Special Updates

Remembering

It was cold and damp on the streets of Victoria shortly after midnight on Thursday, April 10, 1995. In the car, a 12-year-old boy, Nicholas, listened quietly as his father explained why they were making a sudden return to the Hospice they had left little more than an hour earlier after a long evening visit with his mother, Candide.

We had just returned home, and I was sitting on his bed before tucking him in when the phone rang. The Hospice: If we wanted to say goodbye, the time was now. He dressed quickly. I explained that earlier in the day when we were visiting, his mother was very tired, had been sleeping in a “coma.”

And may still be asleep. “I’m going to drop you at the main entrance. You know which room Mum is in. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I park the car. You just sit and talk to Mum. She may not answer, but she will know you are there.”

He was talking about school when I got there a few minutes later. I think she knew.

This is the first time I have written about Candide’s final struggle since it happened. I don’t know why, other than the grief as we passed through that time that strengthened all of us – five sons from my first marriage and Nic, who inherited many of his mother’s attributes. Oldest son Stephen delivered Candide’s funeral oration. In it, he mentioned his youngest brother’s inheritance of strength and courage from his mother.

Some years ago, after two years of travelling the world, Nic returned to earn a postponed degree from the University of Victoria. He then joined BC’s Emergency Health Services and its well-trained army of paramedics in which he serves as a Primary Care Paramedic with other front line first responders – where courage is a standard requirement. For good measure, he also serves with St. John Ambulance as a Provincial Staff Officer attached to 176 Division, Victoria.

And, on Friday, April 10, barring unforeseen circumstances, he would be visiting his mother’s grave at Royal Oak to make sure everything is tidy, in good shape, and the flowers are fresh. Normally, I would be with him, but lock-downs and other restrictions have confined me to barracks. But I’ll be with him, in moral support, doing the little things that keep family strong.

Readers wondering how Nicholas felt and what he remembers about April 1995 will find a remarkable recollection on his Facebook page. I mean – remarkable.

Do We Really Care?

The experts are determined to impress on us, in their oft-repeated warnings, that things are going to get worse before they get better. History and the recorded observations of those who have lived through similar world upheavals and disruptions of what was once “normal” living, convince us to accept their forecasts and nod in agreement.

Not that any of us have lived and survived a pandemic as vast and uncaring as COVID-19. But, there are more than a few of us who survived the cataclysms of the Great Depression of the 1930s and a worldwide war in the 1940s that ended with two man-made thunderclaps over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They say more than 200,000 died in such a fearful way in just two air raids and we started to believe mankind would never again embark on such a mass suicidal end to life on earth. Some of us still hold to that belief, although our faith has been sorely tested over the years.

Nervous though our journey was, I don’t think anyone ever thought there would come a day when the world would be turned upside down by an invisible virus capable of defying man’s greatest scientists. Powerful enough to circle the world unseen and unknown. Powerful enough to force people into virtual isolation; to stop aircraft from flying and ships from sailing; to force the closure of stores and suspend what for centuries had been the natural and essential course of commerce.

And to kill at will. The medical experts and the frontline warriors standing between the virus and its victims assure us they will eventually find an answer, but stress that we must help by avoiding personal contact by maintaining six to 10 feet of separation when we meet to talk.

Over and over again, they tell us we cannot, must not give up these disciplines, and that things are going to get worse before they get better. And they, the doctors and the political leaders faced with a problem they maybe should have recognized sooner, tell us the virus will claim 200,000-plus before we can begin to guess where the end may lie.

Citizens of my generation remember the courage and self-sacrifice we were asked to make during the Second World War to preserve our democratic freedoms. And, some of us remember the cold, uncaring, merciless behaviour of so many who looted and stole from neighbours and government aid programs.

When announcing his programs of financial relief for workers losing jobs or small businesses losing everything, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned would-be con artists not to scam the relief benefits. When caught, he promised swift justice.

Maybe someone had acquainted him with the case of Englishman Walter Handy, who claimed government compensation for being bombed out 19 times in five months during WWII. He got three years in jail for betraying what should have been loyalty to fellow country pledged in common cause.

A major player in the UK looting and black-market game was Billy Hill, who spent a few short terms in jail. He hired a ghostwriter to tell his life story, “Boss of Britain’s Underworld” (1955). He once boasted he didn’t just make use of the black market, “I fed it.” He became quite a wealthy man.

There were not many Billy Hills, but there were thousands of God-fearing, law-respecting Britishers who gave every appearance of total loyalty to a nation’s call for sacrifice but didn’t mind a bit of profit from breaking the rules here and there.

It is not fondly remembered that by wars end in 1945 there were more than 114,000 prosecutions for black-market trading and looting. Some for minor offences, many for major crimes, a few for murder. Some from stripping rings and other jewelry from corpses to emptying homes of anything that could be easily moved while a family took shelter during an air aid.

The crimes became so prevalent that the UK government made a few punishment revisions to various laws as wartime expedients. For example, a guilty party could be sentenced to death or life in prison for looting.

No one ever was. It was deemed unwise to let those faithfully embracing Winston Churchill’s challenge of living with “blood, sweat, toil and tears” know all their brothers and sisters were not like-minded.

Which leaves me wondering how we are going to do overall as we are asked to make relatively small sacrifices today? We are told they will make a difference in the fight to slow down, even halt COVID-19 until we can find a cure.

Do we care, enough? Or would it better to ask: Do we care at all?

Stronger Than You Think

It was 80-years ago that I became involuntarily engaged in a world-wide war. I was 15 years old, four months short of my 16th birthday, when I listened with my mother and father and 18-year-old sister as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany.

It started a conflict which later enveloped the world in the Second World War.

There have been many other wars since WW2, but none encircled the globe until December 2019 when a strange new virus attacked a city in China and within months, spread with lethal force around the globe. At the time of writing this report, it shows no sign of abating.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes daily appearances on the front steps of his Ottawa residence, where his wife has tested positive for the COVID-19 and is serving a period of compulsory isolation, an integral part of government programs worldwide to halt spread of the virus until a cure or preventive vaccine can be found. Ignoring or defying compulsory isolation orders can result in heavy fines or prison sentences.

Personal hygiene is being emphasized as another essential step in the battle for control with an additional caution that personal contacts should never be closer than two arm lengths. It and the appeal for frequent washing of hands are two essential precautions – and,sadly, could be most ignored by the public.

The reality that no one can estimate how long this “virus war” will last makes for trying times for citizens who since WW2 and massed bombing of civilians ended have witnessed minor conflicts around the world, but have never been embroiled in front line fighting when loyalty and caring for each other can spell the difference between life and death.

Loyalty and caring for each other were all civilians could do in 1939 when leaders of democratic governments called for both, even as the world collapsed about them.

It was not always easy to respond, especially for families with a husband on far away battlefields and with wives at home caring for children and often aging grandparents. In my British homeland and across Europe in those dark days, rationing alone was an enormous challenge for every woman with a family to look after – often in a city a badly shattered ruin from nightly bombing.

In the UK weekly rations were recorded in “stamp books” which could be used at only one store selected by the customer and approved by the storekeeper.

Once rationing began citizens could register, shop and walk home each week with (for one person): One egg, four ounces of bacon, eight ounces of sugar, two ounces of tea, one ounce of cheese, two ounces of butter, four ounces of margarine (uncoloured), two ounces of lard and for those with a sweet tooth “preserves,” such as marmalade, but only eight ounces a month.

The meat ration was so small the authorities listed it by price rather than weight. It was one shilling a week which translated into six or eight ounces depending how friendly your butcher.

And, lest we forget, the famous UK “striped mint” sweets – eight ounces to 16 ounces a month depending on supply.

Now, let’s do a quick leap over the decades from then to now. The morning I started to write this, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth praised the people of the UK for again “coming together as one” to fight the present plague; United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez had a similar message; the President of the United States dreamed that tomorrow the world will have spun back to normal by Easter; and, my own PM, Trudeau, remained confident “the people” can win this fight as they won the last Global battle if they understand it may take a while.

How long? To conquer the bug some experts figure 18 months to find and distribute a cure and defence.

By comparison, the burden of surviving the rationing (and other) vicissitudes of WW2 commenced in January, 1939, (three months after the declaration of war) and lasted until June 1948 when the last food item “bread” was removed from the list.

Morale shaking rationing had lasted longer than “blitz” and the fighting and “the people” had bent on occasion, but never broke.

“People coming together” had made it possible to end well, as they can and will again.

A Gentle Lockdown; Patience Required

LOCKDOWN!! It has a fearful ring, however softly spoken; however long you thought forgotten.

Even in the assured comfort, calm and caring of my present place of residence, Berwick Royal Oak, memory brings back the rumble of a sliding cell door, the “clunk” as it slips in to “lock,” then the faint click of an eye-level peep hole which permits a guard to check, 24/7 on your wellbeing.

I had thought the passing of the years – at least 50 of them – had long ago moved from my fringe-fading memory bank the sounds and sight of Lockdown, when the word came bursting back in front page stories from around the world.

First, we read of hospitals and care homes in faraway places being “locked down” to keep at bay a malady that, left unchecked, could kill thousands. Next, came stories that “lockdowns” of those institutions were having difficulty confining the beast. The lockdown boundaries were expanded to included entire cities, then to districts and finally – in the boldest move ever taken to keep a highly contagious virus in check while searching for a more permanent solution to a global threat – the LOCKDOWN of entire countries.

China, Germany, Italy, Spain lead the parade, others teeter on the brink like Canada and the United States of America. Canada is in there with the big boy only because we live, breath and move in-step with our giant US of A neighbour. We seem to have allowed ourselves to become followers of a bellicose bully.

If Canada – and for sure the USA – had been paying less interest in raising trade tariffs and more during China’s first skirmishes with Coronavirus, its expanded lockdowns and steady, if not yet complete, successes in control and confinement, we might be in better place today in the global fight. As China appears to be advancing in the fight, and with our good wishes we hope approaching victory, we are just beginning to tremble.

It may be difficult for the USA to ask China for help and guidance in the current battle, but this is one war where allies are needed and enemies are unaffordable.

As noted in my opening paragraph I am a resident in Berwick Royal Oak, a seniors retirement facility on Elk Drive in the shadow of Pat Bay Highway over which I watch cars and trunks hurtling at inflated speeds. It’s a good place to be and the three years since I checked in have been pleasant, the complaints few and none that could range as major.

In recent days “lockdown” has become the word of choice to describe some precautions that have closed our dining room, coffee shop, bistro and residents-only pub. We are fed in our rooms. Visits are allowed for the palliative or gravely ill. The Provincial Health Office will define classifications.

There are other minor restrictions –- two metre social distancing; no group larger than 10 in activities; cancellation of community events and outings; no private dinners quests and no guest suites.

In other words, a few annoying inconveniences, but NOT, definitely not LOCKDOWN! Not yet. But that will come if and when events leave no choice but real LOCKDOWNS in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto or Victoria? And our present misuse of the word will become all too apparent

If I survive the present plague (at 96 and with COPD lung problems I‘m high on the triage list), I’ll tell you the story of my brief sojourn in Fort Saskatchewan Jail where one late evening as shadows fell a cell door slammed, shut, locked; then silence.

That’s, LOCKDOWN – and much more than an inconvenience.

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself – And Dangerous Politicians

Stayed up late a few nights ago in order to catch a non-rally speech by USA President Donald Trump. I have no logical explanation as to why I would give up the luxury of an hours pre-sleep in-bed reading for another empty word waltz by POTUS.

I must have been enticed by the clever news reporters on CNN who spin their elongated stories between endless commercials for pills and nostrums. Like good fly-fishers they end each news segment with a perfectly cast “fly” promising revelations of great important “after the break.”

So I watched, and dozed and watched some more until at last the pills and notions promising happier lifestyles gave way to a putty-faced President Trump. I have gathered that he is making this 10 pm special (for him unprecedented) fireside chat to explain to his people and the world just how the USA, the richest, mightiest smartest nation in the world is going slay the COVID – 19 dragon.

Trump had been insisting for weeks that the USA had been faring better most countries but now Coronavirus seemed to be getting a stronger foothold. He was careful to interpose when he could the reminder that Coronavirus “had started in China” with an unstated but obvious hint it was all China’s fault. He boasted about earlier travel and trade restrictions he had imposed to reduce trade and traffic and hinted his actions had keep COID-119 at bay in North American while Italy and Germany were being overwhelmed. He didn’t have much to say about the immediate future for the USA – but his own in-country experts have warned him and his citizens “the worst is yet to come” that “containment” was beyond them and a possible vaccine some months or even a year away.

President Trump offered no comfort. He just glumly dismissed a rampaging COID-19 as “a foreign virus” that would eventually run its course and disappear.

There are still a few of us around who can remember childhoods spent in an earlier world in great economic distress following the world-wide ‘flu epidemic of 1918 and global great depression of the 1930’s – or have parents or grand-parents who can remember. If you are someone who ever got bored with the “depression” tales of older folk, remembering them now could maybe inspire us all through the next few months, maybe years.

It will be worth recalling the attitude and actions of a young USA President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) who, as his nation stumbled into ever deeper depression in the mid-1920’s, flung them a lifebelt, a recovery plan called The New Deal. It came with a Roosevelt confident shout to his people to rally and fight for economic recovery: “YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF!”

The people heard,responded, and built a new nation on the rubble of the great depression.

In 1941 President Roosevelt (one of the few to win three Presidential elections) rallied a badly shaken nation the day following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. In a nation wide radio address he had to choose between a truthful account of the battle so singularly won by Japan or a muffled sugar coated version.

His opening words were: “December 7, 1941, is a date which will live in infamy.” They eliminated a strong “keep USA neutral” movement and united the nation in cause as the US joined WW2 and it became the Great World War.

Opting for blunt truth in time of calamity wasn’t an exclusive US claim. Sir Winston Churchill chalked up a quite amazing record starting on the amazing day of May13, 1940, when he reported to the House of Commons for the first time as Prime Minister.

There were a few technical parliamentary matters to be addressed and they were handled quickly before Churchill brought every member – and the nation – up to date with no soft comfort zones.

He asked the House to forgive him if he didn’t provide all the details they would like on his first day on the job. But, he said: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat…We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind….”

Those words reached the general population via radio and newspaper and praise for Winston eventually reached the House and Churchill modestly said: “Mr. Speaker,  I have never promised anything or offered anything but blood, tears, toil, and sweat, to which I will now add our fair share of mistakes, shortcomings and disappointments….When I look back on the perils which have been overcome, upon the great mountain waves through which the gallant ship (of State) has driven, when I remember all that has gone wrong, and remember also all that has gone right, I feel sure we have no need to fear the tempest. Let it roar, and let it rage. We shall come through.”

It’s worth remembering as we once again travel a dark uncertain road made frightening by vain leadership south of the 49th parallel, and a seemingly bewildered administration north of the 49th.

Some historians claim that great leaders usually emerge and lead us to safer places when gravest danger threaten. If there is only fraction of hope that could be true – I think we’re ready.

More Wisdom By Disposition Than By Age

Sometimes you learn more from politicians when they lose than you ever did from their successes.

Take Michael Bloomberg, for example, the multi-billionaire former Mayor of New York who withdrew from the presidential election race in the USA last week. He stepped down with regret but no animosity toward the thousands of Democrat Party voters who had rejected his heavily-financed bid for nomination as the party’s choice in the next election.

Bloomberg could well have been upset at the blunt rejection of his cash-funded bid for party membership support but chose instead the high road of loyalty to a Democratic Party cause and personal integrity. He said he was “clear-eyed” about the rejection of his bid to be nominated as the chosen presidential candidate, accepted it without reservation and then added:

“I will not be our party’s nominee, but I will not walk away from the most important political fight of my life – and that is victory” when the USA decides whether to re-elect or replace Donald Trump in the presidency.

With that said, he announced his full support to former Vice President Joe Biden, who had been propelled into the lead in the same primaries that had spelled the end of Bloomberg’s bid.

If it seems a little strange for a beat-up, former Canadian daily newspaper columnist, now blogging once a week, to be sticking his nose into a United States election, there are no apologies here. I share a geographic “circus tent” with the U.S., and whenever the “elephant” rolls over, Canadians pay attention.

And, there is no doubt that the “elephant” is more than a little restless these days since President Donald Trump took over the White House and proceeded to topple his country from world leader to world buffoon or bully – depending on his morning or midnight Twitters.

President Trump often boasts about his wealth but never mentions his list of bankruptcies. Michael Bloomberg leaves mention of his billions to others and doesn’t have much time for the arrogant affluence of the man now running the White House in defiance of Congress.

We have to wait a while longer before the Democrats finally name their candidate to challenge President Trump at the polls. But, if Biden holds his present lead and does topple Trump from his imaginary royal throne, I have a couple of suggestions for the first President Biden cabinet:

Ask Bloomberg to take over foreign affairs and get the USA back to a respected world leadership role. He’s a man who could match an Arab prince in high stake negotiations, and he thinks like the philosopher Plautus (254-184 BC): “Not by years, but by disposition, is wisdom acquired.” A wise man with his established achievements has long been needed. 

And, put Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders in charge of any and all negotiations and discussions on gun laws. Film and distribute key meetings to news outlets – especially the one where the gun lobby concedes defeat, as it surely will if faced with Warren or Sanders in high dudgeon on gun control.

“40 Years On When Far And Asunder Parted Are Those…”

There’s an old school song that still echoes throughout the ivy-clad halls of England’s grammar schools on graduation day as it has since 1872 when Edward Ernest Bowen and John Farmer launched their tribute to treasured memories – and their challenge to conscience.

“Forty years on, when afar and asunder /Parted are those who are singing today, /When you look back and forgetfully wonder, /What you were like in your work and your play, /Then it may be there will often come ‘o’er you, /Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song, /Visions from boyhood shall float them before you /Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along.”

It shouldn’t be necessary to note that in 1872 grammar schools were for males only and to guess that today, when students lift their graduating and blended male-female voices, “boyhood” gently morphs to “childhood.” But, it is incumbent these days for ancient males to note, accept, and approve the change. 

The message doesn’t change. We all look back, or should, to remember how we thought in our high school or first year college or university years. So sure of ourselves. So clear in our thinking. So certain of our cause. So amazed that our parents could have survived so long with such limited understanding of real life. And, adults in general? Hah! Best not talked about.

The old song suggests that as we grew older, our remembrances of youth would be replayed as “glimpses of notes … visions … echoes” of triumphs, with victories in sport best recalled. And, in today’s world, often best rewarded. An Irish school teacher – Edward Ernest Bowen – wrote the lyrics for “Forty Years On,” and it was quickly adopted as the school song of Harrow where he taught.

He wrote about victory and losses, “rushes and rallies” of intense struggles of “strife without anger”; of “loving an ally (team-mate) with the heart of a brother” while hating “the foe with playing at hate.” And rugby was obviously his game.

Still today, when the final game whistle blows, the opposing teams shake hands, head for a shower and regroup for a beer, a bite to eat and to replay a few highlights from the intense rivalry of the game just left on the field. And 40 years later if the same players met at a reunion the conversation would continue unbroken by the years.

Lyric writer Bowen, true to his Irish spirit, wrote a final verse to sum up Harrow School thinking of what lay ahead for its graduates:

“Forty years on, growing older and older. /Shorter in wind, as in memory long, /Feeble of foot and rheumatic of shoulder, /What will it help that once you were strong? /God give us bases to guard or beleaguer, /Games to play out whether earnest or fun; /Fights for the fearless, and goals for the eager,/ Twenty and thirty and forty years on.”

It is a verse that gets me wondering how much my beliefs in so many things have changed over the decades. And, I wonder about the many young people I see marching and waving picket signs and protesting and demanding solution to a Wet’suwet’en tribal problem even the Wet’suwet’en elders seem to have difficulty solving.

In the crowd are some bright white faces, and some not so bright, but all apparently convinced that it is okay for them to dictate to a duly elected provincial government what immediate action it should be taking. As I quoted a week ago: “A tyranny of a minority.”

Thinking students shouldn’t need 40 years to figure it out, or 30 or even 10 days – but they will I hope change in thinking and in attitude as time rolls by. Maybe not as brilliantly as one of Harrow school’s most famous but mediocre students, Sir Winston Churchill, who survived his early years much to the consternation of some early teachers.

On November 28, 1964, Harrow marked the 90th birthday of Sir Winston by adding a tribute to the original. Not as glorious in language as the old man when his war time oratory held the free world together – but good enough to bring a smile and straitening of shoulders to those who remembered.

“Blazoned in Honour ! For each generation/You kindled courage to stand and to stay,/You led our fathers to fight for the nation,/ Called ‘Follow up’ and yourself showed the way./We who were born in the calm after thunder/Cherish our freedom to think and to do;/ If in our turn we forgetfully wonder,/Yet we’ll remember we owe it to you.”

“A Tyranny of Minorities”

It was described as the time in British Columbia when a “tyranny of the minorities” shook the foundations of traditional government in Canada’s golden west.

It was 1983. In charge was Premier Bill Bennett, the son of W.A.C. Bennett, who had held the premiership for 20 years before his defeat in the election of 1972 by the NDP’s Dave Barrett.

These were not happy times for Premier Bennett as the world began to shiver in the first months of the great recession of the 1980s. He had defeated Barrett in 1975, but only by a narrow five seat (31-26) margin. That victory, great though it had been for Bennett, the younger, was losing its roseate hue in the spring of ‘83 as world markets trembled, and provincial governments across Canada became targets for blame.

On April 7th, the premier had called a general election to be held May 5th and the only happy campers at the time were New Democrats who were delighted to fan flames fueled by ever-tightening government spending. To Premier Bennett’s credit, he didn’t waver from the central plank in his re-election platform: “Restraint.”

But, the people seemed to be resisting. A new movement took shape, borrowing its name from the famed Polish Solidarity movement that drove Moscow-dominated Communism from Poland and eventually picked dockyard worker Lech Walesa to lead the nation.

At its peak, BC’s Solidarity movement could organize protests numbering a dozen or so people in a village hall to a claimed record of 60,000 plus in Vancouver. There were mass protests all over the province. One with 45,000 protesters marching in a never-ending circle around the Hotel Vancouver where the ruling Social Credit Party was meeting in convention; another in Victoria with 6,000 rallying at Victoria’s old Memorial Arena plus a crowd of 20,000 to 40,000 – depending on who was counting – at the Legislature.

Talk on the hustings before voting day had convinced Dave Barrett there was a block of support to be garnered from voters who were convinced Bennett was being unduly harsh in his restraint measures and his promise for more of the same if he were re-elected.

With a couple of weeks to go before voting day, Barrett announced that, if elected, he would cancel Bennett’s restraint program and re-open the purse strings to restore rich spending. Much later, he would admit that his promise to end restraint was not his wisest political decision. For sure it was premature although Solidarity didn’t hit full stride until after Bennett’s new government took office and Finance Minister Hugh Curtis revealed the new, very lean, budget – and on the same day 26 major pieces of restraint legislation were introduced and given first reading.

I have been reminded of those tumultuous days recently, although recent protests at the Legislature and other government offices and outlets have been tame when compared with Solidarity and its coalition of trade unions. The objectives of both are similar: They object to the way government is handling various problems and want changes made to accommodate their agenda.

In September 1983, The Vancouver Sun – a voice commanding attention in those days – described the Solidarity movement as “Premier Bennett’s ‘tyranny of the minorities … a coalition of unions … an alliance of community groups … headed by an administrative committee … (also) a 30-man steering committee and 49 coalition associations across BC. The difficulty of keeping Solidarity’s parts together is exacerbated by its schizophrenic political personality …”

I have no idea how or who organized the more recent motley crew of protesters blocking doorways and preventing government workers from servicing taxpayers, and I doubt if they could tell me if I asked. But I think they qualify for inclusion in The Sun’s 1983 definition of “tyrants among minorities”.

All they demonstrate to me when I watch their vacant shouting on TV is that they are not yet ready to govern. And it could be some time before they are.

(Readers seeking fascinating details of the historical midnight meeting at the Bennett ranch will find 235 pages of them in the book: “Bill Bennett – A Mandarin’s View by Bob Plecas ” who, to save a question, is not related to Legislature Speaker Plecas.

Challenging The Protected Rights of Parliament

A short time ago, the United Nations published its long-awaited Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It confirms some established beliefs, clarifies the language dealing with others and sharpens the focus on problems demanding resolution before a true armistice can be reached between Indigenous natives and the descendants of white immigrants who simply, by force of numbers, took over most of their land.

The new charter confirms Indigenous claims to land title.

UNDRIP Article 26 states:

“1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to the lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

“2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those they have otherwise acquired.

“3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands and territories. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the Indigenous people concerned.”

(Remember this is a United Nations declaration for the world, not just Canada.)

Premier John Horgan was quick to sign the agreement and pledge allegiance to the resolution on behalf of Canada’s West Coast province. It was, he felt, a progressive blueprint for ongoing and continuing negotiations; one Premier Horgan was confident held great co-operative promise.

It was progress, slower than many wished but a good basic road map for the future.

Yet, within weeks of that welcome news, Premier Horgan was in the buzz-saw path of a boisterous, raucous protest on the steps of the Legislature where rent-a-crowd young faces jammed doorways and denied access to MLAs, government employees, and the public.

Later in the day, there would be claims of bullying by local police as they tried to clear paths for MLAs seeking entrance to the Chamber in time for the Lieutenant Governor’s traditional Throne Speech address. TV cameras sweeping the crowd failed to pick up anything more fierce than angry faces and shouts of people being moved with a lift and shove from a doorway blocking position.

I wonder how many of the protesters were aware of how close they were to being arrested on serious charges of being in contempt of the Legislature? Section 5 (a) of the Legislative Assembly Privilege Act states the Assembly has the rights and privileges of a court of record “to summarily inquire into and punish … assaults, insults to or libels on members … during a session of the Legislature and 20 days before or after it.”

Further, 5 (b) says we can protest all we want, but never by “obstructing, threatening or attempting to force or intimidate members of the Assembly.” And, 5 (d) adds to that “assaults or interference with officers of the Assembly in the execution of their duty.”

Punishment for violations? Ah, yes. Section 6 states: “For the purpose of this act the Assembly has all the powers and jurisdictions necessary or expedient to enquire into, judge or pronounce on … and carry into execution the punishment provided in this act.”

Detailed punishment is at first vague, then, on reflection, tough enough to calm many a fevered brow.

Section 7 says a person found guilty under a Section 5 offence is liable to imprisonment for a period during the session being held at that time.

Section 8 tidies up the loose ends and makes clear the punishment for breaching this particular parliamentary privilege. If the Assembly “declares a person guilty of contempt for an act, matter or thing mentioned in Section 5 and directs the person to be taken into custody or imprisoned, the Speaker shall issue his warrant to the Sergeant at Arms … or to the warden or keeper of the common jail for the county of Victoria, to take the person into custody and to keep and detain him in accordance with the order of the Assembly.”

For how long? Maybe we’ll find out in the next few weeks if calmer voices fail to at least cool the Indigenous rights problem, and we continue to flirt with anarchy as we are flirting in Victoria this week. It’s certainly looking like a threatening political wildfire with two powerful Indigenous forces – hereditary chiefs versus elected chiefs – poles apart on pipelines and no sign of compromise.

The Legislative Assembly Privilege Act is administered by the office of the Speaker. Section 9 is one short sentence: “The determination of the Legislative Assembly on proceeding under this Act and within the legislative authority of the Province, is final and conclusive.”

Protesters should be careful. They could find storming the office of an MLA the easiest part of their day at the barricades. Getting out to go home could be getting a little tacky.

 

“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day thou cans’t not then be false to any man”

The morning after being acquitted in a United States Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump attended a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

The breakfast is traditionally an affair at which Republicans and Democrats check their individual religious beliefs at the door and embrace non-partisan neutrality and tolerance for the beliefs of others.

At least that’s the theory and most of those attending the meeting achieve the highest standards of tolerance and understanding for each other. President Trump isn’t exactly an outstanding attendee, so it is quite possible that he hadn’t been adequately briefed on protocol or if he had been briefed, he had forgotten his instructions – or decided he knew better than his advisers.

Whatever. Peter Bain, covering the event for The New York Times, reported that just moments before the president “took the lectern” he “without naming them, singled out Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting just a few feet away at the head table, and Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah who had voted to convict him, accusing them of hypocrisy for citing their faith while supporting his impeachment.”

Senator Romney had, in an emotional 10-minute speech on the final day of the Impeachment debate, condemned, as “personal and political,” President Trump’s request that a foreign government – Ukraine – investigate political rival, Joe Biden. Other Republican senators have agreed President Trump’s actions may not have been wise, but they insisted they were not criminal in intent.

Senator Romney insisted Trump’s actions were “a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

Upsetting the president more than Republican Senator Romney’s support for the Democratic move to have him removed from office was the senator’s confession that his strong beliefs and faith in Christian doctrine were as important and binding as his oath of office.

“As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong,” Romney said.

If President Trump enjoyed even a whisper of understanding of the power of unshakable faith, he might have arrived at the National Prayer Breakfast the next day in a slightly chastened mood. But he doesn’t chasten easily, or at all.

He arrived for breakfast, waving two newspapers with screaming headlines proclaiming acquittal. Sitting at a table, a few feet from the head table, he rambled loudly enough to be heard and quoted by some reporters: “As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people.”

Speaker Pelosi spoke briefly, but the keynote speaker for the meeting was Harvard professor Arthur Brooks. Times reporter Baker describes his speech as a “passionate plea for Americans to put aside hatred in national life and love your enemies.”

At one point, writes Baker, he asked the audience, “how many of you love someone with whom you disagree?” In response hands around the room shot up and Brooks said I’m going to round that off to 100 percent.”

Baker reported that the professor didn’t seem to notice that “Mr. Trump was among those who didn’t raise their hand, and while the rest of the audience gave Brooks a standing ovation, President Trump clapped politely but remained seated.”

And thereby restated his personal and arrogantly held belief that Shakespeare got it wrong.