Say the Names...

Al Purdy wrote a wonderful poem called "Say the names say the names" which celebrates the names of Canadian rivers - Tulameen, Kleena Kleene, Similkameen, Nahanni, Kluane and on and on in a celebratory song.

Enbridge is planning to build a dual pipeline that will carry bitumen and condensate across hundreds of waterways between Edmonton and Kitimat. Some of these waterways are rivers like the Parsnip (or what's left of it), the Nechako, the Morice and others are smaller creeks whose names are often known only to the folks who live along their banks or who fish in their shadows or who bend to wash or drink as they cross paths.

I want to collect the names of these rivers and creeks, to collect your stories, your poems, your songs so we can collectively give voice to the land living under the line Enbridge plans to draw.

People have also sent me copies of their presentations to the community oral presentations. If you'd like to add your voice, email me ( your stories and I'll post them for you. The copyright remains with you.

All the best.
Sheila Peters

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Smoke and Mirrors

Just last week we were having a good chuckle over David Black's harebrained scheme to build an oil refinery in Kitimat. Wonder what happened to that, we snickered. The next day he announced he had secured (or was close to securing, depending on the media outlet) $25 billion in funding for that very same oil refinery. The Vancouver Sun reported that a poll commissioned by Black showed a majority of British Columbians are in favour of this plan, including our very own premier, Christy Clark.

Aside from the fact that Black's proposal looks like the worst of all worlds – dilbit running across the unstable landscape of two major salmon watersheds, the pollution associated with an oil refinery, and oil tankers on the west coast – I was reminded of my early days in journalism. 

When I first came to work for the Smithers Interior News, I was fresh out of journalism school. A month after I arrived, the senior reporter quit and I was it. The next reporter hired had even less experience than I did. I plugged away, not very effectively I’m afraid, covering the usual town council meetings, community events, police and court. But even back then – this was 1977 – Smithers had its share of environmentalists keeping an eye on forestry practices, wilderness road-building for mining interests, wolf trapping and poisoning, and the air quality impacts of sawmill beehive burners.

One day, a gentlemen was sent back to talk to me about a fabulous new mineral find (was it gold, copper, molybdenum? I don’t remember) he and his partners had made and their plans for its development. He gave me a press release and some excited quotes, which I dutifully wrote up.

When the next paper came out, another gentlemen took me aside and, in a most avuncular manner, explained just how the exploration business worked. You stake a few claims, he said, move a little dirt around, and offer penny stocks for sale on the Vancouver Stock Exchange. A geologist’s report, one or two newspaper articles, and Bob’s your uncle. Next time, he said, suggest the fellow purchase an ad.

Well, David Black has his own newspapers, so there’s no need to purchase ads. He doesn't even need to move any dirt around. Others are doing that for him. But the story’s the same. Mr. Black is not going into the refinery business. I believe he just might think he's pouring oil on troubled waters.

You have to wonder how stupid these folks think we are. It's smoke and mirrors, my friends, smoke and mirrors.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Creative Jammers - Terrorists?

Birds of Our Coast
Birds of Our Coast by Sylvia Erlund
I spent a wonderful weekend in Prince Rupert with writers, photographers, painters and quilters. We shared ideas and each others work. We talked about old times (some of us are grandparents), we talked about battles, old and new. Former north coaster Kristin Miller, one of the Gumboot Girls, led the quilters' workshop and displayed some stunning quilts celebrating the coast and its rich bio-diversity. The Positive Energy Quilters are making them to fundraise for a tanker-free coast. These are people who contribute to their communities, who care about the world they live in and live from, and respond to it in positive, creative ways. Bravo! I say.

I drove home along the (unfrozen - a bit of worrisome climate change signaling there) Skeena watching for signs of the impending eulachon run on a beautiful sunny day.

In the mailbox sits the latest Guardian Weekly with a big fat headline: "US 'dark money' funds sceptics: Billionaries give $118m to anti-climate groups: Secret donations used to discredit science". Sigh. Stephen Harper and Joe Oliver might call Canadian charities money-launderers for "radical" American environmental groups, but I wonder if they're taking a close look at how much of this anti-science funding is finding its way north.

Okay, so that's really depressing. I turn the page to find another headline: "Canada's spy chiefs target anti-frackers". It describes how all the money given to security services post 9/11 (after they found we were at a low-risk from foreign terrorists) has been re-directed. "It's the new normal now for Canada's security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organizations."

"In a Canadian senate committee on national security and defence meeting last week, Richard Fadden, the director of CSIS, said it is more worried about domestic terrorism, acknowledging that the vast majority of spying is done within Canada. Fadden said it is 'following a number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism'."

Gadzooks, Batman, do you think they were there in Prince Rupert? (I did stop into the JRP hearings being held in the casino basement and there were banks of lawyers, technicians, and a greeter at the door.)

It's not funny, really. Anyone who reads history knows how the slow erosion of rights is a very effective tactic to silence opposition. Intimidating citizens is another. But I'm hoping we're smart enough to figure these guys out. The energy industry is getting so bad in Alberta, more and more people there are getting the creeps. One farmer's response is to say "Hey CSIS - here's my number."

We have to continue to do the work governments should be doing for us - using our heads and hearts and money to protect what gives us life itself - and that ain't fossil fuels. Me, I'm casting a ballot for the Positive Energy Quilters and their UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project.

a quilt from the UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Creatures Great and Small