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Hows my driving| Kids are Fattening | Time Out | Kids, do not try this at home

How’s my driving?

by Lanny Boutin
Canadian Living – Holiday 1999

Worried that when your teen is out of sight he puts the pedal to the metle? Consider a bumper sticker that asks other drivers on the road to comment on his driving by phoning a toll-free number. The operator then passes on the compliment or complaint to you.

Tom Deats, a police officer in Arlington, Texas, initiated the 4 My Teenprogram six years ago to help reduce teen driving accidents. There are close to 2,000 teens across Canada and the United States currently registered in the nonprofit program. When a driver phones the toll-free number with a comment on your child’s driving, you receive the comment by letter, e-mail or fax. The program receives more complements than complaints.

The cost is $30 US per year. To register, call 1-800-4MY-TEEN or visit their web site at www.4myteen.org

Kids are Fattening

by Lanny Boutin
Birth Issues – Winter 2000

Ok, so I didn’t really read that in a distinguished medical journal. But as someone who’s never had a weight problem, I say, kids make you fat.

Was it my fault there was no time to tone up between pregnancies? Sure my midwife mentioned that breastfeeding was a good pregnancy repellent. But when you haven’t slept for seven months, who listens. And who was I to worry? Breastfeeding had left me underweight, the envy of all new moms.

But then they started, solid food. At first I was ok. No matter how Scottish I am, you couldn’t get me to finish those green squishy mystery vegetables they left on their plates. And they loved strained peaches too much for them to be a problem.

But I soon found it impossible to sit, patiently feeding toddlers, without having a little something to take the edge off. A pick-me-up to keep me going on the three hours of sleep I’d gotten the night before. And with each child squandering four hours a day not eating solid food, it left a lot of time for snacking.

And instead of munching on sugar free caramel rice cakes, or reduced calorie imitation crackers, I was surrounded by sugar-glazed arrowroots, bear shaped grahams, and small honeyed animal cookies.

And how much strenuous exercise do they really expect from a woman who falls asleep in the dentist chair. After an hour of soothing yoga, I could hardly crawl to my car, let alone do the twenty laps I’d promised myself.

So with no exercise, unless you call crawling around on your hands an knees, scrubbing unknown things off painted surfaces, or shimmying up the tall slide backwards to retrieve a child who is frozen with fear and clutching the sides with an iron man grip exercise, my haunches started to widen.

And then they started to leave food on their plates. What is it about motherhood? I’d never contemplated finishing the leftovers on my husband’s plate or spitting on a tissue to clean his face, but I automatically ate the little titbits my kids left behind, even after I unknowingly risked death, by sucking a piece of spaghetti through a straw, finishing my sons orange juice.

Then there was the million little container syndrome. My fridge always held fifty different leftovers, each too small to be useful. Now I hate to throw anything out, especially food, so it made sense to just eat it. It saved the stow, the store and the throw; and the guilt.

Now it would have been ok if we were talking a couple broccoli florets, or a few spoons of creamed corn. But no, my family likes vegetables. So I was left with meats, pastas and cream sauces. Which at fifty a week, quickly and silently accumulate around the middle.

So you see food is not the problem. Fat storage is directly proportional to sleep deprivation, lack of adult stimulation, diminishing brain cells and the availability of child tested treats.

So next time you wash down thirty elephant cookies with leftover formula, don’t jump to the conclusion you’re lacking in willpower. Just look knowingly into those tiny eyes. Life is always better when there’s someone to blame.

Time Out

Pushy parents and bullying coaches are
turning some kids off sports for life.

by Lanny Boutin
Treehouse Canadian Family – October/ November 2003

Playing kids’ sports is supposed to be fun, right? That’s what Marie-Helene Goyetche thought when she volunteered to coach her son’s baseball team. The teacher and early childhood educator in Fabreville, Que., envisioned a group of children learning new skills and having fun. She was totally unprepared for the parents. Ambitious moms and dads complained when they felt their children weren’t getting enough field time or had to play the less glamorous positions. If a child’s first sports experience is one of adversity, such as getting cut from a team, we’ve lost him. They argued with the teenage referee and once had an inter-parent pushing match in the stands.

“Certain parents saw their children in a better athletic light than was actually warranted,” notes Goyetche. “One father pulled his son out because I wasn’t giving my team a ‘competitive edge.’ The kids were 5 and 6 years old!”

The pressure that certain parents put on kids and coaches is truly excessive, notes parenting author Ann Douglas, a mother of four in Peterborough, Ont. “Two summers ago, at my 5-year-old son’s soccer game, some moms complained that the coach wasn’t giving all kids equal field time,” she says. “The coach was trying her best, but, no, she hadn’t pulled out a stopwatch to precisely time each child’s 15-second spurt of play. I couldn’t believe the mothers were getting so upset. The kids were all having fun. Why couldn’t they just leave it at that?”

Some blame this sort of behaviour on the very notion of competition in sports, says David Carmichael, a Toronto physical activity consultant. “But competition is not necessarily the problem; it’s the overemphasis placed on winning that undermines the true value of competing.”

Adds Marjorie Snyder, associate executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) in East Meadow, N.Y.: “We reinforce the pressure to win with our usual post-game question, ‘Did you win?’ That sets the wrong tone for recreational athletics.” In her view, we should set more appropriate expectations with such questions as: How many times did you touch the ball? Did you meet new people? How was the team’s defence? Did your skills improve? Did you try your hardest?

Making victory the predominant aim also cheats some kids of their rightful time on the field because it tempts coaches to shorten the bench and play only the stars, usually the early-maturing children. “At chronological age 12, the biological variance between individual children can be as much as five years,” notes Carmichael. “Advanced biological development can temporarily produce bigger and stronger kids, but the late-maturing ones-the kids usually picked last-are often capable of becoming better athletes. Their growth spurts start later and usually last longer.”

A case in point is basketball legend Michael Jordan, a late bloomer who was dropped from the team in his second year of high school. Luckily for basketball, he didn’t quit, but many children do. A study conducted at Michigan State University in the early 1990s found that 73% of kids dropped out of sports by age 13. Reasons cited included an overemphasis on winning, abusive coaching and a reduction in the fun factor.

“If a child’s first sports experience is one of adversity, such as getting cut from a team, we’ve lost him; ” notes Carmichael. Often that initial experience will change his attitude toward all physical activity. It’s the job of parents to ensure that a child’s first exposure to organized sports is as positive as possible (see box, below)

In his own daughter’s case, an insensitive figure-skating coach forced her to sit on the ice while the other children skated around her. Her crime? Her new skates were hurting her feet too much for her to take part. “He could at least have let her sit on the bench,” says Carmichael. “She was 3!” The girl never returned to formal skating lessons.


· Is your child physically and psychologically ready to play this sport?

· Does your youngster understand the sport?

· Would a less organized league or less complex sport be better?

· Is the environment set up so the child can strive for clearly set and   achievable goals?

· Are team members involved in making decisions?

· Does the coach/program encourage all kids to play equally?

· Does the program support your beliefs about fair play and reasonable competitiveness.)

· Does it screen coaches for a history of abusiveness or a criminal record?

· How much training do coaches get in first aid, child behavior and the rules of the sport?

· Do children get enough practice to develop age-appropriate skills?

· What are the coach’s expectations, and how does the coach perform on the field?

· Does the environment mimic the cut-throat competition of professional sports?

· Does the league have a code of conduct for parents?

A bad experience like that can cut short a young beginner’s involvement in sports before she really gets started, but even older children of proven athletic prowess can be strained by the continuous stress placed on winning by ruthless coaches. Yet some parents actually come to believe that their gifted kids will be short-changed without aggressive coaching. That belief, however, was seriously challenged by Ed Arnold in his book Whose Puck Is It, Anyway? (McClelland & Stewart, 2002). With former NHL players Steve Larmer and Greg Millen, Arnold undertook a fascinating experiment in fair coaching. During the 2000/O1 season, they trained the Peterborough Petes, a novice division hockey team, stressing fair play, fun and teamwork.

All the 7- and 8-year-old players played equal time in every position. There was no yelling from the bench and no coaching from the sidelines; the players were left to do their own thinking. “It’s this creative thinking that is usually missing from the game,” notes Arnold. “These kids can skate and shoot, but when they get to age 16 or 17, they can’t think for themselves – they haven’t been allowed to.” The Petes finished the season tied for second in the Eastern Ontario Triple A league. “Every player improved tenfold,” Arnold says. They learned to think as a team, and as individuals they all had fun.

Fun is an important component of athletics, and fun is the result when players experience a balance between skills and challenge. “When skill exceeds challenge, children become bored, and when challenge exceeds skill, they become frustrated,” Carnuchael says. Athletics should be about play, agrees Dr. Billy Strean, an associate professor in the faculty of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, but often it’s anything but playful. “Yet children in sports must feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Being excluded, humiliated or put down can make kids dread sports.”

Strean’s on-going research confirms that the repercussions of bad sports experiences-often involving a verbally abusive coach or teacher-can last a lifetime. He’s found that the best athletic experiences often result from less organized activities, like playing catch with friends. “The local outdoor rink is where my son really learned the game of hockey,” agrees Bill Nimmo, a grandfather from Gibbons, Alta. “There were big kids and little kids. They organized themselves and acquired skills as they played.”

Furthermore, after many years of coaching youth hockey, Nimmo has come to believe that kids’ sports would be better if parents got out of it. For one thing, parental involvement lessens the spontaneity and creativity that happen when kids work things out for themselves with their peers. On a darker note, it is often fathers and mothers who promote altercations between players by hollering at their child to “nail him, smoke him, hit him back,” in the manner of the big-league hockey players, notes Dr. Michael Robidoux, assistant professor of human kinetics at the University of Ottawa and author of Men at Play (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001). Robidoux’s research into aggressive verbal behaviour at youth hockey games reveals that players who can hit and physically dominate opponents are rewarded with cheers from the crowd, hockey scholarships and positions on more senior teams. “Canadian hockey is so constructed that certain behaviours not tolerated in any other context are actually celebrated in this game,” Robidoux says. “One hit leads to a cheer, a bigger hit to a bigger cheer.”

Aggressive parental behaviour bubbles to the surface in other sports as well. “When I was around 15, living in Ontario, I volunteered to referee tykes’ lacrosse,” recalls Brad Heath, now of Prelude Lake, N.W.T. “These 4- and 5-year-olds could barely lift lacrosse sticks, yet their parents screamed bloody death at me for every perceived infraction of the rules on the part of kids other than their own. I was afraid for my personal safety and quit after two or three games.”

Like Heath, the volunteer officials in Dartmouth, N.S.’s minor hockey league were so frustrated by aggressive parents that they were dropping out at the rate of 30% a year. But after the league instituted its Fair Play program in 1994, things began to change for the better; and in recent years an average of 30-35 people have been trying out for fewer than 10 coach and referee positions. If Dartmouth’s former turnover in officials tells us anything, it’s that parents must maintain realistic expectations of children’s sports. They must also base anticipated performance on a young player’s age and skills. “You can’t put a dozen 5- and 6-year-olds on a field and expect them to play positions successfully,” says the WSF’s Snyder. They don’t have the physical or cognitive ability to execute complex manoeuvres according to complex rules, she adds. What they can succeed at, however, is having a great time and working on acquiring skills for later use.

Most kids just want the opportunity to try out in a real game that move they’ve practised all week, the training to improve performance and the confidence to tackle challenges. They also want the security to fail, moral support when a shot misses the net. So let’s put winning aside and call a time out for kids. And put curmudgeonly coaches and pushy parents in the penalty box.

Web Resources

National Alliance for Youth Sports – www.nays.org
The Coaching Association of Canada – www.coach.ca
Woman’s Sport Foundations – www.womanssportsfoundation.org

Kids, do not try this at home

by Lanny Boutin
Christian Science Monitor – October 2003

Most cats I have lived with were happy to give up the active life by age 3; were content to eat the same food every day; and had no problems using the bathroom without having five books, two stuffed friends, and constant adult companionship.

I knew kids would be more of a challenge, but in hindsight, I wish they were born with whiskers.

Cats use their whiskers as measuring sticks to ensure they don’t get stuck in tight spaces. If the whiskers touch the sides, the cat retreats. For a cat, it’s simple. For a kid – nothing’s simple.

Like the young man who spent an hour roasting in the summer sun, his head jammed between the rails of a black metal church fence, his backside pointed out toward the busy street. The rails were finally pried apart to free him.

Or my cousin, who wedged his head between hand-carved wooden rails at the Alberta Legislature building. Fortunately, because the caretaker insisted he would not cut the bars, his head slipped out.

Or my son and the potty seat.

There are times when the hardest part about being a parent is not laughing. But one look into his terrified blue eyes wiped the smile off my face.

It seemed simple that what goes on, must come off. Right?

Cutting it was not a ready option, as all our tools were still packed in one of the 100 poorly marked boxes in the garage. And although my son wasn’t in any pain or physical danger, I could see that, if left on, the seat would make dressing him a bit of a challenge.

My options were few. The nurse at the hospital suggested a hacksaw. Ours was (thankfully) still packed. This was a good thing. My son wouldn’t want a woman who had once sawed into her big toe while cutting a shelf, at his neck with such a weapon.

The man at the ambulance company took a few minutes to stifle his laughter, then gave me the non-emergency number for the fire department. They assured me they weren’t busy and would be happy to pop over and have a look. They were only a few blocks away.

As I set down the phone, I heard the sirens. As they got closer, the lights of the approaching trucks lit up the early evening, and the two large fire trucks screeched to a haft in front of my house. My son and my 2-year-old daughter watched in awe as eight fully outfitted firefighters thundered up our stairs and into our living room. Both kids grabbed my leg and started to cry.

It took five minutes to persuade my son to show them the seat. And a detailed tour of all their equipment before he’d let them touch it. But it took less than three seconds for a large pair of tin snips to slice though the plastic.

He was free.

We stood on the sidewalk and watched as they loaded their trucks. I smiled pleasantly at all our new neighbours milling around, taking in the excitement. For a long time afterward, each time we heard sirens my son wondered aloud if another little boy’s head was stuck in a toilet seat.

I had dearly hoped that the episode would teach him a lesson, but as I sit bandaging his pinkie finger, the one that was cut as I pried his hand from the small hole in the side of the library counter, I wonder.

Fake and Bakecan leave you burned | Flossing your way to heart health

The cold truth | Caution the key word on the virtual couch
The things we do for whiter teeth
Jury still out on new flu pill | Sympton: sore wrists

Take a Pill to Butt Out

By Lanny Boutin
Canadian Living

Studies have shown that only five per cent of smokers who try to quit by going cold turkey are successful.

But there is new hope: Zyban.

Originally marketed as an antidepressant, nicotine-free Zyban is thought to decrease the urge to smoke by targeting the brain’s addiction centre.

In clinical trials, 49 per cent of smokers quit within seven weeks, and at one year 23 per cent were still smoke-free, nearly twice as many as with the Habitrol patch. No significant weight gains were reported, and common side-effects such as dry mouth and insomnia were usually temporary.

The drug is not recommended for those who have seizure disorders or have been diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia.

Zyban is prescribed for seven to 12 weeks, costs about $1.60 a day and is covered by some health plans.

Fake and Bake can leave you burned

The evidence is in: tanning sessions may not be a safe alternative to the sun

By: Lanny Boutin
The Straight Goods – May 2000

You’ve seen the ads: “Safe UV-A body tanning, protects the skin from sunburns” with “fewer risks to the skin than outdoor tanning because of the absence of UV-C rays.”

Each year, 25 million Americans buy 300 million tanning sessions, making indoor tanning a $4 billion a year business in the US alone. A recent Quebec phone survey found 20 percent of participants had been to a tanning salon in the last five years, 11 percent in the last 12 months.

For twenty dollars, is 200 minutes under a tanning lamp really a safe alternative to the sun?

They now know the UV-A rays used in most modern tanning lamps also cause skin damage.

“No,” says Dr. Nowell Solish, co-director of the Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Clinic at Sunny Brook and Women’s Health Science Centre in Toronto. We all know burns are dangerous, but Solish stresses tans are too. “When you tan you’re damaging your DNA, and forcing your body to create a dark pigment layer to stop the damage.”

Doctors once believed UV-B rays, the most prevalent burning rays in sunlight, and UV-C rays, which don’t penetrate our ozone, caused the damage. But they now know that UV-A rays used in most modern tanning lamps also cause skin damage.

“We know that if you’re exposing yourself to ultraviolet radiation you’re exposing yourself to a known carcinogen.”

According to Dr. Martin Weinstock, Professor of Dermatology at Brown University, there isn’t enough evidence to prove tanning booths cause melanoma. “Tanning booths are relatively new, ten years or so, and it takes 15 or more years for melanoma to develop.” Also Chairman of the Skin Cancer Advisory Group of the American Cancer Association, Weinstock says “We know that if you’re exposing yourself to ultraviolet radiation you’re exposing yourself to a known carcinogen.”

So before heading off on your next well-deserved vacation should you stop off at the tanning salon for a base tan first? “No,” says The Counsel on Scientific Affairs. They recommend you avoid artificial tanning devices altogether.

But we know millions of people are not listening. So if you do go:

  • Ask the staff if they’re trained to analyze your skin type.
  • Set up realistic tanning schedules.
  • Always wear eye protection. UV rays can permanently damage your eyes.
  • Have the staff time you in case your timer fails or you fall asleep.

And remember the perfect tan may just be no tan at all.

Get More/Do More

Canadian Dermatological Association www.dermatoloogy.ca.

American Academy of Dermatology www.aad.org.

Beach People, some great information on sun safety www.beachpeople.com – click on sun protection 101.

Flossing your way to a healthy heart

Studies show neglecting your teeth may put your health at risk

By: Lanny Boutin
The Straight Goods – May 2000

Let’s face it, we judge others by the look of their teeth. People with normal looking front teeth, are perceived to be friendlier, more intelligent, more popular and more refined. But brushing and flossing may also be crucial to your health. By neglecting your teeth, you could also be putting your health at risk.

“People with gum disease are twice as likely to have a heart attack.” – Dr. Jack Caton, President, American Academy of Periodontology

Researchers have long been tracking the relationships between the bacterial infection, gingivitis – or gum disease – and our over-all health. Dr. Jack Caton teaches dentistry at the University of Rochester in New York and serves as President of the American Academy of Periodontology. He says chronic infections do not bode well for healthy coronary arteries. “We know that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have a heart attack.”

He points to epidemiological research showing a statistically real association between gum disease and heart attracts. While specific studies are needed to prove cause and effect, he argues that “there is a large body of evidence on a mechanism which shows gum diseases can increase artery plaque. We are speculating it’s one piece of the puzzle.”

Mark Herzberg is also studying the links between gingivitis and heart problems. He teaches preventative science and periodontology at the University of Minnesota. “We are not talking cause and effect, but risk.” His research in rabbits found the Streptococcus organism, the bacteria in dental plaque, caused heart ischemia, a condition in which the when the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen.

Like other conditions which suppress the immune system, gum disease can raise your risk of contracting pneumonia, bronchitis or emphysema

According to Caton, these mouth infections can get into the blood stream and travel down the throat to the respiratory tract. This could explain the growing evidence that people with gum disease are more susceptible to respiratory diseases, he says.

Like other conditions which suppress the immune system, gum disease can raise your risk of contracting pneumonia, bronchitis or emphysema.

Gum disease can also be more prevalent in diabetics, who already have an increased susceptibility to infections. Researchers are now looking into whether gum disease makes it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar.

Research found that “poor periodontal health in the mother was a significant risk factor for reduced birth-weight in babies.”

“For diabetics it can be a vicious circle,” notes Caton. “Infections make the blood sugars more difficult to control, which in turn makes the body less able to fight the infection.”

Researchers are also looking into the association between gum disease and pre-term or low birth-weight babies. “Short gestation periods and low birth weight are two of the leading causes of infant death in the US,” says Dr. Ananda Dasanayake, professor of Dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmington. She notes there were almost 4 million low birth-weight babies born in the US in 1995. Her research found that “poor periodontal health in the mother was a significant risk factor for reduced birth-weight in babies.”

So, what can we do to keep our teeth and gums healthy and lower our risk of health complications?

Regular dental check ups, including an examination for periodontal disease are important, says Caton. “If people would not only brush, but also just pass something, floss or sticks or tooth picks, between their teeth every day it would have such a dramatic effect on reducing the prevalence of gum disease, it would be breathtaking in fact.”

Get More/Do More

Canadian Dental Association www.cda-adc.ca.
The American Academy of Periontology www.perio.org.
The American Dental Association www.ada.org.

The Cold Truth

By Lanny Boutin
Canadian Living – November 1999

Kids get colds – six a year on average. They’re contagious the entire cold, but it’s not feasible to keep them home with every sniffle. So when should you call the doctor?

“Look at how they’re acting. Says Dr. Joan Robinson a specialist in paediatric infectious disease at the University of Alberta’s Stollery Children’s Health Centre. “If they’re irritable, lethargic, not interested in playing, or drinking and don’t perk up after a dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, they should be seen.”

Dr. Robinson also notes.

  • Unless the child is under three months, fevers are generally harmless. Fever induced seizures, which are rare, generally happen during the first rise of temperature.
  • Unless the child’s out of breath – a possible sign of asthma or pneumonia – a cough must run its course.
  • Coloration changes in nasal discharge, are normal, not necessarily a sign of sinusitis.
  • Sore throats also typical disappear without intervention. Strep throat, caused by a bacterium, is not normally accompanied by cold-type symptoms.

Caution the keyword on the virtual couch

Online psychological services – “psybertherapy” – may have people looking for shrinks in all the wrong places. Ask the right questions before baring your psyche online.

By Lanny Boutin
The Straightgoods – April 2000

Thinking of going online to find a psychotherapist? You might first want to consider some words of caution from Dr. James Ogloff, a professor of psychology and law at Simon Fraser University. “It’s a buyer beware world on the Internet. And it’s maybe even more important when you’re dealing with people’s
personal problems.” notes Dr. Ogloff, who is also president-elect of the Canadian Psychological Association and chair of its ethics committee. “Our committee’s worked on psybertherapy guidelines for two years, but with the speed it’s changing, it is hard to even know what we’re dealing with.” 

Anyone can set up a psybertherapy site – Look at Dr. Laura.She’s not a psychologist so no one can regulate her behaviour,” says the chair of the Canadian Psychological Association’s ethics committee

Many clients may not know what they are dealing with either. Though most people might assume the dispensers of online therapy are professionals, in reality most psybertherapy sites are run by laypersons whose conduct is not monitored or regulated. “Anyone can set up a site”, says Dr. Ogloff, “even Dr. Laura. She is not a psychologist, so no one can regulate her behaviour.”

Some web-based psybertherapists offer audio-videoconferencing, but most provide contact by e-mail only. Dr. Ogloff’s personal opinion is that “e-mail is an inappropriate way to do therapy. It can provide information, or answer direct questions. But it’s unsuitable for complex questions, especially when the therapist has not even met the patient.”

The use of e-mail for therapy also raises security questions. Most guidelines recommend encryption technology be used for all correspondence, but as Dr. John Grohol, a clinical psychologist, author and member-at-large of the International Society for Mental Health Online’s executive committee, notes, “encryption’s difficult to install and register, and for a person who’s emotionally distressed, it can be too much hassle.”

E-mail can also be misdirected and without a password system can be read or answered by anyone. None of this is to say that there isn’t a place for online
therapy. When conducted by regulated professionals, psybertherapy can be used effectively to supplement face-to-face contact, particularly in situations where distance is a problem.

“I’ve been involved in a project to bring psychiatric services to the Prince George, B.C. jail,” says Dr. Ogloff. “We have someone make a physical visit, and then once a week talk with inmates through audio-video conferencing. With live voice and video, it’s almost like being in the same room.”

“Another example of where this type of therapy fills a need is the north,” he adds. “The Yukon has one psychiatrist and, I think, four psychologists, so it’s very common for psychologists in Whitehorse to travel by car, once every few weeks to remote communities and the rest of the time talk with patients on the telephone.”

Martha Ainsworth, author of Metanoia.org, a consumer review site for Internet therapy, agrees that “online therapy is not a substitute for tried and true face to face psychotherapy,” but an adjunct in cases where its difficult to make the trip to a therapist’s office. She also list situations where psybertherapy should not be

  • If you have tough or complex problems to work through.
  • When you have a serious crisis, or are feeling suicidal.
  • If you’re uncomfortable expressing yourself in writing.

If these circumstances sound familiar, then psybertherapy is likely not for you. But if you do decide to seek therapy online, be sure to ask the right questions about the therapist’s background, credentials, and methods before you lie back on the virtual couch.

Before you try check out some of the recommendations on these sites:

Metanoia, The ABC’s of Internet Therapy – www.metanoia.org
International Society for Mental Health Online – www.ismho.org
American Counseling Association – www.counseling.org
National Board for Certified Counselors Inc. – www.nbcc.org
Credential Check for Online Therapists – www.mentalhelp.net
Canadian Psychological Association, code of ethics – www.cpa.ca

Airport Port Runoff Legal Front:Objective

Engine Trouble

The world of automotive repair is full of stories of people
going to the garage for an oil change and coming out
indentured servants. Here’s how to avoid having to pay for repairs you don’t need.

By: Lanny Boutin
Straight Goods.com – February 2000

One evening my husband took our car in for a routine oil change. While he read the paper, the mechanics changed the oil and checked the air filter.

When they finished, the car wouldn’t start. Its main computer had shorted out, possibly from a 12-volt jolt. Coincidence? That’s what the shop concluded. That oil change cost us $1,159.71. Everyone has heard the horror stories, the mechanic who forgets to refill the car with oil after an oil change, or forgets to put the oil plug back on, the new belt that breaks before the customer leaves the lot damaging the engine.

If possible, find a good mechanic you can stick with. And always ask who will be doing the work – a mechanic, or an apprentice.

In 1999 the Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta fielded sixty calls from people with auto repairs disputes. So what can you do?

“Get a written estimate,” notes Glen, a technical representative for Alberta Motor Association’s Approved Auto Repair. He recommends you shop around, get a few estimates, then make sure the garage you choose guarantees the estimate, and is willing to call you before doing any extra work. Glen also notes, “that the work should never vary more than ten percent from the original estimate.”

If possible find a good mechanic and stick with him. Always ask who will be doing the work, a mechanic or an apprentice. An apprentice may be trained to do the repairs, but a licensed mechanic should always supervise.

Make sure the garage is properly equipped to do the job. Often newer cars need computerized diagnostic testing to locate problems quickly and efficiently. Educate yourself. Ask questions, lots of questions. If you don’t understand, get them to show you. “We have a special hoist for our advisors to show customers exactly what we are going to do,” notes Ken Lauinger, service manager at Kentwood Ford in Edmonton. “After all it’s your money, you have a right see what the repairs are all about”.

Get the old parts. Some parts like starters and alternators have a core charge, part of the price is refunded back to the garage when the old part is returned, but most parts are thrown out, so be suspicious if they’re not willing to give you the old parts.

If you find yourself in a dispute try calling the Better Business Bureau, or your local TV station, many of which have consumer advocates who can take on your causes. The Canadian Automobile Association also offers mediation services for its members – www.caa.ca.

Legal Front: Objective

IBC doesn’t want Alberta lawyers lending money to clients against future settlement.

By Lanny Boutin
Canadian Insurance – April 2003

It’s no secret – almost everything affects insurance rates. That’s one of the reasons why Jim Rivait, vice-president of the Prairies, NWT’ and Nunavut division of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, has decided to take on Alberta’s lawyers.

From his Edmonton office, Rivait has launched a complaint with the Law Society of Alberta over the practice of lawyers, like Bruce King of Edmonton of lending money directly to their clients.

Rivait took action after spotting King’ s billboard advertising his cash advance service. According to King’s Web site, “it is all too easy to take the first and perhaps unfair offer of money from insurance companies – this is what they’re counting on. The cash advance program takes any financial pressure off you, allowing you to pursue a just settlement.”

No one is opposed to “a just settlement,” but Rivait is concerned about the legal, financial and ethical questions regarding money lending. “Just the practice itself can be viewed as driving up insurance costs,” says Rivait. “I believe things can get a little bit out of hand; it drags settlements on and drives up prices.

“Contingency fees already take up a good portion of any settlement and Alberta’s contingency fees are probably the least regulated – they can be as high as 50 per cent. Add interest at very high rates, sometimes close to 40 per cent, and suddenly you are not out to get what’s fair but you now have a target. You need `this’ amount of money.

“Say someone is expecting to receive $200,000, so they borrow $50,000 at an interest rate around 40 per cent. If it takes three to four years to complete the case, that’s $80,000 in interest. Add a 35-percent contingency fee plus costs and disbursements,” and there’s very little left, notes Rivait. In 1976, Louisiana was the first U.S. state to permit lawyers to lend money against future settlements. In 1976, Louisiana was the first U.S. state to permit lawyers to lend money against future settlements. The idea was to assist destitute clients but the practice soon became widespread and problematic. Charles Plattsmier, the chief disciplinary council for the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, suspects that over the years courts have witnessed many misuses of the system. In a recent case, Chtttenden versus State Fann Autornobile Insurance Co., Justice Jeannette Knoll of the Supreme Court of Louisiana was asked to rule on the validity of interest charged.

The question hinged on the fact that the claimants had borrowed money from their lawyer, Darryl J. Carimi. After discharging him and hiring new counsel, the claimants agreed to pay Carimi $46,162.54 (US) for costs and funds advanced but balked at Carimi’s claim of $40,859.25 in interest. Justice Knoll concluded that $40,000 did not constitute reasonable interest and limited Carimi to ,,simple interest.” She then directed the court to strike a committee to recommend changes to the lawyer’s Code of Conduct regarding financial assistance to clients.

After a year-and-a-half of deliberations, the committee came up with some interesting final recommendations, including the suggestions that: Lawyers be allowed to lend money to clients, but be barred from charging interest or any fees to do so. Lawyers not be able to advertise or offer the service to prospective clients. Outside loans guaranteed by lawyers could only carry interest rates of three points over the prime rate set each Jan. 15th by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.

Since the recommendations have been made public, the committee has received hundreds of comments, leading Plattsmier to speculate that the process might not be over.

Saskatchewan, British Columbia and New Brunswick all have policies that expressively or effectively prohibit money lending by lawyers, and Rivait believes it should be prohibited in Alberta, contending that it is “both ethically and morally wrong because lawyers can end up having a greater stake in the outcome of the case than the plaintiff.” Rivait questions the Law Society’s acceptance of the practice, noting that the Alberta bar exam asks if it is ethical to lend money to a client and the answer, if a candidate wants to be admitted to the bar, is no.

Trevor Farrow, an assistant professor of law, who teaches professional responsibility at the University of Alberta, also has qualms about the practice. “On first blush, the notion of lending money to someone isn’t in itself unethical,” he explains. “But when we import it into the context of lawyers and clients, when there is a trust and power relationship involved, ethics start to become a potential problem.

“This is where the subtle differences between a lawyer’s role and a businessperson’s role come into play. No one would think twice about a business lending money to the client – but they have a serious problem if a lawyer does.” The Supreme Court of Canada agrees that the public’s trust in the legal system is as motivated by the appearance of conflict as by actual conflict.

Farrow believes a lawyer’s underlying role is twofold – “to zealously represent her clients within the boundaries of the law and to act as an appropriate officer of the court, which includes acting in the best interest of the public.” To do so, he notes, “you have to be able to give appropriate legal advice without having any kind of conflict of interest or financial interest with the client. If you lend money to your client you can suddenly have a financial interest in the result of their case – such that your advice becomes tainted.”

The Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Professional Ethics doesn’t implicitly outlaw money lending, but it does strongly discourage it. Chapter 6, Rule 9 of the Code states that “the wisest course for a lawyer is never to engage in a business transaction with a client.” it lists money lending as an example of a business transaction.

Edmonton lawyer Mark Feehan has had his share of bad experiences making loans to clients. “I stopped lending money because clients start looking at you as a source of money and they won’t leave you alone,” he says. “You spend your time on the phone arguing with these people, then they end up firing you; it just creates .I conflict that I don’t need.”

Feehan says he had one client who managed to borrow, from a variety of sources, more money than he was going to receive from his settlement, leaving him little incentive to settle. But he still believes there’s nothing unethical about lawyers lending money. “The system is set up to discourage people from pursuing cases,” he says. “I have lots of people who say I can’ t take it any more, I’m broke, I need the money, and decide to settle. “People often don’t have the wherewithal to survive for three or four or five years. Insurance companies aren’t stupid; they are astute at Knowing, when people are vulnerable.”

Terrence Kulasa, who also practices in Edmonton, agrees and goes one step further by blaming the reluctance of third-party insurance companies to give advances under section 636 for forcing lawyers to lend to their Clients. “In most automobile liability situations liability is clear, yet insurance companies try to intimidate innocent victims by withholding money,” says Kulasa. “For ever voluntary advance request I make under section 636, I get one out of 10.”

Rivait is surprised by Kulasa’s low success rate for 636 advances. “I don’t have an exact rate but I’ve been told that where 636 advances are needed they are given,” says Rivait. He goes on to stress that he’s not against clients borrowing money against their settlements; it is the direct conflict of borrowing from their lawyer that worries him.

Some Alberta lawyers agree lawyers should not be in the money lending business. Barry Vogel, QC, the practice advisor for the Law Society’s Calgary office, is investigating changes to Alberta’s Code of Professional Conduct to regulate or outlaw money lending, as well as questioning advertising of the service. His own opinion, given in his primer on lending money to clients, available on the Law Society’s Web site, is that he disproves of the practice because “it muddies the water of the lawyer/client relationship.”

Vogel stresses that the commentary- to Chapter 6, Rule 9 of the Code of Professional Conduct says lawyers “must carefully consider the fiduciary (trust) obligation of the lawyer and the likely presumption of undue influence should the client later became dissatisfied.” The onus is on the lawyer to prove that the transaction was fair and reasonable.

In November 2002, Vogel polled society members and his subcommittee is now considering the complaint. The society’s deliberations are always done in private, without input from the public or the complainant, a practice that irritates Rivait. He believes that if the society truly wants to govern itself, it must be consistent and transparent. The University of Alberta’s Farrow agrees, pointing out that lawyers have a duty to install trust.

“Clients must put their trust in their lawyer to give them proper legal advice,” he says. “Some might argue that just lending money doesn’t give someone an interest in a client’s affairs. But I always advise my students to err on the side of their ethics. If there are questions – why do it?”

Louise McKinney |  John Percy Page
Kenneth Blatchford

By Lanny Boutin
Our World – February 1999

The twenties were a time of rapid growth and optimism. Stock markets soared, the Edmonton Grads captured the worlds imagination, and CJCA featured the music of Edgar Williams and his Pantages Theatre Orchestra for everyone with a crystal set.

Edmonton was growing quickly, it’s population almost doubled in fifteen years. So guided by Mayor Kenneth Blatchford’s urging city council agreed to spend four hundred dollars to overhaul the McNeill airfield. This prompted Ottawa to award “Air Harbour Certificate Number One” to Edmonton, and create Canada’s first municipal airport.

After Blatchford’s term expired, council resolved to name the airstrip in his honour. And on January eighth 1927, Punch Dickins flew his Siskin in from High River, for the official opening of Blatchford Field.

In 1927 when the British announced a plan to donate planes to three cites in Canada, Edmonton scrambled to organize a flying club. With Blatchford’s help the Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club was born. It’s first president was Wop May.

The club received two Moth airplanes, and soon had eighty five members in ground school. By 1930 the club had logged more flying hours and had trained more pilots than any other club in the Dominion.

Louise  McKinney
By Lanny Boutin
Our World – February 2000

The 12.9 hectares (about 32 acres) of undeveloped riverbank below the Shaw Conference Centre are being transformed into the Louise McKinney Park. Edmonton’s Millennium project, it includes a promenade, footbridge, natural amphitheatre, public docks, historical sculptures and an incline railroad from Jasper Avenue.

McKinney, born Louise Crummy, in Frankland Ontario, September 22, 1868, married James McKinney, March 10, 1896. They moved from North Dakota to Claresholm in 1902.

An active social reformist, McKinney was the first president of the Alberta Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which fought for prohibition, and in April 1916, won the right to vote. She also helped create Alberta’s Dower Act, giving women the right to inherit from their husbands.

The first woman elected to a legislative body in the British Empire, she sat as a non-partisan member from 1917 to 1921.

A member of Alberta’s famous Five, she helped petition the Privy Council in England, for a definition of “persons” under section 24 of the British North America Act. On October 18, 1929 Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of the Council, ruled women were eligible to sit in the Canadian Senate, thus legally making them persons. McKinney died July 10, 1931 at the age of 63.

It’s hoped her park will be completed in time for the 2001 World Track and Field Championships.

John Percy Page

By Lanny Boutin
Our World – March 2000

John Percy Page was born to Canadian parents, May 14th, 1887 in Rochester New York. Raised in Bronte Ontario, he came to Edmonton in 1912 to teach at Victoria High School, and became principal of the new McDougall Commercial high school two years later.

An MLA for 16 years and Alberta’s lieutenant-governor from 1959 to 1965, he will always be remembered as the first coach to make Edmonton the City of Champions.

In 1915 Page introduced woman’s basketball to McDougall, the girls loved it and later that year formed the Edmonton Commercial Grads. Over the next 25 years under Page’s guidance they lost only 20 of their 522 games.

James A Naismith the inventor of basketball called the Grads the “finest basketball team to step onto the floor.”

A quiet man who seldom raised his voice, Page expected hard work, strict discipline and the highest moral character from his girls.

The grads were Canadian Champions 18 years straight, Alberta champions every year but one, from 1914 and 1940, undefeated in four Olympic games, from 1924 to 1936, and won the Underwood International Trophy 16 straight years. The trophy was retired when the Grads disbanded.

Page died of pneumonia in March of 1973, at 85. Alberta Sports, Recreation and Parks named their headquarters on 118 avenue and Groat Road in his honour.