The Perfect Palestinian Homeland

Israeli-solder-Palestinian-man arguingSeven decades on and the war continues between Israelis and Palestinians as they fight what has clearly become an unresolvable issue; peaceful co-existence of two nations on the same land. (Thanks Abraham.)

How many more people must die, how many more mothers must bury their children and fathers their families on both sides before a peaceful resolution is achieved? Like so many key inventions from the 20th Century (nuclear power, tailing ponds and fracking are other examples), the creation of modern Israel was done in haste with an attitude that we would figure out how to deal with the ancillary ‘mess’ later. Well, every chicken eventually comes home to roost, and of course when we wake up noticing that dumb bird staring at us with a mix of amusement and befuddlement,  we discover that we really haven’t found a fix.

 

I certainly don’t have a solution for all of the world’s problems, but when it comes to the Palestinian Homeland problem, I’d like to seriously suggest one that I believe can succeed.  It is one that Canada and Canada alone can propose and it is one of the greatest gifts that Canadians can give to the world.  The solution to the Palestinian homeland problem clearly won’t exist in the granting of bits of land in Palestine.  Thousands of years of fighting (not just the last 70) has proven that there is no stable peace to be had here.

 

The modern nation of Israel has a legitimate claim on Palestine too and Israelis have certainly worked extraordinarily hard for more than a century to establish the rebuilt nation firmly on the soil it controls.  It is foolishness to assume or hope that Israel could be dismantled.  Palestinians, on the other hand have clearly been dispossessed of this very same dirt and both sides continue the eternal battle to control the entire land through the destruction of the lives of the other.  How many more generations of needless pain, suffering and loss of life on both sides must pass before a better solution comes along?

 

It is my hope that the end of this battle can be achieved today.  Yes, what I am proposing will require sacrifice and the giving up of cherished desires and goals, but it will also provide the opportunity for permanent peace and new prosperity that has been denied the Palestinian people for 70 years.  The only solution that will give us all the permanent peace we all want is to find a new homeland for the Palestinian people.  Given that high quality empty spaces on the planet are not all that common, this doesn’t sound like a very viable option, however, I do believe that Canada can be the provider of just such a homeland, and no, this doesn’t require the Palestinian people to become a high-arctic people, and it doesn’t require the carving up of segments of rural Canada.  What I am proposing is that Canada gift Anticosti Island to the Palestinian people as a new permanent national homeland.

 

Anticosti Island is that enormous island in the mouth of the St. Lawrence, currently home to no long-term residents other than 300 federal civil servants who maintain the lighthouses on the island.  There is ample land and natural resources to supply the building and farming needs of a large population and the recent discovery of over 30,000,000,000 barrels of oil can ensure a solid economic start for those who chose this future.  The Island is a part of North America and is closely located to key population and economic centres in the American Northeast.

Satellite Image of Anticosti Island

There will be those who reject this idea out of hand, suggesting that there is no home but actual Palestine.  Others will cry foul for having to leave behind ancestral land and even others will suggest that it is Israel that should be asked to relocate to Anticosti Island, not the Palestinian people.  Those who reject out of hand this proposal without giving it consideration or even a democratic vote are not likely the ones who have had to suffer four generations of life in temporary refugee tent camps, and they are not likely those who’ve lost loved ones to this eternal violence  It is the peacemakers and those who want a prosperous future for their children who should be given a voice in response to this opportunity.

 

Canada’s modern history is the story of the creation of a young nation through the deliberate choice of people from all around the world who decide to take the difficult step and leave behind all they know and love to embrace a new land for all of its opportunity and promise.   Canada offers a better future for all who dare to take on the Great White North challenge.  I’m certain that, given the opportunity, Palestinians will embrace the opportunity of establishing their own independent nation on this pristine and welcoming island, one that offers them political, economic and territorial independence and security.

 

So often Canada is criticized for its tendency to speak boldly against injustice and international crimes without the backing of any real military threat.  We will never be the United States, and the role of global cop isn’t ours.  Our path has been well established in a different direction; that of peacemaker.  Lester B. Pearson gave us the great example in the 20th Century with his innovative push to establish United Nations Peace Keepers.  It is now our generation’s turn to take a bold, world-changing step and propose the creation of the world’s newest nation from the great surplus wealth of land Canada is blessed with.

 

It is now time for another Canadian Prime Minister to rise before the United Nations and once again show the world the Canadian way, not one of war, not one of bitter separations, or revenge, but one of peaceful coexistence.  We have a most rare opportunity here to transform the world, showing it that peace is a realistic possibility and that the future doesn’t have to be a repeat of the past for those bold enough to try.

 

 

The Nunavut Bomb

Nunavut SymbolHow much did you pay in Income Tax last year? $10,000 or perhaps $22,000? or are you so fortunate to have earned enough to be paying $39,000?  Well, if you find yourself in that top category, by my figuring that would put you in the top 3% of earners in Canada.  Congratulations, your contribution to the Federal Government still falls short of the amount of money spent in 2012 to support just ONE person in Nunavut.

I suspect that there will be those who don’t believe me, so take a moment and check it out for yourself because this information is all public and on the Internet for all to see here.

Of course the amount of transfers to each province and territory is all there on the same page.  For example, the transfer amount for each resident of Alberta is less than a thousand dollars, or about 1/40 of the amount sent to our precious north.  In 2012 the 33,000 residents of Nunavut pulled in over $1,300,000,000 in federal financial transfers or $39,028 for every person.

This $1.3+ billion is about $40 that every Canadian sends to the residents of Nunavut every year just so that they can live there.  The $40 works out to 82% of all the income for the territory, which means the people of Nunavut are earning some income, about $8.75 for each $40.00 we each send.

To put this in perspective, the Federal government sent $3.8 billion to the 3,700,000 residents of Alberta in 2012, which is about $1,027 per person or $11.69 for every Canadian.

Canada’s Arctic is a financial sink-hole that we continue to dump our hard-earned tax dollars in to with absolutely no hope of ever seeing a return.  Given that the population can no longer be supported by the natural food resources in the Arctic and that the vast majority of the citizens in the Arctic are reliant upon financial subsidy to maintain their current lifestyle, I believe that it is time for Canada to convert the entire land mass of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in to National Parks.  This would have many positive benefits for Canadians, current residents of the Territories, the animals and plant life there and for future generations of Canadians.

First, this would ensure that Canadian sovereignty over the land would be enshrined in existing international agreements that recognize National Parks as part of a national boundary.

Second, National Parks exist to preserve, protect and present their spaces for all and future Canadians to enjoy.  By converting these lands in to  such a protected space would help to ensure that the ever-dwindling populations of Caribou, Bare land Grizzlies, Muskox and Polar Bears would be preserved for all future generations of Canadians to experience and enjoy.

Third, the monumental financial drain that the Arctic communities are today and will continue to be can be eliminated.  By ensuring that the need to reside policy of National Parks is respected, we can ensure that only those who have an active role in protecting, preserving and presenting these lands will live there.  The remaining populations should be given fair and reasonable relocation to wherever else in Canada they wish to live.

Fourth, establishing new National Parks will be a boon for employment, as this does not mean the end of all traditional hunting or lifestyle there, but rather it will create an unprecedented opportunity to establish new and novel tourism experiences across the vast and varied Arctic ecosystems, giving Canadians and a global population the opportunity to experience a unique ecosystem and lifestyle that will forever disappear if we do nothing to divert from our current course of inaction.

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The Coming Arctic Ecosystem Collapse

I’m sure that many of you will hate this politically incorrect observation that the Arctic lifestyle that is supported with all of our money is simply not sustainable and unless our leaders grow the courage to stand up to the bias and bigotry of culture, history and white guilt we will very shortly find ourselves with a repeat of the cod collapse of the East Coast Fishery of the early 1990s, except this time it will be the final decimation of our populations of Polar Bears, Caribou, Barren Land Grizzlies and Muskox.

The vast majority of hunters in the Arctic no longer practice traditional hunting methods, which called for the use of hand weapons and walking as the means by which one would track down and kill one’s prey.  During my years living in Canada’s Arctic, I met many interesting and inspiring First Nation people, like David Aglukark the younger bother of the famous singer Susan Aglukark.  David once told me a story of how his elderly grandmother would put him to shame by continuing to hunt in the traditional manner, walking out on the land by herself for two weeks at a time and returning with a fully butchered Caribou.  David said that he simply did not have in him the strength of his grandmother, as he relied on his quad and rifle to hunt and return his kill home by days end.  David’s candor with me is an example of his personal integrity and natural leadership and even he recognizes the looming human and animal population crisis, yet nothing changes.

The fishing culture of Eastern Canada and Newfoundland in particular was as strongly established as any Arctic First Nations practice of living off the land.  For more than 400 years European settlers have been extracting a hard-earned life out of the cold North Atlantic waters and despite years of clear and persistent evidence that the fish stocks were declining, our leaders failed to take the brave stand of calling for the addressing of this issue before the collapse was complete.  Here we are almost a quarter-century after the 1992 fishing moratorium  and the fishery has not recovered.  Must we repeat the same mistakes in the Arctic?  With a birth rate of more than 3 children per woman (more than double the Canadian average) the problem of natural food resources being exhausted by the local population is a real potential.

It is well past the time for the leaders of the Arctic to do the right thing to ensure that there can be a traditional culture to pass on to coming generations.  This will take great courage, honesty and determination to face down the ubiquitous calls that will come against any effort to make the difficult changes necessary to ensure that there is a tomorrow for ‘traditional’ hunting and living in Canada’s Arctic, otherwise we will soon be hearing of how Canada’s barrens became truly barren of even the marginal populations they have historically supported.  To stand by and take no action in the face of this clear and obvious genocide of so many species would be a crime against the planet and all generations to come.

Ensuring that our natural resources and habitats remain for future generations should always trump the desires and expectations of tradition and traditional societies.  Here’s hoping such wisdom and action will soon be found in our leaders.

Putting Me Out of Your Misery

I read an interesting blog post by Jon Bateman.  I invite you to take a look at it as it will put more context around what I have to say.  As a child Jon was clearly at peace with his physical circumstance, much more than those who encountered him were.  What Jon doesn’t seem to square in his observation is the fact of the discomfort of those who encountered him.

It seems apparent that Jon was a joyful child who revelled in doing all that he could, pushing hard at the boundaries of his disability, yet he repeatedly encountered the words of those around him who would assure him of an afterlife physical perfection.  Instead of engaging a child on the basis of what and where he is and accepting the current state as reality, these people chose to look beyond what they clearly see as a ruined present towards an anticipated future perfection.  Jon is right in his response to this experience – that to abandon our reality and our lives today in exchange for the hope of a far-away afterlife is a poor idea.

Unfortunately, Canadian society has not learned this lesson, or at least not in a way that is beneficial for those of us who bear any notable imperfection, be it our legs, limbs, mind or sex.  About 100,000 Canadian children are murdered every year because they were not deemed perfect enough to deserve to live.  Had Jon been conceived in 2013 instead of the 1970s he would more likely than not be murdered before birth.  Once his congenital Spina Bifida is discovered, his mother would face a barrage of tests and ‘conversations’ where she would be given repeated encouragements to murder her son because it would be ‘for the best’.  Depending on the skill of the doctor, these conversations could be presented as the most logical and compassionate act, after all, who would want to live with such a horrible life-long disability?

If you doubt my words, take a moment to reflect on when the last time was that you saw a young child in a wheelchair, or walking with a form of crutches, the clear owner of some significant physical ailment?  How long has it been since you perhaps encountered the drooling face and contorted limbs and shuffling gate of a body entrapped by Cerebral Palsy?  (Do you have a sense of revulsion right now at what your mind is conjuring at the mention of these states?)  Canadian society is murdering the equivalent of a Thunder Bay or Red Deer of children every year, yet nobody dares to stop it.  You can cause the death of a child as she is being born in Canada, and as long as any part of her body (even just a toe) is still inside her mother, the Supreme Court of Canada says that this brutal act is not murder.

Child Sacrifice PosterCanada is one of the few nations on earth without any form of legal protection for the unborn and our national ‘leaders’ continue to refuse to lift even a finger to provide even the slightest protection for these children.  Some may say that this is because the dead don’t vote, or that to take on this issue is to welcome nothing but criticism from anyone with an opinion on the matter.  While there is a nugget of truth there, I think that the real reason, the deep down dark soul fact of why nothing has been done in two decades is because the healthy would rather not see us in their midst.  The disabled are a cost on society and often never return any net economic benefit above what society has had to spend on them.  We are hard to look at sometimes and clearly make those with a perfect physique uncomfortable as their minds and bodies form a reaction of revulsion or fear.

This type of response is nothing new – many societies throughout history have practised infanticide as an expedient way to eliminate the imperfect runts of humanity.  It is ironic that Jon’s post takes place in the environment of a church – the very place where the collision of human revulsion and divine requirement meet.  If it were not for the enlightenment sweeping Europe and the wide-spread adoption of the three primary monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity across most modern societies, we could have a rich and long history of infanticide.  Unfortunately, infanticide is back, but few wish to even acknowledge it.

The great faiths call upon us to value and protect life, and this has helped to create a historic western culture that, outside of war, has honoured and embraced the dignity of every human life, no matter how damaged or diminished it may be.  Unfortunately, like most lies, western society has adopted the belief  that to pursue perfection on this earth and in this life is a virtue, and therefore to dare to beset another innocent human being with the scourge of life with a known physical or mental disability from the outset is very subtly presented as a sin.  How dare a loving parent do such an evil to a child!  So Satan has sold us the lie that it is better to murder our children before they draw their own breath because their lives would never be what we’d want for them.  Moloch eats another meal.

So our society seems to flourish, freed from most of the avoidable taxes on our personal liberty and pocket book that attend with the arrival of a child with a feeble mind or body.  The rise of Christianity helped to crush the practice of infanticide, but the rise of the Eugenics movement a century ago, married with modern prenatal diagnostic measurements along with the legalization of abortion has once again brought us full circle to where the healthy are once again destroying those who fail to meet their standard for life.

One may think that the eugenic-based pursuit of perfection died with Adolf  Hitler and the Nazi party in 1945, but it is now clear that the lull in practice and spoken silence of this attitude was but a speed-bump that is now quickly fading as the eye-witnesses to that raw horror fade away.  While we haven’t yet reinstated the open and blatant eugenic practices or promotions of the 1920s, the practice itself has returned and has become all that was envisioned a century ago and more as it has been enhanced, becoming absolutely personal as it is now delivered in a custom measurement of the contents of each and every womb.  Today in Canada, every pregnant mother is subjected to mandatory and necessary scans and readings of her child in utero ‘for her safety’.  Should the measurements of the child prove to be less than perfect, an active and helpful intervention can be cleanly and discretely performed, and the neighbours will never know that this murder was anything but an unfortunate miscarriage.

The practice of murdering our imperfect children has now had a full generation to take hold in Canada, and the ever rising number of abortions proves out both our improved diagnostic tools and our declining tolerance for the imperfect.  It is only a matter of time before the thoughts of eliminating those around us who are deemed defective become spoken words.  Yes there will be a proper initial response of revulsion and horror, after all we’re civilized!  However, the seed will be sown; there it will lie, waiting for the ground around it to slowly warm.  If we are not careful, it will only take the slightest action of a talented gardener to sprinkle the needed drops of water necessary to sprout this weed in the minds of millions.

If we ever reach that point, I for one will be happy to be put out of their misery because such a world will be one of pure Darwinian terror of the survival of those deemed worthy, a category in which I’m sure those like Jon and myself are not included.

Thanks Jon for your thought-inspiring blog entry, I was also moved to write this in response to this news article

 

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CHEAT! You’ll be Better Off if You Do.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong - Cheater

There is a very troubling trend in our society happening and from what I can tell, nobody really cares. The news is full of damning accounts of a very sophisticated cheating scheme that Lance Armstrong and others engaged in to give themselves an unfair advantage that clearly helped him win The Tour de France and dominate the cycling world for most of the last decade. Mr. Armstrong has become a very wealthy man as a result of these wins and the fame-based merchandising that comes from finishing with the yellow jersey.

Some people say that Lance has been punished enough by having his name disgraced and loosing title to his seven Tour de France wins, but I disagree. Mr. Armstrong has stolen far more than just victories and ill-gotten lucre; he’s stolen from whoever was racing clean in the Tour the opportunity to experience the reward for being honest. Whomever it is that didn’t cheat his way in to the race may sleep like the angels, and even if he is eventually handed the trophy in a belated recognition of his integrity, he will have been robbed of so much, like the experience of hearing his name cheered on from the streets across France, from being able to have his name become one of fame and to have lived all these years as the true Tour de France winner. Plus he would likely be far wealthier than he is today.

In the long run, it looks like Lance remains the ultimate winner. Sure he got caught, but he’ll forever be LANCE ARMSTRONG and because he continues to proclaim his innocence, there will always be those who doubt his guilt. History books will continue to mention his name and few will ever shine the spotlight on any of the seven men who were cheated out of their victories. Is it any wonder this cheating continues? There are no real consequences.

 

Brian Nilsson - CEO of XL Foods

Brian Nilsson, XL Foods CEO - Cheater

The papers are also full news of an ever-expanding recall of beef products from XL Foods. Here is an international company that dominates our world of beef processing, yet it feels compelled to ignore the rules and in essence cheat its way to economic victory. XL Food’s behavior reveals a significant shortcoming in our legal system. If you are caught committing a crime in Alberta (say you’ve set up a grow-op in a house, or are found to have contraband in your vehicle) the law dictates that not only are you subject to fines and prison terms, but your property involved in committing that crime will also be confiscated.

Why does XL Foods continue to own and operate its Brooks facility? Why hasn’t this property which was used to commit a heinous crime against a global customer base been seized? This property should be forfeit and sold in a public auction, with the proceeds directed to supporting enhanced policing of this industry.

If the consequences of breaking these human health laws were as significant as what is practiced against other social ills, we would never hear of any problems in meat packing plants. I can’t imagine that any citizen would suggest that it is fine to seize the cars of Johns while letting companies who knowingly ship contaminated food to store shelves go Scott free.

In the end, the workers in the XL foods plant have lost their employment; millions of Canadians have lost countless hours of sleep worrying about the risk to their health and free time as they deal with suspect meat products in their homes. Tens of thousands of Canadian beef farmers are needlessly suffering the economic loss as a result of the drop in cattle prices caused by XL Food’s cheating behavior. As well, millions of kilograms of beef have gone to waste in response to this completely avoidable disaster. Our society has disrespected the life of the tens of thousands of animals who have now been needlessly killed, with the benefit they could give humanity discarded.

And ultimately there are those who’ve suffered permanent physical harm because XL Foods decided to cheat its way to business victory. There are mostly losers in this story, yet the guilty party in all of this seems (just like Lance) to suffer relatively little from getting caught. It is ironic as well to see that both Mr. Armstrong and the leadership of XL Foods don’t really seem to be all that upset at being caught, and I think that this is because long ago they learned that getting caught wasn’t going to be any terrible thing.

 

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I Have Seen The Light (Field) – This Will Transform Photography

0saves

Light Field CameraYou may not have heard or read about it yet, but a new camera has been born.  This little device will transform both how you see photos, and also how you take them!

This device is called the Lytro Field Camera (www.lytro.com) and what is so revolutionary about the camera is that it is a completely new way of taking photographs.  Historically, photography was all about capturing light on a flat plane, initially a plate of glass and then strips of film.  When digital cameras were first developed, they sought to mimic the functionality of film with a flat rectangle of light sensors called a Charge Coupled Device (CCD).

About 15 years ago research began at Stanford University in to capturing images in a new way.  Researchers began trying to capture light fields, which back then required a room full of cameras and a supercomputer to process the results.  There has been a lot of work going on over those 15 years and on October 20, 2011 that room full of equipment was replaced by the world’s first commercial Light Field Camera.  I think that the two most significant aspects of this camera are the elimination of focus as we’ve come to understand it and the capability to choose to create either a 2D or 3D image from the same data.

It seems that the fundamental difference is in the Light Field Sensor, which is key to the camera, as it captures information on the colour and intensity of the light hitting it, but also the vector of where the light is coming from.  It is this vector information, along with some customized software, that enables the new capabilities.  The elimination of the focus point of a photograph reminds me of those movies where some grainy security camera image is manipulated by some actor to suddenly reveal stunning clarity where none existed before.  This camera does that, but only with the images that it captures – your brand new $7000 Canon 1D X won’t give you what this $399 shooter will.

The finish and design of this camera almost makes you think it was designed by Apple - sweet, simple design with almost no protection of the lens from what I can tell.  Like I said, this technology will transform photography, what I’m wondering is how the technology will transform video.  Since the output is capable of rendering in 2D or 3D from the same source image data, perhaps in a few short years we’ll have HD3D TV where the image displayed will be 3D if the user wants to see it that way, leaving the viewing mode decision to the watcher rather than the producer.  Consider the consequences of shipping a television show where users can decide for themselves which part of a show to keep in focus? I’m a fan of the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker movies and TV shows of the 1980s like Airplane!, Top Secret!, Police Squad!, The Naked Gun, where there was often more than one thing happening in the scene at a time…imagine what this technology could empower in terms of gags that can only be seen if you focus on the far point of a scene, or the foreground?

One thing that is certain, this is technology that will transform our lives and culture in a way similar to the smartphone, as its capability, ease of use and profound change in how we see and experience the world around through our media devices us will impact television, movies, and the photos and videos we create at home.

 

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Thanks Steve

Steve Jobs

While we may have enriched you with our purchases of your products,
your products gave us all a far richer life.

Thanks.

Rest in Peace, Steve.

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Liberally New

Photo by Chris Wattie of Reuters as posted on National Post website

They say that the Devil sits on your left shoulder, tempting you and this is why you throw salt over your left shoulder – to blind him. Well, if this photo from the National Post’s website is any guide to eternal temptations, it places Bob Rae right in the ‘hot’ seat.

All the talk this past month about the Liberal Party of Canada and the National New Democratic Party merging in to a new ‘SuperParty’ called the Liberal Democrats has pundit tongues wagging furiously from every side of the political spectrum.  While the leadership of each party is quickly denying that this is happening, the truth is likely that this was a trial balloon, raised by the parties involved to measure if this idea has wings in the wider Canadian public’s opinion.

I for one really like the idea.  There are a number of really compelling reasons for each party to get solidly behind such a merger, but in the end the most important reason is power.

  • The NDP will not likely form a government in my lifetime, they are just too extreme in opinion or too beholden to unions for far too many Canadians to trust them with the future of their nation.
  • The Liberals have the great challenge of forming a majority government without a traditional support base from Quebec that has been permanently usurped by the BQ.  These ridings are never coming back as the most likely future of these seats will reside in a foreign nation.
  • The Conservative Party resisted amalgamation for much of the decade after Mulroney left the party a ghost of its 1984 power zenith.  Only through the elimination of vote splitting between competing right-wind parties did the right had any realistic hope of forming government.
  • Merger with like minded competitors has a very potent and successful track record in recent Canadian electoral history;
    • Consider the ‘BC Liberal’ Party in British Columbia – formed out of the ashes of the Social Credit and Liberal Parties when they merged together in the early 1990s and are now in power.
    • The Wildrose Alliance Party in Alberta – formed out of the  merger of the Alberta Alliance Party and the Wildrose Party.  Some political commentators (and politicians) fear that this young party will form the next political dynasty in Alberta.
    • The Saskatchewan Party –  a party that was formed out of the rump of Grant Devine’s Saskatchewan Progressive Conservatives and some frustrated members of the provincial Liberal Party now in power.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to this proposal moving forward is the entrenched interests.  There are plenty of people in both the federal Liberal and NDP parties who are very comfortable with the roles and privileges that they currently enjoy that may not come their way in a Liberal Democrat party.  In this case, however, the courage of a commitment to something bigger than one’s own self interest must overcome comfort.

Hopefully the results of this trial balloon will lead to brave and bold moves to form Canada’s next great federal party – the Canadian Liberal Democratic Party.  As the right succeeded by blending in the more extreme Reform / Alliance in with the historic Progressive Conservative Party, so too must the Liberals meld together with the NDP – and provide Canadians with a single and stronger left-wing federal option to counter the now-unified right.  To fail to do so will result in a long power drought for the Liberal Party of Canada.

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Stealing Our Culture

Jasper Totem PoleThis is a copy of the letter I sent earlier today to Jim Prentice, Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

Mr. Prentice,

I am writing to you today in response to a most troubling event that I’m told you are the cause of.  A significant cultural artefact of Alberta’s 20th Century history is about to be permanently removed from our province, forever diminishing our contact with and connection to our province’s great history.

The Raven Totem Pole that has stood tall in Jasper Alberta for close to a century has, on your order, been chopped down and removed from its historical home without any public input.  The people of Jasper and Alberta are witnessing the forced removal of one of our historic artefacts that for almost a century helped to commemorate and mark the successful completion of The Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert through Jasper.

Generations of Canadians and global travellers have encountered this totem pole as they have arrived in Jasper by rail.  The great Haida skill that created these beautiful carvings inspired the leadership of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad to celebrate and share this great art with travellers at key points along its great length.  Thanks to Jasper’s aired climate its totem pole is probably the only surviving sample of 19th century Haida carving and now you intend on permanently removing this historic artefact from its Alberta home.

As you know, The Parks Canada Agency Act was created in 1998 with the specific and legal charge “to protect the nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in national parks…in view of their special role in the lives of Canadians and the fabric of the nation, to present that heritage…giving expression to our identity as Canadians…to protect conserve and present that heritage…to commemorate places, people and events of national historic significance…to ensure the commemorative integrity of national historic sites…to protect heritage railway stations and the heritage character of federal heritage buildings…for this and future generations..”

With respect to this totem pole, which Parks Canada acquired with the 2000 purchase of the Jasper Heritage Railway Station from CN, you sir have not met the charge made to you by being the Minister responsible for enforcing this Act.

The removal of this Alberta artefact is the cause of at least three violations of the Parks Canada Act;

  1. Removing the original totem pole, with the intent of returning it to the west coast will ensure that what remains of this nationally historic art will soon, as is the Haida custom, rot to oblivion – stealing the opportunity from future generations of Canadians to physically experience a Haida carving from the 1800s.  I believe that this violates section (a) of the Parks Canada Agency Act, where you are charged with protecting Canada’s cultural heritage.
  2. I agree that removing this totem pole from its existing outdoor location was a prudent move to protect both the public and the pole itself from harm should it topple.  However, removing this pole from the town where it was deliberately placed and stood for close to a century deprives Canadians from being able to experience this art in the location it was meant to be in.  The Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad acquired this totem pole from the Haida and there has been no outstanding claim of theft or malfeasance on the part of those visionaries who knew that promoting Haida culture in this manner would enhance and expand Canadian culture.  Removing this artefact from Alberta impoverishes its citizens and culture and casts a questionable shadow on the respect and dignity that should be extended to the thousands who toiled for years to give us the great northern route to the Pacific.  Failing to ensure that this historic artefact remains in its Jasper home is an abrogation of Parks Canada’s responsibility to present that heritage to Canadians.
  3. The decision by your department to deface this totem pole by stripping it of its colourful paint has not only permanently damaged the pole, but it has also cast a revisionist pall over the history of this Jasper jewel.  The reliefs on this pole were colourfully painted numerous times by its owners as a means to both protect and enhance this landmark.  Removing this embellishment is akin to tearing down the Jasper Railway station because it isn’t the actual original station.  The Act doesn’t direct Parks Canada to perform revisionist presentation, but to “to protect heritage railway stations and the heritage character of federal heritage buildings”

I call on you, Minister Prentice, to stop the destruction and theft of an important Alberta cultural and social icon.  While I understand the desire to bring to Jasper a new Haida-built totem pole, this does not negate the ownership and value of the original totem pole.  There have been no Alberta-wide public consultations that I am aware of to measure the willingness of Albertans to simply give up one of their treasures that has been entrusted to us by our forbearers as a celebration of their great accomplishments.  Your decision to unilaterally remove one of our young province’s cherished historic artefacts is something that future generations will surely question and rue.

I ask that you cancel this project and instead invest in an appropriate facility in Jasper where this beautiful example of the community’s first and probably greatest public art can continue to be presented, protected and preserved for the enjoyment of our and future generations of Canadians.

Ron McMahon

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On Guard For Thee?

Canadian SoldierLast week’s announcement by the Federal Conservatives that they would be mothballing 50% of the country’s naval coastal patrol fleet showed that our country is quickly spending itself into an unsustainable debt with the war we are fighting in Afghanistan.

The Federal Government has been very reluctant in revealing solid and timely figures as to the actual cost of this war, but one outstanding civil servant, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report (to Parliament, not the governing Conservatives who want to keep this a secret from you) last year showing that this war would end up costing at least $18,100,000,000 by 2011.

That $18 Billion dollars has to come from somewhere, and right now it is coming from debt taken on by the Federal Government, which works out to $1,500 for each household in Canada.  How long does it take you to earn $1500?  Are you happy to have been required to give up that much of your money for something that doesn’t improve your country one bit?  That is a pretty big slice of your taxes going to pay for us to ‘encourage’ Afghans to adopt democracy (or we’ll shoot them, I guess).

Rather than continue to borrow money to fund this ‘vote-or-die’ war the Federal Conservatives are hunting for spare change in the sofa.  One shinny penny was found in the idea of shutting down half of the already tiny fleet of vessels employed to guard our country against those who really do pose a direct and immediate threat to our nation’s security.  I guess forcing democracy on to the citizens of a nation on the other side of the planet is a far more worthwhile endeavour than ensuring that coastal Canadians can rest assured that someone is on guard for them.

Of course once word got round of this inane idea and Canadians began to express the foolishness of its government, the idea was withdrawn in the midst of awkward and illogical excuses as to how such a beastly idea ever saw the light of a press release.   I think that we all breathed a sigh of relief to see that the Federal Conservatives might actually value its own citizen’s safety more highly than the effort to make the Prime Minister look good for his allied partners in the Afghanistan mire.

The problem is; there are few other pennies to be pulled from the sofa, leaving yours the only other pocket to pick in order to pay the costs of this foolhardy war.

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