Highlights of Some Contemporary Challenges

Bongs lainjo

Mixed Method Program Evaluation: A Case Study

Detailed Narrative of the Case Study is available here:


Comments are Welcome below






Canada’s Complicity in Slave Trade: A Call for a Cultural Monument



I like to perceive slavery as the “incarceration” of human beings (men. Women and children): a process during which the perpetrators use the victims as maids, farmers, labourers and yes, mistresses. There is of course the traditional definition of slavery where people are confined as legal property. And thankfully, this has since been outlawed. In this report, slavery and slave trade are used interchangeably.


One of the first things that come my mind when I think about slavery is to highlight perpetrating countries like the US, Europe, Britain and their colonies, Brazil, India (whose perpetrators were the Portuguese) and indeed Canada. Canada? One is tempted to ask. In a background presented in Wikipedia, the following serves among others as a confirmation of Canada’s role in slave trade. “Slavery was a legal institution in all of the 13 American colonies and Canada (acquired by Britain in 1763)”. So yes, we were part of this shameful and inhuman trade: an activity that will continue to be part of our history.


In its 2016 Global Slavery index, the Walk Free Foundation reported that there are about 45.8 million people globally engulfed in contemporary facets of slavery. The report further states that more than half the population of modern slaves is in India, with 18.35 million; China with 3.39m; Pakistan with 2.13m; Bangladesh with 1.53, and Uzbekistan with 1.23m. These statistics were compiled from 42,000 interviews conducted in 53 languages. If these data were self-reported, there is the likelihood that the global population is higher. And the dismal message needs to be taken seriously! We can no longer sit and hope that humanity would at some point self-evaluate and do what is believed to be the correct thing. Who would have thought that after over a century of outlawed slavery another transformed version of human humiliation would serve as the norm in some communities? These compelling figures also serve as an obvious reminder that laws are only as effective as they are respected. The onus remains on us actors and onlookers alike to disapprove such activities in very strong terms and continue to advocate among different governments for better and more effective laws.


In an article published in the Montreal La Presse+, it was stated that slavery in the Montreal Region existed during a period of 200 years. And according to the paper, one of the slave owners was James McGill: the founder of McGill University. His case reminds me of the Jesuits in Georgetown University in 1838 who trafficked slaves in order to pay some of their bills; a case whose victims included a two-month old baby and her mother. How disgusting! Slavery, the paper continues served as one source of his wealth. Other owners included Marguerite D’youville who had six children and who ended up the sisterhood; Frontenac, the Governor of New France; Madeleine De Verchères, popular in her attack of the Iroquois; and the Jesuits where many religious communities owned slaves.


The paper, citing historian Marcel Trudel (author and specialist on slavery), indicated that there were 1525 slaves in Montréal: 1007 Native American (who conducted intra ethnic slavery) and 518 blacks during the English and French rules. In the latter case, owners were the elites, traders, military officers, the clergies etc. The historian also went on to reveal that the women out numbered the men with an average age of 17.7 years; specifically employed as maids with some as wives (mixed marriages were common) were ultimately accepted as legal wives of their respective masters. Men were generally used as traders of wool and participated in certain expeditions. It is generally known that between 1629 and 1833, there were 4200 slaves living in Québec.


Let’s now explore the dynamics of slavery in the Maritimes. First the role of the loyalists who were considered explicit owners of slaves and who regarded slaves as their property. But who were they? Wikipedia defines them as follows: “Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the British Empire and the British monarchy during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King’s Men; Patriots called them, “persons inimical to the liberties of America.” They were prominent slave owners who settled in Prince Edward Island (PEI), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They remained very adamant and outspoken when attempts were made to deprive them of their ownership. At some point among the three provinces, only PEI had the appropriate statute laws that were meant to address slavery and its effects.

In an article titled “The Struggle over Slavery in the Maritime Colonies” by Harvey Amani Whitfield of University of Vermont, the author states that exact number of slaves in the Maritimes was unknown. He states that at some point “In 1784, Robert Morse estimated that there were 1,232 “servants” at the Loyalist settlements. Exactly how many of these servants were slaves remains elusive”. According to the article, there is evidence that from 1713 to 1758, the total number of slaves peaked to about 300.

So, is Canada exonerated? The evidence produced above points to the contrary. We were participants who promoted the acquisition of “cheap labour” from Africa who served as property and provided services to their slave masters when needed. Given the pro-activeness of our current “new deal” government, one would like to believe (using examples of the Aboriginal residential school and apology in the house of commons to Indians who were repatriated on arrival), that some form of government-initiated intervention will not only be appropriate but timely and rewarding. We all need to stop whining about the past and look forward to a more positive and inclusive Canada. And that is why establishing a cultural monument to highlight our shameful past will serve as an indication of remorse, understanding and empathy!

Our Medical Charts: An Inconvenient Truth

During my years in the academic world, one thing that I constantly told my students was that ‘data and information’ are not the same. ‘Data’ is processed information. While the latter can be used for informed decision making, the former cannot. In other words data by itself is meaningless while information is meaningful.

Many of us have the tendency of using both words inter-interchangeably. This is a misperception that has been in existence for generations. And given the existing conventional wisdom, things are unlikely to change anytime soon. It is like some of us listening to music. Who cares about the lyrics? The sound, beats etc. are what propels the euphoria. In fact there are many songs I hum with no understanding of what the real message is. Data and information can be perceived in that context.

In this report, I will shy away from that confusion and say it as it should be. If I did it differently, it will be a betrayal of my profession and an unprofessional portrayal of knowledge sharing with the public.

Let us consider an area that I remain generally loyal to and that continues to serve as my comfort zone: health or medical data. The subject is so close to my heart that I published a book on data management! There is almost unanimity among many of us that our health data are sacred and should not be made available to third parties. In other words , our health data should only be limited to us and our physicians. This of course is understandable especially given the potential for misuse and abuse by third parties. In some states, patients have direct access to their electronic health information. And note, here I use the word information because some of what we know about our health and stored electronically can be used to make informed decisions. For example, change in blood sugar level or our blood pressure etc.

What remains mind-boggling about our health information is the damage and potential abuse if made available either by design or in error to unscrupulous parties. And there is even a more challenging dynamic that should raise a red flag among all of us. That is the level of vulnerability when it comes to what information about us that is already public. As we move from store to store or shop on-line, all we are doing is sharing our personal information unintentionally with the general public. Most people who shop on-line will agree with me that the websites we use have more background information about us than we can ever imagine. For example try to make a reservation and the site will give you a comprehensive report of your previous reservations. That is the outcome of phishing as the experts will call it. And yet we generally accept these situations as business as usual. That also goes to demonstrate our degree of ambiguity!

All these dynamics tend to highlight a set of important issues. These include ethical, confidentiality, encryption and legal. And can all these be addressed? The reality is that our current laws and policies are significantly outdated; and very ingenious and innovative efforts are required by the appropriate policy makers to address these issues.

So the bigger question is how compelling are these concerns, especially when they are related to access to our health data. My response and personal take is that it depends. ( typical political response!). While there are pros and cons, the overall benefits out-weigh the risks. For example in many meta ( more than one) longitudinal (over a long duration using the same group of participants) analyses, findings have contributed in discoveries that have contributed in finding pathways and cures to some diseases. And that is a win-win outcome that encourages us to be more flexible with our personal health data and making them available and accessible for research purposes.

Unfortunately current trends are not very encouraging. Regulatory Agencies do have a significant and protective role. The reality is that the challenges are both daunting and monumental. And reluctance by the average patient to make their data public continues to represent an enormous challenge. For example in a recent national population survey conducted by Lake Research Partners for the California HealthCare Foundation, only seven percent of those interviewed had personal health records. And among those who did not have, 75 percent worried about the privacy of their health information: representing the biggest impediment.

And as we continue to resist sharing our health data especially for research purposes, let’s at the same time remind ourselves that the outcomes are for the general good and that in relative terms, the benefits far out-weigh the risks. Hence if you consider yourself one of the reluctant cases, grapple over it again and let cool heads prevail.


Bangkok: ISESS Conference Presentation

Title: Sustainable Program Management: Hierarchical Causal Systems.

Presentation available through the following link:



Please post your comments below.

UWI Port of Spain Conference

At this conference, participants were given a “take-home-quiz”.  During the RAPSYS presentation, it was demonstrated by the presenter that while the CPR for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were about the same  (both upper 40 %), the TFR for Sri Lanka was significantly lower (1.9 versus 3.0). The question: What dynamics in the Sri Lanka program led to the below replacement rate while Bangladesh remained at three?

Responses can be posted on the discussion page below. And details of the presentation are available on the following link:




Canadian Broken Foreign Aid: It’s Time for an Effective Paradigm Change

Canadians finally after years of political agony decided it was time for a major change of guards. And indeed, this time the voters massively demonstrated their anger by voting in the highest turn out since 1993. This higher-than-usual degree of participation suggests significant levels of decreasing cynicism and apathy. This is a civic responsibility that we should all continue to uphold. Democracy is not a luxury; it is an opportunity for every citizen to express their feelings freely in an attempt to make our country more attractive, transparent, inclusive, and the envy of the free the world.

Our foreign policy and specifically, foreign assistance has been in “intensive care” since the previous government took over the reigns of power. Foreign aid should never be confused or mixed with business and profits. It remains a humanitarian and charitable manifestation of support to the less deprived and vulnerable communities. The Tory government in its revised agenda transformed our foreign aid into a “venture capitalist” endeavour. For example, it significantly reduced the number of countries receiving Canadian help and integrated business initiatives into our foreign assistance policy. Mining suddenly became a key component of Canadian bilateral agenda. CIDA as we all knew it became a footnote. Business should never be used as pre-condition to help vulnerable and deprived communities. We owe these less fortunate countries unconditional help. And the liberals can make the change!

These conservative party unnecessary and ideological development modifications need to change. And no better time to do it than now. The new government has indicated its willingness to move away from ideology and re-establish our dynamic engagement in every global agenda. There is urgent need to get the ball rolling and revive CIDA, and the same time to correct all the senseless and unsubstantiated Tory policies in order to show the world that Canada has once again stood up and needs to be counted among the other developed countries as an effective and committed foreign aid player. In the new CIDA, attempts will need to be made to streamline the glutted bureaucracy making it more responsive with more and effective response rates. For instance, in the previous set up the treasury board was more of a deterrent especially in its tardy response to payments and related requests. This is one of many lessons learned that needs to be addressed in order to accelerate the relevant processes.

The above comments will be skewed and biased if some recognition of what the previous government did is not highlighted. Looking at our foreign aid history between 2001 and 2010, one sees evidence that while during this decade we had two governments (Liberal and Conservative) there is evidence to credit the conservative government for creating some of the successes that exist today. For example during this period and according to OECD report, Canada foreign aid as a percentage of its GPD crawled from.22 per cent in 2001 to .34 per cent in 2010; placing Canada 14th out of 23 developed countries. Most of Canada’s increase occurred during the Tory years. In contrast, Norway’s funding increased from .32 to 1.1 during the same period.

Also, at the global level, Western countries have woefully failed to meet their own pledges to donate 0.7 % of their GDP to LDCs. Only a disappointing number of countries – four – have achieved this objective. There is definitely an overwhelming need for a paradigm change. And Canada needs to grab the bull by the horn and run with it. We are all exited and anxiously looking forward to some significant and positive change from our new government.

FOREIGN AID: THE LITMUS TEST -Efficiency, Effectiveness, Relevance, Impact or Sustainable?


Dear Mr. Bongs,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus!

We thank you for generous donation of 15 laptop computers to Bishop Barham University College.

All the fifteen (15) laptop computers are in very good working condition since the time we received them, and are serving us in training of our students.

BBUC has been training students in the BSc. Information Technology, Business Computing, Computer education for secondary school teachers and Basic Computing skills.

September 2015 we shall have our third in-take and our pioneer students will join their final year of study at BBUC. Each year the College recruits new students and in the coming academic year we have projected receiving 500 new students. This will further increase our numbers but reduce the student-computer ratio.

The following students have been trained under the listed programs

The B.Sc. Information Technology program currently has a total number of 22 students (9 in Year I and 13 in year II) who have been trained.
Under Basic Computing course, over 1000 students have been trained.
160 students have been trained in Business computing
10 students have been trained in Computer education for secondary school teachers
In total 1192 students have been trained.

A computer lab has been prepared to cater for this program. This is a teaching and learning computer lab. The space planned for in this room is to host 100 students at one sitting with a student-computer ration of 1:1. This computer lab has been networked and connected to the campus Local Area Network as well as the internet to facilitate research. It has been furnished with the necessary furniture i.e tables and chairs. The available computers have been marked (engraved) with BBUC/UCU logos and the College name, and locked onto the desks to prevent them from being stolen. A white board has been provided for use by the lecturer to protect the computers from chalk dust.

The laptops have been a great resource especially, considering that our students come from very poor families who have difficulty in raising the required University fees, but also cannot afford to buy their children computers to facilitate their course. This donation was timely and as a college we are very grateful.

BSc. Information Technology is a highly practical skills based program and students undertaking this program must have access to and interact with a computer for optimum learning.

N.B: The pictures of the laptops as set in the room and the entire room are attached. We have not sent the photo of one of the training sessions since our students taking computer courses are now off session. We shall take the photo and send it to you in September when these students will be in session.