Civic Engagement Archives - Page 3 of 3 - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

I could’ve been a contender…

Today’s Financial Times headline reads:

US ‘ready to lead’ on climate change

(FT article as brought to my attention by Jamie Laidlaw: Thanks Jamie!)

I heard that news item on CBC and thought to myself: there goes the unexploited competitive advantage that Canada has had these past few Bush years.

Canada could have been a world leader in greening industry, but instead under Mr. Harper we seem bound to squander our advantage on tax cuts, and turning northern Alberta into wasteland. And now, from the sounds of the budget leaks, we will have to play catch up… that is if our own government ever comes to the realization that they’ve already fallen behind again.

“I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum…”—Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront


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Statement (Short): Elegy for a Stolen Land

Forced by food shortages to emigrate, six generations ago my Scottish ancestors settled in Southern Ontario, a rich, natural environment that for millennia, and until not long before, had been homeland to successive waves of First Peoples.

When moving home after years in cities to raise a seventh generation in that same place I’d been raised, the sheer rapaciousness of human activity in Ontario’s countryside – the naked erasures of heritage, and our diminishing capacity for a secure local food supply– got me thinking about changes in the meaning of land.

How does one document shifting occupation? What is the distance from “earth mother” to “real estate”, and what evidence remains of aboriginal cosmologies or European animistic traditions, and colonial history? What are the implications for power over the cultural interpretation of land-human relationships imposed by such terms as “land use”? Which ways of thinking and being in relation to land are most suitable to sustaining life?


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Exhibition: An Open Opening Invitiation


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Iranian-Canadian Blogger Hossein Derakhshan (a.k.a. “Hoder”) Disappeared in Iran, Presumed Arrested by the Iranian Authorities

Iranian-Canadian Blogger Hossein Derakhshan (a.k.a. "Hoder") Disappeared in Iran, Presumed Arrested by the Iranian Authorities

Toronto, Canada. Iranian-Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, at the Toronto City Hall, Nathan Phillip’s Square skating rink. ©Peter Sibbald, 2005

Iranian-Canadian Blogger Hossein Derakhshan (a.k.a. "Hoder") Disappeared in Iran, Presumed Arrested by the Iranian Authorities

Toronto, Canada. Iranian-Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, a.k.a. “Hoder”, on the Toronto Island Ferry. ©Peter Sibbald, 2005


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It begins: Joining the 21st Century of Social Networking…

On the first day of Christmas… I sent to me… a new weblog.

What could be more narcissistic in this day and age than a blog!

Blogs are too often about the blogger which, to my mind, grows increasingly tedious—especially when that blogger is me— and so I will try to make this one less about navel gazing and more about the world out there.

I will also try to keep my posts short, though on this inaugural day, I will immediately break that rule.

And I in my cap…

On this Christmas morning, which should be all about World Peace, as my children lie all snug in their beds, I awake to find myself thinking about the world’s growing state of turmoil and in particular the increasing tensions surrounding Iran. And I’m thinking about  Iranian-Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan (nicknamed Hoder) who was arrested in Iran some weeks ago and is being held, apparently for his views, and the fact that he previously visited Israel, which is a crime in Iran, and has given them grounds for accusing him of spying on Iran for Israel.

I don’t know much about Hoder’s views since I can’t read most of his blogging which is in Persian but I gather that his views are strong, have changed radically over time and have alienated a lot of people on all sides. I don’t know if I’d agree with what he wrote earlier or more recently. To me, that is immaterial.

You can read Hoder’s mind  on his blogs, though of course you won’t find anything about his disappearance since he has not been able to maintain his blog.

Go to: and, or search The Guardian (UK) where he has been a frequent contributor.

I will not go into much detail over Hoder’s disappearance here, since I have no first hand information to report (links for news reports are below however), but it is alleged that on or about the 1st of November 2008, immediately upon returning to his home country after several years of exile in Canada, Hoder was arrested and whisked away by the Iranian authorities. And since then, little has been heard from him.

Canada—which should be concerned about the disappearance of one of its citizens—is not; because it has not officially been informed by the Iranian authorities of the arrest. And the current Harper conservative government has made little secret of it’s disdain for artists and culture workers, or its passivity toward the abuse of people of middle-eastern origin by other major foreign powers in the so-called “war on terror”.

There is much being made these festive days of the Canadian soldiers who are risking their lives in Afghanistan on behalf of our way of life, our freedom. In the past month, Canada exceeded 100 of our own dead there.

I would contend that Canada should be concerned any time one of its citizens disappears in a foreign country whether or not the foreign government is alleged to be involved, and regardless of the views  of the individual who has been disappeared. And if that foreign government is one which has, as Iran has, a record or killing Canadians during it’s interrogations,  such as it killed Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi on July 11, 2003, ( then Canada should be doubly concerned, doing everything in it’s power to intercede on our fellow citizen’s behalf. To do anything less is to make a mockery of the commitment and sacrifices being made by our young men and women in Afghanistan.

Now, why would I be concerned? First, and most simply,I am an Canadian citizen. Second, on a Business Week photo assignment a few years ago, I did Hoder’s portrait and spent the best part of a day with him. Something about this fellow—his intense commitment and his fearlessness and the liveliness of his mind—left an indelible impression on me. He was also a keen amateur photographer. Finally, it was Hoder who encouraged me to start a blog, and after our shoot was over, gave me my first lesson on how easy it was. I’m just a little slow getting around to it.

And so this, my first bog entry, is dedicated to Hoder and all those human beings, regardless of race, nationality, religious belief, gender or sexual orientation who risk their lives to exercise free speech.

I will upload a photo or two of Hoder in the next day or so.

Meanwhile you can read more both about Hoder and the reports of his disappearance here:


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