This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politically Correct Cowardice

The standoff of aboriginal "protesters" and the uneasily miserable life of the non-aboriginal community in Caledonia goes on. The protesters, many of them blatantly militant, are using the non-settlement of aboriginal claims as a truly blunt weapon to make the lives of innocent people nasty beyond belief. In the obvious belief that they have a moral right to do so.

And since government at every level is just sitting back, fearful of upsetting the peace-averse folk labeling themselves Mohawk Warriors, it is the townsfolk of Caledonia that are the sacrificial lambs.

Yes, there's a legitimate grievance that First Nations peoples have with a succession of governments at every level. No, carrying their vendetta of grievance against people who have nothing whatever to do with the issues in question is not the right way to go. It's morally, ethically, and legally indefensible.

To begin with, the businesspeople who developed the Douglas Creek Estates as a suburban expression of the town extension proceeded legally, obtaining all the requisite approvals. In a spirit of good will, expressing the traditional live-and-let-live, and mutual respect evinced between the town of Caledonia and the Six Nations people over a very long time the developers consulted with the Six Nations band council, which raised no objections to the housing project initially.

Once the development began in earnest, as an integral portion of the Official Plan for Haldimand County residential development, protests erupted. And that is when a flood of protesters came on the scene and began to aggressively occupy the development site. Very few of them from the Six Nations reserve. Some of these protesters make protesting a way of life.

While the protest against government for its seeming inability to get on with settling native land claims is a legitimate and sympathetic one, victimizing ordinary people, impeding their legal civil rights does not garner sympathy for the cause.

Going out of their way to express respect for native culture and in sympathy with their fellow Canadians for the logjam in settling land claims, the residents of Caledonia have always enjoyed good relations with their neighbours. In their arguments with the federal and provincial governments, the Six Nations have received unequivocal support from Caledonians.

This is a peculiar way to compliment neighbours on their empathy and support.

In March 2006 the developers obtained a court injunction to have the protesters removed. The local Sheriff's officer, unarmed, presented the court order to the protesters. Who summarily disposed of it, burning it right before the officer, providing a very telegenic display for the cameras. OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface felt that only as a "last resort" would the OPP intervene. That "last resort" opportunity has yet to materialize.

Protesters from outside the region, skilled in cigarette, drug and weapons smuggling, settled in for the duration. Claiming they were there to "defend" native territory. Defence of native territory is inclusive of spontaneous violence and planned chaos. A wooden bridge was burned. Protesters barricaded major roads. A brush fire was set and protesters would not allow firemen to respond.

A van was thrown over a highway bridge. The development site's model home was looted and trashed. All of these infringements of the law were done in plain sight of OPP officers. Town residents, fearful for the safety of their children hardly knew how to respond when local grade schools dismissed their charges early on days of violence. Highway 6 remained blockaded for five weeks, seriously impeding the town's commerce.

Representatives of the province asked for calm. While mysteriously a Hydro One transformer station was set afire, resulting in $1-million in damage, and days of downed power for the town. Officials from various provincial ministries dealt cautiously and carefully with the Six Nations representatives, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council, which has since set up an extortion racket, selling "protection" to local business.

No one appeared ready to work with, consult with, attempt to address the concerns of the townspeople. Negotiations with the Six Nations representations has resulted in nothing at all in terms of solving the dilemma. The Haudenosaunee feel they are not subject to the Canadian legal system; they are a law unto themselves, yet they are incapable of assembling themselves representatively to work out an agreement with the province to end the protest.

Then in July the government of Dalton McGuinty bought the Douglas Creek Estate from the developer for in excess of $12-million, allowing the protesters continued, uncontrolled occupation of the site. This hasn't seemed to placate them. Residents of the town adjacent to the site are nightly entertained by loud noises, gunfire, shouting, heavy machinery, loud music, fireworks and the beating of drums.

Rocks are thrown at houses. Some site houses have been burned, and protesters continue to block the municipal fire department, the OPP and the Ontario Fire Marshall from access. Residents are insulted with racial and derogatory verbal slingshots. They're threatened with physical harm. The Mohawk Warriors dress in camouflage, bandanas over their faces, carrying nail-studded clubs.

The scenario is more reminiscent of terrorist activity in the Middle East than what might be construed as legitimate protests within Canada. The veneer of respectability, or at least hesitant acceptance, with their self-righteous claims to be defenders of those hard done by is offset by the undeniable truth that the protesters represent hard-core thugs.

Every society has them, and they're usually shunned, and when engaged in criminal activities, put away in prison.

It defies reason that the provincial government, let alone the federal authorities, are simply turning a blind eye to these illegal and violent confrontations. That our policing agencies are complicit with fearful, politically-correct government agencies, does no credit to our Canadian way of life, our Constitution-assured freedoms and guarantees of safety and security.

They earn nothing but scorn from the militant protesters, who seem to feel with justification on the record, that they can get away with anything. And there's little doubt that the Six Nations elders would have preferred this situation not to have escalated in the manner in which emotions and hot-tempered intruders have guided it.

No one gains, but the thugs who are having the times of their lives.

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It's a Start

Good news out of Egypt for those practising religions other than the state-recognized-and-sanctioned ones. Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice has granted Baha'is the right to obtain government identification documents. One little thing: they must, in the process of filling out the requisite forms, omit that portion which requires a faith designation. Don't fill it in, just scribble in a little dash mark; religion? doesn't exist.

And that's perfectly all right. Better than utter non-recognition and lack of required documents. "this is the first good news that Baha'i Egyptians and their defenders and supporters received in a very long time", according to Hossam Bahgat, a rights-activist whose Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights was right there in the political fray, representing the Baha'is in court.

"It is an end of a very long and unnecessary ordeal for citizens whose only fault is their refusal to be falsely identified or to lie in official documents." So, then, leaving the religion portion blank represents a little conspiratorial wink, a fib perhaps, not an outright, damnable lie. The estimated 500 to 2000 Baha'is in Egypt had formerly been refused official identity papers.

For Muslim deem Baha'i to be heretics, traditionally ostracized in Islamic society, and worse, although they only faced persecution in Egypt, which is considered to be a socially conservative Muslim country, elsewhere in the world of Islam Baha'i are on the receiving end of dramatic types of punishment; imprisonment, even death sentences.

By an odd quirk of Islamic justice, an Egyptian Muslim wishing to leave Islam in favour of Christianity - or even, heaven forfend, Judaism; as though - is not permitted to legally, although the state formally recognizes the three monotheistic or as some would have it, Abrahamic religions only: in order of their historic appearance. Judaism having given birth to Christianity; finally Islam, to complete the triad.

Under Egypt's Islam-based legal system people simply cannot convert "to an older religion". For as the court would have it: "Monotheistic religions were sent by God in chronological order.... As a result, it is unusual to go from the latest religion to the one that preceded it", the assumption being obvious, that each succeeding religion is superior to the one preceding it.

All of which is of no help to the person wishing to convert to Christianity. An abhorrent act in most Muslim societies, one for which Shariah law has a solution: death for apostasy. In Egypt, at least, a much condemned aberration: "The person who has such an attitude is straying from the right path and threatening the principles, values and precepts of Islam and of Egyptian traditions."

Of course in Egypt it's not a very good idea to criticize Islamic theology, in any event, much less to leave Islam in favour of another religion. One Egyptian Internet blogger who posted insulting personal views of Shariah law, the religious academic institute he had himself attended, and his contempt for his theological instructors is paying a dear price for his intellectual independence, in deep incarceration.

And one wonders, in one's idle moments, how Egypt's kindly offer to relent on its anti-Baha'i recognition will resonate with Iran, with whom it has re-kindled diplomatic relations, and in which country the Baha'i are truly embattled and in fear for their lives. For that matter, it will be more than a little interesting to see how Egypt will balance its peace agreement with Israel now that it's cuddling up to a radically Islamist state that calls for Israel's annihilation.

Just wondering, that's all....

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

He's Mighty Mad...!

And look out, he's had it, he's just not going to take it any more. And, after all, it's just not fair! Thus says the right honourable, but sometimes dishonourable Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of this great and good country of Canada. Go look into someone else's business. Mine, he claims, is private.

Not, though, when you're a public figure. When the furtherance of the country is invested in your high office. When the voting public has invested their trust in you. Not me, though. Fact is, although he won several majority governments, I've yet to actually come across anyone who would admit personally to having voted for the man.

They're that proud of his accomplishments. For Canada, and on the world stage.

Now Mr. Mulroney - the unhonourable one - through his lawyer is accusing Members of Parliament sitting on the special investigative committee looking into his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber, of a witch hunt. Or the male equivalent. Warlock hunt? A second letter of complaint has been fired off to the committee chair, Paul Szabo.

Claiming malicious cause on the part of the committee. Claiming deliberate abuse of the committee's process. Claiming intent to cause as much damage as possible to Mr. Mulroney and his family's reputation, for partisan purposes. The real question here is why did the man with deliberate aforethought to lining his pocket succumb as he did?

Complaining now about the introduction of another star witness. Surprise, this one: Norman Spector, formerly Mr. Mulroney's chief of staff. Who, writing in a column in Le Devoir, alleges - hell, claims - that Mr. Mulroney received cash - now that really is filthy lucre - at 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence, while still in office.

Naughty man. But we're certainly not taken aback by that revelation. Are we?

Moreover, Mr. Spector promises to reveal all.

We await further revelations.

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Demented Fanatics

England has its demented fanatics, doesn't it? But we do, too. Parviz Khan, unemployed, planned to kidnap a Muslim British soldier in Birmingham because he was enraged that some British Muslims would serve in the British Army, fighting alongside NATO partners in Afghanistan. By invitation of the Afghanistan government, in a combined NATO-UN effort to derail permanently Taliban efforts to return the governing of the country to feudal Islam.

His plan was to commit an atrocity and commit it to film. To be placed on the Internet for all to see. It's been done before, and he found it particularly inspiring. According to British prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt, "He [the kidnapped British-Muslim soldier] would be taken to a lock-up garage and there he would be murdered by having his head cut off like a pig. "This atrocity would be filmed ... and the film released to cause panic and fear within the British armed forces and the wider public."

Mr. Khan had also admitted to sending shipments of night-vision equipment and other gear to Pakistan for use in Islamist terror activities. Three other men have been implicated in these activities and have also leaded guilty.

As for us? We have our own fringe candidates for terror at a remove. In Toronto, a 20ish university student by the name of Salman Hossain of Bangladeshi extraction. Nothing like my own Bangladeshi-Muslim neighbours, I should add. For this unfortunate young man is a hate-monger extraordinaire. On Internet chatrooms and other venues he espouses the killing of Canadian troops, even in Canada, as "legitimate" and "well deserved".

He urged his online peers of the prime necessity to kill Canadian military personnel. "Kill as many western soldiers as well so that they think twice before entering foreign countries on behalf of their Jew masters", he wrote. This Mississauga resident boasts friendship with Canada's infamous Khadr family, as Islamist credit. What he writes is the reality-twisted outpourings of a diseased mind.

With a refulgent degree of pure bile he clarifies his position on what exactly it is that infuriates him: "Jews, terrorists, apes, pigs, Mossad, Zionists, bankers, moneylenders, anything Israeli in nature, black op mercenaries, mediamen, Jewish supremacists, anything Kosher, synagogues, rabbis and other holy crooks pretending to be saviours from God, and of course last but no least the f---ing Talmud."

Drearily sad that so much venomous hatred can pollute anyone's mind. But they're the infantile ravings of a pathetically diseased mind. He's an irrationally juvenile Islamist booster, looking for credibility and perhaps even admiration from among his Internet peers, vying with one another to commit to verbal barbarity, all wanting to be noticed and noted. Their own little heroic self-admiring clique of pseudo jihadists.

His rantings have come to the attention of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP, and he has been duly informed that he remains under investigation. He has the advice of a lawyer, who has advised that he insert certain qualifications in his writing, and he has continued his venal outpourings. Such as that it is his opinion that a "mass casualty" attack within Canada might be a "well considered option".

"I enjoy watching the blood flow from the western troops", he wrote. As well as, during defence minister Peter MacKay's Christmas trip to visit with the troops in Afghanistan: "I pray that the Taliban kill our Mackay motherf---er". Of course, as with all conspiracy theorists who find Jews a handy target, he claims "the filthy Jews carried out 9-11".

Compounding his illogicality by "wishing y'all many more merry 9-11s". He's not at all worried about Canadian law and judgement being brought to bear against him. It would, after all, simply be yet another symptom of Islamophobia. It is his right, as a Canadian, to exercise his options to air his beliefs. Something called freedom of speech.

That same freedom of speech that the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and the Canadian Islamic Congress are contesting, bringing aboard their grievances against Ezra Levant and Mark Stein, and having the Alberta, British Columbia and Canadian Human rights commissions deliberate upon, for simply stating the obvious, in rather kindly journalistic terms.

The ox that gores.

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How perfectly sanctimonious, and how utterly revealing. The official Leader of the Opposition in Canada's parliament loves to leap at the proverbial throat of the current prime minister, shrilling accusing him of perverting Canada's traditional values. If not in the instance of Canada's position in Afghanistan, which a previous, Liberal government placed us in, then for a myriad of other matters.

Among which was the Conservative government's declaration that it had no intention of seeking clemency for a Canadian on death row. The reasoning being that if anyone, including a Canadian - in this instance an Albertan - committed the crime of murder - in this instance, two murders - in another, democratic country, they they could be left to the justice system of the country in which the crime took place.

Canada has had a history of unwillingness to surrender its citizens sought for extradition to the United States for crimes committed there, unless it had the assurance of the U.S. government that capital punishment leading to a death sentence would not be imposed. On the basis of this country having long ago abolished the death penalty.

But look here, what an The Ottawa Citizen reporter, Randy Boswell, has unearthed: instances where the not-so-long-ago Liberal government willingly gave up two young British Columbia men accused of murder in the United States - without invoking the no-death-penalty request.

The-then Liberal justice minister claimed, in almost exact words to those expressed by the current Conservative justice minister, that "The crimes in this case were committed on foreign soil and are subject to the foreign judicial system."

Hypocrisy most surely becomes them.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Deadly Errors

There is no way in which the dead can be revived, resuscitated to live another day. Unless they're not truly dead, but presumed to be, and hastily buried, as does on occasion happen. When a body on a mortuary slab suddenly quickens and becomes a living being again. Or a frightened "corpse" begins to frantically tap on his closed casket being lowered into the coldly receiving ground, alerting loved ones to the fact that supposed death had loosed its grip.

And when the state, using the instrument of the death penalty in its determination of justice for capital crimes errs, the misfortune of that error is ineradicable, representing yet another tragedy, a miscarriage of justice. Canada, like many other countries of conscience around the world, long ago abolished the death penalty. The European Union, led by a German initiative, has been strenuously attempting to persuade other countries of the world to refuse to sentence any of their citizens to death.

Still, there are many countries for whom the imposition of a sentence of death is seen as just desserts for murderers. There is always the option of another type of penalty, that which removes one's freedom on a permanent basis; life incarceration. Of course, there are countries, like Canada, whose deliverance of a life sentence is muted by degree. First- and second-degree merit their distinct levels of state punishment.

No European countries support the death penalty. It is harshly imposed in Asian, African and Middle-Eastern countries. Sixty-two countries of the world regularly impose the death penalty for major crimes. In some countries, like China, crimes of a financial, economic nature can be construed as a major crime. In some countries, like Iran, the death penalty can be imposed on homosexuals. In the past decade, an average of 3 countries a year relinquish state-imposed death.

And in Canada, criminal offenders serving life sentences of 25 years for first-degree murder may plead before a parole board for day parole three years before full parole eligibility. Which, if agreed to, can result in early release. That person must report to a parole officer for the rest of his/her life, and must adhere to certain conditions, which, if breached, can result in return to prison, and for life.

China, Russia and the U.S.A. among many other countries of the world still cling to the ultimate punishment that the death penalty represents. Capital punishment is legally practised in 36 states of the Union, but since the 1990s they've been in steady decline, with some U.S. states having entirely abolished the death penalty. One thousand and ninety-nine convicted criminals were executed in the United States since 1976.

And here's another statistic: since 1973, 126 death-row inmates were exonerated, found not guilty of the crimes they were accused, tried and sentenced for. This, while awaiting execution on death row. Currently, thousands of scheduled executions have been put on temporary hold in the U.S. as state legislatures await a ruling on capital punishment relating to lethal injection standards now before the Supreme Court.

Lawyers for a Kentucky man convicted of the killings of two police officers have initiated the case, insisting that drugs used in lethal injection executions represent "substantial risk of wanton and unnecessary pain". The 2006 execution of an Ohio man took over an hour, after a corrections official punctured his arm no fewer than 19 times in one botched attempt after another to secure a vein.

Death-row inmates are injected with the fast-acting barbiturate sodium thiopental to achieve unconsciousness, then comes pancuronium bromide to halt breathing, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart. The botched Ohio execution was not the only one to go horribly awry. And in the wake of these events, people throughout the United States are asking themselves whether they really want the state to execute the death penalty.

"If you take a poll and ask people about horrible crimes, you still see support for the death penalty in places like New Jersey" (as of December the first state since 1965 to completely abolish the death penalty), said Richard Dieter, executive director of Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. "But if you ask which is preferable - life without parole or the death penalty - more people support life without parole."

How could it be otherwise in a civil, civilized society? And this growing inclination toward re-thinking the imposition of the death penalty falls evenly across the political divide, from liberal Maryland to conservative Colorado and New Mexico.

It's past time.

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Old Salts: No, Not Sailors - Canadians

Who knew? Evidently processed food products in Canada are among the saltiest in the world. Is that what Canadian food processors believe Canadians want and crave? Or has the insidious practise of salting everything from seemingly-innocuous breakfast cereals to fast-food take-outs to give these otherwise-tasteless products some zing, accustomed us to a higher salt intake which we now accept as normal?

Whatever the case, it's proving inimical to the health and longevity of Canadians, particularly children. All the more troubling since it's generally accepted that Canadian children lack sufficient exercise throughout the course of their daily lives to maintain a healthy balance between food and activity. The result being a population of increasingly obese Canadian children.

For as Dr. Arya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network warns: "...obese children, or children who are battling overweight are even more sensitive to salt than thin children". The problem being that over-consumption of salt causes elevated blood pressure in children. The higher the blood pressure during childhood, the higher it becomes throughout adult life.

At risk is a future rife for the potential of experiencing heart disease and stroke.

Fast take-out establishments which devise menus meant specifically for children continue to douse their products with sodium to the extent that children's health prospectives are compromised. The consumption of commercially-produced chicken and hamburgers results in a far higher ingestion of salt than is considered safe, more than overtaking in one meal, the recommended daily total sodium intake.

"High blood pressure is by far the biggest risk factor for all kinds of diseases, not just strokes, but heart disease, kidney failure, retinal degeneration - I can go on and on", says Dr. Antoine Hakim, scientific director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Stroke Network. "Parents are pressed for time. All of us are pressed for time."

Salt is sodium and chloride. Its heavy ingestion impacts badly on the body, resulting in an imbalance across the muscles and blood vessels. It causes vessels to tighten, in turn making it difficult for blood to flow freely. Arteries eventually become compromised, permanently scarred.

Nothing will change the fact that parents are harried and hurried, with never enough time to pay attention to the basics of good food preparation. It's time-consuming and, for so many young parents of today, even outside their sphere of experience, having themselves relied for so long on fast-food and pre-prepared foods for daily meal consumption.

Here is where government can and should step in to regulate harmful substances in the production of everyday fast-food products. It's in everyone's best interests. The result being a lesser incidence of compromised health for children and adults, less strain on the health-care system; an overall healthier population.

Nanny state? So what.

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Heart Disease

A new study released by the Heart and Stroke Foundation makes what is claimed to be a clear connection between our atmosphere polluted by carbon dioxide emissions and the prevalence of heart disease among the population. One might have thought that a carbon-polluted environment would be implicated far more heavily on the basis of lung disease, and perhaps that is so, but it's not mentioned by this report, which focuses only on the heart.

Which claims that roughly 70% of some six thousand air-pollution-related deaths are connected to heart disease or stroke. Furthermore, they claim also that this represents a cautious understatement in their expert opinions. "Air pollution is a pervasive and unavoidable health risk for heart disease. All Canadians face it and most are unaware of its short- and long-term impact", according to Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist.

According to the research, an increase of fine particulate matter in the minuscule amount of 10 micrograms per cubic metre has the potential of increasing the mortality risk by as much as 76% in some individuals. Being of curious disposition, I would certainly like to have that "some individuals" quotient expounded upon. Those "some individuals" being genetically more disposed to represent the findings?

Barely visible particles of soot suspended in the atmosphere are the culprits. And they're everywhere, inescapable in our modern, technologically advanced society.

Environment Canada's own estimates reveal that some 30% of Canadians are regularly exposed to greater-than-acceptable levels of fine particulate matter. British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are given fail grades, and Alberta little better, while Newfoundland, Manitoba and Labrador received silver-star B+.

The culprits are, reasonably enough, factory emissions, vehicle and power plant emissions and wood-burning fireplaces.

The atmosphere in summer is more heavily impacted than during the winter months, claims the report. Since 28% of fine particulate matter has its origin in carbon emissions from wood-burning fireplaces operated only during the winter months, that's odd. "Poor air quality represents a particular challenge for our ageing population and those at increased risk of heart disease", says Dr. Abramson.

Does anyone remember reading about the puzzlingly-low incidence of heart disease in Asia? Researchers always attributed that to the prevailing diet, so unlike that of North America. And, as evidence, pointed to the higher incidence of heart disease among Asians who have migrated to North America and lived there awhile.

Japan and China have been notorious for the extremely poor quality of their ambient environment, from smokestack activities and coal-burning. And traditionally, in Japan, homes have been heated with charcoal, so they're high emitters of carbon. Traditional cooking was done that way, as well. In Japan it's still fairly common to see pedestrians wearing face masks to protect against air pollution.

Tiny bits of particulate matter fall constantly within even interior settings throughout the course of a day, in Tokyo. Although the atmosphere has improved from what it was years ago, it's still heavily carbon-compromised. Still, the incidence of heart disease remains lower by far than it is in North America.

What, then, accounts for this disparity?

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Twenty Years An Outsider

Tribalism rears its problematically-ugly head everywhere. No less so in instances where members of one First-Nations tribe resist the legitimate equality of a member of another.

All the more puzzling when that 'other' has married into the tribe, has resided within the tribe's community for decades as an outstandingly-competent and highly-respected educator. But whose qualities are grudgingly brushed aside nonetheless because, it is claimed, she does not speak Saulteaux, the Ojibway language, despite that English is in universal use within the community.

Hmmm, reminds one of the never-ending frustration of French-language entitlements dominating the national discourse, where inordinate amounts of tax dollars are wasted on an ongoing basis in futile attempts to amend a situation of personal distaste to an entitled language minority.

Who insist on being served in the language of their choice - despite often being more than proficient in the prevailing language, English - while residing in isolated communities whose French-derivation contingent remains sparse.

In this instance, however, we have the situation of a woman, Jean Bignell-Malcolm, of Cree derivation, marrying an Ojibway man and settling with him in his community, in 1982. She worked at the Ebb and Flow community school as a secretary, then as a teacher in 1995. She acquired a bachelor of education degree and fifth-year certification in education and administration.

Whereupon she took up a position as director of education in 1999 with the Western Region Tribal Council in Dauphin, Manitoba, undertaking the 80-kilometre commute from her Ebb and Flow residence. Some years later, the Ebb and Flow band sought a director of education, and Ms. Bignell-Malcolm applied for the position for which she was obviously well qualified, and she was offered the job in 2003.

Then it transpired that there were second thoughts; the chief and council attempted to dissuade her from accepting the position by lowering the salary, and when that ploy was unsuccessful they rescinded even that possibility by informing her that she was unfit to take the position as she was unable to speak the native tongue; a poor disqualification since English remained the lingua franca of the community. And despite that language was never posted as an issue in the original application.

It's a pity that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had to step in and give the band a metaphorical rap on its human-rights knuckle. Even the Indian Act prohibits discriminatory practises by native groups in matters of employment. And so, despite that the community elders had circulated a petition to disqualify this woman on the grounds that she was "not one of our people" and "does not even speak our language", the tribunal ruled otherwise.

And ordered the band to pay Ms. Bignell-Malcolm her lost wages, and another sum for pain and suffering, along with additional living expenses, and half of her legal fees. Some $70,000 in total compensation in fact. They would have been better off sticking with the original agenda.

The ebb and flow of distressed human interactions.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Retirement Dream Home

You plan for it, longingly wait for it to transpire, then retirement becomes a reality, and your dream home abroad in the most salubrious geography you can imagine is yours. You live in your dream home, become part of a community of other expatriate retirees living their dream retirement. Within a larger community of native dwellers, citizens of your host country who approve of your presence and value it.

Now you see it ... now you don't.

You don't, because pouff! some evil sorcerer has insisted it vanish, as though it had never, in fact, existed. It should not, actually, have existed, according to the laws of the land to which you have removed in your retirement dotage. For the country in question, Spain, feels its environmental and building codes should logically merge, the latter having due respect for the former. Who could possibly find fault with that?

Well, citizens of the United Kingdom who have invested their meagre remaining years in their longed-for villas, their dream homes in southern Spain, that's who. Ingrates. The first elderly couple whose villa was torn down anguishes over their lost dream of retirement in the beauty and comfort of their now-destroyed home. Living instead now, in a trailer on the site that once held their three-bedroom villa.

Destroyed, under orders of the regional government of Andalusia, which took it authoritatively upon itself to revoke a building license which had been issued by the local mayor. Thing is, it is not only the unfortunate Leonard and Helen Prior whose home was deconstructed so rudely who are now bereft of their retirement dreams. There remain some 9,999 other properties whose villas have been similarly earmarked for demolition.

Coastal properties, resort areas; thousands of property owners who had been living contentedly in their version of heaven now face the very real possibility of forced divestment. "We did everything possible to ensure that the home we bought was legal," moaned another Brit, whose beachfront home is located in Vera. "We hope that we are safe but after what happened to the Priors we just don't know. It has caused a lot of people a great deal of worry."

Yes, it most certainly would. And so, the affected foreign population has assembled to voice their outrage and their concern. "The authorities just can't go round knocking down houses as part of a political point-scoring exercise" said Angel Medine, president of Ciudadanos Eropeos, a political party whose purpose is to support foreign residents in the region. And the head of the Vera town council announced they're doing everything they can to persuade the regional authorities to pursue no further demolition orders.

Good to have nice friends, to know that your worries are theirs.

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Recruiting Psychopaths

As though the world isn't a complicated enough affair. Do we really deserve that any country's armed forces' recruiting mechanisms aren't sufficiently well organized that they can readily preclude the entry of sociopaths and psychopaths into the ranks of a country's military? Of course some might have it that an army operates as well as it does because of the presence of those very character types.

And if they weren't like that to begin with, the exercises and protocols of becoming versed in armed conflict would raise the spectre of acquiring such pathologies. This is not, of course, true, but a derogatorily-useful slander used by many citizens of a country who refuse to believe that the prosecution of war is unnecessary under any provocation.

Much, one supposes, like Mahatma Gandhi who, though revered as he is for his ascetic insistence on peacefulness, felt it imperative that physical action to restrain even those whose clear intent it is to take one's life, is never preferable to his preferred option of doing nothing whatever, even in the clear defence of one's existence. Passive, truly passive 'resistance'.

What to think, then, of the recent revelations with respect to recruiting in the Canadian Armed Forces, where a psychopathic personality was accepted as a recruit at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur Richelieu? It took ten days before his peers at the military school understood how frighteningly mentally unstable this man was. So much so that more than a few handed in written statements to a Military Police corporal, outlining their concerns.

Their unease being concerned for the most part with serving with or under someone claiming he was God's chosen, and to him fell the task of obliterating evil. To that end he was prepared to kill Jews, Catholics, blacks, aboriginals, gays and lesbians. And his expectations were that his platoon was there to do his bidding. So then, how might someone so obviously demented pass the initial screening before being sent to basic training?

The screening process is declared to be essential; how otherwise ensure that Canada's military reflects its best and brightest; sound of mind and intent. Something, to be sure, went badly awry.

Police knew Stephen Cox as a grower and trafficker in marijuana. Big deal. RCMP homicide investigators discovered a grow-room located in a bunker under the garage of a man whom Mr. Cox bragged he had killed, along with the man's wife. The reason being that the murdered man had owed money to a Hell's Angels friend of Mr. Cox's. He had claimed to have used a knife to dismember the bodies, but the judge presiding at Mr. Cox's murder trial observed that the forensic evidence suggested a blade with teeth, like that of a hacksaw, had been used.

Enough to exonerate Mr. Cox, who retracted his earlier boasts, given to an undercover agent posing as an influential crime boss interested in recruiting him for membership in a criminal organization. The judge felt that Mr. Cox's bragging to the undercover officer needed to be discounted; he was lying, exaggerating to impress. And he was acquitted. Then proceeded directly to the local recruiting office.

The Canadian Forces' screening includes criminal records, credit and reference checks. Since 2002, six people were denied entry on the basis of their background checks, out of a total of almost 75,000 screened.

Captain Cindy Tessier, spokeswoman for the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall insisted Mr. Cox's past simply did not turn up during the screening process: "It didn't. I don't know why it didn't. The bottom line is: the information wasn't available during the screening process. But the important thing is that as soon as his behaviour was brought to the attention of the authorities it was dealt with."

Right. But Canada's Armed Forces have good reason to be more than competently diligent about personality and background screening. Never to be blotted from memory was the 1993 torture and death of teen-age Somalian Shidane Arone at the hands of Corporal Clayton Matchee and Private Kyle Brown.

His shrieks of pain and torment made no secret of what was happening at the hands of these two Canadian Airborne personnel, representatives of a highly respected crack regiment. And here's the real chiller: others from among the regiment were aware of what was happening, and those others included several superior officers. Our enduring shame.

And, unfortunately, the government of the day peremptorily shut down the resulting enquiry before it could result in any additional embarrassment at the very highest levels of the military command, and the government itself. And the Airborne was disbanded.

With that sad history behind us, the Canadian Military does seek to be careful; more than 26,000 reliability screening tests were conducted in the last year alone. It's not known how many failed the initial screening; that information isn't tracked.

Fact is, in this particular instance with Mr. Cox, his presence was reluctantly accepted by the military. "They didn't want me in but they couldn't stop me," claimed Mr. Cox. "They had all that information. That was all there. I had seven interviews with senior staff at the Vancouver recruitment centre, all the way up to the head boss, who told me quite categorically, 'I don't want you in but I have no choice'."

It was only when he was sent for training, and members of his platoon reported his addled ramblings that matters came to a head. His platoon peers worried that he would be shortly issued a firearm. They threatened to leave basic training if he was not removed, issuing compelling personal reasons revealing the essence of their concerns:
  • "Private Cox told me we would become his holy crusaders, charged with the task of hunting down and murdering all who do not share his beliefs."
  • "He then explained that he had conducted many missions as a black op. He said that he had killed before and would kill again."
  • "All who oppose him or his ideals should be lined up and shot."
The man was paranoid, severely deranged. He was obsessed with one of his possessions, a hunting knife. An highly unusual hunting knife. It was roughly 14 inches in length, having a diamond-shaped blade, serrated on both sides. So sharp it could pierce body armour. So much for judges skilled in human behaviour and with a technical knowledge of small saws, like, for example, a hacksaw, which he said, would have been the real weapon in the double murder case against Mr. Cox.

Yet this man feels himself to have been victimized by society. Why is that not dreadfully surprising, after all. It was unfair that the military recruited him, then unceremoniously dismissed him after a mere two weeks' indoctrination. "If they didn't want me in the military, why the hell let me go in to begin with?"

Right. Why indeed.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Death Among the Young: The New Cool

Or dumbing-down, take your pick.

That suicide rates among Canada's Inuit people in Nunavut is horrendously high is a national tragedy. These are young people for whom the future looks dim and hopeless. Bereft of a good education, isolated, unable to secure employment and any real satisfaction in life, they seek instead to end their lives. The same can be said for the alarmingly large numbers of young aboriginals living in traditional retreats we call reservations. Boredom and lack of hope, kill. This is not cool. But this is their reality.

But then, what about those for whom opportunity abounds, as inheritors of a society rich in culture and tradition like Canada's First Nations peoples, but living in relative affluence, well educated and with the potential to reach their aspirations? Well, when they aspire to club together in a death cult, then there's a real problem. One that has been identified in a town in Wales, where in one year alone seven promising young lives have been ended by suicide.

These young people meet in cafes, see one another at their schools, and meet also in other theatres, where no one intrudes and they can divest themselves openly of all their grievances against the world they inhabit. And collectively sigh over the deliverance that death promises. They smile happily in the presence of their families and friends, and their secret longings remain locked in the atmosphere of their Internet gatherings of mutual support.

Their social networking sites represent their real lives, the important part of their lives. All else is dross. How else to explain the allure of their collective whims celebrating the deliverance of death by their own steady hands? One after another. Hanging appears to be the method of choice. Why is their virtual world so much more promising and rewarding than the reality of life?

Bizarrely, they anticipate the fame their deaths will attain for them, looking forward to their photographs posted on one another's memorial walls, and virtual books of condolence. They certainly do as much, and more, for their dear departed bosom pals in death. In their cliques, death becomes an achievement. Sadly, they are no longer there to witness these respectful commemorations of their brief lives.

Why would young people living in Nantucket, the posh summer idyll of beaches, manors and quaint seaside landscapes, a community of one hundred thousand privileged residents outside of Boston, succumb to such severe depression that they seek suicide rather than face the reality of their lives and the promises inherent in them?

For that matter, what on earth could possibly explain the rash of late-night, or early-morning crashes, claiming the lives of young people around Ottawa, the capital of Canada? University students enjoying their freedoms, performing well academically, revelling in a full and satisfying social life, choose alcohol as their relaxant of first choice. Then crowd into an SUV and depart the bars and lounges they've just been invited to leave.

Statistics reveal that in a society that casually uses alcohol as a social adhesion, 28.1% of grade 7 students, 58.9% in grade 9, and 83% in grade 12 high school report regular drinking, and occasional intoxication. Male students report 27.1% engage in binge drinking. And 26% self-report as having been in a vehicle with a driver known to have been drinking.

And they self-destruct, go out in a blaze of gory death, leaving behind puzzled and grieving parents, and a shocked society wondering what they've done wrong.

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Regina versus Morgentaler 1988

Pro-choice is a delicate appellation describing the acceptance of the right of a woman to decide whether she is prepared to, willing to, able to, lend her body to the temporary efficiency of enabling another human life. Pro-life is a designation carefully selected by those who vehemently deny this as a legal and social right-of-self-determination to women, with the claim that aborting a foetus is tantamount to murder, clothing themselves self-righteously in the teguments of those to whom life is precious.

As though those who declare their intention to surrender the nascent life they begin to carry don't value life. To carry a foetus to term - deliver a baby that is unwanted is a moral burden that women must accept, rather than cast off, even with the understanding that because this child is not wanted, it will not be prized, loved and cherished - is obviously not representative of an acceptable rationale. A foetus that is of immature development, nowhere close to viability, is considered by passionate anti-abortionists to be a human life by its very existence.

Which, reasonably observed, represents very good reason for them to practise their beliefs personally, without insisting that others who don't subscribe to their dogmatic insistence do the same. There are many in Canada who feel that the current situation of legal limbo, with no law specific to the question of abortion, only a situation where a law making abortion illegal has been struck down, is untenable and morally unfeasible, bordering on the criminal.

Which has caused some from among the 'pro-life' community to take dramatic action on their own, in their frenzied attempts to persuade women intent on aborting their foetuses, through unlawful interventions on private property around abortion clinics. And violence, in presumed retribution against medical doctors who set themselves up as abortion-providers hasn't been unknown. There have been threats, and there have been murders.

Whereas the pro-choice group doesn't resort to threats, even when persecuted and demonized beyond endurance. Nor do they resort to violence, even though they may feel, at times, like throttling their condemners. Their resentment at the irritation they feel passes quickly, as they are quite simply capable of picking themselves up and trudging on. The fires of their passion don't flare as violent pathologies against their detractors.

Canada sees approximately a half-million pregnancies each year, with three live births to one abortion. The medical procedure itself has not been demonstrated to produce harmful psychological effects, although many dispute this. One would hope that the decision to proceed with an abortion is a well-thought-out determination, weighing all of a woman's personal needs and options. Yet since abortion is a procedure of such ill repute, there's little wonder some woman may suffer doubts after the fact.

Hospital discharge notes indicate a 98.56% rate of lack of complications such as haemorrhages or infection. Most abortions take place well before 12 weeks of gestation; the balance take place between 20 to 24 weeks. Current statistics indicate some 400 abortions after 20 weeks' gestation.

The freedom Canadian women enjoy today to seek out an abortion if that is what they prefer rather than carrying a foetus to full term, owes entirely to the personal sacrifices made by Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Montreal-based physician dedicated to assisting women to this surgical procedure. His prosecution and imprisonment galvanized Canadian women to protest and lobby parliaments, provincial and federal, on his behalf and that of women.

Which led directly - after a relentless campaign of almost a decade - to the decision of the Supreme Court. Yet even now, two decades after the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized abortion in Canada, women living in rural areas and in particular provinces are unable to receive timely abortions.

The issue is a living monster of a divide between two constituencies, both 'pro', each invested in the severely polarized issue that simply will not go away.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Integrating Young Canadians

How can it conceivably be thought of as empowering to a signal group of young people by treating them differently than other Canadian youth through an especially designed education system that deliberately devises a curriculum based on a history, traditions and a culture of a country other than that which they currently inhabit as citizens?

They might just as well be transported physically to their country of origin, there to be immersed in those exclusive subjects.

Living within Canada, as Canadian citizens and Canadian youth, it's logical that all children and youth be exposed to an identical educational system designed to ensure that they are all grounded similarly, all invested with a universal Canadian experience. The idea being, logically, to enable all youth to become and to be Canadian to their very core.

It hardly matters where they've been born, in a country other than Canada. The fact that they have migrated to Canada to become citizens, to take advantage of what this country has to offer, mitigates against setting and keeping them apart. It is Canadian history that should be taught to new Canadians; Canadian values and traditions that should be the template for their futures.

Yet here is the Toronto School board, seriously considering introducing a black-focused education for the proposed enablement of children born in Africa or the Caribbean - or offspring of that parentage - to enthuse them about their backgrounds, as a means of encouraging them to remain within the school system and complete their education experience.

These Afrocentric schools are being viewed as viable proposals in an effort to retain black kids' interest in schooling.

Educational apartheid. Rather than drawing children from all immigrant-experiences together, pulling them apart. It's a divisive gambit. As though Canada hasn't problems enough with its oppositional French-English divide, and its Aboriginal-general population divisiveness. We've made what we feel to be reasonable accommodation for the truly special needs of our second-language-legislated entity, and for our First Nations children's needs.

Why embark on yet another project whereby the education system will churn out children in whose heads will have been ingrained their separateness, rather than encouraging them to feel welcome and equal within the larger community of children? That children of black parentage fail to value education may be a symptom of parental neglect in encouraging their children to value education.

To offer children who prefer to drop out of high school rather than make the effort to receive a needed education, an alternative that may encourage them to think of themselves as set apart, different, unequal in some respect, seems a regressive step, a guarantee of diminished returns. The place for affirmation of one's roots and black-centric studies should be in an after-hours parochial, single-community-based classroom.

For those who claim that this move is really about choice, not race, it would seem rather pointedly about race to those looking on from the outside.

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National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, a very nice gentleman, who genuinely wants only what is best for his suffering people, has a response to those among a newer generation of aboriginal representatives who appear to feel that assimilating First Nations people into the general population of Canada's cities, encouraging them to make the most of urban opportunities in education and employment is the wave of a successful future.

These newly-emerged leaders do not suggest submersing native culture into that of the prevailing larger culture, but rather to retain language, history and cultural manifestations of value of indigenous peoples, while integrating socially, economically, into the larger population mass. As the only way forward for a burgeoning younger population of First Nations who most surely deserve far better than the meagre opportunities that have presented to them up to the present.

Chief Fontaine hits all the right notes, and it's very ennobling and misty-eyed of him to remind Canadians that First Nations' "social, cultural, spiritual, economic and political development and well-being" is uppermost in his mind and that of his colleagues. But in encouraging Indian bands to sequester themselves within their own communities, in tribal villages where there is no obligation upon them to fend for themselves honourably, he does them no favours.

It is from within those cloistered and non-opportunistic enclaves that aboriginal lives are wasted in an atmosphere of hopeless submission to boredom through lack of purpose. Where alcohol and drugs can temporarily lift people from their sad lassitude and misery, and where First Nations children are bereft of guidance and vision for their own futures, eschewing education and the universal values of self-help.

In the persistent and pernicious assurances to our aboriginal population that they should remain economically dependent upon the guilt of a nation, they are deprived of an inner solution to their problems. And the ongoing funding from federal coffers of the Assembly of First Nations, and Indian Bands and reserves, with no insistence on accountability, while people who should be as competitive in the workforce, as enthusiastic about opportunities as any other Canadians, fester in sloth and poverty.

The successive governments of this great country have done a great disservice to our First Nations peoples by aiding in their vulnerability, their dependent state, their hopelessness. And the fact that there are so many outstanding land claims has demonstrated the greater burden and share of the ongoing problems. All outstanding land claims should be seen as priorities, and immediate steps taken to resolve this issue. It is our shame as Canadians that First Nations still await their just recognition and due.

With agreements and titles they can then take steps to further their interests by negotiating with the private sector interested in development and mineral extraction, or in setting up unique manufacturing or service infrastructures. Better yet, devising their own industries, as some bands and reserves already have, to their great credit. Casinos, shopping centres, vineyards, orchards, innovative manufactories, all offer enterprising opportunities.

But insisting on the cultural necessity and the impracticality of First Nations living in isolated and remote reserves where the geography and the distance dictate against the potential for establishing themselves self-sufficiently is a false promise and an inadequate delivery of responsibilities for those whom the Assembly of First Nations claim they represent. Love of land is all very well, but aboriginals no longer live upon the land as their ancestors did.

When aboriginals respect themselves sufficiently to become self-reliant, to proudly demonstrate their abilities and capabilities, their determination to succeed as equals among equals, then their own pride in themselves will help bigots move away from the view of First Nations people as "wasteful, errant, criminal, stagnant, backward and irrelevant", to use Mr. Fontaine's own descriptives.

The sad fact seems to be that it is the leadership of the aboriginal community to date that is as much at fault in failing the needs and aspirations of Canada's First Nations, as the neglect of the successive federal governments, some of which, to be fair, suffer their own pangs of authentic regret at their failure to live up to their duties.

Unfortunately, regret is useless. An honest and determined move to finally right these wrongs which have languished far too long on the Canadian social landscape is what is required. Now.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Why Is That?

The two front-runners in the U.S. Democratic race for the presidency accuse one another of dirty campaign tactics. Pity, that. Their mission is to achieve success, each of them, in guiding their country through difficult times. But then, in a no-holds-barred race to achieve their party's nomination to bring them into the final race, anything goes. And the desperation to achieve their end drives them to divisive tactics.

But spare me: for Barack Obama to cast aspersions on former president Bill Clinton's campaigning on behalf of Hillary Clinton, as being unfair, intrusive, unsettling, upsetting...? Why is the celebrated social-political clout of Oprah Winfrey permissible, but not Bill Clinton's? He's a popular fellow, just as Ms. Winfrey is, and as that tired old saying goes, all's fair in love and war...

Mr. Clinton, it would appear, despite his all-too-human fallibility as a womanizer, and whose presidency was, to some degree, a disappointment, still has the public in the palm of his hand. His right hand. And, it would appear further, he is particularly loved in the African-American community. Just as he enjoys wide respect and popularity anywhere he goes. And there lies the rub.

He demonstrated his commitment to the cause of equality; it is as a second skin to the man. And in all likelihood, no less so for Hillary Clinton. A woman of great, overwhelming ambition. But what is it exactly that drives a man - any man - into the political arena at the highest echelons of power and achievement if it is not great, overwhelming ambition?

Oh yes, the wish to do well by one's nation, as a patriot and a scholar of insights into human nature. Why should that be detrimental to her reputation, when a woman displays those same passions? And why is it seen as untoward, somehow unfair, if her husband, a profoundly popular individual, displays himself and dispatches himself to campaign to her advantage?

Fears that he will place himself front and centre were she to be successful in achieving that high office? Well, as he says, it will be she, not he, who holds the office. He is not in contention. It is not his intent to challenge the authority of his wife, her vice-presidential choice, or any members of her potential cabinet. His word, in all circumstances, to be trusted.

He will be there, if, as and when needed, an elder statesman. Someone should sew his zipper tight, but unzip his bright intellect to the light of day, as required. On the other hand, all of this will become a hazy memory should the United States realize the good fortune of electing, let's see...Republican John McCain?

Who knows, after all, what the future may bring? A victory in the election of the first black American president, or the first woman president? Polling statistics seem to indicate that most Americans would prefer and vote for a black male rather than a white female as president. Only time will tell.

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Environmental Adaptations

Nothing like the natural wealth of great tracts of forests and their function as carbon sinks. Which makes Canada in theory a very good candidate for disposing of a goodly amount of carbon dioxide pollution in an advanced industrialized economy. Except for the fact that botanists seem to have reached a tentative conclusion that our forests are not sequestering carbon as efficiently as we have been taught to believe.

And then there are other problems, particularly in those areas in Alberta and British Columbia which are home to vast tracts of boreal forest. A wonderful natural resource gifted to this country through the good fortune of nature's design. But nature is capricious by her very nature. Just as the earth is undergoing profound natural changes that promise to have even more deleterious effects on us than we have already experienced, she complicates matters further.

Even if we give nature credit for ping-ponging the environment over the millennia in an irregular pendulum of minor ice periods balanced by warming periods, we've surely got to take some credit for enhancing - or if we prefer - exacerbating these swings by our own harnessing of our technology to her offerings of fossil fuels. Casually, wastefully, wilfully.

So she offers us her smarting slaps of disapproval by encouraging her destructive little creatures to warm up to the increasingly enticing atmosphere and wreak their damage at will. Fully 40% of British Columbia's priceless pine forest has been wiped out by the ever encroaching depredations of the mountain pine beetle - and more set for destruction.

Their far worse infestations in Alberta and now British Columbia no longer held at bay by winters cold enough to set them back. Alberta in particular, with its tar sands oil extraction fouling the atmosphere to an aggravated degree, could little afford to lose its forests. Tree planting should now become the industry of the future.

Not only for the purpose of logging, which in and of itself has provided more than enough eyesores and depleted too many pristine areas of mountain and forest landscapes than we should accept. But to maintain our erstwhile advantage, now slipping away through the tragedy of great tracts of dying forest.

We need to know a whole lot more about how our human activities have impacted on our atmosphere, and we need to discover, through intensive research, just what steps we should be engaged upon in attempts to sooth nature's bruised feelings.

A good start might be for the federal government to reinstate our main climate impacts research network which it had latterly shut down.

Bad move, that.

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Natural Dispositions

A new study has been released pointing out the prevalence of obesity among people aged 19 to 50 from within Canada's aboriginal communities. Women in particular were shown to be prone to overweight, with two-thirds of the women in the study being overweight, a higher rate than among the non-aboriginal population.

Data from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey was used as a template, then compared with aboriginals living off-reserve with their non-aboriginal counterparts living in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The stark differences were attributed to poor eating habits among young aboriginal women.

Among non-aboriginal women, 18 percent were found to be overweight, contrasting with the 41 percent deemed so among the aboriginal population. Researchers reached their conclusion after adjusting for factors such as education levels, household incomes - leaving aboriginal heritage to emerge as the outstanding factor in overweight and obesity levels.

Simply put, aboriginal women consumed greater amounts of calories than non-aboriginal women. Additionally, many of those roughly 359-additional calories were derived from sources other than fruits, vegetables - and what are considered to be other healthy options.

Leaving one to wonder about genealogical insight, and natural predispositions. After all, research has amply demonstrated that in North Dakota some Indian tribes are predisposed to Type I, II and gestational diabetes. Natural adaptation to seasonal deprivation of food sources resulted in weight gain.

While nature's kindly guidance in adaptation assisted native peoples through these physiological survival tactics, those who had so evolved have been unable to turn off the survival tap. Unneeded during a newer era when plentiful food is available all year 'round, in an entirely different mode of modern living.

Simple enough: when food was plentiful in summer-growth seasons and hunting and gathering spelled forage success the tribes ate well, and stored additional body fat to tide them over the long, difficult winters of less access to plentiful food; energy was provided from the storage of body fat to enable them to survive.

Social anthropologists might make the same connection with aboriginal women whose aeons-long occupation of the land in a hunting-gathering and ambulatory society which travelled seasonally to take advantage of food availability would adapt in the very same way exemplifying the success then of nature's survival technique.

For the same reason, it might make good sense that aboriginal women in particular would store more body fat than men, because it was they who gave birth to and suckled the young.

Just a thought, here and there.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Anti-Racism At The United Nations

Say what you will about Canada's New Government, it puts its money where its mouth is. No unctuous statements about how it upholds the universal brotherhood of humankind to be manifest in all it demonstrates in its pronouncements, while shying away from an unequivocal rejection of demonstrated racism. As was unfortunately demonstrated by the previous government.

But adamant that it will not be a party to a shameful re-demonstration of boldly racist hypocrisy masquerading as genuine concern for racial discrimination.

The United Nations, in its great good wisdom has announced a follow-up to its 2001 Durban-located World Conference Against Racism. At which venue the world watched as vicious verbal attacks against Israel spewed forth from predominantly Muslim and Arab countries whose presence dominated the conference.

Canadian delegates chose to remain at the conference, while American and Israeli delegates left, rather than lend the conference the dignity of their presence which could very well be construed as meekly supporting undisguised hate-mongering.

The senior Canadian delegate took steps to inform the assembly that it chose to remain "only ... to decry the attempts ... to de-legitimize the Sate of Israel and to dishonour the history and suffering of the Jewish people." An honourable statement, not to be niggled with.

Upon which announcement the Canadian delegation should have taken it upon themselves to leave the assemblage to their further machinations.

Canada's Maxime Bernier, minister of foreign affairs, has announced that Canada has no plans to attend the UN's Durban II Conference. Understanding beforehand that the same shameless libelous travesty will once again be hoisted upon the world stage, isolating and denouncing the State of Israel as a racist Zionist entity, a pariah.

Unsurprisingly, and more than adequately lending itself to the general apprehension is the appointment by the United Nations of planning oversight to its Human Rights Council. Which has distinguished itself in the last two years by targeting Israel solely in 14 of its thus-far 15 resolutions charging human rights violations.

Those states of sterling reputation with respect to the upholding of human rights have placed Iran - which has made no secret of its call for the destruction of the Jewish State, and which has time and again voiced the most egregious accusations against that geographic-co-located country - on an executive planning committee for the conference.

Equally lunatic, if not downright risible, is the chairmanship, held by Libya.

Canada was only one of 41 advanced democracies opposing the funding of $6.8-million in UN support payment for preparatory meetings in advance of Durban II. The measure was handily carried forward, however, by the balance of the 193-member General Assembly.

Canada's Conservative government is prepared for any criticism that may come its way. Affirming that Canada is committed to anti-racism principles; the Canadian Constitution is itself an affirmation of that commitment. The laws of the land affirm that commitment. The commitment within the country and the population to egalitarianism, equality, freedom of speech and from oppression stand as a guarantor of that commitment.

"At the moment, much of the planning for the conference suggests it will focus little on denouncing racism wherever it occurs, and a lot on advancing some countries' agendas against Israel and the West. The government feels that taking a stand against the gathering will do more in the long run for combatting racism than joining in."

Joining that is, a twisted caricature of human rights concerns. With the clearly malevolent intent of once again unleashing its anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic pathology.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Right:: We Hear You...

International agencies, along with Arab and European governments have continued to shrilly denounce Israel for victimizing the Palestinian population of Gaza, in their attempts to force Hamas to halt lobbing rockets and mortars across the border - victimizing Israeli residents. A humanitarian crisis in the offing, with energy and food and medicines and access cut off to one and a half million people, already sufficiently deprived.

So Israel responded, as its detractors knew it would, and opened crossings to allow emergency supplies through to ensure no such crisis would develop. Knowing full well that nothing it could say would convince those who denounce her actions in defence of her Kassam-weary population would serve to convince the international community that the "crisis" was one designed by Hamas to enlist sympathy for their cause.

And so Israel delivered diesel fuel sufficient to operate the main Gaza power plant for a week. While Israel and Egypt continue to provide Gaza with the balance of their power needs from their own grids; provisions which were never halted, despite accusations to the contrary. "Even without the new fuel supply they have enough electricity for more than half of Gaza, since Israel regularly supplies [the region] with 70% of its electricity needs", commented a senior defence official.

A shipment of fuel, food and medicine was seen through into Gaza through the very crossing where Hamas terrorists kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whose condition and location remain a closely-guarded trump card. And at the same time that diesel fuel and cooking gas supplies were being pumped into Gaza, Islamic Jihad and Hamas-lobbed missiles were entering Israel.

Humanitarian supplies balanced by destructive weapons seeking soft human flesh. The very same day supplies were being infused into Gaza, 6 Kassam rockets had exploded at the very time that Israeli children walk to school with their parents, themselves on their way to work.
Two of the rockets hit beleaguered Sderot, another a Negev kibbutz, while three landed in the Ashkol Region Council.

And while international organizations keep pressuring Israel to lift its closure on the region, warning of an impending humanitarian crisis, it's interesting that no collective will has been demonstrated to ensure that Israel's border towns and kibbutzim be free from ongoing attacks through an offer to install an internationally-represented military force to create a multinational defence zone between Israel and Gaza.

If the international community and human-rights groups are so concerned about what they term "collective punishment" being visited upon a civilian population, they have options. Such a neutrally-engaged universal force dedicated to keeping the peace could effectively halt terror attacks across the Gaza-Israel border, enabling the return of normalcy.

And at the same time removing gross irritants to the ongoing peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Actions most certainly are more effective than words; commitment to ensuring justice on both sides should take the place of outraged denunciations.

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Monday, January 21, 2008


It's past time and a moral victory that a far greater percentage of people everywhere appear to be more colour-blind than ever. We represent, after all, one race of humans upon this earth. The facade of our physical anomalies representing superior or inferior status deserves the smothering death it has undergone in peoples' perceptions.

Despite the still-simmering prejudices on all sides that persist perniciously. There are yet times when one wonders if basic human nature will ever fully submit to the understanding of equality among peoples. We have this fundamental tendency to set up barriers between ourselves on the basis of insignificant, perceived "differences".

But look how far we've come in North America. Finally catching up to some degree to the northern European countries who seem long ago to have vanquished colour barriers.

Laws were enacted to protect equality rights of persons of colour. People of goodwill assembled in protest against the inequalities between Anglo-Saxons types and visible minority peoples. The lack of justice, the supreme unfairness of relegating colour to an inferior status, finally offended the majority sufficiently that they rebelled.

Sad to say, we needed a whole lot of help to get to that stage. We needed a person of great courage and determination to dedicate himself to the role of defender-of-equality-in-colour. If it were not for the appearance of people who devoted themselves to the liberation of the black community in North America, to the upholding of the civil rights movement, we'd still be languishing in a state of apartheid.

The imagery of Barack Obama visiting Ebeneezer Baptist Church left nothing to the imagination. While he presents himself as being beyond colour, he also, in reality, is imbued with the history of colour, and as such is one with Martin Luther King, Jr., who brought colour to recognition and honour in a social and political system that degraded it.

What is equally hopeful is the fact that African-Americans are no longer monolithic in their allegiances. For while many in the community will support Mr. Obama simply because he is black and his potential as a candidate promises a kind of redemption beyond hope for blacks, there are those too who look beyond colour and select for other reasons.

Like the perception of past performances of another candidate who is not black, but whose experience and genuine concern for all of her countrymen expresses equality and confidence. Some in the community think divisively, some wholesomely collectively, and others think of the political process beyond colour, like Dr. Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Whose statement that: "This was not and is not and will not become a race-based decision for me", in explaining his position in supporting Mr. Obama's political Democratic opponent. "I respect Senator Obama, I applaud him and I love him as my brother, but a vote for Hillary is not a vote against Barack Obama or any community." And that's an expression of true social and political enlightenment.

Another generation, another defender, to build upon rights established through the sweat, tears and lives taken in defence of civil rights. Today America has Barack Obama, a true step up from earlier incarnations of deliverers out of the valley of separation. He presents himself as an American, a patriot, a colour-blind politician for a new millennium. He has vision and presence, intelligence and integrity.

Whether that can or will translate to effective political lawmaking and governance is something else again. The very fact of his presence, his empowerment, his acceptance by voters of all backgrounds and persuasions can only spell victory in a moral arena of collective self-respect. That he, like Senator Clinton, can persuade voters that he represents their best interests beyond race, is a victory for everyone.

His message cannot be denied: "We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing each other down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics."

And more power to him, and through him, ourselves.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

We Have Reservations...

There's about 615 First Nations bands in Canada, with about 800 outstanding First Nation land claims, a mere one-sixth of which are currently under negotiation. The government allocates 9.1-billion in annual federal spending on programs and services for our aboriginal population, 1-billion of which is spend on overhead through the ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs. Another 1-billion has been spent by senior governments on treaty negotiations since 1993.

A century of government hand-outs and encouragement for self-government for First Nations has resulted in nothing but disappointment. Very few bands have proved themselves capable of surviving independent of government hand-outs. Aboriginals living on native reserves suffer ill health, live in unsanitary conditions, their children are often neglected, receive minimal educational opportunities and a horribly high suicide rate among teen-agers blights society.

All the efforts of the federal and provincial governments in attempts to ease these intractable problems have failed, despite increasing amounts of funding. The Assembly of First Nations, representing the First Nations chiefs, have their very special agenda, espousing the needs of their dependent populations, but appearing to be capable of providing little true leadership. Funds allocated to and through them remain unaccounted for and conditions fester.

Finally, some other leaders from among the aboriginal community are beginning to wake up to the reality that aboriginal needs have not been met and the various communities themselves, particularly the reserves, cannot possibly plunge any lower. The realization is sinking in that money alone cannot solve the problems of isolation, dependency, lack of self esteem and opportunity, unemployment and school drop outs.

Let alone the growing and increasingly troublesome reality of aboriginal gangs, thrusting their goon tactics within the reserves, victimizing targets in urban societies, and becoming part of the statistics whereby aboriginals represent an unacceptably-large demographic within Canada's prison systems.

Reserve placement either on prized landscapes where enterprising leaders can realize ways to bring their population out of the syndrome of hopelessness, or isolated reserves that can offer no employment opportunities to their people also play a large part in occasional triumphs over adversity as opposed to the more usual civic and social failures reserves represent.

But it's past time that the Assembly of First Nations saw challenges to their authority from within the aboriginal population. From such as Clarence Louie, chief of the Osoyoos Indian band in B.C. whose signage posted on his reserve, "Real Warriors Hold a Job" stands behind his long-term obligation to his reserve, bringing useful employment, civic normalcy and band enrichment into reality.

Statistics Canada's recent revelations of a growing youth demographic within the country's aboriginal population is an expression of good news both for First Nations and for the country as a whole. Describing also an impending danger to both should quality education and employment opportunities not derive from the growing incidence of aboriginals leaving reserves to begin urban lifestyles.

More than half of aboriginal children now live in poverty, with three-quarters leaving school before completing high school. They face a current reality of higher rates of violence in their communities, injuries, health problems, addiction rates, and incidences of suicide. All of which conditions can be identified as fall-outs of poverty and lack of opportunities.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has an agenda antithetical to that of the Assembly of First Nations, bringing some fresh air and the potential of new opportunities and realities into the arena. Pointing out in some part the inane unpractibility of increasing funding for isolated reserves with their problems of sustainability.

The problems inherent in living conditions and opportunities for First Nations peoples are not uniquely theirs; other Canadians too face similar hardships. Statistics overall for Canada point to one in six children living in poverty. Rural and country dwellers, dependent on well systems cannot be guaranteed potable water, and among urban and country dwellers there is a substantial incidence of poverty as well.

Canada has its ongoing obligations to the state of well-being for all its citizens, no less that of First Nations peoples. The current unworkable solutions have solved nothing at all. It's past time for chiefs to assume their responsibilities to their tribal groupings, rather than focusing on the status quo where band councils and their friends remain well remunerated and nothing trickles down to profit the well-being of the majority in this feudal system.

The federal government has to harden its resolve and sit down with all the principals to hammer out solutions to the benefit of all aboriginals. Reservations that have been failures in encouraging their residents to become responsible for their own well being should restructure themselves, and remove to areas where their children can be exposed to greater opportunities.

Above all, it's time to get those treaties a whole lot closer to finalization. Much depends on solving all these problems, as aboriginal youth increase in numbers and Canada looks to absorb and engage them in supporting national employment needs.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Transcending Optics

Dumb, really dumb. Want to make an impression, to have people think you really care about the little guys - the ones who have to struggle uncompromisingly against the privileges accorded those among the higher echelons of life's kindly accommodations, attest to your sharing of their pain, your determination to have them see justice meted out by sharing their grim realities of life - share their pain.

On the other hand, if you feel like splurging publicly because, after all, your own good fortune entitles you to the luxuries in life denied those you represent, stifle the urge.

How about the decision to throw caution to the winds exercised by the New Democratic Party? Whose hierarchy in its great good wisdom decided to have themselves a right royal ball while in the process of struggling to unseat governmental policies whose outcome doesn't at all favour the interests of the working man and woman, and that great mass of the public whose income places them in the lower registers of the voting demographic.

A working retreat scheduled to take place at the Chateau Montebello, of all places? They must be feeling particularly giddy about themselves and their chances of success in bringing a bead of worried perspiration to government's overworked brow to feel that the inspirationally aesthetic surroundings of a pricey picturesque resort would do them just fine, thank you very much.

Where the ordinary operating fare at their lower-end accommodation runs alongside $350 per person per day. Forgot: includes a $21 breakfast and a buffet dinner coming in at $49.50. Downright bargain. An aide of party leader Jack Layton points out their success in obtaining a group discount so that the MPs and their staff members will be charged a mere $225 daily, plus meals.

After all, Members of Parliament whose salaries run at $158,800 surely deserve a certain style of accommodation. Or, as one NDP MP put it: "Who's to say the lumpen proletariat can't enjoy good linen?" Just kidding, of course, attempting to lighten the mood, cast some humour on the situation. In the process forgetting that earners of $159K annually aren't cast in the same mould as the lumpen proletariat, most of whom get by on something more like $33K.

Here's the party of the left, representatives of the smokestack industries of Canada, and the low-wage-earning majority who cling to NDP promises of a better life ahead for them, demonstrating the political deftness of a particular cerebral density. The party, moreover, that gets off on castigating the government over its tepid commitment to the environment.

Clearly, accommodation available within urban centres, affordably priced and readily accessed doesn't quite cut it. This "green-conscious" party chose to emulate the style of those whose wasteful lifestyles they decry, by booking their affair 75 kilometres from the seat of government, in the process sending additional environmental carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Get it? It's a send-up, a symbolically sly message meant to highlight the the unworthiness of those politicians who waste government funding, despoil the environment, and bilk the taxpayer of fair expectations. Almost missed the message in the knee-jerk reaction of disbelief that our beloved left-of-left party would be so reckless as to deliver the wrong message.

Clever manoeuvre, that.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Egregious Trumps Exemplary

The scourge of drunk driving continues to haunt society. The abandonment of responsibility toward others - driving a potentially lethal instrument to maim and kill others while under the influence of alcohol - deserves a response in acknowledgement of the damage done to society.

How, after all, can one restore a life taken? Or give hope back to someone whose life aspirations have been destroyed as a result of an accident they were unable to avoid?

An Ontario Superior Court judge felt sufficiently taken with the background and character of a former National Hockey League player to describe him as an "exemplary" citizen. Who, nonetheless, exercised extremely poor judgement in deciding to drive his rented car while inebriated.

In the process causing an accident that claimed the life of a friend, and giving grave injury to the driver of the vehicle he rammed into.

And while the judge claimed to have been impressed by the sterling character of the person charged with driving while drunk, and to have been impressed also by the letters of support presented to him from people who thought highly of this drunk driver attesting to his sterling character, he felt the dire necessity to deliver a message of "general deterrence".

"These offences have been and continue to be a serious problem in our community. They have a far greater impact on Canadian society than any other crime", said justice Alexander Sosna, in sentencing Rob Ramage to four years in prison, and prohibiting him from driving for five years. Mr. Ramage's punishment will exceed his prison term, if it is upheld.

This man who was incapable of disciplining himself to refuse to drive when his blood alcohol level was between two and a half and four times the legal limit, plans to appeal his sentence. But if it is upheld he may face another reality; that he may not be permitted to live or work in the United States where he now has a nicely remunerative position as a financial advisor.

Reasonable people can only hope that the sentence - said to be extreme for the offence, but in the opinion of many, not severe enough to reflect the taking of one life, the near-destruction of another - will be upheld.

There are consequences to selfish decision making. Past time people understood that.

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Right On, Jack!

Canada's NDP leader Jack Layton sounds pretty confident that he has the ear of his targets, he looks kind of with the program as well, upbeat and certain of himself. A man who has just re-discovered his mission.

Speaking of what an NDP government would opt for, in enacting measures that would most certainly resonate with unions, with all those people who have latterly lost industrial jobs, the out-of-work loggers and fishers, the auto industry. He would undertake to, if not entirely scrap NAFTA, then re-write the rules to benefit Canada.

That's as likely to be agreed to by the United States which took great pains to write the rules to benefit themselves, as the potential for the NDP to become the government of Canada. But this is a free society where people can say whatever they please, and make promises as well, since this is exactly what politicians do.

He would, moreover, take steps to block foreign takeovers of Canadian companies. And this proposal is certain to raise a whopping big hiccough of appreciation throughout the bottom-to-middle layers of Canadian society, most of whom feel pretty hard done by at any given time.

Here's another winner, appealing to the traditional hewers-of-wood and drawers-of-water condition Canada traditionally found itself in. The NDP would bring forward legislation banning or limiting the export of raw logs to the U.S., taking measures to promote processing of the wood in Canada. Yay! Go Jack Layton...!

And how about tightening regulation of energy exports to the U.S.; example the TransCanada Keystone pipeline to transport crude oil from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest. "What country could be so idiotic that it wouldn't build refineries in our own country? [The answer is] Canada." Yes, undeniably yes.

And forget tax cuts to corporations, they don't need more of our taxpayer funding. Put the money to good use on infrastructure and assistance in modernizing for failing companies. As for ordinary Canadians; battle high credit card interest rates by capping them at 5% above prime.

Right on Jack, we're with you. There are a lot of people who reflect your introspective views and methodologies for fairness. What better time than when the U.S. economy is set to hit the rails? The Democrats are falling all over themselves during this pre-presidential election free-for-all, piously announcing similar mirror-image solutions to your own.

Speak with Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama lately?

There are some in the know who claim that should Canada be impolite and impolitic enough to get into a hissy-fit retaliatory exposition with the United States we'll be doing a graceful head-spinning downturn faster than you can plead NAFTA!

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A Fishy Whale's Tale

Piracy on the high seas. Terrorists, at the very least, preying on innocent fisherfolk. Turned inside out, heartless fishers intent on harpooning rare whales simply because they can, claiming whaling to be a part of its "culture". While concerned environmentalists and animal-rights activists put their lives on the line to save these intelligent creatures.

Two activists with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in inflatable dinghies approached the Japanese harpoon ship the Yushin Maru No.2, concluding a high-speed chase in the Antarctic, where the two men boarded the ship to deliver a letter of protest against Japan's whaling program. That's where the kidnapping allegations derived from as the men were held for two days.

For their part, the indignant, put-upon Japanese named the activists rather politely, as "intruders" who took it upon themselves to illegally board their ship, going on with increasing fervour to accuse them of terrorism and piracy. While the Sea Shepherd spokespeople spoke of their emissaries as being held hostage, after being kidnapped.

Words flew forth, blistering the air between Tokyo and Canberra. Australia agreed to intervene and "rescued" Giles Lane, a Brit, and Benjamin Potts, an Australian, transferring them to the safety of an Australian customs ship with the oh so romantic name of Oceanic Viking. A rendezvous was arranged with the Sea Shepherd vessel to reunite it with the activists.

"As soon as we get our crew members back, we'll be looking for the [Japanese] fleet again, and we'll be using whatever tactics we can to stop them" said a spokeswoman for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. "That's what we came down here for." Yes, indeed, they did and they most certainly will.

Japanese officials declare innocence of mistreatment, that they offered the men a cabin, showers and meals. "It became very clear ... that Sea Shepherd had no intention of retrieving their two intruders, who boarded the Yushin Maru No.2 with backpacks carrying a change of clothes, toiletries and other sundry items. They were certainly intending a long sojourn aboard our vessel and Sea Shepherd had no intention to helping to remove them."

A scurrilous charge if untrue; a charge of scurrilous intent if true. Either way plenty of harrumphing and hurt feelings as each side traded heated accusations against the other. The Sea Shepherd Society that its men were assaulted and maltreated; the Japanese authorities that they had been looked after well, and were not at all harmed.

Paul Watson, yes that one, the infamous Paul Watson, he of blustery accusations and deliberate intent here and there and everywhere in defence of our natural world, said the Institute for Cetacean Research (the Japanese research body claiming the need to hunt whales as a scientific enquiry, not a mealtime inquisition) sent a "rather juvenile ransom note" stipulating conditions for the men's return; basically that they refrain from further action.

"My answer to them was that we weren't going to recognize any demands" he said. "When you hold hostages and make demands, that's the behaviour of a terrorist organization."

However, refuted Hideki Moronuki, whaling chief of the Japanese Fisheries Agency, "We didn't attach any conditions to the handover of the two men, unlike what's reported by Sea Shepherd. But of course, we want to be sure that the handover could be carried out safely without further intrusion by them."

And here's where the plot kind of sickens; Japanese officials claiming the activists had attempted to immobilize the propeller of the whaling ship, and also tossed bottles of acid onto its decks. Not so, corrected the Sea Shepherd spokespeople, the bottles were full of rancid butter. Now to the fastidious, health-conscious, food-addicted Japanese that is tantamount to blasphemy.

Moreover, the Sea Shepherd activists are boasting that they've been highly successful in intimidating the Japanese: "They're actually quite afraid of us, and they've made that pretty obvious in the last few days with all their talk of how they don't dare approach us."

How supremely dastardly. Now, who are the terrorists?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Protection Money

A new era in Canadian politics, a new reality in Ontario economics, certain to gain credibility and to be taken up around the country, a reflection of certain government policy failures. Yet another bureaucracy for a wearied population and economy to deal with. The Six Nations in Ontario has formed the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, and has forwarded letters of explanation to municipalities and developers to inform of the purpose of its presence.

Which is to mimic any governmental body: to collect royalties, approve plans and set environmental standards for any development on what it recognizes and claims to be aboriginal traditional lands. Representing a long swath of prime Southern Ontario real estate, extending from Grey County to the Waterloo Region, bookending Guelph Wellington, Brant and Haldimand counties. Encompassing the towns of Brantford, Kitchener, Caledonia and Dunnville, among others.

There's a lot of agricultural land in there, and a lot of land under development for housing. The Six Nations claim is that in 1784 King George III granted this area to Joseph Brant in appreciation of his loyalty during the American Revolution. The federal government has an obligation to settle this dispute with the aboriginal population claiming ownership of the land, but as with any such disputes nothing appears to be on the near horizon for settlement.

In the meantime, the Six Nations representatives say they're tired of waiting around for their grievance to be settled. They've been waiting since 1975 for government to settle the centuries-old claim of entitled property strung out along the Grand River, and they say they're simply doing what they must to provide for the future of their growing population. They're frustrated and genuinely so.

But resorting to installing themselves as an additional layer of bureaucracy demanding their due, resorting to the tactics of blackmail, extortion and intimidation? They're right; the governments of Canada and Ontario have proven themselves unwilling and incapable of finding solutions to the problem, but this borders on criminal vaudeville; utterly absurd, and dangerous as well.

The HDL, the development institute, has approached developers to negotiate leases and payments for use of the land they claim to be theirs, offering them 999-year leases. One of those developers was invited to a meeting, informed that for a 4% cut of his $1.2-million project, plus a $7,000 application fee and an agreement, he could lease the land and his work site would be "less likely" to be targeted.

He refused and suffered a series of construction interruptions, pushing him months behind schedule, causing him more in lost funding than had he paid the demanded extortion fees. "I'm not paying any fees for development I have a legal right to with my land titles. I really, really resent being used as a pawn in this political game of extortion to get the government to take notice."

The province has announced that the HDI has no authority, and that no one should be paying development fees to them. "We don't recognize development fees being charged by anyone but municipalities. I understand there is a land claim here that predates Confederation, and I think everybody understands there is a fundamental issue of difference here between First Nations communities and the federal government, but I think we also need to understand there is a way to resolve these things, there is a table there."

This from the province's Premier McGuinty, who hasn't the fortitude to uphold the law and charge illegal and dangerous squatters who have made life a misery for real estate developers and home owners, seeing their new communities' prospects wither and collapse. Where violent acts against individuals in Caledonia have gone unresolved, despite the thuggery of native protesters.

This contretemps, this deficient mangling of responsibilities to First Nations peoples on the part of government has led to a situation where communities within the lands claimed by Six Nations are nervously contemplating the future of their small communities. "We're not sure what that means to us in terms of any kinds of development projects, road works or subdivision developments or anything we do."

"We still want to do the right thing for the Six Nations people... We just want to develop the right approach." They're puzzled and confused, placed in an impossible catch-22. Time long overdue for responsible government to step in.

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