Put Canada First

3 Parties Maple Leaf

Leadnow.ca is an independent community that brings generations together to strengthen our democracy and build a fair, open and responsible country. Leadnow.ca’s small staff team and 225,000 person community includes Canadians from across the political spectrum. Leadnow.ca was founded two years ago by a group of Canadians who wanted to find new ways to help people hold our government accountable and support political cooperation to meet the challenges of our times. The Leadnow.ca community is independent of any political party.

During a series of local gatherings in the fall of 2011, our community identified electoral reform, inequality and climate change as our top priorities. In 2012 and 2013 we asked our community what they thought about cooperation between the NDP, Liberals and Greens to defeat Stephen Harper and then pass crucial reforms. Amazingly, on both occasions, over 95% of the tens of thousands who responded told us that they “agree” or “strongly agree” with this idea.

Sign the LeadNow petition and tell your government:

“I call on the NDP, Liberals and Greens to cooperate for Canada. We can make our government work better for Canadians. During the next federal election, I call on the NDP, Liberals and Greens to work together in key ridings to defeat Stephen Harper’s government. After the election, I call on them to cooperate to protect our environment, build a fair economy and pass electoral reform.”

In the last federal election, 61% of voters cast ballots for change, but the vote split and our broken electoral system gave Prime Minister Harper a majority of seats in Parliament.

Now, Prime Minister Harper is damaging our democracy, destroying our environmental protections and undermining our economy. We can hold Prime Minister Harper accountable, renew our democracy and rise to the challenges of our times – but we need to work together. Here’s how:

During the next election, the NDP, Liberals and Greens can cooperate in key ridings to defeat Stephen Harper’s government. After the election, they can work together to fix our broken electoral system, protect our environment and build a fair economy. Canadians are ready for cooperation and we have to act now to send a powerful message to party leaders that Canadians will work together and vote for cooperation.

Canadians are already joining the party of their choice to support cooperation. During the NDP leadership race last year, 10,000 people joined the NDP through this campaign. They built a constituency for cooperation in the party and secured a strong commitment to electoral reform.

Right now, the Liberal Party is preparing to choose its next leader, cooperation is a major debate amongst the candidates and everyone is watching to see if pro-cooperation Canadians will stand up to be counted.

The stakes

Canada is at a crossroads. We need to work together to create a strong democracy that brings Canadians together to make wise choices about how we protect our environment and build a fair economy in an era of global uncertainty. We need to repair the damage that is being done to our country and build new relationships between the people who call this country home.

We need to have a real national conversation and make wise decisions about these urgent issues, but our electoral system encourages an “every party for themselves” style of politics that focuses attention on our divisions and distracts us from the major challenges we face.

More and more Canadians are ready for cooperation: Ready to focus on our shared values, to respect our differences and to take action together on a few key issues. We are calling for a one-time agreement between the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens to work together to stop vote-splitting in a small number of ridings, defeat Stephen Harper and then pass crucial reforms for our democracy, environment and economy.

Cooperation is about more than “winning” an election. For us, the values come first and the strategy comes second. Cooperation is about building a new majority consensus that will renew our democracy, protect our environment and build a fair economy – and ensuring that a majority of Canadians are properly represented in our next government.

The plan

In the 2011 election, a majority of Canadians voted for change, but the First-Past-The-Post voting system gave Prime Minister Harper a majority government with only 39% of the popular vote. In a country of more than 33 million people, Prime Minister Harper’s margin of victory was a razor thin 6,201 votes, spread across 14 closely contested ridings.

Our democracy, environment and economy cannot afford a second Harper majority. We need to act now to bring Canadians together to meet the urgent challenges of our times.

Cooperation is about more than defeating Harper. For cooperation to work, we need agreements between the parties to work together on a few key issues of major concern.

There are a number of different ways to organize cooperation to ensure local democratic control. We believe that the parties, candidates and local riding associations will need to negotiate to develop a solid plan that everyone can agree to.

We need to build a lasting movement for cooperation within the parties. Leadership races are the most important moment for pro-cooperation Canadians to inspire change within the parties and we need to show the parties that Canadians will work together and vote for cooperation.

The values come first, the political strategy comes second. That’s why, no matter what path the party leaders choose, we will be organizing at a grassroots level in key constituencies in 2015 to support cooperation to defeat Prime Minister Harper’s government and then pass electoral reform, renew our environmental protections and build a fair economy.

We know that Canadians are ready to work together to meet challenges of times and renew our democracy. National polling tells us 80% of Liberal, NDP, and Green voters would be willing to vote for a different party if it meant they would achieve progress on issues they care about.

Canadians are ready for cooperation

Cooperate for Canada includes citizens from across the political spectrum. Many are active members of the Liberals, NDP or Greens. Many care passionately about the future of our country but don’t identify with any political party. Some are people who have voted conservative in the past but now feel that Canada is heading in the wrong direction and want electoral reform. All of them feel that this is an idea whose time has come.

From joining the party of their choice to support cooperation in key votes to hosting events that bring riding association leaders together in their communities, “cooperators” are working from the bottom-up to hold Harper accountable and fix Canada.

Learn more and get involved at www.leadnow.ca

Joyce Murray’s vision for Canada

Joyce Murray

An open letter to Canadians from David Suzuki


• I am writing this as an individual citizen, not on behalf of any organization or political party. In fact, I do not belong to any political party. I will support candidates, platforms and policies of any party that move our country towards a more just and sustainable future.

I was delighted to see that the federal Liberal party allows any Canadian to participate in the choice of its leader. I urge everyone who is concerned about democracy, the environment and social justice to take part in this selection process and thereby support for specific policies and visions for this country.

David Suzuki
David Suzuki endorses Joyce Murray for Liberal leader

I am heartened by the platform laid out by Joyce Murray. Sustainability is one of the key concepts underlying her policy proposals from food to climate. She recognizes that Canada is one of the most vulnerable industrialized nations to the impact of climate change – as a northern country where warming is going on faster, with the longest marine coastline in the world threatened by sea level rise and the economic vulnerability of climate sensitive areas of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism and winter sports. Her proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions includes doing what Sweden, Germany, Australia and even China already do, namely, put a price on carbon, which is both an effective inducement to reduce emissions and a revenue source for much needed initiatives such as public transit, efficiency and renewable energy.

You can influence the policies of the Liberal party by registering to vote in the leadership race. For me, Joyce Murray presents a platform that I am going to support. I hope you will give her your support too, if you agree.
Deadline: Sunday, March 3rd.

Gender equity is a critical issue today and her proposal to mandate targets for government organizations and committees is much needed. And finally, she calls for progressive elements to work together to avoid election of parties with a smaller proportion of votes. She is boldly pressing for electoral reform through proportional representation to get away from the tyranny of our first past the post system so that minority positions can be represented in government.

You can influence the policies of the Liberal party by registering to vote in the leadership race. For me, Joyce Murray presents a platform that I am going to support. I hope you will give her your support too, if you agree.

Sign up to support Murray by March 3

Canadians are joining the NDP, Liberals or Greens to support cooperation. Right now, the Liberals are choosing a new leader, and any Canadian can vote for free and support cooperation in this race, but you must sign up before March 3rd at http://cooperate4.ca/join

Support Joyce Murray at http://joycemurray.ca/endorsements/192-david-suzuki-open-letter>register

After March 3, keep encouraging people to cooperate.

Liberals shouldn’t be too proud

by Paul Lemay

Liberal Leaf

• When I was a boy growing up in the ‘60s and into the ‘70s, I remember how we used to look up to our prime ministers, regardless of the political party they represented. But after Watergate it seemed the bloom on all political roses began to fall off. Now 40-plus years on, all we’re left with are a few thorny stems and the few precious petals we do have are now dried and sandwiched between the pages of a scrapbook.

And politics isn’t the only sphere in our oh-so-modern world that has seen a deflowering of its ideals. Take sport, for example. Its first high-profile Watergate equivalent came with Ben Johnson at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. But that was only the beginning. A quarter of a century later, the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports was still making worldwide headlines when Lance Strong-arm’s long-running campaign of deceit came to its own long-overdue end. But instead of witnessing any obvious sign of contrition on Oprah – Lance Armstrong doesn’t do remorse well it seems – we saw a politically calculated confession.

Welcome to the post-apocalyptic new age where all that was once sacred melts in a slow-mo dance before our now more inquisitive tech-savvy eyes. It’s an age where the temporary titillation of our appetites for the dethroning of one-time heroes leaves us with little else to celebrate than its putrid droppings.

Oh wait, perhaps I spoke too soon. I forgot the current federal Liberal Party leadership contest. Now there’s a cultural campfire we can all gather around for a few more pointed laughs and dethronings on a cold winter’s night. But fear not, we’ve got the CBC’s trusty At Issue panel ready to tell us how to think about such weighty matters. And in case you hadn’t heard – and who hasn’t – the latest Liberal contest is an all but done deal if the new ‘Delphic Oracle’ of Twitter followers is any indication. On that dubious score, J.T. already wears the dented crown.

So forget policy. Forget substance too. And by all means, forget the debates. It’s all about Trudeau’s great hair and his ability to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It’s all about the headline act, that and Mad Men ad men sizzle, because that’s what sells – the only way TV networks seem capable of maintaining herds of entertainment famished viewers.

But I digress. Now for a bit more political substance: On a foggy late January afternoon in Vancouver, 900 devoted Liberals piled into a hall at no less than $20 a head looking for more comparative clarity from those seeking the leadership. Of course, for a party dangling from a fine thread in hope of climbing out of its crevasse of third place, optics matter. So why then did they opt for the swanky Westin Bayshore hotel next to trendy Coal Harbour and Stanley Park rather than a hall in suburban Surrey where the faithful were already gathered for their annual policy conference? No, that was too simple. Better to go through the added expense, risk and hassle of bussing the buggers 25 kilometres downtown like school kids in a well-meaning affirmative action program. Why too did the party decide to charge another $129 to attend a post-debate reception? Great way to promote one’s image as a party of accessibility!

But let’s get to the debate itself shall we. With the Liberal Party looking for a way to rebound into electoral relevance, it doesn’t take a rocketman to see it needs to consider cooperating with opposition parties if it hopes to oust Stephen Harper from power. Many believe it’s the only realistic way to overcome the devastating effects of vote splitting due to our current first-past-the-post voting system in the short-term. Repeated public opinion polls tell us as much.

CTV’s Power Play host Don Martin even reinforced the point on his January 22 show reminding viewers how seven years earlier the Conservatives returned to power because three years before that the Canadian Alliance party merged with the PCs.

Of course, none of the prospective Liberal candidates are proposing a merger with the NDP. Yet you wouldn’t know from the way Martha Hall Findlay, Martin Cauchon, Deborah Coyne, George Takach, David Bertschi, Marc Garneau and Justin Trudeau talked, blurring that line, and then piling on Joyce Murray and anyone else in the audience who might have the temerity to utter the word “cooperation” with opposition parties in the next election. In fact, all but Murray and Karen McCrimmon seemed downright angry when the topic first came up.

In French, Trudeau asked: “What does it mean to cooperate? It means the priority would be on tossing out [Mr. Harper]… [and] to win and not to serve Canadians.” (Huh?) Takach went further: “No cooperation. I don’t like it. Harper likes the idea of merger or cooperation.” While Garneau said: “…to do so is to be an accomplice to the crushing of the Liberal Party.” Findlay not only challenged but some might say even shamed any in the wider audience who might be entertaining such heretical thoughts, chiding (in French): “Where has your confidence gone? I am a proud Liberal. It’s with courage we’re going to win against Harper in 2015!” Well you got that right Martha, the proud part I mean. What is it they say? Pride always cometh before a fall.

Obviously, it’s a touchy subject for many a Liberal, so touchy, it reminds me how Lance Strong-arm so often reacted when asked whether his seven Tour de France victories came with the help of performance enhancing drugs. When he wasn’t spewing a string of flustered denials in some legal proceeding or to TV cameras, he’d retaliate by taking some poor slob to court for libel or slander, behaviour he later admitted on Oprah was a form of bullying for which he was oh so boohoo sorry.

Of course, those in the “loud and proud” leadership choir have nothing to be sorry about either. Ignore the lingering Quebec sponsorship taint. Forget David Dingwall’s unsightly, “I’m entitled to my entitlements” scar. Come to think of it, just forget any and all of the Liberal Party’s past sins. They’ve moved on, which is why they are all proud Liberals again. Phew! Problem solved. Trouble is, not everybody is so forgetful or forgiving, so quickly.

Nobody here is saying Liberals are now devoid of any redeeming qualities. They have many. The problem is that somewhere there still seems to be a lack of genuine humility. Unlike Lance, I can’t recall the Liberal Party atoning for its previous sins of pride on Oprah. Perhaps a long overdue therapy-couch session with Peter Mansbridge or Evan Solomon is in order?

As a result, many of the Liberal Party’s leadership aspirants not only remain overly aversive to inter-party cooperation, they remain oblivious and unresponsive to the wider Canadian electorate’s view on the matter. It’s easy to say you’re listening to Canadians. But let none forget: the first rule of salesmanship is to tell prospective customers what they want to hear. Politicians know that. But if these guys were really listening, every candidate on the dais would at least be open to discussing the idea of cooperating with other parties in the next election, and saying so rather than declaring, in embarrassing flares of peacock pride, they were above all such shameful grovelling.

Let’s get real. In some parts of the country, especially where Liberal growth prospects are marginal at best (i.e. the West), inter-party cooperation seems like a no-brainer. Or is it?

Some, like Chantal Hébert, say it is impractical for parties to compete all across the country except for 57 or so ridings where Conservatives would otherwise win due to vote-splitting. And there is some logic to the argument. Then again, in ridings where Liberals know they’re apt to remain on the fighting ring ropes and have little prospect of winning, why not trade the NDP or the Greens one riding for another where they are on the ropes? Trouble is, some fighters don’t know when to say uncle, especially when they look at how Muhammad Ali used his rope-a-dope strategy to beat George Foreman during their Rumble in the Jungle fight in 1974. But how many of those are Muhammad Ali level fighters? Not many I’ll bet. What’s more, even Ali, after he retired, admitted he was scared silly of Foreman’s punching power.

So while some leadership contenders may get an ego kick delivering their lines as fast and loose as Ali did in his days, those of us who look at the statistical probabilities based on previous elections and what the electorate is actually saying it wants, would suggest it’s time for them to take a humility pill, as Lance Armstrong did, finally. In fact, if Lance was to have any chance for redemption, what other choice did he have? So what makes Liberal leadership aspirants any different? If there’s to be any hope of redemption, now is the time for a little less bluster and a whole lot more humility.

Paul H. LeMay is a Vancouver-based independent writer. Originally published at The HillTimes online,www.hilltimes.com

A war resister speaks from the heart

by Rodney Watson

Rodney Watkin
photo by Ian Azariah

• My name is Rodney Watson; I am a U.S. Army Iraq war veteran who went AWOL after serving my country in a one-year deployment to Mosul Iraq, from October 2005 to October 2006. During my deployment, my eyes were opened to the fact that we should never have been there at all. I was willing to risk my life just like many other brave souls who thought we were doing the right thing by taking part in protecting America’s freedoms, but I found out the hard way that I was risking my life for a lie.

My reasons for joining were honourable and even though there was no draft like the past Vietnam War, I was caught up in a personal economic draft due to the fact I could not find a job shortly after 9/11. After I lost my job of seven years in Kansas City, a long-time childhood friend offered to get me started in the illegal drug trade and even fronted me some free work, but this was against everything I believed in. Selling death to my own community was not the destiny I wanted for myself so while driving back home I got on the highway and prayed for a better way to make money. I threw the drugs out of my car window went home and prayed again and fell asleep with a now clear conscience.

The very next morning, I got a phone call just minutes after I opened my eyes. It was the older brother of my friend who fronted me the drugs I had thrown away and in a sad voice he told me to turn on the news; his brother had been shot that morning and was dead. I attended his funeral and shortly afterward I flew to New York to visit my cousin to clear my mind because it felt like some sort of tragic sign from above.

Out of work and living off money I had saved up that was running out fast, I needed a job urgently. While I was in New York, I saw where the Twin Towers had fallen. Tears fell from my eyes and the pain was great. I saw U.S. Navy sailors during Fleet Week that same day and I felt something I had never felt before – a feeling of it being my duty to serve my country like others in my family had done during WW2. I later ended up staying with a friend of my cousins in Stamford Connecticut and tried applying for some jobs one last time before making my decision to see an Army recruiter. With still no luck finding work, I made the decision to join up and serve my country as an Army cook to help out and to support our brave troops in some way even if it wasn’t infantry. I wanted to serve in some way and possibly open up my own diner after my service was completed.

I was sent to Fort Hood Texas after boot camp only to find myself in the field training for a deployment to Iraq in the near future. I understood that I was a soldier first and that I might even die over there, but I had already seen much violence and death back in Kansas City and I was not afraid of losing my life for what I thought at the time was a noble cause. But there was no cooking for me at all and I ended up in Iraq searching thousands of Iraqi civilian vehicles for explosives. It felt like I was playing Russian Roulette with my life, but I performed my many duties without fear. At first I felt lied to for not being given the job I signed up for, but I just followed orders from my chain of command and I did my job very well.

A Sergeant from another unit passed me an eye opening DVD that he let me borrow with his personal little DVD player. It opened up my eyes to the lies of no weapons of mass destruction and to the fact that many were back home still suffering from hurricane Katrina while billions were being wasted as well as many lives in Iraq for something other than justifiable reasons. I was very upset and I started to view the whole Iraq war in a very different perspective. As my deployment continued, my unit came under military C.I.D investigation for drug trafficking due to an undercover agent who bought some drugs from a black guy in my unit late at night and couldn’t fully make out his identity. The next day, our First Sgt. called a formation for just the black soldiers in my unit to wait in the hot sun to be fingerprinted and photographed, in order to find the soldier who was in violation.

After feeling racially profiled for the exact same thing I refused to take part in back home – selling drugs – here I was being treated like I was a potential criminal by white men in the military C.I.D. It was one thing after another during my deployment. I made a friend who was a civilian contractor and then, boom, just like that his helicopter taking him home was shot right out of the sky while taking off from our base of operation, I had to watch racist white soldiers and civilian contractors beat and call unarmed Iraqi men sand niggers and hear them tell me that they mean no disrespect to my people, that we are all brothers in the same fight. I couldn’t report anything due to the fact I would be labelled a snitch so I had to keep my mouth shut even though I saw different racist cops back home do the same thing to my black peers, calling us niggers.

After my one-year deployment was finished, my unit received orders to return to Iraq within four to six months. I had seen a couple of guys in my unit become victims of Stop Loss, forcing them to be deployed well beyond their contract agreement and after my experience in that unjust war based on lies, I knew I did not want to be another one of former president George W. Bush’s cannon fodder or casualty. I just thank God I didn’t spill any blood over there because that would have really weighed heavy on my mind after discovering the truth. There is a time and a season for everything, but Iraq was neither the time nor the season for us to go to war with in my new personal opinion.

Instead of returning to Fort Hood Texas after my two-week leave, I left for Canada thinking it would be better than risking my life again or killing for unjust reasons. The Canadian people were very kind and I fell in love and had a beautiful child with a Canadian citizen. I had a job and then after living free with a clearer conscience for three years, I received a letter of deportation from the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper when my son was only months old. The date of my deportation, when I was to leave Canada and my new Canadian family, was September 11, 2009. That date felt like a giant slap to my face and it fuelled a fire within me to fight like crazy for my Canadian wife and son due to the fact my wife begged and cried for me to stay. I did the unthinkable and requested sanctuary at a local Vancouver church to give my lawyer time to help me remain with my wife and son. Canada made me very proud when I heard of the massive protest against the Iraq war and that it took no part in that war, but these actions taken against me and other Iraq war resisters felt like a slap in the face. Former president George W. Bush cannot even travel to certain countries without being arrested for war crimes and even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly called the Iraq war an absolute error.

Deep in my heart, I know it is an absolute error to punish resisters of that unjust war. I have been living in the sanctuary of this church for over three years now and I will not give up fighting the good fight for peace, truth and for love. I now have a new petition in the Canadian courts and I don’t know how this will all turn out, but I’m walking by the same faith that kept me alive in Iraq because my wife and son are my heart and soul.

For more information, please visit www.vancouverwarresisters.org with links to Rodney’s Facebook page “War Resister in Sanctuary” and his blog “Soul in Sanctuary.” The War Resisters Support Campaign is a national organization.

Disordering normal 5.0

Here comes the new DSM

DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

• The people’s briefing note on prescription drugs
Portrait of columnist Alan Cassels

Towards the end of May, the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the iconic bible of psychiatry, is coming off the presses after much revision and delay. It’s bound to keep people asking, “Am I normal or do I have a mental illness?”

If you think most diseases are established with objective criteria and rigorous debate, you’d be somewhat wrong. The DSM has a strong track record of taking clusters of symptoms and wrapping labels around them, which lead to the accelerated use of some of the most toxic medications on the planet. How does this happen?

The DSM is owned and operated by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), an organization that many feel is itself owned and operated by the pharmaceutical industry. Seventy percent of the authors of the DSM-V have declared ties to pharmaceutical manufacturers and in some disease categories it’s 100%. This is the bizarre situation we’ve shamelessly come to accept: Big Pharma is allowed to put their own people on the committees to define what is and isn’t illness.

Many people agree that the old DSM-IV has been responsible for widening disease definitions and accelerating the medicalization of many diseases such as autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder. The principle here is that the broader you define a disease, the more people can be defined as having it and the bigger the market for drugs for the condition. The new bible will have more disease labels constructed from personality quirks, mood upheavals, normal bouts with sadness or common signs of aging, inevitably leading to even more prescribing.

A new category of mental illness known as “mild cognitive impairment” is the first time the label of ‘pre-dementia’ will apply to whole populations. Let me ask (most gently) who among us is not ‘pre-demented? In addition to the worries around our aging tendency to forget names, words and where we put the keys, we now have a name for it. As one ad for Alzheimer’s medications asks, “Is it just forgetfulness? Or maybe it’s “Pre-Alzheimer’s?” What better way to get perfectly healthy people to start shuffling down the cattle ramp towards a good jolt of the yet-to-be-launched pre-dementia medicines that the drug industry will soon be zapping us with? There are none yet, but trust me; those drugs are in the pipeline.

Right now, there is no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and unfortunately the drugs that do exist are next to useless. They are promoted as “slowing the rate of decline,” but there is little evidence to support that claim and they make many patients miserable with vomiting and severe nausea. Alzheimer’s is devastating for families but no one can explain how much anyone would benefit from adding “pre-dementia” to the burgeoning list of categories of mental illness.

How about grieving? According to a recent medical journal article, about 280,000 Canadians die every year and many of us are deeply affected by the death of loved ones. We experience profound grief and, for some, dealing with loss is very difficult. But here’s the hitch: What used to be considered a normal response to loss is now in the gambit of being considered a mental disorder.

Psychiatrist Dr. Allen Frances, who led the creation of the DSM-IV and lists its many sins, says the new DSM-V is going to be a disaster on the bereavement issue, adding that changing the definition of what is considered depressed (by including bereavement) “inflates estimates of the current incidence of depression in epidemiological studies” and will automatically ramp up even more demands for medical services and antidepressant medication. Should people who experience severe grief be tossed a pill that will, in effect, eclipse the many social and familial ways we have of dealing with loss? The makers of the new DSM-V think so.

Another new definition in the DSM-V suggests that being worried about disease and searching for information about it on the Internet is now worthy of a mental diagnosis. Last December, Dr. Frances blogged on the Psychology Today website about the DSM-V, stating, “One in six people suffering from cancer, heart and other serious diseases risks being saddled with a psychiatric diagnosis just because they are worried about their illness or spending more time on the internet researching their symptoms than the American Psychiatric Association (APA) thinks good for them.”

Add the word ‘Cyberchondria’ to the list of new mental health diagnoses.

And since we’re in the game of naming pathologies that seem highly aberrant, maybe there are some that haven’t made it into the new DSM. I’m thinking specifically of the types of illnesses that seem prevalent in corporate environments and bureaucracies.

Last fall, there was a mass firing of staff at the BC Ministry of Health amid allegations of privacy breaches, conflicts of interest and inappropriate data access procedures. Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened in the provincial government, but because the Ministry is so tight-lipped about its prolonged investigation, we can only do what the psychiatrists do – suggest new disease categories based on observation and speculation.

Here’s the scene: After a long summer of interrogations and job suspensions, six employees at the BC Ministry of Health were fired and a seventh is suing for constructive dismissal. One is now dead and we don’t know why. A pile of drug safety evaluations were halted and no one can say what it is really all about. This is significant because usually your mental illness only hurts yourself and those close to you. But what if your mental illness hurts the people who work for you?

The fired Ministry employees, who were working on or evaluating drug safety in the province, were possibly ready to uncover problems with many commonly used drugs. The only credible explanation for the mass firings is that lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry in BC were putting pressure on Ministry bureaucrats, thus creating pathologies worthy of inclusion in the DSM-V. Here are two possible candidates:

Bureaucratic anaphylaxis: Bureaucratic anaphylaxis is where a small allergen (a whiff of wrongdoing) sends the bureaucracy into paroxysms of power-wielding, Kafkaesque interrogations and seemingly random firings and no one in power is willing to explain anything. This behaviour may be due to the willingness of bureaucrats to allow Big Pharma to influence them in ways that seem rational to pharma’s investors, but perversely nutty to anyone else.

Career advancement disorder: There are a number of senior officials in the Ministry (I could name names, but I won’t for now) who, through all this, have exhibited an extreme careerism, blindly crushing others’ fingers as they climb the corporate ladder. These bureaucrats seem to exhibit indifference to the public’s concerns and feel that displacing people in the Ministry who do independent evaluations is justifiable because the orders came from above. Here’s one very popular speculation: The Ministry’s senior people probably believe they’ll be unemployed after the next election so in the name of career advancement they’re carrying out a scorched-earth policy to please their buddies at Pharma should they find themselves out of jobs. This scandal reveals a highly politicized environment in the health bureaucracy where no one speaks out against injustice, stupidity and bureaucratic anaphylaxis and where the orders of your bosses, no matter how bizarre, counter-productive or illegitimate, must be followed.

Let me dedicate this column to Stanley Milgram, the obedience researcher who showed how extreme obedience is in itself a serious mental pathology that is alive and well in many of today’s hierarchies. Even in sunny Victoria. As I said, for disease-watchers this is going to be a banner year.

Alan Cassels is the author of Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. Follow him on Twitter @AKECassels or www.alancassels.com

Holistic health tips


by Joy McCarthy

• People are completely time-starved these days. Not cooking at home as much and eating fast food on the go has created the need to maximize the nutritional content of every morsel consumed. This is why adding supplements such as fish oil or a protein powder to your diet is a growing trend and a simple way to improve overall nutrition.

You can easily increase fibre in your diet – so important for intestinal health, weight loss and proper detoxification – by adding a high-quality fibre supplement to your meal. To increase the omega-3s in your diet, add a supplement to your salad dressing or smoothie or just drizzle it lightly over pasta. There is an array of flavoured omega-3 fish oils that don’t taste fishy at all. Protein powders are another supplement that easily mixes in with just about anything – you can choose unflavoured or flavoured (vanilla, chocolate, berry). And lastly, greens powders are another great alternative that provide a megawatt dose of bio available minerals.

Organic foods have many benefits

When possible, it is ideal to incorporate organic foods into your diet for several reasons:

  • Organic products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures, without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
  • These foods are made without the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • Organic farming practices help maintain a clean water supply, as well as soil health and fertility.
  • Organic farming can use 30-50% less energy so going organic reduces your carbon footprint and helps fight climate change.

Tips for enhancing your diet

  • Mix in 1 tbsp. vanilla or chocolate protein powder into yogurt.
  • Mix protein powder into your pancake mix in place of flour.
  • Mix 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder into oatmeal with 1 tbsp. chia and mash a banana into the mixture. Protein balances blood sugar, keeps you fuller longer and increases your body’s metabolism rate, which means you burn fat more efficiently.
  • Mix 1 tbsp. of a flavoured omega-3 oil into your favourite salad dressing concoction. The omega-3s will help you to beautify from the inside out. Omega-3s have been extensively studied for their heart health benefits as well.
  • Mix 1 tbsp. of any greens powder into your smoothie. Add a banana and a protein powder and you won’t even notice the taste of the greens. You will get a hit of alkalizing minerals, fibre and chlorophyll.

It is important to consult your health care practitioner about your health concerns and to determine a regime and the products appropriate for your condition. In addition, always follow the directions found on the label and allow the specified amount of time allocated for the product to be effective.

Supplements for detoxing

B vitamins form a vitamin complex that is made up of several different nutrients. The B-complex, which consists of thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, cobalamin, niacin, pantothemic acid, folic acid, biotin and paba, makes up a group of essential nutrients that aid cell growth, fight aging, depression and fatigue, and keep the mind and body healthy. When it comes to healing and rebuilding tissue, the B vitamins are absolutely essential.

Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that has many functions in the body including the support of immunity, wound healing, healthy skin and bones, collagen formation and tissue growth and repair. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps detoxify or cleanse the body from harmful substances.

Any greens supplement is good for daily cleansing, which helps to keep your stomach clean.  Usually, green super foods include wheat grass, barley grass and chlorophyll and sea vegetables that are packed with fibre, antioxidants and minerals to clean out toxins from the day before. Also choose foods with natural cleansing properties including fruits, vegetables, raw foods and whole grains with lots of fibre to keep your system moving.

Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract, enabling us to properly digest any food and absorb vitamins and other nutrients. They also make your bowel inhospitable for bad bacteria and help to eliminate the effects of toxins and environmental pollutants in your body. Ideally, healthy and pathogenic micro-organisms balance each other out in the intestines. However, the balance is easily disrupted by the modern diet based on foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugars, chlorinated water, antibiotic and medications, etc. Yeast overgrowth starts in the intestines, causing digestive problems such as gas, bloating and constipation. This overgrowth can also become systemic, resulting in allergies and autoimmune disorders. Taking a probiotic supplement is an important step in establishing normal intestinal flora and it also boosts immune response and inhibits growth of pathogenic organisms.

NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) is a natural sulfur-containing amino acid derivative found naturally in foods. It is a powerful antioxidant and cell detoxification co-factor and works to eliminate your body of free radicals and heavy metals such as mercury and lead. This improves your cellular health tremendously.

Fibre supplements: Harmful toxins in our air, water and food can slow down your metabolism, resulting in increased storage of body fat and low energy levels. Dietary fibre supplements support healthy detoxification, increase transit time and cleanse the colon. They assist your body’s ability to flush out harmful toxins and become more naturally energized.

Supplements that can help reduce stress

Vitamin C: People who have high levels of vitamin C do not show the expected mental and physical signs of stress when subjected to acute psychological challenges. They also bounce back from stressful situations faster than people with low levels of vitamin C in their blood.

B vitamins (see page 8 )

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a herb that has long been valued for its prolific medicinal importance. Chamomile is a natural aid for those suffering from sleep disturbances. Chamomile is most commonly sold as an herbal tea, either loosely, to be used with an infuser, or in tea bag form.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium): Recent research shows it can be an important rebalancing agent for women during their hormonal change of life.  Generally, American Ginseng supports the adrenal glands and increases tolerance for stress. It also helps mental concentration and gives you an energy boost.

Green powders are one of the best ways to get the body back on track toward total wellness and there are many benefits on many different systems of the body, including detoxification, blood sugar regulation, cholesterol regulation, and more.  One benefit many people are not aware of is that it boosts energy.

Supplements with adrenal tissue (porcine): As far back as 1918, scientists were able to show that, when a particular gland is consumed, the constituents of that gland are incorporated into the same gland within the body. These constituents provide natural building blocks that can be readily incorporated into your same glands to strengthen them and support their healthy function.

Rhodiola rosea (golden root, roseroot, Aaron’s rod) is a plant that grows in cold regions of the world. It has been extensively studied in Russia and in Scandinavian countries for over 35 years and is categorized as an adaptogen because of its ability to increase resistance to chemical, biological and physical stressors.  Rhodiola has been found to inhibit stress-induced depletion of important brain neurotransmitters

Magnesium citrate (mineral) is the anti-stress mineral. Serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that is boosted artificially by some medications, depends on magnesium for its production and function. Magnesium deficiency is responsible for nervousness that prevents sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include kelp, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses and brewer’s yeast.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a root that has been used as a sedative for years and is now a proven anti-anxiety herb.  Valepotriate is the main substance found in valerian and has the sedative effect. Valerian is safe, effective and natural and hence it is widely accepted. It reduces stress, anxiety, agitation, tremors and disturbances and is advantageous if you want to lessen mild to reasonable anxiety or stress during the day. It leads to prolonged sleep, less time in falling sleep and it promotes deep sleep.

Detoxifying decoctions are made by boiling roots, barks and herbs in water and reducing the volume before straining out the solid bits to make a tea. Herbs used in these decoctions include dandelion roots (for liver, gall bladder and kidneys), marshmallow root (to sooth digestive membranes), licorice root (for adrenal glands), burdock root (a diuretic for blood, kidneys and the urinary tract), rhubarb root (for the immune system, the liver and colon cleansing) milk thistle (for the liver) and ginger root (for the kidneys).

Please visit www.chfa.ca for more information. Joy McCarthy is a registered/certified holistic nutritionist CNP RNCP, who coaches clients from around the world including Australia, Europe, the US and Canada. She has attended CHFA West 2012. www.joyoushealth.ca

Orange infused walnut kale salad

Ingredients (Try to use organic ingredients.)

  • 6-8 handfuls of kale (I used baby kale that was organic and pre-washed)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 small oranges sliced
  • Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup sesame or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp orange (naturally) flavoured omega-3 fish oil. (Note: This does not have a fishy taste. I used the Genuine Health brand.) If you don’t have this or you are vegan, use hemp or flax oil.
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint
  • Fresh juice from 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp orange rind


Place all your dressing ingredients into a food processor and blend until the mint is completely chopped up, about 30 seconds. Place your leafy greens into a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Sprinkle with walnuts and orange slices.

Makes 4 generous servings.

kale in a basket photo © Silencefoto

The problem with vaccines

Baby Vaccination

by Joel Lord

The Vaccine Resistance Movement is a grassroots, non-profit organization, empowering communities around the world with the means of self-sufficiency, while determined to expose vaccine fraud and pharmaceutical industry malfeasance.

March 12: VRM hosts “Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013” – a major, interactive symposium on vaccines, featuring veteran researchers and nutritional experts via satellite from around the world. SFU Downtown Campus (Fletcher Challenge room), 515 Hastings St., Vancouver, 4-11PM. Suggested donation $25. Seating limited; arrive early. www.vaccineresistancemovement.org

The whole basis for vaccinations is unphysiological. The vast majority of infections enter the body through the nasal passages, the gastro-intestinal tract or the guts. Accordingly, 80% of the body’s immune system is situated at these junctures – the natural first line of defence. Vaccines are injected into deep muscle tissue or subcutaneously; either route literally bypasses one’s natural barriers altogether. Thus the body is left vulnerable to live viruses and heavy metals.

Many vaccines are laced with the adjuvant salt form of aluminum, directly linked to early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Macrophagic Myofasciitis, chronic fatigue syndrome and thimerosal mercury, a devastating neurotoxin implicated in the explosive spread of autism, both linked to psychological, neurological and immunological problems. Heavy metals and live viruses eventually collect in areas of fatty tissue throughout the body, including the brain, and linger there for decades, upwards of a lifetime. Is it any wonder so many children have succumbed to autism during the earliest, most vulnerable stages of development?

A newborn lacks sufficient protection to guard against premature damage to the blood barrier on the brain. The myelin sheath, an insulator that protects the cells, is under-developed. Any exposure to heavy metals during the first two years is deadly and unwise. Aluminum causes brain swelling and interferes with the immune system directly. The MMR shot, typically given at 12-18 months is overwhelming and many children have suffered irreversible brain damage from its impact. And remember, children have already accumulated metals in the brain from earlier shots (Hep B, HIB, HBPV, OPV, DPT) so there is a threshold limit.

Vaccines are the main cause of autism primarily due to accumulative damage from the Hep B, MMR and DPT shots (multiple live viruses + heavy metal build-up) – leading to ischemia, a singeing of the neural pathways from toxic overload which prevents vital oxygen from reaching the brain, literally inhibiting normal development. Anaphylaxis, a system-wide allergic and functional breakdown, and encephalitis, inflammation of the brain resulting from vaccine-derived heavy metal sludge toxicity, inevitably follow.

According to Dr. John Cannell, “Autism is caused from a quantitative, not qualitative, variation in one of the enzymes that metabolize Vitamin D. That is, there are no structural differences in these enzymes in autism, only a genetically determined difference in the amount present. These enzymes are responsive to estrogen; estrogen protects the brain from being damaged by low Vitamin D, probably by increasing the amount of activated Vitamin D present, explaining why boys are four times more likely to have the disease.” Vitamin D3 is not strictly a vitamin in the traditional sense. It acts as a steroid type hormone with uniquely beneficial properties, critical to overall respiratory function.

A mother with several autistic children sent me her own analysis of the overall autistic condition:

“Vaccines and antibiotics kill good bacteria in the intestines leaving room for yeast overgrowth. Prolonged root growth perforates the walls of the intestines. Bad food choices, i.e. those containing gluten and milk products, cause proteins to leak through these holes and attach to the opiate receptors in the brain. Children with autism literally become addicted to this ‘heroin.’”


Currently, children are getting 17 shots containing aluminum, a quadrupling of the amount given since the 1970s. It is found in hepatitis A, hepatitis B, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), MMR, Hib, pneumococcal and gardasil (HPV) vaccines.

Based on Dr. David Ayoub’s findings, children, on average, receive two to 400 micrograms per vaccine, over a milligram of aluminum; a concentration and dosage that is 10 to 20 times more toxic than mercury. Multiple vaccines are far worse, over a 1,000 micrograms, on average, for a triple set shot. Compounding the problem, even more aluminum gets in during the manufacturing process. An indicator that the tools and/or machinery used are not properly monitored for safety.

Acute exposure to heavy metals can lead to a host of auto-immune disorders: Downs syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, ALS, lupus, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive dysfunction.

“Heavy metals and viruses in vaccines cause abnormal development in the brain, long-term changes that put a child at high risk of neuro-degenerative diseases, i.e. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s for the rest of their life; also, they become hyper-sensitive to environmental toxins (pesticides, herbicides). Live viruses in vaccines are incorporated into your genetic material and passed on to your children. Many rare forms of cancer are now very common (i.e. pancreatic cancer). Lymphoma is now the number one malignancy in 30-year- olds and rising. Asthma has seen a 10-fold increase over the last two decades. Type 1 diabetes has also been linked to auto-immune disorder caused by vaccines.” (Dr. Russell Blaylock)

Dr. Christopher Shaw, Canada’s leading neuroscientist, released a stunning peer review study in 2009 linking aluminum in vaccines with motor neuron degeneration found in victims of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in those with Gulf War Syndrome. It followed another similar groundbreaking study begun in 2007.

Aluminum toxicity in vaccines:

“Research indicates that patients with impaired kidney function, including premature neonates, who receive injections of aluminum greater than four to five micrograms (mcg) per kilogram of body weight per day, accumulate aluminum at levels associated with central nervous system and bone toxicity.” (Food & Drug Administration Report)

This means that for a six-pound baby, 11 to 14 mcg would be toxic. The hepatitis B vaccine given at birth contains 250 mcg of aluminum – 20 times higher than safety levels allow. Babies weigh about 12 pounds (5.5 kg) at two months of age when they receive 1,225 mcg of aluminum from their vaccines – 50 times higher than safety levels.

Thimerosal (mercury) is a neurotoxin linked to psychological, neurological and immunological problems. Nervous system damage, kidney disease, birth defects, dental problems, mood swings, mental changes, hallucinations, memory loss, nerve damage and inability to concentrate can occur. Symptoms also include tremors, loss of dermal sensitivity, slurred speech and, in rare cases, even death and paralysis. This additive alone was the catalyst for another recent class action lawsuit organized by mothers of children born with autism and the many related behavioural disorders associated with it. Autism is now occurring at levels never seen before in history: one in 67. The average used to be one in 20,000. Thimerosal mercury is added to vaccines ostensibly to sterilize the giant multi-dose vats containing the serum.

Joel Lord is the founder of the Vaccine Resistance Movement. www.vaccineresistancemovement.org

Art & activism

How an ancient poet inspired a local initiative
to preserve McLellan Forest

by Susan McCaslin / photos by Erin Perry

Robert Bateman toured McLellan
Artist and activist Robert Bateman toured McLellan Forest and has lent his support for the preservation of the rare ecosystem.

• Last Thanksgiving, I discovered that Glen Valley in Langley still had some mature rainforest. This discovery was bittersweet, however, as I also learned the Township of Langley was planning to sell it off to raise funds to build a recreation centre.

As my husband and I walked through the forest, we paused at the base of a giant black cottonwood, estimated to be at least 240 years old by local dendrologist David Jordan. I fell in love with the forest and for the first time since the Vietnam War decided I had to become a full-on activist.

Fortunately, this forest was publically owned. Another parcel had been taken off the market earlier because of the public outcry led by a local group of residents called WOLF (Watchers of Langley Forests). In October, WOLF was given 60 days to raise $3 million to purchase this second parcel known as McLellan Forest East.

Many felt it was unfair to force residents to buy back land that already belonged to them. Shouldn’t there be other ways to raise funds for capital projects other than selling off a rare, wild ecosystem? If sold, the land would no longer be accessible to the public. It would cease to be a vital ecosystem.

Reports from biologists documented the ecological values of the forest in glowing but ominous terms such as “rare,” “high value” and “extirpation.” As a poet, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast to the local government’s language with words like “inventory,” “surplus” and “idle land.” A realtor’s listing said it was a “heavily treed…blank canvas.”

Langley Forest
The Han Shan Poetry Project garnered hundreds of poems from all over the world.

But what can an artist do? It occurred to me that poets understand the intrinsic value of nature and our need for it so I decided to organize “An Afternoon of Art and Activism” just to see what might happen. This event drew together local visual artists, poets, musicians, ecologists, photographers, a dancer and students.

A week later, 160 students from the Langley Fine Arts School poured out of two big, yellow buses to sketch and sing and photograph the forest. After sharing their art in the woods, they organized a poetry reading and filled a local café with their stunning photos.

Then my husband noticed an ad announcing that renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman would be signing books in a nearby mall. He quickly emailed Bateman’s website and within a few hours Bateman himself responded, saying, “This is important. I’ll be there in the morning.”

Bateman commented on the irony of selling a vital ecosystem in order to build a recreation centre elsewhere. “This is the recreation centre, right here!” he said, gesturing to the earth. The attention he generated was a pivotal point, but once it was over we asked “What now?”

I remembered studying the zesty poems of an old hermit monk from ancient China named Han Shan from Cold Mountain. There, he scribbled poems on rocks and suspended them from trees. Just as he inspired the beatnik poets of the sixties, Han Shan resurrected once again to become my mentor and muse. The Han Shan Poetry Project was born.

I put out a call for tree poems. My calls soon appeared on people’s blogs and websites all over the world. Over 150 poems poured in within a week and a half and within two weeks the number had gone up to well over 200.

We placed the poems in sheet protectors, threaded them with colourful ribbon and festooned them from the trees. Poems poured in from all over the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and other provinces, as well as from New Mexico, California, Florida, the UK, Australia and Turkey. The exhibit included poems by celebrated Canadian poets like Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, Fred Wah (the Poet Laureate of Canada) and children as young as six years of age.

Poems pirouetted like white angels. Heavy drops of rain, frost, sprigs of moss and bark covered them, appearing to be the forest’s way of claiming them. Poets had set their small gestures of creative expression beside the vaster creativity of nature. People were attracted from all over the Lower Mainland, strolling through the woods and pausing to read the poems. Local visual artist Susan Falk donated a painting to the ongoing work of WOLF. The Opus Women’s Choir came out to sing carols in the forest.

Despite all this attention, the December fundraising deadline loomed and WOLF had to inform town Council they weren’t able to raise the three million. We learned that other offers to purchase were in-hand and it could be sold quickly. A letter from the BC Ministry of Environment arrived that afternoon saying that, based on its ecological evaluation, the forest should be protected as an ecological reserve, but they too didn’t have the money.

Decision-making was deferred and on January 29 the Langley Township announced it was taking three of the five parcels off the market. The community was relieved that 60% of the forest would be saved, but the compromise generated both elation and disappointment since the portion of land to be sold contains some of the most sensitive habitat for species at risk.

Clearly, it took many people to help persuade the politicians to reconsider a ‘done deal’ that could provide cash-in-hand. But what this experience prompts us to consider is the untapped potential of the arts to transform society. The success of this project shows how art and activism can dovetail in remarkable ways. Art pauses before beauty, raising the conflict between conservationists and developers beyond their various ends. It appeals to a common recognition of beauty in biodiversity.

An activist must live in the paradox of unknowing – perhaps without attachment to outcomes (though I find this difficult). Nature holds us within a larger story, a more expansive narrative; somehow, our words and actions matter. Yes, poetry matters, as old Han Shan himself told us some 1,200 years ago.

This story is not over, as taking the properties off the market is not the same as legal protection. There are some who recall fighting for the same patch of forest over a decade ago. You may wish to thank Langley township council and ask them to protect the species at risk habitat on the parcels to be sold and to follow through with formal dedication of the forests under section 30 of the Community Charter.

The McLellan Forest issue also raises a bigger question for the coming provincial election: given that all local government powers come from the Province, what is the duty of local governments to conserve biological diversity and habitat for species at risk?

For more information:

http://mclellanpark.blogspot.ca (604) 866-2259
Township of Langley: www.tol.ca
Hon. Dr. Terry Lake: env.minister@gov.bc.ca

Susan McCaslin is a poet and Faculty Emeritus of Douglas College. Her most recent volume, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press) was a finalist for the BC Poetry Book Prize (Dorothy Livesay Award, 2011) and the 2012 winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award). www.susanmccaslin.ca

Creating a community miracle

Gabriola Community Health Centre

by Bruce Mason

• For many years, Gabriola Island – the most northern Southern Gulf Island – has been known as “Petroglyph Island” or “Isle of the Arts” because of its ubiquitous, ancient stone carvings and one of the highest per capita concentrations of artists in Canada.

Now, Gabriola Island has a new major attraction: a unique, multimillion-dollar community health centre situated on four acres of landscaped and forested land. Residents who built the impressive 9,000-square-foot facility themselves have dubbed it “The Miracle on Church Street.” The Gabriola Community Health Centre is front and centre, with curious visitors arriving at the site every day, including delegations from other communities, with the question “How did they do it?” uppermost in their minds.

Part of the miracle includes no ‘handouts.’ Government contributed less than 10 percent to the project and no taxes were raised. Instead, Gabriola’s population of 4,000 rallied by taking matters into their own hands, collecting $1.5 million and an equal amount of in-kind donations and volunteer labour. And when a site was donated, they assembled an army of 150 people.

By revitalizing the spirit of traditional barn and church-raising with 21st century resources and realities, everyone involved now insist similar miracles are within the reach of others, including legacy projects such as theatres, libraries, parks and rinks.

“The Centre represents the best in us, with important lessons for others,” says volunteer coordinator John Campbell. “We don’t necessarily need and should not rely on government. We can and must do it ourselves. And when a community makes that decision, everything changes.”

Locals flock to the site to track how the dream of locally owned and operated community health care is unfolding and evolving. The remarkable story of self-reliance and responsibility is shared with off-island family and friends, as they tour the innovative two-storey structure, complete with a state-of-the art Helipad.

The stream of visitors includes patients, of course. The building is designed to facilitate visionary, multi-disciplinary, multi-service, patient-centred treatment, integrating primary/urgent health care and overall well being under one roof. Two doctors practising in the centre have long waiting lists. A lower level is being leased to related health and well-being services and a laboratory, making the initiative self-sustaining. And the search is on for two more like-minded family physicians and other health practitioners.

As can be expected, some visitors arrive via ambulance; after the doors opened last summer, 219 patients received urgent treatment in the first six months. The vast majority are no longer automatically transported to the regional hospital in Nanaimo (a half-hour ferry ride away), saving lives, hundreds of thousands of dollars and stress on patients and the system.

In 2002, the sudden loss of the long-standing means of late-night emergency evacuation was the final straw, breaking a fragile, unfunded infrastructure and adding another extreme element to a full-blown, perfect medical crisis storm. Only one full-time doctor was responding to emergencies – without pay from government medical on-call funding – treating patients from the trunk of her car, often using medicine and supplies borrowed from paramedics. The community had raised funds for a defibrillator, but there was no place to store it, no drugs such as clot-busters and no facility to recruit and retain on-call doctors or to diagnose, stabilize and treat patients.

BC Ferries shuffled back and forth, finally making the decision to stop calling on skeleton crews for after-hours evacuations. The social contract and proud service, as far back as anyone could remember, was scuttled. The Nanaimo Harbour patrol vessel was utilized as backup, but too often it was also unavailable because of other duties and priorities. Secondary backups were the open Zodiacs of Coast Guard Auxiliaries.

Dr. Bob Henderson, a rural locum (temporary) physician who lives on Gabriola says, “I remember one winter night when we managed to get a frightened, seriously ill and bleeding patient down a steep incline, inside an ambulance to a private dock and then into a small open boat. After hooking up an IV, we covered the patient with a plastic sheet for protection while being transported over five miles of rough, frigid waters to Nanaimo. There was no room for the doctor on board.”

I reported other “horrific,” “nightmarish” incidents for the community newspaper, the Gabriola Sounder until 2007. Then, in a series of articles entitled “Let’s build a medical clinic,” a meeting was called for. The Gabriola Health Care Society was immediately incorporated, with free membership offered to all residents (visit www.ghcs.com) and an incredible $30,000 was raised during St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The Gabriola Lions, Ambulance Society and other organizations got involved. Volunteers created an interim urgent/primary care clinic in a vacant liquor store and a second on-call doctor was hired.

Island life was transformed, including a dramatic drop in residents with health problems having to move away. A new community vision took shape, gathering support, along with plans for a larger, permanent facility that would offer enhanced and long overdue services and prevention, such as immunizations, counselling, chronic disease care and much more. Over 30 fund-raising events were staged in 2010, “The Year of the Clinic.” $27,000 was scooped up in ice cream sales alone. While fundraising is a harsh fact of life in stifling economic downturns and in downsized, dysfunctional government, the rise of the Internet and social media provides new tools for information gathering and sharing, creating and sustaining broad-based ownership and involvement, readily available to smaller grassroots groups.

When resident Bob Rooks, a retired veterinarian, donated 4.1 acres of land, it touched off “2011: The Year of Construction,” unleashing another new dimension: the untapped and unprecedented potential of baby-boomers. We Gabriolans discovered that our aging population can create solutions. The new ‘elderly’ have more years of healthy, productive life than ever before, along with time, funds, expertise and contacts. Architects, project managers, trades-people and others emerged – often, just like the money, when required – buoyed by the joy of healthy commitment and inspiring camaraderie.

The ‘miracle’ is movable. Our Clinic, a new book by Bruce Mason, documents, celebrates and shares the story of the Gabriola Community Health Centre, which was born in crisis, virtually abandoned by government and ultimately created and nurtured by community. Email brucemason@shaw.ca

Stop the Great Lakes nuclear dump

Lake Huron

Do something great for Canada Water Week, March 18-24

Nuclear waste dump fact sheet

1. Ontario Power Generation (OPG), a multi-billion dollar corporation wholly owned by the Province of Ontario, plans to build a nuclear waste dump at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant site, in the Municipality of Kincardine, Ontario, located approximately one kilometer inland from the shore of Lake Huron at the surface and more than 400 metres below the deepest near-site point of Lake Huron. OPG owns all Ontario’s nuclear plants and all radioactive nuclear waste created.

2. Low and intermediate level radioactive nuclear waste will be buried in the nuclear waste dump. Intermediate level nuclear wastes are highly radioactive and many remain toxic for over 100,000 years. Some are as dangerous as nuclear spent fuel. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000-year guarantee that this nuclear waste dump will not leak.

3. Approval of the nuclear waste dump in the Municipality of Kincardine (DGR1, Deep Geologic Repository) will set precedents (toxicity of waste, proximity to lake, geology) and smooth the way for the much publicized second underground nuclear waste dump for the high level nuclear spent fuel involving 21 communities (DGR2). Kincardine’s DGR1 is the Trojan Horse in our midst.

4. OPG is paying $35.7 million to Saugeen Shores, Huron-Kinross, Arran-Elderslie, Brockton, Kincardine. All are adjacent to the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant site; $10.5 million has already been paid even before approval to construct the dump is received. OPG can unilaterally cancel payment if the municipality fails to support the nuclear waste dump proposal. http://tinyurl.com/b2qtcya/

5. Forty million people in two countries rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water. http://tinyurl.com/aq7q5hw

6. OPG’s Environmental Impact Statement document contains 3,432 pages; justification for choosing the Kincardine site is contained in the equivalent of one single page. OPG’s comment on acceptability of an alternative site option: “Unknown.” http://tinyurl.com/av6jexb

7. An underground nuclear waste dump in limestone is unproven and unprecedented.

8. Nuclear waste dumps in other countries are leaking. http://tinyurl.com/aup4wwm/

9. OPG’s proposal is presently undergoing an Environmental Assessment (EA). Public hearings are expected [this] spring. EA Joint Review Panel will report to the federal Minister of the Environment, who in turn will report to the Canadian federal cabinet, the ultimate decision maker – a decision is anticipated within nine months. [March is the assumed end date of the Environmental Impact Statement review period. Summer 2013: Joint Review Panel for the Environmental Assessment Public Hearing hears views about the Environmental Impact Statement and application for a site licence to construct the dump. Submissions will be heard from the public, Aboriginal groups OPG and other stakeholders.]

10. Nuclear waste will be buried in the dump over a 35 to 40 year period. Ten years of pre-closure monitoring to be followed by unmonitored, unspecified institutional control and then abandonment.

11. In the words of Rod McLeod, a former Deputy Minister of the Environment (Ontario) “… the OPG proposal is very unwise.” http://tinyurl.com/amoepsw/, Petitioner comment #960.

12. According to William Fyfe, a retired University of Western Ontario professor and an international consultant on nuclear waste, “You do not put nuclear waste near things like the Great Lakes or the great rivers in case there’s a leakage that you haven’t expected.” http://tinyurl.com/arggzco/

13. OPG states, “Taking into account the findings of the EA studies, including the identified mitigation measures, it is OPG’s conclusion that the DGR Project is not likely to result in any significant adverse effects on the environment.” http://tinyurl.com/av6jexb/

14. Forty million affected Canadians and Americans situated throughout the Great Lakes Basin that can and will be impacted if things go wrong were not consulted or informed and receive nothing but risk and uncertainty.

Please add your voice to the growing list of North Americans opposing Ontario Power Generation’s plan to bury nuclear waste on the shores of Lake Huron. Sign our petition and encourage friends, family and others in your network to sign it as well at http://tinyurl.com/aljc9so

Source: stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com
Contact info@stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com

photo of Lake Huron © Aboitsov