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By Briony Penn, November 2011

A First Nations case before an international court could spell trouble for the government pension funds that purchased TimberWest.

For the first time in Canadian history, an international human rights tribunal, the Inter-America Commission (IAC), will hear a human rights complaint against Canada, one brought forward by six southeast Vancouver Island First Nations of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG). With the failure of our provincial and national treaty process, First Nations are taking their cases to such international bodies to seek justice and, judging from comparable cases in the Americas, are likely to succeed.

All of us in the Capital region should be paying attention to this case as it could have broad and far-reaching implications—whether you are interested in human rights, urban sprawl, water quality, the future of our endangered forests…or your pension. 

By Pete Rockwell, November 2011

Citizens unite against corporate greed and power.

Occupy Victoria joined in solidarity with 900 protests around the world. Starting a month ago on NYC’S Wall Street, the movement against continuing disenfranchisement of the “99%” at the hands of corporate/military/police power, generally summed up as “corporate greed,” has gone global.

Here in Victoria, about 1000 people showed up at Centennial Square, marched through Downtown to the Legislature for a rally, and returned to establish an “occupation” in the square—where some still remain.

By Pete Rockwell, November 2011

Johnson’s sculptures combine art, irony and politics.

Jan Johnson spent the last 40 or so years welding the detritus found in resource-extracted landscapes into objects and tableaux that, in one way or another, called the received ideas we share about life and the world into question. He had a knack for identifying the delusions, pretensions, self importances, and lies that are the spectacle of contemporary life. After a brief battle with cancer, Jan Johnson died on September 29; he was 68.

By Amy Reiswig, November 2011

First Nations writer Janet Rogers doesn’t mean to be confrontational—just honest.

Amid tables of cables, cords and screens at Victoria’s MediaNet office, multitalented Janet Rogers works on a radio commission for Toronto’s imagineNATIVE film and media arts festival, pulling together sound clips of music and poetry into a nine-minute piece. As she plays it for me, I realize again—as I did reading her latest book, Unearthed (Leaf Press, Sept 2011)—that Rogers is an artist of dynamic, enterprising vision who revels in the creation of meaning and structure where others might see mess.

By Linda Rogers, November 2011

Young librarians with fresh ideas are creating a new kind of library.

In dreamtime, a movie plays on the library walls. Someone is riding a magic book-cycle in and out its windows. Even though the downtown building still presents like a prison—brick walls, fenestration squinting into a dark courtyard—new energy shakes its sullen facade. The main branch is waking up to the fresh reality: social media, electronic borrowing, wired librarians, art partnerships, and community outreach. 

If this isn’t cool enough they also have Avi Silberstein, the resident philosopher-fool thinking up ways to engage kids and adults in book-loving behaviour, and riding his bookmobiles, sometimes dressed as a carrot offering vitamin P (poetry).

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

By Christine Clark, November 2011

A printmaker with a secret ingredient and a love of the North.

Looking through Jenn Robins’ photographs from Tuktoyaktuk you see a vast expanse of blue white, the snow and the sky, broken only occasionally by a tiny airplane or an overwhelmed building. One picture shows the blue shadow of a woman in Arctic clothing stretching outwards across the windblown snow, a self portrait. In another is a close-up of Robins’ face, although all that can be seen of her are her black-brown English eyes, smiling and peering out from under several layers of protective clothing (pink and lavender) and snow encrusted fur. She looks happy.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, November 2011

Let us find ways to honour the dead without condoning and exalting war.

I always get a bit uneasy as the country gears up for another Remembrance Day. Barely into November, lapels start sprouting poppies, bugles and speeches get polished up, and stiffly crafted, selfsame wreaths begin finding their way to the town-centre monuments. Then, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the country files into place and goes still as we remember our fallen soldiers.

This is all good and proper, but often a whiff of wartime nostalgia also furls through the typical Remembrance Day ceremony. Unavoidable perhaps, given the military nature and choreography of the event, but it confuses the clarity of the ceremony’s purpose: Are we gathered to honour the dead and lament their loss or are we unwittingly paying homage to the military paradigm as well?

By David Broadland, October 2011

Was the early closing of the Johnson Street Railway Bridge staged to divert public and media attention away from a serious threat to the new bridge project?

Back on April 7 the City of Victoria suddenly announced they were closing the Johnson Street Railway Bridge after Stantec Consulting identified problems with the bridge. The City said repairs to keep it open for rail, pedestrians and cyclists would cost $120,000. Since this amount “greatly exceeded the annual maintenance budget for the bridge,” and because they were going to demolish the rail bridge in “early 2012” anyway, City council accepted their staff’s recommendation not to repair the bridge. Its closure shut off the main access route for cyclists and pedestrians into and out of the city via the Galloping Goose Trail and put the E&N Dayliner out of business.

By Leslie Campbell, October 2011

Five million dollars from the province wouldn’t compensate for 2.5 years of conflict around the Juan de Fuca lands—but it’s a start.

Congratulations are in order: To the men and women of all persuasions and ages who made it crystal clear that they didn’t want any development near the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. It involved a lot of work, conflict and anxiety since 2008, but the public got what they wanted.

It wasn’t easy, though. As Gordon O’Connor of the Dogwood Initiative writes: “When Ender Ilkay first presented his proposal for the Juan de Fuca trail we were staring down some blindingly complicated and self-contradictory legislation, a biased voting structure, well-resourced opponents and a political system that discourages public involvement.”

By Amy Reiswig, October 2011

In her latest novel, Man Booker Prize finalist Esi Edugyan explores the world of jazz musicians during the rise of Nazism.

"Sightseeing ain’t but a waste of time ’less you know what you looking at.” So says Chip Jones, one of the main characters in Victoria novelist Esi Edugyan’s latest work, Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen, September 2011). Reading a novel is, in fact, a lot like being taken on a sightseeing tour: you settle in and put yourself in the hands of a guide you trust to lead you through an often foreign world. You therefore want that guide to be not just knowledgeable but a true animator—someone who with words can restore ruins, clothe ghosts with flesh and voice, and make that foreign world relevant and alive to every visitor. Edugyan is such a guide.

By Aaren Madden, October 2011

Coast Salish social activist Rose Henry believes homelessness in Victoria is getting worse and she wants to do something about it.

Rose Henry, a 27-year resident of Victoria, is a founder of the Victoria Committee to End Homelessness. She blogs at rosehenry.blogspot.com and homelessnation.org. At universities, churches and rallies, she speaks about poverty and human rights. She writes for and sells Victoria Street Newz. 

The Together Against Poverty Society lists her on their board of directors, as does the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre. BC PIAC is a nonprofit law office fighting for social justice issues ranging from foster care to poverty to human rights. Right now she’s pondering an invitation to return to the board of the Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition. You could say she’s a little busy. She laughingly calls it “my ADHD.”

By Rob Wipond, October 2011

Paul Grignon has struck a popular nerve with his cartoon exposé of a financial system that’s exacerbating our public debt spiral and hastening descent into environmental destruction.

By now most of us have heard about at least a few of the local people who’ve “made it big” in the world of online viral videos. Victoria writer Andrew Struthers’ two-minute spoof based on the Canadian Wildlife Service’s “Hinterland Who’s Who” commercials, “Spiders on Drugs,” is the undisputed champion, currently nearing 30 million views on YouTube. More typically, other area folk have garnered tens or hundreds of thousands of hits for a beautiful folk song, a recording of a police assault downtown, and one of the biggest lip-sync gatherings in the world (I don’t know of any popular videos of local babies or pets doing especially adorable things, but there are likely a few of those, too).

By Gene Miller, October 2011

What to do with a contaminated, once-industrial part of Victoria in a post-industrial era?

What do you want, Victoria? What do you want to be? Modern? I don’t think so. History hangs around you like a wrinkled matriarch wearing her fortune around her neck, trudging through the curtained gloom of a Rockland mansion. Socialistic? Well, yes, but just during the news cycle, please, and not in our neighbourhood. Administrative and imperial? Bold and high-powered? Pass.

How about lymphatic, aggrieved, isolationist?

By Christine Clark, October 2011

The costs and rewards of the artist’s life.

John Luna is telling a story. He is perched on a high stool, his face looking down at me as he speaks; there’s a continuous and agile flow of conversation, ideas and references, quite astonishing to experience. His dark eyes are tender with understanding; his voice is gentle; he uses his hands. He’s talking about inebriation; that seductive other reality that exists in perfect splendour alongside the sober day, eclipsing, for long moments, the struggle that is life. Not the drunkenness of alcohol, but of adulation. 

By Linda Rogers, October 2011

The founder of Theatre Inconnu is known for his innovative productions.

Clayton Jevne, Theatre Inconnu co-founder and artistic director, has weathered as many storms as the average four-masted sailing ship. Somehow he has survived, in a small city with several theatre companies, through government apathy and demographic fluctuation. Besides running Theatre Inconnu for three decades and 100 productions, Jevne was the artistic director at Victoria’s summer Shakespeare Festival for over 10 years.

Richard Olafson, Ekstasis Editions publisher and Theatre Inconnu board member says, “Clayton is one of the most committed artists in Victoria. He has been struggling and enduring many hardships and triumphs over the course of decades in the arts with consistency and vision.” 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, October 2011

In some ways, country living in Victoria is better than the real thing.

My large family includes just two urbanites: A sister in Toronto and me, here in Victoria. My sister in Toronto—God love her, as the elders in our hometown would say in solace—has been trying to escape to rural Prince Edward Island for years. I, on the other hand, have been living country on my standard suburban lot for almost two decades.

By David Broadland, September 2011

A report from the scene of the crime indicates City staff loaded the gun, but the mayor pulled the trigger.

Documents obtained through provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act reveal the new Johnson Street Bridge project has barely got to the “preliminary design stage,” and has already undergone big downgrades in service life and sheer physical size. Even at this early stage there are clear indications the cost of the project was underestimated and promises are being broken in order to contain costs, without the knowledge or assent of elected council members.

Let’s start with broken promises.

Included in documents released by the City is a “Professional Services Agreement” (PSA) signed April 19 by Mayor Dean Fortin and Joost Meyboom, an engineer with MMM Group, the company guiding the City in their attempt to build a new bridge.

By Leslie Campbell, September 2011

A fast-track to Langford…or to bankruptcy?

It’s ironic that the politicians who jumped on the light rail transit bandwagon in August labelled as “premature” a suggestion that we hold a referendum on the subject. If anything is premature it was their endorsement of the billion-dollar proposal.

Ever since BC Transit came out with its report recommending LRT from Downtown to Langford, many have been scratching their heads at the idea of making Greater Victoria the smallest metropolitan area in North America to be served by LRT.

By Aaren Madden, September 2011

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns believes the approval process for a development next to Juan de Fuca Marine Trail has become an affront to democracy.

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park is a sweep of lush forest, rugged, rocky coast and rolling shoreline stretching from China Beach to Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island’s west coast. Whales breach offshore, seals play, waterfalls rush to meet the tide, bears roam, and mist rolls onto the beach on even the hottest summer days. The magical atmosphere assures any visitor they stand somewhere that is not only wild, but also unique in the world.

By Gene Miller, September 2011

A new book lays out the irreversible and sobering consequences of our environmental trespasses.

Oops.com, .net and .org are all taken. So is oops! And, with or without an exclamation mark, so are whoops, ohoh, yikes, ohno, omg and holyshit. The fairly marble-mouthed wereallgonnadie.org is available (I guess the end of the world doesn’t seem exactly organizational) but the slightly more tintinnabulous wereallgonnadie.com and .net are gone.

I mean, if you’re the kind of person whose immediate response is to turn your latest cause or worry into a website, you’re going to have to reach past the obvious on this one.