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.