Friday, November 20, 2009

Patchwork of policies for children

This country and this government in particular have never cared for children. In the eyes of the average voting Canadian children are liabilities and why invest in an unproven and risky liability. I find that most voting Canadians are more concerned with their income and keeping up with the joneses than they are about children. Children are only important as a form of property an alter ego to continue on their own interests. And only their own children - not the child down the road and certainly not the children of families under stress and that cope with poverty on a daily basis. Oh sure some people care - but not enough - not nearly enough to make a difference. That’s Canada and therefore the people who make up our citizenry....and let’s not talk about those who choose to ignore and believe not voting makes a difference.

Patchwork of policies for children

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 11:23PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 2:47AM EST

A vicious flu, a national vaccine strategy, and children left to wait at the back of the line. It is difficult to believe, but that is where much of Canada puts its children. At the back of the H1N1 vaccination line.

Alberta has still not set a date by which healthy children over five are expected to be vaccinated. Neither has Nova Scotia. Ontario and British Columbia are just beginning this week, three weeks into the inoculation campaign, to reach children over five.

The answers from public-health officials as to why children have been left to wait have a certain cold logic to them. Children are deemed – according to the epidemiological evidence – not at high risk of severe illness or death. Others at less risk of contracting the swine flu, such as senior citizens, are at greater risk of dire complications. They have therefore been brought into the second or subsequent lists of priority groups, after pregnant women, children under five, aboriginals and health workers.

But the result of such cold logic is surely absurd. Canada has vaccinated more than 20 per cent of its people and not, for the most part, reached its children over five. The disease has been allowed to cut a swath through schools in much of the country. In Nova Scotia, some schools had 30 or 40 per cent of pupils off with flu-like illness. The children are “super-spreaders” who bring the disease to those at severe risk. Inoculating them protects the broader community.

And there is something else, beyond the realm of cold logic: that it is innate in human beings to protect the young. They are first on to the lifeboats.

Logic that leads to anomalous results needs revisiting.

New Brunswick and Saskatchewan included healthy children among their priority groups from the beginning. Why? New Brunswick's reasoning was partly logistical: It made sense to put its vaccination clinics in the schools, and it would have been strange to leave the children out. But there are several other reasons cited by Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health. By starting with the children, the province could delay the spreading of the virus. And the disease is unpredictable. “We have to be realistic and say this is a new disease,” Dr. Cleary said. “If you look at places like the U.S., they've had a significant number of pediatric deaths.” Most hospitalizations from H1N1 in New Brunswick have involved school-age children, she said.

In the U.S., young people up to 24 have been treated as a priority group, based on epidemiological evidence, set out clearly on the CDC website, that shows the median age of H1N1 hospitalization up to July 31 was 20. “Senior citizens are not a high priority for vaccination unless they have other underlying health issues,” a CDC spokesman said by e-mail yesterday, “but once they exhibit symptoms, they are a priority for anti-virals such as Tamiflu.”

Canada has left its children with little protection for the first pandemic in 41 years. Is this what Canadians wanted from their heralded national strategy?


Police say Peruvian gang killed people for their fat

Ok I know this story is really gross but I just couldn't stop thinking.....

I used to donate platelets until they banned women who have had babies (now I just donate blood-and so should YOU!) Heck if I knew there was a decent market for fat I'd go for my weekly donations!

Police say Peruvian gang killed people for their fat

Andrew Whalen

Lima, Peru — Associated Press Published on Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 4:52AM EST

Police say a gang in the Peruvian jungle has been killing people and draining fat from the corpses to sell on the black market for use in cosmetics, although medical experts say they doubt a major market for fat exists.

Three suspects confessed to killing five people, but the gang may have been involved in dozens more, said Col. Jorge Mejia, chief of Peru's anti-kidnapping police. He said one suspect claimed the gang wasn't the only one doing such killings.

Col. Mejia said two of the suspects were arrested carrying bottles of liquid human fat and told police it was worth $15,000 (U.S.) a litre. The fat was sold to intermediaries in Peru's capital, Lima, and police suspect it was then sold to cosmetic companies in Europe, Col. Mejia said Thursday, but he could not confirm any sales.

Medical experts expressed doubt about an international black market for human fat, though it does have cosmetic applications. A dermatology professor at Yale University, Dr. Lisa Donofrio, speculated that a small market may exist for “human fat extracts” to keep skin supple, but she said that scientifically such treatments are “pure baloney.”

At a news conference, police showed reporters two bottles of fat recovered from the suspects and a photo of the rotting head of a 27-year-old male victim. Suspect Elmer Segundo Castillejos, 29, led police to the head, recovered in a coca-growing valley last month, Col. Mejia said.

Col. Mejia said Mr. Castillejos recounted how the gang cut off its victims' heads, arms and legs, removed the organs, then suspended the torsos from hooks above candles that warmed the flesh as fat dripped into tubs below.

Six members of the gang remain at large, Col. Mejia said. Among them was the band's alleged leader, Hilario Cudena, 56, who Mr. Castillejos told police has been killing people to extract human fat for more than three decades.

This year alone, at least 60 people are listed as missing in Huanuco province, where the gang allegedly operated, though the province is also home to drug-trafficking leftist rebels.

Col. Mejia said police received a tip four months ago that human fat from the jungle was being sold in Lima. In August, he said, police infiltrated the band and later obtained some of the amber fluid, which a police lab confirmed as human fat.

On Nov. 3, police arrested Serapio Marcos Veramendi and Enedina Estela in a Lima bus station with a litre of human fat in a soda bottle. Their testimony led to the arrest of Mr. Castillejos three days later at the same bus station.

The three are charged with homicide, criminal conspiracy, illegal firearms possession and drug trafficking, according to a statement from Lima Superior Court. Police said they were searching for the alleged buyer.

Police dubbed the gang the “Pishtacos” after a Peruvian myth dating to pre-Columbian times of men who killed to extract human fat, quartering their victims with machetes.

Medical authorities contacted by The Associated Press said human fat is used in anti-wrinkle treatments — but is always extracted from the patient who is being treated, usually from the stomach or buttocks.

“There would be a risk of immunological reaction that could lead to life-threatening consequences” if fat from someone else were used, said Dr. Neil Sadick, a professor of dermatology at Cornell Weill Medical College in New York.

Dr. Adam Katz, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Virginia medical school, was incredulous when told about the Peruvian ring.

“I can't see why there would be a black market for fat,” he said. “It doesn't make any sense at all, because in most countries we can get fat so readily and in such amounts from people who are willing and ready to donate that I don't see why there would ever be a black market for fat, of all tissues.”


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Waiting for an apology in the Far North

Waiting for an apology in the Far North

Gary Mason

Ask Elizabeth Roberts what her life was like growing up in Resolute when she was a little girl named Elizabeth Allakariallak, and there is a long, suffering silence at the end of the phone.

“Elizabeth, are you there?” And then a soft, barely audible voice returns.

“This is hard,” she says. “I'm crying as I talk to you because I'm not the only one suffering.” More silence.

“The best way to describe it to you is it's like trying to survive quicksand,” she says. “You try to get beyond it, but you can't. You keep sinking in it, in the memories of that time.”

Ms. Roberts was a child of the relocation of Inuit families that occurred in the Canadian Arctic 56 years ago. The sorry episode in our nation's history has been mostly forgotten. But a trip by the Olympic torch through the Nunavut town of Resolute last week shed fresh light on what was a botched, even deplorable, decision by the government of Louis St. Laurent.

During the summer of 1953, 10 Inuit families were relocated to the High Arctic, seven from the northern Quebec community of Inukjuak – then called Port Harrison – and three others from Pond Inlet, farther north. Two years later, eight more families joined the original group. In all, 87 Inuit were moved.

Government officials involved in the relocation would later defend their actions by saying it was designed to save the lives of starving people – the Inuit of Inukjuak mostly. Others, however, would say it was a blatant attempt to assert sovereignty over disputed territorial claims to the Arctic archipelago. Most would agree it was terribly handled.

The Inuit were told that, if they didn't like their new life after two years, the government would return them to their old homes – a promise that was never kept. Those being relocated were also told there would be homes waiting for them when they arrived. There was nothing but growing darkness.

The new arrivals had to live in tents and build igloos. They were not familiar with the migration patterns of game they would need to kill to eat. Or sea animals. Until they learned, there was little to eat.

Ms. Roberts was born in Resolute four years after her parents arrived there. She says that when the family was moved from Inukjuak, two sisters believed to have tuberculosis at the time were put in a hospital in Churchill, Man., on the shores of Hudson Bay. When it was time for them to be released two years later, hospital staff weren't even sure where to send them.

One was shipped back to Inukjuak even though her family was now in Resolute.

“What I remember a lot about my early life in Resolute is all the fighting that took place,” says Ms. Roberts. “You had families from Inukjuak and others from Pond Inlet. You had two cultures clashing and people trying to establish territory in this new place and people fighting over everything.”

She remembers, too, the toll the desolate existence in Resolute would have not just on parents but on their children. Young men, in particular, turned to alcohol. Inevitably, they became violent against women, including, in many cases, their young wives.

“My sisters became punching bags,” Ms. Roberts says. “It was a horrible existence. One sister, Lizzie, only now has started talking about her life [in Resolute]. It was so hard on her, but it's good she can now talk about it.”

Families were destroyed through the relocation process, Ms. Roberts says. She now lives in Iqaluit, where she works as the executive assistant to the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. She has three adult children and four grandchildren. Her brothers and sisters who are alive are scattered throughout the Far North.

Ms. Roberts moved to Iqaluit with her mother, Minnie, eight years ago in search of a better life. Her mother died on March 19, 2003, one day before Elizabeth's birthday. Her father predeceased her. She wished both could have lived long enough to hear an apology from the federal government for a decision many decades ago that so negatively affected their lives.

An apology for which the Inuit are still waiting.

“It might seem like a small thing, but an apology would be a huge relief to those affected by the relocation,” says Ms. Roberts. “If someone hurt you really badly, and apologized, wouldn't that make you feel a little better? We need to hear it before we can move on.”


B.C. First Nation approves private property rights

I do not see this as progressive. And it may be a first inside Canada but not a first with Indigenous people. The Eskimo in Alaska also had the option to own and sell - and they did sell when times were tough and the familied needed cash to feed their kids. Now they are still hungry but they have no land....hmmmmmmmmm.

B.C. First Nation approves private property rights

A northwestern B.C. First Nation has approved a revolutionary land reform deal, making it the first in Canada to approve private property rights.

After years of discussion and debate, the Nisga'a Lisims government has quietly passed the Nisga'a Landholding Transition Act.

The move means that sometime next year Nisga'a citizens will have the chance to own their own homes on what used to be collectively owned native land in B.C.'s Nass river Valley, north of Terrace.

They will also be able to mortgage their property or transfer, bequeath, lease, or sell it to anyone they choose, aboriginal or non-aboriginal. The system will be voluntary and all private land will remain subject to Nisga'a laws.
Unprecedented and historic move

Kevin McKay, the chair of the Nisga'a Lisims government, called the move historic.

"What we're doing is unprecedented in Canada … because we are blazing a new trail here," he said. "It's a very proud moment for the Nisga'a nation. … It's something we've always aspired … to re-empower ourselves to do exactly what we're doing right now.

"It is a very positive step forward for us. In our journey so far, we've come to realize what we're doing is unprecedented in Canada."

McKay also believes the changes will spur economic development in the area.

The Nisga'a were the first B.C. band to sign a modern treaty with the provincial and Canadian governments in 1998. The controversial deal gave the Nisga'a 1,930 square kilometres of land in the lower Nass Valley, self-government powers akin to municipal governments and $190 million in cash.

In 2008, the Nisga'a started to pay GST and PST, as well as taxes on fuel and tobacco as part of the historic treaty. The Nisga'a were exempt from paying sales tax for a transitional period of eight years after the treaty's signing.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The new face of Canada's Sikhs

Facinating story! Many congratulations to Gursimran Kaur and to the people who voted for her. I love progressive stories about people who are willing to take a chance. This is a story for all of us to learn from. It's more than just mouth-piece praise for youth - this is real and the people believe in her too.

The new face of Canada's Sikhs

Robert Matas

Vancouver — From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009 10:03PM EST Last updated on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 3:41AM EST

Nineteen-year-old Gursimran Kaur puts gender equality and fighting domestic violence at the top of her agenda as a new member of the management committee at one of the largest Sikh temples in North America.

But she is no liberal in religious matters. She and two other women in a youth slate of 18 won a decisive victory in their election to the management of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, B.C., promising to reintroduce traditional customs.

The slate defeated community leaders who have run the institution since the mid-1990s.

Born in the neighbourhood of The Golden Temple in India, Sikh's holiest shrine, Gursimran Kaur said Monday her stand on behalf of women's rights is grounded in the centuries-old traditions. “In our religion, the first guru told us equality for women is very important because she is the one who creates the whole world, she is the creator,” she said.

“ This is a movement to address the needs of Canadian-born youth. ”— Sukhminder Singh Virk

Throughout the campaign, Gursimran Kaur, a Simon Fraser University student majoring in mathematics, received phone calls from women saying the temple needed advocates for women's rights. She quickly realized this would be her role.

Other women “would raise their voice through me,” she said.

The victory of religious Sikh youth with progressive ideas reflects a significant shift in the community, holding out the promise of recasting the image of the turbaned Sikh in B.C. The official returns, signed by independent chief returning officer Ron Laufer, show that the 18 youth slate members each received support of around two-thirds of the 21,188 ballots cast in the election.

The newly elected management committee members are mostly too young to have played any role in confrontations within the Sikh community in recent years. Most were born and grew up in religious families in Canada, although Gursimran Kaur, who lives with her parents, came to Canada when she was four.

“This is a movement to address the needs of Canadian-born youth,” Sukhminder Singh Virk, another member of the youth slate, said in an interview. The temple needs “a better connect with this demographic,” said Mr. Virk, a 26-year old who just received his bachelor of law.

Temple politics in B.C. have been dominated by sharp religious differences for more than a decade. The disputes erupted in violence in 1997 over whether they could use table and chairs in the temple dining hall.

The community has also been under a shadow since the Air India disaster in 1985, the deadliest act of terrorism in Canadian history. Bombs planted on airplanes in Vancouver in protest over political issues in India killed 331 people.

The youth slate, who are mostly in their 30s, ran on a two-pronged platform. They advocate a return to traditional religious observance, and an expansion of temple programs mostly to respond to the needs of young families and youth. They promise better maintenance of the buildings and tighter management of finances.

They plan to develop programs to combat drug use and gang violence, and hold workshops on Sikh scripture and rituals in English to appeal to the younger generation. Their platform also includes new community services programs at the temple. Long range plans call for a safe-house for women.

The youth slate's campaign looked like a page torn from mainstream politics, with a Facebook site and Twitter messaging. They organized phone banks to contact voters in the days leading up to the election; they had 10 buses bringing temple members to the poll to vote. Despite pouring rain, some members waited more than 90 minutes to cast their ballots. The lineup stretched close to a kilometre at one point.

The incumbent slate of moderates were, on average, about 20 years older. Paul Gill, an active supporter of the moderate slate's candidate for president, Harjinder Singh Cheema, said their slate also brought voters to the poll. However their supporters “changed their mind” in the ballot booth and voted for the youth slate, he said.

“Many people have [joined] the temple in the past five to seven years,” he added. “They do not realize what has happened in the past.”

The moderate slate was undermined by this open approach to the membership. “Those that support the moderate philosophy are not that committed. They are like floating on the edge and do not have strong allegiance to either side,” he said.

“Some people say, we can change now and we can change again in three years. . . we have to regroup and wait for another day.”

For Gursimran Kaur, the introduction of workshops on violence against women and on women's rights is now her top priority.

“Domestic violence is one of the biggest issues in our community,” she said. “No matter if they are older or younger or kids, they will … learn how to live their life and what rights they have. We're going for women's rights first.”


Parliamentary Restaurant adds seal to menu

This is such a great story. I was once asked to serve seal meat at an event but couldn’t locate a distributor who could sell it in the quantity I needed. I only required a few ounces and they could only send the entire carcass with fins and bones. As soon as seal is on the menu I'm in to try it. I hear they are selling it in a restaurant in Montreal - it's worth a trip to find it. In fact next time a friend asks to go - I will suggest we find that restaurant! Bon app├ętit!

Parliamentary Restaurant adds seal to menu

By Tom Spears , The Ottawa CitizenNovember 17, 2009

OTTAWA — Chew on this: The Parliamentary Restaurant will soon serve seal meat to anyone with a taste for game, and controversy.

Hull-Aylmer MP Marcel Proulx confirmed the addition to the menu is just awaiting hunting season, and should arrive in the new year.

This is the second time the restaurant has tried to carry seal meat, he said.

“In 2008 there had been a request (for seal) from a couple of senators. The problem was they could not find a supplier.

“Now the chef, I understand, has found a supplier in the Magdalen Islands. I think because of the hunting season they will be able to get some meat in the early part of 2010. Then they will be able to offer it in the Parliamentary Restaurant.”

Proulx brushed off any question of possible protests.

“To start with, seal hunting is legal in Canada. Seal meat is therefore legal. There are processes to be followed according to the law, rules and regulations.

“This is a good opportunity for the industry. More often than not, you try to sell a product and the first thing people ask you is, ‘Is your government using your product?’ In this case they’ll be able to say Yes.”

“It’s good for the restaurant, it’s good for the (hunting) industry, good for the fishermen, good for the entire picture of what the seal hunt is all about.”

The decision was vetted by the Board of Internal Economy, the governing body of the House of Commons, he said.

The board, Proulx said, felt the menu was best left to the chef.

He doesn’t know how the meat will be served.

“I don’t ask my wife for her recipes, so I’m not going to ask the executive chef.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

apology to the Forgotten Australians and former child migrants

16 November 2009
Prime Minister
Transcript of address at the apology to the Forgotten Australians
and former child migrants
Great Hall, Parliament House
16 November 2009

Today, the Government of Australia will move the following motion of apology in the Parliament of Australia.

We come together today to deal with an ugly chapter in our nation's history.

And we come together today to offer our nation's apology.

To say to you, the Forgotten Australians, and those who were sent to our shores as children without your consent, that we are sorry.

Sorry - that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused.

Sorry - for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care.

Sorry - for the tragedy, the absolute tragedy, of childhoods lost,- childhoods spent instead in austere and authoritarian places, where names were replaced by numbers, spontaneous play by regimented routine, the joy of learning by the repetitive drudgery of menial work.

Sorry - for all these injustices to you, as children, who were placed in our care.

As a nation, we must now reflect on those who did not receive proper care.

We look back with shame that many of you were left cold, hungry and alone and with nowhere to hide and nobody to whom to turn.

We look back with shame that so many of you were left cold, hungry and alone and with nowhere to hide and with nobody, absolutely nobody, to whom to turn.

We look back with shame that many these little ones who were entrusted to institutions and foster homes instead, were abused physically, humiliated cruelly, violated sexually.

And we look back with shame at how those with power were allowed to abuse those who had none.

And how then, as if this was not injury enough, you were left ill-prepared for life outside - left to fend for yourselves; often unable to read or write; to struggle alone with no friends and no family.

For these failures to offer proper care to the powerless, the voiceless and the most vulnerable, we say sorry.

We reflect too today on the families who were ripped apart simply because they had fallen on hard times.

Hard times brought about by illness, by death and by poverty.

Some simply left destitute when fathers damaged by war could no longer cope.

Again, we say sorry for the extended families you never knew.

We acknowledge the particular pain of children shipped to Australia as child migrants - robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children but regarded instead as a source of child labour.

To those of you who were told you were orphans, brought here without your parents' knowledge or consent, we acknowledge the lies you were told, the lies told to your mothers and fathers, and the pain these lies have caused for a lifetime.

To those of you separated on the dockside from your brothers and sisters; taken alone and unprotected to the most remote parts of a foreign land - we acknowledge today that the laws of our nation failed you.

And for this we are deeply sorry.

We think also today of all the families of these Forgotten Australians and former child migrants who are still grieving, families who were never reunited, families who were never reconciled, families who were lost to one another forever.

We reflect too on the burden that is still carried by our own children, your own children, your grandchildren, your husbands, your wives, your partners and your friends - and we thank them for the faith, the love and the depth of commitment that has helped see you through the valley of tears that was not of your own making.

And we reflect with you as well, in sad remembrance, on those who simply could not cope and who took their own lives in absolute despair.

We recognise the pain you have suffered.

Pain is so very, very personal.

Pain is so profoundly disabling.

So, let us together, as a nation, allow this apology to begin to heal this pain.

Healing the pain felt by so many of the half a million of our fellow Australians who were children in care - children in our care.

And let us also resolve this day that this national apology becomes a turning point in our nation's story.

A turning point for shattered lives.

A turning point for governments at all levels and of every political hue and colour to do all in our power to never let this happen again.

For the protection of children is the sacred duty of us all.

This is the motion that later this day this Government will commend to the Parliament of Australia.

Care leavers from around Australia and abroad;

Representatives of the Care Leavers of Australia Network;

the Child Migrants Trust;

the Alliance for Forgotten Australians;

the Leader of the Opposition;

my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues;

representatives of the state governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria;

Her Excellency the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom;

His Excellency the Ambassador of Ireland;

His Excellency High Commissioner for Malta;

ladies and gentlemen;

friends, one and all;

Our purpose today in this Great Hall of this great Australian Parliament is to begin to put right a very great wrong.

To acknowledge the great wrong that has been done to so many of our children.

And as a nation, to apologise for this great wrong.

And, as a nation, to resolve that such systematic abuse should never happen again.

The truth is this is an ugly story.

And its ugliness must be told without fear or favour if we are to confront fully the demons of our past.

And in so doing, animate, once again, the better angels of our human nature.

I believe we do a disservice to those who have been the victims of abuse if in any way we seek to gloss things over.
Because the truth is great evil has been done.

And therefore hard things must be said about how this was all possible in this country of the fair go.

Unless we are now transparent about what has been done in our nation's name, our apology can never be complete.

Because let us be clear - these children, both from home and abroad, were placed in care under the auspices of the state, validated by the laws of the land.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 children were placed in care under various arrangements over the course of the last century.

This is no small number.

Let us imagine that more than half of the city of Adelaide was drawn from children who had been placed in institutional or foster care.

This is no small number.

In recent weeks, it has been my privilege to meet some of these children, most of them now middle-aged.
And some perhaps a little older again.

And I take the intervention from the floor - some younger than that again.

Here is something of their stories as told to me.

Last week I sat down with Garry for a cup of tea at his home here in Canberra.

Garry told me he had five brothers and sisters.

His father was an ex-serviceman who, in Gary's words, drank himself to death.

When Garry was four or five, he remembers being taken to the steps of the local police station with his brothers and sisters and told to wait until his mum returned, who had promised ice creams for all.

She never returned.

As Garry recalls, "I never got my ice-cream".

A fortnight later, he was committed as a ward of the state.

He told me his twin brothers had been fostered to a good family in Wollongong.

But he was taken to an institution and separated from his sisters, who were placed elsewhere.

All this, at the age of four or five.

Alone, absolutely alone, devastatingly alone in the world.

He told me that, at the age of six or seven, he tried to hang himself from the swings because he wanted to be with his brothers.

He was later placed in a rural home for older boys where he remained until the age of 13.

He remembers being picked up from the train station on a freezing night in a big red truck with a row of numbered seats. He was told to sit in seat number 3.

He was given, a number.

As Garry said, "my number was always three, it sticks in your head".

The culture of this home, as Garry described it, was one of institutional violence as boys were made to beat each other, to beat other boys to the ground, in front of their peers.

At 13, he was transferred to an institution where he remembers a kindly cook taking him under her wing.

But it was during this time Garry says, he suffered sexual abuse from other men.

Garry later got into drugs to help escape the psychological torture he suffered through years of what was so-called institutional care.

Garry has led a tough life.

But Garry is a survivor.

He proudly introduced me to his seven beautiful children - all doing well at school and the older ones already planning for their future.

And showed me with pride the carpenter's trade certificate he earned through study in 2005.

When asked by CLAN (a community organisation established to help survivors of institutional abuse, and known to so many of you here today) when asked by CLAN to write down his story Garry said, "what am I going to write down, you can't put tears on paper".

It has also been my privilege to sit down with twins Robyn and Judy last Monday when I was in Bathurst.

They told me too, that their mother left home when they too were barely five years old. They were then placed in a church home.

Judy remembers the day they were first taken to the home and her sister Robyn bolted from the gate and ran away.

They later found her and dragged her back.

Robyn and Judy remember that they kept waiting and waiting for just someone, someone to come and pick them up - but no-one, no-one ever came.

They recall being hit with belt buckles and bamboo.

They said the place they grew up in was utterly, utterly loveless.

They said it always made them feel like second-class citizens.

At the local school, they were described as "Home Girls".

They looked with envy as other children were picked up by their parents after school.

Robyn told me that, 40 years later, "it stays with you, I still dream about it".

But you know something? Both Robyn and Judy too are fighters.

While emotionally scarred by their experience, they too have beautiful children and partners who care for them. But the wounds run deep. They run very deep.

And then there was Gus.

I spoke to Gus on the phone, he is from Queensland.

Brought out to Australia from Ireland, again at the age of four or five, in the 1950s - as a child apparently born out of wedlock, having earlier spent time in a Catholic institution in Ireland.

Gus' story was truly horrific. His was a tale of physical and sexual abuse over more than a decade. In Gus' words, "that did me terrible mental damage".

He finally tracked down his mum, 10 years ago.

She had gone to the United States. But he then discovered she had passed away.

Gus had limited educational opportunities and has been in and out of gaol a number of times during his life.
Gus, reflecting back across the years, and in the great tradition of Australian understatement, said he had led a 'colourful life'.

Gus too, is a fighter and survivor.

Whether it is Garry or Gus or Robyn or Judy, there is an eerie similarity to so many of the stories. Stories of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Stories of the lack of love. Experiences which stay with them to this day.

Each told me that such was the trauma they experienced in institutional care that they suffered such things as bed-wetting for many, many years - while in care.

This, of course, is deeply personal. Deeply, deeply personal.

But each wanted me to share this part of their story too because it underlined the trauma they had gone through.

But trauma with an ugly double-twist because each time this happened, they were publicly humiliated and publicly punished by those supposedly responsible for their care.

In the conversations I was privileged to have with these great Australian survivors, for each of them this apology today was important.

And for countless thousands and tens of thousands besides, this apology is important.

Important because it does not seek to hide that which they experienced.

An apology that acknowledges the very personal pain that has been caused.

An apology which, it is hoped, will bring some healing balm to wounded souls.

And not just to the handful that I have been so honoured to meet.

But to all those whose cases are reflected in the Senate reports over many, many years. And to those also whose stories will remain forever untold.

There are tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of these stories, each as important as the other, each with its own hurts, its own humiliations its own traumas - and each united by the experience of a childhood without love, of childhood alone.

For some, this has become a very public journey of healing. For others, it remains intensely private - not even to be discussed with closest family and friends even today.

And such privacy must of course, be respected.

Whatever your journey today, and whether you are here in Parliament House in Canberra with us or watching or listening across the country or across the world, my hope today is to reach out to you all on behalf of this nation, Australia, and to speak what has so often been unspoken.

And to offer you this profound apology.

To apologise for the pain that has been caused.

To apologise for the failure to offer proper care.

To apologise for those who have gone before us and ignored your cries for help.

Because children, it seems, were not to be believed.

Only those in authority, it seems, were the ones to be believed.

To apologise for denying you basic life opportunities; including so often a decent education.

To apologise also, for just how long it has taken for the Australian Government to say sorry - so many Senate reports, nearly a decade of deliberation, and a unanimous recommendation that the Commonwealth apologise.

And finally we do so today.

Today is also a day for all those who have refused to remain silent.

The champions of this day.

Those driven by sheer tenacity.

By an unswerving sense of justice.

Those who kept the flame of hope alight.

People like Margaret Humphreys, people like Harold Haig, people like Leonie Sheedy and Joanna Penglase, people like Bonnie Djuric, and People like Walter Tusyn who campaigned tirelessly for this day as Tasmanian representative of the Alliance for Forgotten Australians, only to pass away on the 30th of last month.

And people like former Senator Andrew Murray, because Andrew Murray's work has simply been extraordinary.
I rang Andrew recently and asked him about the importance of this apology.

His response was succinct when he wrote in reply:

"the Senate (and others) have carefully examined these matters and rightly and unanimously recommended an official Commonwealth apology. As a result, the states and the main churches, charities and agencies have apologised (although some are better apologies than others...),

Andrew Murray continued "it is time for the Commonwealth to complete the circle."

It is also important today to honour the advocacy groups who have stood by you through thick and thin - advocacy groups such as: Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN); groups like The Child Migrants Trust, advocacy groups such as the Alliance for Forgotten Australians - and many, many others.

But beyond these individuals and organisations stand an army of people who have quietly gone about their business over the last decade or more to take this story of sustained institutional and personal abuse from the margins of government deliberation to the very centre of Government consideration.

For all victims of abuse, today, you are all owed a profound debt of gratitude for having stood by them with such solidarity and strength.

So what then is to be done?

The Australian Government has assembled a comprehensive response to recommendations contained in the two Senate reports - "Lost Innocence" and "Forgotten Australians revisited".

This response will be tabled in the Parliament in the coming days.

The overwhelming message I have received and Minister Macklin has been receiving has been the need to be heard, the need to be acknowledged and the need for the nation to apologise.

It is important however, that this not be regarded as a single point in history. Our view is that it would be helpful for the nation, however painful, to properly record your experiences, where you deem that to be appropriate.

This can assist the nation to learn from your experiences.

As a result, the Australian Government is supporting projects with both the National Library and the National Museum which will provide future generations with a solemn reminder of the past.

To ensure not only that your experiences are heard, but also that they will never ever be forgotten.

And in doing so we must always remember the advice of the sages - that a nation that forgets its past is condemned to relive it.

Second, we also know that you are deeply concerned about practical support to help survivors and their families negotiate what can still so often be damaged lives.

For example, I know many of you are concerned about living in aged care facilities as you grow older and the need for access to proper aged care.

The Government will identify care leavers as a special-needs group for aged-case purposes, to ensure that providers are assisted to provide care that is appropriate and responsive, and provide a range of further counselling and support services.

Third, many Forgotten Australians and child migrants continue to need help in tracing their families. That is why we'll be providing a National Find and Connect Service that will provide Australia-wide coordinated family tracing and support services for care leavers to locate personal and family history files and the reunite with members of their families, where that is possible.

The service will provide a national database that will collate and index existing state identified records into a national searchable data base, accessible to state and other care leaver services and also directly to care leavers themselves.

Fourth, to make sure you are well represented, we have provided and continue to provide funding to advocacy groups such as the Child Migrant Trust, the Alliance for Forgotten Australians and Care Leavers of Australia Network, as these organisations continue to work hard to put your concerns front and centre.

Finally, governments must continue to commit to the systematic auditing, inspection and quality assurance of the child protection services they administer today.

Some 28,000 - 30,000 children are currently in the care of State and Territory Governments around Australia. Governments must put in place every protection possible to reduce the risk of mistreatment in the future.

And, as Andrew Murray reminded me recently,"if you hurt a child, a harmed adult will often result...aggregate those adults who were harmed in care and the social, the economic, the personal cost is huge".

In Andrew's words, we must do everything possible to break the cycle.

I recognise this is a difficult, complex and sensitive area of policy. But the nation must continue to lift its game in doing whatever practicably can be done to provide for the proper protection of little ones, of children.

Let us, therefore today in this Great Hall of this great Australian Parliament, seize this day and see this national apology to our Forgotten Australians and our Child Migrants as a turning point for the future.

For child migrants, for many of you, your mothers and fathers were alive and were made to relinquish their right to be your parents and to watch you grow into adulthood.

Some of you have said you would like to place the apology on the graves of your mothers and fathers back in England and on their graves here in this country as well. Today we dedicate this apology to them as well.
For the Australian-born care leavers, or 'Homies' or 'State Wards' or the 'Foster kids', the Senate named you the 'Forgotten Australians'.

Today, and from this day forward, it is my hope that you will be called the 'Remembered Australians'.

However, whatever I might say today, the truth is, I cannot give you back your childhood. I cannot rewind the clock on your suffering. Nor can I erase the past.

But what I can do with you is celebrate the spirit that has lived within you over the decades. A spirit that has stubbornly refused to be beaten.

A spirit that has turned you into the survivors that you are. The spirit that has enabled you to serve your country in times of war, even if you had been deserted by your country.

The spirit that enabled you to bring up families, despite the broken families from which you came. The spirit that enabled you to work and to make your own contribution to this, our land Australia.

And the spirit that caused you to hold fast that one day you would be heard, one day you would be believed, one day you would be acknowledged.

And that, one day, Australia's sense of a fair-go would finally prevail. That our fair go would be extended to you, and that the nation would offer you the public apology that you deserve.

My message to you today is that that day has finally come.

Let me also say this.

You were in no way to blame for what happened to you because it was the nation who failed you.

The institutions the nation created for your care, failed you.

To all of you here today in this Great Hall. To all of you watching around the nation.

Today is your day. Today is your special day. Today is your achievement.

This morning, I spoke to a 98 year old lady in my electorate in Brisbane.

Her name is Vera. If Vera is watching, 'hi Vera'.

I'm sorry that Vera can't be with us in Canberra today.

She said that the pain that she suffered having spent five years in a Queensland orphanage was pain suffered a lifetime ago.

But her hope that today, as a 98-year-old lady is that finally this day could herald a closing of the book on the past.
Today is for people just like Vera.

And today let us now go forward together, go forward with confidence, go forward with confidence into the future - as equal, as valued and as precious members of this one great family that we call Australia.


Monday, November 16, 2009

A new Patrick Brazeau Rumour

Ok rumour, rumour, rumour. Hot off the phone I learn that our favourite infamous Senator Pat Brazeau is suing CAP and it's president Ms. Lavallee for 1.25 million buckaroos. Seems she might have said something he disagrees with during her bid for the top job at CAP.

Anyone out there know anything about this?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nunavut ice-floe rescuers saved from lodged boat

Can you imagine being this 17 year old? Ward and I do a lot of camping together - in the SUMMER! I know I am a southerner but I think about what that kid must have been going through – the courage and stamina required. He faced a polar bear and had to shoot it! Man that is something Ward and I don’t want to deal with – ever. But we know that with the amount of time we spend back-country the odds are in our favour that one day we will have an encounter with a bear.

We don’t carry rifles when we camp – only knives. And I read a story from BC about a bear that climbed onto a boat to attack a man gutting his fish. Another man came to the rescue and was stabbing the bear with a 16” blade and the guy said it was like it only scratched the bear! I told Ward then – I think we need a bigger knives.

I know nothing about the North and that's a shame. I loved the part in the story where the rescue boat became stuck and this group of 10 men hauled it over the ice flows back to the community - this heavy rescue boat - pushed and tugged by men for like close to 6 kilometres. Crickey - I whine to Ward about our portages and a very light 45lb Kevlar canoe!
Holy Cow - truly awesome.

The stranded 17-year-old boy is barely visible as a tiny speck near the centre-top of this aerial photo of the ice near Coral Harbour, taken during Monday's ice-floe rescue.The stranded 17-year-old boy is barely visible as a tiny speck near the centre-top of this aerial photo of the ice near Coral Harbour, taken during Monday's ice-floe rescue. (Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre Trenton)

A military search-and-rescue technician who helped save a 17-year-old boy stranded on an ice floe in the frigid waters of Hudson Bay, near the Nunavut community of Coral Harbour, says he'll never forget the dramatic experience.

"It [the rescue] was very rewarding and very challenging — the best one yet," Sgt. Randy McOrmand, based at CFB Winnipeg told CBC News in an interview Tuesday.

"It went very smoothly … to my relief. There were lots of challenges we had to overcome, of course."

The teen and his uncle, Inuit elder Jimmy Nakoolak, had been out on a weekend hunting trip when their snowmobile broke down on the way back to Coral Harbour, a community located on the southern coast of Southampton Island.

After Nakoolak departed on foot to get help, the ice cracked and the boy was stranded on an ice pan about 50 metres by 50 metres in size for about three days. Nakoolak was found on Sunday.

McOrmand, along with another military search-and-rescue technician reached the stranded youth on Monday morning after searchers aboard a Hercules aircraft spotted him dozens of kilometres away from the community.
Frostbitten, hypothermic, coherent

They parachuted onto a nearby ice chunk, and then spent about 10 minutes negotiating the freezing Arctic waters to reach the boy.

"We jumped over a few [floes]. We actually did end up falling into the water on a couple of occasions," McOrmand said, adding that they were wearing dry suits.

When they reached the boy, he was frostbitten and hypothermic, but coherent, McOrmand said. "He couldn't move. He had been on the ice wet for 45 hours. He was in rough shape."

Then, four more rescuers came on the scene. They had been in a boat in the mouth of Hudson Bay, about five kilometres offshore, since Monday night and were about 40 kilometres from the community of Coral Harbour.

The four men had manoeuvred their boat through the ice Monday and safely transported the boy and two military rescuers to shore. But sometime later, the boat got stuck while the men were trying to return to the community.

"That vessel attempted to make its way back to the community in Coral Harbour. Unfortunately it has become stuck in the ice and it's unable to move," Capt. Mike Young of the Canadian Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., told CBC News on Tuesday.

Later Tuesday, six additional men from Coral Harbour drove along the coastline on all-terrain vehicles, then walked for five to six kilometres on the ice pans to reach the lodged boat.

After a short rest and some discussions, all 10 men pulled the boat off the ice and hauled it back to shore — not an easy task at this time of year, since the ice pans are constantly shifting.
Never in immediate danger

"They were able to drag that vessel and kind of run it through the open water that was between them and managed that back to land, basically walking and dragging the vessel mostly," Young said.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre — which groups the military, coast guard and other federal agencies for search and rescue missions — only learned Tuesday morning that the men did not make it back to Coral Harbour on Monday night as anticipated.

But Young said the men were never in any immediate danger, as they were wearing warm clothes and carrying emergency supplies such as heating sources.

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent had been dispatched from Iqaluit to help with Tuesday's rescue effort, but it has since been turned back.

Plans to bring in a helicopter from Labrador have also been cancelled.
Search officials released this photo of the youth they found on an ice floe near Coral Harbour, Nunavut, on Monday.Search officials released this photo of the youth they found on an ice floe near Coral Harbour, Nunavut, on Monday. (Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre Trenton)

Meanwhile, the rescued pair are in stable condition and being treated for hypothermia in Churchill, Man.

Nunavut RCMP spokesman Jimmy Akavak told CBC News that both the boy and his uncle were flown to a hospital in Churchill for treatment and observation.

"Both are said to be stable, but the young man was very, very much hypothermic so they're taking precautions on how they treat him and how they handle him," Akavak said. "So hopefully he'll do better."
Bear shot in self-defence

Akavak said while the teen was stranded on the ice floe, he was forced to shoot a polar bear that came within 150 metres of him.

Both police and conservation officers in Coral Harbour have confirmed that the polar bear was killed in self-defence.

More than 40 search and rescue volunteers from Coral Harbour, a hamlet of about 800 people, worked with RCMP and military crews in the three-day search.

In an interview Tuesday with CBC News, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk praised the military personnel who took part in the rescue effort.

"It's what happens each and every day. Unless it's on the front page of The Globe and Mail, people don't recognize the courage, the professionalism, that our men and women do every day," Natynczyk said.

"I'm really proud of our men and women. But I'm also proud of their families, because those families at home had no idea that their loved ones were going to launch off to the Arctic, or what they would do, or the risks they would face."

Two Hercules aircraft, a Twin Otter plane and a helicopter were brought in to assist.

Nunavut RCMP reminded Nunavummiut to be careful with difficult winter conditions at this time of year, and to carry survival supplies and radio equipment when they go out on to the land.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Native tribe will petition Ottawa to remove its Indian status

Too exciting not to blog about! Bold and daring or short sighted with disastrous outcomes. I think this should open up the stodgy claims process. Imagine the confidence to say - "I don't need the "Indian Status" to know who I am." It's so true. They won't stop being Gitxsan but they will stop being "wards of the state."

I bet you Strahl is wondering - how can I make them give it up and retain control of the resources at the same time.


VICTORIA — From Monday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Nov. 09, 2009 5:00AM EST Last updated on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009 4:03AM EST

A delegation of the Gitxsan people from northwest British Columbia is set to meet with Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl next month with a groundbreaking proposal: That the 13,000 members of their tribe be allowed to abandon their status as "Indians."

The group is willing to relinquish reserves, tax exemptions, Indian Act housing and financial supports in exchange for a share of resources. Unlike most contemporary efforts at treaty-making, it would also abandon the ambition of a separate level of government.

B.C.'s new minister of aboriginal affairs and reconciliation, George Abbott, has met twice with the Gitxsan treaty team and has put his senior negotiator on the file. Mr. Strahl agreed to the meeting after Mr. Abbott sent a letter to Ottawa last week urging him to take a look at the proposed governance model.

In an interview, Mr. Abbott said he has given his negotiators "a mandate to talk and explore." He said the proposal still has many hurdles, including the question of whether elected chiefs or hereditary chiefs can claim to speak for the Gitxsan people. The concept is far outside of the standard treaty model, and it presents a series of constitutional questions about the possibility of taking away, even with consent, the rights accorded to status Indians.

* Can you enfranchise a status Indian?
* Can the government recognize the authority of hereditary chiefs?
* Can you give them a share of resources beyond what's been offered in the past?

And the proposal is by no means universally endorsed by the Gitxsan people, having touched off a power struggle between the hereditary rulers who trace their authority back thousands of years, and the elected band officials who have earned their power through a system created by the Indian Act.

The first nation's treaty team, led by hereditary chiefs, proposes the Gitxsan would become regular, enfranchised Canadian citizens, governed by municipal, provincial and federal governments.

What would the Gitxsan get in exchange? The upfront price tag is some land ownership and cash, but the bigger prize lies down the road: The Gitxsan want a share of the resources that are taken from their 33,000-square-kilometre traditional territories, to be managed by their traditional system of clans and houses.

Read the Gitxsan Reconciliation Alternative Governance Model (pdf)

Download this file (.pdf)

Taiaiake Alfred, director of the University of Victoria's Indigenous Governance Program, said one aspect that is likely troubling Canada and B.C. is the notion of handing over any control to hereditary chiefs who are not governed by elections. "But it's a form of democracy that is participatory and direct. There is constant dialogue between the people of that community that generates consensus."

The step forward comes as the province's attempts to settle land claims over virtually all of its Crown lands seems deadlocked. As well, earlier this year, an effort led by Premier Gordon Campbell to enact Recognition and Reconciliation legislation collapsed.

"There are some elements to this that make it a very difficult discussion to conclude," Mr. Abbott said.

A key sticking point for the province is that the hereditary chiefs want some measure of control over their entire traditional territory. Most treaty settlements involve some small fraction - often 3 per cent - of a first nation's traditional lands. As well, Mr. Abbott said, the concept of "enfranchising" a status Indian creates a legal quagmire. "The Gitxsan collectively may say they want to be like everyone else. But whether, on an individual basis, their constitutionally entrenched rights around fishing and hunting can be terminated is questionable and needs to be explored."

The Gitxsan's chief negotiator, Elmer Derrick, said the proposal was initially rebuffed because the treaty negotiators for Ottawa and Victoria have tried to fit it into their standard treaty model. He is encouraged that there may be some political will now to see that this will result in better living conditions for his people who currently live in desperately poor conditions - and that it will cost Canadian taxpayers less.

"Every time we sit down with politicians at every level, I make a point of saying the Gitsxan don't want to be a burden on the Crown and we don't want the Crown to be a burden on us," said Chief Derrick, a hereditary chief of the Gitsegukla, one of seven communities of the Gitxsan nation.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Australia apologizing to kids in state care

I have to run but wanted to post this - will be back later to comment as I have much to say!

Australia apologizing to kids in state care
'It caused an enormous amount of pain'
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | 12:55 PM ET Comments6Recommend13
The Associated Press

Australia's government will follow its historic apology to Aborigines for past injustices with a similar apology next month to people who suffered as children in state care during the last century.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will lead the apology on Nov. 16 for neglect and abuse of children without families, Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin announced Tuesday in Canberra.

"It's an opportunity for us all to recognize that what was done was wrong, that it caused an enormous amount of pain," Macklin told reporters.

A 2004 Senate report said more than 500,000 Australian children were placed in foster homes, orphanages and other institutions during the 20th century.

They are often referred to as "forgotten Australians." Many were emotionally, physically and sexually abused in state care.

A 2001 report said between 6,000 and 30,000 children from Britain and Malta, often taken from unmarried mothers or impoverished families, were sent on their own to Australia in the last century.

Both Senate reports recommended that the government apologize for the abuses and assaults that many suffered in institutions and foster care.

But then Prime Minister John Howard rejected those recommendations, as well as a government-commissioned report in 1997 that called for a national apology for Australia's treatment of Aborigines since European settlement in 1788. Howard argued that contemporary Australians should not take responsibility for mistakes made by past generations.

One of Rudd's first acts in Parliament after his election victory in November 2007 was to formally apologize to Aborigines.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

So, what if the Swine flu Mutated with the Avian flu?

I have a theory....


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