is closed and replaced with a back corner of a drugstore, that isn’t converting from one type of post office to another, it is a definite and permanent reduction in service. It is also a definite and permanent reduction in cost for Canada Post. It is no secret that the corporation’s biggest single budget item is paying for its staff and their gold-plated benefit packages. Chief among these is an indexed pension, with Canada Post picking up the deficit. That deficit is huge, since Canada Post has lots of employees on the retired list. What’s more, thanks to modern medicine, these people are drawing pension money out for more years than ever before. However, closing a post office today does not mean a dramatic impact on the cost of servicing the pension plan in the short term. Continue reading →

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