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Minister Christiansen let me down

This will be my last column for Coast Reporter before I drive into the wild blue yonder, across the length of Canada ending on my daughter's doorstep in Halifax.

This will be my last column for Coast Reporter before I drive into the wild blue yonder, across the length of Canada ending on my daughter's doorstep in Halifax. There I'll get all the hugs I could possibly want from my daughter and son-in-law and, most especially, squishes and squeezes from my granddaughter Ila. I'd intended to use this last column to talk about the choices we make in life and what we count as priorities. It was going to be about family and love, about the appreciation and support I've had from the community, the temporality of life and the inconsequence of money in the grand scheme of things. In some ways, this column is still about all those things, just not about my family. In early December, I wrote a story on Kathy Kyler and her 11-year-old autistic twins, about the problems she's faced with the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the form of a bill for more than $13,500 she will probably never be able to pay because of her limited income, her own health problems and the fact she is a single mother with three children. I can't imagine walking a mile in her shoes. Just the thought of it leaves me exhausted - and my life hasn't always been a bowl of cherries, either. When I interviewed Minister Tom Christiansen, he told me it wasn't possible to look into every issue brought up by the public. However, if Kyler wrote to him, he would address the issue. Those of you who know me in the community know I don't mince words. I asked for assurances that if Kyler invested the time and energy into writing yet another letter, this time to him, that it not be vetted by a staff person. Christiansen didn't promise he would fix the problem, but he did promise he would answer her letter. I wanted that assurance, that promise, because I know that when things are tough and overwhelming, there are few things as discouraging and depressing as being ignored.

I take the value in a promise very seriously. I'm very old fashioned that way. Besides, I grew up hearing and reading Victor Frankel, the German psychologist interred during World War II. The gist of Frankel's beliefs and philosophy after seeing how different people responded to being in concentration camps was to say how, in the end, when each of us is stripped of our name, identities and the trapping that we use to define ourselves, all we truly own is our integrity and our word. The justification for not following through could be that the minister's office has been dealing with much larger issues. You know what they say -the devil is in the details. I believe big problems come from not seeing and dealing with the minutiae of small problems. I've seen how in finding solutions to what sometimes seem like relatively minor problems, the much bigger problems start to get dealt with. It's the domino effect.

I also believe that if we can't find ways of dealing with the small things, if we don't keep our word, how can we possibly deal with the big things, and how can we possibly be trusted?

Minister Christiansen let me down. He gave me his word and didn't honour it. More importantly, by not having the courtesy of even a quick note saying something like "I'm looking into it," he let Kathy Kyler down, as well as and two very important people in her life -her children. I hope when I leave, the community doesn't forget about Kyler and her sons, because they are our sons too.