Two names to be added to Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


This spring’s presentation of the award in my brother’s memory will include a couple of firsts – two individuals are being cited and they’re from across the Canada-U.S. border in neighbouring Vermont.

To be more accurate, one-half of the couple of Dr. Delores Barbeau and Carol Olstad, R.N. will be honoured posthumously as Carol, who incidentally was a Canadian born in Alberta, unfortunately died last October in their adopted home of Weston, Vermont.

The two met in 1983 while working in strife-torn Bolivia, Delores as a Maryknoll nun-turned-physician and Carol a registered nurse working under the auspices of the Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board.

Delores had only lived and worked with Bolivians since 1969 and, given the political climate, knew how much safer it would be to avoid becoming attached to Carol.

Bolivian authorities were already suspicious, to say the least, of church aid workers in their midst (let alone white North Americans); not easily dissuaded from their presumptions of CIA connections. Imagine if they knew they were lesbians!

But the Bolivian Ministry of Health assigned the two to work together, within a year of their first meeting, in a remote tropical jungle.

Not more than a year later the government had put Delores on a hit list and the two fled Bolivia, travelling to Nicaragua to work for five years alongside the people defending their dignity and rights against American-backed rebel forces out to destroy the successful Sandinista government.  (This corrects my earlier history-fogged equating of the rebels as the more courageous side to be on!)

In 1991 Delores and Carol returned to the United States, first New York and Massachusetts and then Vermont, sharing their lives openly as a couple while continuing to live the “social gospel” lessons of their respective faiths, even if no longer so affiliated. (They have since enjoyed the community of the Monks of Western Priory in Vermont where Carol was solemnly and happily remembered following her death in October of last year.)

In a letter to loved ones about her experiences, Delores concludes:

So. That was Bolivia.

What was it like?
It changed my life forever.
I learned to love.
I learned to look at things in a new way and walked in many different shoes.
I learned other definitions for family.
I learned that there were priorities.
I learned to dance.
I stood before mass graves, and buried many friends.
I learned what fear really felt like.
…and in all of this I never knew a time when I did not know God.

The 2012 Convocation of United Theological College, during which the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award is presented (and Delores will deliver the Convocation Address), will be held at Summerlea United Church on Wednesday, May 9 – five years to the day since Craig’s death.

With such an early spring, maybe his favourite irises will be in bloom.

So three lawyers walk into the Ontario Legislature…


…but this is no joke!

There’s a friendly exercise each morning that the Ontario Legislature sits when Members have the opportunity to introduce guests seated in the gallery – family members of one of the high school student pages, perhaps a visiting township reeve, or dignitaries representing other governments, be they in Canada or elsewhere.

It must have seemed surreal, then, for Toronto Centre Member of Provincial Parliament Glen Murray, his voice choking up even as he began to speak, to introduce (to a standing ovation from all sides) two fellow lawyers – Douglas Elliott, representing EGALE Canada, and Adrian Jjuuko of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda. This is the organization that has been leading the opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill often called the “Kill the Gays bill” in the media which, though delayed last year, was reintroduced a few weeks ago with all of its worst provisions, including the death penalty. It could become law in Uganda within 30 days and the government has continued its harassment of LGBT groups while it waits.

Mr. Jjuuko, although heterosexual himself, risks persecution when he returns home later today just for being the strong advocate that he is.

Whatever other pressing matters may have been discussed at Queen’s Park following these introductions today I did not hear them.

For further information and to positively agitate see:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

The New Civil Rights Movement

A letter to Canadians from the Honourable Jack Layton


August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Recording resistance and history through music in Palestine


Songs from a Lost Homeland, which originally aired on Al Jazeera English last year, is in the programming rotation again this weekend.

Is there a song in the west right now with even a small percentage of the punch of these musicians? I hope you get a chance to see the entire documentary. There’s another absurd segment where Israeli forces, tipped off that a Palestinian musician had a bunch of his CDs in his car (that can’t be good!), pull him over at a makeshift check-point and take them away.

While I’m sure I will look in on the Oscars presentation Sunday night it’s not hard, what with what’s going on in Libya, northern Africa and the Middle East, to see how completely shallow this is.

To say nothing of Charlie Sheen.

We just don’t know how good we’ve got it, do we?

Music of the movement


One of the first activists’ songs that had any resonance for me was “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” (1961) and then “Give Peace A Chance” (1969). Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” (1963) was an anthem, if ever there was one, and I remember making a connection with “One Tin Soldier” in 1969. While grown-ups were worried about missiles in Cuba and a war in Vietnam I was learning a little bit of French watching “Chez Helene” and trying to figure out matters of proportion and size with “The Friendly Giant”. My only brush with war, more than young Canadians in other provinces mind you, was during the October Crisis of 1970. Riz Khan, a television figure new to me since I started receiving Al Jazeera English, spends just under half an hour with Yusuf, formerly known as Yusuf Islam and Cat Stevens during my youth (“Peace Train” 1971) as he releases a rallying song to commemorate the sea change underway across the Middle East and northern Africa.

As Libya and neighbours seethe, CPT reports on West Bank demolitions by Israel


CPTnet
23 February 2011
SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Israeli military demolishes village of Amniyr

Amniyr, South Hebron Hills, West Bank At 5:00 a.m. yesterday morning, the Israeli army, accompanied by members of the Israeli District Coordinating Office, arrived at the village of Amniyr and demolished five tent-houses, two cisterns and the village’s olive trees. The demolitions effectively destroyed the entire village and left its three families homeless. All that remained unharmed after the military left was a cave and a small taboun oven.

According to villagers, the military had been coming frequently for the past several months and delivering demolition orders and maps claiming that the village was on Israeli state land, and that their homes would be demolished unless everyone left.

Residents of Amniyr told CPT that they have suffered from years of settler and army harassment. Years ago, members of the Jaboor family lived in the cave in Amniyr, but Israeli military and settler harassment forced them to move to a different area a few kilometers away. The harassment continued in their new location, however, convincing the family to move back to tents close to their original cave just over a year ago.

What was once a small village is now a pile of dirt mounds, uprooted olive trees and shattered clocks and dishware.

“Where are we supposed to sleep tonight?” said Moath Jaboor, who lived in a tent with his mother. “We’ll have to rebuild our homes so that we can sleep.”

Video of the incident is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLe1MrVfoT0 .

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

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Awesome task (or perhaps not): bridging the perspective gap


Excerpts from my tweets (and a RT) from early this afternoon:

Death by daily repression and near-starvation or death by desperate martyrdom via the State responsible? Your choice? #Bahrain #Libya #Yemen

MD from #Bahrain: “Pls, pls, where is the #UN; we need the world; ppl are being killed in the streets!”

Ambu’s BLOCKED frm #PearlRoundabout as security shoots and kills thru haze of tear gas; MDs plead to world, “Where are you?”#Bahrain

Photo: Protesters prayed for injured comrades outside Salmaniya hospital in #Manama late on Thursday

CBCNN adverts walk-in baths ad naus, Aljazeera Eng (#176 in T-O w free prevws) covers Bah’rain & Libya crises wall-to-wall w ppl on phn .

I’m hungry. Why? Because the late start to my day began only with coffee, HIV meds, Al Jazeera,Twitter and Facebook. Such an embarrassment of riches!

I wasn’t winding up days of mourning for someone today when my country’s security forces opened fire with tear gas and live ammunition.

Am I still pissed with Bev Oda and my government’s dismissive handling of the KAIROS scandal? Sure. Rightly so.

Do I believe that I owe someone an apology, undeliverable until next Thursday, due to a slight delivered his way yesterday? Yes.

Should I surrender my gay card for again postponing a hair-cut, so desperately needed? Honey, do I really need to ask?

Am I pre-occupied with one leg in yesterday, given what has happened to me in the past, and the other in tomorrow, worried about what I’ll have to do in the future – meanwhile, as the off-colour saying goes, “pissing all over today”? (As Cenk, on The Young Turks would say, “Of COOOOURSE!”)