Our munching munchkins

photo of Vesanto Melina

by Vesanto Melina and Claudia Lemay

Like a super-powered magnet, children are often drawn to sugary and non-nutritious foods. However, regular consumption of junk food can lead to health problems, such as chronic illness and poor performance at school and in sports. It can also lead to kids becoming overweight, fostering low self-esteem. Even when they are protected from junk foods as infants, watch a young tot’s eyes light up with the first lick of something sweet.Registered dietitian Claudia Lemay explored this phenomenon with her lively young daughter, Amelie. Every time they went grocery shopping, Claudia would discover candy bars, chips and lollipops in her cart that little Amelie had added with Houdini-like deftness. The result became a children’s book, Stargold the Food Fairy: The Plant-Based Edition. This beautifully illustrated story takes readers on a journey towards healthy eating. It features young Lucie, who is swept into an adventure by Stargold, the food fairy. Together, they reach Growland where Lucie is amazed to find elves building magical houses that represent our human bodies. Each food group, and the nutrients it provides, furnish an essential building material. Only when the proper types of foods are eaten does the house, and thus the human body, grow healthy and strong. With the help of Stargold, Lucie learns to associate choosing nutritious foods with an energetic and healthy body.

Some people may be hesitant about an entirely plant-based diet for children, but based on a solid and vast foundation of scientific evidence, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics gives the following reassurance. “Appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer and obesity.”

The metaphor that compares house construction to the building of a person’s body helps kids visualize how food choices either positively or negatively impact growth and well-being. This book is a wonderful resource for parents, dietitians and educators. It is backed by science, yet fun and easy to understand. This book and Claudia’s earlier edition, Stargold the Food Fairy (non-vegan) are available at amazon.ca and stargoldthefoodfairy.com Claudia’s writing has earned a Mom’s Choice Award®. Part of the proceeds from the book sales will go to the Malala Fund, which helps promote the access of education to children worldwide. “Good foods build the brain; good books expand it.” (malala.org)


DECEMBER 10: Meet author Claudia Lemay (5-7PM) at Vegan Supply, 250 E. Pender in Vancouver. Vesanto Melina will also be present to chat and answer questions. Lemay and Melina’s books will be available for purchase.

Claudia Lemay is a Surrey-based dietitian, author and consultant. www.truehealthnutrition.ca

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver dietitian author and consultant. www.nutrispeak.com, www.becomingvegan.ca

Democratic change and climate change

photo of David Suzuki

by David Suzuki

In 1952, my grade 10 civics teacher asked us what we hoped to become as adults. One of the most popular boys answered, “I hope to go into politics.” We were delighted because we knew he wanted to make the world and Canada better and we admired him for it.

Things have changed in half a century. In 1992, my daughter Severn, then 12, created a minor sensation with a speech at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, upbraiding delegates for not protecting the future for children. “You grown-ups say you love us, but please, make your actions reflect your words,” she said.

Back in Canada, CBC Radio host Vicki Gabereau interviewed her. “So, Severn, when are you running for politics?” she asked. My daughter’s answer stunned me: “Oh, is that an insult?” To her generation, running for office was not admired or inspiring. Her response made me realize I was constantly decrying politicians who made grand statements, but failed to follow through. To a child, my complaints indicated that politicians are hypocrites.

Democracy is far from perfect, but it’s better than the alternatives. We must strive to improve. Women were once thought to be incapable of making decisions and were denied the vote. Asian-Canadians and African-Canadians, even those like my parents who were born and raised here, couldn’t vote until 1948. The original peoples of this land didn’t gain the franchise until 1960! Homosexuality was a crime in Canada until 1969. Change can happen in our political and judicial systems, but we have to work for it.

When far fewer than half of us fail to vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections, democracy flies out the window. It should be our civic duty to participate in the democratic process, as it is in Australia where people are required to vote.

I often wonder what’s gone wrong… Often it seems politicians prioritize corporate interests over those of the citizens who elected them. As prime minister, Stephen Harper avoided discussing climate change even though Canada is more vulnerable than most industrialized nations. He pulled us out of the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would “destroy the economy.”

Many of us thought things would turn around after Justin Trudeau was elected. He put climate change back on Parliament’s agenda and we rejoiced at Canada’s strong position in Paris shortly after. Two years later, we have to ask, “What happened?” To meet the Paris target, science shows we have to leave most known fossil fuel deposits in the ground. That means no more exploration for new sources, a halt to fossil fuel industry subsidies, no new pipelines and winding down fracking and deep-sea extraction.

We must also subsidize renewable energy expansion and seek methods to store energy, reforest large tracts of land and outlaw disposable products.

Each of us has a responsibility to change the way we live to minimize our carbon footprint, but we need the folks we elect to step up and restore our confidence. The window of opportunity to avoid climate chaos is narrow. We have to use our civic responsibility and tell elected representatives that Canada must honour its commitments. The Paris Agreement is one of the most important we’ve ever made.

Excertped from Corporate influence inflames political cynicism. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Be the change you want to see in the world

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

The title above is a quote that is often mis-attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. But it is only a paraphrased, shorthand version of his actual quote and, as such, it gets his message across. But there is much more to understand about this concept.Here is his actual quote: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

If we choose to be the change we want to see in the world, what would that look like? It would mean that we focus on our own thoughts, beliefs and behaviours rather than on what others are doing. We would stop judging others and instead of complaining about others, we would practice self-reflection. We would realize the only thing in the world over which we have any control is ourselves.

Gandhi goes on to say that changing our nature is the source of our happiness. This is powerful because most have a codependent relationship with the events in their world. Codependency is a psychological term, which means excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.

I have co-opted the term and used it to define the ego’s dependency on things happening according to what it wants and being unhappy when it does not.

So, when everything works out the way we want it to, we are happy. If not, we may feel shortchanged by the world, victimized and even depressed. When our plan does not work, ego goes into a place of criticism, judgement and blaming others for our state of mind.

Ironically, it is a version of “what you see is what you get.” If we view the world and our lives negatively, our experiences will be negative. If we focus on our own growth and development and become the opposite of all we dislike in the world, we produce our own happiness and equanimity. Equanimity is defined as “mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations.”

It is our own polarized thinking, judgement and reactiveness that makes equanimity impossible. It is not others who stir our internal pot; rather, it is our ego reactions. Ego takes everything personally and sees things only from its own perspective.

We have political systems that are based on criticism. And more often than not, it is the individual who is criticized, not just their policy. Politics is the outside manifestation of ego qualities writ large. However, you can go into any office, classroom or neighbourhood and see the same thing. It is also present in personal relationships. Hence, the world is mirroring the ego dynamics of individuals.

If we, as individuals, change our inner dynamics, we may well see that same change manifesting in the world. That is what Gandhi was saying and this is the only way to create real change.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. To read more articles or to order books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis MP3s or MP3s for Creating Effective Relationships, visit www.gwen.ca or check out her Facebook inspirational page.

StarWise December 2017 – January 2018

photo of Mac MacLaughlin

by Mac McLaughlin

Saturn enters its own sign, Capricorn, on December 19 for a two-and-a-half-year visit, after which it begins to travel through Aquarius (also ruled by Saturn) for another two and a half years. That’s five years of some pretty strong Saturnian medicine. Generally, people don’t really want to hear about Saturn; certainly, most of my clients groan when I bring him up. But he is part of the pantheon of zodiacal gods and must be adhered to. In Vedic astrology, the planets are called grahas, which means to grab or seize. When a planet contacts a planet in your chart, it grabs it and brings its effect to it, whether positive or negative.

I have done a study of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s horoscope, along with charts for Canada and the US and Donald Trump’s birth chart. Here’s what I found. Saturn passes over Trudeau’s Sun in January and proceeds to oppose Canada’s Sun and Moon (February to June) and then backs up to practically sit on Trudeau’s Sun, finishing in 2018 in opposition to Canada’s Sun and Moon. Synthesized, it means our country and its leader are besieged with this very powerful Saturnian influence throughout 2018. Saturn passing over a person’s Sun is no fun and generally brings up a time of limitation, frustration, delays, adversity, scarcity and myriad other concerns. To save a very long story, Saturn pays a long and strong visit to the US’ chart and Trump’s chart too, right up to at least 2020. Throw a couple of dramatic eclipses into the mix and we can surmise we have a potent cocktail of serious karmic conditions to work out over the next few years. If we thought 2017 was alarming and dismaying with Trump’s antics, we haven’t seen anything yet. Attacks and wars could break out and, at the least, he probably will be discredited, exposed and impeached. Nobody wants to lance the cyst on the child’s arm, but once done, the toxins are released and the healing process begins.

Saturn’s true message is that of healing, purity, honesty, sobriety, cleanliness, discipline, chastity and every other thing that will help us to bring our societies and countries into a workable and wholesome order. Saturn tightens the belt and brings scarcity and sacrifice, hard work, sometimes impoverishment and, at least, correction. If we’re living a hog-in-trough mentality, we will have to correct it somehow. At the end of it all, we come out better for the process. In the meantime, I expect the next two years will be fraught with serious and heavy concerns, decisions and considerations. Let’s get to work.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years. Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.

Aries ZodiacARIES Mar 21 – Apr 19
You’re the lead-off man or woman of the zodiac, bold, brave and true. Now it’s up to you to show the way and break through to something new. “How,” you might ask? By living honestly, honourably and leading through example. Come on valiant one; we need your direction and spirit now more than ever.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21
Aries initiates action, but it’s the steady and stubborn Taurus that sustains and stabilizes the energy that Aries creates. Venus rules Taurus and matters such as ethics, morality, purity and beauty. Taurus cares for the land and her resources. We need your power and strength now more then ever.

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20
You are the word merchant and negotiator par excellence and you certainly know how to cut a deal and get everyone on-side. The world needs your gift of seeing both sides of anything and everything. Do your thing and help humanity come to reasonable resolutions to our myriad, complex problems.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22
Saturn, the task-master, will be moving through your opposite sign Capricorn for the next couple of years. He casts his glance your way and will manifest his energy in the form of all kinds of concerns and considerations. Career, health and relationship areas will get a workout. Wisdom and growth are the results.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22
Late January and February are telling times for your sign. Generally, it’s not the best of times, but a time in which you can do some deep reflection regarding your life’s values. Throw a couple of eclipses into the mix and they will bring further revelations and realizations your way.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22
Saturn passes through Capricorn over the next two years casting good energy your way. Virgo may secretly admire much of Saturn’s disciplinary and corrective admonishments. You are more likely than not to get in line with his astringency plans. In many ways, Saturn and Virgo resonate some very similar ideals and morals.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22
Saturn visits Capricorn and strongly connects with your sign. Libra is all about the law. Saturn is the letter of the law: all laws, natural and man-made. He is exalted in Libra. Now, a time has arrived in which you can use your skills as a fair judge and arbitrator.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21
Scorpio is another sign that cares deeply about Earth’s environmental health. It seems the world has gone a bit mad and there are a vast number of problems that must be dealt with; you are made just right to handle it all. When others give up, you’re just getting warmed up.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21
You have been gifted with long vision and high intuition and now it is high time to put these gifts into play. You’ve been corralled for the last couple of years and, no doubt, you are restless and ready for some new challenges and adventures. Saddle up and head out. You are needed.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19
Do or die! Well, not literally, but with what is to come in the next couple of years you may very well feel you are in a position that is seriously vital, personally and professionally. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. With cloven hoof, set forth up the mountain.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19
Eclipses at the end of January and mid-February will help you in finding your direction. In the heart of hearts, you are the true humanitarian that can love one and all. Your skills are sorely needed now and will be needed even more over the next five years.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20
Jupiter and Neptune, co-rulers of Pisces will continue to cast their energies your way throughout most of 2018. This will provide you with the opportunity to truly find yourself and your position in our society. You have the gift of universal love, caring and compassion and now it is truly needed. Do what you love and love what you do.

At mid-term: a Justin Trudeau report card

Justin Trudeau observing eclipse

It’s two years since he swept to power, high-fiving with one hand, promises for “Real Change” in the other. So right now, on the post-honeymoon anniversary of his election to majority government, halfway through his mandate, it’s time to take a full, accurate measure of our 23rd Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

The TrudeauMeter offers a starting point and an ongoing gauge.

This non-partisan, collaborative citizen initiative is specifically designed to track performance on his platform. It lists 226 promises, spelled out in Liberal literature, speech-ified and selfie-fied during the federal campaign.

Check off 59 promises made good, but also note well: work hasn’t yet begun on precisely the same number: 59. There are 72 works in progress.

A useful word, going forward, is “porkies.” According to dictionaries, it’s cockney slang for shaded white “lies” as in, “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been telling ‘porkies’ again.” According to the TrudeauMeter, he has flat-out broken, and downright abandoned, a whopping 36 promises to millions of Canadians, who took him at his word and got him in (and Stephen Harper out) by, in many cases, voting strategically.

The biggest fish he hooked, reeled in, used as bait or chucked overboard were electoral reformers, the environmentally inclined, the awakened millennials and First Nations.

Justin Trudeau, in the Canadian cliché, “campaigns on the left, governs on the right.” The run-up to power takes place in a less-bloodied kettle of fish. Also swimming, circling Parliament, are schools of lobbyists, assorted sharks, bottom feeders and bureaucrats, entrenched in the old power game of government.

Full marks for electoral showmanship, possibly gleaned from his part-time job teaching drama. Most unfortunately, Justin Trudeau, like far too many victorious politicians, in a post-campaign role, is now dancing with those ‘who brung him,’ the greedy elites who hold the real strings – the purse strings – and select and play the tunes.

The rest of us, the vast majority, are mere sidelined wallflowers, Still, a number of grateful Canadians would likely give the Libs a passing grade, another whirl, just for erasing “Harper” from the national dance-card. Perhaps enough, two years hence, for a nod to stay on as a minority prom-king. Some will continue to hold their noses while pointing south to the stench of a madman and his company of conspirators, fleecing and disassembling all remaining reason, resources and democracy below the border. To be fair, in context, the worsening dystopia of Donald J. Trump was beyond even our former prime minister, who trumpeted, “Nice hair, but Justin’s not ready.” Few, if any, were fully prepared.

Canada still looks good in comparison, while charting a best-course scenario through the unforeseen, current tsunamis of dangerously troubled waters, rippling and ripping northward. Endangered are trade, the economy, border security, immigration and foreign policy, etc., as well as life itself, through climate implosion or nuclear explosion.

Notable among Justin’s 59 check marks for jobs done: finally bringing 40,000 Syrian refugees to this privileged country, releasing unprecedented, public ministerial mandate letters, unmuzzling government scientists, restoring the mandatory long-form census, persuading provinces to impose low-hanging carbon tax, establishing protocols for decriminalizing medically assisted death, the Canada Child Benefit and an equal number of women and men in Cabinet. When asked “Why?” regarding the latter, Trudeau answered, “Because it’s 2015!” That went viral and global, along with the announcement in Paris during the woefully inadequate international climate accord, that “Canada is Back.”

Voters must also not forget his assurances on election night: “We are committed to ensuring this will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post” and “Meaningful ‘nation to nation’ engagement with Indigenous peoples to secure free, prior and informed consent.”

Surely “Real Change” is really just empty promise and stage-craft, unless it plays out in real-life. And we’re now nearing 2018.

There are more than enough disappointing failures to reverse many Harper initiatives and broken promises for us to take issue with: pay equity legislation; marijuana legislation; a plodding, infuriating national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; the $15 billion Canada received to provide armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, while there are still no funds for the 100+ indigenous communities that lack potable water; forecasted $10 billion deficits, now $23b, projected to soon tally $28.5-billion; the outed, tax-evading Finance Minister and his suspect two budgets; increasing lack of free access to information (Canada now ranked 46th, between Peru and Bulgaria); big buck infrastructure work, being doled out from the Commons to private predators – ad infinitum.

In arguing for a mid-course correction, Elizabeth May has posted detailed, teacher-like, subject-to-subject second year Liberal letter grades on the Green Party website. From a purely west-coast perspective, let’s give the federal Liberals a generous, encouraging C-minus; their leader, a hard and fast D-plus, with lots of room to roll up his sleeves for needed improvement.

In two years, Canada’s cautious optimism has churned and morphed into brick-like cynicism. Justin Trudeau has squandered his, and our, potential. He’s out-of-touch and tone-deaf to the growing chorus of Canadians struggling for a living wage to pay rent, let alone save up for a down payment on a house, post-secondary training or decent childcare.

“Canadians do not expect us to be perfect; they expect us to be honest, open and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest,” Trudeau opined.

To paraphrase time-honoured report cards, “Justin gets along well with others, but must apply himself to important subjects such as environment, electoral reform and Indigenous rights.”

Trudeau, the second, has two years until finals, to cut to the chase, pull up his designer socks and cut down on selfies and play-acting. And above all, cut out the porkies.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

Ann Mortifee – seven decades of story and song

Ann Mortifee

Joseph Roberts: I’m excited about your next offerings on November 30 and December 1 at Christ Church Cathedral: The Magic of Seven. Tell us about it.

Ann Mortifee: It turns out it’s my 70th birthday; it’s a shocker to realize you’ve almost reached 70. As you know, I was married to Paul Horn and he used to say to me before he passed, “You’ll see. Your seventies are going to be the most powerful decade of your life.” And I thought, “Wow, that’s great. I’ll go for that.”

So I’ve taken this year to take on projects that were really meaningful to me. So The Magic of Seven is for me to celebrate, rather than resist, being 70 or hide it, but to really celebrate what that means. I’ve gone back over the last adventure of my life and there’s certain songs that really captured important phases. I’ve got some new songs in the concert but mainly I just wanted to track my life journey in some way, starting in Africa.

I was brought up on a sugar cane farm in Zululand and spent the early years of my life on the good soil of Africa. It’s had a tremendous, tremendous resonance in my life. I’ve written two musicals and lots of songs about it and really felt I owed a debt on behalf of my family and my race. In fact, the last time I was in Common Ground [March 2006] was when I did When the Rains Come.

JR: How did your family get from South Africa to Vancouver? Where in Canada did you first land?

AM: We landed in Montreal, but we came across by train. Dad had been the representative for Zululand, which was a little group of farmers in General Smuts’ cabinet during the time they were voting about the Union and Nationalist parties. When the Nationalist Party, who believe in separate and apart, and absolutely take the vote away and change everything, won, dad said, “This is the end of South Africa for me. I’ve got four girls. I’ve gotta get out.”

But my dad couldn’t get any money out. So he had a good friend who took over the farm and he basically took a few trips to look at Canada, England and New Zealand – his three choices. He felt Canada was the best choice, that it was healthy and so forth. I’m glad he did. It was never spoken of, but I think he took money out of the country whenever he could, sort of sewn into his pockets, so we’d at least have something to live on when we arrived.

JR: What sparked your interest in music?

AM: It was amazing, really, when I look back. Strange things happened along the way. One was when I was at Point Grey. My history teacher said I wouldn’t have to do this final paper if I would act in a theatre piece he wanted to do for Remembrance Day. The other thing was they had talent shows so three friends and I decided we would do the Charleston, and it won all the prizes. That was the first time I was on television, doing the Charleston if you can believe it. The next year, we went and did the hula and I loved the hula. I just loved it.

Four of us got together and started a little harmony group with popular songs of the day like Twenty-six miles across the sea. And we sang it at school dances. People heard about us and we sang at other school dances, but it never entered my mind I could do it as a living. Never. Then I was working at a summer camp on work crew and one of the gals was doing evening entertainment with kids and another gal whom I shared a room with. One of them got sick and Evia said to me, “Would you come and help me?” And I said, “Oh God.” But I did. And I was hooked. I loved it.

When she came back to Vancouver, she gave me her old guitar. It was like a world opened up. I started writing songs and then was asked to work here, there and the other. I never thought I wanted to be a singer. I just liked singing and people started asking me to come and do it.

The girls I went to school with said they’d each give me a dollar if I would go to the hootenanny. That was $42 so I said okay. I can remember stepping on the stage and having this feeling like I really belonged there. It was just a feeling of comfort and happiness. I loved singing. And Josh White Sr., a blues singer from the south, was there [at the Bunkhouse] to start the the following Monday. And he saw me and said, “I want her to open my show.” I opened a show the next week, much to my parents chagrin.

I remember going down one afternoon to pick up my guitar and Les [Stork, owner of the Bunkhouse] said, “Oh, are you going to the audition?” And I said, “What’s an audition?” And he said, “You just get up and sing and if they like you, you get a job. They’re looking for a girl singer for a show.” So I said okay. He said, “I’m going to drive you. You have to come with me. I want you to do this.”

He drove me down and I got the job, which was for George Ryga’s play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. That totally changed my life.

JR: Please give us the context.

AM: It was the story of a Native American girl being torn apart because she exists somewhere between two cultures, the white culture and the Native American culture. It was so profound. Chief Dan George was in it. It was the first Canadian play that had really addressed what had happened, and what was happening, and it took the country by storm. It was a fabulous thing. I was 17.

And this chap, Willie Dunn – I think he was ill – kept not showing up for rehearsals. George Ryga would say, “Dear, here are the lyrics, just make something up.” Well, I’d never written a song in my life so I said, “How do I do that?” “Just make up a melody to it.” That was how I became a composer. I never would’ve thought, “Oh, I think I’ll write songs.” It wouldn’t have entered my mind.

That became the baseline for everything I wanted to do. Rita Joe went to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to open it. And I was seen by the producer of a show that was coming in and he actually created another part for me to come in and play as a singer. That show, Love and Maple Syrup, was a huge success and it went on to New York. I was seen by agents there and was being auditioned for various shows and was asked to do the lead in a show called Promises, Promises that Burt Bacharach had written the music for.

I’d just come from doing Rita Joe, which was so meaningful to me, and I saw how music could alter culture. I remember very clearly working with the musical director. I hadn’t yet signed my contract and I was singing, “What do you get when you fall in love… you get enough germs to catch pneumonia, after you do he’ll never phone ya…” And I remember thinking, “What if I died singing this song?” Because I had to do eight shows a week. That was the contract.

And I thought, “I’ve just done something that was so filled with meaning and value for me.” I went to see my agent the next day and asked if there was any way I could do just six months. He said, “No, it’s a contract. They’re not going to hire somebody else and have to train them. So I said, “I just can’t do it.” I decided I wasn’t meant to be there and went back to Vancouver.

Three days later, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet called and asked me to write the music for The Ecstasy of Rita Joe as a ballet. I remember Arnold Spohr calling me, “Could you come and do this?” And I was like, “I can’t write a ballet score, I don’t know anything about it” and he asked, “Can you feel the heart of Rita Joe? Do you know how she feels?” And I said, “Yeah, I do. I love her.” And he said, “Why don’t you bring your heart to Winnipeg and we’ll see what happens.”

I ended up writing the ballet and that was an international hit and off we went to Australia and New Zealand. I feel my whole life has been a gift. My career just grew and I would go through changes and it would move me to the next phase and then I started to want to write musicals.

Now, I knew nothing about musicals. I remember going to the library and saying, “Do you have any books on writing musicals?” They said, “No, but we have a script of a musical.” I can’t remember which one it was. I thought, “Okay, you put the title there, then you explain what’s going on on the stage and you write what the character says.” Fine. And off I went. That’s when I did Reflections on Crooked Walking.

We really have to feed our souls. I’ve talked to many artists who somewhere along the line made a choice to do something to get ahead. They get known for that and they’re stuck. It was a conscious choice but it wasn’t like I said, “I want to do something meaningful.” It wasn’t like I thought about it. It was just who I was. It just didn’t sit right with me. I guess it was because I came from Africa and even as a girl I was aware. I mean, you couldn’t help it. We lived in the white house on the hill and I used to wonder why did they wear my hand-me-downs. Why didn’t I have hand-me-downs? How come we had toast and marmalade on the table while the Zulu people lined up to get a can of mealy corn every Thursday and some meat. I guess it was that questioning part of myself. It’s just social justice. Of course, I didn’t know that’s what it was. It was just feelings of discomfort that I had.

The other one that really impacted me was a feeling that I was living in a dream. I remember my earliest memory was of lying in my bed on the farm in Zululand and hearing the rooster crow and the morning sounds coming into my dream and I was thinking in what I now know was my dream, “Oh no, you’re going to fall asleep and you’re going to start dreaming and when you do you’re going to forget who you are because this has happened before.” And I’d become very agitated and I’d suddenly ‘open my eyes’ and I’d be in my bedroom on the farm and I’d go, “Oh no, oh no. I’m stuck being her again. These aren’t my hands. Who am I when I’m not dreaming that I’m Ann.” This was a recurring dream, this feeling of being someone else who was dreaming this reality.

I think that never left me either, that feeling of parallel worlds. That gave me my interest in meaning. Who are we? Where did we come from? What are we doing here? How can I know what is purposeful? If I’m here for some reason and I’m going to go back ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ was, that of course I couldn’t remember, I wanted to find out why I was here. That was always playing out as well and has been my whole life.

JR: You’re putting on an event called The Mysteries. What is that all about?

AM: I love musicals. I love that characters can sing at each other and just let all their feelings out through music. I just think it’s the best thing. And I love music as story. Nobody knew what happened in the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was on threat of death that any participant talk about what was going on there. In fact, some people think that’s why Socrates had to drink hemlock, because he divulged what was going on in the temple. I started reading everything I could about it and became totally fascinated. It led me to the myth of Demeter and Persephone, the great mother and her daughter who was abducted into the underworld by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. And it was known by her father Zeus. He and Hades were brothers and they bargained over her. And I thought, “Well, that’s still going on, isn’t it?”

Demeter the mother, in losing her daughter, is thrown into this deep deep grief and loses all her power. It’s like women whose children are abducted and can never get over it. She dropped into her grief and finally ends up going into her temple reaching a place of such rage that she says to Zeus and Hades, “Until you bring my daughter back to me, you’re not getting one drop of my life force.” She pulls her power in and the whole world starts to fall apart.

No grass grows so there’s nothing to feed the sheep and the goats. Everything starts dying. One by one the gods are [saying], “You’ve got to do something. You’ve got to do something.” Finally, they let Persephone go, but Hades tricks her into eating four pomegranate seeds so she has to return to the underworld for four months of the year. It’s one of the rules of the underworld. I looked around me and said, “Wow, this is a prophetic story.” We’re having it right now. We’re in the middle of it. We’re stuck at the point in the myth when Demeter is saying, “I’ve had enough.” And we’re starting to see these terrible storms and food shortages and floods and fires.

The world is going into a trauma. And that was foreshadowed, prophesied, created through thought – who knows? – but every year for 2000 years this myth was told. And I thought, “Wow, that’s really important.”

A myth is a story that’s meant to transform as we transform, but once you start writing them down they stop having the capacity to change. So I said, “I’ve got to change this myth. We might be able to bring the feminine heart back into the political arena, back into the world. And maybe we can avert this environmental catastrophe.”And women need to be heard. We need equality because we each bring, as you know, something so unique and special.

JR: We need to turn off the mass deception and really hear what our inner being is telling us to do, our soul. The work that you’re doing, music gives us permission to do that. It reminds us how important it is and how good it feels to be in touch with that.

AM: The minute you get into the slipstream of your own sense of values and are unafraid to stand up for them, so much of the feeling of helplessness goes away. Love is the best way. Whenever there’s love in the room everything lightens up. I don’t know how to say it loud and clear enough, because I don’t get why we choose other things.


Ann Mortifee: The Magic of Seven
Seven Decades of Spirit in Story and Song
With Ed Henderson, Bill Sample, Finn Manniche

November 30 & December 1
7:30pm (doors 7pm)
Christ Church Cathedral
690 Burrard Street, Vancouver

Advance tickets $40 + ticket charges available online only: www.magic-of-seven.eventbrite.ca
Door tickets $45, cash only.

The influence of gender on disease

gender symbols

Over the centuries, scientists have argued that men’s brains must be more powerful because they are larger than women’s brains. But does size matter? Newer studies have found that the differences between men and women are much more complicated than the size of the brain. Sex is not related to a particular type of brain and we are not born with brains stamped male or female, containing little pink or blue – or grey – cells. Although expert opinion varies in terms of what makes male and female brains different – not better or worse, just different – the overall consensus is that the brain contains a mix of both male and female characteristics as unique as our individual fingerprints.

The differences between men and women are determined by very complex interactions at the cellular level, including differences in brain structure, gene expression on X and Y chromosomes, a higher percentage of body fat in women, hormones, gut physiology, social experiences, and more. According to the Institute of Medicine, every cell in the body has a sex, which means that women and men are different even down to the cellular level. This also means that diseases, treatments and chemicals will affect the sexes differently.

These differences not only influence personality traits, but also the prevalence and response to treatment of particular diseases that are likely to ail men and women. For instance, sex and gender differences in cardiovascular diseases are well-investigated and there is strong evidence that men and women face different risk factors and have different treatment outcomes.

According to the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, women’s heart attacks may have different underlying causes, symptoms and outcomes than men’s. Despite some improvements in the rate of cardiovascular deaths over the last decade, women still fare worse than men after a heart attack and heart disease in women remains underdiagnosed and undertreated.

Of course, cardiovascular diseases are by no means the only area in which men and women differ in their susceptibility to, and survival of, disease. Because gender affects a wide range of physiological functions, it has an impact on a wide range of diseases and conditions. In addition to “women only” health conditions, three times as many women suffer from autoimmune diseases as men and women are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, diabetes, anxiety and depression, urinary tract disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and eating disorders. However, despite the wealth of data on differences, medical practice does not sufficiently take gender into account in diagnosis, treatment or disease management.

Also contributing to the disease gender gap is the medical research gender gap. Excluding women from clinical trials is negatively affecting women’s health. Today, even with mounting evidence of the gender differences in disease, women are still being ignored when it comes to health research. In a 2014 report, researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston stated:

“The science that informs medicine – including the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease – routinely fails to consider the crucial impact of sex and gender. This happens in the earliest stages of research when females are excluded from animal and human studies or the sex of the animals isn’t stated in the published results. Once clinical trials begin, researchers frequently do not enroll adequate numbers of women or, when they do, fail to analyze or report data separately by sex. This hampers our ability to identify important differences that could benefit the health of all.”

Clinical trials designed to study the safety and effectiveness of drugs and other medical treatments are primarily done with men and historically women have been treated as “small men.” Even in diseases typical to women, generally the research is done with men. Can we apply what we learn from male rats or humans to a women’s physiology? No, we cannot. So why, even today, are men the primary test subjects in clinical trials?

The answer is both practical and political, without malicious intent. The practical reason is that men are easier to study because they do not have menstrual cycles and they do not get pregnant. As a result, research data are easier to analyze. The political reason for excluding women from clinical trials is also historical. In the 1950s, the drug thalidomide caused pregnant women to give birth to babies with missing limbs, and in the 1970s, DES, an estrogen-like drug prescribed to prevent miscarriages, increased the risk that female babies would develop rare vaginal cancers later in life. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States banned all women who could become pregnant from participating in early-stage clinical trials. However, the ban ended up also including all women who were not sexually active, who used contraception or who were homosexual, as well as other minority groups. This law was upheld until 1993, even though in 1987 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) encouraged scientists seeking funding to include women and minorities in their clinical research.

Researchers surveyed papers published between 2011 and 2012 in five major surgical journals and found that in studies involving animals, 80 percent included only male subjects. In cell research, male cells were used 71 percent of the time, and in pre-clinical studies, the disparity was even more pronounced and skewed overwhelmingly male.

Millions of women and men are prescribed the same drugs every day, yet women are more likely than men to experience adverse drug reactions. In fact, 80 percent of prescription drugs pulled from the US market from 1997 to 2001 caused more side effects in women. Metabolic differences determine how drugs are released and excreted, leading to additional risk factors for women. Women are not just men with “boobs and tubes.” Lower body surface in women, as well as differences in kidney function, drug resorption and metabolism cause significant differences in how the body uses and excretes drugs. In addition, the gut transit time of medications, food or anything else women ingest takes two times longer than men and, as a result, these substances stay in the body for longer periods of time.

Major sex and gender differences have been reported for the efficacy and adverse effects of heart drugs, analgesics, psychiatric drugs, anticancer and cardiovascular drugs, as well as antidepressants, anti-inflammatory and antiviral drugs. These differences are related to the appropriate dosage for each gender. It would seem obvious, therefore, that many drugs require different dosing to achieve optimal effects. However, a 2005 analysis of 300 new drug applications between 1995 and 2000 found that even the drugs that showed substantial differences in how they were absorbed, metabolized and excreted by men and women had no sex-specific dosage recommendations on their labels. This might be one reason why women are 1.5–2 times more likely to develop an adverse reaction to prescription drugs than men.

In 1993, the US Congress passed an act requiring that all NIH-funded Phase 3 clinical trials include women, however the male-centric tendency still exists. According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Women’s Health, women made up less than one-quarter of all patients enrolled in 46 examined clinical trials completed in 2004. And although heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that women comprised only 10-47 percent of each subject pool in 19 heart-related clinical trials.

As a result, the question is if you are only studying males, how do you know the therapy will work or have the same effects or risk factors on women? Simple answer: You don’t! Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a professor of endocrinology at the University of British Columbia, says men are not adequate replacements for women in research. “It is not scientifically correct. Period. Full stop.” Women deserve to be studied to the same intensity and standards.

Many health care practitioners are not aware of the gender bias in clinical studies and the implications for women’s health. As a result, it becomes a bottom-up situation, requiring education of the public, and women in particular.

In health care, as in any area of life, it is crucial to understand what it is we are trying to achieve: the best level of health with the least degree of harm. Armed with a greater level of knowledge, a person is in a better position to more readily assess the ability of different medical approaches, based as they are on distinct philosophies, to meet individual needs. It also allows for greater participation in discussions with health care practitioners when making informed choices regarding health promotion and disease prevention, treatment and management.

It is always important to address the underlying causes of any condition when possible. There are times when treating symptoms of a disease with drugs or surgery is absolutely necessary, so it is important to be informed about the gender differences in treatment outcomes.

Medicine is both a science and an art. It is a science as it presents facts and evolves principles; it is an art as it applies these principles to suit the needs of individual patients. Practising the art of medicine requires active and careful listening. Unfortunately, we live in a world where studies and statistics take priority and many doctors have lost the art of listening to their patients. Gender remains an independent and important risk factor and sex and gender differences in common diseases must be considered in order to improve health and quality of health care for both women and men.

As an individual, you have choices: You can take the proactive approach by making health care choices that promote greater health and vitality and that are specifically intended to prevent disease from occurring. Should symptoms of disease strike, you can be prepared with a basic knowledge of what treatments are available to you which ones are the safest and most effective. Ask questions and learn to listen to your own body.

Karen JensenExcerpted from Women’s Health Matters: The influence of Gender on Disease by Dr. Karen Jensen, ND, www.mindpublishing.com

Karen Jensen received her degree in naturopathic medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in 1988. She is a well-known author and lecturer.

Don’t let fossil fuel corporations hijack political agenda

photo of David Suzuki

by David Suzuki

I consider voting a privilege and a responsibility. But I wish politicians would take their responsibility to voters more seriously. We elect them to represent us. Sometimes our interests coincide with corporate priorities. After all, corporations create jobs and economic opportunities and often develop products and services citizens need. Corporations can’t vote, but by putting enormous amounts of money into campaigns and lobbying, they can hijack the political agenda.

That’s the case with the fossil fuel industry, the most profitable in human history. It’s taken such hold on the US that the current administration refuses to accept advice and research from climate scientists, biologists, military experts, economists and others who warn that continuing to burn fossil fuels will steer us to climate catastrophe, and that failing to act will be far more costly and lacking in economic opportunity than confronting the challenge.

Canadians shouldn’t be smug. Many people expected changes in 2015 when the Liberals won the federal election and the NDP won Alberta’s election. The new governments said the right things and came up with reasonably good plans, but then continued to approve and promote fossil fuel development and infrastructure to the extent that one has to question whether they understand the urgency of the climate crisis.

As former Alberta Liberal Party leader and Oil’s Deep State author Kevin Taft writes in a Maclean’s article, “The link between fossil fuels and global warming has been known since the 1980s and so has the solution to global warming: phasing out fossil fuels. Rather than accepting the science and adapting to other sources of energy, the oil industry has developed an aggressive campaign to obscure the science and advance its own interests.”

Since their 2015 election, the federal Liberals and Alberta NDP have maintained support for fossil fuel projects and infrastructure.

In early October, federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand gave the government a failing grade on climate change, noting only five of 19 government departments she looked at had even assessed climate risks and how to deal with them.

Taft also examines how oil money has compromised universities’ independence. A recent report by the University of Western Ontario’s Alison Hearn and York University’s Gus Van Harten backs him up, showing Enbridge funding for the University of Calgary created conflicts of interest, compromised academic freedom and gave the company influence over decision-making.

It’s not the first time the University of Calgary has been caught up in oil industry scandals. In 2004, political science professor Barry Cooper set up research accounts to secretly funnel donations, mostly from oil and gas industries, to the misnamed group Friends of Science for its efforts to dispute climate science and reject the Kyoto Protocol.

Democracy works, if we participate. But it doesn’t function well if we forfeit our rights to corporate interests. We must speak out at the ballot box and between elections and tell politicians our support depends on them putting our interests first.

Excerpted from Government for the People, Not Fossil Fuel Corporations. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Interest groups, corporations and NAFTA

by Marianela Ramos Capelo

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated with little to no transparency at the expense of those who will feel its effects the most: everyday citizens. Interest groups and corporations are “fishing in troubled waters,” scrambling to take advantage of this opacity to shape the agreement to their benefit. Here are some ways in which everyday Canadians would feel the effects of this closed-doors, renegotiated NAFTA. It doesn’t look pretty.

1 – Your access to affordable medicine would be endangered

While it is copyright that usually keeps us occupied at OpenMedia, the draconian expanse of intellectual property policies affects other aspects of our lives, too. The cost of medicine is one of the clearest examples of the impacts of outdated patent and intellectual property policies. Pharmaceutical corporations are given a period of time in which they have the exclusive rights to sell the product they developed. During this time, they can make up for the cost of the expensive processes of research and development of their product. After that period expires, the patented formula is released for other laboratories to produce and release medicines, usually at a lower price. In a nutshell, this is how we get the more affordable “generic” or “non-brand” versions of drugs.

NAFTA is threatening this process. Big Pharma is seeking to expand the periods of exclusive rights to sell medications. These legal monopolies have made the headlines for their nefarious price-gouging practices in the States and there is no doubt big corporations will try to expand these practices into Canada. In other words, your access to affordable medication in Canada could disappear or be drastically reduced under NAFTA.

2 – Canada’s Internet would be subject to extrajudicial blocking systems

The Internet as we know it in Canada is under threat. This sounds alarming, but it is not a far-fetched argument. Bell Canada has openly stated it wants to introduce extrajudicial website blocking systems into the policies being discussed at the NAFTA renegotiations.

What does this mean for the average Canadian? Bell has suggested the creation of a “blacklist” of websites and a third-party body to monitor the blocking of blacklisted sites without due process. Bell takes it a step further by requesting these blocking systems be accompanied by criminal provisions, which might capture people who engage in legal, fair and normal use.

Imagine being sent to court for exercising your right to free speech? If this seems excessive to you, Canadians can speak out at act.openmedia.org/bellNAFTA to stop this reckless proposal.

These are only two ways in which corporations, interest groups and even countries are taking advantage of the lack of transparency surrounding NAFTA to bend the rules in their favour.

Learn more and take action at openmedia.org/freetradefreeinternet

Follow www.openmedia.org, www.facebook.com/openmediaorg and www.twitter.com/openmediaorg to stay up to date in the fight to keep the Internet safe from predatory trade agreements.

Marianela Ramos Capelo is a graphic designer and part of the communications team at OpenMedia, a community based organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance free. openmedia.org

Transcending pain and grief

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. – Rumi

Most people experience grief and pain at some time in their lives. And some have lives that are filled with grief and pain. Today, I want to talk about the pain we feel when we think we have been wronged by another.

In my practice, I often see individuals who are deeply distressed by an incident that leaves them feeling rejected or not valued. Often, they just cannot let it go. A client’s son was getting married and her sister was deeply offended that she hadn’t been invited. She was upset with my client. The fact was that the couple were paying for the wedding themselves and the parents were not given any say as to who was invited. It was not a personal rejection. It had to do with budget and the young couple wanted to include as many of their friends as possible.

I had another client who had not spoken to her son in months because he waited until early afternoon to call with Mother’s Day wishes instead of first thing in the morning. The fact that the year before her son and girlfriend had taken her along on their trip to Europe was not enough for her to see that she was important to them.

This kind of pain is self-inflicted and is likely triggering the individual’s own undervaluing of themselves. If we do not value ourselves, we will continually need confirmation from others that we are important.

Sometimes the rejection is real: a partner ends a relationship or marriage or a friend is no longer interested in keeping the friendship going. It is easy to begin tearing down the other and blaming them for our pain. Some people hold on to this perspective for years and it comes to define them.

There is an alternative. We can choose to be loving and compassionate to ourselves as we look deeply into our pain and perhaps see it may be triggering other pain we have had in our lives. Maybe, we even see a pattern. We can focus on what we can do or say to ourselves to begin the process of healing. The ‘danger’ we feel when there is a loss can lead to a recognition that we need to build our inner strength. We do have to forge a new path for ourselves and in the beginning, we may feel we do not know how to move on. We need a period of ‘incubation’ where we feel the depth of the hurt or loss. If we do not do the work to heal the pain, we will continue to be vulnerable.

Pain and grief can serve to break us open. Our compassion for others who suffer will be greater because we know what they are living through. If we transcend the bitterness and unfairness of it all, we gain a depth and wisdom we did not have before.

It may seem counterintuitive to go right into the pain, rather than trying to avoid it or numb it. Giving birth to a baby can be a struggle and it can be painful. For most, it is hard work! Giving birth to a new level of awareness can also be a struggle, but the catalyst for that struggle is often the pain. The new growth would not have occurred without it.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.