Tag Archives: environment

Idle No More

Our ancestors wanted this land Canada so damned bad that they crossed the ocean, crossed the country in wagon trains, fought each other, fought the indigenous peoples, and cleared forest for pasture and crop land. Subsequent waves of immigrants saved up for steerage passage to the New World.

ox-in-field-hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.caNow we, descendants of these migrants, stand idle and leave it to the First Nations peoples to fight to save the land. Idle No More is not just about protecting existing First Nations and treaty rights. It’s about protecting all of us, and our shared homeland, from legislative changes that may have serious repercussions down the road.

Bill C-45 was a catalyst for Idle No More.  Now passed, it is a 443 page omnibus Bill consisting of changes to over 40 diverse pieces of legislation. Its amendments to two Acts in particular are of concern to first nations panow idle no more protest--dec.-21,-2012-newstalk650.comIdle No More. They are changes to Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act and to the Indian Act regarding reserve land.

Reserve land is owned by the Crown, held for use by the resident First Nation. The band can “surrender” land to the Crown (federal government) for sale or lease in order to have developments not possible under the strictures of Indian Act land title. Until now, doing so required approval by a majority of a majority. Over half of those eligible must vote and, of those, over half must vote in favour in order for it to pass. Bill C-45 has changed this to simply a majority of those who vote. So if 100 of 1000 eligible voters vote, a yes vote by 51 means it passes. The potential for skewed results is mindboggling.

‘Speed things up’

Also, before Bill C-45, the entire federal cabinet had to approve the vote result before it took effect. Now only the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs must approve it. The Idle no more victoria-bc-21-Dec-2012-r-a-paterson-wikicommonsfederal government says the new rules will speed things up. The old system, government says, took months and even years for change to take effect. But why not speed up the implementation instead of changing the ground rules of democracy?

Land surrender might be used for a shopping mall or something wanted by a reserve’s residents and affecting only them. But it also might be used for negotiating agreements between industry and governments. Maybe for plans that only a very small minority of band members, and Canadians in general, want.

Protection of waterways is another biggie in Bill C-45 with potential for huge destruction of Canada’s environment. Although this is not an aboriginal-specific issue, it seems it’s rabble.ca-blogs-2012-12primarily First Nations that are upset about it. By removing most of the country’s lakes and rivers from federal protection, management and development can occur at the provincial, municipal and private levels without consultation with the federal government.

That can be a good thing when you’re talking about small streams and local management that can do quite nicely without federal red tape. The downside is it also lessens the ‘red tape’ of environmental assessment. So large-scale inter-provincial developments can go ahead more easily.

See something similar in both these cases? Less consultation and assessment making an easier process for development. And current large-scale projects like the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, just wishing First Nations, environmentalists and environmental impact studies would go away.

Idle or Action

banner settlers in solidarity with 1st nations beaconnews.ca-2012-12If we think that our immigrant ancestors’ efforts in settling Canada were worthwhile, we should remember that, by and large, they used their new homeland carefully and respectfully. We all have reasons to protest changes wrought by Bill C-45.

Here is an informative interview about Idle No More and Bill C-45 with Pam Palmeter on CBC Radio’s Day 6.

Goderich, Prettiest Town

Statue standing by courthouse, Goderich, after tornadoThe slogan of Goderich, on Lake Huron, is “The Prettiest Town in Canada.”  It’s never seemed like hyperbole to me.  Last Sunday, downtown Goderich was slammed by a tornado.  It devastated buildings, trees and vehicles.  A man was killed.

We had a cottage just south of Goderich when I was a kid.  Bluewater Beach was my favourite place.  Dad built me a tree house and I spent hours in it and prowling around in the woods.  Also hours at the beach – in the water, building sandcastles, picking up beachstones, on the hill up from the beach.

Aerial view of Goderich square, postcard 1984Then we’d go to town.  I loved the main street of Goderich – the square.  It’s more a circle around the beautiful courthouse in the middle, with huge trees and a bandshell.  Spokes go off all the way around, streets leading to the beach and other parts of town.

There was a five and dime on the square – we spent hours in there.  A glorious old hotel on one corner. I never went inside, but thought it was the most elegant building I’d ever seen.  Sometimes we’d swap Bluewater Beach for Goderich beach with its fine white sand.

We also went to the Maitland River at Benmiller.  We’d go in to the rock-bottomed river, St. Christopher's Beach at sunset, Oct. 2009lie in shallow pools of warm water or play in pockets of deeper water.

The old airport was a favourite stop, to visit the parrot who lived in the waiting room and talked a blue streak.  We’d drive along the industrial side of the harbour.  Sometimes just to look at the mountains of salt waiting to be loaded on ships.  Sometimes to go out in Dad’s boat fishing or just in the harbour steering around the huge Great Lakes vessels tied up.

Hindmarsh Horses

First time we went, to look at the cottage for sale, it was winter.  We heard sleighbells.  It seemed like a magic Christmas card, snow sparkling on the ground and evergreens, snowflakes falling.  It must be our imaginations, but our imaginations were all hearing the same thing.  And through the snow, we saw a horse-drawn wagon coming toward us.

The driver whoaed the horses and asked if we wanted to jump on.  Two Clydesdales were pulling a hay wagon full of kids and adults all bundled up.  Thermoses of hot chocolate were passed, people introduced themselves.  We rode around the small complex of streets, then people began jumping off at their respective cottages, saying “Thanks John, see ya later.”  We did the same thing when we got back to our car.

Angers' Retreat, cottage at Bluewater Beach 1961My parents bought the cottage and we went up in all four seasons.  Every winter, the horses would come through.  You’d hear the harness bells jingling, and run toward them and jump on the wagon.

The man with the horses was Mr. John Hindmarsh. His family had published The Star in Toronto.  I would walk out Bluewater Road to the highway where the Hindmarsh farm and another were kitty-corner from each other.  At both, the horses would amble over to the fence for handfuls of grass I’d pluck.

We referred to them as “the millionaires.”  I don’t know if they were in terms of bank balances.  But the late Mr. Hindmarsh certainly was in terms of generosity of spirit.  The Hindmarsh farm has been donated to the Ontario Farmland Trust and there are many walking trails and protected lands around Goderich thanks to the John Hindmarsh Environmental Trust Fund.

Goderich Rebuilding

Aerial view of Goderich town square after tornadoIf you’ve ever enjoyed driving around the square, or relaxed under the trees by the courthouse or on the beach, Goderich needs your help now.  You can donate to the Red Cross (1-800-481-1111 Canadian Disaster Relief), the Salvation Army, Perth-Huron United Way, Huron County SPCA or check out the open Facebook pages Goderich Help Link and Goderich Ontario Tornado.