Swims With Seals
Thoughts on happenings that in some way connect to the Vancouver waterfront - by Nelson Quiroga
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Thursday, April 27, 2023
No More DeadHeads
Now that the Queen has passed away, and before Charles gets too comfortable on his throne, perhaps this would be a good opportunity to re-visit the idea of having a monarch's portrait on our currency. Why we still want to have a monarchy in this day and age is another discussion. But even worse than having a current king or queen adorning our money is having a deadhead, like one of our deceased Prime Ministers (most of whom seem to have lost the sterling reputation we embued them with in our history books) staring at us whenever we reach for our wallets.
Yes it was nice that we took a break from old Prime Ministers to acknowledge someone like Viola Desmond, a black businesswoman, who was an inspiration for the pursuit of racial equality in Canada but what about some of our First Nations personalities like Big Bear or Poundmaker who led the fight for Indigenous rights? Or better still, how about Mary Simon, our current Governor General who is an Inuit woman?
Maybe we should stay away from people all together and avoid any controversy over skin colour, ancestry, political beliefs, religion, or gender, and look instead to the animal kingdom to grace our bank notes. What could be more Canadian than the beaver for example, or the polar bear, or the Canada goose? For regional representation it could be the salmon or the killer whale for the west coast, the bison is surely the most iconic symbol for the prairies, and for the east coast what could be more appropriate
than the moose.
Saturday, March 18, 2023
Justice For B.C. First Nations
The 1997 landmark Delgamuukw trial ruled for the first time that Aboriginal title did in fact exist in B.C. and it also accepted that Indigenous oral history is valid evidence in court and must be given equal weight as written documents. Aboriginal title is a right to the land itself, not just the right to hunt and fish, and when dealing with Crown land the government must consult with First Nations people and may have to compensate them if their rights are infringed. Infringements can include the development of agriculture, mining, forestry, and hydro-electric power. However, to determine proof of Aboriginal title it must be demonstrated the land was exclusively occupied prior to sovereignty and that the occupation has been continuous from then until now.
The 2014 Tsilhqot'in trial went even further in clarifying Aboriginal title. While asserting that Aboriginal title constitutes a beneficial interest in the land the underlying control is still retained by the Crown. Aboriginal title includes the right to decide how the land will be used, to enjoy, occupy and possess the land, and to proactively use and manage the land but the Crown can override Aboriginal title if they have carried out sufficient consultation and accommodation, there is a compelling and substantial objective, and the Crown's action are consistent with its fiduciary obligation to the Aboriginal body in question.
In 2019 the B.C. government passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act into law which is meant to align B.C. laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states "Indigenous Peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired." It is also part of the Province's framework for reconciliation as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's "Calls to Action" and their supposed new approach to litigation which is supposed to lead to more negotiated settlements and less legal action.
So with all the precedent setting legal cases spelling out that Aboriginal title is real and how to claim it, and with the Province finally on board with First Nations reconciliation, you would think this should be a slam dunk for the Nuchatlaht people. Not so. First off, for some reason nobody at the Attorney General's office bothered to tell the Crown attorney that fighting this claim was not something they should be wasting their time with. But the first thing the Crown attorney said was that nobody was living on Nootka Island which is where the bulk of their claim is. The Nuchatlaht had to then point out that clear cut logging and destruction of salmon streams made the Island uninhabitable. In other words they were forced off the Island without compensation. To prove they were there in 1846, after Captain Cook had long since left, they pointed to culturally modified trees, shell middens, forest gardens, and other evidence of human habitation that are still visible. The total claimed area is only 200 square kilometres and there are no conflicting or overlapping claims from anyone else, but the Crown is determined to contest things.
In the meantime, while we all wait for a verdict, Themis, the Goddess of Justice, waits outside the courtroom, blindfolded and holding the scales of justice, impervious to all the injustice that has gone on for so long. Will this be another landmark case in favour of First Nations people or will it be another excuse to deny them what is rightfully theirs? We will soon find out.
On May 12th, 2023 a B.C. Supreme Court judge issued his ruling and said the Nuchatlaht First Nation did not prove it had rights to the entire claim area. Because they are a coastal group primarily using canoes to get around and haven't established any trails between locations they don't meet the current test for Aboriginal title. As a result the test may need to be reconsidered but this has to be done by a higher court. In the meantime they can try to finalize some of the claim area. The Nuchatlaht have said they will work with the court to identify locations of their claim and appeal the decision to not grant title over the larger area.
Thursday, March 2, 2023
What do dead sea lions on the beaches of Peru, minks on farms in Spain, otters and foxes in the U.K. and dead grizzly bears in the U.S. have in common? Avian flu, otherwise known as bird flu. Along with thousands of pelicans, various migratory birds, and millions of domestic chickens, turkeys, and ducks, this recurring virus has killed, it has now managed to spread into a variety of mammals as well and is posing a potential threat to humans.
H5N1 first appeared in 1997 in China and killed millions of birds throughout Asia, Europe and Africa directly with millions more culled to prevent further spread. In 2022 alone there were over 50 million chickens culled in the U.S. and 5 million in Canada. However, the threat to humans has been low with only 1,000 people to date who have been infected, but more than half of them died with a mortality rate of around 60% or roughly 10 x that of COVID. Another strain, H7N9 also first appearing in China in 2013 and since then another 1,000 people have become infected with about the same mortality rate. The good thing is that avian flu does not appear yet to spread from human to human but rather from working with infected birds in the slaughter and plucking process. For the other mammals who died it was likely because they ate an infected bird.
However, with a mink to mink transmission of H5N1, the first among mammals, what is worrying health officials is the development of a human to human version of avian flu. Particularly in Asia, where the conditions there have humans, swine and poultry often in close proximity to one another, and able to infect one another, which could lead to a mixture of a pathogens that could create a human avian influenza. Recent research into the genes of the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected a third of the world population and killed 50 million or more people, indicate it was also a strain of both human and avian genes.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Life's A Beach
Saturday, January 21, 2023
The Waiting Game
With our annual flu/cold season upon us in the midst of an ever mutating COVID epidemic, people are understandably focused on their health. Unfortunately they don't focus on the things that would make it less likely to catch these things, like wearing a mask, making sure you have lots of fresh air, and avoiding crowded areas. They don't want to make any changes to their routine and they expect a magic pill of some sort to immediately cure them if they do fall ill.
Of course getting a pill or any other form of treatment would mean being able to access a doctor of some sort and currently over 1 million people in B.C. alone have no access to a family doctor, never mind the line-ups they face at the nearest hospital or the wait time to see a specialist. The reasons for this are complicated but they are basically for the same reason we have a shortage of nurses and other medical professionals. Our medical/nursing/technical schools have a very limited enrollment, we don't recognize the credentials of fully qualified and trained immigrants, and we can't even agree on a national acreditation standard or process for allowing Canadian trained professionals to work anywhere they choose.
Health care in Canada is now approaching $3.5 billion dollars annually. Half of that is split between hospitals, physicians, and drugs. Health care is mostly paid for through our taxes but it doesn't include all prescriptions, dental care, eye glasses or a wide range of other professional services not to mention home care and services for seniors . The average Canadian's medical services costs work out to $8,500.00 annually with this amount divided between the public and private sector at a roughly 75-25 split. Private health care services are paid for by patients primarily out of pocket and/or through private insurance.
But while the Canadian health care system is a federal creation with universal coverage, it's a provincial responsibility to deliver and herein lies the problem. While the federal government keeps expanding the scope of health care, the provinces are falling behind in delivering their part of the bargain. Without bothering to tackle some of the root causes within their own control, which include an antiquated family doctor system, bloated hospital bureaucracies, a professional registration system that operates like a closed shop union, underpaid health care workers, and no central electronic repository of health records, the provinces keep asking for more money and expect the federal government to pay for something it has no control over.