Transparency My Ass

On December 2nd CBC’s Evan Solomon presented Ryerson Professor, and lawyer, Pam Palmater arguing against the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.  Arguing for so-called “transparency” was Aaron Wudrick of the small, parsimonious, right-wing lobby group, the  Canadian Taxpayers Federation. If you can wait out a compulsory 90 seconds of commercials forced upon you by CBC Player you can listen to the powerful Palmater dissect and consume Aaron the Unready here. It’s worth the corporation-enforced wait.

I will not précis the whole issue but will only say that the Harper CPC can only get away with this egregious harassment of First Nations because of the abysmally ignorant state of Canadians on everything to do with our First Nations. Government “logic” succeeds only because of the typical Canuck couch potato’s massively wrong assumptions and deep, unconscious prejudice about our indigenous people. “Settler” mentality creates big holes in public awareness for the government offence to run through.

Via huge omnibus bills the Harper Conservatives have passed (undebated) a boatload of needle-in-haystack legislation designed to totally destroy the power of our First Nations to stay united and fight pipelines and other attacks on our shared and fragile biosphere.

Professor Palmater maintained, in a talk to Idle No More – Alberta, that:

“It’s time to come up with a plan to let Canadians know that we (i.e. First Nations – ed.) are their only hope of saving the land and waters and animals and plants in this country.”

Continue reading “Transparency My Ass”


Using Buckshot Legislation To Decimate First Nations Rights

Stephen Harper has squirrelled away, in several huge omnibus bills, many changes to First Nations’ governance designed to divide and conquer First Nations and thereby enable pipelines to be rammed across their unceded territories. Pamela Palmater in 2013 gave four talks identifying these small, scattered, insidious changes and major problems that existed long before Harper. My summary of her main points follows, along with links to all four talks…

Pamela Palmater, lawyer for 14 years, a professor at Ryerson University,  Mi’kmaw citizen and member of Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick, speaking on the Harper legislative onslaught upon First Nations. Her talk has been divided into four parts and is posted on YouTube by Idle No More Alberta. Where I am quoting Ms. Palmater directly the text will be in quotation marks.

Part One:

  • Department of Indian Affairs: “Their policy objective for First Nations in this country has never changed. From the time they developed it in the 1800′s until now, on the books, the number one objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian left in Canada – and with that goes the treaties and reserve lands and everything else.” Continue reading “Using Buckshot Legislation To Decimate First Nations Rights”

Drums – Lyrics and Chords

The following simple lead sheets in the key of A major are chosen to play along with Floyd (Red Crow) Westerman‘s YouTube performance of the song, Drums, written by the American folksinger, Peter La Farge.

In view of the increased awareness of the abysmal history of mistreatment of Canada’s first nations in our Residential School system, our dismal treaty record and the current interest in the Idle No More Movement, this song is particularly timely and appropriate.

I’m not 100% certain of a few of the words; if you can recommend any changes, please comment.

Drums - page 1
Drums – page 1
Drums - page 2
Drums – page 2

Thanks to Anishanabe elder, Lloyd Fournier, who set me straight on the legendary chiefs’ names at the top of page 2.

Different Methods of Truth Telling

I guess my style of truth telling is pretty direct and “in your face.” It alienates some people, but gets quickly to the point (admittedly as I see it and thus imperfect).

A friend pointed out recently that there are gentler, artistic ways of presenting truth.

Louise Erdrich’s latest book, The Roundhouse,  is one major subject of her wonderful November interview with Eleanor Wachtel of the CBC Radio’s Writers and Company, aired every Sunday at 3 PM. Erdrich is a Native American writer who writes novels that build awareness of injustice towards native peoples. Here’s the CBC Podcast … Well worth a listen.

Video and music are other vehicles for building awareness. One very touching piece, John Trudell’s Crazy Horse, combines poetry, music and video.  I was gripped by its masterful, solemn  combination of these three native-generated media. Just a snippet from Trudell’s poetry:

Crazy Horse, we hear what you say.
One Earth, one Mother
One does not sell the Earth the people walk upon…

I know that all these types of truth telling have value and all are necessary.
I have used music and video myself. I have written 14 songs and have put three of them so far on my Songs page. I should really work on getting the other 11 up on this site.
I feel that the unprecedented speed of the resource-greedy, multinational, corporate attack on our planet creates an urgent necessity for the direct form of truth telling. There is no time left for a slow brew here.

An Opportunity For Old Canucks To Learn From New Canadians

A Quaker friend of mine from Saskatchewan recently sent me an article posted on Sikh24 dot com  – a fascinating and sensitively written article in solidarity with Idle No More. The Sikhs are prominent members of our local community. The writer(s) outline what their people have gone through in suffering the negative effects of colonialism and explain how they can relate to what our First nations have suffered. I learned a lot by reading this description of some of the non-violent acts of heroism performed by past leaders of their community. While the article expresses solidarity with our First Nations, it shows a special understanding of the especially tragic situation here in Canada:

Yes, one hundred and seventy years ago the British annexed Panjab and ended Khalsa Raj. But the British did not exile us from our own villages and towns. The British did not take our land and build new cities. The British did not migrate to Panjab and force us to live on inadequate reserves.
The article mentions heroic acts by historic Sikh leaders in defending the rights of non-Sikhs in India. Two of those leaders are Gurus Nanak and Tegh Bahadur.
Guru Nanak Sahib:
We need to demonstrate our commitment to the revolutionary message of Guru Nanak Sahib, that every human being contains equally an aspect of the divine and that we are all truly worthy of having our basic human needs and rights protected and defended.
Guru Tekh Bahadur Sahib gave his life in the year 1675 to oppose the forced conversion of Hindus.
The fact that recent “settlers” in Canada can relate so sensitively, and bring a fresh perspective, to the plight of our long-abused native peoples is a very encouraging sign.
We can learn much from them.

Babylon Sans Hanging Gardens

The really important stuff was well-protected on University Avenue
Toronto G-20 Protest, June 26, 2010: This really important institution on University Avenue was well-protected from us “terrorists.”


Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

From the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 7: 16
King James Version
Get up. Stand up. Stand up for your rights
Get up. Stand up. Don’t give up the fight.
Bob Marley

Tonglen, Illusion and Injustice – A “Theory of Everything”

This worm, my brother, symbolizes vulnerability for me
This worm symbolizes vulnerability for me

I really like combining some tonglen breathing with my dumbbell exercises and a set of tai chi. I usually come away with a feeling of calmness and purpose.

I precede the above with 30 minutes uphill walking on a treadmill, during which I listen to a CBC podcast from one of my four favorite reflective CBC programs: Ideas, Tapestry, Writers and Company and The Sunday Edition. These free podcasts come automatically into my iTunes account.

I don’t do the exercises every day, and, for me, that’s OK. Often I walk outside instead in “Our Woods” with my wife. Our walks have been getting longer as we will be walking a lot on our next trip and, at 68, that can be challenging.

This morning when I began my routine I was thinking about a thoughtful blog I had read a couple of days ago by Traveling Thane Furrows. N.B. Thane’s blog is no longer available.  Pity. His post featured one of my living heroes, Noam Chomsky. Thane presented several of Mr. Chomsky’s points in an October lecture given at the American University in Cairo. Thane commented in the above post that Chomsky “nonchalantly condemns US Imperialism and gives lucid explanations for the current political events sweeping our world.” I remember thinking that the last adjective I would use to describe anything Chomsky does is “nonchalant.” He has spent much of his very long life meticulously and passionately documenting political abuses of the third world by the powerful nations and trans-national corporations. The US is his principal, but by no means sole, target and he gives copious endnotes to support all his sources.

But Thane made me think twice when he respectfully suggested that there is typically too much negativity among critics of the status quo. I had to think about my recent posts that have been severely critical, contemptuous even, of Canada’s small “c” conservative government under Stephen Harper.

Thane refers wisely to Buddhist  and Kabbalist beliefs and tonglen as tools that can be used to soften one’s heart and learn to look primarily for the good. I think Thane feels that Chomsky and I are too unrelentingly harsh in our criticism of the right wing. He quotes the Kabbalist,  Rabbi Moshe Cordevero:

Your ears should always be tuned to hear the good, while rumors and gossip should never be let in, according to the secret of sublime listening. There, no harsh shouting enters, no tongue of evil leaves a blemish. So listen only to positive, useful things, not to things that promote anger.

This quote initially took me aback. It seemed that Thane was implying by this passage that Chomsky should have been more circumspect and positive in his lecture. I suspect now that Thane was quite sympathetic to the “facts” as Chomsky presented them, but was troubled that this information darkened his perspective and made Thane himself somewhat prone to negative feelings that he personally wants to overcome.

Here I invite Thane to comment on this post, because I am not certain of his perspective and do not want to misrepresent it. I thank him for stimulating me to think more carefully about my writing style.

My opinion on this is that there are different, valid roles for all of us if we “H. sapienses” are to find our way intact into the next century. People like Noam Chomsky, though overwhelmingly critical, are important communicators of the serious issues that need to be addressed if justice, peace and sustainability are important. In Canada, for example, there are four times as many right wing daily newspapers as liberal ones. Voices like those of Chomsky and Naomi Klein are a necessary, if tiny, attempt to bring the public, poorly informed due to materialistic distractions and the bias of the  corporate-dominated media, up to speed on the reasons and powers behind what is happening to the indigenous in Central America, Canada and, soon, to them. This is what the recent Idle No More Movement is about. People are becoming aware of threats to Canada’s First Nations and to themselves if our land, water and air continues to be polluted to serve the god of GDP and the corporate growth paradigm.

There is also place for spiritual leaders of good faith, past and present. There is also place for agnostics and atheists. There is an important place for indigenous spirituality, which is closer to Mother Earth than any other form.

But back to the ideas spawned by Thane’s blog – and my stream of consciousness:

I am aware that much of what we perceive is illusion. Buddhism, Hinduism and even quantum physics support this. It seems the Hindus  intuitively “got” the String Theory of quantum physics centuries before plodding, Western atomistic scientists came to get a peek into its intricacies. Sort of reminds me of the Polynesians (through magnificent, intuitive, advanced navigational virtuosity) having populated the tiny islands of the vast  South Pacific five centuries before the Spaniards came along hugging the coast and generally screwing things up. Fast forward to the present World Order… but I digress.

Being aware of the illusory nature of existence helps one to cope with suffering. This is one of the real benefits of tonglen breathing.

Breathe in suffering, breathe out healing.

Simple, deep, effective. It helps, but it does not change the injustice that leads to widespread suffering around the world, much of which has been spawned since European colonialism began in the 15th century. I still cling to the idea that injustice must be fought. To me it is not a complete illusion that a girl going to school can be disfigured by acid thrown in her face. (The Taliban, by the way, has arisen because fundamentalism was aided and abetted by the US to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. It achieved that goal, but turned out to be a Faustian bargain, but I digress yet again.)

This sort of injustice makes me angry. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. Not so angry that my blood boils and my blood vessels constrict – thanks to tonglen and, to a greater extent than previously, tuning out. My Internet activity and bodily presence at peaceful protests, critical and side-taking though it is, also helps me feel that I am doing something to fight injustice.

In the very long run, for an athiest who understands the Second Law of Thermodynamics, all momentary struggle is indeed absurd. In the end a state of formless uniformity will be everywhere in the universe. Free energy, necessary to build complex structures like a human fetus out of atoms, will be all used up.

Even in the relatively short run, our sustainer, the Sun, having indifferently helped life to evolve on Earth over the past 5 billion years, will start to lose its primary and secondary fuels, hydrogen and helium. Before it peters out to a dwarf during the next 5 billion it will cool and expand into a red giant, whose fiery mass will envelop our Planet. Sayonara, baby.

Some might say that to struggle to keep Homo sapiens and a few other vertebrates in existence on Earth for a few more millennia is itself an absurd quest, given the ultimate existence endgame. For me, and this is my own personal, though deeply held, sentiment,  it is the only thing worth doing. I consider those who aid the new colonists in their rape of my Planet the Enemy who must be turned into an ally or relentlessly opposed. I cannot do otherwise.

I will give the last word to the author of Don Quixote, the incomparable Miguel Cervantes:

Too much sanity may be madness, and the maddest of all to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Idle No More = Hope Some More

I have been ignorant of so much about our native peoples for so long – like my whole life, for example. The author Wade Davis years ago made me appreciate the value of seeing Mother Earth from a worldwide indigenous perspective which recognizes the oneness of every single thing on this Planet, a point made superbly by Winona LaDuke in this wonderful talk.

The recent Idle No More movement highlights for me these points:

1. We continue to colonize our native peoples through, among other things, ruining their unceded lands and waters by making them hostile, barren and toxic via the unbridled extraction of minerals, oil and trees.

2. Our First Nations are experiencing huge rates of disease due to these activities. The pollution is also affecting us, though less obviously. Ninety-nine per cent of scientists and a large, growing number of lay people realize that continued economic growth that depends on pollution is unsustainable.

3. Many of us “white folk” are coming to realize that multinational corporations, many with foreign profit centres like Brazil, China and Holland, with absolutely no connection to the land, are being given the right to exploit it. While First Nations are the canary in the coal mine, we all are being quickly colonized, and, ultimately, impoverished and poisoned by the world economic system.

4. The Movement is a valuable, attention-grabbing focal point whose many contentious, non-unanimous issues, some of which are highlighted in Michael Enright’s CBC Sunday Edition interview with Cindy Blackstock, can be unified, I believe, by the unanimous chant that “Enough Is Enough.”

I see this phenomenon as a reason to hope again. For a glass-half-empty person, that is some accomplishment.

Our First Nations Peoples – Failed Attempts To Be Us?

If the current Environmental Assessment Act is sufficient to protect all lakes and rivers, why did the government deem it necessary to include a small list of both key and posh waterways in the new Navigation Protection Act for special attention?

Even the Oldman River’s process and final ruling was ignored by the Alberta government, who pushed through the building of the dam in 1992 under the watches of Don Getty, Ralph Klein and Brian Mulroney – big “C” Conservatives all. I do not blame the Conservatives alone, federally, though they have to carry the can for Alberta, having been in power there for soooo long. The fact sadly remains that, no matter what Punch and Judy show we have going on in Ottawa for the amusement and seduction of Joe Couch Potato, the environmental legislation we have now has not succeeded broadly enough in protecting the environment against powerful domestic and, increasingly, foreign interests.

If the Athabaska River flowed south to Calgary instead of north, it would have been protected because of, frankly, the non-native electors who live there. Continue reading “Our First Nations Peoples – Failed Attempts To Be Us?”

Canada’s Court of Appeal “liked” The Navigable Waters Act

Sorry, in these FaceBook dominated times, I couldn’t resist this corny title 😉

In 1992 a federal Court of Appeal presided over by eight judges including Canada’s Chief Justice at the time, Antonio Lamer, concluded that the Navigable Waters Act was about more than boats and cottagers’ docks. The case I’m referring to was Friends of the Oldman River Society v. Canada (Minister of Transport), [1992] 1 S.C.R. 3. The Court of Appeal, in its judgement against the building of a dam on Alberta’s Oldman River, ruled that, though the prime purpose of the Navigable Waters Act was to protect navigation, complaints brought before it usually were about things (like bridges and dams) that might interfere with navigation. So the Court’s role was to consider whether other advantages of a project might be important enough to justify interference with navigation. Included among things to be considered, the Court ruled, was the effect of a project on the environment.

Quoting from the Court’s 1992 ruling:

As I mentioned earlier in these reasons, the Act (the Navigable Waters Act) has a more expansive environmental dimension,

Continue reading “Canada’s Court of Appeal “liked” The Navigable Waters Act”