November 14, 2014

Garibaldi ~ a hike in the cold

It was windy in Squamish and about six degrees, though it felt much colder. We drove through Garibaldi Heights and through the campus of Quest University and up along what seemed to be an old logging road. The remaining colours of autumn were brilliant, the air increasingly cold and frosty.

Finally, having manoeuvred around most of the deep pot hole on the track, we parked and began our hike, me without gloves or toque of course. At leaving the car, the air temperature was minus two. The sky was clear and the sun was warm, when its light found the ground through the towering trees. Our path began as rock and turned to a rougher mix of rock and frozen mud.

Oddly, it seemed to me, there were few sounds of birds as we climbed the path. The sound of falling water was a constant and fellow hikers stopped to fill water bottles with icy, clean, mountain refreshment.

The first snow of the season appeared in places along our route.

The vistas, when finally we could see through a clearing in the trees, were incredible indeed.

It was time for coffee, and the hike back began.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

November 12, 2014

The amazing Broken Shed Caesar at the WaterShed in Squamish

It was a cold and windy day to watch for eagles along the river dyke in Brankendale and eventually, possibly even more quickly than eventually, our thoughts turned to lunch, warm surroundings, and ...

We discovered  The WaterShed Bar & Grill along the dyke and it provided excellent views of the Squamish River, the potential of eagle sightings and some interesting food selections, including some wonderful burgers made from Pemberton beef.

But first. I enjoy a nice Caesar and noticed one on the menu called a Broken Shed Caesar. Our friendly wait person informed me that the vodka was from Broken Shed Vodka in New Zealand of all places and its vodka is made from whey. "Make that a double" I replied. "It is a double sir and it comes with the works." Hmm... what does that mean I wondered. "Even better," I said confidently. How bad could this whey vodka thing with the works be; it's still a Canadian Caesar after all.

Sherry's hot chocolate appeared moments later with a smiling comment to me , "Your Caesar takes a bit longer."

The wait, and it wasn't long, was worth it.

Full of flavour and spice, an interesting and smooth vodka and almost a meal in itself, including the mini cheese burger. Two or three of these things and I won't need to order lunch. A taxi maybe.

Click to add a blog post for The WaterShed Grill on Zomato 

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.

November 11, 2014

Follow the money... the Vancouver election

Civic politics is different in British Columbia. Municipal elections are held on Saturdays in this province while most of the rest of the nation goes to the polls on a weekday, and that might be a good thing. Vancouver is the only city in the country that elects a Park Board, independent of Council, and accountable, which is probably a good thing. The Park Board controls much of Vancouver's environmental, social and cultural spending, especially through community centres.

Vancouver is however the largest city in Canada to elect its council through an at-large system. Most other Canadian cities use a ward system in which councillors are elected to represent a specific area, thus providing at least the opportunity for more diversity on council. Sometimes that diversity includes the likes of a Rob or Doug Ford as in Toronto, and that is clearly a bad thing, though possibly the result of local democracy.

Money is the most disturbing part of municipal elections in Vancouver and there are few, if any, restrictions on contributions to candidates throughout the province. Thanks to a provincial government that sets the laws regarding election spending, it's a wide open affair in British Columbia, though both the major civic parties in Vancouver claim to be interested in some restriction on donations from unions and businesses. In the current reality the situation is dark indeed.

Geoff Meggs, incumbent councillor from Vision recently attended a meeting of CUPE Local 1004 and reminded them that Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson "has again recommitted to not expand contracting out, to make sure that wherever we can bring in new processes, that members of 1004 will be delivering those services." Later that same day the union local decided to give Vision $102,200 in cash, another $10,000 to cover salaries of CUPE members who take time off to campaign for the party, and another $7000 to cover some pro-Vision advertising. There was a mild kerfuffle when this was made public, through a freelance journalist. The Mayor appeared upset with Mr Meggs, but that was soon smoothed over and it was business as usual.

Lululemon's infamous founder Chip Wilson, provided $75,000 to Vision and laughs when critics claim the diversion of traffic in front of his $54 million home on Point Grey Road to make room for another Vancouver bike lane, was created just for him.

There is the $25,000 contribution to Vision from developer Gordon Nelson, who made the news for mass renovictions at Seafield Apartments in the West End.

Vision also took thousands from Steven Lippman and his companies that are renovicting hotels in the Downtown Eastside, displacing hundreds of people.

The Rize Corporation wants rezoning at Broadway and Main for luxury condo towers. They provided Vision with $34,500.

Holborn Holdings, the Malaysian corporation redeveloping a site at Little Mountain made a $75,000 contribution to Vision, after evicting hundreds of families from low cost social housing.

PCI Group and Andrew Grant gave $35,000 to Vision. They also got rezoning on the Marine Gateway tower development along the Canada Line, which I ride past every day on my way to work.

The Aquilini Investment Group, the owners of  the Vancouver Canucks and all kinds of other things, gave $60,000 to Vision. They are behind the building of office and residence towers around Rogers Arena where the Canucks play.

Between the two major parties, NPA and Vision, about $5 million  will be raised for this municipal election. While some of that comes from unions, especially for Vision, the bulk of that total will come from corporations and developers. How does all that money influence our civic politicians? What kind of expectation comes with a donation of $25,000, or $50,000 or more? When asked why he got into civic politics, Mayor Robertson often says "to get things done." A follow up question might be: for whom?

An alternative to the bags of money flowing to the NPA and Vision parties is the lone civic party on the progressive side: COPE. The party has raised a modest $60,000 for this election, most of it from individual citizens and none of it from developers. And apart from voting for one Vision candidate for council, old friend Tim Stevenson, and the two members of the Public Education Project, Gwen Giesbrecht and Jane Bouey, my votes will go to Meena Wong and COPE.

Change can happen. Money doesn't have to rule City Hall.

Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.

November 09, 2014

Peace Sunday

It's Peace Sunday. Not that anyone knows of course.

It's a day of remembrance and action that was started twenty-five years ago by the Mennonite Central Committee and its related faith groups. It is to be the Sunday before Remembrance Day in Canada, though the actual date shifts with various groups and congregations. MCC provides resources for worship and a kit designed for use in public schools. Leave it to the original peaceniks.

The United Church of Canada had a similar designated Peace Sunday, usually in August for some reason, though that movement might have been diminished over time; I'm not sure if my former United Church family even has a Peace Sunday anymore.

One hundred years ago the world plunged into its first global war. During the war to end all wars:
  • 16 million people were killed
  • 21 million people were wounded or disabled
  • 1 in 10 Canadian soldiers died
One hundred years later, our nation continues to mourn the loss of so many young Canadians, in various military campaigns. As it should.  

We are also sending young Canadians to yet a new theatre of war, as if its only a play, acting, possibly with an intermission. Consequences be damned. Have we even discussed the consequences as a nation?

Our political masters would have us believe that danger lurks at every turn; that violent action is necessary on our part even in the absence of any direct threat or attack upon Canadians. We might even have to give up some of freedoms in the cause of fighting the unknown but dastardly foe. This is nonsense.

Our leaders perpetuate the notion that war has given us freedom and democracy, though those points were hard won by the people of Canada in Canada, not in some foreign escapade for a foreign King or Queen or corporate master.

On Remembrance Day we should wear poppies. To remember the sacrifice and the suffering and the dead. 

We should also recognise that just as war and violence continue, peaceful alternatives do exist. There are better ways to resolve conflict, in our homes, our communities and in the world. 

Peace Sunday is a start. To remember is to work for peace.

“War is what happens when language fails.”
– Margaret Atwood
Images from MCC.
Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.

November 05, 2014

Denise Balkissoon: It's all crap

In a special to today's Globe and Mail, Denise Balkissoon provides a stark and personal reminder of the years of inaction, neglect and indifference women in our country have faced when violent acts are committed against them by men. Over and over again we reach "watershed" moments and nothing is ever actually done. Now we have another one of those "watershed" moments with the story of yet another predator of women in Jian Ghomeshi, and she's right: it's all crap. His story, or rather the story of the women he attacked, prompted her comment piece, reprinted here:

One icy January morning around 3 a.m., I did call the police. My then-boyfriend was arrested and charged with one count of assault and two counts of assault with a weapon.

The next day, one of my oldest (and strongest) friends, the director of a women’s shelter, asked whether photos had been taken of my injuries when I made a statement. They hadn’t, so I called Toronto’s 14 Division station and asked the investigating detective why not. He said because I had been drinking.
A very long time later, my ex got two years probation and had to pay me $1,000 for time I took off of work. A few weeks after that, his probation officer called me to pass on a message that my ex wanted to apologize so that we could be friends. I didn't report that. I smoked a lot of cigarettes instead.
I haven’t written about this before because violence is, in its own insidious way, an intensely personal experience. I also didn't know what difference it would make. I am writing it now because of those asking why shamed CBC host Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged victims didn't call the police. It’s because it’s essentially useless, and thoroughly disappointing.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the allegations of violence currently facing Mr. Ghomeshi and I didn’t feel like I had an especially unvoiced opinion. Now I do. My opinion is this: you’re all full of crap.
By “you,” I mean the people who are remotely shocked by this story. The ones who are saying that this, right now, is a watershed moment. That some collective “we” has finally had enough of violence, done by men, against women, and will no longer allow for it to be swept under the rug.
Why is now that moment? Why wasn't it when Robert Pickton dismembered dozens of women’s bodies in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and fed them to his pigs? During the investigation into that horror, RCMP officer Catherine Galliford was told by a male colleague that he fantasized that she was one of the victims. I wonder why she didn't just call the police.
If only there had been other opportunities: hundreds of indigenous women in this country are missing, going back decades. Don’t be fooled, their lost bodies aren't lying in nice coffins in proper graves with their hands crossed peacefully over their chests. Unlike Mr. Ghomeshi’s alleged victims as described by the Toronto Star, these dozens and dozens and dozens of women generally weren't “educated and employed.” That’s why they can’t ignite change, I guess.
So, this is the time to act? What was wrong last year, when Ottawa’s Mark Hutt was finally found guilty of murdering his wife, Donna Jones, in 2009? After years of obscene physical and emotional abuse, Mr. Hutt threw a pot of boiling water on Ms. Jones, then locked her in the basement. It took her three days to die. The autopsy found that she had nine fractured ribs and 29 air gun pellets in her body. Not dramatic enough to rally around, it seems.
I don’t get it. I don’t get what is known now that was a mystery yesterday – or why what was ignored yesterday is now so urgent to address. All that’s different now is that we know one guy’s name, and that guy happens to be famous.
We’ve already learned how at least one journalism instructor kept his female students from interning with Mr. Ghomeshi, slapping a Band-Aid on a festering sore. As the story grows, I’m sure we’ll hear how star power and fearful bureaucracy let this open secret grow into an open wound: be advised that this broken system is not the CBC, or journalism, or Canada – but the whole world.
One of the women who came forward about Mr. Ghomeshi is my friend Reva Seth. I met Reva when we were about eight years old, but neither one of us shared these experiences before. Think about two eight-year-olds, and then two grown women carrying their histories of violence. It should drive you to wild grief, but it’s not a secret, or a mystery.
I’m not swayed by the newly enlightened, standing with outstretched, protective arms, advising victims of violence that there's no longer a need to be ashamed or afraid of coming forward. Let me tell you what too many have heard, and will continue to hear, perhaps forever.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you.
Denise Balkissoon's piece was titled: 
Sorry, we haven't reached a watershed on violence against women 
It appeared as a special to the Globe and Mail and was published, November 5, 2014.
Balkissoon is a Toronto writer and Editor-in-chief of The Ethnic Aisle.