So, I woke up on this silver-bright Haida Gwaii spring morning with something nagging away at me. You know, that simmering kind of frustration that is likely to blow the top off something by noon, if you don’t knuckle down and figure out where it’s coming from. Anger it is, accompanied by a rising tide of that old feeling of powerlessness. Bad recipe. Not good.
So far, this mood is drifting like a cloud above my head and lurking around my heart in a vague form. Not directed clearly, nor formed up in words. No inner keys, no rationales, no arguments … yet. And I can feel it, this boatload is a in a tempest pushing a great big bow wave ahead of it.
So what is it about, I ask myself. Where is this frustration coming from? Where are my energies directed?
In these days on Haida Gwaii, we are focussed and involved in all the issues raised by the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposals and the federal government’s environmental review panel. As the months of public testimony grind on, the flaws in the process become more and more gratingly apparent.
There is something inherently disturbing in the Enbridge Joint Panel Review process, something cracked, off-key, not holding together. That’s the gut feeling I get, having been at all the oral evidence hearings on Haida Gwaii, listened to web casts from other communities and read some of the transcripts. And the issues that are bothering me concern the fundamental parameters I hold about fairness, social justice, civil rights and respect.
You know, the big picture stuff, that lots of Canadians feel they own—the privilege of standing on premium turf compared to the rest of the world—upholders of peace and justice, freedom of thought and word, purveyors of truth and reconciliation.
Not so much anymore. Not at all anymore.
I fear we are much reduced these days. As often reported in the press, our federal government is out there earning big points in the leagues of political tyranny, carbon wastrels and petro states. The insidious tendrils of colonialism have never left our country, it is true, but a lot of us had hopes that we were making progress as human beings toward a renewed vision of all that Canada represents.
And I am distressed that we stand to loose so deeply of those values which we have worked for, fought for, dreamed of, imagined and believed in.
I am not at all sure that the rest of Canada knows what’s going on out here across the north and along the Pacific coast. Has Joe Oliver convinced them that everyone who says NO to pipelines and tankers is a radical, foreign-funded, hippie environmentalist? (Well, to tell the truth I’ve been there, done that.) Or worse, do some people think we on the west coast are just a bunch of lotus-eaters fighting about some vague bundle of NIMBY issues?
I am not an expert in law, or politics or quasi-judicial proceedings, so I can’t quite put my finger on what “it” is that is so disturbing, so off-kilter, so aggressively un-democratic about the JPR hearings. Whatever “it” is makes me feel belittled, powerless, and downright angry.
Once the JPR has concluded its sessions, and the outcomes wend their way through the courts, as is expected, I hope that one day we will know more and can document clearly what went wrong here.
And when we do, I trust we will still be who we believe we are.
It will take deliberate calm, a tenacious dignity, and a lot of work together to achieve that goal, in the midst of all these flawed and broken pieces of civil process.
Here is one story to help along the way. It is from the Smithers Joint Review Panel hearings last week, with thanks to Tyler McCreary who wrote in his news blog about the parts that were not included in the transcripts.
A woman named Monica Howard wanted to stand and sing the national anthem “O Canada” as part of her oral testimony. The panel chair, Sheila Leggett, told her she could sing the national anthem some other time, and to please sit down.
So Monica Howard sat down. She said she had been watching a hockey game and when they played the national anthem that was when she realized that “O Canada” said it all for her as to what the Hearings were about.
So she read out the words of the national anthem, because she didn’t feel comfortable singing them while seated.
“I find it amazing. But that is why all these people have come to give their words. We are standing on guard for our country, for our land, for our people. If we do not do it, nobody will do it for us. So that’s why I am here.
I would have rather sung it, but it’s okay,” she said.
And when she was finished her testimony, the audience applauded. And then, the whole hall stood up together and they sang, “O Canada.”