Friday, July 11, 2014

thoughts on recent Tsilhqot'in decision, Supreme Court of Canada

The recent Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada decision on Aboriginal title was a reminder to Canadians that the supreme law of this nation is the Constitution – it existed long before the Harper Conservative federal government and fortunately, will remain in effect long after this government is history. We have seen with the Harper government, with respect not only to Enbridge Northern Gateway proposed bitumen/ condensate pipeline project, but also many other issues, a flagrant disregard and disrespect for the Constitution. Harper has positioned himself as an ultimate authority of the country and throughout the course of his run, has on numerous occasions disregarded the Constitution including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His record in this regard leads me to question: to what extent does he understand the legal framework under which a Prime Minister operates? His government’s repeated undemocratic thuggish policies that contravene the Constitution create a massive wasting of taxpayer dollars in processes that run the serious risk of leading to ultimate legal defeat. Example: Enbridge Northern Gateway. The Constitution of Canada has always acknowledged Aboriginal rights; the Tsilhqot’in decision clarifies that First Nations consent first needs to be obtained where Aboriginal title is established on specific territory and any incursions by government into such title would have to meet a high threshold test grounded in their fiduciary duty to First Nations. On the Enbridge Northern Gateway file alone, there are currently more than ten court cases commenced or pending against this federal government due in large part to their lack of regard for Constitution and legal process. Result? Mounting costs for taxpayers, and for what? So we can ultimately have a dangerous pipeline punched across our watersheds against the will of the majority of the people of BC? So we have mega-oil tankers travelling up and down Douglas Channel, home of humpback whales, spirit bear and so many other species? There is a federal election next year – the next government needs to learn that a starting point for advancing any kind of economy needs to start with respect and dialogue before closed door decisions are made and then imposed on First Nations (not to mention the rest of us!). This starting point to governing will ultimately save all Canadian taxpayers lots of money, wasted effort, uncertainty and frustration.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

to the centre

I have a place in the wilderness I go to when the human way in the world is getting me down... it could be one of several healing places really and there are for sure a couple of special places where I can step outside myself and what seems to be a constant battling of the way things are/ status quo when I am wandering around in the midst of human society these days. When I go into the woods, everything is suddenly OK.
It could be near a swamp, walking down the trail amidst the plants and trees. I become a creature of the world and my place in this world simply happens. Here, I belong. Here, the world seems a simpler place. I don't need to prove or justify myself to anyone. I can simply be. And breathe. Society in Canada is becoming strange to me. We are constantly bombarded by a certain narrative of how we should be. It's a wonder any of us are still ourselves, but we are, somehow. The government these days does not seem to have the interests of the average person on the streets in mind. The concern seems to be more about some big business guys somewhere and their interests. Somewhere northern BC is contemplated as mere sticks of timber, would-be pipeline corridors and possible mining pits. To me northern BC is its forests, lakes and rivers. That's where dwells the soul of this place. Walking along a path lined with the shading devil's club, false solomon's seal, cow parsnip and ferns is magic. Here the birds sing in harmony, a symphony. I just want to sit in this forest on a gingham cloth and have a picnic with friends. I just want to sit here alone and watch the trees slightly moving in the wind and the clouds passing by. And then I re-enter the human society. I become someone different, an outsider. I don't understand economy. I see people walking the margins where the dandelions still grow. Here in the thick of things, I will join them.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

the little engine that could

I am in Jasper Alberta having travelled here eight hours across northern BC from Prince George by way of the Via Rail train.

It is a trip that takes one back in time through still untrampled wilderness, past bear dens, beaver dams, the wetlands of trumpeter swans, ducks and geese, mountains and the hundred year old telegraph line that follows the railway route closely through this land.

The train cars including the excellent observation car, date back to the 1950s. It seems that since that decade there have been significant cutbacks to this service, even since it became a government-run service in 1977. The last spike of this western-most section of the trans-Canada railway was put in by Fort Fraser BC (west of Prince George by about 150 km) in the year 1914. Once upon a time, rail travel was how people travelled through and came to settle in this area. Now the remnants of their towns lie scattered on the edge of the tracks in the form of dilapitated homes, farms, sawmills that once upon a time, created local employment for the ghosts who likely still dwell out there on the edge of the wilderness as our little (3 car) train passes by. CN Rail owns the rail tracks and controls them fully. In recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number and size of the freight trains passing through the area... they carry grain, coal and lumber products heading west to the port of Prince Rupert and heading west, large container cars with "Hanjin," "Cosco" and colourful graffiti written on their outer shells.

Frequently this little Via Rail train is held up by the long freight trains which these days always have the right-of-way. Money talks, the profits for these businesses. This human cargo, we passengers, must wait. Three hour delays in the train schedule are not uncommon. One guy mentioned to me, they don't even want us here. They want us to go away. The little blue train seems magical somehow, firmly connected to the history of this area and the significance of the railways through here. It's a tiny thing and yet it continues to chug through, on the edge of this new world order of commodities to ship as quickly and with as much volume as possible.

It seems to me like the story of my childhood, the little engine that could. And there is something inspiring about this little passenger train that still dares to be and travel through here, despite this new world order that doesn't seem to have time for or interest in it anymore.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

art "speak" on pipelines

Currently underway in Prince George BC, two art shows depicting artists' perspectives on pipelines, with a specific focus on the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposed to cross this part of northern BC, the condensate bitumen tar sands oil destined for massive oil tanker ships that would enter the tight fjiords and inlets in and around Kitimat BC. 

The thought of this big oil-backed project breaks the hearts of most people I know who reside in northern BC and knowing that the current Canadian ("Harper") government backs this project all the way, even to the extent of rewriting our federal environmental and review process laws in order to facilitate this project going ahead, devastates many of us, shaking our confidence in what we understood as Canadian democracy. 

To live on this land and by its flowing waters is to love it from the core of our beings.  Currently many of us feel under direct attack by outsiders led in large part by big oil companies operating in and around the devastating Alberta tar sands, and, the "Harper government."  Federal documents gained under a freedom of information request reveal that the recommendations of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers were closely reflected in this government's most recent omnibus budget bill which removed many environmental protections and did away with many administrative fairness review processes.  Once upon a time, I believed these protections were sacred in our country, the administrative fairness reviews protected in our very Constitution.

In the past couple of days, the media has reported that the 3-person National Energy Board Review Panel (none of the 3 members from British Columbia) has released a number of conditions that Enbridge would need to abide by should the project be given the green light to go ahead.  It should be noted that over 99 per cent of public participants in this process said NO to the project and many of the First Nations groups chose to boycott the process entirely as it did not constitute adequate consultation with them.  The Joint Review Panel claims they are not saying yes yet to the process, merely stating the conditions that Enbridge would be expected to abide by should the project be approved.

WHY would you go to all the trouble of constructing a list of conditions if you do not intend to approve it?  It seems, this would be just what a project proponent would want.... a review process which on the surface looks as though due process is being served, but if you scratch the surface even a little, you can find serious defects with the fairness of the process and the lack of impartiality at so many levels.

And meanwhile, the poets and artists are stepping forward, showcasing their sentiments in the most powerful way they can:  their art.    The Two Rivers Art Gallery in Prince George is currently hosting a show, Pipeline: A Line of Division, many of the beautifully executed pieces rendering depths of despair and profound concern about this particular project and the broader theme of how Mother Earth is being treated these days in the pursuit of money. 

Also, currently at Artspace above our beloved Books and Company bookstore on 3rd Avenue is a show entitled Pipe Up.  

I am proud to say my 8 year old son is displaying his art work in this show; it is the first exhibit he's ever participated in.  His work is simply entitled, "Before and After the Pipeline."

Other exhibited art includes the following:

"Crossing our Borders," by Pat Gauthier ($750) - Pat is a rancher whose land borders on the Necoslie River, Stuart River and Pitka Creek, three waterways that would be crossed by the Enbridge pipeline - the piece speaks to the devastating impact the pipeline would have on the ranch, particularly if there were ever a spill.

"The forgotten promise," a series of three paintings by Laura Chandler ($600)

"Protest Posters" by David Voss and "The Pipeline People" by Rob Ziegler

These are only some of the powerful works showing people's responses to and emotions around pipelines that outsiders seek to put through this area.... the Artspace Pipe Up show runs until the end of April. 
How are these artists' voices heard? 

And I cannot help but wonder, do the National Energy Board, Enbridge and the Harper government even know anything about these artists' expressions of concern? 

And if so, does it matter at all?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

planting new seeds

the grungy underside of Prince George, the massive potholes, the pick-up trucks drag-racing through town, the logging trucks blasting down Highway 97, carrying the logs of our remaining forests in both directions...

in the midst, a cool subculture is taking shape and growing here....this past weekend I headed downtown to Ohh Chocolat, a locally owned cafe / chocolate shop on the corner of 6th and George... a big steaming mug of coffee and a chocolate truffle, before heading 1/2 block down the street to the all-year Farmers' Market which is constantly expanding and improving ...  local potatoes, other veggies, fresh salad greens grown down the road in wood-heated greenhouses, wheat from Vanderhoof, baking, preserves, leather craftsmen, a local jewelry designer who works with gold and silver.... awesome place.

From there, it was a quick trip to Seedy Saturday at Exploration Place.  This annual event is also significantly growing in popularity, many people interested in self-sustainability, growing their own food, saving seed, protecting the environment from poisons of pesticides and pollution...

It is interesting how the political and big business leaders seem to have a vision of northern BC as a place to be industrialized and exploited for its natural resources but meanwhile a growing number of locals are forging ahead with creating a new way of being, planting new seeds... 

Here's to the future and the (r)  evolution...!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

a new tune

so... after much deliberation, I have decided to change the focus of this blog... whereas the past saw me ranting about the constant barrage of threats to northern BC, I now realize that most people would rather focus on the positive, what is possible and beautiful.

Otherwise life and its many challenges can simply feel too overwhelming...

Having lived most of my life in north central British Columbia, Canada, I can tell you I dearly love this part of the planet.  Whereas outsiders sometimes view the northern areas of Canada as mere places with resources to be exploited, we who live here longterm can't help but fall in love and become thoroughly enchanted by magic of the land up here.

This weekend, I was out at our cabin at one of the local lakes.  With my family, I snowshoed across the lake with the crunch of snow underfoot, and when we arrived, we realized by the many hoofprints and indentations in the snow that a couple of moose had paid us a visit and slept overnight in the front yard.  During a solo snowshoe across the lake later on, I was fortunate enough to observe the 2 visitors who appeared to be a mother and large (yearling) calf.  When I spotted them, they were casually sauntering along each other, enjoying the peaceful surroundings just like I was.  It was a beautiful moment of harmony with them. 

I am often reminded when spending time out in the great wilderness found all over this area that humans are not necessarily the top of the food chain out there.  No, I realize when in the wilderness, we are merely one strand of a great and complex web of life.  Out there, ego does not matter so much.  What matters is the great life energy that surrounds and is everything.

On my way back, I needed medicine.  I followed the moose tracks in the snow and they led me to the prickly stalk of a piece of devil's club that grows prolifically throughout the old growth forest at the lake.  It was just what I needed.  I cut it and although it is the middle of the winter, the medicinal scent of the plant was strong as I boiled it into healing tea.  At night, Chinese new year, new moon, the stars were the brightest I'd ever seen out at the lake.  Ours was the only inhabited cabin, the only light the soft glow from the flickering woodstove and the sole flickering candle on the table.

.... I was reminded during this sojourn of the power and magic, the strong medicines, that north central BC hold for us.....

So in the future, I am going to shift the focus of this blog to the beautiful, inspiring and thought-provoking of northern BC.... sure sometimes (especially in this day and age) there is a need for a rant but happy thoughts are good too.

Here's to peace and love on this beautiful planet.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bill C-38 & Enbridge Northern Gateway

It's been a while since I have written, but I have just returned to British Columbia after 7 months of travelling in Latin America, and I feel so inspired and angry about what is happening in Canada these days that I just have to do something....  so blogging it is.... Pine Needle knit is being resurrected.

The day I arrived in Vancouver - surrounded by the sights of tulips, daffodils, birds, raccoons, ocean and mountains, almost weeping for joy at the beauty of British Columbia - was the same day the Harper government of Canada passed their budget bill.... Bill C-38 which actually, is far more than a budget bill... in addition to changes to employment insurance & raising the old age security age from 65 to 67 years old, this so-called "budget bill" includes a complete rewrite - and weakening - of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.   I was jolted therefore by the contrast between the beauty of my homeland and the challenging - and rather frightful - current state of political and economic decisions in Canada.

In addition to these far-sweeping legislative changes, the government has also severly curbed the time for parliamentary debate.  The provisions of Bill C-38 were never debated in Parliament or discussed nationally.

Here is the link to the bill:

Highlights of this bill with respect to the environmental issues include:
-  severely reducing when - and if - a federal environmental review will even happen, the full onus instead being shifted to the provinces.  The situations when there would be federal environmental review are now extremely limited and most responsibilities have been handed over to the provinces instead (despite the wording of the Canadian constitution which places responsibility for & jurisdiction over issues such as fisheries and navigable waters with the federal government);
- if there were a federal environmental assessment, it would be limited to include ONLY environmental effects (narrowly defined) and not socioeconomic, cultural, health, archeological & historical significance and other effects in most instances;
- potentially less protection for fish habitat in the smaller creeks & tributaries;
- broader powers to the National Energy Board to potentially approve projects that could cause destruction to the habitat of endangered species (something that was previously protected under the federal Species at Risk Act) & to be able to override the provisions of the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act.

For more information on these impacts, the websites of West Coast Environmental Law and Green MP Elizabeth May include some really helpful information.

While I was out of the country, the federal Conservative government has come out in support of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, one of the many industrial projects which will be directly impacted by this new (more hands off and as they say "stream-lined") federal approach to environmental reviews.  In fact one of the ministers went as far as to call opponents to the projects "radicals" and "insurgents"

.. so now, as I come back to northern BC, I am happy to stand as a "radical insurgent" with others who care about the future of this most incredible area of the world...

I hope to be able to continue to track some of the current approaches of government, particularly federal and provincial, decisions which could very much impact on our lifestyles and the land and waters of this area.

At the same time, I want to keep track of some of the inspiring & incredible examples we are seeing of the people standing up and saying NO to projects that simply don't make sense to the people who know these lands and waters the most....

because they live here.

Happy to be back & knitting with pine needles.