• Harmony

    My friend Lynne is known for delivering rebukes and commands which usually inspire quick obedience from the rest of us. Not so, however, with the elk who frequently appear in her garden to munch on green shoots and leaves, sometimes even her flowers. The elk simply glance in her direction with a benign blink and continue to chew.

    Well, you can’t stop the river, as the song says, and you can’t easily stop the flow of these elk when they are on their regular route through Lynne’s property.

    Roosevelt Elk are common around here and they’re important. They’re part of our heritage, appear on our provincial Coat of Arms, and have been described as a “fitting representative for Vancouver Island (See Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation: Return of the Roosevelts.)

    Impressively large creatures, some weigh as much as 900 lbs and their racks are massive. I picked up an  antler that Lynne had found near her home and I’m pretty sure it weighed about 15 pounds! And that’s only one antler. I can’t imagine what it would be like to carry a 30 pound rack on my head day and night for a good part of the year. Of course, they shed them annually, but then they just grow them all over again.

    I don’t think Lynne minds their visits at all. In fact, I suspect she actually loves these hefty individuals. She didn’t say say those exact words, but has admitted that she likes “the unexpected surprise of having have them suddenly appear and meander so randomly and comfortably through my life.”

    In indigenous folklore, elk are often associated with love, although more commonly the symbolism has to do with characteristics such as strength, confidence, elegance, passion and individualism. During rutting season, bull elk will fight aggressively with each other to win a cow of their choice, but mostly they appear to be quite peaceful and mild-mannered. They’re gentle herbivores who usually mind their own business and aren’t aggressive to other animals. Despite their size and strength and individualism, they don’t wave flags or honk horns. They can create a bit of noise with their bugling and chuckling but I don’t think they are keeping people awake at night very often. And they don’t appear to aiming to being down the government.

    I’ve read that elk can be aggressive at times, of course, especially when protecting their young, but mostly they don’t seem intent on harming others. Many people, like my friend Lynn, are pleased to have these big guys living close by. People living in Youbou consider the elk who live there to be important members of their community:

    It makes sense that someone would launch a fundraiser to have a life-sized carving of one well-loved elk named Bob placed in a local park. Bob is said to have “brought the community together” — and that may be one of the most important things anyone can do these days, especially after the many divisive effects of Covid.

    We should be inspired by what Bob has achieved in his community. Maybe as we await to see what havoc takes place in Ottawa on Canada, we can celebrate our heritage by each of us doing whatever we can do to create harmony in our own communities, wherever they may be.

    And maybe also by making a small donation towards the creation and installation of Bob’s statue.

  • Close to Home

    Despite the worrying and worsening global problems of war, famine,  climate change, poverty, and so forth, sometimes, close to home, it seems like things are moving in the right direction.

    That’s how it felt a few days ago when I walked into Nanaimo Bakery. I always like it there — nice spacious environment, good coffee, excellent cinnamon buns — but Saturday was special in that the young musicians from the Wellington Jazz Academy were playing a selection of gentle jazz numbers, sometimes an instrumental number, sometimes with a vocalist. What a treat it was to hear them! All these performers are remarkably talented and the atmosphere they create can’t help but lift your spirits.

    Such spirit-lifting is appropriate for Project Rise, the new social enterprise that Island Crisis Care Society has initiated at the Nanaimo Bakery. This is a win-win situation, because the revenue from the bakery is directed towards ICCS and because Project Rise will be helping to support people who have experienced homelessness and other challenges by offering them housing, pre-employment training as well as the possibility of work placement experience.

    Many of us have been concerned about homelessness over the past several years, but we don’t always know the best way to help. On the ICCS website they state “Through housing and outreach programs we help people in crises stabilize and find the support resources and services they need to recover and do well.” Clearly, that’s what’s needed.

    Here at the bakery, some necessary connections are being put in place. ICCS is helping marginalized people who’ve been living on the streets move into housing, then on to life skills and pre-employment training, and then to workplace experience through Project Rise. It’s satisfying to know that when you have a coffee or buy a loaf of bread at the Nanaimo Bakery you’re supporting all these things. And especially uplifting when you can be listening to good jazz performed by  young people who are donating their Saturday to support this initiative.

    We hear a lot of talk about individual rights and freedoms, but the only thing that will allow us to survive as a species and as a planet is through appreciating and contributing to community and connection. In her celebrated book, The Mother Tree, Suzanne Simard tells us about the mycelium network that, with the help of the mother tree, connects fungi, bacteria and plants, so that they can all work together to nurture our forests. “It’s the disconnectedness,” she writes, “that is driving a lot of our despair.”

    Science is telling us what indigenous people have always known. My indigenous friends speak of Tswalk, meaning we are all one, all connected. If we’ve learned anything from the last few years, it’s that individualism isn’t the answer. We need community, and we need connection. With nature and with each other.

    The place to start is close to home.

  • Let’s Talk about Guns

    “Use your words,” we used to say to toddlers when they were having tantrums.

    Nowadays parents are advised to use other strategies, ones that involve much more talk and modelling. Advice changes. Words change.

    But words are important, perhaps never more so than at this time when they are being used to misrepresent, to mislead, to manipulate. As Andri Snaer Magnason says in his illuminating book, On Time and Water:

    If one thing characterizes our time, it’s the struggle over words, the power to report and shape the news. That struggle is about how the world is worded. Words create reality; owning words and the means to distribute them is crucial to all powers.

    We must be very careful to choose the right words in order to express the truth of a situation to the best of our ability.

    When I was young, I sometimes heard the term “gunman.” The Oxford dictionary defines this word as follows: ‘a man who uses a gun to commit a crime or terrorist act.’ That’s pretty much what it is according to all the dictionaries I consulted. It’s that simple: a man, or person, with a gun.

    I didn’t hear that word often because, where I grew up, there weren’t a lot of people getting shot, but there was no question about what it meant.

    These days, we hear the word “shooter” more and more frequently. I used to think it had an innocent sound, suggesting peashooters or garden shoots. Dictionaries offer several meanings for the word including: a person who fires a missile-discharging device; a person whose turn it is to shoot in a ball game, e.g. in basketball; a photographer; something that is used in shooting such as a revolver, a peashooter or a marble; a small amount of food served in a shot glass like a deconstructed taco or an oyster shooter.

    It seems a ”shooter” could mean many things, then, but what it is usually intended to suggest, when we hear it on  news reports, is a man with a gun. So why not call it that? A gunman?

    Could it be that the word “shooter” is used in preference to “gunman” because there are powerful interests who don’t want us to think of guns when we hear about mass shootings? It’s not about guns, some people say.

    I think we need to hear a lot more about guns and consider the danger they represent. Dr. Lance Strate, professor and media ecologist, is also a performance poet. It’s worth listening to a poem about guns that he read for a New York Society for General Semantics event:

    The last line seems especially timely to me. (You will hear some laughter throughout the reading. I believe it is nervous laughter.)

    The NRA and many Republicans have stated that recent mass murders are not about guns but are about mental illness. It’s not the gun, they say, but the shooter.

    But experts point out that the vast majority of people suffering from mental illness will never engage in a violent crime. And statistics show that having tight restrictions on the sale of weapons greatly reduces the incidence of gun homicide. An article in the New York Times illustrates how in countries that have tighter gun control laws, gun-related deaths have plummeted:

    Many news reports note that the USA is an outlier in terms of death by firearms.

    The “shooter” is not the problem. There are no recorded cases of a crazy person without a gun committing a mass murder. It just doesn’t happen.

    The people who are guilty of these horrendous killings are likely to have experienced violence and abuse and to suffer from mental illness. Clearly mental illness is a serious problem that needs to be addressed — but it’s a complex problem and solving it will take time.

    Meanwhile, let’s focus on the obvious simple change that can make a difference and save lives. Let’s control who gets to buy and use guns.

    Most schoolteachers do not want to pack a gun, nor should they have to. The answer to a bad man with a gun is not to have good men with guns. There were at least 19 good men with guns at Uvalde, and it didn’t stop children from being killed.

    In the longer term, we need to look at what kind of a country we want to live in, what kind of culture we want to build, and what kind of supports we are willing to provide for people suffering from mental illness.

    But first, let’s talk about guns. And how to make them much harder to get.

  • A Different Kind of Flag

    I’ve had a number of responses to my last blog which was titled “It’s our flag too!” Many people commented that they too were appalled by the desecration of the Canadian flag and the usurping of the word “Freedom” and there were a number of interesting suggestions. One person proposed a T-shirt with a Canadian flag and a happy face. Another suggested we produce face masks featuring the Canadian flag.

    It was encouraging to read about Victor Crapnell, the Victoria graphic designer who was, like me and so many others, appalled by the way the Canadian flag was being used and decided to  create a sticker which showed the Canadian flag crushing a large truck along with the words “Canada—take back your flag,”.

    I’m glad that hundreds of people across the country have been ordering these stickers, but I’m wondering now if flag-waving is an answer to the crucial problems we’re facing around the planet. Several people I know have expressed an aversion to flag-waving, viewing it as a sign of excessive nationalism. “We aren’t Americans,” some say. “We don’t do that.”

    In a recent article in the South Asia Journal, Bhabani Shakar Nayak writes about the growth of flag-waving nationalism around the globe and says that it is not a nation-building activity but instead is a sign of deep anxiety that is “a hiding ground and a subtle way of asserting the falling legitimacy of populist politicians to convince people about their invincibility”:

    My friend Mark offers an alternative to flag-waving: “On my bed is a lovely red maple leaf,” he writes. “On a wall is a flag picturing the Earth from space. Outside are tattered colourful prayer flags. That’s enough for me – bed, Earth and beyond.”

    These days separations in time and space sometimes feel reduced because of  the ease of communications. One of the lessons from Covid has been that we can communicate meaningfully and intimately across geographical and time barriers. We’ve become increasingly aware that all the big challenges we’re facing – Covid, climate crisis, inequity, racism, and violence — must be solved globally.

    Nationalism will not help us to solve these crucial problems. We need to work together to develop global responses.

    We’re living in a time of great possibility and enormous danger. Around the world people are worried about the risk of a Third World War and the possible destruction of our planet.

    Maybe it’s time to raise a different kind of flag.


    I frequently hear others expressing the dismay I feel over the way the Canadian flag has been desecrated by the “Freedom” Convoy. Many of us now regard the flag with suspicion when we see it sported on a vehicle or hanging in a window — and revulsion when we see it draped over various body parts in an inappropriate way.

    My niece Darcy had, I thought, the brilliant idea that we should take back our flag by associating it with the causes that we believe in. Causes that reflect the real freedoms that Canadians have and celebrate.

    The Convoy crowd expresses freedom by protesting vaccine mandates. They have the freedom to do that, although it’s hard to understand why they continue to do so, even after the mandates have been largely lifted. These individuals seem now to have extended their mission to include a scattering of unrelated protests. For example, the Rolling Thunder rally in Ottawa had people marching while chanting “U…S…A” over and over, which I found puzzling and very worrying.

    Maybe it’s time for those of us who are part of the all-too-silent majority to stand up for our rights. I have the right to accept vaccination and the right to wear a mask. I also have the right to admire and respect our governments – they aren’t perfect but in many cases they are much better than the alternative. And, if they aren’t, I know I have the right to work hard at election time to choose another government. I have the right to demonstrate in support of old growth forests, the right to support reproductive rights, the right to support indigenous land claims and reconciliation, the right to insist on climate action now, and lots more. I have a lot of rights. It’s a free country.

    It’s time to take back our flag by associating it with the big ideas we like to think it represents: Democracy, Equity, Peace, Order and Good Government and the rights of Indigenous People.

    Let’s visibly support those things that we want to define our country and, while doing so, let’s wear hats and T-shirts featuring the maple leaf or the Canadian flag.

    Personally, I’ve always distrusted extreme nationalism and I’ve never been a flag-waver. But we’re living in strange times and we need to stand up for our beliefs.

    It’s our flag too, and it deserves respect!

  • Father Time, Mother Nature

    Lately, a lot of us are talking about time. We say it’s hard to keep track of time these days,  What day of the week is it? What month? What season?

    We say that Covid seems to have messed with time, causing it to move faster at some stretches, slower at others.

    I’ve read that some indigenous people knew time from the way in which the sun lit the trees and the birds changed their songs. Time was marked by the seasons, the fruit, the vegetables. They didn’t set future times that would drag them forward, they just let time come to them. An event would happen when things were ready and the guests had arrived.

    This is a nice, gentle way of living in time — neither trying to exploit it, nor letting it control you. My husband used to carry a pocket timepiece – a “savonette” such a device was once called – because, he said, he liked to carry time in his pocket, not have it strapped to his wrist. If he were alive now, he’d certainly have things to say about the smart watches that track your blood pressure, heart rate, steps taken, calories consumed, while also telling you when it’s time for you to stand up and stretch, as well as monitoring many other routines and connecting all your platforms, files and photographs. It means having your whole life strapped to your wrist.

    Often we speak about time in strange ways: we spend time, use time, save time, waste time, and kill time. As if time were a resource, not the dimension in which we live, an environment like the air, like the water. People have long associated time with water. Time and tide wait for no man, goes the old saying. Heraclitus said, No man ever steps in the same river twice, for the river is always changing.

    The Nanaimo Art Gallery has a wonderful new exhibition by Vancouver artist Diyan Achjadi called “Carried Through Water.” Her stop-motion watercolour animation, Hush and her exquisite paper works look at shifting shorelines and the ways in which activities in one place may be having an impact that reaches across oceans:

    I keep coming back to Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton in which he says Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future…

    I remember Penelope Lively writing, more than once, The past is real.

    Increasingly, I experience moments when all of time seems to be happening at once, when the dimensions are collapsing and various periods and places seem close at hand. That may be far-fetched, but then I get a text from a friend in Cambodia and realize that, although it’s night here, it’s morning there. The different time zones occur all at once.

    In Emily St. John Mandel’s spellbinding new novel, The Sea of Tranquility, it is suggested that we may be living in a simulation and that moments from different centuries sometimes bleed into each other.

    Those moments could be thought of as corrupted files. So much for coincidence! The novel spans time and space between 1912 and 2401 and the stories of its people and places are captivating. Reading it, one really does have the sense that it is all happening at once.

    At the end of this novel, the time traveller recognizes that he has moved too fast, too far, and wishes to travel no further. “I’ve been thinking a great deal about time and motion lately,” he says, “about being a still point in the ceaseless rush.”

    I like the idea of practicing stillness. Being that still point. Simply appreciating and experiencing one irreplaceable moment in time.

  • “Freedom”

    Last week there were a number of cars and trucks sporting Canadian flags lined up on the road that runs through the lovely park below my patio. A speaker with a loud voice and a megaphone spouted a lot of foolish talk to a small audience. I called out “Go away” and “Go home!” from above the park, but of course they didn’t hear me, nor would they have listened. Their beliefs are unshakeable.

    In a recent article in The Atlantic, Margaret Atwood makes the distinction between belief and truth: “A belief cannot be either proved or disproved. If you wish to believe that invisible flower spirits are causing your string beans to grow, there is no power in my trying to dissuade you, because these entities are invisible and immaterial.” The belief does not constitute a fact.

    The article is typical Atwood: smart, clear, concise. and well worth reading:

    People who gather under the name of “Freedom” Convoy would be quick to insist that they have the facts — and they’ve acquired a handful of nutty “experts” who stand with promoting anti-vax rhetoric, fear mongering, and conspiracy theories. They will not be influenced by the opinions of the vast majority of scientists around the world, nor the research findings of epidemiologists, health professionals and medical organizations. 

    I am so very, very tired of the Freedom Convoy. Tired of the way they are abusing our flag and twisting our language. These days, when we see a Canadian flag in a window or on a car, we don’t know what it means, but we suspect the worst. The word “freedom” is being used in ways that make no sense at all.

    I’m saddened by the enormous mural recently painted on a building on the highway near me. The word FREEDOM appears in very large, red capital letters, and underneath it is a maple leaf, and beneath that is a big, black truck. Thus, it links the word “freedom” and the emblem of the Canadian flag with a lot of deplorable things: toxic exhaust fumes, blaring horns, yelling voices, disrespectful behaviour, racism, bullying, and civil disruption.

    We live in a democracy, so I guess people can paint their buildings any way they like, but it’s disheartening.

    Serious disagreements can occur between friends and family, and I’ve tried to be compassionate towards people protesting vaccination and health advisories. But what occurs to me is that these are people who need to get a life. There may be a very few individuals with genuine reasons for refusing masks and vaccines but, for most of us, adhering to the mandate is not a big deal. We have more pressing concerns: work to do, gardens to care for, families to enjoy, things to read and think about. We can feel fulfilled without having to gather as part of a posse of protesters. We respect the POGG (peace, order and good government) clause on which our constitution is based.  

    Many people seem to object to following rules of any sort. Some groups think the government can’t tell them what to do and some want to challenge any  employer who requires employees to follow certain safety requirements, especially with regard to COVID.  But most of us are OK with getting a driver’s license, wearing a seatbelt, driving on the right side of the road and stopping at crosswalks, because it keeps us safe. We accept vaccines for the same reason. We don’t litter. We don’t spit on the street. We don’t carelessly spread infection. We believe in democracy, pay attention to all levels of government, and try to advocate and vote for honorable politicians.

    One Thanksgiving, many years ago, my family made lists of all the things for which we were grateful. I was surprised that my little granddaughter had written RULES right up there next to her parents and her dog. “Really?” I asked  and questioned why. “Because, without rules, everything would be terrible,” she explained.

    There’s a character in Shakespeare’s King John who says, “Now … Vast confusion waits, as does a raven on a sick fallen beast.” It feels like that. We’re seeing some terrible things these days as, more and more frequently, confusion is challenging order.

    As Atwood suggests, we live in desperate times which require desperate remedies. We desperately need to find ways to hold on to our democracy which is, increasingly, under attack.

    Comment below or email me directly at

  • Spring!

    Spring is here!
    Spring is here!
    Spring is the loveliest time of the year.
    Flowers are blooming,
    Children are gay,
    Everything’s here for a wonderful day.

    This was the first poem I ever wrote. I was eight years old and at first I was inordinately proud of it. In fact, it was actually published in the Vancouver Province’s Tillicum Club column! However, my smugness was brief because, although my mother said the verse was very nice, my older brother claimed I could not have written it. “A kid would never use the word gay,” he insisted. At that time the word “gay” meant merry or bright but I knew my brother was correct: it wasn’t a word that a kid would use. I’d chosen it because  it was the only word I could think of that rhymed with “day,” and it sounded wrong.

    I never wrote another poem about spring, but I’ve read a great many that others have written: Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Robert Herrick, John Dryden, AE Houseman, William Wordsworth. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare. Almost every poet has written about spring.

    I like Blake’s poem from his 1789 collection Songs of Innocence which begins:

    Sound the flute!
    Now it’s mute!
    Bird’s delight,
    Day and night,
    In the dale,
    Lark in sky,—
    Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year…

    While writing about the beauty of spring, many have portrayed the season as  bittersweet because it cannot last and brings with it memories of loss or regret. But one poet, ee cummings, wrote a number of poems about spring that were always filled with joy. Indeed, some have referred to cummings as “the poet of spring” because of his love of the season.

    Here’s my favourite of his many spring poems:

    Spring is like a perhaps hand
    (which comes carefully
    out of Nowhere)arranging
    a window,into which people look(while
    people stare
    arranging and changing placing
    carefully there a strange
    thing and a known thing here)and

    changing everything carefully

    spring is like a perhaps
    Hand in a window
    (carefully to
    and fro moving New and
    Old things,while
    people stare carefully
    moving a perhaps
    fraction of flower here placing
    an inch of air there)and

    without breaking anything.

    As the days become longer, warmer and sunnier, and as new blooms and blossoms appear every day, I find myself feeling some of the same enthusiasm I felt as a child. The coming of spring brings with it the sensation of coming alive. The French word epanouissement seems to best describe this time of blossoming and flowering and renewal. For me, it’s much like the gusto one experiences after having a very bad cold, or flu, or Covid, and then, suddenly, waking up and feeling well once again.

    It reminds me of Wendell Berry’s wonderful poem which advises: “Put your faith in the two inches of humus/that will build under the trees/

    every thousand years” and “Practice resurrection.”

    The whole manifesto is worth reading and is here:

    We sometimes need to take a break from the news of war, violence and hatred and from the discussions of the IPCC report and the gloomy predictions about the future of our planet. At this time of year, I find it helps to stop and stare at the natural world. Watching the growing greenness, the flourishing bushes and the re-appearance of birds helps me feel hopeful about what the future may hold.

    Spring is here! Profitez du printemps! Happy Spring!

  • Freedom 2022

    The world is in a parlous state and every day the news is more alarming, unfathomable, horrifying, heart-wrenching. Many people, including Prince William, have said, “We feel so helpless.”

    We all wish there was something more immediate and more significant that we could do to support Ukraine and foster peace, but I believe even the small gestures that we make to show solidarity and to support democracy are important. It’s encouraging to note that out of this tragic conflict there has emerged a greater consciousness of the importance of democracy and the need for us to promote and protect it.

    The behaviour of protesters at the Ottawa occupation has caused us to think about our freedom to protest peacefully and the dangers that result when people abuse that freedom. People are talking about what democracy means. My friend Judith wrote a letter to the editor pointing out that Canada is committed to fundamental individual rights, “but also to our common interests, and to safeguarding civil society. It is a fine balance, and our governments don’t always get it right” and adds that “There are very few countries that will give you the freedoms and guarantees you enjoy right here.” 

    We need to protect this freedom. There are many small acts we can take. Some of us are writing letters, signing petitions, lobbying for civics classes be taught in the schools so that children grow up understanding how government works and developing an appreciation for democracy. As our Prime Minister stated recently, “Democracy never happens by accident. And, as we are reminded now, it certainly won’t continue without effort.”

    Maybe one of the most important things we can do is to participate in what’s happening in our own communities. Nanaimo residents are invited to comment on our city’s draft official community plan which is now ready for review. Re-Imagine Nanaimo – is the product of a two-year community consultation and is a remarkable document, based on the doughnut economy model, that may serve as an inspiration for other communities. 

    Nanaimo was the first city in Canada to adopt the doughnut model as a basis for planning, but this model has now been embraced by many other communities and cities in Canada and around the world. You can read about it here:

    The draft plan, intended to guide future growth, is based on planning about transportation and mobility, climate action and resiliency, accessibility and inclusion, and parks, recreation and culture, as well as Nanaimo’s doughnut framework. The consultation process has resulted in these targe areas

    1. A Green Nanaimo – Resilient and Regenerative Ecosystems
    2. A Connected Nanaimo – Equitable Access and Mobility
    3. A Healthy Nanaimo – Community Wellness and Livability
    4. An Empowered Nanaimo – Reconciliation, Representation and Inclusion
    5. A Prosperous Nanaimo – Thriving and Resilient Economy

    Here’s how you can give input:

    Not everyone will agree with the direction, but we’ve all had the opportunity to give input into the consultation process and we now have until April 8th to comment on the draft plan. Our feedback will influence how the draft plan proceeds.

    The Re-Imagine Nanaimo process is a good example of democracy in action. We elected a city council that is committed to seeking community input. They’ve done their part and if we read and respond to the plan we will be doing our part to support the democratic process where we live.

    The local level is where we can be most effective in making change. There are ripple effects to everything we do, and it strengthens us to take action where we can, even if it doesn’t seem to have an immediately significant effect.

    I was inspired by recent courageous action in Lithuania, a country which is now very fearful of a Russian invasion. The mayor of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, officially changed the name of the street on which the Russian Embassy located. He re-named it “Heroes of Ukraine” Street. The Russian embassy is the sole occupant on that street and the mayor stated any mail not addressed with the new name will be withheld. The move also forces embassy staff to change the address on their business cards.

    It’s heartening to see the spirit of brave people speaking up and taking action however they can.

    Comment below or email me directly at 

  • Freedom

    There’s an old saying that the enemy of good is not evil but comfort. There’s also a fable about placing a frog in tepid water and then gradually raising the heat. The frog remains in the water until it boils to death because he drifts off and fails to notice the gradual increase in temperature until it’s too late.

    Watching the lawless rampages we’ve seen in protests across our country over the past three weeks, it’s occurred to me that perhaps many of us have been like that frog, sleepily basking in a comfortable environment, unaware that the heat was being turned up to a dangerous level.

    We’ve been too comfortable. We’ve assumed that Canada is a civilized and lawful country. We’ve been complacent about our history, believing that, despite periodic setbacks, our foundation of Peace, Order and Good Government was still solidly in place.

    We were wrong. We dismissed the populist movement as something that was taking place in other countries. We were smug about our country, proudly wearing our maple leaf pins when we travelled, confident that being a Canadian would stand us in good stead. But, in fact, our democracy, like the frog, is in hot water.

    Many people have been distressed by the sullying of the Canadian flag. My friend Alison expresses her concern with a strong claim:

    Over the past weeks, the word “freedom” has been used in Canada to champion illegal behaviour that caused personal and economic harm to individuals, companies and organizations and resulted in millions of dollars in police costs. In response to the protesters, thousands of people counter-protested across the country to defend their rights to move safely through their cities, to keep their workplaces and hospitals accessible, and to sleep at nights free from blaring horns. Fortunately, much of the protest here has now settled down, at least temporarily.

    More tragically, we see the people of Ukraine are genuinely fighting for their freedom in the face of brutal attacks as Russian forces invade their country. Beginning with air and missile attacks, troops and tanks have rolled across Ukraine’s borders and already hundreds of people have been killed. Against great odds, the Ukrainian people have been remarkably courageous. As well, thousands of very brave people in Russia have been taking huge risks by marching in anti-war protests with hundreds of them now being arrested.

    The words “freedom” and “democracy” are very much in the news and in our conversations these days. We want to protect our democracy, but what can we do? It’s hard to know where to start but maybe it’s worth trying some small things. We can

    • Educate ourselves and encourage others to learn more about our constitution and how each level of government works and how we can have input.
    • Choose reliable news sources (I like the Guardian, National Public Radio, The Conversation, though they may be accused of somewhat left-leaning)
    • Host discussions in small groups to listen to some of the legitimate concerns others have about inequities, fears, misinformation.
    • Write letters to MLA’s, MP’s and city councillors and others to express our concerns and, just as important, offer our support when we see them doing good work.
    • Urge local school boards and the Ministry of Education to make Civics a required course in our schools. It’s has been taught previously in B.C. schools; the curriculum is still on the books and it could be reinstated.
    • Make our voices heard in peaceful ways to support the good work that is being done by health professional and other essential services despite scant resources, lack of support and, more and more frequently, abusive assaults.
    • Make donations to non-profits that support specific democratic causes or to broader initiatives like Red Cross, Democracy Now and Amnesty International.
    • Model civility.

    It’s time to take back our flag and our national anthem and stand on guard for our country’s democracy. Canada has its faults, but I can’t think of another country in which I’d rather live. Inequities and unfairness need to be addressed, but bullying is not the way to achieve change. Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than mob rule.

    Let’s support freedom and democracy at home and abroad.

    On a lighter note, we have to find ways to cope with stress and anxiety during these tense times. A few days ago, I turned off the news and instead watched a webinar being offered by the Sierra Club pf BC with Dr. Julius Csotonyi demonstrating how to draw a frog:

    These sessions provide a great way to escape from the barrage of worrying news that attacks us each day. It’s a healing refuge — as long as the diversion doesn’t make us too comfortable.

    My little frog looks like he might just be able to escape the hot water, but there’s not a lot of time. We need to act. Let’s hop to it!

    Comment below or email me directly at

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