Civic Engagement Archives - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

CBC in Crisis? Well certainly under clear and present threat… AND in Need of a Deserving Shout Out

I am no expert on public broadcasting, but like many Canadian citizens  disgruntled with the gradual erosion of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s offerings over the past decade or more  (with its increasing repetitiveness in programming and scaled-back budgets for foreign bureaus and investigative journalism), as a regular CBC listener certainly for me this has felt like a “crisis” for some time. But notwithstanding that arguably hyperbolic designation, LeadNow,  Friends of Public Broadcasting and SumOfUs.org have been scrambling to bring an important PUBLIC NOTICE to Canadians this past week or so which cannot be disputed: that the CBC is under clear and present threat of imminent takeover by the PMO through a hidden clause in one of the Harper government’s latest (if before he was elected scorned) omnibus bills, Bill C-60, their most recent omnibus budget bill.

This is a critical issue. Consider many of the—hmmm, how shall I put this—less than Canadian manoeuvres of the Harper government continuing to be catalogued on blogs such as Tracking Harper as this man systematically dismantles our ‘just society’ and makes Canada the laughing stock of people of good conscience across the globe:  on a quick, random check, most of those stories were at least reported, if not broken or indeed further investigated by Canada’s public broadcaster. How many of those important stories would Canadians have any inkling of had the CBC already been under the direct control of the government? Or to put the shoe on the other foot: what would we know of the Liberal government sponsorship scandal or the corruption surrounding Montreal politics and on and on?

Regardless of which party one votes for—for indeed every political party in every province and territory has been put under CBC’s microscope at some point— if it is not the first and foremost job of journalism, and in particular public broadcast journalism, to hold power to account, what relevance if any could the CBC hold once this bill is fully implemented?

OR aaahhhhh… is that Harper’s secret strategy: not so much an agenda to take over control over who is hired and what is said by each and every host and news anchor  of the CBC which might overwhelm even his allegedly superior micro-management capabilities, but to fast-track the apparent irrelevance of the CBC in its core role so that even this country’s business, academic and culture communities turn away in disgust? Harper has made no secret of his disdain for the public broadcaster since before he was elected, not to mention at least the latter two of those constituencies. (And with bloopers like CASL, Bill C-28, his recent bludgeon bill—which on its surface presented the wholesome and honourable aspiration of eliminating SPAM and egregious telemarketers—even thoughtful members of Canada’s  business and legal communities must be wondering about a government that would write legislation that (in)advertantly also outlaws future outreach to new clients/customers, including by businesses yet to be created, and possibly even curtails any new B2B e-communications. ) But I digress.

Today’s post is prompted by rather excellent radio of CBC’s The Current this morning in which journalist and guest host Anthony Germain managed in a mere 90 minutes or less to provide interesting and balanced coverage about:

  • the story of former Harper cabinet minister and former Innu Nation President Peter Penashue (and my friend) and his potential (or not) re-election in Monday’s by-election
  • the issues of safe water supply, environment and the power of the people versus over-bearing government in China, and the implications of water shortages for world peace…
  • in this sad old world of ours, the meaning and mission of Art and film

 

The mere association of these stories in one show can only provoke the kinds of interconnectedness of ideas that this small offering of a blog strives to do on many of the same subjects.

Congratulations Anthony Germain, Anna Maria Tremonti and team. Also a shout-out to CBC Q‘s Jian Ghomeshi’s for 2013/05/10 CBC pride-filled prologue today about CBC content (which further spurred this blogpost) and his rant last Friday  2013/05/03 underscoring my peeve about the recent dismissal of we “citizens” (who consider that the intrinsic privilege of our nationality bears far more responsibility than merely voting or paying taxes) as “taxpayers” or “voters”.

 

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Voices from the Fire: Goosed!



Ottawa, Ontario Canada. Victoria Island encampment of hunger-striking Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence. A Canada goose from the Ottawa River makes itself at home amidst the Chief’s supporters.

 

After nearly a month of Chief Spence and her co-hunger-strikers going without solid food, to a skeptical person at least it might appear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent agreement to meet with Canada’s First Nations Chiefs on Friday January 11, 2013 —though he hasn’t admitted to it—may have come about due to pressure from the Chief, the growing international Idle No More movement and major voices of social justice  such as Amnesty International, not to mention Gaia herself represented by this goose.

Hardly the skeptic, I’m certain that the PM finally figured out how to meet the Chief’s demands as a result of the helpful directions provided to him in my recent blog post.

__________
Screen shot from working title Voices from the Fire, now in production.
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Driving Directions for The PM to visit Chief Theresa Spence

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

A number of non-Native folk have contacted me looking for directions to Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike encampment on Victoria Island, and so it occurs to me that perhaps the reason you may have not been over to visit Chief Spence is because you couldn’t find your way.

After all it has been over 3 weeks since she began her strike and she must be getting rather hungry by now to at least have some news from you.

As we enter what may yet prove to be the coldest January in a number of years, I also wanted to remind you to please dress warmly. There’s no sense resuming Parliament with a cold after you return to work from your Christmas recess on January 28, three weeks after the kids have gone back to school . You might even want to replace that 100X beaver felt cowboy hat with a beaver fur one. I realize those cowboy hats are warm, but they’re missing those cosy fur ear flaps that are so much more practical in this weather. Besides you’d probably look even more dashing in fur than felt. I’ll bet you could borrow one from one of your mounties; they’re issued with great fur hats, or at least they used to be, before the federal budget cuts.

Also it’s pretty cold for the Chief’s supporters over on the island, and so it might be a thoughtful gesture to bring along some food, firewood, warm clothing or extra blankets as they would be well appreciated by the fire-keepers who are keeping round-the-clock watch over Chief Spence and her sacred fire. And if you really want to be politic, you might bring along a little tobacco for an offering.

Oh yes and fresh water… I imagine the drinking water from the taps at 24 Sussex is much cleaner than anything any ordinary Canadian will have access to going forward once international and domestic corporate interests have their way with those thousands of navigable lakes and rivers removed from protection last month by the provisions of your omnibus bill, C-45.  Perhaps Canadians could run a water pipeline from the facility providing clean water to 24 Sussex into the general drinking water supply. In the long run that could save  tax payers oodles of health care dollars by sparing us al from being forced to consume the imminently contaminated local water… well at least until you abolish universal healthcare. After that I guess it won’t matter as it will be up to the sickened and dying Canadian population to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to get on an level playing field with the Chinese who, by then, will own many of our former resources and Native reserve lands.

 

But I digress. I know you must be chomping at the bit for those directions so you can go see Chief Spence right away, so here they are:

Please give these directions to your driver, once your are settled comfortably in the back of your limo.

1. Start out going southwest on Sussex Dr / Promenade Sussex toward Alexander St / Rue Alexander.

2. Sussex Dr / Promenade Sussex becomes MacKenzie Ave / Avenue MacKenzie.

3. Turn right onto Rideau St / Rue Rideau / HWY-17B / RR-34. Continue to follow RR-34 W.

RR-34 W is 0.4 kilometers past Murray St Le Chateau Rideau Centre is on the right If you are on Promenade Colonel by and reach Daly Ave you’ve gone about 0.1 kilometers too far

4. Stay straight to go onto Wellington St / Promenade de l’Outaouais, past the Prime Minister’s Office.

5. Turn right onto Booth St / Rue Booth.

Booth St is just past Lett St If you are on Promenade de l’Outaouais and reach Broad St you’ve gone about 0.1 kilometers too far

6. Turn right onto Middle St / Rue Middle.

Middle St is 0.2 kilometers past Place Vimy If you are on Pont des Chaudières and reach Rue Eddy you’ve gone about 0.3 kilometers too far into Quebec. Fortunately Quebec is still not a foreign country yet, though if the PM keeps attacking the arts and artists, he may just alienate that province enough to separate in which case, driver, in the future you might want to remind the PM to bring his passport on his excursions.

7. MIDDLE ST.

Proceed to the Chief’s encampment at the East end of that road. 

Total Travel Estimate: 5.15 kilometres – about 10 minutes

Alternately the PM could use his new military-grade GPS that Charlie the Chinchilla gave to him for Christmas:

Middle St, Ottawa, ON K1R  45.421620, -75.711155 (Address is approximate)

 

P.S. If you’re still not sure how navigability and environmental protection of Canada’s waterways are related, perhaps it is because you were too busy limiting debate surrounding bill C-45 to have time to read the open letter that EcoJustice sent you in November. You can still access the legal backgrounder they prepared for you here and if you’re resolved to leave your Blackberry unplugged over the Christmas recess, your personal secretary can download and print a nicely formatted hard copy from here. Heck, you might even be able to get a good start on it in the limo on the way over.

 Oh… and Mr. Prime Minister,  please don’t forget that beaver fur hat.
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Chief Theresa Spence’s Hunger Strike Encampment: Getting There

It’s come to my attention that there is some confusion about how to travel to the encampment. Indeed I recall having trouble figuring this out myself as Mapquest and Google maps are a little sketchy on how to access Victoria Island in the Ottawa River. Your closest nearest landmark is, ironically, the Canadian War Museum which any search engine should find for you easily enough. Proceed north a couple of blocks from that point on Booth Street. Access is a block or so north of the Canadian War Museum making a right (eastward) turn from the top of Booth Street via the Chaudieres Bridge onto Middle Street on Victoria Island,  and then drive ~1/2 km to the east end of the island. The Chief’s teepee is readily evident projecting above the split log  palisade walls of a tourist attraction type of fort which encloses the encampment. Lots of free parking nearby. Also near city OCTranspo bus stop.

Dress more warmly than you think might be necessary and consider bringing food, water, firewood, clothing blankets etc as it is cold and damp there because of the open water of the nearby Ottawa River.

I was planning to include a map but haven’t time to create my own since using a slice of Google maps or Mapquest here would be a copyright violation.

So here it is again for quick copy and paste:

From Highway 417 (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
exit Rochester Street north,
first right travel 2 blocks East to Booth,
turn left & proceed north past the War Museum onto the first part of the Chaudieres Bridge,
make a right (east), onto Middle Street on Victoria Island,
and then drive ~1/2 km to the east end of the island to traffic circle and parking area.

Time of travel pending traffic from Highway 417 to the  encampment is 15 minutes or less.

I will update this post with a screen-grab from my video footage as soon as I can.

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At the Idle No More Spiritual Epicentre with Chief Theresa Spence

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few precious moments with Chief Spence within her hunger strike encampment, the spiritual centre of the Idle No More movement on Victoria Island near the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (Much footage to edit.) Despite her evident weakening, she remains strong in spirit, a selfless human being still full of great humour 12 days into her hunger strike.

Chief Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation has pledged to starve herself, to death if necessary, in an effort to get Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper to come and meet with her to discuss the plight of her community which first entered the national news a little over a year ago when the state of emergency that was declared in October 2011 was flagged by NDP MP Charlie Angus. In the wake of Federal /Provincial government bickering and inaction the still ongoing crisi sparked emergency airlifts by Canadian Red Cross. Now, surrounded by a small army of dedicated supporters, Chief Spence shelters from the oncoming Canadian winter in a canvas teepee on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River just minutes from the granite Parliament Buildings and the Prime Minister’s Office, waiting.

In both form and function, her teepee reminds me of  the mountain, Devils Tower, in the Stephen Spielberg’s 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, mysteriously drawing people in from around the continent who sense that something mysterious and uncommon is afoot.  My drive was 6 hours. Others are flying in. It would be a roughly 12 minute motorcade ride in an armor-plated limo from the Prime Minister’s residence.

Speaking of geography, according to this Google map by http://timgrovesreports.wordpress.com, Idle No More—spread through the power of social media—has already spawned over 110 events throughout North America and Europe  since it began a few weeks ago: http://bit.ly/ZWzvNA, which, given how fast this is developing, I have not had time to verify.

 

The use of social media provides such an interesting study in contrasts. On one hand one can see that the current count of Youtube Video uploads pegged to keyword “Idle No More” is approximately 10,400, mostly in the past week or so. A video of an Idle No More flashmob at West Edmonton Mall more than halfway across Canada has over 50,00 views. Meanwhile,  it would appear that Prime Minister Harper is still tuned to a different channel, developing his Flickr stream  and getting his pet Chinchilla Charlie ready for Christmas, which at this time of writing has 4,063 views: Charlie the Chinchilla gets into the spirit of Christmas at 24 Sussex

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Understanding “Idle No More”… Not Just an “Indian Thing”

While many are writing, reporting, broadcasting and blogging on this already the past few days, this may be the my first of many related posts on my blog about this new movement across Canada. There is something about it that has the same raw authenticity that the Occupy movement did a little over a year ago. The singular difference, I sense, is that the sentiment and knowledge that fuels it has been hundreds of years in the amassing and the pent-up anger driving it—rightly in my opinion—is generations old, residing in the hearts of four or five generations of people currently extant.

On the surface at least Idle No More is the creation of four young women, 3 Native and one non-Native, in response to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s, ham-fisted Omnibus Bill C-45—with (among many travesties) its rights grab of First People’ land rights and annihilation of protections to Canada’s precious clean water. But beyond that, The PM’s apparently blithe and nakedly insulting unconcern about Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, now in it’s 10th day (tbc), merely a stone’s throw from the PMO has jabbed already raw nerves from sea to sea to shining sea.

 Idle No More’s official web site is the go-to place on matters and information related to the movement. Please beware: immitators and other’s attempting to forward discreditable agendas are already springing up.

It’s a lot to wade through though so as I begin to get up-to-date on what the movement is myself, I thought I would focus what I’m learning. Rather than attempting to interpret, here is the beginning of a compendium of what the people themselves are saying.

To begin with, and perhaps of greatest importance to the greatest number, in the words of University of Winnipeg Director of Indigenous Inclusion Wab Kinew in the Huffington Posta couple of days ago: Idle No More is “more than just an “Indian Thing””.

And even if here and there the odd Canadian might be so calous and colonially imperial in his or her way of thinking as not to give a damn about social justice, First Nations or First Nations land rights, perhaps they’ll sit up and take notice of the new threats to their treasured cottage properties and country retreats and their own now threatened rights.

For these and other reasons, I think Idle No More may grow wider and endure to become, ironically, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s enduring legacies. But wait, there is still time for him to do something about fixing this.

Meanwhile, here is lawyer and Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam, who in 12 minutes gives us a pretty clear idea of what is at stake:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/pKJ4mW5urgU[/youtube] ©IdleNoMoreAlberta

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“touching something that is untouchable”

In the same vein as my last post, and from a work done at great legal risk by the documentary makers, the following quotations:

“Monsanto, where creative chemistry works wonders for you.”

“I have never seen a situation where one company could have so much overwhelming influence at the highest levels of regulatory decision making, as an example of Monsanto with its GM food policy and the government.”

“More powerful than bombs; it’s more powerful than God”.

“We’re touching something that is untouchable.”

The World According to Monsanto

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Greasing the Cloud

If there can be found to be any silver lining to such incipiently disastrous events as BP’s recent and ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is the reminder that we must be constantly vigilant of the hubris of Humankind and vigourous in demanding that our leaders and policy makers adhere to the wisdom and good leadership protocols embodied in the Precautionary Principle. After all, such man-man catastrophes have always been completely avoidable.

To reprise an earlier blog post:

“The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations, vol. 1, pt. xi, p.10(1776)

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