A story about Canada Post.

I have two parcels shipping from Vancouver to Toronto express – 2 day delivery. Unfortunately, the shipper accidentally sent one of the parcels via Canada Post and the other via UPS. The second I saw Canada Post I rang them and tried to stop them – but it was too late. Both had left the building.

In my mind, I just knew that the UPS parcel would get there just fine and the Canada Post “Express Post” parcel would have a problem. Sure enough, the UPS parcel was on time. 9AM at the doorstep. Where is the Canada Post parcel?

A quick check of the tracking website:

Canada Post

So I call. This is the condensed version of the conversation:

Me: “Why is my parcel at the post office, when I paid extra to have it delivered to my door?”

Her: “Because the shipper does not require a signature for delivery”

Me: “Pardon?”

Her: “Because the shipper did not click the box and require a signature for delivery, we do not deliver it to your door”

Me: “So, because they did not require a signature which means you can just drop it off because you do not have to make multiple trips to get that signature, you will not deliver it?”

Her: “Correct. Plus, it will not fit in your mailbox”  (It is a 13lbs package).

Me: “Ok, but there is someone there. Right now. All day. And you guaranteed delivery so please deliver it to my front door just like UPS and FedEx. That is why I paid extra.”

Her: “I can’t without my supervisors permission”

Me: “You can’t make that decision”

Her: “No”

I feel bad for Canada Post employees – that they are not trusted to make the right decisions, for the benefit of the customer, at that moment. Certainly not the Four Seasons model.

They wonder why they lost $193M last year? It is pretty obvious to me.


This weekend the National Post made a claim – after 40 years, Quebec separatism is finally dead.

Quebec’s election campaign — and what a volatile, nasty, mud-splattered affair it has been — is all but over. But the sense of impending national doom that animated the first days has passed. That’s because the threat of Quebec separatism itself, the great existential conundrum that has gripped this country these past 40 years, has once again receded. It happened rather suddenly, mid-way through the campaign, as polls showed the Parti Québécois cratering in public support as the likelihood of yet another sovereignty referendum — the third since 1980 — hit home.

So this will be the enduring message of the past four weeks, after the signs are put away and the resignations tendered: C’est fini, cette affaire. And this time, because of the blessings of demographics, age and time, it’s not likely coming back. Some will try — led by Pierre Karl Peladeau, perhaps — to reanimate the un-dearly departed. They will fail. This was their shot; the unprecedented ferocity of the campaign just ending indicates all sides understood this. What remains is for the funeral arrangements to be made, the embalming completed, and the mourning to be done by those who will mourn. The rest of us? We can raise a glass, and move on.

In speaking with friends in Quebec, it would seem the Post’s demographic observation might be correct. The problem for the PQ is that the next generation is not passionate about separatism. In an always on, socially connected world the old borders and even neighborhoods of our childhood are less and less relevant. Today’s children live globally, connecting with people of every nationality, language and belief. They are becoming children of the world – not children of a province, state or country.

On Steam, it is not uncommon to hear the speakers of my son’s computer belting out many different languages from the players online; Russian, Korean, North American, European. All time zones, all languages with an internet connection.

For myself, the last decade has meant several international stints and while living away, I have become more and more appreciative of the culture that is Canada.

When I explain what Canada is to people – I always start with the diversity. The diversity of the land from the rocky mountains of the west, the open plains, the deep forests and wide lakes of Quebec and Ontario, the winds and oceans of the east. And of course, the diversity of the people. To be Canadian is to be from everywhere; Native Canadian, European, Asian.

Separatists might not be happy after losing the election but I am. A Canada without Quebec is not Canada.


To all of my friends and family back “home”, Happy Canada Day.

Canada Flag - Open

I was speaking with someone about Canada last week and we agreed on a key point, when you are not living in Canada you become more Canadian.

Proud to be a Canadian. We lit off Tokyo’s version of fireworks last night, not the same as the monsters we use to set off in the backyard but an apt celebration (including sparkling sake).

Happy Canada Day!


This is a very interesting post to write as it elicits mixed feelings.

Part of living in a different culture is that never ending quest to understand, learn and to grow while trying not to use your own cultural biases to judge. After all, perception is reality.

As I have often joked with friends back home, living in Japan is like living on Mars. It is just so fascinatingly different.

The Japanese think differently than North Americans, and different than Canadians. How can it not be the case? Canada is a country of every culture (Asian, European, African) where Japan is comprised of 98.5% Japanese and non-existent immigration. Canada is a country with only a few hundred years of history while Japan is one of the world’s oldest societies, with 3,000 years of history and a clear isolationist bent where foreigners were killed on sight until the late 1800s. Canadians are individuals, in a society where they cut their lives out of the unconquered wilderness with an understanding that merit leads to fortune while Japan is about the group good, where the notion of paying a high performer more than others in the team is at odds with their values.

At a very fundamental level, culture, history, education and values, Japan is different than most other countries in the world and the Geisha is one of those cases.

Prior to leaving for Kyoto, we watched Memoirs of a Geisha and I could not help but find it disturbing on many levels. Obviously the selling of young girls into a brothel and a Geisha house was disturbing as were many of the scenes, but this type of abuse is unfortunately, common around the world.

The uniquely Japanese part that was disturbing was the whole notion of the Geisha. Reading broadly, the information was varied. Prostitution is disputed and the truth hard to determine; in this post it is clearly stated it does not happen yet another quote says that in 1929 3/4 of geisha were prostitutes.  While there is an elegance to the appearance of a Geisha, the information on “what a Geisha is” left us wondering about the profession … Noble undertaking or a veneer hiding a seedy underside of sex for sale?

Nothing made us wonder more than this question: what does it mean that this profession is funded by older business men, where the Geisha’s sole purpose is to entertain them every evening? I find the feminism assertions hard to swallow and cannot think that it is good for marriages.

It is with those questions in mind that we did something that is not common for a gaijin.

We booked a dinner in a wonderful restaurant with a room by the garden, a Geisha and an English interpreter to learn.

We were not disappointed.