Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

The dummy and the mannequin: a perfect combo for Valentine’s Day

 

Amidst the blush of Valentine’s Day, with its cliché red hearts, roses, and lipstick smudges, I’d like to offer a more tarnished version of this commercial event.

Take this snuggling couple above, for instance, who recently appeared in the window of a second-hand furniture store (love as used goods?) on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC. (I like the symbolism of them behind bars—the imprisonment of stereotypes.)

The dummy, in a lounge-lizard smoking jacket à la Hugh Hefner, clearly needs an eyebrow trim. Speaking of Hef, it’s pathetic that mainstream media drools with lust and envy over his lifestyle, as if there’s nothing sick or predatory about an 80-something man frolicking with—let alone marrying—a 20ish nymphette. What role models we have!

This dummy has opted for the usual ploys: flowers (but no water) and chocolate. But is his approach working? Don’t think so. His date looks comatose, like the glazed eyes of the woman on the cover of the book Love and the Facts of Life, which my mom gave me at puberty back in the 1970s. That book’s main message to female readers was: even if your sweetie’s talk bores you, act like you’re interested. Read up on a few recent sports scores so you’ll have some conversation to offer. What gender roles we’ve been taught!

This gal must have read the same book. Someone better tell her that bright blue eyeshadow and rouged cheeks went out of vogue in the 1950s, unless you were portraying a lady of the night or buxom madam in a western.

But enough about appearances. What about the subtleties of love—sideways glances, caring attention, and thoughtful gestures? No lingering eye contact for these two. They’re more interested in ceiling patterns.

Who could better represent love-gone-wrong than a dummy and a model? That’s what advertisers want us all to be.

Let’s redefine our love relationships, creating ones that honour who we truly are. Forget the media images that blast us daily with what love is supposed to look, act, sound, and be like. . . Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and all that bullshit.

Let’s scrap the gender stereotypes, especially those about females. They’re dangerous. They reinforce lies like women want to be raped.

On February 14, join the mass movement One Billion Rising, sponsored by V Day. In cities across the globe, this event invites us all to gather in our communities to dance and demand an end to violence against women and girls. One in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That is more than one billion women!

In Vancouver, BC, join the dance at the Roundhouse from 7:15 to 9:15. Dance wherever you are. That’s a lot better than lying in the arms of a dummy.

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February 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm Comments (4)

Idle No More in Sechelt: “It’s the law to consult with First Nations”

— Heather Conn photos

As dozens and dozens of aboriginal drums reverberated in unison outside the Sechelt band office, people thrust “Idle No More” signs upwards. A few woven cedar hats bobbed. About 20 male shishalh band members drummed in a circle, some young, some old. They sang, joined by shishalh women who stood in a smaller circle beside them. In traditional-style dress—button blankets, cedar leggings and headbands, fringed shoulder covers—they all drummed and sang, as supportive local non-aboriginals drummed around them.

More than 500 residents on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, led by shishalh members, marched Jan. 4 across Highway 101 as part of a nation-wide Idle No More initiative. They gathered by a ceremonial fire across from Sechelt’s Raven’s Cry Theatre to show support for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence of northern Ontario and to condemn prime minister Stephen Harper’s omnibus bill C-45. (Spence has been on a hunger strike for 29 days, demanding a meeting with Harper to discuss treaty issues and conditions on her reserve. The prime minister has since agreed to meet with the Assembly of First Nations and chiefs on Jan. 11.)

Bill C-45 reduces the number of waterways protected by the Navigable Waters Protection Act from three million to 96. It also weakens or removes industry requirements to protect fish habitat or compensate for its loss or damage. Besides directly attacking the heritage and livelihood of Canada’s First Nations communities, the bill ignores treaties signed by our European and Aboriginal ancestors. It will also serve to destroy land, water, soil, and ecosystems. It eliminates legislation that would have otherwise slowed down or prevented the building of pipelines such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.

“Bill C-45 is going to affect everybody,” shishalh member Robert Joe told the group through a megaphone. “It gives free rein to come into our territories and take our resources. We need to protect our fresh water.”

Donna Shugar, Sunshine Coast Regional District director

Throughout last Friday’s event, shishalh nation members reinforced that their vision of Canada’s Idle No More movement was inclusive, equally welcoming non-natives, environmentalists, First Nations, and anyone opposed to Harper’s dismantling of Canada’s democratic process and structures.

shishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich)

“Let’s all join together and show Canada that we are one,” said shishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich), to cheering and drumming. Locally, Higgins has condemned destruction of forests on the Sunshine Coast and was recently arrested for trying to save 27 hectares of trees and habitat in Wilson Creek.

“We have got to stand up for our rights,” said shishalh chief Garry Feschuk. “This omnibus bill is destructive of our issues in every community across Canada. There has been no consultation. It’s the law to consult with First Nations.”

This last comment brought applause and supportive drumming. Feschuk said that Canada’s current Idle No More rallies, part of a grassroots movement, are only a beginning. Although Harper has agreed to meet with chiefs, Feschuk said: “It’s got to be more than words. Things will escalate if there’s no action behind those words.”

shishalh ancestral chief Calvin Craigan said that the First Nations struggle to achieve rights and recognition in Canada has continued for 200 years. “Finally, nations are going to stand together,” he told the group around the fire. “We’re going to continue until the suppression is no longer.”

After the event, sishalh band council member Ashley Joe wrote: “My heart is so happy to see our people unite for such an important cause. . . Let’s pray that Harper listens to our voices and meets with our leaders in good faith, [in a] Nation-to-Nation manner to address our concerns. We are a powerful people and must be reckoned with.”

The Idle No More movement began when four women in Saskatchewan, indigenous and non-indigenous, organized teach-ins to educate people about the impact of Bill C-45. Since then, indigenous communities across Canada have embraced it as a grassroots initiative and held related roadblocks, protests, flash mobs, and more.

How can you help?

  • Stay informed by reading grassroots websites such as idlenomore1.blogspot.ca/
  • Join Idle No More rallies and demonstrations
  • Write to your local MP
  • Contact Stephen Harper at pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211
  • Write to the Governor-General of Canada, Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A1
  • Join your local Idle No More Facebook page
  • Join Twitter @IdleNoMore4 or Idle No More

Think of new, engaging ways to bring these issues to a broader audience in a respectful, peaceful way.

 

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January 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm Comments (3)

Ready to transform? Make 2013 a year of positive change

On this full-moon night, a week since the solstice and supposed end of the world, I would like to acknowledge the power of transition and new beginnings. The Mayans weren’t predicting doom with the end of their calendar — instead, they recognized the start of a whole new cycle of humanity. In 2013, the Chinese year of the snake (a wonderful symbol of transmutation), I’m expecting soulful transformations at all levels, from individuals to organizations and even countries.

 

One important characteristic of this new cycle is that people will no longer experience a difference between their inner and outer worlds, according to psychologist and anthropologist Alberto Villoldo. He’s studied the healing practices of the Amazonian and Incan shamans for 25 years. He believes that we are moving into a time of unprecedented possibility, which will have tremendous consequences. He says: “[I]n the new cycle, you can only change the world by changing your inner life.”

 

Jurriaan Kamp, co-founder of international magazine The Intelligent Optimist, has said that this is a time of shifting from competition to collaboration. He writes: “We would live in a very different world indeed if our inner experience indeed matched our creations in the outside world. How many wrongs violate our conscience, yet persist?”

 

In the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, one in six (a total of 50 million people) goes to bed hungry every day. Kamp says: “The overwhelming response to relief operations has so often demonstrated how committed we are to solving these painful problems. Yet the injustice continues.”

 

The union of our inner and outer worlds might sound like utopia, yet fundamental change is the scientific basis of life on earth. Our outmoded way of responding to our planet, as evidenced by climate change, cannot continue as it has. In Kamp’s words: “Systems theory teaches that healthy, resilient and sustainable systems are dependent on active participation by the units of which and for which the system exists.” In other words, we need to care about what’s happening around us and take action when we see injustice and abuse.

 

Cell biologist Bruce Lipton has said: “In many parts of the world, about half of the people (the dying poor in developing countries, the hungry Americans, the 50 percent unemployed youth in Greece and Spain) don’t even participate in the system. This makes the system weak and leads to its ultimate demise.”

 

Let’s make 2013 a year of conscious awareness and positive advocacy. Any system is only as strong as the people within it, yet one individual can have a monumental impact. Let’s follow our hearts and spirit, seeking guidance from within. If you feel prompted to speak out and take action, carpe diem! Change begins with each one of us.

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December 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm Comments (2)

Our local forests: Never give up

As the Wilson Creek forest falls to logging, I am reminded of the simple message: “Never give up.” Otherwise, a person loses heart, a community crumbles, dreams disappear. When it seems like no one is listening and no one cares, don’t despair. There will always be people who care. And those who truly care take action.

 

About 130 such people showed up last Wednesday in front of the District of Sechelt office. Environmentalist George Smith, who was instrumental in protecting the Tetrahedron region and transforming it into a provincial park, said: “It [Sunshine Coast Community Forest] is not a community forest. It’s never been a community forest. The good old boys are running this [community forest].”

 

Smith noted that the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF), in its current form, was structured over the objections of the local community, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, and most community associations in the area. The B.C. Liberal government put it in place because they wanted to log our watershed, he added. “Get out of our watersheds and make sure that eco-forestry is practiced.”

George Smith addresses the group

Smith urged all those present to write to provincial New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix—presumably B.C.’s next premier in May 2013—to have him revisit the structure and role of community forests. “B.C. Timber Sales should be giving their land a real community forest,” Smith said. “We should have an appropriate ecosystem and a decent forest in which we can recreate.” Listeners applauded.

Starwalker: “Let’s stay positive”

Starwalker, one of the protesters recently arrested in the Wilson Creek forest peace camp, told the group: “Let’s stay positive.” Last Friday, he appeared in a Vancouver courthouse with three other protesters. On Dec. 12, he filed a small claims court lawsuit against the RCMP and B.C. solicitor-general for not returning his food and possessions, which were confiscated when he and others received a 10-minute notice to pack up the camp or face arrest.

Barb Higgins: “It’s the same old story”

Another of the arrestees, sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich), told the crowd: “It’s so long since we’ve seen justice. It’s the same old story except more people are becoming aware that they are being manipulated by politicians.” She will face a judge Jan. 14 in Vernon, BC.

Within about 10 minutes, during two pass-the-hat sessions, the group donated a total of $1,000 to help with expenses related to the arrestees’ court appearances.

Event organizer Pat Ridgway addresses the group, with Barb Higgins to her right.

“We want the community put back into the community forest,” said event organizer Pat Ridgway, who asked the assembled group to direct positive energy towards the District of Sechelt building and its decision-makers. Many of the group’s placards read: “Who cut you and me out of the community forest?”

 

Local activist Scott Avery stood on a rock and directed his voice at the building, as if speaking directly to Sechelt Mayor John Henderson. “We are all members of community,” he said. “Community, to me, involves everyone.” The crowd repeated his sentences in call-and-response style, a format popular with the Occupy movement.

David Quinn (Popois)

David Quinn or Popois of the sishalt nation, a nephew of elder Theresa Jeffries and another arrestee, said: “No corporation, no society, has a right to occupy Indian and without a purchase.” (The Wilson Creek Forest is part of the sishalh’s traditional territory.) “Thank you for standing behind our elders.”

 

So far, neither Henderson nor SCCF chair Glen Bonderud has responded publicly to the protesters, nor to their letters. Not surprisingly, those seeking a more inclusive community forest board have said that Henderson and the SCCF are not listening to them. Last week’s Coast Reporter quoted the mayor as saying that “We’re not listening” truly means “We’re not agreeing.”

 

Last Thursday, CBC-TV made the Wilson Creek forest logging and arrests their top story for the 11 p.m. news. They acknowledged that the current ordeal on the Sunshine Coast is but a microcosm of what is occurring across the province. As part of this newscast, Bonderud, contacted by phone, said that our region needs jobs. In his view, logging underway in Wilson Creek provides jobs.

 

In response, Avery points out on Facebook: “Ninety-five percent of logs get shipped offshore whole this year. That means three loggers; an operational manager plus secretary; perhaps four truckers and their truck owners; perhaps four scalers and their management; perhaps four longshoremen and their management; ship crew if it is Canadian.” That leaves only log brokers and the financial markets as the “inflated beneficiaries,” he says. Avery said that overall, local forestry is operating at an excruciatingly long-term loss, especially when factoring in 60 years of non-timber forestry losses plus the social losses.

 

At a recent public meeting at Sechelt City Hall, local resident Rolef Ohlrogge stood up and asked Henderson: “Could you tell me your definition of a tree farm and a forest?” Someone at the event said that the mayor looked away, paused for a few seconds, then said, “Well, you know, things grow.”

 

Last week, I was feeling discouraged by the lack of respect and response that Henderson, Bonderud, and others have shown towards those who want to preserve our local forest and have a say in how it is managed.

 

Then, last night, I watched Anne Wheeler’s CTV movie The Horses of McBride. Based on a true story, it addressed how one caring young woman didn’t want to see two starved, abandoned horses, marooned in deep snow high in the mountains in northern B.C., die. While others, including a veterinarian, urged her to forget the animals and have them put to sleep, she refused.

 

The horse enthusiast soon won over her father to her cause. In minus-30-degree-Celsius weather, he helped her start to dig a two-metre trench in the snow, to create a pathway to lead the horses out to a road. Soon, local snowmobilers and those from neighbouring provinces appeared to provide their support. Within four days, a trench more than a kilometre long was completed, and the horses were led to warmth and safety.

 

This show reinforced to me what one person’s determination and the positive spirit of a community can do. It all starts with caring, then action. Never give up.

 

As Shannon Woode, a concerned mother who helped organize an educational walk in the Wilson Creek forest, says within a poem:

 

“May the Wilson Creek Forest become a legacy that moves us to a new beginning. May our leaders follow with open heart. May this be the last forest of awe to be slashed from history.”

 

Never give up.

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December 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm Comments (2)

Forestry practices on the Sunshine Coast: An adversarial stance is no answer

I have sent the following letter to Glen Bonderud, chair of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest. Copies have gone to Sechelt Mayor John Henderson; Steve Thomson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast; The Local; and The Coast Reporter.

 

“In light of the recent logging in Wilson Creek Forest and resulting protests and arrests, I was wondering if you and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) are willing to consider the following changes:

 

  • Having SCCF meetings open to the public. Currently, the SCCF holds all of its meeting in camera. This does not meet the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization’s definition of a community forest as “any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity.” A consistent policy of closed meetings, even with minutes made public, helps create an atmosphere of distrust, no dialogue, and of ignoring the broader public interest.

 

  • In lieu of logging some hectares of local forest, receiving payment from the community in the same amount that you would otherwise receive for the trees. Some community members have already considered this option and were interested in discussing it with the SCCF. Enough local people feel so passionately about having a say in how their “community forest” is managed, that they are willing to use personal monies and public fund-raising for this purpose.

 

  • An attitudinal shift in how you view those who seek to preserve our forests. Local people of all ages care about our forests. When denied access to decision-makers and a consultative process, some, out of frustration, feel compelled to resort to more high-profile action. These people are not harassers, ne’er-do-wells, and anti-B.C.ers. Many are not against logging per se; instead, as public stakeholders, they merely seek an inclusive form of forest management that considers long-term options beyond immediate clearcuts. Remember: In expressing themselves publicly, they are exercising their democratic rights.

 

  • A willingness to participate in a Local Resource Use Plan or Land and Resource Management Plan that engages a broad section of the local community and considers their input regarding past, current, and future forestry practices on the Sunshine Coast. Currently, only about three percent of our region’s land base is protected. That’s one of the lowest ratios in the province. Across B.C., 14 percent of the land base is parks, says Dylan Eyers, BC Parks’ area supervisor for the Sunshine Coast. Our current record of forest destruction needs rethinking; we are a vulnerable area that hopes to receive revenues in tourism and recreation over the long term; existing forests, not just tree farms, are a key component of that future.

 

  • A willingness to broaden the stakeholder role of the SCCF. If the current membership more accurately represented a cross-section of community members, allowing for a wider range of viewpoints, any resulting decisions would better reflect the diverse views regarding forestry in this region. This would also lend the decision-making process more credibility.

 

  • Having logs, now cut on the Sunshine Coast, processed in B.C., rather than sent offshore. This would demonstrate a long-term commitment to the economy and sustainability of our own region and province rather than a vision of short-term gain.

 

Your foresight and proactive response now to any or all of these issues would introduce a true community forest on the Sunshine Coast. It would reflect admirable leadership in sustainability, creating community-wide participation, and growth. Logging and revenues would continue and parks could be made. But choices, made collaboratively, of where, when, and how much to cut, would undoubtedly change current policies. This could bring positive global attention to our region. Sweden has demonstrated this approach effectively; why can’t you?

 

Otherwise, if current trends continue, we will undoubtedly see what has happened in other B.C. regions, from Clayoquot Sound to Saltspring Island. Ultimately, adversarial, closed-door politics do not benefit anyone; they only lead to entrenched thinking on both sides, disrespect and resentment, needless stress, and unnecessary expense. Will local citizens have to resort to organizing global boycotts on wood logged on the Sunshine Coast before they, and these issues, receive respect and attention? I hope not.

 

If you’re wondering, I am writing this on my own initiative, not representing any organization or input from anyone else. I am one voice, a concerned citizen who despairs at the lack of public, transparent process in the handling of one of our greatest resources, our local forests and their accompanying ecology. There are lots of us here.”

A one-hour, peaceful demonstration will be held Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at the office of the Mayor of Sechelt. It is aimed at Sunshine Coast citizens who want to show their concern over logging in the Wilson Creek Forest and the lack of a true, community voice in local Forestry issues.

 

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December 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm Comments (2)

Make the Sunshine Coast Community Forest accountable

Today’s protest gathering in front of the District of Sechelt offices.

 

It could have been called Occupy District of Sechelt.

 

About 80 local people gathered today outside the Sechelt mayor’s office as a peaceful show of support for the beleaguered Wilson Creek forest.

 

They slammed the arrest this week of nine who stood in opposition to the logging of 27 hectares of this Sunshine Coast forest, which has already begun. (The previous total of 25 arrested, a figure widely distributed on Facebook, was not accurate.) They criticized the RCMP’s heavy-handed approach to the arrests, which involved eight police cruisers, minor injuries to one protester, and the towing away of the self-named forest-guardians’ vehicles. (Before making the arrests, the RCMP had given the inhabitants at the well-established trailhead peace camp only 10 minutes to pack up and leave — a clearly impossible task.)

 

Outside the Sechelt government office, various concerned community members spontaneously took turns addressing the leaderless group, standing on a rock on the lawn in the same impromptu style that has characterized the global Occupy movement.

Hans Penner addresses the crowd

“We have to call for a suspension of the licence of the [Sunshine Coast] Community Forest, its sales and operation,” Hans Penner, co-founder of Elphinstone Logging Forest, said to applause and appreciative drumming.

 

Since it began, the current Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) group, which has the licence to log Wilson Creek Forest’s cutblock EW002, has not held one public meeting, Penner said. Its nine directors, seven of whom are from the logging/forestry sector, must comply with a gag order not to share any critical information with the public, he added. (Click here to see the minutes of their board meetings.)

 

How’s that for public consultation? Really puts the “community” into Community Forest, doesn’t it? As one man commented to the group, “It’s basically the Sechelt Council Logging Company.”

 

Although logging in this cutblock halted temporarily last week and this morning, loggers and the RCMP have since disregarded a formal request by sishalh elders to stop trespassing on the Wilson Creek Forest. This land is part of their ancestral territory, which has never been negotiated away, said Penner.

 

sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich)

As sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich), one of the arrestees, told the group: “This land is the bones of my people.” The 79-year-old organized everyone into a large circle, while remaining in the centre, then asked them to open their hearts and connect with the spirits of all peoples who are working to protect the earth.

Pat Ridgway talks to the group

Pat Ridgway, who organized today’s gathering, said that the original Community Forest concept, voiced on the Sunshine Coast in 2004, was inclusive, with a strong preservation theme. Since then, members of the forestry industry have co-opted the vision with a drive to log rather than conserve.

 

“There is no community in the Community Forest,” she said. “The [Sechelt] mayor and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest are making decisions and not listening to us. We have to hold a vision of what we want.” She reinforced that those who oppose the logging want a peaceful resolution.

 

Scott Avery, who chaired an informal meeting Sunday in Roberts Creek that included peaceful protesters and SCCF operations manager Dave Lasser and his wife, said that Sechelt mayor John Henderson, a former SCCF director, and the Community Forest group are not acting with mindfulness or a holistic viewpoint.

 

“They’re not evolving,” he told the group. “We need to evolve to appreciate each other for what we are and are not. We can all live by example every day. We can try not to create adversaries and appreciate the person on the top and on the bottom, not abuse anybody.”

Higgins talks to local media

Several dozen of the group moved to the RCMP building next door to demand the release of the five people arrested and taken to Vernon. Others broke into small groups, discussing strategy. One man thought that the group is “fighting for the scraps” of the forest; he felt that a broader, coast-wide initiative, beyond just protecting Wilson Creek forest, is needed. He wanted a clear mandate: “What is the vision?”

 

A community source has noted that the SCCF, RCMP, and District of Sechelt are anticipating an escalation of protest and will respond accordingly, based on their “play book.” This could even involve having their own camouflaged commandos waiting in the forest for protesters who might flee into the woods, hoping to avoid arrest. Be warned.

 

Anyone who seeks to protect what’s left of the Wilson Creek forest is urged to contact Sechelt mayor John Henderson, write to the local media, and to contact SCCF directors directly at their home, office (604) 885-7809 or by email at scpi@telus.net. Click here to see the names and bios of the directors. The most important one to contact is chair and president Glen Bonderud.

We need to make Sechelt mayor John Henderson and the SCCF truly accountable to the community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 4, 2012 at 10:36 pm Comments (3)

Wilson Creek forest focus of renewed support and legal wrangling

  — Jack Stein photos

Local community members who have worked for years to help save 27 hectares of Wilson Creek forest have not let last week’s initial logging stop their efforts. If anything, the desire to save this precious creek and area of first-growth firs (cutblock EW002) has grown even stronger.

Early last week, I was truly saddened and deeply disappointed to hear that loggers had begun cutting down this local forest on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Then the RCMP announced that anyone who came onto the land would be arrested for trespassing. Members of the peace camp at the mouth of the trail received only 15 minutes to clear out. Three people were arrested.

Supporters at the trail head

I thought of all of the local schoolchildren, parents, hikers, and shishalh elders who have come to this forest to admire and honour its presence. They have spoken out to protect it. I thought of the beauty of the land itself, the soft moss, the pond, the roaring creek, the silent, tall trees, and the various species of creatures that depend on these woods for their home and survival. I thought of the 27 interpretive signs that volunteers had erected along the trail to teach people about the biodiversity of this forest and the important role it plays. Was all this effort and many years of rich, natural growth to be deemed irrelevant, reduced to ugly stumps and slash?

But hope remains, as the forest has met a reprieve—for now. In a display of admirable activist power, some shishalh elders signed trespass-and-rights documents and served them on the RCMP and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, the body with the logging rights to these hectares. This land, after all, has belonged to the shishalh for centuries; it is part of their traditional territory.

Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich)

Since then, elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p’a’lich) has held daily healing ceremonies in the woods. There has been no logging. Supporters have joined Higgins and her daughter Holly, acting as ongoing forest guardians. They continue to remain in this area. They are determined to save this forest, a vital anchor piece for the proposed Mt. Elphinstone Park expansion, for the enjoyment of their grandchildren.

Concerned community members also shared their anger with Sechelt mayor John Henderson at Saturday’s Sechelt town hall session. Why have he and the Sunshine Coast Community Forest board members not listened to the many people who have spoken out in favour of saving these woods? Whose interests are they guarding?

I’m relieved to hear that the drive to save this forest is still thriving. The group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is asking people to show their support. Join Higgins and others at the trailhead. Bring firewood and snacks. Contact ELF for more information.

 

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December 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm Comment (1)

Restorative justice works — I tried it

He didn’t rape me, he was no murderer, yet when I faced the 20-something male stranger who kicked in my front door last month, I initially refused to shake his hand, feeling scared just sitting next to him.

 

In my early fifties, I was about to experience my first restorative justice session, held last Saturday, a day before the start of Canada-wide Restorative Justice Week (Nov. 18 to 25). This is a process whereby an offender and victim meet, share their views of the related incident, and come to a mutual agreement regarding accountability and restitution. This perspective considers minor crimes an office against an individual or community, rather than the state; therefore, it avoids court proceedings and a criminal conviction.

 

Accompanied by a young female constable, the offender and I faced each other in a small room in the new RCMP building in Gibsons, BC. My chest tightened at the sight of the man’s striped jacket, the same one he had worn that awful October night. I had been alone in my rural home, weak from the flu, watching TV in my pajamas and bathrobe at 10:30 p.m. Hearing repeated knocking, I had decided to answer the door. Perhaps someone in our community-minded neighborhood was in trouble.

 

Unable to see through the door’s peephole, I went to a window next to the door and pulled across the curtain.

 

“I need a ride,” slurred the tall, blond man in a baseball cap under my overhead deck light. I couldn’t tell if he was drunk or high. He was carrying a near-empty six-pack. He repeated the request.

 

“We can’t give you a ride,” I repeated, not wanting him to know that I was alone. My husband was away, working. The guy mumbled that he was from Vancouver Island and asked me if I had been there. He said someone had told him there was a party here and he wanted to know how many people were inside. Was he trying to assess the situation for an attack?

 

“There’s no party here,” I told him. “You’re probably looking for the Legion.”

 

“The Legion’s closed,” he said. He didn’t leave.

 

“I’d like you to get off our property or I’ll call the police,” I told him. He didn’t move. “I could call the police right now.”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, sheepishly. I stepped away from the window. The curtain fell back into place.

 

SMASH! I ran into the hallway, aghast to see my locked door open, the inner left door frame broken and fallen halfway outside. Omigod. Would he try to get into the house and rape me?

 

All I could think was: I have to stop him from getting in. I put all of my weight, fatigued from the flu, against the door. The end of the lock reached into space, nothing left to hold it in place. I dialed 9-1-1 and gave a description of the man to the dispatcher. Relieved that he hadn’t gained entry, I relaxed a little. But was he lurking outside?

 

A male constable arrived quickly and showed me a photo on his phone of the suspect. Police had just picked him up on a nearby road. They would hold him overnight. More relief. He was charged with mischief. The officer asked me if I would be willing to testify against him. The man had no criminal record. But what if he sought revenge for his first offence? I didn’t want to be victimized again.

 

Weeks later, Constable MacPherson, the RCMP’s local restorative justice representative, had called me and asked me if I’d consider a restorative justice session. I said yes.

 

Now I sat in this newly built room, which still smelled of fresh wood, and at first, avoided looking at the offender. I told him everything about that night: my fear; his arrogance in expecting a stranger to do his bidding; his lack of impulse control, his unwarranted trespassing and on and on. What if he had done this to my 93-year-old neighbor? She could have had a heart attack. His actions could have caused post-traumatic stress disorder in someone. I spoke of taking responsibility for one’s actions, of empathy and compassion, how every action and statement we make has an impact, in the moment, on others.

 

The twenty-something constable, only four years on the force, spoke of her own fear and adrenaline that night, when she had to arrest him while alone on a dark road with no streetlights. He had become belligerent in the police vehicle, denying his actions. I found out that he had followed my neighbors down their driveway only a half-hour before appearing at my door.

 

The man admitted that he had once put his fist through a wall after an argument with a past girlfriend.

 

“That scares me,” I told him. “This is your wake-up call. You need counseling.” I spoke of violence against women. He agreed to counseling, which became a term of our agreement. If he didn’t follow through, he could be re-arrested.

 

He paid for my door repairs and apologized repeatedly. I also received a hand-written letter of apology. I shared my appreciation of his willingness to get help and to participate in this session. The constable said it was rare to have both parties agree to restorative justice.

 

Before we ended our conversation, I wanted to shake his hand. “You earned it,” I told him.

 

I left, feeling heard and validated. As the constable had explained, if this had been a court case, I would not have been able to address the offender directly. Such an opportunity felt deeply gratifying. I spared nothing in my assessment of his actions.

 

I’m not surprised that restorative justice shows a high rate of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. For minor infractions, this is how true, meaningful change begins: in raw, person-to-person honesty, one heart at a time.

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November 23, 2012 at 11:27 am Comments (3)

Sixty attend teens’ hike to save Wilson Creek forest

                                                              — Jack Stein photo

This week, I had the pleasure of watching a five-year-old boy, camera in hand, staring up at Douglas firs, their tall tops reaching past the mist in a Sunshine Coast forest.

 

He had stretched his head far back, almost parallel to the mossy ground, as if his brain needed space just to take in the sight of these massive trees. I wondered what he was thinking, if this moment would leave a memory of awe that would remain to adulthood. More importantly: Would these trees in Wilson Creek, BC even be here in a year?

The boy was among dozens of children of all ages, one of 60 local residents who’d come to hike through, and learn about, this remarkable low-elevation forest that’s slated to be logged. Three Coast teens—Jillian Olafson, Kamilla Hindmarch, and Galen Wilson—had organized this educational hike, along with retired teacher Karen Stein, to help save these precious 27 hectares from logging.

Before the hike, at the mouth of the trailhead, we stood in a circle below the wooden sign created by Sechelt First Nations member Willard Joe, which depicts Thunderbird, a powerful protector and mystical figure.

                                                                                                      — Jack Stein photo

 

We were each invited to choose a small smooth rock, from a pile of 100 brought for this purpose, and write one word that these woods inspired in us. Soon, several rows of rocks appeared, bearing words like “Peace,” “Preserve,” and “Love.”

Jillian Olafson, young friend, Kamilla Hindmarch, Galen Wilson

“One beautiful possibility is for this part of the forest to be left as a park for us all to enjoy,” Stein told the group. “This is our community forest. You are the next generation. Today, you represent all the children who live on our coast.” When asked for one word to describe this forest, Olafson replied: “Magnificent.”

The government of B.C., which owns this land, has issued a licence to enable the District of Sechelt, as shareholder of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, to log this forest, known as cutblock EW002. It is one of the last intact, natural forests left in the Wilson Creek watershed. Its largest tree, a Douglas fir, measures 2.31 metres across.

“This forest is much more valuable alive than clear-cut,” Hans Penner of the conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) told the gathering. He said he hopes that local residents of all ages who want to save this forest tell the District of Sechelt: “You’re a public body. We expect you to listen to the public.”

 

Several of the event’s teen organizers plan to meet with District of Sechelt representatives on Nov. 23 to discuss alternatives to logging this forest. “It’s a beautiful place to be,” said co-organizer Wilson. “We can’t let it (logging) happen. It would destroy everything.”

 

Some local teachers have taken students through this forest to learn about the forest’s biodiversity, thanks to informational trail signs provided by volunteers. The event’s organizers planned the hike as part of a home-schooling peace project.

 

 

ELF member Bill Legg told the children: “You guys really have a voice.” He reaffirmed the land as traditional territory of the Sechelt (shíshálh) First Nations, who have used this forest for centuries for hunting and gathering.

ELF member Ross Muirhead speaks to the group

Meanwhile, about 100 Sunshine Coast residents, including Sechelt nation members, held a rally Nov. 15 outside the District of Sechelt office, hoping to tell mayor John Henderson and city council members that these 27 hectares of forest should be protected as parkland. Although no such representatives appeared, people at the gathering, including many who had attended the forest hike in Wilson Creek, openly shared their opposition to logging this area.

 

Sunshine Coast residents who want to save this forest are urged to write letters to the local media and to the District of Sechelt. Click here to find out more through the ELF website.

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November 18, 2012 at 8:14 pm Comments (4)

Seek peace on Remembrance Day — and always

On Remembrance Day, I woke up at about 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep. Oddly, I was thinking of the life expectancy of a tail-gunner in the Second World War. These men, who operated machine guns while cramped into a highly visible plexiglass bubble in the rear belly of a plane, were exceptionally vulnerable to enemy fire. I had heard that they rarely survived a week of such work. Other sources say seven weeks or two flights. Twenty thousand of such allied gunners died during the war.

 

I can’t imagine what it would be like to take on such a high-risk task, knowing with complete certainty that you would be dead within weeks. Flying so exposed at high altitudes, these men often suffered frostbite. As lookouts, if they relaxed their guard for a moment and missed seeing an enemy plane, they and their crew mates could be dead within seconds.

 

Yet so many young men willingly undertook this dangerous role. I would like to honour the courage of such men and the thousands of others at battle on land and sea, who died for the cause of freedom against fascism and Nazi power from 1939-1945. But ultimately, is any war justified?

 

Remembrance Day always brings me conflict. I admit that I enjoy freedoms now because of those who gave their lives in the past. My heart aches for those whose young sons and daughters have died in a global conflict, for the veterans who have returned, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and receiving little government aid.

 

Yet, I don’t support the hype around labeling dead soldiers “heroes” when they were exploited as pawns in a war for oil interests under the guise of “liberation,” as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf. I am a pacifist, committed to nonviolence. I don’t even like using the term “enemy.” I praise the nonviolent resistance movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. I support the notion of ahimsa, which yoga master Kripalu describes in the following way:

 

Ahimsa is the state that exists when all violence in the heart and mind have subsided. It is not something we have to acquire; it is always present and only needs to be uncovered. When one practices ahimsa, or nonviolence, one refrains from causing distress—in thought, word or deed—to any living creature, including oneself.

 

Many people might think that this state is unattainable. Yet, we can all become more conscious of the conflict within ourselves, which we project onto others. Peace begins within. Would I be willing to take up arms in self-defence? Probably. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t know.

 

On Remembrance Day this year, Yoga by the Sea offered a peace meditation at the same time as the memorial ceremony held at the Legion in Roberts Creek. Dozens of people gathered to meditate, in silence, for about 40 minutes. I think that such events are a wonderful counterpoint to the honoring and continuing of war. Peace rhetoric is easy; living it is a daily challenge. Let’s all strive for peace within our hearts and share this every day, as best we can, in forms both big and small.

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November 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm Comments (2)

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