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Archive for February, 2014


I have recently finished reading A Geography of Blood, by Candace Savage. My friend Mary told me it made her think again on being a Canadian, as it is historical and tells about native people in Canada.  The book  focuses on the native tribes that lived here before white settlers arrived, but dwells on recent past, only 150 years ago.  Given that native tribes have lived and flourished in our land for thousands of years, only 150 years is nothing.  However,  the way the tribes were treated is shameful.  I learned more of our country’s story, particularly the area around Cypress Hills, where the prairie has told its story.  Savage writes about her ancestors and those like them, in the small town of Eastend, Saskatchewan. From there she and her husband explore the prairie and Cypress Hills to the west.  It is a sobering book.

We are not innocent, we descendants of white settlers.  Our country’s forefathers are generally considered to be ‘white men’, and the native tribes that lived here (and helped the white settlers initially) were considered inferior beings who needed to be  subdued, oppressed, and assimilated as a last resort.  The book describes the treatment of the tribes from records in Hudson Bay Company, the NWMP, and the museum at Fort Macleod.   No white man who dealt with them on behalf of the Canadian government considered the tribes worthy of respect, so  they were lied to and starved.  The lands they asked for as reserves were denied them, and the government rations did not arrive.  Both the American states and Canada acted to do away with ‘the Indian problem’ through deception and greed.  I knew this before, but the book brought it home stronger than I had felt before.   Perhaps because it follows me reading ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King the book has hit me harder.  Or perhaps I am older now, and questioning more.   In either case, reading the story that the prairie has left, and that Savage has recovered, has changed me.  Thanks be to good books!

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This book by Chris Turner talks about the present Canadian government and how its policies have affected science in Canada.  The subtitle is : Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.  I was interested to read a glowing review of it in Alberta Views (my second favorite magazine!) last month.  I was likely one of the first to buy his book from Amazon, for it arrived before Christmas.  It also reminded me of the Scientist’s Lament, sung by the Calgary Raging Grannies on Youtube.  The Grannies are sure hip to what is current!

This book is well-researched, hard-hitting and certainly inflammatory to a member of the Conservative party.  However, to any informed Canadian, the book simply confirms what we have witnessed during Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister.  This is the greatest reason for the opposition parties to unite to defeat him in the  next election.  Not that we needed another reason, but this book explains Harper’s rationale very clearly.  Here is an excerpt (p. 124):

“Even scientists working at Canadian universities have seen some of their most critical funding shift away from basic long-term research.  NSERC, for example, has long been a critical funding pipeline for academic scientists.  Its budget shrank by 5% in the 2012 budget, which included a moratorium on the Major Research Support program.  As a result, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre,  a 43-year-old research station on Vancouver Island, lost the funding that shared its critical data on ocean conditions with researchers around the world.  The observation post survives, but its role in the larger scientific project of understanding the world’s oceans has vanished at a time of climate crisis. As NSERC funding priorities have shifted to business-oriented research, Bamfield’s formerly stellar international reputation – and its ability to attract world-class scientists – has ben radically diminished. ”

The most worrisome phrase in the above paragraph, to my mind, is “funding priorities have shifted to business-oriented research”.  No wonder Bamfield isn’t to continue its former stellar reputation!  Harper wants no more research into oceans that may be polluted from future  oil tanker spills!

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This book, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, was published in 1996.  I have had it for a few years, but didn’t get around to reading it until recently.  A few of her chapters are dated, but overall, what Hillary says is still relevant to Americans and to all readers.  Her voice rings loud and clear about what children teach us, and how the global village is responsible for them.  The children are not responsible for bringing themselves up.  It is the village of parents, grandparents, siblings, and the extended family that form the core.  However, it is the system of governance that allows all children to grow and prosper.  In her work as governor’s wife, First Lady, then as a US Senator, then as the Secretry of State for the U.S., Hillary shows her commitment and her vision. Some chapters may be dated, but I am really happy I read her book.  I am also really happy that she is being touted as the next leader of the Democratic party in the US, after Barack Obama leaves the Presidency.  I like this woman a LOT!

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I promised I would include a few excerpts from ‘Oil Man and the Sea’ which I read last month.  The writer and a photographer took a sailboat up the channel of the B.C. coast where the oil tankers would go, should the Northern Gateway pipeline go through to Kitimat.  On page 84, Arno Kopecky writes about similar projects he has experienced internationally:

Everywhere you looked, foreign interests were at work.  It was hard not to be reminded of this three years later back in Canada.  Just as the conflicts in Peru or Burma transcended any one group of people or industrial project, whatever we were witnessing at home was much bigger than Enbridge or the Northern Gateway or the Hieltsuk. It was the local chapter of a story playing out in every country on earth. People were arguing, often violently, over hyper-local issues of land, jobs, and governance, but each of these conflicts had deep tap-roots that drew on global issues.  Can the world’s biggest corporations be trusted with the power they’ve amassed?  Is climate change an existential threat to human civilization?  Up to what point is it safe to pursue exponential growth on a finite planet?  But it was hard for people with opposing views to discuss these kinds of questions without slipping into hyperbole.  Better, maybe, to focus on concrete issues like the Northern Gateway proposal, or even, briefly, on something a little bigger, like Canada’s own version of Garcia’s 101 decrees, Bill C-38.

So, get the book and read it.  It says a lot, shifting from global views like the above, to first-person narrative from a host of characters who live on BC’s coast.

It reminds me of people’s concerns with hyperbole, and how friends in the oil patch discount protesters who they think are using hyperbole, instead of understanding that they are  reacting with their hearts as well as their head.

It reminds me of the Calgary Raging Grannies, who sing about Omnibus bills, and challenge Harper’s government through satirical songs to stop what parliament is doing by ramming through massive changes through complex bills.  See Youtube.com  for their performance, and search for Calgary Raging Grannies, to find that and several related songs about Canada’s governments.  I am so proud that I was a member of Calgary Raging Grannies for 8 years!  I am not now, but I support what they do!

Arno Kopecky has helped me understand much in his book “Oil Man and the Sea: navigating the Northern Gateway”  Definitely worth a read!

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