Thursday, October 24, 2013

End This Nonsense with a Judicial Inquiry

The script is right out of an old-fashioned Western movie. Shaking fists in outrage the mob surrounds the three offenders and drags them out to the hanging tree. The lynch mob will have its justice.
   That’s exactly what’s been going on this week as the Canadian Senate tries to suspend without pay Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. They are accused of “gross negiligence” related to the filing of improper expense claims. Their suspensions would be for the remainder of the parliamentary session just started and which could last two years. Their Senate salaries are $135,000 a year each.
   Brazeau’s salary already is being clawed back to recoup $48,700 in living expenses that the Senate claimed were inappropriate. Wallin has paid back $138,900 for inappropriate expenses and Duffy was ordered to pay back inappropriate expenses which he covered with a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, who resigned as Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff when the cheque transaction became public.
   The lynching of these three Senators is the perfect argument for why the Senate should be dismantled and its prestigious Red Chamber converted into a bowling alley.
   The RCMP is investigating the Senate expenses scandal. No charges have been laid. Yet the Senate wants to convict the three before all the evidence is in. The Senate’s actions are based only on politics; a wrong-headed effort to appease a public fed up with the Senate, its waste, its do nothingness.
   The Senate, a quasi-judicial body, has decided to convict without a full investigation.
   The only way to mop up this mess now is a full judicial inquiry, after which hopefully anyone in any position in Ottawa proven to have cheated or lied in this shameful episode would get jail time. The public wants an end to all the political bullshit, and an end to the Senate.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Looking the Other Way While Children Die

   Unknown to most Canadians, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights is wrapping up a seven-day investigative trip to Canada this week. James Anaya is collecting information for a UN report on how Canada treats its native people. The short answer to that is: The same way it has for the last several hundred years – shamefully.

   It’s not that simple for the UN, however. Anaya will take the next year to write his report. He visited Ontario, Quebec and the West but not the Maritimes, noteworthy because one of this country’s most disgraceful examples of native plight exists on the East Coast.

   Gas-sniffing native children continue to die or become brain damaged in Natuashish in Newfoundland-Labrador. This is nothing new. The situation has existed for years. Every once and a while it attracts the attention of the news media and governments get involved by pasting over the horrors with a new wallpaper job.

   Natuashish is the planned community built 11 years ago to replace Davis Inlet, the previous hell-hole home of the Mushuau Innu. The new village cost the feds $200 million but has not eliminated the social problems that occur when a peoples’ traditional culture is destroyed.
   Davis Inlet was one horror after the next. One-quarter of the roughly 500 residents had attempted suicide. Alcoholism and gas-sniffing were rampant. Children dying in fires or because of addiction were commonplace.
   Little changed at the new village of Natuashish. The Labradorian newspaper recently quoted the community mental health therapist as saying he has 28 children who are chronic gas sniffers
   The gas sniffers range in age from nine to early teens, but start as early as age seven. They stagger through the streets every night, laughing and shouting while carrying sniffer bags of gasoline.
   Damage from deliberately-set fires and graffiti are seen throughout the community. One recent piece of graffiti reads: “We want to die. Nobody’s listening to us.”
   Chief Simeon Tsha-kapesh was quoted by the newspaper: “If that happened anywhere else in Canada with non-aboriginal kids, I think Canada or the province … would step in and do something about it.”
   You betcha. However, Canada’s long-standing shame continues to exist in many neglected native communities.
   A year from now Anaya will issue his UN report. Some Canadians will express outrage. Canadian politicians and bureaucrats will fidget and babble. Then interest will subside, and more children in Natuashish and other Indian communities will stick their faces into plastic gas sniffing bags.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nature's Deadly Deceptives

   Out in the autumn woods an explosion of wild mushrooms is another sign of nature’s generosity, and her dangers. Mushrooms flourish because of wetter than normal conditions. I’ve seldom seen so many different varieties and such spectacular colours. There are bright orange mushrooms, deep blacks, and brilliant whites.
   Mushrooms have a mystical draw. You see one standing white and fleshy in a beam of sunlight illuminating the dark forest floor. It calls seductively: “Come over and pick me. I am delicious.” I am tempted to pick and eat that mushroom. It looks so delicious, but I know better.
Sketch by Zita Poling Moynan
   I picked and ate many forest mushrooms years go. That was under the supervision of Emma Tadashore of Sault Ste. Marie, my mother-inlaw, who directed me to pick only the little mushrooms that grew under pine trees. She would examine my harvest, then boil the mushrooms in a pot with a silver coin and a few cloves of garlic. That was back when silver coins still were made of real silver. If the coin and garlic did not turn green, the mushrooms were good to eat.
   Some people now believe that is just an old wives’ tale. So now I don’t pick any wild mushrooms, especially after reading a New York Times article in which a medical doctor described how he poisoned himself despite following a respected field guide to wild mushrooms. Apparently some of the differences between poisonous and edible mushrooms can be subtle.
   Ask Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, the popular novel that was turned into a movie starring Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas. He picked mushrooms in the Scottish Highlands, cooked them in butter and parsley, and served them to his wife, brother-in-law, and his brother-in-law’s wife. His wife and brother-in-law were placed on dialysis and wait-listed for kidney transplants. Evans received a new kidney from his adult daughter.
   This reminds me that despite the considerable time I spend at Shaman’s Rock I know too little about nature. I wish I had spent less time with my nose in computer manuals and more learning about the plant life around me, or the stars in the sky. I was forced to study computer programs to keep current for work. Now I wish I had spent more time studying botany, zoology, and the night skies. These subjects lead right into the reasons for, and purposes of life.
(excerpted from my latest book: Bears in the Birdfeeders)