Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

When illness hits, gratitude can follow

After more than a week of suffering through a cold and the norovirus—from nausea, vomiting, and coughs to headaches and extreme fatigue—I am slowly regaining strength. It feels like waking up from an operation, raw and vulnerable, with my senses trying to operate under layers of cotton balls.


Ahhhhhh. Such illness, which left me feeling too weak to stand for a few days, is certainly a great reminder of the daily tasks that I normally take for granted. Simple things, like easy breathing and having energy to think clearly, read, and multi-task, seemed beyond possibility. How did I ever find the energy to do all that I normally do?


Thankfully, this illness is only temporary. Lying on my back, feeling barely able to move, I thought of all of the people who face debilitating illness every day, whether it’s a recovering cancer patient or someone with a terminal disease.


I thought of how weak my dad must have felt when he was dying of multiple melanoma. I asked him once, after he’d moved into a hospice, if he’d like to do a crossword puzzle with me. He replied: “You’re asking too much of me.” He didn’t have the energy.


Yesterday, I spoke with my 60-year-old friend Michael in Ontario, a fit, healthy man who recently had a stroke out of the blue. He fell about 20 metres from a stepladder, then managed to crawl upstairs to bed, not realizing what had happened to him. After 48 days of intensive neuro- and physiotherapy, he now walks with a cane. Otherwise, he’s fine.


Now Michael says that he’s “restructuring.” His brain has found new neural pathways. He’s no longer locked into his old ways of seeing and interpreting things. Friends say that he seems happier. He smiles more. I tease him that he’s enjoying the benefits of decades of zen Buddhism without having to meditate.


He appreciates that he’s lucky to be alive. I agree. I’m sure glad that he’s still around.


There’s nothing like the loss of our familiar self, the life that we can fall into without much thought, to make us realize how special every day truly is. I’m grateful that at middle age, peering back into wellness, I am grateful for what I see—and can do and be.




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January 25, 2013 at 3:31 pm Comments (0)

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)