Silence and C-24

A&H"Our Government" has been strangely silent in responding to the case of Mohamed Fahmy, a reporter who holds dual Egyptian and Canadian citizenship. Fahmy was recently sentenced to seven years in jail for his balanced reporting of Egypt's military crackdown on the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian court, infamous for it's mass execution sentencing of protesters, accused Fahmy of "false reporting" and of engaging in terrorist activities by disagreeing with the military government's position.

Now, "Our Government's" silence can be easily explained. First, Fahmy isn't from a major ethnic voting block currently supporting "Our Government". Secondly, Fahmy would bring focus on the more contentious aspects of Bill C-24, the new "Citizenship" Act. He is a perfect example of what would happen to a person holding dual citizenship who has been accused of "terrorist acts", in this case, investigative reporting. If "Our Government" begins to protest too loudly, or "bullhorn diplomacy" as John Baird, an expert in bullhorn dialogue, describes it, it could bring a sharp focus on the more contentious portions of Bill C-24. Under this new 'Citizenship Act", with this "terrorist" conviction, Fahmy could be stripped of his Canadian citizenship. 

FahmyIn this case, "Our Government's" silence gives consent to the Egyptian sentence, a sentence most unjust and worthy of a very loud bullhorn protest. While Paul Callandra, speaking for the silent Prime Minister, may be concerned about insulting the new military backed government in Egypt, the rest of the civilized world is not. It is time for Canada to regain it's place on the world stage as an outspoken and fearless defender of human rights, social justice and the rule of international law. It is time for "Our Government" to be changed. We don't need this silence; we need a new voice, loud and clear.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon 

Children in the Woods

Loon - Peter FergusonThis Saturday marked the passage into the first day of summer 2014, and, of course, I spent it outdoors in good company. I have the privilege every year of guiding interpretive hikes for Ontario Nature, usually for their inspiring Youth Summit in the autumn. This year I was asked to guide the members of Ontario Nature at their 83rd Annual Gathering at Geneva Park in Orillia, and the audience was chronologically a lot older.

I spent the day immersed in the wisdom of the elders – the 80ish year old birder who cycles 25km several times a week down to the Leslie Street spit claiming, "I'm not going to waste those fossil fuels – save some for the kids!" And the 80ish year old woman who showed up with her treasured paddle for a Sunday field trip by canoe through a local wetland. Oh, the Youth Council was there too, helping out as usual. Young leaders like Jayden, and Noa, and Moe – all selected as members of the Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25. But the vast majority of the group were silver-haired, moving a little more cautiously across the landscape, recalling decades of their love for nature.

My session was titled "Children in the Woods", after my favourite Barry Lopez essay of the same name. There is no age limit on wonder, or awe, or laughter, or love of a good story. We celebrated fungus and damselflies, salamanders and toads, vernal ponds and green leaves, birdsong and humansong, limestone and lichen. It was indeed a celebration of their 83 years exploring and respecting the natural world. They were the perfect example of why I continue to lead these jouneys through our landscapes and waterways.

Lopez wrote eloquently in that essay about the moving look he received from a child exploring nature with him, a look that said, "I did not know until now that I needed someone much older to confirm this, the feeling I have of life here. I can now grow older, knowing it need never be lost."

He concluded that story with the words that have become the foundation of my work in nature: "The quickest door to open in the woods for a child is the one that leads to the smallest room, by knowing the name each thing is called. The door that leads to the cathedral is marked by a hesitancy to speak at all, rather to encourage by example a sharpness of the senses. If one speaks it should only be to say, as well as one can, how wonderfully all this fits together, to indicate what a long, fierce peace can derive from this knowledge."

Amen

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon 

Two Peas in a Conservative Pod

Harper & AbbottAustralian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has declared current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be "a beacon of light for Conservative leaders in the world", much like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were for the generation of Conservative leaders before them. Abbott had the unfortunate experience of working with former pre-paleolithic Australian PM Kevin Rudd who obviously distorted his judgement. He even imagines Harper to be a "centre-right" politician. Wow! It takes a big stretch of the imagination to picture our Conservative Reform Alliance Party leader anywhere close to the centre of the Extreme Far Right, let alone the actual Centre of the political spectrum.

Abbott, whose policy direction changes so quickly that he is known as "the weathervane" of climate change discussion in Australia, seems to be a good match for Harper, whose climate change denier credentials are solid among conservative world leaders. Yes, Stephen, you are truly a beacon of light, much like the ones that used to guide ships onto the rocks so they could be plundered by the pirates of their day. And no, Tony, those severe droughts in Australia have absolutely nothing to do with accelerating climate change. Just ask Stephen.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

D-Day, and the Passing of The Torch

It is the media Anniversary of D-Day, and Juno Beach, and my stomach turns to watch Julian Fantino read platitudes in France while snubbing his veterans and their families back home in Canada. Juno BeachI have heard the stories of Juno Beach and D-Day from veterans, from Steven Spielberg, and from a proud son who visited Juno with his veteran father for the 50th Anniversary. The young who died there did so in the hopes that they were liberating the world from an evil fascism. How horrified they would have been to discover that it would be replaced by a corporate greed dictatorship that served not the peace of the world, but the insatiable appetites of the 1%. A 1% that will use whatever means necessary to maintain their power and privilege.

My father, a WW2 veteran, pilot, and POW camp survivor, made me promise to always exercise my responsibility to vote. I will not abide anything that interfers with that right, whether it be robocalls, buying of candidates, or false advertising by political parties. Any interference in the affairs of an open and honest democratic society is an insult to the honour of those who defended it with all of their youth and innocence. Don’t celebrate D-Day if you can’t walk the talk. As the old wagon masters used to say when a wheel fell off,  “Either get out and push, or get out.”

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon