Saturday, November 28, 2009

alpaca socks, trees & trappers

This weekend is the Kelly Road Secondary School craft fair where locals have opportunity to sell their crafts, preserves & other items. I remember going to that craft fair a couple of years ago and it went on and on and on. . . so many people participating!

Here is a notice from Russ Purvis at Kakwa Ecovillage about the alpaca socks he will be selling there!

(note: these socks are not always available in Prince George other than when Russ attends at summer's Farmers' Markets downtown)

Season's Greetings! 2009 is almost complete. Many traditions acknowledge the shortest day of the year (the Solstice) in the N. Hemisphere and the longest in the Southern. Christmas and Hanukkah arrive this time of year and gift giving is atradition. We have available a portion of our annual reward for being Alpaca shepherds: Several hundred pair of silky soft and snuggly Alpaca socks forthose still looking for special gifts. They are light brown or grey colors. Sizes are 4-6 small, 7-9 medium, 10-12 large, 13-15 extra large. To order visit our Store: .

Note: all natural fibres (forlongest wear) should be hand washed and air dried. There is still time to ship and have them arrive before the Holidays for most locations. But don’t delay or your gift may arrive late! Thank you for considering the support of our sustainable business!

Russ Purvis
General Manager
Kakwa Ecovillage Cooperative

On another note, local author Jack Boudreau will be at Books and Co. 1-5 pm today with his new book Trappers & Trailblazers -- his books are awesome for anyone wanting to know about the wild & sometimes rather crazy history of tough trappers & homesteaders around this area. . . I will write more about him later. . .

Also the festival of trees continues at the Civic Centre - hosted by the Spirit of the North Foundation as a fundraiser. There is something quite magical about this community event. . .

snow is really starting to fall now.
Let's hope it is here to stay. Let's get on with winter!
I mean, we are Canadians eh!

Friday, November 27, 2009

boo for Canada : (

Scientists target Canada over climate changeBuzz up!
Digg it
Damian Carrington,
Thursday 26 November 2009 22.54 GMT

Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies.

The coalition's demand came before this weekend's Commonwealth heads of government summit in Trinidad and Tobago, at which global warming will top the agenda, and next month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Despite criticism of Canada's environmental policies, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, is to attend the Copenhagen summit. His spokesman said today: "We will be attending the Copenhagen meeting … a critical mass of world leaders will be attending."

Canada's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the world's highest and it will not meet the cut required under the Kyoto protocol: by 2007 its emissions were 34% above its reduction target. It is exploiting its vast tar sands reserves to produce oil, a process said to cause at least three times the emissions of conventional oil extraction.

The coalition claims Canada is contributing to droughts, floods and sea level rises in Commonwealth countries such as Bangladesh, the Maldives and Mozambique. Clare Short, the former international development secretary, said: "Countries that fail to help [tackle global warming] should be suspended from membership, as are those that breach human rights."

The World Development Movement, the Polaris Institute in Canada and Greenpeace are among the organisations supporting the plan. Saleemul Huq, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "If the Commonwealth is serious about holding its members to account, then threatening the lives of millions of people in developing countries should lead to the suspension of Canada's membership immediately."

Canada's environment department refused to comment on the call for it to be suspended.

The Commonwealth comprises 53 states representing 2 billion people. In the past it has suspended Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa for electoral or human rights reasons. Speaking earlier this week, its secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, said: "I would like to think that our definition of serious violations could embrace much more than it does now."

singing about mining

I attended the Rita MacNeil/ Men of the Deeps "A Mining the Soul" Christmas concert at the CN Centre in Prince George last evening. It was the first stop on their planned cross-country tour. They will be back in their homeland of Cape Breton in time for Christmas.

Rita MacNeil is a beautiful woman - I felt like I was sitting in her firelit living room having a cup of tea with her throughout the whole of the performance. 29 men on the stage with her and she outshone all of them! At 65 years old, her powerful voice is as strong as ever. She is truly a Canadian icon, of the kind we need more! I particularly appreciated her song about a pine-cone decorated Christmas party held in a one-room schoolhouse and leaving the party through the falling snow! It was so very cozy and evocative of a rural Canadian landscape we do not ever want to lose in this country because it is really our most precious asset.

As for the Men of the Deeps, well I did not really know about them before this concert, but they have made a new fan out of me. What a presence they are on the stage! 24 of them came walking up onto the stage in line in their mining outfits, their mining lamps shining on their foreheads. Anyone with bluenoser roots I think could appreciate this group and their down to earth(literally) tunes about the tragedies, the challenges, kinship and incredible stories about going deep into the earth to mine the coal. The story about the deaths at Westray Mine and the little children the killed miners left behind brought tears to my eyes, so too did the story about tinfoil from lunchkits used to decorate the Christmas tree & pepsi cans used to make Christmas tree stars because the miners were too poor to do otherwise. The men sang very haunting music, a blending of industrial endeavour and the Maritimes' incredible & enduring musical and storytelling legacy.

I could not help but think how interesting it would be if here in northern BC an area where many people work closely with the earth in various professions (forestry, mining come immediately to mind) turned to artistic expression to let others know about their experiences. Very powerful.

I got some tea from Rita's teahouse in Cape Breton & left the concert with a perma-smile. I don't think anyone left without being really impressed.
It was great & most definitely soulful.
Thanks to Rita & the Men of the Deeps.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

actions addressing poverty in Prince George

St. Vincent de Paul has just recently produced a black and white calendar as a fundraiser for their services. It features beautiful people from around town. The calendar can be purchased at various venues around town. I got one at Ave Maria for $15.99.

On a similar note, the Northern Women’s Forum is Hosting the 7th Annual Chili Blanket Event coming up on December 5, 2009. Unfortunately, due to the poverty in the city, the need for this event in Prince George does not seem to diminish from year to year and has become a yearly event. The below information taken directly from a recent media release:

Everyone is invited to: Chili Blanket VII
Prince George Courthouse
Saturday, December 5, 2009: noon- 2:00 pm

Come Out and Rally Against the Increasing Poverty in BC

Join the NWF in speaking up for British Columbians who are losing their jobs, services, and rights to financial assistance in OLYMPIC numbers!

This Year the BC Government wins GOLD for:

*making the poor invisible: those you count you try to make invisible & those

you can’t count are already invisible

* beating out Alberta in the increase use of food banks: only 90,000 people used food

banks in a month in BC ; BC saw 75% of its food banks report increased use

*being the top dog in Child Poverty… once again

* HST – wow, BC is really a winner

* a homeless person dies every 12 days in BC

* a single employable person got a welfare increase in 2007 to $610/month- average

rent in BC is $672.

The Northern Women’s Forum will be serving hot chili, hot chocolate, cool music and sharp talk!

Once again this year the NWF is also collecting blankets and winter wear for those in need and agencies serving those in need in Prince George.

The Northern Women’s Forum would like to thank this year’s sponsors: Status of Women, FACNC, Confederation of Canadian Unions, PG & District Labour Council, and the BCGEU.

For information: please contact Jan Mastromatteo: 250-564-7880, or

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Warhol in Prince George

I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic. ~ Andy Warhol

can you believe that we currently have actual Andy Warhols in the Prince George (Two Rivers) Art Gallery?
Jackie II (1966), Lincoln Center (1967), Liz (1967) and Mao (1972) are here.

Don't you just want to pull on your go-go boots, stuff your hat over your eyes, your hands in your threadbare pockets and head down there through Prince George's slushy winter-slogging streets?

Mao is particularly impressive as is Liz, especially her bright blue eye shadow vibrant against a red backdrop. There is even a (real) Campbell soup display at the art gallery which will eventually transform into a food hamper donation. . . funny how everyone's food hamper donations these days tend to be Campbells anyway, no questions asked. That was easy.

The art display entitled "Pops Display" was prefaced by an opening held last Thursday evening complete with delicious hors d'oeuvres (even jelly beans but there were certainly more elegant fingerfoods on hand too), wine and bright fruit punches.
Meow Music provided music a la 1960s. Truly, a complete fusion of arts in its various sensory delights. The art gallery describes pop art a "a fun and kitschy movement" and so too was this fine opening event complete with all sorts of folks dressed in 1960s garb (note to self: some fine 1960s woolen mini-dresses may be found in the Prince George Vallu-Village).

The description of the art show explains, "An explosion of popular imagery and everyday signs and symbols into the world of fine art began to occur in the late 1950s and early 1960s." The art is further described as graphically tidy and accoustically simple.

I did not happen to be around in the late 1950s nor early 1960s so this movement seems really very historic to me, but what I am intrigued by is that these commercial things that nowadays we have come to accept as mundane routine reality surrounding us wherever we go, were during that era coming to be viewed as interesting sources of art. Advertising was then really starting to come into its own and take off. The western world was really starting to become the saturated materialistic place it has now come to be.

Here is another interesting Warhol quote which perhaps explains why he found it so interesting to focus on the artistic merits as such regular things as Campbell's soup tins & Coca Cola:

What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

Warhol and other pop artists moved away from hand-drawn images, preferring instead a kind of print making/ silkscreening approach to depicting popular consumer products, ads and celebrities. Reflective of this basic pop art experience, the Two Rivers' Gallery show includes an interactive "make art make sense" activity. Visitors to the museum may have a quadruple image of themselves made on the computer then use the materials provided to colour and create a Pop-inspred self portrait.

All totalled, this Two Rivers display (on tour from the Vancouver Art Gallery under a provincial touring program) is tons of fun, and as Warhol put it,

"Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign again the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again."

Whatever that means. . .

letters to oil companies to say no to Enbridge pipeline

Dogwood Initiative based in Victoria BC is organizing a letter writing campaign for people to state their opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline project through northern BC ---

The letters will be sent to these potential backers of the pipeline:

Mr. Brian Livingston (VP and Counsel - Imperial Oil (Exxon) )
Mr. John Lau (CEO Husky Energy)
Mr. J. Kenneth Alley (Executive Vice Chairman - Suncor Energy)
Mr. Byeong-il Kim (Korea National Oil Corporation)
Mr. Rick George (CEO Suncor Energy)
Mr. John Watson (Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation)
Mr. Han Hua (Managing Director - CNPC Alberta Petroleum Center)
Ms. Lorraine Mitchelmore (President and CEO - Shell Canada Ltd. )
Mr. Hyunyong Kim (Korea National Oil Corporation)
Ms. Jean-Michel Gires (President and CEO - Total E&P Canada Ltd. )

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prince George's "Anti-Idling Fairy" & Ant-Sized Maps

Although this post from Opinion 250 here in Prince George ( is kind of old (dating back to Nov 6/09) it is also kind of quirky & funny so I am posting it here. . .

First It Was The Air Fairy-Now It's The Idling Fairy
By Ben Meisner
Friday, November 06, 2009 03:46 AM
First we have the Air Care Fairy, now we have the, Idle Free Fairy (Ambassador as City Hall calls it), we are definitely moving up.
Let’s start with the new, ”Idle Free Fairy” whose motto should be, "You fink and we create a stink”. They have started off with a bang.
From the public comes reports that there have been people idling their vehicles at Tim’s (my God what a surprise), Canadian Tire Car wash, (double my God what a surprise), UNBC, Spruceland, The Super Store and Oh God, North Nechako Rd. (Oh God that could be me, I feel like a criminal already). Mess up by idling your rig and we will give you a sticky, and if you don’t shape up we will give you a sign, not the one I had in mind either.
Whoa we do have a lot of time on our hands in the City to come up with these hair brain ideas, trying to make a comparison where it is not uncommon to reach -30 below and marrying that to the 604 where minus -5 they lose control of their senses. I wonder aloud at what temperature the City Council loses control of its senses?
Now can the new Idle Free Fairy have the power to climb aboard one of those CN locomotives sitting in their yards idling for several hours? Of course not, unless she is able to change it into a Volkswagen, sorree she has no authority. It’s you bums that she wants , those people that do the serious polluting have their own Fairy, it’s called "Clout".
Well just to make your blood boil a bit more so that you won’t have to idle your vehicle to keep warm, you will soon be hit by the Air Care Fairy, who has the power to drop a brochure off at your house and suggest you should quit burning wood. The reply to that knock on the door is not fit to print.
Here we go again, after discovering that golly Gee Whiz it wasn’t grandma who was responsible for the smoke in the air, and more over through some very serious investigations we were able to ascertain that one in four homes in PG did not burn wood, we have found a new way to get you. Send in the Fairies, they wave a wand and you won't believe it, the air is clean and fit again.
Did one of those arresting officers who found all that BC bud this week leave it in front of City Hall for a few days because the question "what have they been smoking?" does enter one’s mind.
I’m Meisner and that’s one man’s opinion.

Thanks Ben.

So more on the Prince George air quality issues from my perspective. . .

PG AIR (Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable) the multi-stakeholder group (industry, government, concerned citizens, health organizations) vested with the responsibility of cleaning up this air shed has come up with this idea for an "idling hot spot map" on their website to pinpoint sources of idling in the city -just tried to input my concerns about the 7 Tim Hortons drive-thrus in town but realized, you basically need to be the size of an ant or a pinhead yourself to be able to utilize this map. Go ahead try it:, and if you can figure it out, please let me know.

. . . . did it work !? What happened when I tried is that I clicked on the map to try to get it to zoom into the close proximity at least of where I know the annoying air polluting things to be (not just Timmy's to be fair - could throw in a refinery, about three pulpmills, some chemical plants and at least one pellet plant and some other stuff like Burger King's grease-emitting fry-maker, parking lots with idlers trying to keep their vehicles warm while they shop for an hour,

but when I went to click on the map a balloon came up right away asking me for my concern -- it did not afford me the opportunity to get too precise with my info! So this more-than-pin-sized fairy went away, not having made my air quality submission.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

cranberries on stick branches

I am trying to get up the energy to get myself up to Cranbrook Hill today to the cranberry bog I found there, where the wild cranberries still hang like frosted bright rubies from barren branches in the snow-chilled forest. It's a car-free weekend so option are: bus (very infrequent schedule or walk -- over an hour one way through the cold). Could bike but would rather use studded tires which I don't have. I have gotten as far as donning a woolen touque and layers of long underwear & woollen garments. . . winter is drawing near, the first of snows now covers the Prince George landscape -- not yet enough to go cross-country skiing (can't wait!)

Later, we are going to a lantern walk in honour of St. Martin's day - a friend from Germany is organizing it. I love the idea of a candlelit walk to add cheer to the early cold darkness of a mid-November day.

Tomorrow afternoon, I shall go to Prince George Symphony Orchestra's 'Go for Baroque' featuring Bach (Orchestral suite no. 2 in b minor & violin concerto no.2 in e major), Purcell (the fairy queen suite no. 1) & Handel (water music, suite no. 1).

As the quiet season descends on the north, such reflective music seems most appropriate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

more on Mount Milligan proposed mine near Prince George BC

Further to my blog entry on October 30, 2009, about the proposed Mount Milligan gold/copper mine in north central British Columbia (northwest of Prince George),

members of the public have until tomorrow, November 12, 2009, to submit comments to Environment Canada about the possibility of amending the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation pursuant to the federal Fisheries Act to have King Richard Creek & Alpine Creek added to Schedule 2 of said regulation. . .

meaning in other words, if they are added to this schedule,

they will no longer be fish-bearing creeks.

They will be "tailings impoundment areas" for the mine.

Comments can be sent to:
Chris Doiron, Chief, Mining Section, Mining and Processing Division
Environment Canada
351 St. Joseph Boulevard, Gatineau, Quebec KIA 0H3
Email: (sea to sands conservation alliance)

Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance ( started here in Prince George for British Columbians who are concerned about/ oppose Enbridge's plan to construct Northern Gateway Pipeline (crude oil)from tar sands to north Pacific coast (Kitimat inlet). group started on facebook.

see also

Friday, November 6, 2009

"a cup of social justice" in Prince George

Please forward this notice (below) put together by the Global Friday group UNBC for this Global “Thursday” event! UNBC Geography Department is a co-sponsor.

Thursday November 12, 2009:

UNBC Room 7-152 2:30 pm

Evening event: 7:00-9:00pm @ ArtSpace (above Books & Co)

"A cup of social justice - fair trade coffee and land reform in Guatemala"

Guest speaker is Lesbia Morales Sican, with the Campesino Committee of the Highlands - Lesbia is a member of CCDA (Guatemala) national executive, women's economic development coordinator & responsible for marketing their coffee product, Cafe Justicia.

Lesbia will speak and will show a short documentary movie “Madre Tierra” (Mother Earth).

Blurb for the CCDA documentary that Lesbia will screen: MADRE Tierra - a CCDA/Prowse production, approx 25 minutes:

"For centuries, the distribution of land has been at the centre of Guatemala's violent story. Guatemala has the most unequal land distribution in the Americas, and campesino farmers struggling to feed their families are facing ever greater obstacles to gaining access to a plot of land. "Madre Tierra" follows one campesino organization, the Campesino Committee of the Highlands, as they work to get land into the hands of the campesino families who have worked it for centuries."

Nigerian speakers at UNBC

On "Global Friday" at the University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George BC (November 6, 2009), two Nigerians spoke to a full room about the work of the NGOs they work with & the incredible challenges facing Nigeria as they attempt to bring about sustainable development in that country - that is, development that will factor in the well being of the environment and future generations. I had previously done some reading on what is transpiring in the Niger Delta with oil extraction, and I was curious to hear directly from people who live in that country about their experiences

The two speakers were Juliet Olory, Project Coordinator, Development in Nigeria (DIN) and Godwin Ugah, Program Director, Council for Renewable Energy in Nigeria (CREN). They have been travelling around British Columbia for the last 2 months with joint sponsorship by two Canada-based organizations One Sky and BCCIC. . .

One Sky is an organization based a 2-4 day bike ride down the road (or train tracks) from Prince George in Smithers, British Columbia -- here is the description of what they are all about (looks like an incredibly cool northern BC-based organization!)

Although some might call us an environmental NGO we like to think of ourselves in broader terms that include human rights, human well-being and even human potential. Others might think of us as a development NGO because we work in developing nations but we like to think we are developing ourselves and searching for mutual solutions in a globalized world.

BCCIC is British Columbia Council for International Cooperation & here is their description:

BCCIC is a coalition of BC voluntary international development organizations and provincial branches of such organizations which are committed to achieving sustainable global development in a peaceful and healthy environment, with social justice, human dignity and participation for all.

Juliet spoke first - she discussed the work of Development in Nigeria in assisting to development sustainable livelihoods for people in rural Nigeria - they have a number of programs to build capacity, develop sustainable land use, empower locals & develop programs such as education. She also discussed how Nigeria is the 7th largest oil producer in the world producing 2.4 million barrels/ day (the oil being extracted by the big boy oil companies among them Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron) & despite this huge oil extraction, the average Nigerian lives on less than $1/ day in an increasingly polluted environment -- regular oil flaring, thick oil slicks on water. Most towns in the region of big oil development have no services - the people live extremely rudimentary, impovershed - and contaminated - lives.

Godwin Ugah then presented information about the work of the Council for Renewable Energy (CREN), another NGO in Nigeria. The goal of this organization is to look for, promote & help develop alternatives to fossil fuel based energy sources there - he spoke about how Nigeria is considered the 5th most polluted place in the world due to the constant gas flaring. Violence has become commonplace in the Niger Delta in response to the extreme exploitation and harsh poverty that the oil extraction in the area has imposed on the people. Godwin mentioned that the country is rapidly being deforested & turned to desert - despite Nigeria being such a prominent oil producer in the world, the people of Nigeria do not have access to the oil & burn the wood of the forests instead - compared to Canada's 2.32 million barrels / day of oil used (wow it all adds up doesn't it ?!), the country of Nigeria only uses a total of 275,000 barrels/ day.
The goal of CREN is to move wind & solar energy use ahead for the people of Nigeria. He cited government policies (and corruption) as major hurdles - the major oil companies enter into deals with the government but virtually no benefits flow to the people who live in poverty and pollution with no services. Godwin spoke about how the potential for good and evil dwells within each of us & expresses itself in the world in the choices we make & how we choose to conduct ourselves in relation to the rest of the world -- do we carry on with a status quo that may be destructive or take the steps to co-create a new (more sustainable) way of being?

One of the attendees of the talk (not me!) mentioned some of the parallels between what is happening in Nigeria and what is increasingly happening in Canada with the tar sands and big oil & gas here & plans to expand same. . . .

Kim Struthers from One Sky in Smithers also addressed Shell's plan to drill for oil in the Sacred Headwaters of northwest BC - she said if it went ahead, northern BC could become another Nigeria. On a related note, I was happy to hear Wade Davis' Massey Lecture (CBC) in which he addressed this very point. . .

he spoke of how the Sacred Headwaters of northern British Columbia could be a Sacred Headwaters for all of Canada.

Some things are simply sacred, despite how many big oil (or gas or mining for that matter) company dollars might be at stake.

How did money come to be treated with more reverance than all that is sacred in the world, like these special places? . . .

Like the Niger Delta for instance.
Like the Sacred Headwaters of BC.
Like the rivers & creeks that flow through the lands upon which we dwell.
Like the oceans.
Like the land.
Like the planet Earth.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

here's for the sockeye!

I never thought I would say these words but: thank you Mr. Harper. For what? For calling today for a judicial inquiry into the reasons for the collapse of the Fraser sockeye runs.
I received email notification via west coast biologist Alexandra Morton's distribution email list earlier today - she was ecstatic as she has been calling for this inquiry for some time -- the only question I have is about the timeline for the inquiry -- results by May 2011 - isn't that a bit late when we have numbers like 71 sockeye (!) being counted in the Nechako watershed this year according to a previous email I received.

Here is the Globe & Mail article:

Ottawa to probe B.C.'s declining salmon stocks
Prime Minister announces judicial inquiry, called 'our chance to save B.C. salmon from going the way of Atlantic cod'

Mark Hume and Bill Curry

Vancouver and Ottawa — From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Nov. 05, 2009 7:52PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Nov. 05, 2009 8:08PM EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to hold a judicial inquiry into the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in British Columbia is being called a last, best hope to avert a fisheries disaster on the West Coast.
“This is our chance to save B.C. salmon from going the way of Atlantic cod,” Phil Eidsvik, a spokesman for the B.C. Fisheries Survival Coalition, said Thursday after Mr. Harper's surprise announcement in Ottawa.
“It's a slim chance, but it's great news because we know there are ways to protect and save the run,” he said. “We know the department has been unable, for whatever reason, to do it – and only an inquiry will get to those reasons.”
The announcement, which will be fleshed out Friday by Stockwell Day, the regional minister for B.C., could have immediate political impact because the salmon crisis is a key issue in Monday's federal by-election in New Westminster-Coquitlam.
NDP Leader Jack Layton is arriving Friday to campaign over the weekend with his candidate, Fin Donnelly, a strong environmental advocate who once swam the length of the Fraser River to underscore the plight of salmon and who has been calling for an inquiry.
Demands for an inquiry escalated this fall after the Fraser River sockeye run collapsed – with only about one million fish returning to spawn when between 10 million and 13 million had been expected.
Mr. Harper made the announcement in the House of Commons.
“We are very concerned about the low and falling returns of sockeye salmon in British Columbia,” he said, adding that Mr. Day would provide details today.
“[He] will be making an announcement outlining the terms of reference for a judicial inquiry, as well as the judge who will lead that inquiry,” Mr. Harper said.
The public inquiry will be mandated to report back to the government on or before May 1, 2011. It will have complete authority to hold hearings, summon witnesses and gather evidence as needed.
“An inquiry has access to all DFO documents and they can bring people in and they testify under oath, with the chance of going to jail if they lie,” Mr. Eidsvik said. “And a judicial inquiry is the only format for that to happen. It gives us the best chance to get at the truth as to what's happened to our salmon runs.”
Alexandra Morton, an independent scientist, said the inquiry needs to examine in detail the reasons why some 130 million salmon smolts, which migrated out of the Fraser, never returned from the ocean.
“The establishment of a judicial inquiry into the management of the Fraser River sockeye fishery gives new hope for the future of a great salmon river,” said Conservative MP John Cummins, who has long sought just such an investigation into DFO.
“We face a disaster of epic proportions on the Fraser. In six out of the last 11 years the fishery has been closed. Tens of thousands of B.C. families have suffered as a result,” he said.
The Conservatives had promised an inquiry into B.C.'s salmon fishery before – during the 2006 campaign – but Vancouver Island North Tory MP John Duncan said the initial resistance to the idea that surfaced then has since passed.
“We now have the circumstances where it's not about finger pointing any more. It's about getting to the bottom of what's actually going on,” he said, explaining that at the time of the original commitment there was some resistance from the fishing industry and first nations.
But he said that has changed .
Clarence Pennier, Grand Chief of the Stó:lô Tribal Council, welcomed the announcement, saying native communities along the Fraser are in “despair” over the failure of the sockeye run.
“We are in the dark as to why the sockeye runs didn't make it back to the river. We are still looking for the answers and this is why we support a judicial inquiry,” Chief Pennier said.
Rafe Mair, a public commentator and environmental advocate, said with pressure building for an inquiry, Mr. Harper had no choice but to act.
“I don't think they are really taking any political risks here,” he said. “I don't think people would blame Harper for the crash.… they would, however, pin it on him if he didn't have an inquiry. He had to do it.”
Alex Rose, author of Who Killed the Grand Banks: The Untold Story Behind the Decimation of One of the World's Greatest Natural Resources , said an inquiry could help reshape DFO and alter the fate of B.C. salmon.
“I applaud Mr. Harper on this decision,” he said. “It's long overdue and I hope we get the chance to look at the failed mechanisms in DFO, a department I consider intellectually bankrupt.”

This inquiry follows very shortly after a recent report commissioned by the Pembina Institute out of Alberta which addressed the potential devastating effects that Enbridge oil pipeline (any oil pipeline actually) would have on salmon stocks in British Columbia's major river systems as oil spills are bound to happen. . .

Here is the summary off their website

Pipelines and Salmon in Northern British ColumbiaPotential Impacts
Published: Oct 16, 2009
By: Pembina Institute et al.

Four major pipeline projects have been proposed for northern British Columbia over the next five years, including the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. All of the proposed pipelines would cross and at times run parallel to important salmon habitats in the Upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds. This report provides an overview of salmon resources in the affected watersheds and examines how pipeline construction and operation would impact salmon; the likelihood of spills; and the impacts of a spill on salmon. The four page fact sheet, "Oil and Salmon Don't Mix," highlights the importance of salmon in northern British Columbia and gives an overview of the risks posed to salmon by the Enbridge oil sands pipelines.

Here is what the Province newspaper reported:
(where is the other media coverage of this report!?)

Proposed Enbridge pipeline threat to northern B.C. fish streams: Report
Institute warns ruptures could prove 'catastrophic'

By Business Reporter, The Province

October 20, 2009

Enbridge's proposed $4.5-billion pipeline across northern B.C. would pose serious risks to fish habitat, an Alberta-based group says.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines would threaten some of Canada's most productive salmon streams, the non-profit Pembina Institute said yesterday.
"Pipeline construction, ruptures and leaks all pose serious risks to salmon, making the Enbridge oilsands pipelines a toxic proposal for salmon and the communities that depend on them," the institute said in releasing a report on the proposed project.
"Given the likelihood of a pipeline failure and the difficulty of cleaning up spills in fast-moving river systems, even the best construction and operating practices could not eliminate the risks."
The dual-pipeline project would carry petroleum 1,170 kilometres from near Edmonton to Kitimat and condensate from Kitimat to Edmonton.
The pipelines would cross and, in certain places, run parallel to salmon streams in B.C.'s Upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds, the institute said. The watersheds are home to chinook, sockeye, chum, coho and pink salmon and steelhead trout, among other species.
"A significant leak or rupture near salmon habitat in the Skeena, Kitimat or Upper Fraser watersheds could be catastrophic ," Pembina said.
Enbridge says it invests heavily in leak-detection technology and is committed to operating the project to the highest environmental and safety standards.
There is an average of one rupture every 16 years for every 1,000 km of pipeline in Canada, according to a separate report cited by Pembina.
The proposed project will be subject to regulatory review by the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

So again I say: thanks Mr. Harper for the salmon judicial inquiry . . .
and now, what about the tar sands expansion & associated proposed crude oil pipelines to the west coast?
If these issues are addressed, then Canada will really be getting somewhere.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

facing up to November in Prince George

I have to admit I have been doing some cocooning as of late, and recently speaking to a town elder, I realize I am not alone. He observed: people tend to cocoon around here. I mentioned to him I thought the time had come that Prince George could do with a funky theatre downtown (you know, the kind of place that shows interesting thought-provoking movies, maybe even a pianist and the odd lecture would be good. . . ) - this particular elder responded,

it's been done here, it's all been done. Around and around we go, ideas repeating themselves in this town!

Yes I have been cocooning as of late, but truth be told: it is November in Prince George.

November. . . truly the bleakest month in this part of the world, OK, well February is not far behind, but at least we have the Iceman & Valentine's Day then. . . and spring just around the corner.

November though is simply cold & stark. Leaves are gone from the trees, evenings are dark (actually latter part of afternoons are dark), a strange kind of twilight masks half-frozen dog poo lurking on grassy spaces and sidewalk curbs, the weather is cold, the snow (and associated snow sports) have not yet arrived on the scene. . .

Redeeming qualities (if any) of November in Prince George --
- craft fairs (just about one every weekend) and man, we have some really talented crafts people & preserves-preparers around here
- chance to wear somewhat stylish woolen hats, coats and boots
- other. . . ummm. . . give me a moment.

OK then, things to do in a Prince George November:

- go to cafes and drink coffee and read papers or magazines (my favourites hangouts include Books & Co, Zoes, Sassafras Savouries)
- rent a whole bunch of DVDs
- jog or walk clad in bright flourescent vest, touque, mitts and long johns
- swim (if you can tolerate great doses of chlorine)
- meditate by a candle (not all month, an hour or 2 a week or even a day will do!) - and while you are at it warm yourself up on the candle to save on fossil fuel emissions heating
- read (or write) poetry
- just learned about toonie Tuesdays at UNBC sports centre - but let's ration that one to avoid swine-flu promoting crowds (have I mentioned how fed up I am with H1N1?)
- go Christmas shopping (or window shopping) - I recommend Dandy Lines downtown for the most aesthetically pleasing environment and JJ Springer across the street for the coziest
- blog, email or play around on facebook
- go to aforementioned craft fairs to buy black currant jelly, woolen slippers & wooden toys
- check out UNBC poster boards for interesting academic speakers
- rake leftover leaves (OK, can be boring, but at least a workout!)
- go to Remembrance Day events and wear a red poppy

Hmmm, other ideas would be gladly appreciated - fortunately December (and hopefully snow!) are just around the corner!

Monday, November 2, 2009

in defense of potatoes

Here is an article I found in the Tyee today which picks up on themes/ issues I wrote about in an article about John Ryser and his Nooksak (nooksack) potato in the Aug/Sept09 edition of Northword Magazine

Glad to see Prince George potato grower John Ryser is getting some provincial profile!

The Potato Underground
How the 'outlaw' Cariboo spud, once blacklisted by agribiz advocates, was saved. Latest in our Eat Your History series.
Joanne Will, 29 Oct 2009,

When Jerry LeBourdais learned that big agribusiness couldn't handle the Cariboo potato, he knew he'd found a variety that he wanted to support. The name didn't hurt either. If there was a potato out there named "Cariboo," it had a natural home on the back-to-the-land commune near Williams Lake that LeBourdais had founded.
All he needed was some seed. It sounded simple enough.
"Jerry wanted to get a hold of some, and asked me where," recalls John Ryser, a prize-winning seed potato farmer who lives south of Prince George. Ryser told him it wouldn't be easy, because the potato had been decertified for seed production in 1976. By the time LeBourdais came calling in 1983, the Cariboo spud had been banned for seven years and Ryser had given up growing the variety.
"I kept the Cariboo going for years," says Ryser. "The big cheeses de-listed it because it would hang on to the vines." Government officials may prohibit varieties for reasons ranging from disease susceptibility to a tendency to snarl farm equipment; industrial potato farmers want plants that harvest easily with machinery. "Once a variety is de-listed, if you grow it, they'll cancel your seed grower's licence."
But chance and luck launched a new chapter in the history of the Cariboo potato. During a spring meeting at the government experimental farm in Prince George in 1984, a visiting horticulturalist showed up with samples of all kinds of varieties, including Cariboo potatoes from the former Vancouver Research Station in Pemberton.
"Before it was all done, I got four or five of his six Cariboo potatoes and gave them to Jerry," says Ryser. "Then Jerry got in hot water because he was bragging about it, and they started calling it the 'Outlaw Potato.'"

The Cariboo potato rush
The Cariboo region is known today for beef and alfalfa, but a richer farming history stretches back to the gold rush of the early 1860s. Settlers began farming to feed the miners, who otherwise had to pay a premium for whatever fresh foods could survive being mule-hauled up the Cariboo wagon road.
The Cariboo gained a reputation for quality potatoes, explains Denis Kirkham, a retired seed potato specialist who worked in B.C. for the federal Ministry of Agriculture for four decades. In the "heyday" years after World War Two, he says, there were 35 seed potato growers in a belt spanning from McCleese Lake, just north of Williams Lake, to Hixon, just south of Price George.
Yet the Cariboo potato itself has roots about as far from gold-rush country as you can get without leaving Canada. The variety was first bred at the federal Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, which each year sent seed potatoes out to be tested at a network of experimental farms nationwide. In 1963, one such variety did unusually well in central British Columbia's tough climate. Mike Van Adrichem, then a horticulturalist with the Prince George experimental farm, gave it the Cariboo name. It became popular just as small-scale farming in the region began to face its most challenging times.
"There are lots of reasons potato production in that area declined starting in the '70s," says Kirkham. The Cariboo had a labour shortage, he explains, made worse for farmers by the fact that there was more money to be made in logging and the mills. Freight was costly, too, and made it difficult for the region's family farms to compete with emerging industrial producers in places like Washington and Alberta, and later, global suppliers such as China.
Potato Leek Soup
Many potato leek soups taste thin and weak. The key to this rustic recipe is to use a strong homemade broth and organic heritage potatoes (such as Cariboo potatoes) which have more and better flavour than their supermarket counterparts.
3 c vegetable broth
3 potatoes, peeled
1 tbsp butter
3-4 leeks
1/2 c whole cream
4-5 leaves sage, minced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/3 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt (less if preferred)
1 dash liquid smoke
Dice one potato and add to broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potato can be mashed into broth. Meanwhile, melt butter in a fry pan at medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks, including leek greens, and a pinch of salt, then cover and fry until leeks are soft and golden (about 20 minutes). Add leeks to broth. Add the remaining potatoes, cut into cubes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring just to a boil at medium heat, then simmer until potatoes are tender to the fork. Serve immediately. Fried sauerkraut makes an excellent garnish.
"Small farmers couldn't compete -- but they certainly did in terms of quality for a bit. They had high disease freedom and quality and that gave them a premium for their extra work," says Kirkham.
John Ryser, who tracked down the Cariboo seed potatoes for Jerry LeBourdais, is one of the area's two remaining seed potato farmers. He remembers starting out in 1937 or '38, getting heck from his dad for not taking proper care of the potatoes on the family farm. At its largest, Ryser's seed potato operation spanned little more than a dozen acres -- tiny by industrial standards.
"Now I've got just a few acres, and have trouble selling what I've got," he says. "All south of Quesnel was growing at one time. Now it's all shipped in from Vancouver and Alberta. They're all buying them from Superstore and Overwaitea, which don't buy local."
An anti-capitalist potato?
It took a rebel to go up against the tide of history. Jerry LeBourdais, who died in 2004, came from a pioneer Cariboo family and was a lifelong social activist, leading a strike at the Burnaby refinery in his early years and later running several times for political office. Yet today, he might be most widely remembered as the Cariboo potato's greatest promoter.
"They grow really well for the northern region," says Jerry's daughter Lorraine LeBourdais. "They're a beautiful white potato, almost yellow, with pink eyes. They have smooth skin, and they grow tall -- you can pick them out in a patch because they're half a foot taller than other varieties. They pull out and then fall off the vine easily, which is exactly what you want for hand harvesting, but they're a nuisance for commercial harvesting -- they tangle in the harvester," says Lorraine. Cariboo potatoes are also known as excellent keepers, with a good size, shape and texture for baking.
Lorraine is a resident member of
CEEDS (Community Enhancement and Economic Development Society), the commune that her father founded, in its original form, in 1971. Today, CEEDS operates three farms near Horse Lake, each on rented or leased land, as the commune does not support the notion of private property.
In 1982, while searching for Cariboo seed, Jerry LeBourdais wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture and was told, "the variety Cariboo can no longer be sold under any name and cannot be grown as seed." The letter continued: "I suggest that you select and grow varieties that can be legally grown in Canada."
CEEDS now grows about a half ton of Cariboo potatoes each year, walking a fine line along the official ban. In 1994,
Harrowsmith magazine published an article on the Cariboo spud and CEEDS received letters from across the continent. Rather than sell the spud, they gave away free seed potatoes to everyone who wrote.
'Anything you can eat or smoke...'
The Cariboo isn't the only potato to have its own underground movement. Currently, momentum is building to save the Nooksak potato, another variety that has proved to be a regional standout in the Cariboo. To maintain a strong gene pool in their crops, seed potato growers must bring in new seed from another grower every seven years -- and John Ryser appears to be the last seed farmer growing the Nooksak. If so, this year's crop will be the last to be certified, and the Nooksak potato will live on only in the gardens of citizen seed-savers.
Backyard spud-saving is a Northwest tradition that goes back farther than almost anyone would expect. The Makah Nation of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington has been gardening the Ozette potato -- named for a Makah community -- since at least 1791, the date when it is believed the potato was brought from South America by Spanish explorers. The potato wasn't recognized outside the Makah community until the 1980s. Likewise, Haida Nation growers raise a fingerling variety, the Haida potato, which may have been acquired by trade or travel even before the Haida met their first Europeans. During the conflicted years that followed, gardeners alone saved the Haida potato from extinction. History is repeating itself with the Cariboo potato today.
"I'm not saying it's the greatest potato that ever lived, but it's got culture and associated history. It's very important and symbolic for what it represents more than anything -- biodiversity and independent local culture," says Bob Sarti, a retired reporter and longtime friend of Jerry LeBourdais. He notes that the legacy of the Cariboo potato is now inseparable from the commune that LeBourdais founded, and its philosophy.
"They're anti-capitalist. They never own land, and always had to move for this reason," says Sarti. "They've been doing continuous, uninterrupted agriculture, and are unique in the fact that very few can support themselves entirely this way.
"Jerry was a larger-than-life person," Sarti continues. "He had quite an impact in the Cariboo with the back-to-the-land movement. Jerry always said anything you can eat or smoke, you should be allowed to grow."
Vancouver-based journalist Joanne Will co-writes the
Eat Your History series with Jeff Nield. The series, guest edited by 100-Mile Diet co-creator James MacKinnon, runs twice a month in The Tyee with support from FarmFolk/CityFolk.