Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Spirit of Spending Giving

The spirit of spending giving season will soon be over till the next giving occasion comes around. The commercial aspect of the holiest business time of year is nauseating. If billions weren't made from this, Christmas (the anniversary of Jesus' birth) might just be another holy anniversary or "feast" recognized by mainly church goers. The business part of the Christmas season can be a very annoying, imposing and stressful experience. We hear the annual countdown on every radio station, beginning with "only 8 shopping weeks left ..". From late October to Dec. 24, people are bombarded like Operation Desert Storm with ubiquitous reminders to spend on something, anything, just spend.

Of course, we are a free people, entitled to spend till we drop, or to spend some, or spend none at all. That's the good thing about our society, to a certain extent, people en masse have the power to determine what is allowed to permeate society. Obviously, most people are content to spend alot on exchanging gifts with family and friends. This year the average amount spent is $822, down from $900 last year. (Newfoundlanders & Labradorians will spend more) Canadians will spend over $55 billion this year on Christmas gifts.

There are charities out there and they get a small bit of donations, but it's too bad that society's willingness to give, mainly to ourselves (by way of exchange), is not directed to any of the world's problems like food shortages, medicine and schooling in the poorest parts of the world, or larger contributions to such things as more to local charities or other important things like MRIs, dialysis machines, or CAT Scan equipment in various regional hospitals in the province. Also, it's too bad that there are not more messages about avoiding the pitfalls of overspending, or the dangers of relying on credit cards to "give" for Christmas. Al Antle of the Credit Counselling Association of NL was recently interviewed on CBC's Here & Now, and said that after Xmas will be his busiest time of year, i.e., counselling people on how to handle racked up debt.

Even though it is up to an individual to spend on what he/she chooses, there is a societal expectation to spend alot, that is in large part manufactured by marketing machines. In any event I will look forward to the end of the sappy advertising, and to enjoying a few happier traditions like family and friends get togethers, games, music, and good food. A Christmas Carol (1951) starring Alastair Sim is always on some station. That version of Scrooge is so funny, and well acted. I hope you and yours enjoy your Christmas experience too, and best wishes for health, happiness and prosperity in the new year.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Kennedy was Dion's Remedy

What a show! This was probably the most dramatic leadership race I've ever seen. Throughout the day the political commentators were insightful as usual if not more, on CBC at least. But at the beginning no one really predicted a win, let alone a very convincing win for dark horse Stéphane Dion. What did seem clear after the second ballot, is that over 90% of Kennedy's supporters backed Dion for leader, as well as the majority of Rae's followers after the third ballot.

Sure there are going to be disappointed candidates, but I get the sense that all the Liberal candidates were satisfied with the choice of Dion. Michael Ignatieff, who was probably just relieved to have the wait over, probably said what many may have been thinking, "We have chosen a man of principle, a man with vision, a man with courage, a man with conviction."

Though I have not followed in great detail the 8 month long race itself, Stéphane Dion comes across as the more genuine, dedicated, and perhaps more non-self serving than the other candidates. He seems like the type who is content to do his thinking, problem-solving in the dim lights, and I think that may have been part of his appeal. The impression I get is that he is compassionate and maybe more visionary than his colleagues, and possibly the pm. He has been seen to have little charisma, but I feel that his passion on matters like the environment and national unity will now be more apparant, and his charisma has yet to reach a crescendo. I just hope he is good for our province and country in opposition and/or government.

In any case the Liberal leadership day of decision was exciting and surprising. The next election should be dramatic too, provided some new scandal information doesn't surface to make it a predictable election. Anyway good luck to Stéphane Dion to handle the national, and political challenges he faces.

Friday, November 10, 2006

the fall of life

Autumn is arguably the best season in Newfoundland. Temperatures are certainly not too hot, and yet not cold enough to freeze your knuckles of. But it's that time of year when we are reminded that we live between 46½° and 52°N latitude in the Atlantic. This place is beautiful in the fall, on land and sea.
Ironically as life is zapped from trees and vegetation, the dying process produces one of the most colorful times of year, which makes for a pleasant transition from fall to winter. Here are few shots I took recently.

(Pippy Park on right)

(looking across Long Pond)

(a dying bush?)

(pond in Pippy Park)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Peter MacKay Should Apologize

There are the quick witted political shots, and there is the regrettable attempt at wit which reflects poorly on the speaker who utters the words. Peter MacKay's remark fits the latter situation. Political wit can be very amusing, interesting, and a creative release of tension for MP's. A certain amount of word volleys are expected to be lobbed from across the parlimentary floors. Most often no apology is expected, as it is expected that MP's on all sides would like to exercise an opportunity at wit. But sometimes the line between being clever and personally insulting is crossed, and that happened on Thursday.

How ironic that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the person who backs our troops in Afghanistan to keep the women-repressing Taliban out of power, would make remarks that would be expected of what the Taliban nut jobs would characteristically say. This story started during a debate on Oct. 19, 2006, over the Conservative government's proposed clean air act, which was being criticized for not being tough enough on polluters and for abandoning the Kyoto Protocol.

Liberal MP David McGuinty asked Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, "Don't you care about your dog?"

Liberals allege that MacKay pointed toward the vacant seat of Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, whom MacKay dated when she was a Conservative, and said, "You already have her." MacKay later denied making the remark (CBC). Whether or not you like Belinda Stronach, or are indifferent, no one has the right to compare a civilized human being to a dog. Not that this would rationalize what MacKay said, but it was not even a witty remark, completely devoid of anything creatively humorous. It was a regretful attempt to demean Ms Stronach in a shot that missed the funny bone. It was very unprofessional to what seems to me, to be a personal insult by MacKay thrown in an
attempt to soothe his still injured ego, while hurting the emotions of another. If he is still personally upset with her, then that's not abnormal, but when you represent 30 million civilized decent people to the world, you don't say demeaning things and expect over 100 other representatives to condone this, and worst of all, not apologize.

This type of comment would be typical of a Taliban government, and there MacKay would probably be considered the Will Rogers of political wit. He had apparantly done a similiar thing in the past when he told Alexa McDonough to get back to her knitting when she was criticizing the Afghanistan mission and raising questions about it. Meant to be an insult, does he perceive anyone who knits to be somehow either simple, unintelligent, unimportant, or irrelevant? What about a man or woman who is a parent at home? Does he think that household duties and raising a child is unworthy of respect? His attitude is as outdated as plaid pants, the afro, or Archie Bunker's attitude.

Imagine your sister, mother, daughter, friend being called a dog, and with the inference that if she knits, it's inherent that she's doing a low-brow thing. How pretentious, thoughtless, and presumptuous to say such a thing. People of every background and ability like to do thousands of leisurely activities or other work, including knitting. What a stupid thing for him to say. He would regain some respect by saying sorry to Ms Stronach and the Canadian people.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Best and Worst of Humanity

Five years after, the images of planes flying into buildings still seem like they could only be cartoons, something visually not real, something only in a movie scene. The visual shock of what happened still resonates with us emotionally. Amidst the senseless and incomprehensible tradegy of 9-11, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians responded to the sudden challenge to assist about 15,000 unexpected stranded airline travellers. Mostly American, they were scared, shocked, weary, and needed the basic necessities of life and somewhere safe to rest. Planes landed at Goose Bay, Gander, Stephenville, and St. John's. People in these and surrounding towns and communities, came to their rescue by offering food, shelter and communications to contact loved ones far away.

While the events of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 showed the world the depth of hate that humanity can sink to, the acts of kindness from the people of this province showed the best that humanity has to offer.

People in small communities, towns, and cities who helped comfort the stranded guests have alot to be proud of. Businesses gave supplies, everything from foods, toothpaste, soap, blankets, etc., community and church groups, medical staff, social workers, crisis counsellors, government and university employees volunteered to help. Performers entertained, people brought passengers' prescriptions to be filled. Their generousity not only was immediately helpful, but it provided hope for people who were witnessing hatred against them. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians responded in a way that the world needed to see more of. Looking back, we can feel proud of not only how we served others, but how it inadvertently reinforced a public image of a kind and caring people.

Around 7,000 passengers found refuge in Central Newfoundland, about 1000 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, over 1000 at Stephenville, and almost 5,000 in St. John's. One of the buildings used to house the stranded was the old Thompson Student Centre of MUN campus. Hundreds of Memorial University's staff, including myself, volunteered to set people up with pillows, places to sleep, food and drink. It was such an unusual sight to see hundreds of bewildered people on campus, but it was also pleasing to know that our province was helping to meet their needs during the tragic but historic events of September 11. Newfoundland & Labrador played a large role in securing American and international travellers, and a big role in making Canadians proud.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Minimum Wages and Old Age Pensions

It is good to hear groups pressure government to raise the minimum wage. It is understandable that there is some apprehension among businesses about Reg Anstey's call for a further increase, since it will be a bit too much of an expense for some businesses. A St. John's Board of Trade representative said as much in a local media interview. However, that is not the whole picture by any means.

According to the BC Small Business Quarterly,
the effects of changes to the minimum wage tend to be exaggerated by both detractors and supporters. There are many factors that must be considered in determining the effect of a minimum wage increase, including the size of the wage bump, the business cycle, the kind of tax and benefit systems in place, and the labour supply, just to name some.
According to an OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report based on a 1998 study of minimum wage changes in nine countries,
a 10% increase in the minimum wage is associated with a 1.5 to 3% decline in teenage employment The evidence also
shows that hikes in the minimum, on their own, can explain only a small fraction of the large falls in teenage employment rates observed over the past two decades in almost all countries. The cross-country evidence suggests that the minimum wage has no significant impact on overall employment... So it may be misleading to suggest that a raise in a minimum wage will necessarily lead to widespread job loss.
Certainly not all business is against the idea of raising minimum wage. From a U.S. site called Responsible Wealth, business leaders support a higher minimum wage. Here's one quote:
"The economy has been growing at a rapid rate, but the buying power of the minimum wage has contintued to decrease. It's time for businesses to step up to the plate and take some responsiblity. How can I expect an employee to have any dedication to this company if I do not treat all employees with respect by paying them a living wage?"
-Michele McGeoy, RH Solutions

In any case businesses in general may benefit because people could have more spending power, not to mention happier employees. It would be a boost for peoples' self esteem, motivation, and possibly their desire to perform good or better. Compliments on the job are wonderful incentive for work dedication, but a raise is a great positive incentive also.

There is a 25 ¢ raise coming in the new year, but that will make it only $ 7.00 / hour. That amounts to $14,560 a year. It's a pretty low amount to live on. That's more, perhaps in many cases, than the amount seniors 65 and over get from the Old Age Security (OAS) program each year. While seniors get a consumer price index increase four times a year, to help meet the cost of living increases, it is still a very low amount. Considering that their work lives have concluded and that means no chance of raises in their income, it seems fair to give them an actual raise, so that they may be ahead of the inflation rates. Those still in the work force often have opportunities to earn more money, by their experience, time on the job, and through education and skill development. In March of this year, the average Old Age Security Pension $460.92 (a month), and the Guaranteed Income Supplement for a single senior was $408.66 (a month).

Not all seniors live on the poverty line bracket, some may have other pensions and incomes. But for those on a low income, perhaps a start would be to either significantly decrease the income tax rate or get rid of the tax on OAS. As baby boomers continue to make the number of pensioners greater each year, this group could eventually compose one third of the population. They will have a huge impact on the economy. I don't imagine businesses would object to pensioners having more money in their pockets. That's not my reason, rather more out of respect for our seniors. When illness and health starts to be more of a consideration for them, it impacts on their individual freedoms. It would be nice to see that freedom expanded by increasing old age security rates, or cutting taxes, so that they have more income to do what they like with in their golden years.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Congrats to the Home Team, and Corner Brook

No, not Aliant, but NL's rugby team, the Rock. They won the ninth Rugby Canada Super League by beating out the Sasketchewan Prairie Fire, over the weekend. I've never been a fan of the sport, but perhaps a bit now, not just because it is the second such win in a row for the guys, but because it seemed to go unnoticed in national papers sports sections, that is, online anyway. It was not listed on the CBC, CTV, the Globe, National Post, or Sask. papers, unless I missed it. No big deal, but I thought that a province with a small population, who could manage to be tops over other Canadian teams, might be sports newsworthy. Then again, that's no surprise.

For example, in another field of entertainment last fall, the rock group Nickelback did their 24 hour cross Canada tour, that's right, all the way from Halifax to BC. I guess they forgot about attending the Junos in St. John's several years earlier. These and other entertainment, or sports snubs are not life threatening concerns, but it does provide a glimple into an attitude of unimportance toward Newfoundland & Labrador, from others in Canada. I've only seem two sites that mentioned the win, VOCM, and Rugby Canada's official site.

Also, congrats to the city of Corner Brook for putting of what appears to be another successful Triathlon World Cup event, last week. Last night, Olympic tri-athlete gold medal winner, Simon Whitfield of BC, was asked by the CBC sportscaster why he liked competing at Corner Brook. He quickly answered because of the crowds around Glynmill Inn Pond cheering the athletes on, the city, the beauty of the region, and the warmth of the people. He also said that Corner Brook is one of the places he returns to after a competition just to visit and tour the area. This is the 25th year this event has been held there, so it was a proud feeling to hear kind words like that about one of the province's major centres.

With all the dismal fisheries news, outmigration, seal hunt protest slanders, it is good to hear something positive that is nationally newsworthy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Labrador Tourism Needs Better Promotion

I read the article posted by NL-Expat about tourists in Labrador who described the infrastructure as not even meeting the basic tourist needs. It was truly hard to believe that someone could be on the highway and not know where to turn for the ferry. Anyway for what it's worth, I am sending Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador, and the Tourism Department my two sheckles worth. I imagine they've heard this many times before, but another voice will at least add to the message of tourism neglect in Labrador. Here's what I sent to Mr. Nick McGrath, president of HNL, and to the Department of Tourism:

To: Mr. Tom Hedderson, Mr. Nick McGrath

Dear Sirs,

I want to first of all wish you the greatest success in your efforts to promote Newfoundland & Labrador tourism. The following news story may have already been brought to your attention, but I just wanted to add another voice from the province.

I am originally from the Burin Peninsula but read in disbelief the Labradorian article at which describes the apparant lack of signage on Labrador roads, tourist literature, souvenirs, promotional material at ferry terminals, and inadequate ferry service. It is hard to believe that someone unfamiliar with the area would come to a T intersection and not know whether to take a left or right for the ferry. One would think this is a given.

Mr. McGrath, I am happy to see that you are from Labrador, and I am sure there couldn't be a better advocate for Labrador tourism. I can tell you that more and more people not from Labrador are equally concerned about the neglect that evidently exists in regards to Labrador tourism. It just came to my attention from a fellow NL blogger. Hopefully being aware of these problems will prompt action from our government and tourism agencies to put some basic tourist communications, promotions, signage in place so that anyone can travel to this wonderful part of the province and easily find places, and activities they have heard of.

Thank you, and again, best wishes to you both.



Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sitting Ducks

Watching the docile duck on a perfect pond makes for a serene Sunday.

What a pleasant experience to see the innocence and contentment as they wade through their fragile habitats.

This is worth preserving everywhere.

In a world of "development" this remaining natural escape is always threatened by urban living and industrial development.

If we allow our environment to be polluted then we may all be

sitting ducks

Monday, July 10, 2006

France 3, Italy Won

France had played with graceful passing, the confidence of experience, and with a team whose timing was sychronized. In particular, the "aging" Zinedine Zidane, 34, dazzled the world with his quick foot work, precision passing, and his controlled comportment. It was his soccer swan song. But even the greats sometimes show other sides of their character.With only 10 minutes left in overtime play, Zidane lost his control, and could not resist head-butting an opponent hard in the chest. For this he was ordered out of the game, and rightly so. But what a shocker. Of all people, he who could have went on to score one of the penalty shots.

France had the best control of the game, and it was so unfortunate for the rest of his team to suffer, and now wonder, would they have won had Zidane not behaved this way. Well it's history now, and what a historical event it was. The teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time, and again after the half hour overtime, then came the penalty shots. But one French player failed to score, and Italia all over the world are on cloud nine. The final tally was Italy 5, France 3 in the shoot out.

Bob Lenarduzzi, a former Canadian soccer coach and professional player, believes Canada will again make it to the World Cup Soccer tournament. It will be in South Africa in 2010. That would be good to see, especially if any one of the talented players from NL were picked for the team. Some may think it's a long shot, but that's what upalong sports reporters thought of the Gushue rink too. In any case any prospective player with big dreams has four more years to practise and prepare.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Italy in World Cup Final: Will they play France or Portugal?

With a loud home crowd, steller teams, great passing and set up plays, shots and saves, today's game was exciting. Germany's goalkeeper saved the day on a number of key shots from the impressive Italians. Defence was strong on both sides, so it wasn't surprising that there was no score after the regulation 90 minute play.
(Grosso of Italy scores)

The next part of the semi-final was to play two fifteen halfs. Up to the last few minutes, there was still no score.

But some pinpoint passing from an Italian forward to Fabio Grosso finally broke through the goalkeeping skills of one of the best goalies in the soccer world, Germany's Jens Lehmann. With only minutes to go before the dreaded penalty kicks, Italians everywhere in the world were cheering as that goal basically sent them to the final. For good measure, another Italian goal went in, as the Germans seemed to have lost the morale at that late point.
German fans watch the big screen at the Friedensplatz, in Dortmund Another semi-final game between France and Portugal takes place tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. Newfoundland time on TSN. Either France or Portugal will go on to play Italy on Sunday for soccer's biggest prize, the world cup. I have not seen Portugal play yet, but France really has it together as a team with precision passing, great foot artistry from Zinedine Zidane, and the dangerous strikers like Henri to make good on those long passes. It should be exciting to watch.

If I were to bet, it would be on France, but it only takes one goal, so it's still anyone's prize right now.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Response from Fisheries Minister to Letter Protesting Environment Regulation Change

I just received this response from Minister of Fisheries, Loyola Hearn. This is the letter I originally sent to Federal and Provincial Environment and Fisheries Ministers, and Opposition Critics. At least it's good to know that politicians are reading this.

Mr. _______________ (SMTP:

Dear Mr. _________________:

Thank you for your correspondence of May 30, 2006, regarding the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) amendment process as it relates to the use of fish-bearing waters as tailing impoundment areas.

Although the MMER are regulations created under the Fisheries Act, the administrative responsibility for these regulations have been delegated to Environment Canada, due to their broad expertise regarding environmental contaminants. Environment Canada is also responsible for carrying out the regulatory amendment process for the MMER.

In order to facilitate public comment during the Canada Gazette process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will refer all correspondence to the Honorable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Environment, for consideration when finalizing the amendments to the MMER.

Thank you for your interest in the current regulatory amendment and for taking the time to bring your views to the Government of Canada.


Loyola Hearn, P.C., M.P.

c.c. The Honourable Rona Ambrose, P.C., M.P.

Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Soccer: Nations Closer, at Least for a While

The World Cup of Soccer is a quadrennial event which draws billions of viewers worldwide for one month, for one thing. While a universal tournament like this may bring out countrys patriotism, political differences, and some hooliganism, it still unites the world in a way that few if any other event does to the same degree.
The FIFA World Cup Soccer (or "football", as Europeans call it) tournament is interesting not only because the greatest soccer players play to their highest potential, it is interesting because it is the most highly regarded single sport in the world, which links the world together through a common passion for the beautiful game, soccer ( Brazilian great Pelé coined the phrase). That is, it brings diverse peoples together in not just the physical gathering in venues across Germany, but also mentally, in the sense that people around the world have something in common. They have a love of this particular type of skill, an appreciation for individual players' attempts to reach the pinnacle of their God given abilities.

Winning the world cup is huge. It is to the winning country, what winning the Stanley Cup is to any professional hockey player. The live telecast of World Cup soccer is like watching the best mathematicians compete to solve a difficult problem the fastest, the best chess players, scrabble olympians, computer programmers, or 100 metre dash athletes, concentrate their mental, and physical energies to the greatest extent they can, to culminate in their most ultimate efforts.

For many players the World Cup of Soccer is the actual apex of their personal potential.
This event is possibly bigger than the Olympics. The Olympics draws billions of viewers, but for many different sporting events. The FIFA World Cup of Soccer tournament only has one, so you know that others around the world are tuning in to the same thing. As you watch a player's dazzling footwork skill or his clever moves, or quick intelligent thinking, you can imagine that others anywhere on the globe are often thinking the same thing, "wow, that move, that shot, that setup is clever, what a brilliant play!"

In a world where cultural, religious, political, race, and language differences too often build walls to communication and understanding, diverse peoples can mentally connect through a like appreciation or love of soccer. At a time where the daily news is filled with what seems like increasing tensions, hatred, violence and a distancing of mutual understandings, it is refreshing to see different peoples of the world share a common passion.

Language or culture is irrelevant when people see a smart play, they can mentally connect with the same expression of awe, wonderment, or disappointment - be on the "same page". This non-verbal knowingness is important because it allows an empathy or beginning of one between groups. Instead of walls, there are mental bridges built by means of a common love of soccer. In a world of wide ranging mindsets and terrorist extremism, world cup soccer is one of many commonalities that various peoples of the world share. For a short time, it may create a bond we wish existed in all realms of humanity - a mental or spiritual connectiveness with others in the world, through a universally loved recreation.

When the 2002 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) world cup soccer was held in Korea/Japan, there were a watched cumulative total of 30 billion viewers, with 1 billion for the final between Brazil and Germany. There are 32 teams from 6 continents in the present tournament. More people are expected to watch this time because of the time zone it is happening from. Canada is not a competitor but one can still vicariously experience the thrill and excitement felt by those whose country just won a game, and the world cup.

Perhaps by 2010, there could be a Canadian team, or Newfoundland & Labrador player(s) actually in the competition. We certainly have alot of soccer talent, especially from the remarkable town of St. Lawrence, home of the Laurentians. But for now I am content to watch many evenly matched teams compete for the glory and the pride they will bring to their countries. Will it be Brazil, Holland, Iran, South Korea or one of the African nations this year? Where games are often won by one goal, it could be a surprise. It would be great to see an underdog win. In any event, it's interesting to see the pride and excitement of players and fans from around the world. If you're a fan, I'm sure you'll enjoy.

(for updates and scores, visit the official FIFA site)

Monday, June 19, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth: Not All Gore

The film An Inconvenient Truth "starring" Al Gore may be just as dramatic as any movie out there. We've heard, read, and seen for years that global warming is here and is a growing problem which is already affecting climate, glaciers, and water supplies around the world, but this film clearly shows it. The show was very informative, visually and graphically interesting. There were a number of important points made in the film. The most important is that humanity is not doing enough to stop the problem of global warming. Excellent before and after pictures of various glaciers and lakes in the world were shown, and the amount they have receded was startling. Important lakes in the north of Africa, and Russia have practically dried up, the ice is thinning in the arctic, and more ice is falling from Antartic glaciers.

Another major point is that although people and governments have known this for years, northern hemisphere nations, the U.S. in particular, are the worst contributors to greenhouse gases. Back in 1990 I listened to two tapes by David Suzuki called "It's a Matter of Survival". In the tapes he described a scenario in 50 years from then, in which ocean levels around the world would rise to cover much of what is now beach front properties, communities, cities, and reaching 10 and in some cases 100 of miles inland. Gore's Inconvenient Truth covers this similiarly. But its excellent use of graphics makes it all more real.

One more major point was that many people seem to for various reasons, not consider the effects that global warming is having on the earth. Perhaps because it is a relatively gradual process which chips away at parts of our climate and environment insidiously and surely, but not overnight. We live in a consumer and product focused society where material things and consumption is seen to be the "American", "Canadian" or whatever nations dream (Canada was ranked 28th out of 30 industrial nations for its environment performance - Suzuki, Telegram, June 18, 2006). Living a simpler life is never advertised.

Most of society are not conditioned to conserve because that would mean not buying as much to keep the economic engines going. The ideas of recycling and conserving gas is out there, but it is up to us as individuals to do our parts, like more recycling, consuming less gas, etc. As a whole people have alot of power. The less need for some of the products that pollute then the less pollutants. It is also up to our governments to live up to pledges to cut back on emissions that contribute to the problem.

As we are never advised to actually save our money, not spend, only if it benefits banks, credit card companies, investors, etc., similiarly we are hardly encouraged to cut down on material purchases, transportation, and large consumption because it makes a small portion of society very rich. The idea of consuming is associated with buying happiness. Conversely if you do without then you're missing out on happiness. Of course we do need plenty of material things to live, and have comfort, however, the methods to manufacture them, manage, and recycle have much room for improvement.

I did not expect the theatre to be packed when I saw an Inconvenient Truth. It's not a typical movie, where most expect typical drama from lifes relationships, action, special effects, or pyro-technics. This was evident as I counted eight people in the theatre to see this show. However, the film must be creating a bit of a worry among big industry groups. Suzuki again, in a June 4 article (Telegram), points out that America's big free-market think-tanks ... funded largely by big industries, come up with all sorts of unusual claims and statements to justify the status quo and make sure that big, profitable, polluting industries continue to be big, profitable polluting industries. Two recent 30 second television ads in the U.S. say,
... The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a world of backbreaking labour. Now politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then?... They call it pollution. We call it life.
The good news is that more people are becoming aware of global warming issues, and angry. For example, a recent Canadian study showed that children had more toxins in their bodies than their parents. Several mothers interviewed on CBC were alarmed at this finding. The same study showed evidence that pollutants which were banned after some children were born, were still found in their bodies because it was still transmitted from the mother to child. Like the effects of nicotine and trans fats had been covered up for years, how many more contaminants exist around us, or are consumed by us, that do harm to our bodies, are still being cover up? Companies who manufacture dangerous substances, and pollute the environment want the status quo to remain. However, it is not in our best interest, only their's.

In the case of Aur Resources Duck Pond mining project, it appears they will take advantage of poor economic circumstances to insist that it's either their way or no way. They could be giving people a choice of how to handle toxic tailings but they are not doing so. They and other mining companies have done this around the world, and because some governments are so desperate for money, and need to show employment happening, that companies like Aur can take the easy way, and not have any ethical concerns for our environment. To some it may seem like, "hey, it's only one mining project," but again, it is a chipping away of part of a healthy environment which is gradually taking place, here, Canada and around the world. Bit by bit, pollution accumulates and contributes to the overall problem. Future generations will have more problems to cope with unless our generation and governments take action to stop the effects of global warming.

This film is worth seeing. There's alot of information, but it gives great information and visual evidence about how places are already being affected by the problem of global warming.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Them Days Fundraiser

    The notice below was sent out from Teresa Best of the Native Liaison Office, MUN.
Them Days to hold fundraiser in St. John's

JUNE 14, 2006 - Them Days Archives & Publications will be hosting a fundraiser evening on Sunday, June 25, at 7 p.m. at the Inco Innovation Centre in St. John's.

The event will help raise awareness of Them Days magazine as well as raise funds for a much-needed archive room in which to store the vast amount of rare and valuable photos, negatives, taped interviews, books, official records, genealogies and numerous files of anything and everything to do with Labrador.

Them Days Editor and Curator, Lorne Hollett, is inviting everyone to this informative evening, which will showcase early photos of Northern Labrador.

Judge Jim Igloliorte will be guest speaker at the event and will tell of his first-hand experience of Labrador.

"Thirty-one years ago, the late Doris Saunders was hired to prepare a book of stories as told by the elders of Labrador", said Mr. Hollett Doris saw the potential of something great and established an on-going quarterly publication, which we still have today."

Them Days Archives & Publications has been called, "... the greatest source of Labrador archival material in the world."

"I am encouraging everyone to attend this event, as we need the public's support to help us achieve our goal of a proper archive, so that our valuable collection is kept safe for years to come," said Mr. Hollett.

Refreshments will be provided and every person who attends will have their name entered in a draw for a gift set of back issues of Them Days.

For more information on this event, contact Them Days at (709) 896-8531.

A Few Thoughts on Empathy

Empathy, is a bridge to mutual human understanding and key to resolving or preventing conflict. This is true on a micro and macro level. In everyday situations, it could be one wondering why a child, or co-worker is in a bad mood that day, or it could be a dispute between religious, cultural, political groups or nations.
Empathy is imagining the other person's or groups point of view, placing yourself in their context, and seeing the challenges they may have, or knowing how they evolved to the point they're at. Empathizing can potentially hinder hatred from happening, whereas hatred makes it harder for someone to empathize with the hated. Without empathy, perspective and mutual understanting mis-communication can occur and escalate.

In order to come to agreements amidst hatred, opposing positions have to be willing to mentally try and understand in an objective way, how people or groups act as they do. The more hatred the harder this is because empathizing involves overcoming an image of the other party as being wrong or bad, malacious, or villianous. It means, as hard as it is to do at times, placing yourself in the other person's mind, situations, and it takes you to, in a way, a possible rationale, or understanding of how the opposing party may justify their acts or words, that is, understanding the possible reasons for the other's point of view. By empathizing, one may be able to relate to some of the background, behaviours, experiences of another. Therefore, this understanding can be a bridge to overcoming conflict.

Despite individual, religious, political, cultural, racial, language, or gender differences, etc., people have many things in common. People have basic needs, food, water, living comfort, safety, respect, acknowledgement, self-esteem, friendship, love and belongingness, and ultimately as the psychologist Maslow termed it, self-actualization. Everyone in the world has this. In terms of world conflict, world leaders need to understand commonalities, and understand why some or many of these needs are not achieved. In terms of world teaching, each country may have it own history, religion and language teachings in their respective learning institutions, but perhaps there needs to be a new universal subject that representatives from all over the world agree on. That subject could be called "Understanding Others", or "Empathy".

Understanding between peoples was always important, but the world sure could use more empathy now. It has to be practised by all opposing sides.
The West and radical religious views are polarized and are at war. In a discussion to bridge opposing cultures, there may need to be open introspection into each parties own actions, lifestyles, and other cultural divides. I found it somewhat comforting on Wednesday, that important Islamic leaders officially condemned other Muslims who may be involved in violent acts in our country. It seems to have been a long time in coming, but they seemed be empathetic to concerns of non-Muslim Canadians. Similiarly, despite what radical terrorists carry out, we always need to empathize with another culture that shares our country, and to always put into perspective who the terrorists are and what extreme views they represent. Obviously the vast majority of Muslims are not represented when a terrorist bombs innocent people. But there is no doubt many are feeling paranoid, frightened, and unfairly tarred with the same stereotype as actual terrorists. Other groups and religions have sometimes have felt similiar unfair yet subtle societal snubs, or outright prejudices, because member of that group or religion has committed crimes, so it isn't fair to treat all members of that group as criminal.

It is hard to be empathetic sometimes. But in order to help stop conflicts, there needs to be more understanding between different worlds leaders, and important influential people. Looking into someone else's mind will help then see themselves, and reflect on what their respective society looks like from the outside. There are many groups and people whose empathy concentration is central to their profession, but I think people everywhere need to develop more empathy skills. This is true on a routine daily basis with co-workers and friends, and also on a large scale in the world.
Quotes on empathy

1. The greatest virtue of Dr. (Martin Luther) King - to quote from his tribute to Dr. W.E.B. DuBois - was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice.

2. He (Dr. King) did not criticize white people. He understood they were as they were because of their backgrounds and experience. He appealed to whites as good neighbors:

The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.

He was saturated with empathy and he requested that whites feel the same empathy towards blacks. He was merely requesting that white Americans live up to their professed ideals. King proclaimed:

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

3. "The most valuable things in life are not measured in monetary terms. The really important things are not houses and lands, stocks and bonds, automobiles and real state, but friendships, trust, confidence, EMPATHY, mercy, love and faith."
- Bertrand Russell

4. "I do not ask how the wounded person feels. I simply become that wounded person."
- Winston Churchill

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hare & Gone

I just went out to take a couple of close up flower shots to try out my new digital camera, when I was treated to the sight of a wild rabbit.    
It hopped across my yard to a dogberry tree, stayed there for about 4 minutes, nibbling on leaves.    
You can't beat nature. The odd squirrel comes around but this rabbit is not a common sight. I guess it's safe to say summer is here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Famous Quotes on Foresight

Some of these may be familiar but they're still amusing.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
- Bill Gates (1955-), in 1981

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
- Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles, in 1962

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
- Harry Morris Warner (1881-1958), co-founder of Warner Brothers, in 1927

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
- Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, in 1943

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a C, the idea must be feasible."
- A Yale University management professor, in response to student Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express)
taken from

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Letter to Protest the Mining Regulations Amendment Proposal

This is a letter you can send to the Federal Ministers for the Environment, and Fisheries & Oceans, the Federal Opposition for same, and the Provincial counterparts.

Dear Minister,

As a proud citizen of Newfoundland & Labrador’s natural beauty I ask that government take action to stop the plan by Environment Canada to change the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations, so that new mines will not be allowed use unspoiled fish-bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste. The proposed Schedule 2 amendment to the MMER would allow ANY mine in Canada to pollute new fresh water areas. In addition to being ethically and environmentally wrong, it is in violation of the Fisheries Act, Section 36, and could even open the door to have the Fisheries Act changed. That this amendment was proposed in the first place is alarming. If it were to be passed into law it will go down in history as a step back in time to when it was acceptable to contaminate precious ecosystems teeming with life. That idea is completely objectionable.

The mining company Aur Resources plan to use two fish bearing ponds in Central Newfoundland to dump their toxic mine tailings. This would set a precedent of restoring a bygone practice that had been abolished. Many more mining companies would be getting in line to also use pristine Canadian ponds for their tailings disposal. Newfoundland & Labrador and all other provinces need to preserve and nurture the ponds, lakes, aquatic and wildlife in our ecosystems, rather than pollute more of them for decades to come, while paying for clean up, maintenance and health problems possibly resulting from contaminated areas. It would be a loss for future generations and an abuse of our province simply for the benefits of a company’s short term gain.

There are alternatives for the Duck Pond mining project, but Aur Resources have not seriously considered them in the Environment Impact Statement. The proposed Schedule 2 amendment to the MMER should be retracted so that the Fisheries Act, Section 36 principle of not allowing "deleterious substances" into fish bearing ponds will be upheld.

As a concerned citizen I demand that Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries & Oceans take a stand which protects and preserves our environment. I want to send the message that our lakes and waterways are not open for business. I strongly urge you to intervene to stop the archaic Schedule 2 amendment from being law.

Sincerely Yours,


Federal Environment Minister

The Honourable Rona Ambrose

The Honourable Loyola Hearn
Federal Minister, Fisheries and Oceans

The Hon. Bill Matthews

Federal Fisheries Critic

The Honourable Scott Brison

Federal Environment Critic

The Honourable Clyde Jackman

Environment Minister for Newfoundland & Labrador

Mr. Gerry Reid

Leader of the NL Official Opposition, and Fisheries and Aquaculture critic

Hon. Percy Barrett

Environment and Labour Critic for Newfoundland & Labrador

Quick Backgrounder: Environment Canada has proposed a change to the Metal Mining Effluents Regulations (MMER) which will allow mining companies to pollute unspoiled fish-bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste (currently illegal). This would mean that any pristine life-giving pond or lake in Canada could be contaminated. But this is not law yet, however, it could be unless government officials hear people's objections about this, then take action to see that it does not proceed, hence the letter.

For more background, please scroll down the page to read the May 21 & 26 posts.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Mining Regulation Change Threatens Ecosystems & Fisheries Act

If proposed amendments to the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) are not retracted then any fresh water body in the province or the country could be polluted with toxic waste from mining. In other words, "deleterious substances" will be allowed to pollute fish-bearing waters which is contrary to Section 36 of the Fisheries Act. At the risk of over-using the word precedent, this proposed change, which is not yet law, would set a precedent for this practice to be more easily used at ANY minesite in Canada.

If ponds and fish habitats multiplied like the seal population there would be less reason for concern. However, what mining companies send into tailings ponds is not vitamin D. To use the iceberg analogy, often what we see and hear looks good on the surface but much of the potential harm lies under water, literally. Some dark consequences of using ponds for tailings are immediate and obvious, while other repercussions may be long term, and less apparent. Immediately, fish and their habitats can be destroyed, later, the food chain may be gradually contaminated. Who knows what percentage of health problems can be attributed to cumulative toxic build up in our bodies already? It has only been in the last couple of years that the public is kindly being saturated with helpful information on trans fats in foods. I think that many food companies thought that what we don't know, won't hurt them. Trans fat has been linked to 100's of thousands of deaths due to heart disease. Whether it's food or the environment, preventative measures seem like the best way to lessen the risk of health & environment problems.

Members of ENGO (Environmental Non-governmental Organizations) strongly oppose the Schedule 2 amendment. Here's what the proposed Schedule 2 Amendments will do:

- include a new definition of "tailings impoundment areas" (tailings are the valueless minerals & mining waste materials)
- will list two new water bodies in Central Newfoundland onto Schedule 2
- and will allow "new" mines to use natural water bodies - including fish-bearing water bodies - for the purpose of depositing tailings.

The new provisions will also require a company to prepare fish habitat compensation plans to support the DFO principle of "no net loss". That compensation would be most likely for some other area considered to be environmentally damaged.

Experts like Dr. Joseph Rasmussen, Dr. John Gibson, Dr. Catherine Coumans, agree with DFO that harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat will occur as a result of using fish-bearing water bodies as a tailings impoundment area.

From my communications with Mining Watch, ENGO and Mr. Chad Griffiths it appears that none of Aur Resources compensation plans, including those approved by DFO, are anywhere near scientifically adequate to show that "no net loss" of fish habitat will be achieved by the plans. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there does not apppear to be any evidence of serious consideration of alternative means to deal with mine effluents.

What are the environmental risks of zinc-copper tailings in ponds?

  • Loss of Habitat: due to acidic drainage that will occur as a result of dumping millions of tonnes of pyrite-rich mine wastes.
  • Potential degradation of riverine quality: resulting from hydrological impacts, combined with the toxic seepage into aquifers and surface waters of the Exploits Rever watershed.
  • Long term future of tailings ponds, environmental risks and liability issues. Acid-generating wastes must be kept underwater in order to minimize the rate of oxidation by Thiobacillus bacteria... the water levels in the tailings ponds must be maintained in perpetuity. This raises the question as to who is going to pay the costs of maintaining the dams that regulate these water levels.

    What wildlife is sustained at Trout Pond?
    Click this link for a detailed description of the aquatic and wildlife diversity in the Duck Pond area.

    Personally I suspect that company economics is the reason why no serious consideration went into finding alternate tailings impoundment methods. If that is the case, then would it be more economical for Aur Resources to post a financial bond to maintain a freshwater pond for decades to come, as opposed to building a safer facility now? A report of the first man-made sub-aqueous tailings disposal at Louvicourt Mine was released in 2005. It stated that it was a success. Aur Resources was applauded in 1995 for its support of this innovation. In my humble opinion it seems like they could save themselves alot of financial and ethical grief by going with a more environmentally safe tailings management method.

    One could also be suspicious that DFO and/or Environment Canada has been facilitating industrial development. Dr. Catherine Coumans wrote a background and history of the MMER in 2005. It appears that the MMER was originally protective of Section 36 of the Fisheries Act. However, the 2004 proposed amendments were seemingly rushed along. Environment Canada announced that the MMER review process would be sped up, because Aur Resources wanted to start a new copper lead zinc mine called the Duck Pond Project, using Trout Pond as a tailings dump as early as the summer of 2006.

    Newfoundland & Labrador and Canada is dotted with ponds, lakes, and wetlands that may be conveniently close to new mining projects. Not only would a pleasant clean ecosystem be tarnished, but people's freedom now and in the future would be more restricted. It would mean less places where you could drink from, fish from, swim in, and enjoy wildlifes sights and sounds. But as Dr. John Gibson put it on CBCs Radio Noon show last week, how can you compensate for an evolving unique species once they're gone, or replicate their specific habitat? Efforts should be continued to plan a safe and non-polluting solution to the tailings impoundment controversy. That would be a good precedent. If a mining company dumped tailings in a pond near me, I'd be poisoned!
  • Description of Wildlife in the Duck Pond Area

    This is an excellent description taken from a comment posted by Chad Griffiths:

    “ (Salmo salar), non-anadromous or landlocked salmon (ouananiche), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), and the three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

    Both Harpoon Brook (including Trout Pond, Trout Pond Brook, and the unnamed brook draining the wetland south of Trout Pond) and Noel Paul’s Brook (including Tally Pond, Tally Pond Brook, West Tally Pond, and West Tally Pond Brook) contain brook trout and Atlantic salmon, although anadromous salmon and Arctic char have not been reported in the ponds at the Project site. The total area of stream habitat in the Exploits watershed has been estimated to be
    349,000 units of all habitat types (where 1 unit = 100 m2).”

    A variety of species of avifauna are known to occur in the Duck Pond area. These include a range of waterfowl and shorebirds (e.g., green-winged teal (Anas crecca), black duck (Anas rubripes), northern pintail (Anas acuta), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), common merganser (Mergus merganser), red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), common loon (Gavia immer), greater yellow-legs (Tringa melanoleuca), common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), and spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia)). Raptors that may be found in the region include merlin (Falco columbrius), American kestrel (Falco sparverius), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), great horned owl (Bobo virginianus), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipter striatus), boreal owl (Aegolius funereus), and northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula), as well as others. A total of 58 species of avifauna have been observed in the area over the past decade, including a variety of songbirds, such as warblers, thrushes, finches, and woodpeckers, as well as waterfowl and raptors. Aquatic furbearers such as beaver (Castor canadensis), otter (Lutra canadensis), and mink (Mustela
    vison) are known to be present in the area. Muskrat (Ondatra zebithicus) are also likely present in low densities. Other furbearer species likely to be present include: lynx (Lynx lynx); short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and coyote (Canis latrans).”

    -Page viii, ix (Duck Pond EIS Executive Summary)

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Mining Company Wants to Poison Two Ponds in Central Newfoundland

    This story only caught my attention a few days ago, when Anne Budgell on CBC Radio (scroll down for the May 18 link) interviewed two guests about the Duck Pond mine development. Her guests were Dr. John Gibson, a retired biologist, and Chad Griffiths of the Trout Pond Action Group. Their information about the Duck Pond Mine project was very disturbing. Aur Resources (pronounced 'Oar') intends to use two fish bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste there, thus, destroying a trout and salmon habitat, and permanently ruining the ponds and other water areas with the acid remnants from copper and zinc mining. These ponds are located in central Newfoundland, joined to the Exploits river, and close to Buchans. Dr. Gibson said that there will be toxic run out from zinc and copper, and the acid waste will poison more brooks, Harpoon & Trout Brook, and Gill's Pond Brook. Dr. Gibson adds that zinc and copper are highly lethal and that the ponds will be poisoned in perpetuity.

    Mining watchdog, says, "Alternatives to using the lakes for tailings (toxic waste from mining) disposal were never properly evaluated, and the plan to compensate for the destruction is inadequate."

    According to Dr. Gibson, under the Fisheries Act, no toxic waste can be deposited into a fish bearing habitat. He made a great point as he described his objection to how Aur Resources thinks it's cheaper to use a pond as a dump.
    Because if you were obliged to make a lake the size of Quidi Vidi, stock it with unique fish community, birds, plants, fur bearing creatures, etc., it wouldn't be done. And yet they think it's cheaper.
    Chad Griffiths added that an artificial impoundment alternative was not mentioned in the Environmental Impact statement.

    What's equally upsetting is that this seems to be slipping through with the quiet approval of the Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada (EC). When such a project is undertaken a proper environmental assessment is required, and all alternatives to using new ponds, i.e., ponds that have not previously been used for dumping toxins, have to be explored. This is one of the problems. There is an alternative to using pristine bodies of water to hold mining waste.

    Located near Val d'Or, Quebec, the Louvicourt Mine has been in operation since 1994. Aur Resources was a 30% owner as well as mine manager. The decision was made to not destroy natural water bodies for mine waste disposal, but to create manmade structures, and it was "overall a successful endeavour."

    Right now it seems that the only reason Aur Resources want to use Duck Pond and Trout Pond is pure greed, that is, it is more cost efficient. Meanwhile, the prices for copper and zinc are at a higher rate now than when the Duck Pond proposal was first put forward. I have yet to hear of a reason why besides saving a few bucks for the company, that an artificial containment facility cannot be constructed.

    Another problem mentioned by Mining Watch Canada, Dr. Gibson and Chad Griffiths, is that the fish capacity study, mandated by DFO for Aur Resources to conduct on Trout Pond, was not carried out correctly. For example, testing on fish habitat was supposed to be done over a period of time after the late summer when temperatures are high. However, Aur Resources did a study for 10 days during the summer. This flawed study (see p. 4) was also applied to another pond. So the methodology was wrong, and yet DFO and EC are allowing Aur Resources to move forward with thier plan to ruin ponds in Central Newfoundland.

    Yet another suspicious ommision from Aur Resource's plan is that they provide no evidence that a bond has been posted adequate to cover costs of perpetual monitoring of ground and surface waters around the mine and perpetual maintenance of the dams that will keep the toxic mine waste from contaminating the Exploits River system. - Mining Watch Canada

    The mine will only operate for 6.3 years, but the maintainance of the mine and waste disposal area will be permanent.

    Mining Watch Canada (MWC) is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. MWC is currently participating, as a member of The Canadian Environmental Network (CEN), in a multistakeholder review of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER). A revised regulations came into force in 2002 - following a 12 year review process - with a new appendix, Schedule 2, that was added at the very end of the review process. Schedule 2 identifies tailings impoundment areas. By being placed on Schedule 2 a natural water body is redefined as a tailings impoundment area. The new Schedule 2 would allow new ponds and lakes to be used as toxic dumps. Aur Resources can set a dangerous precedent by getting permission to add Duck & Trout Ponds to the Schedule 2.

    Chad Griffiths described this action as a "significant and substantial change in Canadian Environment Policy." He goes on to say that this
    lays the limbo bar relatively low for any mining company in Canada to say 'there's a pond relatively close to our operation .. so why not here?' It's a dangerous precedent.
    In 2002, CEN representatives in the review process were assured that Schedule 2 would serve to deal with 'historic' cases in which lakes had been used as tailings impoundment as these mines would otherwise find themselves out of compliance with the regulation. Environment Canada and DFO officials have approved the inclusion of these two ponds onto Schedule 2 of the revised regulations.

    Aur Resources and Canadian regulating authorities (Environment Canada, DFO) are statutorily obligated to seek alternatives to the destruction of fresh water bodies for industrial purposes.

    According to Mining Watch, Aur Resources, the NL Dept. of Environment & Conservation, and DFO, did not do all they could to explore alternatives to the destruction of two ponds for mine waste disposal.

    How will the ponds be polluted?

    AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) is the number one problem facing the mining industry in Canada. AMD occurs when sulphide-bearing minerals in rock are exposed to air and water, changing the sulphide to sulphuric acid. This acid dissolves heavy metals such as lead, zinc, copper, arsenic, cadminium, selenium and mercury into ground and surface water. Certain bacteria, naturally present, can significantly increase the rate of this reaction. - source: Mining Watch Canada

    As alluded to earlier this is a dangerous and significant backward step in environmental protection and conservation. There are other mining companies already lining up to use the Schedule 2 to allow other pristine waters in different parts of Canada for toxic waste disposal (the Red Chris & Kemess North projects in BC, and the Wabush mine in Labrador). There will probably be more areas of Newfoundland & Labrador considered to be mining prospects. If the Duck Pond Mine precedent is set, then many other fish bearing ponds could be destroyed in the future. So is this really taking control of our resources, and not give aways? I don't think so. Our elected officials past and present should have demanded no less than the preservation of our land and water, and no further damage to new and previously untouched ponds and lakes.

    It seemed like a bit of dark humour when Aur Resources used the innocent sounding Duck Pond Mine, to name their polluting mine. I would like to see people get work but not see Duck Pond's name changed to Dead Duck Pond in the near future.

    We have a beautiful province and fresh water is one of the most valuable resources we have. As a citizen of this province I object to the way that this project is taking place. Jobs for people in the Buchans area are important, but Aur Resources can develop its mine but not to the detriment of our pristine environment. When they are gone in 7 years, they might be leaving behind a perpetual toxic mess for the people of our province to have to pay for and maintain. However, this does not have to be the case. They can use the alternative of a manmade containment structure to hold the waste, and at the same time, preserve our ponds, fish, wildlife, and provide people with employment. For my part I will write the NL Department of Environment, and contacts at Mining Watch Canada to add my protest to the way this mining project is being planned.

    * Chad Griffiths ( announced that there is a meeting on Wed., May 24, at the MUN University Centre, Rm. 2000.


    NL Dept. of Environment and Conservation
    Minister Clyde Jackman, 729-2574

    Call the CBC Noon Line to voice your opinion on this, 576-5262. The toll free number is 1-866-576-5262 for long distance anywhere in North America.

    Here are other contacts in case anyone is interested to send a message regarding this issue:

  • Patrick Finlay of Environment Canada,
  • Georgette Muller, PCO Policy Analyst,
  • Joan Kuyek, Mining Watch Canada National Coordinator,
  • Sarah Heiberg, Caucus Coordinator, Canadian Environmental Network,
  • Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Outmigration & Economic Diversification

    No matter what the causes or possible solutions are for NL's chronic high unemployment, one feels a duel sense of loss, yet pride, when a family member has to move away for work. 1000's of families in Newfoundland & Labrador experience this every year. This weeks outmigration included my brother, one of his co-workers, and brother-in-law - three skilled, talented and valuable people. They are all in their 50's, and have left the Burin Peninsula because the fishing industry which employed them for decades has closed its doors. Though I feel the void of daily communications with my brother already, it is a good yet sad story. The sad part is obvious, leaving a home, wife, family & friends, community involvement, and comfort. A gifted musician, hard worker, and community volunteer, he continues to make me proud. At 52, he will work at least 60 hours per week in his new job. None of them wanted to leave, but the options are currently limited. The good side of the story is that they are like 1000's of other Newfoundlanders who leave NL each year, and proved their determination to work.

    Also, because of Alberta's amazing economic growth, it has a big appetite for migrant workers from all over Canada, thus, mouth watering salaries and wages are earned by workers. In that regard it is great to see Newfoundlander & Labradorians get a piece of the rich economic pie. Fat is good when it is followed by 'pay cheque'. Often times money earned outside the province is sent home to help pay the bills, for kids' education, etc. It is still sad that so many long to stay home but have to stay away for long times. Newfoundland's economy is diversified, yet needs
    to increase to keep more people here.

    Our population has dropped by almost 3000 people between Oct. 2004 and Jan. 2006. From 5000 - 9000+ leave the province each year. There have been strategic economic plans for the province, comparisons to successful Iceland, and perhaps an over-hopefulness about what mega projects can do for employment right across the province. Some of the projects like the Lower Churchill, Hebron, take a long time to become a reality, and have stumbling blocks to development, like the energy bill from the Newfoundland government. Overall I think our economy is progressing but

    While big projects are being developed, our leaders in whatever government in power, should always send a message to our people to never take any potential development for granted. As a people we should continually be encouraged to analyse the potential that our individual talents have, to not just Newfoundland consumers, but to international buyers. There are a number of internationally renowned high tech businesses, boat tours, and island lodge stay overs, but there is much more potential to develop not just more of that type of things, but products and services
    from skilled people, be it art works, rentals, guides, different vacation packages, photograhy tours, entertainment (music, comedy) etc. The point is to promote a new perception of how we view value in the places we live, and the things we do.

    Newfoundland and Labrador is a massive area of beauty, and for many foreign tourists, it can also be seen as, exciting, exotic, clean, innocent, and idealogical place to vacation, and to do business. I'll bet that many who leave home may be able to look back on their towns as having potential to draw tourists to see its beauty, perhaps be part of a cultural event, e.g., concerts, plays, berry fests, hiking scenic vantage points, historic re-enactments. We have a rich heritage and history, and we should remind ourselves that it is valuable, and outsiders may also find our province

    There is no easy solution for NL's economic challenges. However, the current William's government, with the Blue Book guide, sounds like a sound approach, though whether the job & business initiatives are followed up on is
    another matter. There very well may have been some overlap in programs to facilitate business, IT, etc. from previous governments, but the idea of promoting diversity in the economy is the best avenue for sustained economic development in NL & Labrador. We also have to learn what succeeds in places like Iceland, and listen to long-term advice about how we can best take advantage of economic opportunities. We need to continually educate ourselves about the world, what it needs, what it wants, and how our province can match those needs and wants. Hopefully, much of the talent and skill we export can be re-patriated to benefit our province. One industry of opportunity where geography does not matter so much is the IT sector. One can for example, do a software training session with a client in Texas, or a website for anyone in the world.

    Many people take where they live for granted. But the geography, culture, and traditions may be very appealing to say, Japanese tourists. Just the broad expanse of land itself is a wonder to many from countries where land is a rare luxury. Just as a country on the other side of the world is seen by us as being exotic, we can be appealling to those same countries and seen to be "exotic". Our mindsets needs to view our province and communities that way. The Hibernia & Terra Nova oilfields are great discoveries to help our economy, but they and other mega projects will probably not reverse the outmigration flow, overnight. Our population is declining, especially since the 1993 cod moratorium. Outmigration peaked in 1996-97/ & 1997/98 but is still high - 11,882 in 2004/2005, and will continue for many years. Though the NL Statistics Agency projects a continuous population decline for at least the next decade, the rate can be slowed the more our economy diversifies. Even oil rich Alberta couldn't depend solely on oil revenue in the 80's, when the recession hit and oil prices dropped. Don Getty emphasized economic diversification in high technology, tourism, and forestry. Hopefully we will be hearing more about non-mega project business promotion and development to help keep our most valued resource, our people, here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Sunday, April 30, 2006

    People for the Ethical Treatment of People

    Variation on a joke making the rounds

    If more celebrities acted to stop tradegies like famine, the poorest and the richest would win. It does not matter if you like George Clooney or not, he did appeal to a crowd in Washington Sunday, to help the suffering refugees of Darfur in Sudan, Africa. Five countries in the Horn of Africa region of Africa have been stricken with genocide, famine, war, and malnutrition for years, and millions continue to die as a result. At a rally in Washington, high-profile speakers spoke to about 10,000 people bringing attention to the critical humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Sen. Barack Obama said, "If we care, the world will care. If we act, then the world will follow."

    If Pam Anderson had used the media and even the Junos to bring attention to this inhumanity, then that could have brought in needed milions to get food, medicine and shelter for Africa's suffering. Instead, she chose to use her fame, time and energy to put an end to a humane and legal seal fishery, that helps feed and clothe 1000's of Canadians. The actions of celebs like Anderson have no doubt fattened the bank accounts of Animal Rights Activists(ARAs) groups. It's too bad that the image of a baby refugee does not stir the same outcry as a baby seal does. But that's not surprising because groups like PETA believe that animals have the very same rights as humans.

    In our society a large measure of success is the accumulation of material things, or the means to acquire them. Many of us do give alright, but largely to ourselves. Success is not popularly associated with giving to or caring for others. That's why it is important for more influential people to set examples by showing the value of giving to people who have nothing. While ARAs take in tens of millions from people, they hardly spend any of it on animal shelters. I wonder how much of the revenue they get comes from donations sent during the seal hunt protests. Here is a sample of how some groups stand financially:

    ARA GroupTax Year EndingIncomeYr End Net Worth
    HSUSDec. 31, 2004$70,599,418$111,021,299
    PETAJuly 31, 2004$28,926,924$11,479,793
    SIERRA CLUBDec. 31, 2004$91,843,759$53,339,819
    SSCSDec. 31, 2003$350,215$3,049,373

    I do not know how much of the income is from seal protest fundraising, but with Paul Watson now on the Sierra Club's board of directors, more money will be funneled to other ARAs. It's too bad that people donated money to unnecessary seal protest crusades, when they could have spent it to help the poor and starving. This crisis is a real, daily, and urgent. Celebrities like Bono, Bob Geldof and others have made the celebrity a value added commodity because of their contributions to end world hunger. But more famous people can do their part to keep the hunger and poverty issues foremost in people's minds.

    McCartney could have used his Larry King time to plead for help for the poor. His crusade against land mines was great, but now it is time to add another shirt to his on stage wardrobe, and promote the ethical treatment of desperate suffering people.

    Monday, April 24, 2006

    Reply to Anti-Sealer + Proof of ARA Ulterior Motives

    This blog is in response to an Anti-Sealing reader who commented on my postings about the seal hunt. I will present the anonymous reader comments first, then my reply. Sorry, but there is a quirk with the apostrophes here which I am trying to work out.
    (There is an audio clip further down in .ram format.
    Click Click here to download Real Player free, if you need to download if you need it)

    (Reader Comment)
    You people are quite funny. Referring to a 1985 Report - over 20 years old - to justify the commercial seal hunt of today. I'm sorry, but that's so desperately clutching at straws that it would be hilarious were not the situation so sad. I've read all the government Reports in justification of the slaughter, and if you can't see the discrepancies then I feel sorry for your chronic case of tunnel-vision.

    Contrary to your opinion, there are actually some AR activists who get both sides of the story, research from every angle in order to be able to put forth a valid argument.

    You accuse AR activists of not knowing what they're talking about, but I'm seeing here the same old arguments and observations that are incorrect. We're only interested in saving the "cute" animals? Slaughterhouses are just as bad? Celebrities are only in it for the money? Change the record, please.

    I'm sorry if you don't like it, but we WILL stop the commercial seal slaughter. Sealers will be forced to consider and accept one of the numerous viable employment alternatives that have been suggested to them over the last 20 years. Perhaps instead of breeding generation after generation of fishermen/sealers to live in alleged poverty while working in a failing industry, they will stop claiming there are no alternatives and will accept what has been suggested to them numerous times -- there ARE alternatives to slaughtering seals for a living.

    We're not looking to put anyone out of work or into bankruptcy. There have been employment alternatives suggested, none of which have even been considered by government or sealers. Research that, and you'll see that I'm right.

    We don't want to save the seal at the expense of the human. There is a 'win-win' situation if you people would only consider it.
    - Anonymous Comment

    (My Reply)

    Dear Sir or Madame:

    Thank you for your comment. I will take this opportunity to discuss the issue in further detail. I have read considerably on animal rights activists (ARAs) and the seal hunt itself, including Reports of the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association, & Independent Veterinarians Working Group, and more. They were referenced in other blogs including the one you commented from. I knew The Royal Commission Report on Sealing was a significant study, especially after speaking with a DFO scientist who recommended it because of its relevance for today. Many things have not changed since the report first came out. For example, the sealing methods used are the same, except now, 90% of seals are killed using rifles, and white coats are no longer allowed to be killed. Even at that time, the method using the hakapik was considered very efficient. The methods were and are still considered humane, as much and perhaps even more so than methods used in abbatoirs (see Royal Commission blog below). Since you made light of an important report because of its age, let me provide you with more recent studies which approve of the hunt and methods used. Here are some key excerpts and links to the documents to read for yourself:

  • From the Canadian Veterinary Journal, in a study called Animal welfare and the harp seal hunt in Atlantic Canada (Sept., 2002)

    Much attention has been given over the years to animal welfare issues surrounding the seal hunt in Atlantic Canada. However, very little information is available on this subject in the scientific literature. This article reports the results of observations made by representatives of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association at the hunt in recent years and compares them with observations made by members of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The conclusion is that the large majority of seals taken during this hunt (at best, 98% in work reported here) are killed in an acceptably humane manner. However, the small proportion of animals that are not killed effectively justifies continued attention to this hunt on the part of the veterinary profession.

    (Thanks to blogger skylarkd for sending me that link)

  • From the Canadian Veterinarians Medical Association Report (2005)
    The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) accepts the hunting of seals only if carried out in a humane and sustainable manner.

    Young harp seals, approximately 3-4 weeks old, account for 90% or more of the commercial catch in Canadian waters. These animals have particularly thin skulls that can be completely crushed by one or a few strong blows with a hakapik (a long club). Therefore, the CVMA considers this a rapid, efficient, and humane means of killing young seals if conducted properly.

  • From A Report of the Independent Veterinarians Working Group on the Canadian Harp Seal Hunt (August, 2005)
    While striking a seal with a hakapik or club is a crude act, and one unlikely to be witnessed by observers without emotion, it is a humane way to render a seal unconscious or dead when carried out correctly by a trained and skilled individual according to the suggested guidelines. (p. 9)

    The Group notes that the Canadian harp seal hunt is professional and highly regulated by comparison with seal hunts in Greenland and the North Atlantic. It has the potential to serve as a model to improve humane practice and reduce seal suffering within the other hunts. (p. 23)
  • On Seal Pup Populations
    From the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans web site:
    According to a 2004 survey, the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population is now estimated at approximately 5.8 million animals, nearly triple what it was in the 1970s.
  • As many people are aware, animals including seals have a nervous reflex that occurs after stunning and death. Seals have a response called a “swimming reflex”. The Malouf Commission (1987) cited on the DFO Myths & Realities website, clarifies this and states that this reflex is misconceived by observers, (and misinterpreted by ARA’s) as being skinned alive.

  • Also, for your information, the seals harvested in the Atlantic hunt have very thin skulls and are easily stunned to a state of irreversible unconsciousness where no pain can be felt. In the Gulf seal fishery, until recently three blows from a hakapik were required. Some sealers still do this, but they can tell by feeling the broken skull that both brain hemispheres have been sufficiently damaged (a cracked egg feel), or they perform the “blinking eye” test, or they can determine through the impact of the feel and sound, that the animal is unconscious. At the Front, where 90% of seals are taken, bullets are very effective, as marksmen accuracy is very high. I have personally spoken with a DFO scientist who reinforced information I have just described.

    Reason for Writing on the 1985 Royal Commission Report, or any Valid Seal Hunt Study

    One of the reasons for taking key excerpts from the Royal Commission Report was to highlight the fact that despite considerable scientific evidence, academic analysis, and ethical arguments in favor of the hunt, ARA's ignore credible reports that validates the hunt – past and present. Another reason is that it’s so comprehensive. It allowed people from many fields of expertise to contribute to the report, and welcomed the input from all concerned parties, including the anti-sealing activists. It also provides important information that is not always presented, e.g., the social, cultural and economic importance of the seal hunt to people and communities. Finally, this document is not online, so people who want solid information can get some key information starting from this blog site.

    Next, I will correct some things you said in your comments. First, I did not say anywhere in my writing that ARA’s are only interested in cute animals. I am aware of ARA protests and methods used in other parts of the world. However, these groups are extremely interested in the white seal pup image. As Brian Davies put it in 1970, I see the seal issue as representing a showdown for wildlife. These animals are symbolic.. (p. 72 of the 1985 Royal Commission Report).

    Davies knew how to use the media effectively to evoke public emotions, reactions and donations. Paul Watson, a disciple of Davies, has also mastered media manipulation.
    I mean no offence, but he uses it to lure uninformed and unsuspecting people into believing in a cause which is based on fabrications, PR stunts, exaggerated and twisted scientific data. The formula of using the cute seal does not mean that ARA’s only protest the seal hunt, it simply means that this is a very big fundraiser for the ARA cousins, PETA, HSUS, SSCS and other kin

    This is not just my own analysis. Listen to the words of Paul Watson himself as he answers questions from CBC Radio’s Barbara Frum in 1978. In the interview he blatantly admits that the seal hunt is an easy way to get money rolling in, even though the harp seal is not even an endangered species. He says that there is no way to raise money based on California’s endangered species. This is a pretty telling audiotape, and true to this day. There is a preamble for two minutes or more before the interview.
    here to play audio.

    Below is a short segment of the interview:

    Click here to read the whole text of the interview.

    Barbara Frum: Mr. Watson, how easy is it to raise money against the hunt?

    Watson: The seal hunt has always turned a profit for the Greenpeace Foundation. And then other organizations like IFAW, API, Fund for Animals, also make a profit off the seal hunt

    Barbara Frum: You suggesting that they fight for seals rather than other animals because it's easy, or easier to raise money that way, or because it's a profit maker for them?

    Watson: Well it's definitely because it's easier to make money and because it's easier to make a profit because there are over a thousand animals on the endangered species list, and the harp seal isn't one of them

    Barbara Frum: Did anyone in Greenpeace ever express that aloud, that it was easy to make some hay on the seal hunt so let's get into that?

    Watson: Well, a lot of people have done that. See the thing is the seal is very easy to exploit as an image. We have posters, we have buttons, we have shirts, all of which portray the head of a baby seal with the tears coming out of its eyes. Baby seals are always crying because — its — they're always — the salt tears keep their eyes from freezing. But they have this image — they're baby animals, they're beautiful, and because of that ...

    People like Brian Davies and Paul Watson have been successful in the last 35 years in creating in the social milieu, a negative associated meaning with the term seal hunt. Over the years, and now more than ever, key negative words are used to equate sealers, Newfoundland, Newfoundlanders, and sealing with being barbaric, murderous, greedy, cruel, nazi-like, and even demented, not unlike the image of killers in slasher movies like Friday the 13th. And more obviously, the idea of clubbing a seal is not described as being an efficient method of killing, as researchers repeatedly say, but rather it is equated with something that is old-fashioned, backward, uneducated, and outdated. It seems to play to people’s insecurities about how others view Canada.

    It is conceivable that a celebrity like McCartney could actually say what experts tell us. People’s perception of sealers using a hakapik could really be reversed if an informed celebrity told it like it is. Imagine McCartney saying, I want everyone to know that even though it may look brutal, this method of sealing is very humane and quick. Then celebrity media could be used for factual information.

    Getting back to your comments, I suggested that celebrities are often misinformed and used, or simply ignorant, but they do function to attract wide attention and big cash for big payrolls. In the case of the McCartneys either this was true or they shamelessly projected an uncivilized and false image of a civilized people. But why wouldn’t PETA and other ARA’s use them to draw attention? It does increase viewers and it acts like an infomercial when the celebrities direct viewers to a web site and phone number to make donations. CNN itself is actually a window into peoples’ fixation with celebrities. For almost two years, CNN itself could very well have been called the Scott & Laci Peterson Station, or the OJ Station in 1995-96. The president of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk said about PETA’s publicity methods,
    PETA's publicity formula -- eighty percent outrage, ten percent each of celebrity and truth.
    (The New Yorker, 2003)

    If you still don’t think celebrities are used to bring in the goods, then consider this sample of the Larry King show with the McCartneys and Premier Danny Williams:

    H. MCCARTNEY: And, if you go onto you can see exactly what goes on and click on to say if you support the ban of this seal hunt, so and any help there donation wise can really help push this forward.

    It was obvious to anyone watching, that the Larry King show of was a one hour PETA advertisement. At least the first half hour of the show was devoted to Heather & Paul McCartney’s plea to the public to help and stop the seal hunt by visiting an HSUS sponsored website, and calling a number to donate. Preceding commercials, there were at least two video clips where Paul, and Heather appealled to the public to donate:

    (from the transcript of The Larry King Live show of March 3, 2006)


    P. MCCARTNEY: In about three weeks time these baby seals are due to be clubbed to death or shot in what's known as the seal hunt. For many years, people have been trying to have this brutal practice stopped but we are out here to see if we can lend our voice to this campaign and maybe get it stopped once and for all.


    H. MCCARTNEY: Sadly, you won't be able to stop these beautiful baby seals around us being bludgeoned to death in the next few weeks but hopefully we could if we all join together and put pressure on the Canadian government to do what is just humane and stop this seal hunt, hopefully this would be the last seal hunt.

    By the way, this is a snapshot of PETA’s income statement, a subject for another blog in itself.


    These are your words, not mine: slaughterhouses are just as bad. My point in mentioning a worker’s experience in a slaughterhouse was to reiterate what reports like those mentioned above say, i.e., that the seal fishery is as humane as regular animal slaughter. Also, the point is that any animal industry done on a white background will create a distasteful image anytime. Billions of people like to eat chicken, turkey, beef and pork, but no one wants to see a Discovery channel show of How it’s Made about how meat is harvested. For ARA’s to continually show blood soaked snow images is actually insulting to viewer’s intelligence. People know what killing animals involve. I don’t think that there are many out there who believe cattle all just pass peacefully away. Having said that, like any Canadian, I want to take comfort in knowing that an industry in my province is humane and is continually being checked and regulated like all other animal industries. That’s why I have inquired about the hunt, and referenced the above studies.

    Finally, it is not necessary to suggest alternate industries, as the seal fishery is humane, efficient, and contrary to what you call failing, quite successful and self-sustaining. Your use of the statement “there ARE alternatives” is just another piece of PR communications psychology, which infers to the public that, Newfoundland’s rationale for justifying the seal hunt is because we don’t think there are alternatives. Again, this is using the public’s lack of attention to and ignorance of the issue, to falsely present a situation which does not exist, thus, tricking the public. The PR used by ARA’s have gotten sophisticated enough to use this sneaky technique. A similar tactic is used when activists spokes people say that “seals did not cause the cod fish collapse.” Again, that type of statement is proclaimed to infer that Newfoundlanders exclusively blame seals for the total collapse of the cod. As Newfoundlanders & Labradorians and other educated people know, there are many factors in the cod collapse, including foreign overfishing, water temperature change, and possibly including to some degree, predators like seals.

    With respect reader, I’m sure you and many others sincerely have animal welfare in mind. There are plenty of places in the world where real inhumane treatment of animals take place daily. However, the ice fields off Newfoundland and Labrador are not included with them. In spite of healthy seal populations, and approval from experts and international organizations who consider the hunt humane, ARA’s still refute those findings. They will not let go of the seal hunt because it is still, as Paul Watson said, an easy way to raise money. Please consider the evidence presented here and consider carrying out animal welfare work with a more respected and honest organization.

    Just for your information, there are at least 8 boat tour and whale watching ventures in northern NL coastal areas where the seal hunt takes place.

    Also see the Department of Fisheries & Oceans website to learn more about the Myths & Realities of the Seal.