Freedom versus Freedumb

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WARNING: This semi-satiric opinion piece contains descriptions of ghastly violence not suitable for young children or politically correct adults.

Freedumb" Sticker by Michaelnilson | Redbubble

Ah, remember being stirred by the dying shout from the actor Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart”  as he screamed out “FREEDOM!” from the executioner’s block?  Many people forget that the movie was a fictional account of the life of the real William Wallace. There is the reel world, and then there is the real world.

In actual historical fact, when Wallace was captured by the English, he was strangled by hanging but released while still alive. That act alone, causing bilateral vocal chord paralysis, would have rendered him unable to speak.

But then he was “emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burned before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His silent head was dipped in tar and displayed on a pike atop London Bridge.” His body parts were distributed to four towns and cities across England and Scotland. This is how King Edward I dealt with uprisings in 1305, his own style of our much more humane Emergencies Act.

After tallying the cost, damages, pollution, and desecration of our Capital City and sacred memorials by the so-called “freedom convoy”, Edward’s way may have been a more permanent solution to ending the illegal occupation and subsequent threats of a summer repeat. “Freedom” can quickly turn into “Freedumb” when in the heads, hearts and hands of far-right, racist, homophobic, anti-science, misinformation mob mentality, Q-Anon conspiracy theory cultists.

These home-grown “Freedumb” terrorists tried to appropriate our national flag as their symbol, as if their selfish and stupid, fossil fuelled occupation had anything to do with true Canadian values of freedom and the right to dissenting expression. No, I thought the Emergencies Act came in way too late and was far too gentle.

The French use of the guillotine is faster, but a return to the slower but equally permanent punishment of gibbeting would greatly deter disturbances by freedumb fanatics this summer.  Gibbeting was a punishment whereby the criminals could be left hanging in iron cages outside the entrance to the town until they starved to death and the crows and insects finished the job.

Have a safe and happy summer responsibly enjoying our hard won democracy. Let’s try our best to keep the “dumb” out of our freedoms. A little tar might help, the way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

You Take My Breath Away: Truck Traffic, Aggregates and Air Quality in Caledon

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AM PM Blog: Danger Of Diesel Exhaust And How To Protect Yourself | Diesel trucks, Sexy trucks, Diesel

On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at  the Town of Caledon regular Council Meeting, Bolton resident Joe Grogan made a delegation to Council regarding his concerns about increased truck traffic,  diesel fuel pollution, and air quality monitoring. In his presentation, titled Air Quality and Life in Caledon, Mr. Grogan requested support from the Town for “science based data which will measure the air quality here in Caledon.”

His presentation outlined the health concerns attributed to diesel emissions raised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). Mr. Grogan provided data from Lancet Oncology, 2012 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which stated that exposure to the mixture of diesel engine exhaust and particulates “should be reduced worldwide.”

Although it was a scheduled Town of Caledon Council meeting, Bolton’s Ward 5 Regional Councillor Annette Groves was not in attendance and Mr. Grogan expressed his concern: “I’m disappointed. frankly, that Councillor Groves at the moment is not available, but hopefully she will appear and make some comments.”  

Mr. Grogan asked that Council respond to his presentation in such a manner as to “make public safety and protection of the natural environment a greater priority for the Town of Caledon.”

Councillors responded with praise and positivity to Mr. Grogan’s presentation, calling it “excellent”, “well researched”, and “informative.” Area Councillor Nick deBoer made a motion, seconded by Area Councillor Lynn Kiernan reading: “That a meeting with the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks be requested at the TAPMO Conference to bring forward air quality concerns in the Town of Caledon, and to request on-going active monitoring in the areas outlined in the Presentation and that this motion and the Presentation be provided to the top ten aggregate producing municipalities in Ontario requesting support for air quality testing at the provincial level.

The motion was passed unanimously by all present with the Clerk noting that “Councillor Groves is still absent.”

Following the delegation, Council members were asked for their impressions of the delegation. Regional Councillor Jennifer Innis responded with this observation: “It was evident that Mr Grogan had spent significant time researching and preparing for his delegation to Council.  He was thoughtful and passionate about the need for air quality monitoring and I was pleased that my colleagues on Council agreed.”  

Area Councillor Nick deBoer added, “Mr. Grogan’s delegation was very well researched and presented.  The Town is  committed to continue reducing the use of diesel in our own fleet as we transition to biofuels, electric and eventually hydrogen. I am pleased that my colleagues who were present unanimously supported the Motion to meet with the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks.”

Area Councillor Lynn Kiernan, who seconded the original Motion commented: “As the Councillor representing significant rural and environment lands in Caledon, air quality and other impacts of growth are certainly concerning to me. That’s why I fully supported the Motion passed after Mr. Grogan’s presentation.”

That Motion will be taken to the meeting with the Ministry of the Environment that will take place with the Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario (TAPMO) at the full Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference on August 14-17, 2022.

The full video and audio of Mr. Grogan’s May 24th delegation and Council’s questions and comments are available online at Council Meeting – May 24, 2022 – eScribe

BREAKING: The Town of Caledon staff have made the request as per the Motion as part of their AMO delegation requests, but will not know until August if they were granted a meeting.

***

News report by Skid Crease originally prepared for Just Sayin’ Caledon

Apathy and the End of Democracy

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The latest Ontario elections amplified a troubling trend in Canadian politics.Although there were all consuming issues with which we should be dealing – public long term health care, affordable housing, sustainable mobility, environmental security, and smart growth, to mention only a few – we had the lowest registered voter turn-out in Ontario’s history.

Only 43% of the population that should have voted came out to cast a ballot, and out of that it took only 40% to give Ontario an even larger Conservative majority government. How is it even possible that fewer than a fifth of the population can be considered the voice of the people? How is it possible that while the majority of the people voted centre left, we end up with a right wing populist party in complete control of our next four years of governance?

Was it an apathetic malaise that infected our voting population with the feeling of “What’s the point?”  Was it the clever manipulation of health restrictions to open up Ontario again with “mall therapy” and license sticker refunds just before the election? Was it the blatantly cheerful and misleading ad campaign full of Doug Ford Conservative bluewash that ignored squandered federal health money, over 13,000 deaths from COVID-19, close to a third of which occurred in Long Term Care facilities, or was it the collapse of environmental oversight in favour of wealthy development interests that caused a pandemic weary population to give up their democratic privileges?

There is another theory, that suggests that the continuing unbalanced results of the current First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system resulted in that voter apathy. In fact, the Law Commission of Canada in 2004 as well as several provincial commissions recommended the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) model as the best and most balanced voting system for Canada. In fact, most modern democracies use  forms of Proportional Representation (PR).

Twelve years later in a 2016 interview with CBC’s Shanifa Nasser, Prof. Nelson Wiseman, director of Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto asked, “Is it fair that a government can have a majority … even though the majority of people did not vote for them?” The answer was a resounding “No.” It was not fair then and it was not fair in 2022 where over 60% of those voted in Ontario did not want the government now sitting with a stranglehold majority on any legislation they want to pass for the next four years.

No, it is not “fair” but the move to a fairer system of election is usually blocked by the party with the large majority created by the unfair FTTP outcome. That kind of result absolutely leads to voter apathy, to candidate apathy, to a public who throws their hands up in despair grumbling, “Why bother?”

The solution? Take a public plebiscite vote putting the move to MMP as the only item on the ballot. Give every member of the public a reduction of $500 on their provincial and federal taxes owing for any tax year in which an election takes place. If you don’t vote, you don’t get the credits. If just before an election, Doug Ford can pay off voters with a $330 license sticker bribe and open up the malls to a pandemic plagued public so they can spend it shopping, surely we can fairly apply a tax credit universally to every citizen who exercises their responsibility to vote. 

If you did cast a vote in the last election, regardless of the predictability of this First Past The Post “minority votes/majority seats” result, thank you  We earned the right to speak out. If you didn’t vote, just stay there silently on the couch. Democracy, I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

The Sunrise to Sunset Summer Solstice Trek

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  • The origins of this trek are probably as old as the first human recognition of the regularity of seasonal change and the cycles of life that followed. If we lived in an equatorial zone we had two seasons to acknowledge: wet and dry. Our storytelling mythology reflected this reality of geography. Similarly, if we lived in a temperate climate, we experienced the four cycles of spring, summer, autumn and winter that created the birth, growth, harvest, death and rebirth cycles. These are found in most of our northern hemisphere current holyday ceremonies and religious mythologies. Add the thirteen cycles of the moon in a lunar year and you get the beginnings of all sacred traditions we created in our attempt to understand the great mysteries.

The Equinox Treks are reflective ones, acknowledging the equal balance of day and night, the light and the dark of life,  the Return of the Sun King and the Departure of the Sun King. This a time for personal soul searching, a reexamination of goals, a celebration of returning life on the one hand, the asking of Gaugin’s three big questions on the other hand:

“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”

Whereas the Winter Solstice Trek on the shortest day of the year is a journey into the dark night of the soul, the Summer Solstice Trek on the longest day of the year is a celebration of the sensory – yes touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound but also the deeper senses like a sense of wonder, and a sense of belonging, and a sense of ecstasy.

In the beginning before the days of satellites and hard science, the Treks often lasted three days or more to ensure the traveler covered the time of the sacred seasonal change. Now most of us are lucky if we can put a day aside for each of those journeys. If we can, here’s a guide.

*****

We wake up in the very early morning, before the sunrise has even lightened the sky. We check the pack we had prepared the night before – water, fruit, biscuits, our favourite granola, knife, matches/lighter, moderate first aid kit, small sketch pad and pencil. On these treks there is no camera, no phone on, no watch. All the images we want to save will be stored in memory, like a slideshow in our mind. All the minute details we will record on our sketch pad, taking the time to truly see. We will have left our starting and ending point with a friend if we are going solo. But this is a trek best shared with a friend where a single look or touch between us says: How wonderful it is – this sense of life here.

We have researched our starting point where our trailhead begins, and have a bearing on where we should be heading to be safely out of the “wilds” before full darkness falls, But there is no designated route. That will be discovered. “Where are we?” Here. “What time is it?” Now.

We begin our trek in almost total darkness as we leave our trailhead. We walk carefully, slowly to let our eyes adjust to the details of the fforest around us. As the sun rises, the colours brighten, the shadows grow shorter and new details are revealed. We stop whenever something arouses our curiosity. We may sketch or simply absorb the moment. We stop to drink when we are thirsty or eat when we are hungry. There is little speech between us – rather, there is an intimate sharing of each discovery. We will change direction at a whim as something catches our attention, each taking turns leading the trek. When the sun is high we take a lunch break, lie back and rest. 

Refreshed, the journey continues with always a new discovery to share along the way, a new memory to hold. Gradually, the sunlight begins to fade and we begin the slow circle back to our trailhead. We will arrive in darkness. But that is not the end of a Solstice Trek. Now we will go to a feast, to celebrate and talk about the discoveries of the longest day of the year.

And then to sleep, perchance to dream.

*****

In the true John Muir style of the Trek, the walk is done in pure wilderness where other humans are not encountered. That is very difficult for those of us in the GTA. so we do the best we can with local conservation areas or trails like the Bruce Trail or magical parks like Mono Cliffs. There are still oases of wild yet to be discovered and perhaps best done on a slow, wandering, wondering sunrise to sunset journey.

The way I see it.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

*****

Footnote: A variation on this theme was designed by our friend and neighbour Pam Leudke, who simply leaves her home in the dark on the day of the Solstice and heads out down the local Humber Valley Heritage Trail and beyond. She walks until the sun sets, often with a friend, and then calls for a pick-up wherever the darkness finds her. Her route is usually not in complete wilderness but passes through small communities on the way with stops at shops and local eateries, nicely combining a little bit of culture with the natural spaces of our local area..

 

Inspiration From “The Trail”

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Recently, it was my honour to be asked to be the “Inspirational Speaker” at the Toronto Bruce Trail Club’s Annual General Meeting. For the second year in a row, their AGM had to go online because of pandemic concerns. This was going to be a challenge, partly because I am a technophobe, and partly because the Bruce Trail is sacred ground for me. In these chaotic times, I wanted to ensure I would deliver that much needed inspiration.

For those new to Ontario, the Bruce Trail was founded in 1960 when four members of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists – Norman Pearson, Ray Lowes, Dr. Robert MacLaren and Dr. Philip Gosling – met to discuss Lowes’s vision of a hiking path that would span the entire Niagara Escarpment.

By 1963, the Bruce Trail Association had incorporated – three years from vision to action. The journey continues to this day with Clubs from nine different sections united in care, conservation and education for the Bruce Trail Conservancy. The Toronto Section runs from Kelso to Cheltenham where my own Caledon Section begins.

My personal history with the Trail began in 1968, with many a solo hike to release the stress of the first years of teaching. In those days there were overnight campsites and cooking areas and access to springs. In 1972, I switched from Elementary to Middle School and thus began eight years of leading student hikes on a “5 day 50 mile” Bruce Trail hike during the last week of September. That was the beginning of a long term relationship culminating with my decade at the Mono Cliffs Outdoor Education Centre right beside the Bruce Trail.

This keynote was much more than another speaking engagement. This was a thank you from the heart and I didn’t want to miss. However, as a public speaker, I am used to live audiences where you can interact, feel the energy, work the room, and physically engage the participants. This online concept was actually making me a little nervous.

Add to that, the frequent and detailed reminders that hit my emailbox alerting me that the meeting was coming, and to get ready for the rehearsal.  Usually when I speak at a conference, I am given a theme, I arrive, get a feel for the audience and then hit the stage, often for an hour straight. This one had a rehearsal. With a script. I was worried. I don’t do rehearsals. And I have never used a script.

When the day for their AGM rehearsal came, I prepared my computer for a ZOOM meeting and waited anxiously. I need not have worried. This rehearsal was to make sure that all of their online connections were working so that their 100 plus members attending in a week could engage, interact, ask questions, and vote. And the script was simply the organizational agenda for the meeting.

Best of all, I got to meet the thirteen members of the Board online  This Toronto Bruce Trail Club Board was organized and efficient and diverse. Too often on hiking trails in the past few years, I kept encountering kindly elderly folk in their Tilley hats and pants with their walking sticks eagerly sharing their nature wisdoms.

Well, this Board, while appearing to certainly be kind and sharing, was anything but homogenised milk about to meet its due date. The thirteen faces I met on the screen were a diverse combination of cultural backgrounds, genders and ages. It was like a breath of fresh air. And to boot, they were technologically literate! The joke around our home is that I can light a fire in the pouring rain with a flint and steel, but I can’t turn on my cell phone.

The sequence of the meeting was confirmed, all the ZOOM buttons tested, the voting boxes checked, and the two hour meeting set for April 10, 2022.

It went off without a hitch. All of the Board’s careful planning smoothed the AGM into a much shorter online time and still managed to cover all of the business, financials, awards and tributes. During that time I learned more about the Toronto Club, the first to publish a statement on the need to encourage cultural diversity, inclusion, and awareness of social justice issues surrounding us all.

I was also reminded of the hard work of the volunteers who maintain and improve the trails through the GTA along the 45 km Toronto section that services the largest Club in the Bruce Trail’s 900 plus kilometres from Niagara to Tobermory. This Club has the biggest membership in the Conservancy and possibly the greatest responsibility to teach the very diverse Toronto Area population about how to walk lightly and responsibly on the land.

As more and more people come to our cities from around the world, we cannot assume that they all had joyous summer camp experiences or outdoor education opportunities in school or nature-based excursions with their parents. More and more the exact opposite is true. The Toronto Bruce Trail Club recognizes this, and the energy to deliver on that responsibility is reflected in their new Board of Directors, the “old wisdoms” of their many volunteers, and the enthusiasm of their members.

When it came time to conclude the meeting, my “inspirational keynote” spontaneously came straight from the heart. All I could see on my computer were a hundred little faces in boxes scrolling at top of my screen. It was hard to know if I had done my job, but the time for questions at the end turned into a series of thank-yous from the participants. I’m hoping it was enough to get this Toronto Bruce Trail Club inspired to take on another year of protecting the legacy and vision of our founders.

Every trail has a story. Every person is a storyteller. This is our story. The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon