V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer

Foreign Affairs urges Canadians to be vigilant in Europe

Published in The Toronto Star, October, 2010.

PARIS—Despite sober warnings advising Canadian and U.S. travellers to be vigilant against potential terror threats in Europe, the only visible difference at the French capital’s most popular all-night cultural event were armed soldiers patrolling Parisian landmarks.

On Sunday, the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa said it was closely monitoring the security situation in Europe.

G20 debates a friendship in the breaking
Published in The Toronto Star, July, 2010.

It wasn't just police and protesters who clashed at the G20 summit in late June.

Offices, lunch rooms, cafés and cyberspace have overheated with passionate debate as Torontonians engage in a G20 post-mortem.

And friends who have never talked politics are revealing their allegiances, causing rifts in relationships for some, and forging new friendships for others, as they discuss the weekend's protests and mass arrests.

Earth Day Celebrates 40 years of advocacy and education

Published in The Toronto Star, April, 2010.

Inside the hallowed halls of academia resides a potent mix of youthful idealism, unbridled energy, and a dash of willful defiance.

It’s where young people begin to challenge the world they live in, ask questions, and, if unsatisfied with the answers, mobilize to voice their discontent.

For the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the university campus was the natural setting from which to raise awareness and promote Earth Day’s inaugural debut, on this day in 1970.

The Earth Day founder would tap into the youthful zeal of enlightened students who would fan out and relay the message of conservation and environmental education. More than 20 million Americans would take part, making the first Earth Day the largest, organized citizen demonstration in U.S. history. It would also be credited for launching the modern environmental movement we know today.

Today, student environmental activists have evolved into a more sophisticated and savvier lot than previous generations, firing on a different set of cylinders altogether.

Mexico City a ghost town

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, April, 2009.

Canadian expat Tom Mulholland has stocked the pantry in his Mexico City home full of canned goods, pasta and jugs of water.

Surgical masks are in short supply but the engineer has half a case that should last his family and employees for a week.

Toronto-native and transplant John Gardner has canceled business luncheon meetings and shuttered his family in their Mexican home, shunning the beautiful weather and public gatherings. And Ottawa-native and teacher recruiter Guy Courchesne, meanwhile, is working in an empty building after the government closed all schools and universities until May 6.

Canadian doctor treating H1N1 in Mexico City

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, April, 2009

A Canadian doctor living at the heart of the influenza outbreak in Mexico has been working 14-hour days treating nervous patients, two of whom tested positive for the H1N1 virus.

For the past two weeks, Dr. Michael Haney, 34, of Montreal has been working alongside his doctor-wife at a private clinic in Mexico City from 7 a. m. to 9 p. m., mostly reassuring frightened parents with sniffling kids they'll be fine, he said.

McCain's tears of disappointment

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, Nov. 5, 2008.

Phoenix, Ariz – Americans gave Sen. John McCain the pink slip last night.

Much like the 760,000 Americans who lost their jobs this year in an economic fallout the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression, Americans told the 72-year-old Arizona senator he and the GOP have become redundant.

In his speech on the lawn in of the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, McCain offered his congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama, and mentioned the passing of his grandmother as a tragedy at an historic time. He also conceded Obama’s sound victory.

“We’ve come to the end of a long journey. And the American people have spoken, and spoken clearly,” McCain said, his face tired and wan.

Canucks split on vote
McCain struggling to hold on to narrow lead in his traditionally Republican state

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, November,  2008.

Phoenix., Ariz – Paul Dziedzic is the envy of many Canadians.

Tomorrow, the dual U.S.-Canadian citizen will cast a vote in one of the most historic political events of our time, an opportunity coveted  by his envious Canuck cousins and American election junkies all over the world.

Dziedzic is hoping his vote for Sen. John McCain will help bring him back from the brink of a projected defeat, in what’s turned out to be a battle to the finish, even in the Arizona senator’s home state.

“I’m a steadfast Republican,” Dziedzic said in his sprawling, southwestern home in Phoenix. “But I don’t hold out a lot of hope.”

Unlikely Quebec Republican

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, November, 2008.

Phoenix – Hockey talk in Canada is rarely lost in translation, former Montreal Canadien Claude Lemieux said.

Oftentimes, he’ll talk sports with his friends back in Canada and they’ll both be on the same page, the current Phoenix resident and real estate developer said. But when it comes to politics, Lemieux is a bit of a “maverick” – if you will – compared to the Quebec sensibility. He’s a hard and fast Republican.

“They’ll say, ‘how can we agree on everything else with hockey, but disagree on everything with politics?” Lemieux said. “I say I’ve always liked to be different from everyone else.”

Mixed blessings

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, January, 2009

Danielle Lafond has what's called an "ethnically ambiguous" face.

Her features are inscrutable, defying any tidy categorization of race or ethnicity.

Her big chocolate-brown eyes are deep-set and the arch of her brow high. Her skin is a deep shade of olive, her hair black and straight, and her nose small and pert.

She's been mistaken for Mexican, aboriginal and Caucasian — depending on where she is or who's addressing her. Lafond, 30, is half Chinese and half French-Canadian but like U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, who is largely referred to as simply black by both media and himself, she identifies with her more visible half — her Asian heritage.

Wheel empathy

Published in The Toronto Star, September, 2009.


Lately, cyclist Janet Irvine has noticed drivers are more willing to give her the right-of-way.

Strangers are urging Jake Williams, a bike courier, to be careful on the streets.

And Nick Ganas, 16, has finally shaken off that adolescent armour of invincibility and is wearing his bike helmet.

Since Monday night's confrontation that led to the death of courier Darcy Allan Sheppard and the downfall of former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant, it seems an atmosphere of détente has descended upon the mean streets of Toronto.

Bike vs car

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers May, 2009.

I was beaten, bloodied and bruised in the Toronto Sun newsroom yesterday.

As the lone commuter cyclist in a heated debate with a handful of reporters and editors, I dodged attacks on bad biking etiquette with some defensive verbal driving, and swerved around openly hostile attacks about my fellow two-wheeled kin.

The myth of water abundance in Canada

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, July, 2008.

Water is set to become this century's oil.
World leaders have been bellicose about the spectre of water wars and global shortages. The UN says one-third of the world's population live in water-stressed countries now and, by 2025, that's expected to rise to two-thirds.
Underground pipelines are being built to move, not oil, but water. Canadians, meanwhile, are the second largest water user per capita after the U.S.
But we can afford it, we're water-rich. Or are we? As we celebrate Canada Day this week, Sun Media takes a look at a national heritage Canadians jealously guard, but don't fully understand.

Bottled water comes at a hefty price

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media family,  July, 2007

GUELPH, Ont. — Don Balanoff Sr.’s 86 years of life have been punctuated by water wars.

When he was in his late teens, Balanoff fought the enemy on treacherous seas during World War II. Water was indeed everywhere but, as the saying goes, not a drop was there to drink or spare.

Officers were told to use their ration of water — one gallon a day — sparingly, he said.

Lessons were learned the hard way. After storing his ration in his locker, he would return to find it empty.

Oil and water don't mix

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media, July, 2008.

What's happening in the foothills of Alberta is symptomatic of a larger scenario playing out in the energy-rich capital of Canada: Alberta is oil rich, but becoming increasingly water poor.

To produce one barrel of oil from the oilsands, requires between two and 4.5barrels of water.

Duelling demands are beginning to emerge, and it appears water is losing, and fast.

Plugging Canada's drain

Published in The Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, July, 2008.

In the middle of the Arizona desert, entrepreneurs are planning to build a gargantuan water park.

The specs are ambitious: Called Waveyard, the 45-hectare water park is expected to be completed by 2010 and will have the largest man-made, recirculating white water river in the world, a scuba lagoon, snorkelling, kayaking, and surf-sized, four-metre waves.

Meanwhile, the U.S. announced last year that 36 states face water shortages in the next four years.

It's this kind of immoderate squandering in the U.S. that makes them the largest per capita users of water in the world, water advocates say. And it's why Canada should close the door should the U.S. come knocking for our water, they add.

Still on the hook

Published in Sun Media, July, 2008.

This year marks the facility's 40th anniversary of scientists working quietly in northern Ontario, four hours east

of Winnipeg, manipulating lakes to mimic the impacts of human activity. They have government permission to

add phosphates, mercury and acid into the 58 lakes in the area -- as long as it doesn't pose a threat to

human health -- in an effort to solve some of the country's greatest aquatic ailments, like algae blooms, fish

kills and the effects of acid rain.


Obama takes on the world

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers January, 2009.

President Barack Obama has the weight of the world on his shoulders -- literally.

After taking the oath of office this week to become the most powerful man in the free world, Obama faces the Herculean task of turning the planet around from its current trajectory and saving the world.

At least that's what scientists and environmentalists are hoping for after eight years of inaction and complacency by the Bush administration.

Food shortage and climate change

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, October, 2007.

The global food shortage that has sparked bloody riots around the world serves as another grim reminder of how international crises are intimately tied to the state of the planet.

Last year, this column devoted a page to Darfur that explained how the humanitarian crisis that has killed 200,000 people and displaced another 2.2 million has its roots not in a web of politics, but in an "ecological crisis" described by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Smartest city in Canada

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2009.

KINGSTON, ONT. -- Folk here sure are clever.

Residents in this waterfront city outsmart the rest of Canada, with more PhD holders per capita than any other major Canadian city, according to Statistics Canada figures and some number crunching by Sun Media.

In a city of 152,360 people, 2,545 hold earned doctorates -- that means 1.67% of the population holds a PhD and the prefix Dr. to their name, triple the national average of 0.56%.

Most caring city in Canada

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, March, 2009.

LONDON, Ont. — Bill Corfield is among Canada’s most caring Canadians and resides in one of the country’s most caring cities.

He lives here where nearly one in two residents over the age of 15 volunteered in 2004.

Corfield, 88, was the recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadians Award in 2000 for devoting 50 years of community service, which manifests itself in pockets of the city where he’s left an indelible, yet anonymous, mark.

Quirkiest city in Canada

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2009.






People living in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones, especially when the house is made entirely of empty embalming fluid bottles.

On the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake in Boswell, B.C., funeral director David H. Brown recycled 500,000 such vessels weighing 250 tonnes to build a 1,200 sq.-ft home.

When it’s cold, they put the caps back on the bottles for insulation, his son Eldon Brown quips.

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