Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Opposite of Divide and Conquer is Unite and Conquer

The opposite of divide and conquer
is unite and conquer
Sit and be divided or stand united
be as one and one no longer

The war against Mother Earth
must end
We fight until the win
Fight for the only thing

From Mother Earth
we all begin
To Mother Earth
we will return

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Harper cuts like b-movie madman, but it's up to us to flip the script

No one can accuse the Harper government of causing death by a thousand cuts. The federal government is going after national and regional Native organizations like a B-Movie madman wielding a chainsaw. The recent announcement that the federal government is going to slash funding to Aboriginal Representative Organizations (ARO) has also caused the appropriate B-movie reaction. People are running and screaming and fearing for their professional lives.
The reaction is knee-jerk but it shouldn't be that surprising. Like any B-movie, this plot is thin and see-through. If you didn't see this coming following the election of a majority conservative government. You haven't seen enough movies.
Perhaps the  chiefs that make up the Assembly of First Nations thought that by re-electing Shawn Atleo as National Chief they could be spared some of the carnage. Atleo had faced re-election under accusations that his conciliatory style had made him far too cozy with the Harper government. His main challenge came from Pam Palmater who made that relationship the deciding factor in the campaign. In the end the chiefs in assembly decided to stay the course. Afterall, when the AFN had last elected a truly adversarial National Chief in Matthew Coon Come, the federal government responded by cutting the organization deeply.
As we have now found out, the choice of Atleo didn't make any difference. If the chiefs had really thought about the plot of the movie, they would have known better. You can't make friends with the guy wearing a goalie mask and carrying a butcher knife.
Now, I'm not really the guy that is going to defend the job that is being done by the ARO's. I've worked at the national level in Ottawa and have participated in those high level meetings. I've slept at the Four Seasons in those delicious King sized beds with 14 pillows of all shapes and sizes. I showed up at the morning meetings and went straight to the back of the room to help myself to those decadent oatmeal muffins that were spread out on a silver platter which were washed down with copious amounts of Starbucks coffee. I listened intently and took notes during the bi-lateral, tri-lateral, multi-lateral discussions that led up to the fruitless Kelowna Accord. I had travelled across the country and saw national leaders and executive sitting in first class as I headed to the back of the plane with the rest of the grunts and the wonks.
It never felt right to me. I couldn't accept the rationalization "why should we stay in cheap hotels if the government isn't?" If I could have wrapped my head around that idea I'm sure I would reaching out to you from a higher soapbox than the one I have today.
The current story doesn't only remind me of a b-movie it also makes me think of another story. Watership Down is the story of a group of rabbits that are looking for a new home after one of their prophets has visions of imminent destruction. In their travels the homeless rabbits come across another warren that appears to be utopia. Each day carrots and other vegetables are found dumped into the warren. The food is plentiful and requires no effort to attain. But something doesn't seem right to the homeless rabbits. The rabbits in their new home seem to be dazed, muted. They say they are happy, but they don't act that way. Just as the homeless rabbits begin to put their intuition aside and accept that this may be the home they've dreamed of, one of their own is caught in a snare. It appears that Man is keeping this warren for his own food supply and the free food is merely a way to fatten up the rabbits for slaughter.
This is what we are seeing manifest today. The food supply may be plentiful but there is a price to be paid at some point. One day the food can be taken away and after years of surrendering your survival skills how can you make it on your own.
What our story requires is that we go back to a grassroots movement, that energizes, inspires and empowers the people. There is no lesson of value that can be passed onto our children in making the claim, "the government took away our ability to speak and organize by cutting our funding and now there is nothing we can do".
This is the equivalent of hiding in the closet and screaming in the b-movie or turning away from your brother rabbit with the snare around his neck and saying, "there is nothing we can do, just turn away and forget it ever happened."
This is the point in which the story can be rewritten, this is the part of the movie where we can still flip the script. It wasn't that long ago when all these movements were created by the efforts of our elders, our parents and grandparents. There was no money back in the 1960's and 1970's. Everyone was working together for a common goal and against a common enemy. It was the creation of government sponsored advocacy groups that weakened that movement. Now, nobody does anything for free and everyone is looking at how the other one is getting paid. The pie is only so big and we can't afford to share it.
Yet, that is not the truth. In fact there are numerous activities, events and actions that take place all the time in all parts of the country that are not funded by the government. People travel to ceremonies and gatherings all the time with their own resources and with the support of family and friends. It is the way it's supposed to be and it is a movement that is growing exponentially. People pull together and make something out of nothing with the sheer force of their will and spirit. This is how its supposed to be. This is how it is. These people don't fear the government axe or the snare. If our leaders wish to lead they would go back to the example of their elders. They would be inspired by the movements taking place amongst their people and they would earn, not by vote, but by action the title of leader.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Birthday Bash Pt. 1

I could hear the voices careening through the bush. I was trying not to lose the trail, but I kept staggering off. I could hear my buddy Lil Joe. It was his laugh. That cackle he had since we were little. Deeper but still the same. Earlier in the day, during lunch hour, he told me that he was going to have a fire at his place.
“My parents are heading to the PowWow at God’s, I got the place to myself.” He laughed then, there wasn’t anything funny about what he said, but he laughed. I laughed in agreement but without understanding. “Come one, man!” he said. “It’s gonna be for you.” I looked at him with the same blank smile. “What? Why?” I asked.
“It’s your funeral.” Then he laughed hard, like the joke was real this time and really funny. “What do mean, man?” I asked. “Come on, MAN. Your birthday party,” said Lil Joe, “what are ya, dense?”

“Dense.” That was Lil Joe. He used the same phrases as his old man, even though, nobody else our age did. “My birthday was last week,” I said.
“Who gives a fuck? Shit man, I’m throwing a party in your honour, what the fuck is wrong with you.” There was no laughter, now. No smile. He was actually hurt. What the hell? Little Joe. Lil Joe. He was always going to be a kid. What else could I say? “Fuck, MAN. Fucking Rights. Yeah. FUCK. Man. Fuck Yeah.”

Lil Joe was the first person I remember knowing. Everyone one else was distant and running away. The youngest memory I have is of my mother leaving. All my memories of her are a repeat of the very first. One day Lil Joe was there and he had been there since. Even on family days like Christmas he would be the first person knocking on the door.
“Boy, it’s Lil Joe, go tell him you can come out but he can’t come in,” My mother said with a huff. Smoke pouring out with her words. She was tired now of Lil Joe, I can’t remember when that started. I hold up my Super Slider Sno Skates, she nods and smiles. I take off to the porch drop to the floor on my butt and start putting on my boots. I can picture myself flying across the snow on my Super Slider Sno Skates. On the tv commercial that they played every Sunday during the Wonderful World of Disney, the kids were just flying over the snow. Just laughing and smiling. Their cheeks bright red against their pale skin. So fun and fresh upon the snow in their Super Slider Sno Skates. Now, I have a pair.

I stopped tying my boot. I looked down upon my brown fingers. I held them up before my eyes. I could picture Old Granpa’s hands, fat and sausagey and black brown from the tips of his fingers all the way up his sleeve. The door banged again. I opened up. Lil Joe is standing there. Eyes are red. Puffy. “My fucking dad is beating up my mom.”

I can hear Lil Joe laughing large as I get closer to the fire. My arms are all scraped up and hot from thorn bushes.  The torn skin feels injected by poison like a wasp but not as hot. “Hey, Man, why doesn’t somebody shut this fucking asshole up.”
“Hey Man,” says Lil Joe turning. “Bout fucking time. You fucking asshole. We are already running out of beers.”

“What the fuck, MAN!”
"Ahhahaaahahahahaha. Ahhahaahahahaha."

Everybodys’ laughing with him. What a fucking dink. No fucking booze. All these people. Drinking up my beer. Fucking Lil Joe’s gotta squeeze $20 bucks outta me. For my party.  Now “we already running out of beers.” He’s not gonna fucking burn me again. Last time. That fucking laugh. He’s really hitting that girlish part. He hates when I do that. Mocking that girlish part. Ahhahaahahhahaha. Fucking dink.  The scratches are burning again. Reminding me that they are still there. Still fresh. Open skin and poison.
Lil Joe is toasting up his bottle and everyone else raises their bottles and turns towards me. A semi circle now formed one side of the fire and me directly across from Lil Joe on the other. “Lets have a toast for the Birthday boy, while we still have a beer. Lana can you get the guest of honour a beer.”

Lana Lynxleg. She moved here this summer. Her mom was from up north. She goes behind Lil Joe and then is back with a Club beer. She’s smiling. The bottle is cold in my hand. I can taste it already. How many more? Not the half case I was expecting. Fucking dink. He’s a fucking scammer. That Lana is pretty. She is still smiling at me. Look at Lil Joe. Fucking dink.
He cheers. Everyone cheers. The beer is good. So good. Throbbing scrapes on arms are cooling off. Fading. This tastes so good. He’s laughing again. At me, again.

“Look at this guy suck on that beer. Enjoy it. Ahhahaahahahaha.”
What a fucking dink. Lil Joe begins to wave his arms like Charlton Heston commanding the Red Sea to part. Lana steps to one side. A little closer to me. Just a little closer. Everyone moves. Lil Joe is now doing one of Showcase Showgirls from the Price is Right. In the parting of the semi-circle are three 2-4’s of Club stacked like an Olympic podium.

What else could I say? “Fuck, MAN. Fucking Rights. Yeah. FUCK. Man. Fuck Yeah.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Language creates reality. Canada's Redskins.

You can see the debate over name Nepean Redskins in very simple terms. It is racist, change the name and logo. It is not racist, change nothing. In truth this is much more complicated and in many ways is the tip of the iceberg. What the people of Nepean should have realized when they changed the name of the football team is that the name Redskins represents the most racist tip of that iceberg.

Those who don't want to change it can make the claim that the name honours Native Peoples. There is truth to that side of the argument. It is one of those examples of stereotyping where other nationalities must think, what are they complaining about; I wish they would name sports teams after us. Afterall, no one wants to name a sports team after something that is weak.

In football, the most physical of all sports not called hockey, you want to have a name that is fierce. Undefeated.  In 1981, the Barrhaven Buccaneers decided that that the name would be the Nepean Redskins. The logo makes it obvious, that the choice was done to emulate one of the oldest NFL franchises and one that would be dominant in the 1980's, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins have been around since 1932 and had won two national championships in it's storied history before winning two Super Bowls in the eighties and one in the early nineties.

The Washington Team has also been public enemy number one in a decades long movement in the United States to end the practice of derogatory Native American sports team names. In the 1960's during the height of the civil rights movement, the National Congress of the American Indian began to call for an end to racist and demeaning team names and mascots. Little changed in the beginning but the work commenced. In the decades since the NCAI and tribal advocates worked to remove or change thousands of sports team names in the United States. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) the governing body of college athletics, formally condemned the use of disparaging mascots and banned the use of Indian names, logos and mascots during its championship tournaments.

It's hard to believe that the good people of Nepean were completely unaware that the name they had chosen was considered completely offensive and racist. It is not a name like Warriors or Braves where the argument can be made that this is a name based on power and strength, Redskins is literally about the color of one's skin. It also not possible for the people of Nepean to claim some kind of ignorance based on isolation in some backwater hinterland. Nepean is located in the National Capital Region. It is essentially a suburb of Ottawa. The capital of Canada. These people had cushy jobs and access to the best education system in Canada. Yet, they did not know that the name Redskin was unacceptable.

A recent petition to the United States government co-sponsored by respected Lakota publisher Tim Giago calls it our "N-word". The petition submitted to the U.S. Senate and the House of Representives states, "To most American Indians it is absolutely abhorrent for a professional football team to use the color of their skin as their team mascot. As a matter of fact, we oftentimes refer to the mascot of the Washington professional football team as the R word because to us it is as hideous as the N word is to African Americans."

Language creates reality. What is acceptable in language is accepted in reality. In Nepean they have to face up to the reality that they have a racist name and nothing they can say is going to change that.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quantum Activist

Just saw a wonderful documentary about Amit Goswami called Quantum Activist. It is a biography about a quantum physicist who came to a spiritual crisis in his life and not only found God but proved it. He was raised in a very spiritual family where prayers and offerings to the creator were made everyday. Like many of us when reaching a certain age of independence he rejected his upbringing and began the process of becoming his own man. He pursued mathematics, science and ultimately the highest order of all these pursuits, quantum physics. Quantum physics is the study of the universe at the sub atomic level and conducting experiments within this realm. What physicists have found is that within this universe the rules of reality, the laws of physics that we all accept no longer apply. A particle can appear in two places at the same time, an object can revolve in two different directions, or disappear in one location and reappear in another, and on and on. It is said that for some scientists the results of their experiments were such an affront to everything they believed, they would be driven mad. I certainly can't explain well enough to anyone what this is all about, only that in the years since I have learned about it's existence and what these physicists discovered I have found it fascinating and in many ways comforting. I found it comforting to know that science operating at the highest level in the entire history of mankind was becoming more and more lost, confused and closer to the realization that there was much in this world that we would never understand. In fact in an earlier blog, I had wondered why the study of quantum physics was not informed by spirituality.
Which last night led me to discovering this documentary "The Quantum Activist". In the film, Dr. Goswami details how he had reached a certain degree of academic success within his field and he was being invited to speak at various conferences. At one particular conference he couldn't shake the notion that he was overcome with jealousy, "why was this speaker so popular, why are so many attending his presentation," and so on. At the end of the day he was shaken and as he stared up at the sky another thought had come into his mind and it wouldn't leave, the words returned in a loop over and over again. "Why am I the way I am? Why am I the way I am?" He knew that he was experiencing a spiritual crisis. It was from this moment that he realized that his work should be dedicated towards using quantum physics to prove the existence of God.
There are a number of other significant moments where Dr. Goswami is directed by coincidence and dreams to further his work which he conducts within the strict limits of science and quantum mechanics.
Here is what he has to say regarding the existence of God.

"You can call it God if you want, but you don’t have to. Quantum consciousness will do. Nonlocality, tangled hierarchy, and discontinuity: these signatures of quantum consciousness have been independently verified by leading researchers worldwide. This experimental data and its conclusions inform us that it is the mistaken materialist view that is at the center of most of our worlds problems today. To address these problems, we now have a science of spirituality that is fully verifiable and objective."

And from this study he has created the movement of Quantum Activism which is asking more from us than to simply understand that science proves the existence of God.

"So let’s walk our talk, and make brain circuits of positive emotions. We just do it. We practice. Let some of us be good, do good. Be with God some of the time, be in the ego some of the time, and let the dance generate creative acts of transformation. With this resolution, with this objective in mind, I invite you to become Quantum Activists."

I was reminded of a quote from the book "Touch the Earth" which is filled with quotes from Native American Chiefs and Spiritual Leaders. A quote for Okute of the Teton Sioux describes the traditional Native American philosophy of life and the universe that to me describes ideas that are just beginning to be understood by quantum physics. In 1911, Okute stated.

All living creatures and all plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun there would be darkness and nothing could grow - the earth would be without light. Yet the sun must have the help of the earth if the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great that they would die, but there are clouds to bring rain and the action of the sun and earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life.

A relationship between the sun and the earth for the mutual benefit of life upon the earth is a level of understanding of the universe that is still rejected by science and most rational thinkers. What scientists such as Dr. Goswami are beginning to prove is that our people have always known much of what should be known.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lifting the Leafs Curse

As I watched the Toronto Maple Leafs stumble around the ice, choke on the open net and skate around with such timidity it looked like the Glee club playing against a prison team during last nights 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, I thought to myself this is how it must be to be living under a curse. It was like Wizards of Waverly place or any of those kid shows that are like broad slapstick humour and a laugh track. That's how bad it looked at times. A lot of "you gotta be kidding" type plays. But what is it a curse? If we can't even recognize the curse that must be broken how can we ever hope to cure it. Through out sports history we needed to first identify the curse before we could find the cure. First the curse then the cures.
The New York Rangers broke the curse of 1940 when Mark Messier brought the Stanley Cup back to New York in 1994. The Boston Red Sox finally overcame the Curse of the Bambino, when the Red Sox were said to be cursed in 1918 for selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Despite fielding a top notch, high priced team year after year, The Boston baseball team did not win the World Series until 2004.
In Chicago the Cubs have been trying to overcome the Curse of the Goat which was laid on them in 1945 by a bar owner who liked to attend games with his pet goat. When he and his goat were given the boot the bar owner cursed the team. The Cubs had already been in a championship drought since 1908 and that continues to this year 104 years and counting. And this is from a guy with a pet goat.
Sports is an incredibly superstitious pastime. Players have rituals small and large that they are convinced have an impact on how they or their team performs. Recently, the Leafs were playing a game in which their goaltender was under two minutes from securing a third shutout in five games. The announcers said exactly that. To those who have been involved in hockey at any level it is one of the oldest and widely held superstitions in the game. When a goalie is nearing a shutout you never say the word. Shutout. Within a matter of seconds of saying that which shall not be named, the shutout was broken. Two games later the Montreal Canadians goaltender was also looking at a shutout with just over a minute left in the game. The same announcing team was doing the play by play and the announcer stated that he had been lit up on twitter and other forms of social media for speaking that which shall not be named and ruining a perfectly good shutout for the Leafs. He boldly states that there are no tvs near and no live feed anywhere that Montreal goalie Carey Price can see or hear but he is moments away from securing a shutout. Within seconds the shutout is broken. As I told someone once when talking about signs, I'm not telling you what is going to happen, I am telling you what happened.
Which brings us to the question of what is cursing the Leafs and what can be done to lift it. The Leafs are cursed with one thing that most agree is the worst thing to complain about. They have too much money and are way too popular. They are like the New York Yankees without the success. Money and unwarranted success make anyone lazy and make any organization weak. I have seen an organization with way too much money operate up close and all I could think was, "money makes you stupid. You don't have to solve the problem. You don't have to stop the bleeding because you can plug the hole with bags of money."
The most successful franchise in hockey was also granted the top viewing radio and television coverage ever since the technologies were invented. Overfead, de-sensitized, whatever, I don't nnow. During a home game, Leaf fans sit on their hands. While the fan who might see one game in their lives is cheering in homes, and towns and cities all over the country. Corporate weasals they say buy the best seats and give them in graft. In a town like Winnipeg the fans tear the roof off, the vast majority knowing that they can afford this luxury only a couple times a year at the most and once a year for many. And they scream their hearts out in appreciation. And a corporate weasal in Winnipeg is going to be cheering right along. Is it the Curse of Entitlement?
The Leafs last won the cup in 1967, since then the most notably shocking event in modern hockey history is Darryl Sittler ripping off the captain's C during a game. Sittler who would one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame was the most beloved Maple Leaf at the time, perhaps of all time. The Leafs had the most talented team since the glory days of the 1960's. If any team was going to bring the cup home it was this one. But bad management, disrespect, disputes and internal battle rotted the team from the inside out. Sittler felt he was being disrespected in numerous ways. His personal war with the management at the time hit the apex when Lanny McDonald, Sittler's linemate and good friend was traded away. In protest, Sittler ripped off the C. The action has all the symbolism of a curse. Is it the Curse of the ripped "C"?
The last time the Leafs got close it was in the 1993 when the team was one game away from going to the Cup finals. Hockey Golden Boy, Wayne Gretzky blatantly high sticks the Leaf's Doug Gilmour. Everyone sees it and awaits the inevitable call. There is no penalty on the play. Gretzky scores on the next play. Is it the Curse of Gretzky's Slash?
Is that what it is? Is that how it works. Sports is the place where magic, superstition and reality collide, quantum physics alive before our eyes. I cannot believe what I just saw. I cannot believe what just happened. That much is true.
The curse excuse is just a ruse. Another first excuse. The Curse of Entitlement. They have the talent to make a hard run but they don't to play like it. They didn't play with any pride on Saturday night, just like they did on Mats night. Play with pride. What's that you say? Once you get paid it's no longer play. They,ve got to play like they played when they loved to play when they first started to hit and you were hoping that someone would come your way. When you never wanted to come off the ice? When you never wanted to hear your mom or your dad calling you off the ice and all you thought about was getting on the ice again. Put that with everything you know and you go.
Champions and challengers are men standing together shoulder to shoulder will to will trust to trust heart to heart a unit a team. Carried hard with heart. This is what is done. The will of the many is the will of the one. And a miracle. I've seen it done.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Living in a state of siege

I had an instructor at Journalism school who told us that it would always be a challenge trying to cover stories in our community because we are living in a constant state of siege. As Native people we are constantly under attack sometimes literally as in cases such as Ipperwash and Oka. Our lands are under attack by government and resource corporations. Our people feel the slap of racism more than any other people. Each and every minute we are under attack by the insidious forces of assimilation. Our people are oppressed in so many ways by poverty and poor health and violence. It is living in a state of siege.
When you are under attack how can you speak out against injustice in your own community. Why would you point out your weaknesses for the enemy to see, why give them more weapons to attack. This is why it is hard for our people to publicly acknowledge that there are huge issues of financial mismanagement and governance in our community. In recent years this has come to forefront of so many attacks against our people in right wing media like The Sun newspapers or organizations such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
When the Attawapiskat situation occured that was the first line of attack from the Harper government, where did all the money go? We have given them tens of millions of dollars, where did it go? I'm not suggesting that this was the case in Attawapiskat, I am merely referring to the climate created by the government's attack. As such it becomes difficult, almost impossible to have an open and constructive debate on this issue. We feel morally obligated to challenge the notion that there is financial mismanagement in our communities. Which is such a strange position to be in. It isn't unusual, in fact it is pretty commonplace. Financial mismanagement is happening at such a large scale it has practically bankrupted countries. Huge corporations in the U.S. have disappeared because of financial mismanagement. Yet because we are living in a state of siege we can't have this discussion in public. IN PUBLIC. Because people talk about it all the time.
The same is true when it comes to issues, such as domestic violence, racism, political corruption and more. We have to tear down this wall and speak and live without the fear of being attacked. All this fear does is keep us down, keep us silent. I am not saying that no one will use our own words to attack us, the world is not like that. What I am saying is that no one else is going to save us, no one else is going to make things better. We cannot be afraid of looking honestly at our own communities and speaking out against the injustices that we see regardless of the intentions of those eyes upon us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Death of Keystone means Enbridge fight really begins

The decision of the Obama government in the U.S. to turn down the licence to build the Keystone pipeline from the oilsands in Alberta to the refineries in Texas means that the Canadian government will put all it's efforts in getting the Enbridge pipeline built. The Enbridge pipeline is being proposed to carry oil west to the the B.C. coast and the Pacific Ocean for distribution to markets in Asia. Reacting to the announcement of the U.S. government's decision, Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver issued a press release stating that relying less on the U.S. would help strengthen the country’s “financial security.” The release stated that "Ninety-nine percent of our oil exports currently flow to the United States. Today’s decision by the Obama Administration underlines the importance of diversifying and expanding our markets, including the growing Asian market, to help ensure the financial security of Canadians and families for decades to come.”

Stephen Harper's Conservative government has already struck hard against foes of the Enbridge pipeline saying that they are being manipulated by outside interests. In an Open Letter to the Canadian Public, Oliver said opponents to the project were fueled by a "radical ideological agenda" and "funded by foreign special interests."The Canadian government is considering measures to fasttrack large projects like the Enbridge pipeline in order to limit opportunities for opposition.

Meanwhile Enbridge is trying to contain a leak in it's current pipeline. In a press release issued January 18, Enbridge stated that it will begin investigative digs to identify where and how much oil has been spilled from it's Norman Wells pipeline. The release states, "as part of our ongoing integrity program, Enbridge has, to date, identified seven locations in the Deh Cho for investigative digs to be completed by mid-March. Discussions have been held with the leadership of the communities who are in proximity to our pipeline about the program."

The leak was first downplayed at a mere 4 barrells when it was discovered in May of last year. It is now estimated at up to 1,500 barrels. A member of the NWT territorial government, Kevin Menicoche issued a press release last spring expressing his concern. “There have been a few big oil leaks in the world recently. The most current is the leak in northern Alberta. This always provokes concern for our water, our animals and for the safety of the public. It is my hope that the leak is addressed as safely and as expeditiously as possible" Mr Menicoche said is his statement.

This week he expressed concern that Enbridge has not acted responsibly. Mr. Menicoche who once worked as a safety inspector for Enbridge told the Montreal Gazzette on Thursday,"a mature company like that should have known more than four barrels were spilled."

The question of maturity is surely going to come to the fore as the process moves forward. The Harper government has stated in no uncertain terms that they expect to win this game and like a spoiled child they don't mind changing the rules in order to do it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Harper crackdown on dissent - where will it end?

The Stephen Harper government has launched an open assault against dissent that it says is being fuelled by foreign money.The project at issue is the Enbridgen pipeline that is being proposed to deliver gas from the oilsands in northern Alberta to the Pacific ocean for transport to the booming Asian market. The hearings that will determine whether or not the project gets the federal rubber stamp begin today in Kitimat B.C. The feds clearly intend to jump start the process by clamping down on debate and painting anyone who is speaking out against the project as a radical.
It is another step in what appears to be the inevitable Americanization of Canada. In the U.S., debate, discussion, negotiation and decision are no longer a part of the public discourse. The lines are drawn one side is right the other side is wrong. This past year it seemed to be one ticking economic time bomb after another threatening to bring down the self proclaimed world's greatest democracy. There is no room for compromise when the two side are diametrically opposed. Each defined as left and right or liberal and conservative or Republican or Democrat and never the twain shall meet.
Unable to make decisions collectively that represent all the voices of their nation, the people are left behind as the corporations maintain the only ones with influence on both sides, which may the point of the whole thing.
In the past federal election we saw very clearly how the debate can be reduced to the lowest common denominator in a series of incessant attack ads. There is no time for a discussion of issues when the political process has been reduced to a state of siege. That was just the beginning, the negative ad campaign style perfected in the U.S. brought Harper his first majority, there is no end to it now.
It is stunning that a government that has taken it's lead from the neo-con movement south of the border has the stones to accuse someone else of foreign influence.
Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources published an Open Letter to Canadians in which voices of dissent were characterized as foreign sponsored radicals. The minister wrote, "These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada's national economic interest."
The message was echoed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who commented that "Growing concern has been expressed to me about the use of foreign money." Coincidentally, in a speech on Tuesday to defend his government's brutal crackdown on dissent, Syrian President Bashar Assad put the blame on the uprising on a "foreign conspiracy." That's one of the oldest moves in the dictator's playbook, blame the actions of your citizens on outsiders.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Media - The myth of objective and balanced

It is hard to pinpoint when it happened. Where it went completely off the rails. But following that period in the seventies with Watergate and the Vietnam War and Nuclear Power. The last time when journalism and the news was still telling people stories that had meaning. Until the eighties when superficiality was taking over every thing.
The fight between reality television over the news was the plot of the 1978 film Network, the "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" movie. The idea was presented fully formed in the movie Broadcast News in 1987. In that film, the devil is an empty headed pretty boy who can only read news and look good.
It confirmed what I had suspected. By the time I got to journalism school in 1985 at the University of Western Ontario, the graduate program was filled with people who wanted to be on television. The difference between wanting to be a journalist and wanting to be on television is night and day. People didn't want to be writers they wanted to be readers. They wanted to be on TV. It was worrisome then and at that time the only one who said "print is dead" was Egon Spengler.
Now this spawn of empty headed Barbies and Kens have taken over the airwaves. The Barbies rule on the news networks with the most right wing, conservative viewpoints. Canada's Sun News Network has taken the playbook from Fox News and is gambling that people like to hear diatribe from pretty faces, preferably blonde. Is this news for the master race?
One thing that Fox News has put up front is that they are representing a viewpoint and it is one against the vast liberal media conspiracy. That is how they are fair and balanced as the other side of the scale. How the most watched news network in the United States can still claim to be outside the mainstream media is beyond me, beyond me. Note to Fox News from reality, you have all the top watched news programs in the country, YOU ARE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011- The Good - People Power

The movement is growing. Direct action is starting to return. The role that social media and technology can serve the movement and direct action has been proven. The Arab Spring was remarkable to witness. I marched with the Occupy movement in Winnipeg. I joined in with thousands of others to share the story of Attawapiskat. There is something happening.

The Arab Spring saw the people rise up against oppressive murderous regimes. At the lose of thousands of lives, the people continued to march and protest. They wanted freedom.

The Occupy movement wanted people to understand one simple message. We are the 99%. Those that control the majority of the wealth and resources are the 1%. Beyond that idea there was no other direction, no other demands. When the weather starts to get into the minus category and into the minus teens overnight, it's pretty tough to sleep outside. The Winnipeg Occupy movement began to break up as did others across the continent. To those that were paying attention, the message had been delivered.

Attawapiskat was the story that would not go away as much as the Canadian government wished it would. The story stayed alive and stayed in the public eye thanks in no little part to the constant attention and activity the story provided on social media.

2011 was a year in which we saw people around the world making sacrifices, making a stand, speaking up in a way which was unprecedented. The people are expressing their power against oppressive governments around the world, corporate greed and the wedding of both against the people.

It's 2012, now what? In some Arab countries, the victory for some has not translated to all. In some countries, the bloodshed continues unabated.

The Occupy Movement had little impact on the spread of corporate greed, but that battle has only just begun.

The unifying action to bring housing and infrastructure to Attawapiskat Cree Nation was a success; but there are many more communities in the same or worse condition.

Admire your success, learn and move forward. This is just the beginning.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Newsmaker of the year - Chief Theresa Spence

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is the newsmaker of the year in Canada. She brought the third world reality of many remote First Nations to an international audience. Something that Native people have been living with for many years is now known to the world. It is thanks to Chief Theresa Spence who raised the issue to all our attention by declaring a state of emergency on the Attawapiskat Cree Nation. What many people don't know is that this was the third year in a row that a state of emergency had been declared. This was the first time anyone listened.

It was not quite the Arab Spring, but it was a story shared and influenced by new media, facebook, twitter and of course, youtube. It was the shaky cam video images that showed the shocking truth. The deplorable living conditions. And winter rolling in on the coast of the James Bay. The story couldn't be swept under the rug again. Not this time.

Chief Spence represented her community well as the heat was turned up. "Where did the $90 million go?" "It is mismanagement by the Chief." The federal government accused the community of creating the crisis under the leadership of Chief Spence. The comments pages of news site, the blogosphere and twitterverse were aflame with hatred and accusations. "Where is all our money going?" Such a wide swath of racism from all corners. Such anger.

Some of the commentary and editorialists were revelling in the same mud. "Why do they have Big Screen TVs?" Who asks this kind of question, why did I hear it more than once. It began to smell like a smear campain. "The Chief and Finance person are lovers. Hmm. Hmmm. Wink, wink. Nudge, Nudge. Know what I mean." What the hell was that? How could that come out during the coverage of this story. If you didn't get the sour whiff of a clumsy smear campaign at that point, you weren't paying attention. Attawapiskat was eventually linked to fricken' Moammar Ghadaffi for christ sakes. Ghadaffi and Attwapiskat, google that and see how many stories come up.

Chief Spence maintained her position, steadfast under the glare of the media, both welcome and unwelcome. When the Minister of Indian Affairs announced that Chief Spence had accepted third party management, Chief Spence called the minister on the lie and railed against the failure of third party management. The Minister of Indian Affairs, John Duncan couldn't stand the glare. He began to pause and stumble, wilting under the heat and the pressure. He had to be dragged away from the microphone on a number of occasions like a drunken uncle at a wedding.

It is no easy thing to speak out against powers that control every aspect of your life. It is not easy to bite that hand that feeds you. But when the other hand is beating you, it's no longer enough to bark. It is hard for anyone to understand how much communities are ruled with an iron fist. I recently spoke to a non-Aboriginal professional who has worked in remote First Nations for over a decade, he says, "if a community complains about woeful and inadequate funding the department of Indian Affairs threatens to put them in third party management."

Indian Affairs manages from a distance and with a whip. It is no easy thing to go up against. There may likely be ramifications for Chief Spence and Attawapiskat when the media eye has turned away.

Nevertheless, this year the little gal won. Chief Theresa Spence won a great victory. Chief Theresa Spence brought the issues of her community to the attention of the world. Chief Theresa Spence stood up to a heavy handed abusive federal government and won. Houses are being delivered.

Chief Theresa Spence, Attawapiskat Cree Nation, 2011 Newsmaker of the Year