Sunday, January 27, 2013

The bad economists?  They’re either packing their expensive duds to vacate  Davos, Switzerland where The World Economic Forum is ending, along with  our Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, or in their own private spheres being advised of  how the world’s most lustrous gathering of millionaires and billionaires went.   Last year Stephen Harper was invited.  Our Prime Minister did attend last year and he proceed to lecture the world on how  brilliant he was in the way he kept Canada afloat while other countries were dealing with all kinds of economic “bubbles”.
Well, Mr. Harper is not crowing in the barnyard this year.   At least not so loudly.  It seems that he’s been warned that his most skillful and incredible handling of Canada’s economy was a fluke.  A bubble, if you will.  A bubble held gingerly aloft oh, so momentarily, by the world price of Canada’s real and projected resources, primarily oil.  It seems it’s the projected price of Canada’s resources that are giving the trouble.  It’s beginning to appear they aren’t what Harper had imagined while in his euphoria when thinking himself an economic genius out loud in Devos last year, and embarrassing Canadians to death in the process.
Now both Harper and Mark Carney are warning of serious economic detours ahead.  And I must give him credit; Mark Carney has a fine sense of timing.  Skip off to England now, before Canada’s banks get crippled in the world’s coming economic crush, and as a newbie bank manager in England, he won’t be blamed for their future bank dives to the bottom.
It seems there are muddy economic roads all over the place.  But the Financial Post headline that grabbed my attention on Friday (Jan.25, 2013) was the announcement by Alberta Premier Allison Redford who warned that there is a widening gap between the North American price for oil and what Alberta gets for its oil sands bitumen as being the “new reality”.   More oil production in the United States is the stated big reason for this “gap”, and even if the proposed pipe lines to the west coast become a reality it would be years before shipping to Asia starts.  The province estimates that the 13 billion they had forecast for Alberta’s bitumen will be cut in half.  Austerity time. Enter economist Jeff Rubin.
Jeff Rubin is my kind of an economist.  On the book flap of “WHY YOUR WORLD IS ABOUT TO GET A WHOLE LOT SMALLER” it states that  Rubin was the Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets for almost  twenty years.  That bit didn’t exactly draw me to the book but the title did.   And as of today the inside pages of this book are creased, underlined, refolded and showing signs of too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (after raising eight kids I still like kids and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches).  And after rereading the book just recently I believe that Jeff Rubin has it right.  His theory?
Rubin says that the world is running on oil and all the low hanging oil fruit has now been picked.  Because it will simply coast more and more to extract oil and gas from depleting reserves the costs of extraction starts getting in the face of producers  big time.  Fewer jobs, fewer workers to pay taxes until the world realizes that there is no getting around this and that the world has to change.  The world’s bankers and billionaires clubs will cry and try to start more wars in the last functioning oil fields before they are overturned.  The regular people of the world will more readily understand what is happening and seriously turn to investigating   green energies.  But in the meantime, won’t there be a global depression?
Yes.  Of course.  Many people will be without work or funds. But you know what?  Canadians are good at sharing.  And according to Rubin, there will be a lot more civic concentration on food production, transportation, etc. closer to home.  Communities will become the backbone of the future economies, hence Rubin’s title “Your World is About to Become a whole Lot Smaller.”
And that will be a good thing.  Getting there reasonably without undue civil unrest and mayhem is the challenge.  But I think this is eminently doable as I see that many people are already thinking in that direction.  We will relearn how to grow vegetables in small spaces, how to conserve energy, how to barter, how to simply do with less.  I remember all of the Victory Gardens in Baton Rouge, Louisiana during World War Two.  People dug up their lawns and planted turnip greens and cabbage. There was rationing of meat and gas along with cigarettes and nylon stockings.  While our soldiers were dying, our health at home improved with less meat and cigarettes and gas (not to mention the first troubles that nylon stockings brought). A lot of us now already forgo two or three or maybe even all four of these items. 
The men (and a few women) leaving the Davos Billionaires club must be exhausted.  After all they have spent several very hectic days trying to  figure out how to suck up the last of the earth’s resources along with the rest of global worker’s salaries and savings.  These men (and a few women) are patriots of no country.  They are internationalists.  They don’t think or act in the best interests of their own country (or countries), they think and act in the best interests of their exclusive global class and contacts.  They are of no use to the evolution of humanity. These people lack a sense of social responsibility and they will be weeded out by the process of evolution.  We can’t really ignore them because they are in the midst of plundering the environment and the banking system, but we can refrain from becoming emotionally involved with them.  Then with clear heads we can think seriously about how we might organize our lives in the coming new oil-depleted world.
Women are good at this kind of thing.  Women know that within the family, resources must be shared as equally as possible.  We have striven to do this all of our lives.  We already know how to cut back, to make do, and how to call up skills long submerged such as sewing, canning, baking, what to look for in thrift stores, how to give homemade gifts the prestige they deserve, how to impress children that the newest electronic gadget they desire will not be forth coming, that they must made do with last year’s model, whatever that was, and how to be proud of the perceived deprivation, instead of ashamed.    It will be a challenge, but in a good way, as First Nations’ people say of issues that challenge us.  Let’s make it in a good way. Prime Minister Harper and Mark Carney and all the banks and Millionaires and Billionaires clubs do not own the world.  We do. If we can, let’s stand with IDLE NO MORE on Monday in Comox, BC.

Uniting to Defend Democracy

Idle No More World Day of Action Rally
Gather across from I-Hos Gallery on Dyke Road
12:00 pm – Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013


 Am I reaching here?  To suggest that the IDLE NO MORE movement  might have some clout in stopping the introduction of GMO fish (Genetically Modified fish) into our Canadian food supplies?  I don’t think so.  Anyway, I have exhausted other avenues that might draw attention to this possibility that is now rapidly turning into a probability.  The US is pushing GMO fish ever closer to our dinner tables.  From the New York Times (Dec. 21, 2012):”The US Food and Drug Administration said it had concluded that the salmon (GMO) would have no significant impact on the environment.”

What does this mean?  It means that the Obama administration will probably approve the raising of GMO fish (dubbed FRANKENFISH by the US press) for human consumption.  So will Canada follow suit? Oh yes.  The odd thing is, Frankenfish was born in Canada and some of the fish actually reside now in West Vancouver in a containment facility, presided over by the Canadian Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans. And Frankenfish were first developed in two Canadian universities, Queens University in Ontario, and Memorial University in Newfoundland.  The experiments in using growth hormones and a genetic switch from an ocean Pout, an eel like creature, as explained in the New York Times article, were first carried on in these Canadian universities.  From there the process was patented and passed along to AquaBounty, a private US firm.

AquaBounty also confirms Canada’s further connections with promoting Frankenfish on their web page:
“The goal of producing faster growing Atlantic Salmon for the commercial food market is well on its way at AquaBounty Farms, a research facility located in Fortune, Prince Edward Island.” In response to my inquires the Canadian government denied there was any material from the Pout introduced into the FrankenFish, or any other eel. There was also no answer to my point that it is against Canadian law to introduce any animal life form into the country that is not found in nature.  But if GMO fish were found in nature how any university, or government, or private company could get a patent? And how can Canada, as one of the founding fathers of the FrankenFish claim they are not breaking the law?
The scariest element of all, in my opinion, is the possibility of FrankenFish escaping into the wild and breeding with other fish. The Canadian government says it can’t happen, they would just be too careful for this to happen and even if it did, the fish are sterilized.  Other agencies say not all of the fish are perfectly sterilized and can breed, and will compete with the wild fish for food and habitat (Purdue University and The National Academy of Sciences, for example).  And the other tricky thing about escaped FrankenFish…will it be like Monsanto claiming that even if the wind did blow their seeds onto an innocent farmer’s field, they must pay Monsanto anyway?  Could this wind up with Monsanto claiming half the fish in the ocean that showed any sign of the FrankenFish chromosome?

I had wild hopes in the US election that California’s Prop. 37, a bill that that would have made it mandatory in the state to label GMO products, would pass.  The food companies (Monsanto, DuPont , Dow Agrosciences, BASF) spent over twenty five million dollars defeating the bill. How was this money spent?  On ads advising poor people that their grocery bills would sky rocket and they wouldn’t be able to feed their children.  And there are a lot of poor people in California.  So FrankenFish certainly won that round.  I have appealed to the Canadian Biotechnology Network to make GMO fish a priority in their programs, but I don’t think that worked, either.  I also appealed to that stalwart defender of wild salmon, Alexandra Morton, but she didn’t reply. I had hoped that she could be convinced that the biggest threat to wild salmon in the long run, are GMO salmon.  I have written countless letters, blogs, and facebook postings trying to draw attention to this most grievous threat.  But my powers of persuasion are obviously lacking.  So it is with much hope and humbleness that I turn to the people of IDLE NO MORE to understand…


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will Idle No More save us from environmental collapse?  An environmental collapse that could very well result from the full implementation of the Omnibus Bill? Oh, sweet Earth Mother of us all, I hope so.  Because nothing else in our social or political structures,  including environmental action groups, have been up to the task of alarming and energizing the public around the absolute destruction of environment protections of Canada’s land and waters as that contained in the Omnibus Bill.
In the face of the Idle No More movement sweeping the land, how is Harper to defend himself and his government? By trying to change the focus.  By trying to convince the public that Idle No More doesn’t really have anything to do with the Omnibus Bill and is just the usual whining complaint from aboriginals who can’t be satisfied no matter what the government does.  Rescinding the Omnibus Bill, Harper says, is not on the table.
Well, we’ll see. Because if the Omnibus Bill isn’t rescinded, what will become of Canada?  With no protections for fish bearing streams, lakes, and rivers what will become of the fish?  With no protections for what is left of Canadian forests what will then become of our parks and wild animals?  If no protections for watersheds, what will become of our drinking water? If no protections against mining, fracking, pipe lines and off shore oil and gas exploration, what will become of the land and oceans?  Will Canada become like Haiti?
Yes.  This could definitely be in the not too distant future for Canada if the Omnibus Bill isn’t rescinded.  Why is Haiti such a mess?  Because Haiti was completely deforested by the French.  Oh, the French government didn’t send loggers to Haiti to cut down the valuable old growth forests; they made the Haitians do it themselves.  Why would the Haitians do such a thing? 
In order to pay for their freedom. They had been slaves; they revolted. The French on the ground said okay, you win, and the French government said okay,you can have Haiti but you have to pay.  We want your forests or we’ll send in the French Navy.  The Haitians, valuing their freedom over the trees, complied.  And then, as the trees were all they had, the rest of the forests went to build government and civil services.  Corruption rampaged.   The result is a nation of vast mud holes.  When the rains come, there is nothing to hold back the water.  Haiti is being dubbed a “failed state”.  (Read “Collapse” by Jared Diamond).
Through the Omnibus Bill Stephen Harper has ordered that henceforth there will be a “lay waste to the land” policy for Canada.  But why would Harper do such a thing? Harper’s Omnibus Bill is less understandable than the French’s disgusting ecological rampage of Haiti’s forests.  After all, Stephen Harper is not only the Prime Minister of Canada, he lives here.    He doesn’t live in another country while making an order to sack  some distant more primitive country.  Stephen Harper, through the Omnibus Bill, has ordered the sacking of his own country.  He has ordered the ecological collapse of his own nation for no good reason.  We, collectively, have put into power over us, over Canada’s people, lands, waters, and animals a man who for no good reason, has in his heart and soul, the desire to destroy what is living. There is a name for this. It is called necrophilia.
Okay, so we have a necrophiliac for a Prime Minister who has gathered other necrophiliacs round him.  And our side?  Who do we have?  Besides Idle No More? A whole bunch of good people, good people who are the vast majorly of Canadians.  Anything else?  Yes, the law. The law? How can I say that when the law has all but crucified me along with thousands of other eco-protesters in British Columbia for trying to do the same thing that Idle No More is doing?  For trying to protect the land and waters of Canada?
Because it’s true.  First Nations have the power to transform not only the environmental laws of this country, but to transform the rule of law as it is practiced.  Specifically, First Nations have the power to transform the way in which injunctions are given out by the courts to protect corporations who lust after resource profits at all costs.  And that this may be starting to happen is suggested to me by a recent article in the National Post.
 The newspaper (reported Jan. 8, 2013 by Blatchford) on a recent rail blockade by the Chippewa of Sarnia First Nation (Ontario) Judge Brown remarked concerning the refusal of the police to arrest the protesters by order of an injunction: “This kind of passivity leads me to doubt that a future exists in this province for the use of court injunctions in cases of public demonstrations”.
Furthermore, Judge Brown said when asked, given that police have the powers of arrest already, “Why does the operator of a critical railway have to run off to court to secure an injunction when a small group of protesters park themselves on the rail line bringing operations to a grinding halt.  I don’t get it.”
I don’t get it, either.  I never have.  Even if the group of protesters is a large one, police already have the power to arrest. But First Nations can succeed where I and thousands of other protesters failed is because even if First Nations are charged and even convicted under an injunction, reserve aboriginals cannot have liens filed against their communal property (which is one reason Harper wants to privatize the reserve lands).  The right thing, the fair thing, the just thing, of course, would be to do away with the use of injunctions for crowd control entirely.  Either way, First Nations people have the upper hand in the matter. 
What can a judge do if he or she doesn’t want to clog the jails with Idle No More people protesting the environmental destruction of Canada (which would make Canada a pariah internationally) and can’t even levy a lien against reserve property?  Make them pay a fine?  With what money?  Cut off their government money?  Let them starve?  Freeze to death in the cold? I don’t think so. 
I was first introduced (in prison) to the practice of starting every Healing Circle meeting with a smudge (the BC Liberal government has since cut off an elder coming into prison to hold the ceremonies).  Sweet grass and sage is burned in a shell and the smoke wafted over different parts of the supplicant’s body who ask that as the smoke cleanses, that they be helped by the ancient grandmothers and grandfathers to walk in healing ways.  This is a silent prayer and the only words spoken out loud are at the very end of the ceremony: “And for all of my relations.”
At first I thought “And for all of my relations “meant human relatives.  But it doesn’t.  It means all the non-human creatures of the world that haven’t the language to speak for themselves. This is the idea still deeply engrained in many First Nations peoples that has remained, despite all the atrocities against them, the idea that yet may save Canada from ecological collapse.  The belief is that humans are responsible for the protections of the earth and her creatures.
  I believe this, too.  Are we not all human?  Are we not all responsible for the health and protection of the earth and waters and skies? The choice is ours.  We as Canadians can put our collective weight behind the Idle No More movement or hang back.  But I strongly believe that if the Idle No Movement hangs tough, and the rest of us stand with them, then Stephen Harper will rethink the Omnibus Bill, start dismantling it, and give back the protections that that belongs to a decent, orderly, environmentally secure nation.  It’s up to us.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

(and Harper’s 4 of clubs) 

The four of clubs, according to some professional poker players, is the unluckiest poker card  of all.  I think Stephen Harper is holding several in his sweaty hands.  Idle No More and Chief Spence, yes, but even before these recent developments, First Nations held a big, fat ace in the hole.  And just what, you may ask; does this big, fat ace consist of?
It’s complicated, but in a nutshell, it’s First Nations communal lands.  Stephen Harper is hyperventilating to get at these lands and the water that goes with them.  He thinks he has achieved his goal by pushing through the Omnibus Bill that overrides everything.  By doing this he imagines he has prohibited any meaningful protest of privatizing the water of Canada, along with First Nations land claims.  By keeping many of the Aboriginal reserves poverty stricken and addicted, Harper dreams of pushing though one of his favorite missions…that of privatizing the land on reserves and allowing First Nations to borrow money on their lands or sell them off.  Good capitalizing, right?
If you’re on Harper’s team, it is.  Because by giving First Nations private ownership of their lands Harper figures it wouldn’t be long before Non-Aboriginals would gobble up the land and waters.  Not only that, private ownership of the reserves, where each person could own their own house (fee simple) they could also be sued privately.  They would actually be subject to S.L. A.P.P.  SUITS  (hereafter referred to as SLAP Suits ) like everybody else accused of protesting environmental destruction. This would also serve the purpose of reducing treaty rights to a fallacy. Exactly what is a SLAP Suit? 
It is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”.  And it means exactly what it says.  It’s a legal threat by corporations to sue anybody in civil court, that is, for money, who tries to stop logging or mining or development in ecological sensitive areas.  In most cases of environmental blockades, the naming of two or three of even one person on a civil suit (SLAP Suit) is then enough to take the civil suit(s) back to court and ask for an injunction that would include everybody who tried to stop the corporate  operation in that area.  The injunction will demand that the blockaders abandon their blockade or be charged with Contempt of Court for breaking a judge’s order.  There is no defense against a charge of Contempt of Court that BC Courts recognize.  And it is a rare judge who will refuse such a request from a corporation.  Most BC judges were corporate lawyers before they became judges.  Those who weren’t, go with the flow.
 Did you know there are two types of law used by lawyers and judges?  One is called statute law which is based on the Criminal Code.  The Criminal Code is a body of law made by legislators and passed by Parliament.   The Criminal Code is the same in all provinces.  The Criminal Code dictates how charge, trial and sentencing should take place.  The other kind of law is Case Law, that is, law based on decisions that judges have made in the past from their own interpretation of the Criminal Code and the Constitution. This can differ considerably in different provinces.  For instance, in BC, people guilty of blockading a logging, mining or developing operation will be hit with a SLAP Suit.
The corporations in BC are not usually after the modest assets of most blockaders when they are named in the SLAP Suits.  
  The corporations primarily use the SLAP Suits to get the injunction.  Then if the blockaders disobey what the injunction says , which is always “Blockaders go home”  then the blockaders  will be charged with Criminal Contempt of Court (for breaking a judge’s order to stay away) and the whole thing then becomes a criminal matter.  At this point, the corporations no longer have to pay for lawyers as the Attorney General becomes the prosecutor along with Crown Council. 

 However, if the blockaders actually have valuable assets, as happened in the struggle over Eagleridge Bluffs, the threat of actually being hit with a SLAP Suit and losing substantial sums of money and perhaps also spending  time in jail, was enough to cool the passion of most of the blockaders.  Neither Harriet Nahanee nor I worried about the money part, because we had none to speak of and Harriet was part of a reserve that held their lands and assets communally. 
First Nations people who are part of a reserve are difficult to sue civilly (Slap Suit) for eco-blockading.  If First Nations are arrested at all it for trying to protect the environment, especially  if it is in their own land claims, it would have to be under the Criminal Code.  Then they would have an actual trial.  The Crown would have to prove that the blockaders’ actions caused irredeemable harm which would be hard for the Crown to prove.  And at least the blockaders wouldn’t have to worry about losing any land or water or other assets that belong to the reserve through blockading. This is one of the main reasons Stephen Harper wants to encourage First Nations, along with Canadian Chamber of Commerces, business groups, and right wing think tanks, to accept the model of privatizing reserve lands. A person afraid of having a lien attached on her/his individual house by a corporation will not be as likely to risk the threat of loss.  As long as reserve lands are not privatized First Nations people do not have that worry on their minds as they may seek to start, or join an eco-blockade.
I heard Stephen Harper briefly on CBC this morning. I am sure his abrupt decision to meet with Chief Spence early was after consultation with the pipelines people.  Meeting Chief Spence was the lesser of two evils.  The issue most worrying to him, I am sure, is the IDLE NO MORE movement.  The IDLE NO MORE people, mostly women, can’t be fooled any longer by government manipulation of Indian chiefs.  This is a grassroots movement started by Aboriginal women that is not looking to chiefs for guidance or leadership and they are blocking trains.  Mr. Harper warned that any disruption of industry will not be tolerated.  What Harper is threatening is massive arrests.  As the courts can’t order injunctions in the matter as First Nations people are not easily susceptible to SLAP Suits, the blockaders would have to be arrested under the Criminal Code and not under a single judge’s order from which there is no defense.  This would provide the stage for actual trials in open court where First Nations people could argue their case on the world stage.
And if there would large numbers of First Nations people arrested and maybe even sent to jail?  As long as the blockades were peaceful, arresting large numbers of Aboriginal people would be a huge embarrassment to Stephen Harper, so much so that the entire world would turn against him.  We would need the creation of a great, huge, momentous support system on the outside, composed of both First Nations and non- First Nations.  This would insure that the people inside were okay, that the world knew why they were there, and to get their messages out.
Our BC old growth forests are gone, our watersheds are being subjected to encroachment wherever we turn, we can see the smoke rising from the distress of the earth with the worst yet to come.  And now, contained within the Omnibus Bill is the end of Canada as we know it.  Again, IDLE NO MORE has it right.  This is too important to be left to chiefs who, however well meaning, get sucked into the business of the government instead of the business of the people. Just like most of our own chiefs. Let us hold hands and stand together. We have our own aces.  We have but to play them.  Ps: next time:  why lawyers do not always serve the best needs of peaceful civil disobedience…