Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘canada’

Image: Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation.
2021 artistic rendering of Senakw. The Squamish First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation.

Just before the pandemic, I read at the Guardian about an indigenous-led development for Vancouver, Canada. And yes, it’s still going forward. The market-rate aspect of the development is supposed to fund the parts that benefit the First Nation providing the land. I found a more recent story from the Daily Hive.

Kenneth Chan reports, “By the end of this year, site preparation for construction could begin on the Senakw development. … Squamish First Nation members overwhelmingly voted to approve the massive development on their 12-acre Kitsilano reserve in late 2019. Thus allowing band leaders to seal the partnership with local developer Westbank and continue their work with refining the design concept.

“In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized, Khelsilem, a spokesperson and councillor of the First Nation, said the heights of several buildings have been increased, including the tallest tower, now up from 56 storeys to 59 storeys at 172 metres (564 ft). … The first of four construction phases will target the westernmost parcel of the reserve — a narrow strip of land between the bridge and Vanier Park. …

“He said, ‘Some of the motifs of the building have been refined to incorporate Squamish culture and identity, and there is starting to be a bit more imagining of where the public gathering spaces will be.’

“The ground plain commercial space component of the project has changed too, with open public courtyards sunken into the landscape, activated by retail, restaurants, cafes, and potentially grocery stores and fitness centres.

“It also takes advantage of the space under the Burrard Street Bridge, using the structure as a cover for an ‘outdoor restaurant,’ gathering areas, a playground, and basketball courts.

“The residential component of the project still carries a total of 6,000 units, possibly enough to house as many as 9,000 people. …

“The housing tenure composition has not been finalized, but Khelsilem maintains purpose-built market rental housing will likely account for at least 70% of the homes. The below-market rental housing component dedicated to Squamish members has grown slightly to roughly 300 units. …

“The First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation, defined as in 25 years. More than half of its 4,000 members live on reserve, and over 1,000 are on the housing waitlist, with the most recent housing allocations offered to members who have been waiting for over three decades.

“Senakw’s non-market housing component for members will help achieve some of this broader goal directly. The real win is that the revenue generated by the market housing will provide the First Nation with the capacity to pursue greater self-determination. It will greatly enhance their ability to provide current members and future generations with more services, such as eldercare, education, and language and culture support. It would also help fund more member housing initiatives beyond this reserve. …

“Khelsilem adds many members have also expressed excitement about the trades training and employment opportunities that will be offered by the construction project.

“ ‘It is important for the public to understand that this is an economic development venture, it is not an affordable housing project. It is an economic development venture so that we can generate significant amounts of revenue to be invested into our community because we’ve been without the means to do it otherwise,’ said Khelsilem. …

“The infusion of thousands of market rental homes at Senakw will serve to improve overall housing affordability in Metro Vancouver by filling some of the demand from moderate-income households.

“ ‘The reality is new market rental housing is affordable for middle class workers and families in Vancouver, and that’s who this housing will be for,’ he said, adding that strong demand for rental housing has persisted even under COVID-19 conditions.”

More at the Daily Hive, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Chelsey Geralda Armstrong.
An aerial shot of the Sts’ailes forest garden. These forests demonstrate the way that First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest have actively managed natural ecosystems to increase the accessibility of preferred food near their homes.

Today’s story is about how indigenous people in Canada have created “forest gardens” to be able to harvest the traditional food the tribes value.

From the radio show Living on Earth:

“BOBBY BASCOMB: British Columbia is home to lush forests that cover almost two-thirds of the Canadian province. And for some ten thousand years, First Nations peoples made the forests their home. The trees provided much of what the people needed to survive and thrive. After asking permission of towering cedars, Coast Salish and other peoples would harvest bark for weaving and wood to carve canoes and totem poles. But they also carved out special gardens in the forest to grow food and medicinal plants. And new research shows that these forest gardens are still home to abundant biodiversity. …

“DR. CHELSEY GERALDA ARMSTRONG: We live in the Pacific Northwest where you have very contiguous conifer dominant forests … cedar and spruce and hemlock and firs. [But the forest gardens are] broadleaf forests, which are very rare here … maple and birch and then sub canopies of hazelnut and crabapple, all deciduous species. One of the big things that kind of sticks out when you’re in these places is at the right time of year, it’s just like a fruit paradise. There’s so many fruits going, kind of around late August, early September. It is an edible forest without question, and also a lot of medicinal species as well in that understory, things like wild ginger. …

“BASCOMB: And these were gardens cultivated by the Indigenous people that lived there, how did they create them? It sounds like they must have had to travel quite far to bring these different species together in one spot. …

“ARMSTRONG: We don’t know exactly how they were started, or when, how old they are, although we are getting closer to some dates. … Hazelnut, for example, [is] a native species to British Columbia, but it’s found far outside its range in certain forest gardens. But also, people were managing for succession. These types of forest management practices are basically utilizing and capitalizing on natural ecosystem processes. So things like wild raspberries, black huckleberries, Alaska blueberry, oval-leaf blueberry, all these kinds of plants that grow in forest gardens are locally available. And so it’s just about letting those things come back, keeping the competitors out, and then enhancing them with new species. …

“ARMSTRONG: Comparing forest gardens with the surrounding conifer forests, or what we refer to as peripheral forest, it was very clear that overall, forest gardens [were] a lot more biodiverse. … So you can imagine that, in fact, the edge between these two ecosystems are incredibly productive areas.

“BASCOMB: Well, that totally makes sense. I mean, you would expect more biodiversity in an area with, say, maybe a field, next to a forest, with a river running through it. If you have several different ecosystems all in one spot. ….

“ARMSTRONG: We found that forest gardens have a higher frequency of animal-dispersed and animal-pollinated species. So what this means is that forest gardens are the result of animal movement. And of course, humans are included in that category. But on top of that, what this suggests is that after humans left these gardens and villages, in some cases a couple hundred years ago, forest gardens began providing really unique habitat for animals and pollinators seeking food. So what we see here is an example of human land use that actually provides and increases functions across the landscape, rather than depleting it. …

“BASCOMB: Can you tell me about the First Nations people that lived in this area and created these gardens? …

“ARMSTRONG: I worked with two communities, Kitsumkalum, and Kitselas. And, you know, the archaeological record of people living in this area is very, very rich. People have been here for, you know, 10,000 plus years. And for Kitselas, we know that [families] have been in the same canyon area for at least 7,000 years. [But] people were forcibly removed from their communities. A lot of times they moved to the coast to work in canneries, which were, you know, kind of slave-like conditions for people. But they returned, a lot of them, to their communities in the ’50s and ’60s. …

“There are elders in Kitselas that always say, ‘Old villages are really good places to hunt,’ … But basically, these places have not been maintained for, you know, 200 years. … A huge part of our research is actually employing different management strategies, clearing the forest garden areas and getting them back to a place where they can be producing lots of food for people locally.

“BASCOMB: And what did you learn about these forest gardens from the First Nation elders that you spoke with? …

“ARMSTRONG: The elders had pointed me in [the direction of hazelnuts, which I was studying], saying, well, it’s not just hazelnut. [It’s] Pacific crabapple, it’s Saskatoon berries, it’s soapberries. And so, you know, they’re the ones that were leading a lot of this inquiry. And of course, we know from them all the different ethno-botanical uses of plants. … A lot of our research is kind of being led by them and the questions that they have about these places that we can answer.

“BASCOMB: Chelsey Armstrong directs the Historical and Ethnoecological Research, or HER, Lab at Simon Fraser University.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Political Blind Date
Toronto City Councilors Gary Crawford and Shelley Carroll, who hold very different political views, chat in a Toronto coffee shop during an episode of the TV show “Political Blind Date.”

What if each of us tried to reach across the divide? My brave friend Nancy does it in a class at the Council on Aging, where she actually talks politics. I’m not strong enough for that, but I really do work at nurturing the things I have in common with people whose politics are different. There are always things we have in common. After all, if Earth got invaded by hostile space aliens, we’d all be helping each other out without a second thought.

In Canada, they aren’t waiting for space aliens.

Sara Miller Llana writes at the Christian Science Monitor about a popular television show that has participants reaching across the political divide.

“When Gary Crawford confided to Shelley Carroll on TV that he has a daughter with a disability, the mother who raised a daughter diagnosed with autism replied instinctively, ‘Oh, Gary’ – conveying an empathy so obvious in just two words.

“It’s not that the Toronto city councilors didn’t know one another. They’d worked together in City Hall for the better part of a decade. But more often than not, they were dug in on either side of the chamber, battling over city finances.

“So this meeting, at a cozy Toronto coffee shop, was an intentional step away from those fiery legislative sessions, a way to help two rival politicians find common ground in sustaining North America’s fastest-growing city – even if Ms. Shelley envisions new revenue tools while Mr. Crawford dubs himself a ‘keep taxes low kinda guy.’

“Welcome to ‘Political Blind Date.’ The popular Canadian television show might sound like a hokey reality show for the political set. But for its creators, the aim is to undo some of the stubborn binaries that have built up around contentious issues from gun rights to taxation to immigration to climate change.

“Getting beyond the media scrum, the yelling during parliamentary question periods, the sound bites on nightly news, and the callous swipes over social media, producers set the stage for participants to engage one another with the time and respect that complex problems require.

‘Respect is at the heart of it. Not only are politicians, in the way they are using political rhetoric, not respecting each other; they’re disrespecting their citizenry,’ says Mark Johnston, showrunner of ‘Political Blind Date.’ ‘And at the same time, there’s been a disrespect and dehumanization of politicians.’ …

“With the filming of a fifth season underway, about 50 politicians have already participated, spending two days together with each other’s constituents and wrestling with legalization of marijuana, Indigenous rights, and climate change. It’s not easy: In one episode, a politician who supports gun rights visited a Toronto mother whose children were hit by bullets at a playground. 

“The goal is not to get the two politicians to reverse their positions, something that rarely happens. It’s to slow down and study policies in all their complexity, and to hear the human concerns and perspectives that lie behind their support. …

“During the episode on Toronto city finances, which aired in January 2020, Mr. Crawford hands Ms. Carroll a button to put on. Hers is a big yellow disk with an arrow pointing upward, reading ‘High Property Taxes.’ His reads the opposite, the arrow pointing downward next to ‘Low Property Taxes.’ 

“But after the show, he realizes the buttons don’t make as much sense as he originally thought. They both want their constituents to be able to stay in their homes and rely on services their taxes pay for. …

“He says he’s still a ‘low tax kinda guy.’ But the experience opened him up to a conversation he would not have been willing to have before the episode. And both say they talk more than they ever did before. ‘We’re often understaffed, under-resourced, and really stretched for time,’ says Ms. Carroll. ‘We don’t get to know enough about each other’s personal lives. So you don’t know where each other are coming from. 

“ ‘You can have different politics, but it always helps if you can humanize and say, “OK, I get your point of view and it’s different from mine, but I know where you’re coming from, so let’s work on it,” ‘ she says. …

“Anna-Kay Russell, co-founder and director of funding partnerships for the Canadian Black Policy Network, says this kind of connection between two rivals has a trickle-down effect. ‘The “us versus them” mentality not only seeps into the behavior of our politicians, but down into the mindsets of the voters, and it detracts from the fact that we’re a nation that needs to and should be operating as one, collectively,’ she says. …

“The show has averaged about 195,000 viewers per episode, a solid number for a small network like TVO, says [John Ferri, an executive of TVO, the television network that airs the show,] and it has been optioned to the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and South Africa. The show’s creators are also shopping it to the United States, given all the divisions that have grown amid the pandemic. …

“[Johnston] sees potential even in the explosive political environment of the U.S. ‘It’s easy to sit behind a Twitter account or stand up in a legislature,’ he says. ‘But if you agree to go on a journey with another human being, I just think in general people are going to listen to each other.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Le Lac St Jean.
Jean-Daniel Bouchard (left) in a 2011
Nutcracker. Bouchard now divides his time between ballet and his family’s farm.

I like reading about independently minded people who make surprising decisions that are perfect for them. In this story from Canada, a successful ballet dancer realized during the pandemic that keeping his family farm going is just as important to him as ballet.

CBC has the story. “A farmer in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec is striking a fine, if unusual, balance: running his family dairy farm by day and working as a classical ballet dancer by night.

“Jean-Daniel Bouchard started dancing before he turned four, and after high school he decided to try to make a career of it. His dancing took him to Banff, Alberta, British Columbia, Toronto and Montreal. In all, Bouchard spent almost nine years more or less constantly on tour. …

“But eventually, his rural Quebec upbringing as a sixth-generation farmer in St-Bruno started to call him home.

Map: Wikimedia Commons
St-Bruno, Quebec.

“Bouchard told Quebec AM that he was looking for more stability, to settle down, and his two older brothers were not especially interested in taking over the farm.

‘I thought it would be really sad to lose this family treasure,’ he said. ‘So I thought I could do both — I could come back here, start a company and dance, and do the farming with my dad.’

“Bouchard said although his twin passions may seem like something of a contradiction — farming can be gruelling physical labour and involves plenty of financial mathematics, versus an art form that depends on imagination and creativity — they help him find balance.

” ‘I think this is the perfect match for life,’ he said. ‘You have more stable work and then you can let go of the stress with dance.’

“Plus, there are physical benefits. Bouchard said farm work makes him stronger, which helps with his dancing, whereas the repetitive movements and stretching he uses for ballet help him prevent injury in the barn.

“With theatres closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bouchard is both taking and teaching virtual dance classes. …

” ‘We can’t wait for the studios to open again so we can get back into a full dance ballet class, and to be able to move from a space in the studio to the other end,’ he said. …

“Bouchard said he sometimes misses touring and will dream he’s off dancing somewhere else, but he’s happy with the life he chose as both a farmer and a dancer. … ‘The point should be to be happy,’ he said.”

More at CBC, here. I can’t help wondering how Bouchard will manage when his father is no longer able to work. Somehow, I’m confident he’ll figure it out.

Video by Romy Boutin St-Pierre

Read Full Post »

Photo: Christian Kuntz
After Gurdeep Pandher
became a Canadian citizen in 2011, he traveled across the country, dancing bhangra with people of all faiths and finally settling in the Yukon because it reminded him most of his village in Punjab.

I liked today’s story about bringing joy through dance. I especially liked learning about research showing that differences drop away when people move in unison.

Sara Miller Llana writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “He has led firefighters and police officers to the rhythms of bhangra – a centuries-old dance that hails from the farming fields of Punjab. He has danced in front of Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa and amid crashing waves of the country’s Pacific Coast.

“But these days, Gurdeep Pandher has more fans than he ever has – by posting videos of himself dancing in the snow-covered forest behind his cabin near Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada’s northwesternmost territory.

“At this time of year, it’s not until about 11 a.m. that the sun comes out, filtering through the trees and drawing him outdoors. ‘It looks so beautiful, to me it looks just like magic,’ he says. ‘I do feel like I live in a winter wonderland.’

“On the winter solstice last month, in a bright blue sweater, an orange turban, and brown snow boots, Mr. Pandher posted a new video of himself doing what he calls a ‘happy dance’: arms raising to the sky, knees as high as they go, and the broadest of smiles. …

“Bhangra began as a farmer’s dance in Punjab to celebrate a good harvest, but it’s found its way across the globe, from trendy DJ fusions to entertainment on basketball courts of North America. Mr. Pandher has been dancing it since he was a child, and he says there’s no surprise to him that it’s caught on – for its upbeat sounds and its core value of joy.

‘If you’re dancing bhangra, and you are not happy, that is not bhangra, even if you are doing all the moves perfectly,’ he says.

“That’s why he believes his videos, one after the other, keep going viral during the pandemic, when there is so much darkness and heaviness.

“ ‘There’s a Punjabi saying that when there’s a lot of darkness, we value brightness more. And I’ve noticed that, a lot of the sort of people who never cared about watching my videos before, like lawyers, or politicians, or diplomats, are sending me messages,’ he says.

“ ‘Before maybe they didn’t feel like something light was professional, or important, but now in these difficult times they realize the importance of someone dancing to create happiness, someone who’s preaching that kindness is important, what our ancestors from centuries have been preaching.’

“He’s not the only one feeling a new buzz around bhangra. Harshjot Singh, who founded Power Bhangra with his wife in Montreal, is these days offering popular bhangra fitness classes over Zoom. It’s a physical workout, but he says it’s also the culture of bhangra that he believes keeps his students – who span Canada and even North America – signing up. ‘You have to smile, it’s just the rule of the dance. And as students learn about it, slowly and steadily, it just comes naturally.’ …

“Peter Lovatt, the author of new book The Dance Cure, says that dancing, unlike just plain fitness, has four key benefits in the realms of social, thinking, emotions, and the physical – which, fittingly, spell STEP.

“All of those areas are suffering during the pandemic, and everyone benefits from things like physical activity or disconnecting from the Internet. But there is something especially compelling about the synchrony of dance in today’s climate. ‘When people dance in synchrony, it increases how much they like each other,’ Dr. Lovatt says.”

More at the Christian Science Journal, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Laura Cluthé
The Christian Science Monitor says the 1,250-foot Superstack in Sudbury, Ontario, is “a symbol of the city’s gritty past” but is being replaced by two smaller, cleaner stacks.

Sometimes the worst offenders against the public good are the first to test a new course. As today’s story shows, it does help if they get a nudge from government regulation.

Sara Miller Llana reports at the Christian Science Monitor about a big polluter in a Canadian mining town that’s decided to cooperate with greening efforts.

“When the Superstack was constructed in 1972, it was the tallest structure in Canada – and the tallest smokestack in the world. At 1,250 feet, it’s visible from every vantage point in the area [and] has long stood as a reminder of the environmental devastation that mining wrought here. But this year the chimney is being fully decommissioned. …

“Whether or not the structure remains a fixture on the skyline when it’s taken out of operation, it tells a powerful tale of renewal. The stack was built as part of an industrial complex that denuded the land here of any kind of vegetation, leaving blackened rocks and lakes without fish. The landscape drew comparisons to moonscapes and barren Martian worlds. At one time the smelters in Sudbury were the largest point source of sulfur dioxide in the world.

“It got so bad that scientists, politicians, industry officials, and the community finally came together to halt the pollution, replant the trees, and restock the lakes. It has been 40 years of toil and triumph, and the story is not over yet. But today Sudbury enjoys some of the cleanest air quality in Ontario. Residents swim and fish in the 330 lakes inside the city’s boundaries.

And those here say the community of 165,000, at the gateway of northern Ontario, offers a lesson in how to break the cycle of conflict that the current climate crisis often creates, pitting industry against the environment. …

“Says David Pearson, an earth scientist and driving force in turning around Sudbury, ‘When one speaks of the Sudbury story, [it] somehow seems local and isolated, and it’s not local and isolated. It’s an example of what we need to modify in order to be able to live alongside a thriving environment.’ …

“Dr. Pearson, who arrived from a coal mining town in northern England, remembers distinctly how bad the air smelled one day in 1969. … ‘I parked in the parking lot, and I had to run in order to be able to hold my breath long enough to get into a building because the smell of the sulfur dioxide was so powerful even in my car. … I had never experienced anything nearly as penetrating a pollution as this.’

“For a child in Sudbury back then, fun didn’t involve climbing trees or playing hide-and-seek in the forest. Young people like Dave Courtemanche, who went on to become mayor, clambered over rocks. There was no greenery to be found in his neighborhood or at his school. …

“On a hillside, he and classmates carved out an acre of land and limed and fertilized it. As tufts of grass began to poke through, he recalls a feeling that might be comparable to children of the tropics seeing their first snowflakes. ‘Looking up and seeing a green patch emerging from the dead earth was nothing short of a miracle,’ he says. … Mr. Courtemanche was unwittingly among the first volunteers in one of the largest regreening efforts in Canadian history. …

“Laurentian University was established in 1960. ‘Nobody was going to say anything against the company, essentially,’ says Peter Beckett, an ecologist at the university and chair of the city’s advisory panel on regreening. ‘And so the university was kind of the first independent thing in the town, and people started asking questions: “Can one do anything about the landscape?” ‘ … 

“Dr. Beckett and Graeme Spiers, another scientist from Laurentian University, … have traveled the world [with a roadshow] called ‘Sudbury, 40+ Years of Healing.’ 

“None of this would have been possible without tough regulations, though. When the Superstack was built, mining’s motto for the era was ‘Dilution is the solution to pollution.’ New technology and evolving processes helped reduce emissions in Greater Sudbury, but the Superstack dispersed them further afield, to neighboring provinces, and as far as the United States and Greenland. …

“The provincial government developed the Countdown Acid Rain program, which forced Inco and other major polluters in 1985 to cut emissions by more than 60% in under a decade. The companies balked at first.”

Read how they eventually not only got on board but decided to do more than required, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: CNN
A man walking through a Vancouver tent city in March. According to CNN, “Researchers in a new study found that homeless people who received direct cash transfers were able to find stable housing faster.”

Some years ago I asked a woman who headed an excellent Rhode Island nonprofit for housing whether she gave money to panhandlers. She said she did not, and I thought I shouldn’t either. But Mother Teresa had said to smile at people in need. I found I could manage that.

The belief that giving money leads panhandlers to buy drugs has long been the common wisdom. But a new study from Canada suggests it’s wrong.

Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman reports at CNN, “You’ve heard this refrain before — giving money to homeless people is not the best way to help them because it might be squandered, or spent on harmful habits.

“But a new Canadian study makes a powerful case to the contrary. The study, dubbed ‘The New Leaf Project,’ is an initiative of Foundations for Social Change, a charitable organization based in Vancouver, in partnership with the University of British Columbia.

“Researchers gave 50 recently homeless people a lump sum of 7,500 Canadian dollars (nearly $5,700). They followed the cash recipients’ life over 12-18 months and compared their outcomes to that of a control group who didn’t receive the payment. The preliminary findings, which will be peer-reviewed next year, show that those who received cash were able to find stable housing faster, on average. By comparison, those who didn’t receive cash lagged about 12 months behind in securing more permanent housing.

“People who received cash were able to access the food they needed to live faster. Nearly 70% [maintained] greater food security throughout the year.

The recipients spent more on food, clothing and rent, while there was a 39% decrease in spending on goods like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. …

“Said Claire Williams, the CEO and co-founder of Foundations for Social Change, ‘We really think it’s important to start testing meaningful risk-taking in the name of social change.’ …

“The 115 participants in the randomized controlled trial were between the ages of 19 and 64, and they had been homeless for an average of 6 months. Participants were screened for a low risk of mental health challenges and substance abuse. Funding for the initiative came from a grant from the Canadian federal government, and from donors and foundations in the country.

” ‘One of the things that was most striking is that most people who received the cash knew immediately what they wanted to do with that money, and that just flies in the face of stereotypes,’ Williams told CNN.

“For example, she explained some cash recipients knew they wanted to use the money to move into housing, or invest in transportation — getting a bike, or taking their cars to the repair shop to be able to keep their jobs. Others wanted to purchase computers. A number of them wanted to start their own small businesses. …

“Direct cash transfers are not ‘a silver bullet for homelessness in general,’ and the program focused on ‘a higher functioning subset of the homeless population,’ Williams said, but she believes the research shows that providing meaningful support to folks who have recently become homeless decreases the likelihood they will become entrenched. …

“The study shows there are advantages for the taxpayer, too. According to the research, reducing the number of nights spent in shelters by the 50 study participants who received cash saved approximately 8,100 Canadian dollars per person per year, or about 405,000 Canadian dollars over one year for all 50 participants.”

More details at CNN, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Allison Stocks
Recent carbon dating has revealed that the oldest clam garden known to science was built about 3,500 years ago,” says the Guardian. It’s in Canada’s Vancouver area.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy the verbal style some indigenous people use when speaking of traditional ways or of ancestors. If it is not disrespectful to say so, it transports me to a place in the imagination where wizards and Hobbits reside — different from my own place in a way that feels both magical and close to Nature.

In Vancouver, Adrienne Matei writes for the Guardian, “On winter nights for the past six years, a group of 20 people have rustled through dark, coniferous woods to emerge on a Canadian beach at the lowest possible tide, illuminated by a correspondingly full moon.

“An elder offers a greeting to the place and a prayer, then the team of researchers, volunteers, and First Nations ‘knowledge holders’ lights a warming fire and begins its work. At sites outlined by stones placed hundreds or even thousands of years ago, some begin raking, or ‘fluffing,’ the top three inches of the beach, loosening rocks and mud — and a remarkable number of old clam shells.

“When the tide comes back in, it will flush out any rotting organic matter, changing ‘some places that are compact and smelly into a good clam beach again.’ says Skye Augustine, a member of the Stz’uminus First Nation.

“This spot was once a clam garden, an ancient indigenous form of mariculture that coastal First Nations people have used for millennia. It is estimated that they once numbered in the thousands along the Pacific north-western coast, though ruins are all that’s left of most. In collaboration with the W̱SÁNEĆ and Hul’q’umi’num nations, Augustine has spearheaded the first formal clam garden rehabilitations at two sites in the Gulf Islands, in British Columbia, with dozens more to follow.

‘My elders articulated to me that if we want to bring our beaches back to life again, we need to bring people back on to them to care for them as they have been cared for in the past.

” ‘That became my inspiration for my education and career,’ she says. ‘How do we make this clam garden thing happen?’

“For millennia pre-colonization, clam gardens epitomized sustainable food security for Pacific north-western coastal nations from northern Washington to south-eastern Alaska. Modern studies have found that clam gardens have historically been up to 300% more productive than unmodified beaches, that their clams grew larger and faster than average, and that the clams did not exhibit any signs of resource stress from over-harvesting.

“To create the beaches, indigenous people built rock walls parallel to a beach’s low tide line, which would trap sediment and flatten the slope of the shore. With continuing tending, such as tilling to improve aeration and the removal of predators like sea stars, these gardens increase or create habitat for butter, littleneck, and horse clams, as well as crabs, chitons, seaweeds, and other useful species.

“Recent carbon dating has revealed that the oldest clam garden known to science was built about 3,500 years ago. …

“ ‘It has always been our duty to be the stewards of the land,’ says group member Nicole Norris, a knowledge holder for the Hul’q’umi’num and an aquaculture specialist. ‘It is the exact same land my ancestors walked. … From the work that we’ve done, we’ve seen the greater ecosystem return – some of the people who live in the local communities have talked about the return of certain birds and plants, and that’s been heartwarming,’ she says.

“In addition to providing food, clam gardens have historically provided the opportunity for ‘grandparents, aunties, and uncles to spend time at the beach with their grandchildren and younger generations, not only teaching about how to tend the environment … but sharing stories, language, spiritual ties to the place,’ says Melissa Poe, who specializes in the social and cultural dimensions of ecosystems at the University of Washington.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Jack Plant
A spirit bear in British Columbia. “A recent study revealed that the white bear is rarer and more vulnerable than previously thought.” says the
Guardian.

When my grandchildren were old enough for a story but young enough for “The Three Bears,” I often created variations on demand. The youngest granddaughter in particular had a range of complicated story lines she wanted to hear, in which Baby Bear had her name and an older brother bear had her brother’s name.

Because almost everyone likes stories about bears, I’m telling three today. All true.

Alexandra Harvey reported the first story for the Guardian. “When Marven Robinson was a kid, any mention of spirit bears was met with hushed dismissal from the elders in his community, the Gitga’at First Nation of Hartley Bay, British Columbia. Since the 19th century, Indigenous peoples in the area learned to keep the bears with ghostly coats a secret to protect them from fur traders.

“As the ancient legend goes, the Wee’get (meaning the ‘raven,’ known as the creator of the world) turned every 10th black bear white to remind people of the pristine conditions of the Ice Age.

“Spirit bears are white-coated black bears that inherit their pale fur from a rare recessive gene. Known as moksgm’ol, meaning ‘white bear, spirit bears are sacred to the Indigenous people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest. …

“A recent collaborative study by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais and Gitga’at First Nations and academic researchers has revealed that the white bear is rarer and more vulnerable than previously thought.

“Researchers spent eight years combing 18,000sq km of the rainforest, placing lures on barbed wire to collect hair samples from black and spirit bears and map out the presence of the white bear gene. … The study concluded the gene that causes spirit bears is up to 50% rarer than previously thought. Urgently, about half of spirit bear hotspots fall outside of British Columbia protected areas, making their habitats vulnerable to logging, mining and drilling projects.

“Spirit bears have long been present in First Nations traditional song, dance, and storytelling. … Before he saw a spirit bear for himself, Douglas Neasloss, co-author of the study and resource stewardship director for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation, doubted they even existed. When he was 17, he went in search of spirit bears, half in jest, with some friends.

‘I just thought they were pulling my leg,’ Neasloss said. …

“Sure enough, as he was walking through the forest, he saw one of the magical white bears making its way toward him, sun shining through the trees, salmon hanging out of its mouth. From that moment on, he knew they had to be protected. …

Research by University of Victoria scientists found, because of their white color, spirit bears have a unique advantage over black bears when catching salmon since they blend into the daylight. Spirit bears’ propensity for catching salmon helps explain their resilience despite being so rare, says Christina Service, wildlife biologist for Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation Stewardship Authority and lead author on the spirit bear study.

“Worryingly, climate change is wiping away salmon stocks, posing a big threat to bears’ food supply. British Columbia’s Pacific salmon populations have declined by over 80% since the 1990s. Neasloss says 2020 has been the worst year yet.

“Equipped with new information about the vulnerability of spirit bears, the question now is how best to protect them. For Neasloss and many others who know the bears intimately, the answer is obvious: Leave it up to the First Nations, the original stewards of the land. … Neasloss is involved in efforts to create a new land designation for the rainforest called an Indigenous Protected Area, a conservation strategy that is gaining traction across Canada. …

“ ‘For the last 150 years, we’ve been on the outside looking in,’ Neasloss says. ‘Drawing a line on the map does not protect an area. The people do.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

For the second of my three bear stories, I offer one from CNN, where Anna Chernova and Lianne Kolirin wrote, “The perfectly preserved remains of an Ice Age cave bear have been discovered in the Russian Arctic — the first example of the species ever to be found with soft tissues intact. The astonishing find was made by reindeer herders on the Lyakhovsky Islands, which are part of the New Siberian islands archipelago in Russia’s Far North.”

Interesting that indigenous people are involved in that story, too, and that they’re sharing their information with nonindigenous scientists.

There are no indigenous people involved in my third story, as far as I know. According to Travis Anderson at the Boston Globe, a bear has raided a Covid food pantry at a Westhampton, Massachusetts, church. Quoting the church’s website, he writes, “This week the bears decided that they had more need of the food bank than we did, so we’ve had to temporarily disband services.”

The church is looking for a new site.

Read Full Post »

1688

Photos: Niijang Xyaalas Productions
Actor Tyler York performing in
SGaawaay K’uuna. Actors had to learn a vanishing language in order to understand their lines in this film about one of Canada’s First Nations.

We’ve had a number of posts about vanishing languages, languages spoken by few people because younger generations are choosing to (or be forced to) speak a language used more widely. Nowadays it’s usually English that leads to not only the loss of a native language but the way of life it represents. As Brian Friel said in his play Translations, about the Irish language and culture, “it can happen that a civilization can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of fact.”

Dalya Alberge wrote in March at the Guardian about a new film shot in a disappearing language.

“Plenty of films are somewhat incomprehensible, but a forthcoming movie is in a language that only about 20 people in the world can speak fluently. With subtitles, audiences will be able to understand a feature film titled SGaawaay K’uuna, translated as Edge of the Knife. …

“It is in two dialects of the highly endangered Haida language, the ancestral tongue of the Haida people of British Columbia. It is unrelated to any other language, and actors had to learn it to understand their lines.

“The film is playing an important role in preserving the language, its director Gwaai Edenshaw said. He told the Guardian:

‘I know that, if our language is this far gone, statistically it’s supposed to be over. But that’s not something that we’re willing to accept.’

“The Haida are an Indigenous First Nations community whose traditional territory is Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands), an archipelago of forested islands off the west coast of Canada.

“Edenshaw said most of the fluent Haida speakers were in his Haida Gwaii homeland. … He added that the community generally lives off the sea and makes dugout canoes and houses from local red cedars. Noting that their numbers were ravaged by smallpox and other diseases in the 19th century, he said a former population of tens of thousands has dwindled to a few thousand today. …

“More than 70 local people worked on the production, with Haida speakers taking incidental roles, weavers creating the costumes and other craftspeople making props. … It is part of a wider push to preserve the Haida language, including a new dictionary and recordings of local voices. …

“2019 is Unesco’s Year of Indigenous Languages, ‘to preserve, support and promote’ them worldwide. Mark Turin, associate professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia and a specialist in endangered languages, told the Guardian that about half of up to 7,100 languages worldwide were ‘severely endangered’ and would likely cease to be used as everyday vernaculars by the end of this century unless action is taken. …

“He pointed to recent research that shows a correlation between indigenous language sustainability and decreased youth suicide within indigenous communities: ‘Speaking your indigenous language [has] public health implications.

” ‘This film – which I’ve watched and loved – has done something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, using a feature movie as a process of language revitalisation.’

More here.

Actors in a film based on a legend of the Haida people of British Columbia had to learn the Haida language to understand their lines. The movie has subtitles.

1688-1

Read Full Post »

refugee-chocolate-hiring-20190216

Photo: Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press
A former refugee who founded the Nova Scotia chocolate company Peace by Chocolate has committed to hiring 50 refugees by 2022 and to mentor 10 refugee-run start-ups over the next few years.

Refugees that a country takes in are often the most grateful people on the planet. Most are highly motivated to succeed and not be a burden. Some start their own businesses, and then, as soon as they get established, look for ways to give back to others.

The Canadian Press reports on one example. “A one-time Syrian refugee who founded a thriving Nova Scotia chocolate company has announced plans to hire and mentor other refugees. Peace by Chocolate of Antigonish, N.S., has committed to hiring 50 refugees by 2022, and to mentor 10 refugee-run start-ups over the next few years.

“The now-famous company was founded by the Hadhad family, who fled their home in war-torn Damascus in 2012. They arrived in Nova Scotia with next to nothing in 2016. …

“Tareq Hadhad, CEO of the company, said Peace by Chocolate aims to give back to the country that welcomed his family when so many nations were closing their borders to the Syrian plight. Now he plans to expand on that vision by giving back to other refugees looking to start new lives — as Canadians did for his family when they needed it most. …

“Hadhad said in an interview, ‘Being a refugee is not a choice, it’s not a decision, it’s not a life goal. These people are fleeing their homes because of war, because of persecution.’ …

“Hadhad’s father, Assam, ran a chocolate business in Damascus for decades but it was destroyed in a 2012 bombing.”

Another article, by Fadila Chater at the National Post, notes that the “chocolate company founded by Syrian refugees has produced its first chocolate bar — and given it an Indigenous name. [Its] new milk chocolate and hazelnut bar is to be called Wantaqo’ti (pronounced Wan-tahk-oo-di), the Mi’kmaq word for peace. …

“Founder Tareq Hadhad said via email … it is his company’s mission to translate the family’s concept of peace to all Canadians, starting with the Mi’kmaq of his home province. … Other versions of the bar will be sold using the Arabic, French and Mandarin words for peace.

‘Peace is beautiful in every language,’ Hadhad said. …

“ ‘When we came here as newcomers to this country, we really wanted to support this country to grow and prosper,’ he said.”

The Peace by Chocolate bars are available online, here.

Read more at the National Post, here and at the Canadian Press, here.

Read Full Post »

800x-1

Photo: Mark Sommerfeld for Bloomberg Businessweek
For Deepa Chaudhary and Vikram Rangnekar, seen here with their younger son,  it is now Canada that is the Land of Opportunity, not the USA.

Should we be worried that skilled foreigners are now hesitating to stay in the USA? I think so. But our loss is Canada’s gain.

At Bloomberg Businessweek, Karen Weise and Saritha Rai report, “Vikram Rangnekar grew up in Mumbai, studied computer science at the University of Delaware, and by the waning days of the Obama administration had been working in Silicon Valley for almost six years. …

“Rangnekar received his H-1B in 2010, but his history with employment visas dates to 2005, when he graduated from the University of Delaware and wanted to start a company with two of his former classmates. The U.S. didn’t have an entrepreneur visa, so they moved to Singapore, returning four years later to present their product — Socialwok, a pre-Slack social platform for professional collaboration — to investors at the TechCrunch50 startup conference in San Francisco. They didn’t attract new cash, but all three walked away with the next best thing: a promising job offer. …

“As a young man with a global sensibility and an in-demand set of skills, Rangnekar had no reason to let the uncertainty of a green card application define his family’s life. In the early fall of 2016, he, his wife, and their two young boys made the move north, to Canada.

“Their first few months in Toronto were mostly spent settling in and scouting out decent tacos. [Then in mid-November 2016], Rangnekar’s inbox blew up with messages from friends and colleagues in the U.S. on H-1Bs asking for advice on how to migrate, Rather than deal with each one individually, he registered a website, MOVNorth.com. … In its first two days online last July, MOVNorth.com got 20,000 views. …

“When he and Chaudhary [his wife] decided to move, Rangnekar had an idea for a startup aimed at helping developers use advanced programming interfaces, or APIs, to build apps, but neither of them had a job offer. Still, for Canada at least, they were desirable applicants. …

“At first, after Rangnekar started MOV North, ‘People’s questions were like, “Tell us about Canada,” ‘ he says. ‘That was really it.’ They wanted to know the basics—jobs, schools, snow. Over time, as people began seriously considering a move, they asked detailed questions about the immigration process. ‘I was like one of them on the other side,’ he says. Topics of interest now range from how to get fingerprinted for the FBI background check Canada requires to tips for getting letters from former employers detailing work experience. …

“In MOV North’s early days, Rangnekar tended to the site at night after working on his startup all day. But as the volume of questions coming in increased, so did the amount of time the site demanded. People would email to thank him — then ask for more help. ‘That motivated me because it tells you you’re kinda doing something right,’ he says. ‘Very few people wrote to me about my APIs.’ He began wondering if MOV North could became his primary business.” Now people pay $99 a month to participate in the site’s valuable forum.

Read more at Bloomberg, here.

Read Full Post »

indigenous-grocery-language

Photo: CBC News
Canadian grocery stores and art galleries are starting to include indigenous languages on their labels. North West Company, which has grocery stores in more than 120 communities across northern Canada, embraced the idea after it was piloted by a 2015 school project. Snapping QR codes lets you hear word pronunciation, too.

Yesterday, for the first time, Native American women were elected to Congress: in Kansas, a Ho-Chunk, and in New Mexico, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. Of course, it’s about time, but it also seems to be part of a trend bringing more visibility to indigenous people. Very belated, but good.

Canada is actually farther along in trying to address and rectify transgressions against First Nations. The following story covers one aspect of that effort.

Judith H. Dobrzynski writes at the Art Newspaper, “Canada Day, 1 July, [ushered] in a new era for the presentation of Modern and contemporary Canadian art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. The 13,000 sq ft J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art — which added the ‘Indigenous’ to its name last year when the museum established a Department of Canadian and Indigenous Art — [has] reimagined galleries that give primacy to First Nations and Inuit art for the first time.

“In each McLean gallery, ‘contemporary indigenous art starts the conversation with Canadian art.’ says Wanda Nanibush, who became the AGO’s first curator of indigenous art in 2016. Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik, the AGO’s curator of Canadian art, have designed the centre’s display of 75 works around six themes: origins, self, land, water, transformations and ‘indigenous2indigenous.’ …

“Works by Canadian artists such as Emily Carr and Florence Carlyle are hung in dialogue with works by indigenous artists including Carl Beam and Rebecca Belmore … For instance, in the ‘self’ gallery, Belmore’s ‘Rising to the Occasion’ (1987-91), a dress that the Anishinaabe-kwe artist wore in a performance responding to a royal visit to Ontario, is paired with Joanne Tod’s painting ‘Chapeau Entaillé’ (1989) of a woman in a similar dress. … Labels in the McLean Centre are now written in indigenous languages (either the local Anishinaabemowin language or Inuktitut), as well as English and French.”

More at the Art Newspaper, here.

Art: Rebecca Belmore
Belmore’s “Rising to the Occasion” (1987-91) is a dress that the Anishinaabe-kwe artist wore in a performance responding to a royal visit to Ontario. It was recently displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

303_mu_jd_ago_01_rebecca_belmore

Read Full Post »

winnipeg-indigenous-accord-signing

Photo: Walther Bernal/CBC
Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation Chief Lance Roulette signed Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord in June. The new treaty addresses tribal representation in numerous aspects of life.

The “truth and reconciliation” initiatives in South Africa after Nelson Mandela was released from jail set a kind of standard for healing old wounds — or at least for moving on. The idea was that nations must bring to the light of day all the bad things that were done and give everyone a chance to express their pain. After that, acceptance and reconciliation can begin.

A similar process is happening in Canada to heal the injustices done to tribes. One example is in Winnipeg, where the lung association, an arts organization, and many others are working to make amends for the past and create a better future.

Aidan Geary writes at CBC News, “A Manitoba association created by the agency that once ran segregated ‘Indian hospitals’ in the province is among more than 40 new signatories to Winnipeg’s Indigenous accord. …

“The Lung Association was among dozens of Winnipeg-based groups that added their names to the city’s year-old Indigenous Accord [in June]. Other groups include the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, CentrePort Canada, Investors Group, the Manitoba Museum and the Manitoba College of Social Workers.

“The accord was first signed by more than 80 groups [in March 2017]. Signing on means committing to an ongoing responsibility to reconciliation, the city says. Signatories are required to report yearly on the success of their efforts and their future goals.

“For the Lung Association, it also means addressing a legacy of segregation, substandard care and allegations of mistreatment at the hands of tuberculosis doctors from Indigenous patients, [Neil Johnston, president of the Manitoba Lung Association] said.

” ‘We want to make sure that that … never happens again, and we want to help in the healing of people who have survived that care but also the families and make up for the intergenerational trauma that occurred,’ he said. …

“So far, Johnston said its goals include examining and establishing the association’s own history, and speaking to people who experienced the hospitals themselves. From there, the association will work with Indigenous community members to form a plan for reconciliation and improved health outcomes. …

“Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged more organizations to sign on, calling the accord an ‘aspirational document’ and an ongoing effort. … ‘We have created a website in which organizations can submit their outcomes on an annual basis and report on what they’re going to work on, and that’s shared publicly so there can be that learning within the community.’ …

“Carol Phillips, executive director of the Winnipeg Arts Council — which signed on in the first year of the accord — said her organization will launch a new Indigenous arts leadership fellowship program this fall, placing two Indigenous fellows into arts organizations to develop management and governance skills.

“She said Indigenous people are underrepresented in leadership positions in arts groups across the country, with the exception of Indigenous-focused arts organizations. She said she’s seen improvement on that front, but not enough.

” ‘There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be Indigenous arts leaders in any arts organization, and that’s ultimately what we want to see happen,’ she said.

“The WAC will also place an Indigenous artist-in-residence in the city’s Indigenous Relations department, she said.

“Values around reconciliation have long been a part of the arts council’s work, she said. But she said it’s important to demonstrate those values and make them clear to the community.

” ‘The city obviously wants an overt demonstration of commitment, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, so we participated,’ she said.

” ‘The thing is, here we are still talking about the sort of exceptionalism of this situation. Our goal is that this is just how things are, and it’s not an exception — it’s how the arts community functions.’ ”

More at CBC, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Caiaimage/Robert Daly
Canadian doctors who want less pay think the money would be better spent elsewhere.

At first blush, it seems counterintuitive that doctors would reject more money, but like the Oklahoma teachers who went on strike after getting a raise, they were concerned about the priorities of the whole system.

Catherine Clifford reports at CNBC, “In Canada, more than 500 doctors and residents, as well as over 150 medical students, have signed a public letter protesting their own pay raises.

” ‘We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations,’ the letter says.

“The group say they are offended that they would receive raises when nurses and patients are struggling.

” ‘These increases are all the more shocking because our nurses, clerks and other professionals face very difficult working conditions, while our patients live with the lack of access to required services because of the drastic cuts in recent years and the centralization of power in the Ministry of Health,’ reads the letter, which was published February 25. …

“Canada has a public health system which provides ‘universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay,’ the government’s website says.

“The 213 general practitioners, 184 specialists, 149 resident medical doctors and 162 medical students … ‘believe that there is a way to redistribute the resources of the Quebec health system to promote the health of the population and meet the needs of patients without pushing workers to the end,’ the letter says.

” ‘We, Quebec doctors, are asking that the salary increases granted to physicians be canceled and that the resources of the system be better distributed for the good of the health care workers and to provide health services worthy to the people of Quebec.’ …

“On February 1, the [Médecins Québécois pour le Régime Public] published a letter denouncing working conditions of nurses. ‘The nurses are exhausted by a heavy workload. They argue that the chronic lack of staff and the fatigue caused by repeated overtime, sometimes mandatory, for lack of replacement of the team, have an impact on the safety of patient care,.’ ”

More here, at CNBC. I’m impressed by how well these doctors appreciate that overworking nurses and staff can interfere with their own jobs — and with patient outcomes.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: