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January 23, 2012

A Lawyer, the Beaver Lake Cree and the Tar Sands

I spent the weekend pretty much glued to my computer finishing a story I was working on for Canadian Lawyer Magazine. 

The first time I met this lawyer in person, I was at the Fall Fair last September with my camera in hand. I just happened to run into him and his wife. I had been doing some Tweeting and Facebook updates for the Harbour House Hotel which they just happen to own. 

When I spotted Jack Woodward and his wife Glenda at the Fall Fair, introduced myself, and asked if I could take his photo (for the hotel's FaceBook page) his reaction has to be one of the best reactions I've ever received from someone I had never met before.  He said in a really excited voice, Are you Gayle Mavor? He's about 6'6 inches tall and he proceeded to give me this huge bear hug. "I love you," he said referring not to me of course but to my then Twitter feeds on behalf of the hotel. He obviously liked the humour in them at that time.

His wife was standing right there and his greeting just seemed so spontaneous and open and child-like. Definitely not what you'd expect from a lawyer. I honestly can't recall a warmer greeting from someone I'd never met and really didn't know. I knew he was a lawyer in Victoria. He had something to do with Aboriginal Law. I knew he owned the hotel. That's it. 

After that meeting, sometimes I'd see him the hotel restaurant. Once I saw him out back in the beautiful organic garden that he and his wife were committed to developing. I saw him in his beekeeping suit, like a big Sasquatch all in crinkly white, delicately moving the bee boxes around  at the very back of the Harbour House organic garden which I would spend quite a bit of time wandering through taking photos for Facebook.

Then, just this past December he received a Queen's Counsel award which is mainly an honourary designation but only 7% of lawyers will ever receive that designation. Lightbulb went on. I thought, Hey, I could make some cash off of that lawyer. Now that's a switch!  I could pitch a story to Canadian Lawyer Magazine.  So I did on January 2. On January 3, I heard back from the editor. Yes. My timing was lucky. She was needing a profile for February. 

So, I began to research Jack's background and much to my surprise, it turns out, he's not just another lawyer,he's one of the founding fathers of aboriginal law in Canada. He started practicing aboriginal law in the late 1970s after graduating from the inaugural law class at the University of Victoria when aboriginal law was considered a fringe practice. He was involved in entrenching aboriginal rights into the Canaadian constitution. He had a hand in the Meares Island 1985 Injunction against logging that still stands. He's represented hundreds of cases using Constitutionally-entrench Treaty rights as arguments against environment and habitat destruction.  He's now using those rights to try and fight against Tar Sands expansion on behalf of a small Cree nation in Alberta called The Beaver Lake Cree Nation.  

And, as I learned more about him and what he's done and how he's using historical treaty rights that the Government of Canada and Alberta are disrespecting by their allowance of total exploitation of lands where the Cree traded thousands of kilometres of land and in return they were to receive $5.00 per head every year (an easy promise to keep, which has been kept) and more importantly the continued opportunity to meaningfully hunt and fish on their land via Treaty 6 which, because of the degradation of the land as a result of the Tar Sands, is no longer possible.
So, I'm writing this blog post, not about Jack Woodward really, but about the fact that if you're like me, before I interviewed him, I'd hear the word Tar Sands and it meant so little. It would be like images of sand dunes would appear in my head. It was Alberta's problem. Bad Albertans! That's how ignorant I was. But, then, I read what I read and I watched this video. And now, I'm totally shocked at my ignorance and I have been consumed by this issue and wondering what we are going to do as Canadians.

So, when you make the time, you must watch these two videos. One is Jack lecturing in a very clear, interesting and understandable manner about the aboriginal rights related to the Tar Sands and the other is a video called The Tipping Point that is 91 minutes long. 
They are both excellent and you must watch them. It's your duty as a Canadian to be informed about how we're destroying the planet, adding to climate change in a way that is completely irresponsible. Okay. Got that? Education. Right here. 

Please pass these videos on when you can.

January 09, 2012

Get a Smart Phone or Die Alone

Before I left Vancouver to live on Salt Spring Island, I used to attend this event called the High Tech Communicator's Exchange (HTCE) organized by a woman named Catherine Ducharme who runs her own Communications firm called OutsideIn.

It was a great way to meet other people who were also interested in technology and new media or whatever you want to call it, especially as it impacts those of us who are/were employed in some aspect of Marketing and Communications. It was a great way to learn often presented in the form of Case Studies.

So, tonight, I went back to HTCE  to hear Shawn Neumann, the president and founder of Domain7 give a talk about Why Mobile Matters to Your Online Marketing Strategy.  What the heck does that mean you ask? It means, what are we going to do if we're in charge of strategizing about communications when it comes to developing appropriate content and reaching the right people at the end of all those smart mobile devices.  Androids. iPods. iPads. iPhones. etc. etc.

I was hearing words like Responsive Web. QR codes. Augmenting reality. HTML5.  Location based promotions. And, you know, having worked in Computer Science at UBC, I just let terminology that means nothing to me roll over me like the rough tongue of a cat alerting me to wake-up and pay attention.  But, tonight, it wasn't the words or the info that was disturbing me even though every speeding bullet of change that technology brings does cause a little bit of anxiety but at least I have faith, proven from past experience, that I can learn so it will be okay. And besides, technology has a way of sounding more complicated than it almost always is once someone explains it in non-geek speak.

What was disturbing to me, however, was that even though I'd only been gone about 3-4 years, somehow I looked around the room and I felt like Rip van Winkle. A mere four years had passed and yet I'd become ancient in that time period.   I was noticing young women with gorgeous hair, perfect make-up, shiny black boots that fit perfectly over their thin calves and thinking to myself, "How could I possibly have aged this much in a mere 4 years?  How did I get so much further to the right on those demographic bar charts?

Well, I'll tell you. On Salt Spring, I hate to admit this, but sometimes I'd roll out of bed and I'd still be wearing the same T-shirt under my sweater that I'd slept in all night. Appearance just wasn't a priority there. I didn't own a full-length mirror for three years. I didn't own a scale. Step onto that island and step into some timeless dimension.

I wasn't looking at myself. I was looking at the beautiful Arbutus trees and paying attention to nature and watching the changes in the clouds. I was looking through my camera's viewfinder, not at the thousands of shades of lipstick in London Drugs. There WAS no London Drugs. I wasn't enticed by a million styles of boots and handbags with brand names that make absolutely no sense like Coach. Coach? I didn't have a TV so I wasn't watching What Not To Wear thinking someone really needs to nominate me for that TV show.

And, if all that physical self comparison wasn't bad enough, when I got back on the Skytrain to come home, it seemed like I was the only one in my compartment who wasn't logged on, plugged in, hooked up, wired.  Completely separate in their togetherness, their fingers scurrying like rodents, craning their necks to see the screens, their beaks almost poking the hardware and then there was me - smartphone-less - with no choice but to observe the cold, digital future of humanity and feel a little more out of touch and a little more anxious.

But, hey, at least now, after HTCE, I'm aware of what I should be paying attention to and as a result I'm feeling a little more clued in about why I'm feeling so clued out.

So, what about you? Got your finger on the pulse? (Not your own that is). Feeling overwhelmed by change? Determined to rage, rage against the dying of the light? How are you going to, as that Heart and Stroke commercial so effectively puts it, "Make Death Wait".

January 01, 2012

Small Moments: Some Even Worth Writing About

One of this year's favourite photos and perhaps a good approach to the year ahead.
One useful thing about a Blog is that you can review it and remind yourself about the small moments that made up another 365 days.

"...some moments are nice, some are 

nicer, some are even worth writing about.” 

Here are a few moments that made up my year in 2011.
Until I reviewed the posts, I totally forgot that this was the year I turned 50. WOW! How could I forget that?
I celebrated 50 at  Tigh-Na-Mara with good friends.
  • Enjoyed spending time at Bruce's Kitchen checking in for Twitter.
  • Learned about Tai Chi through Taoist Tai Chi classes in the United Church on Salt Spring.
  • Had the best time ever with sisters visiting Salt Spring for The Fall Fair.
  • Absolutely loved spending time in the garden of The Harbour House Hotel watching the blooming of the seasons and taking photos and Tweeting.
  • Made a 3 minute video through Reel Youth on behalf of a weekend workshop  put on through United Way Lower Mainland. 
  • Enjoyed the sailing outings on the L'Orenda and the people I met.
  • Where were you all these years? Finally saw The Big Lebowski
  • Year's biggest realization: I should be working one on one with people. Duh!
  • Took a freelance writing refresher course through The Renegade Writer
  • Discovered my favourite pub: The Crow N Gate, Cedar, BC
  • Favourite Coffee Shop in Vancouver: The Prophouse on Venables
  • Went on a kayak trip up Indian Arm on an August weekend with Heather, Karen and Lisa.
  • One of my favourite past-times throughout this year: Walking down Walkers Hook Road on Salt Spring with my camera in hand headed for the Fernwood dock. I really miss that walk already.
  • I wrote a couple of articles for Boulevard Magazine 
  • Twitter became a daily event.
  • Enjoyed meeting Nomi.
  • Had a great year this last year at the Salt Spring Saturday Market selling my photos.
  • Favourite new person I met this year:  Thorsten Baumeister.
  • Friend I got to know better as the year progressed: Gwen
  • Really good memories of being seated in the sun room enjoying the company of my friend and 88-year-old landlady, Marjorie Martin.
  • Another dream accomplished and complete: Moved off Salt Spring in November after 3 years.
  • My former classmate Susan Main was a lifesaver with some timely subcontract work.
  • Took a wonderful course on Salt Spring from their Hospice program that was so useful as I was with my father for two weeks until the end of his life.
  • Was accepted into SFU's Writer's Studio Creative Writing program to start January.
  • Experienced the end of my father's life after his 93 years on the planet.
Pay attention to the small moments in 2012.