Thursday, September 30, 2021

Fairy Creek Defenders' Karma just ran over BC Court Dogma


 Fairy Creek forest defenders, I salute you!

First Nations people and non -First Nations, standing all together, fighting to preserve some of the last strands of old growth forests in the nation, has firmly placed a sense of uneasiness, indeed, perhaps of fear, into the consciousness of the Justice System of BC. How so? Well, maybe the fear of an aroused people of Canada demanding justice where there has been none before, at least not for citizens and First Nations people of Canada who have been awakened and sensitized to the criminalization of clear cut logging on public, titled and unceded native lands.

 While Justice Douglas Thompson reasons for refusing to renew the injunction didn’t say so, his ruling opens the door to a possible change in the court’s thinking about using injunctions as a weapon against the people who protest. It also opens the door to a clearer understanding of human rights for all of us. But this is tentative. It depends on what the police do next and how the court interrupts the reasons given by Justice Thompson when and if the forest defenders wind up in court if arrested without an injunction.

As an old forest defender myself who accumulated a lot of experience in the courtroom, permit me to mention something of what I learned there. Of course all experiences are different, still I think much remains the same. I learned enough to realize that you forest defenders at Fairy Creek have just climbed over an almost insurmountable wall by sheer guts, determination, and love, love of nature, love of each other, love of humanity.

You, especially the young may not even realize the feat you have accomplished. But by your unceasing bravery in the face of bloodied flesh and fractured bones, you have influenced a BC Supreme Court judge’s decision that will become a precedent in the practice of environmental law. And you have done this without the help of any of the environmental elites who in secrecy many years ago signed away what they thought was your right to protest rain forest destruction. And the Rainforest Flying Eagles flew in to take up the slack. If you are arrested without the injunction and brought to court the judges will have to treat you like all other Canadians accused of a crime; by the Criminal Code.

And you will have to stand your ground in a different way in the courtroom. This time the judges will have to listen to you. They will have to take your motives into consideration. For First Nations there is a growing body of legal decisions that express acknowledgement of their claims, and the success of these past claims explains much about the current victory.

I don't know, of course, but it sounds as if this movement has competent lawyers. However, if you doubt, and feel capable, don’t be afraid to represent yourselves. Remember that a lawyer is an officer of the court and must do as the judge dictates. When a lawyer is told to desist in argument and sit down by a judge, then he or she must promptly do so or risk disbarment. As a private citizen you have more leeway. If a judge tries to cut you off in what seems like an unfair way before you have adequately presented your defence, you can object. When the Crown tries to misrepresent your motives or impinge upon your character you can stand up and object to that, too. But if you do this, always defend yourself boldly, as you did at the Creek. Don’t unnecessarily annoy the Justices, always try to be polite, but remember that you are making history. You are helping to destroy the stranglehold the Justices of British Columbia, by the use of court ordered injunctions, have held over the citizens and First Nations of this province for what seems like forever. And maybe just the threat of this will encourage Teal Jones to quit the area and take their soul destroying, job destroying mega machines with them.

The courtroom is in spirit the extension of the physical defence of the Forests of Fairy Creek. I hold all of you warriors in my heart.

More next time.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Why Evergrande may be a very big deal indeed


Evergrande is the second largest real estate development company in China and is sinking under a mountain of debt. When the company reported last week that it wouldn’t be able to make its interest payments this month on its $85.3 billion bonds and loans, all hell broke loose in the stock market across the globe. Evergrande’s economic troubles may turn out to play a very significant role in our own economic downturn.


The stock market plummeted but then everything seemed to calm down. Why the plummet and then the immediate calming over one property development company in China that nobody, or practically nobody, has heard of in the western world? However, as it turns out, it seems that quite a lot of westerners, especially economic elites, have heavily invested in Evergrande. They could lose massive amounts of money if Evergrande goes bankrupt. 


The Chinese people who had prepaid Evergrande for promised to-be-build apartments were also massively upset that Evergrande has skipped this month’s interest payment on their $305 billion debt, with no notification of next steps. These people had begun sit-ins at banks, demanding their money back, and some threatening suicide. What is the government of China to do? Bail out the entire enterprise of Evergrande? But there are other housing developers that are more or less in the same boat. 


The western financial world is white knuckling it while waiting for news from China about the fate of Evergrande. They are fearful of their investments. But why have the Chinese people calmed down? A couple of days ago they were willing to breach protocols against protests and even publicly threaten suicide. Today are to work, minding their business and the country’s business. Why this about face?


Let me explain. The Chinese government works primarily with two major currencies, the yuan and the American dollar. In China people themselves work almost exclusively with the yuan. The Chinese people have little investment opportunities in China so most of their wealth building opportunities are in real estate and consist of buying their homes, apartments, and other properties and are, of course, transacted in the yuan. The debt that Chinese people carry is called in-shore debt. When the company that took their money for the promise of a home it now can’t meet, it took on in-shore debt.  


On the other hand, the investments that foreigners have made into Evergrande is in American dollars and is called off-shore debt. It is beginning to look like the Chinese government may choose limited repayment, only bailing out the in-shore debt but not off-shore debt to ensure the delivery of housing projects. Unlike the western world, this choice is being made to bail out the Chinese people instead of foreign conglomerates and sickening wealthy millionaires. How refreshingly different.


It appears that Chinese people will get their money back for the apartments they have already paid for. I believe they have been assured of this because the yuan-denominated interest on the bonds have been quietly paid. This means that the in-shore interest on the bonds has been paid.  But what about the out-shore interest that is denominated in American dollars? As for now, they don’t seem to be high on the Chinese Communist Party’s list of priorities, even as international investors face what has been described as an “eerie silence” by the company as it missed its $83.5m interest payment. 


Evergrande owes money not only to Chinese investors and banks – it also owes massive amounts to foreign investors and hedge funds. We can only hope that western funds supporting pension plans are not involved in this. We do know that either way, the next steps are going to be a very big deal indeed. More next time.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

What can Canada learn from Haiti? An election question


In 1492, when Christopher Columbus first landed in what is now known as Haiti he wrote in his diary, “This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have seen”. Part of that beauty was the soaring mountain sides covered with valuable forests of mahogany. Many – if not most – of the Indigenous Taíno died, with no immunity to the diseases the Europeans brought with them. Before he left the island, Columbus named and claimed the island for Spain, calling it Espanola. However, France also had claims and for years there were skirmishes and outright wars over the matter until Spain gave up and went home. The French interested in being wage slaves or worse in the cane fields and temporarily fled deeper into the forests. The French settlers brought over African slaves. As time passed and the slaves began to speak French, they heard about the start of the French Revolution in France. They took note. When the Slave Revolution started in Haiti there were 10 slaves to 1 European settler. They figured their odds were good.


By this time the population in Tahiti had been intermixing for several generations and a few of the slaves had gained their freedom. Some of these became educated the art of warfare. I think they could be considered the first guerrilla fighters, engaging in ‘pop up’ attacks. Their revolution started in 1791 and ended in 1803, when they ran the French soldiers with all their modem warfare out of Tahiti. They ended slavery and declared their land a nation. But the price they paid for their nation was its ruin. 


The French demanded unconscionable war reparations. And the Haitians were under the gun. Literally. Because if the Haitians didn’t pay, the French promised to send their gunboats. The Haitians had not had time to have developed a capitalist economy. The only real financial asset the Haitians had was their mahogany trees. So they began cutting and sending massive logs of mahogany to France.


The last of the money promised to France was paid in 1947. That’s well within my lifetime. Imagine enduring all those long years of dismay watching Haiti's forests disappear as logs to be finished into fine furniture and housing products for rich outside their land. And what is Haiti like today? From all reports it is a failed state. Their last president was assassinated with no real replacement, and they haven’t recovered from the horrible earthquake of 2010, with another devastating one this year. The country is also staggering under environmental devastation, poor access to food, virtually non-existent health, rampant crime and, perhaps worst of all, a political class that acts only in their own personal and partisan interest.


Haiti has much the same topology as British Colombia. Yes, the mountains here were once covered as far as the eye could see with forests of Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Pine. And these forests have disappeared in much the same order as in Haiti, except even faster as Canada has the latest forestry technology. But we are already suffering the same results of the massive cutting, like wildfires, flooding, and landslides; the same results that make a gigantic mudhole out of much of Tahiti during the rainy season. 


It seems that deforestation of a mountainous country brings poverty and ruin. When the environmental integrity of a country is lost, so the people become lost. The Haitians didn’t deliberately do this to themselves. After the incredible bravery of the Slave Revolution they found they had no other choice. We do. Yet we are allowing much the same thing to be done to us by our own economic elites. Politicians will only do what they are forced to do by the body politic. We all know that. So if you run across one or two in this election season, ask them what they would do about the very last ruination of our forests, especially out at Fairy Creek. They are hoping you won’t ask this because all they know about the forests decline is “talk and log”. They have all been doing this for many years which is why we are being “talked and logged” into a ruined state ourselves. But go ahead and try. Serendipity does happen. Next time.