David Rapaport on the importance of language, Schmale and the trucker convoy, and the need for a GO bus

Lunch with: Conversations with interesting people in Kawartha Lakes

By Roderick Benns

David Rapaport outside his home in Lindsay. Photo: Sienna Frost.

I love hearing a Brooklyn accent while sitting inside a Greek restaurant in downtown Lindsay, talking national and provincial politics with a Jewish professor. It just seems very Canadian somehow.

David Rapaport, 74, is an assistant professor in Trent University’s sociology department who has lived in Lindsay for the past two years. But he’s hardly feeling at home here yet – the isolation of COVID has made sure of that.

Rapaport and I meet at the Olympia Restaurant where we quickly fall into an animated discussion about a broad range of topics, but especially politics.

He has an easy manner about him, somehow both warm and cerebral at the same time.

The Olympia culinary magicians in the back kitchen (likely co-owner Costas Dedes) has concocted a delicious chicken rice soup, which is my order. Rapaport goes with the same and adds a Greek salad on the side. 

Despite the Brooklyn accent, the relatively new Lindsay resident says he has been in Canada for a long time — about 54 years. He arrived in 1968 as “one of those draft dodgers.”

He grins. “You may have heard of us.”

He first went to Montreal, which seems like a glamourous choice for a young man from a large American city. He stayed for a few years and finished school at Sir George Williams University (Concordia University today.)

“I came to Toronto in ’71 and lived there right up until about two years ago.”

Like many people from the big city during the pandemic, “I wanted to get out of Toronto.”

Rapaport’s wife, who is Australian, is back home visiting family there when we meet, something she had not been able to do for a long time because of COVID.

They found their home in Lindsay’s east end not far from the Rotary Trail, just three days before the COVID curtain came down.

As an unabashed big city guy who has been active in the labour movement for years, Rapaport calls the neighbourhood “a bit suburban for my taste.”

“I grew up in Brooklyn. Still looking for the tree,” he says, a nod to to Betty Smith’s 1943 classic book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It uses the Tree of Heaven as a metaphor to signify the plight of the poor immigrant class during the early years of the 20th century.

“I’m very urban. I never owned a car until I moved here to Lindsay. You know, to own a car in the city is just not thinking things through.”

Rapaport pointed out people can rent a car when needed in the big city “and you’re still miles ahead” financially compared to owning a car.

And speaking of transportation.

“Why is there no GO stop out of Lindsay? That’s insane. We should talk to the mayor. Laurie (MPP Laurie Scott) doesn’t seem to be able to move it forward.”

Rapaport is shocked that if he wants to go somewhere he has to drive almost to Highway 115 to get a GO bus. “We should do a campaign around that. I don’t get it. I’m sure there are a lot more cities smaller than Lindsay that have GO stops.”

Although he retired in 2009, he couldn’t make it stick. The itch to do more presented itself and so he began the doctoral program at the Canadian Studies department at Trent, completing it in 2015. Since then, he has taught in the departments of computer studies and political studies and is now in the sociology department. His main academic interests are labour, unions and technology.

However, his contract is done in August and he has a feeling it won’t be renewed because of funding restrictions.

“I’m getting too old,” anyway, he says. “The students are getting very demanding and their lives are really falling apart because of COVID. So many of them are working, too,” he says, which he acknowledges must create a lot of extra stress in their lives.

As lunch arrives, he goes back to the subject of local services and politics.

“Why is there only one blood lab in Lindsay? And it’s private! That’s not right.”

The professor says soon after he arrived, he tried talking to MP Jamie Schmale but they were never able to connect.

“But then I found out he supported the trucker convoy and I just didn’t want to talk to him. I couldn’t believe it — that my Member of Parliament would support that. It’s like supporting Jan. 6 in the United States.”

Schmale told the Advocate that his party supports the message the truckers took to Ottawa, and that he supports “the end of federal mandates too, as do the majority of Canadians. We believe that Trudeau put gasoline on a fire by calling the truckers names. Truckers felt that this was their chance to be heard by Ottawa.”

Rapaport did tell Schmale’s staff that he has been receiving the MP’s pamphlets and that he never sees the words climate change ever mentioned. “And that worries me.”

Digging into his food, he savours it for a few seconds. “This is good. So good.”

One of the professor’s greatest pet peeves are the words some people are throwing around with more alacrity these days.

“Language should be respected. Calling Trudeau a dictator? It’s out of control. They used to insult policy — now it’s just a visceral anger.”

Rapaport says when words aren’t respected it makes the future use of concepts impossible. “The words lose all meaning. Language matters — you should do an article on that.”

Then he turns his attention to Premier Doug Ford’s government. “Why is the province building highways? Buying up roads with our money? Giving back the licence tax? None of it makes sense.”

Rapaport jumps to personal leisure pursuits, speaking highly of the recreation centre in town. “It’s well-resourced and the staff is friendly and capable.”

He also mentions he just bought a kayak, given how close he lives to the Scugog River. “It’s a nice river and I can go fishing. It doesn’t even cost me anything anymore.”

I immediately assume Ford has given the fishing licence tax back, too. “No, it’s because I’m a senior,” he says with a laugh. “But that wouldn’t have surprised me.”

5 Comments

  1. Mr. Rapaport seems like a nice person,, concerned with more things in the world than just himself, but not an expert on either bus transportation or political science. No one is preventing The Advocate from performing a local survey to help determine the need for a Lindsay Go bus, which you should be doing and publish the results nstead of spending your hours with Laurie Scott axe grinding. I’m pretty sure.that Jamie Schmale did not approve of any trucker,s illegal activity but he did approve of their cause which was an angry protest against Justin Trudeau’s failures over the last 6 years, including his inability to deal with the country’s economic and social problems and blaming it on others, and also bringing skin colour into his philosophy. Millions of Canadians believe Trudeau to be a greedy ignorant liar, and the Lindsay Advocate could “do an article on that some day”. It is preposterous to insinuate that Jamie Schmale supported any of the truckers actions that were illegal. It is Trudeau’s language that is disrespectful. If our leaders are secretive, paranoid and subscribe to Machiavellian philosophy you can expect more street protest. The Liberal Party in Canada treats our constitution like it is there for their elitist use, just ask anyone who studies these things (obviously not Mr. Rapaport). The Advocate’s opinion piece is a nicely written and entertaining story about a nice man. In 1970 to 1972, I operated a youth hostel that provided asylum for Americans who were not willing to be drafted into the army. He could have been one of my residents that I bent the rules for, and gave a home to when they were displaced and homeless. I do not appreciate you using these people to promote your magazine’s opinions because the magazine is not a public forum providing a public service, but reads like a Liberal Party propaganda leaflet. You brazenly accuse others and repeat unproven hearsay, bear false witness against others, tell just the part of the story that suits you. Although nicely written, it is still just one angry, frustrated person going blah blah blah instead of sitting down and studying the issue properly, so you don’t fool me.

  2. Roderick Benns says:

    Bradley, the Advocate has devoted many resources to the needs of rural transportation. In fact, this issue was on our cover late last year:

    https://issuu.com/kawarthalakespublisher/docs/lindsay_advocate_2022_january_web

    We do not print “unproven hearsay.” In fact, when Rapaport made the comment we reached back for the actual comment made by Schmale and printed it in the story: Schmale told the Advocate that his party supports the message the truckers took to Ottawa, and that he supports “the end of federal mandates too, as do the majority of Canadians. We believe that Trudeau put gasoline on a fire by calling the truckers names. Truckers felt that this was their chance to be heard by Ottawa.”

    ‘Lunch with’ is a series where one person gets to talk about whatever comes up. It is a light feature, not a study or a treatise on the topics of the day. It’s usually not even political — it depends on what the subject seems interested in talking about.

    The Advocate does not endorse the Liberal Party, nor any other party. We prefer to stick with issues of policy.

  3. Patricia Lester says:

    David Rapaport appears to have a very dim and negative view of our community and what it offers. It’s quite easy to complain about what one “has not” but should it be more difficult to find the positives in our community or take action?
    Perhaps Mr Rapaport should return to a more urban environment.

  4. Mark Doble says:

    First encountered Mr. Rapaport when he was an executive Board Member with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) back in the 90s; a brilliant, articulate and passionate activist. Clearly the fire has not left the belly! I agree with his concern about the reckless use of language in our society today. Welcome to Lindsay, David! Hope our paths cross soon!

  5. Anne Carmichael says:

    What a great interview, and of an inspiring, interesting person, David Rapaport, a new citizen of CKL. I’m glad he mentioned the need for us to drive almost an hour to park to pick up the bus so we can connect with metro Toronto transit. Peterborough is making strides to connect their city; surely we can get something in Lindsay for CKL. I’m sure residents of Bobcaygeon, Fenelon, Coboconk and Haliburton Highlands would appreciate it too. Any room at Highway 35 and Kent Street, near the new construction going on, to make a bus stop with parking like the one at Highways 115 and 35? Always glad to hear about and from positive, motivated people who share their good ideas and food for thought. Please keep it coming; we appreciate you, Lindsay Advocate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*