Thursday 10 May 2018

Prayers For Survivors

Tonight I light a chalice in my heart for all survivors of the 60's scoop, and especially those going through hearings in Saskatoon over the next few days. I pray that judges, lawyers and other officials will treat them with dignity and listen to their stories with respect. They have gone through enough struggle and loss. Let this be a process of healing and reconciliation. And let there be fair compensation for all survivors, First Nations, Metis and Inuit, men and women who have suffered harm from being torn from their communities and losing their culture.

Prayers For Survivors

Saturday 29 October 2016

Reconciliation: Honour The Sacred Sites

The Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,  K1A 0A6

October 26th, 2016

RE:  Chaudière Island and Our Promises to Walk Rightly With First Nations

Dear Prime Minister:

I have been watching with admiration the past year your in depth and skillful articulation of the important issues facing Canadians.  For me, these include correcting the wrong relationship we have with First Nations, for the first time ever in Canada making every vote count, addressing the terrible wrongs in our criminal justice system, and truly making a plan for Canada to cut greenhouse gases and renew our economy with renewable energy.  Today I am writing to you about the relationships with our First Nations.

I have been walking with my church to learn as much as I can about our colonial history and our collective journey with our First Peoples.  It is appalling.  One has to wonder how a society could claim to be civilized after the terrible way we have treated the Indigenous Peoples of this country.  I know you are fully aware of these problems.  We are all responsible – Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and the citizens themselves.  It will take a long time to correct this situation.  Nevertheless, there are many things we can and should do as quickly as possible.

You have demonstrated yourself to be the master of the ceremonial moment.  I believe we are at such a moment in Canada.  We are about to celebrate, in the next year, our 150th Birthday of this great country.  I believe you should grasp this opportunity and make the important symbolic gestures of reconciliation with our First Peoples.  In Ottawa, that would mean the dedication of Victoria, Chaudière and Albert Islands to the Algonquin People (including Kitigan Zibi and the Quebec Algonquin as well as the Ontario Algonquin.)  This gesture should include the offer to clean up the toxic site, and the restoration of the falls.  The only power generation that should happen should be the more natural run of the river type that allows for the full functioning of the river for the fish and other creatures that depend on it.  The area has a special energy that is cherished by the Indigenous people.  It is a place for prayer and ceremony.  The rock and island formations form a sacred pipe bowl of peace.  If the Algonquin choose, it could be developed along the vision of Grandfather William Commanda.  It would become a major tourist attraction for the City of Ottawa and would function as the soul of our city.  My hope is that the Zibi project would continue to be planned, and would be allocated space in LeBreton Flats.  It is a worthwhile project in the wrong place.

I believe you should work with Indigenous peoples across Canada to identify other such sacred sites that should be named and dedicated to the people of the land as a symbol of your commitment to respect the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, their culture and religion.  We tore their cultures apart by separating the children from the families and by banning the drum and the potlatch and all forms of ceremony.  Indigenous people live every day through their sacred connection to the Creator and guide their actions through prayer and ceremony.  To restore right relations, we must restore their sacred sites.

It is important that our First Peoples must not have to choose between restoring their sacred sites and having funding for education, housing, health care, and economic development.  Our obligations in these areas continue as ever, and are not satisfied by symbolic gestures relating to religion and the land.  I recognize that these changes may take time, but ask that you work on them urgently as well. 

I hope you will begin by ensuring that every First Nations, Inuit, and Métis child in Canada will have equal funding with every other Canadian child for education.  I see no reason why this need take years to implement.  Our indigenous citizens need to have the funding to improve the quality of their schools immediately.  Budget issues should not trump equality and fairness.  If non-indigenous Canadians have to give something up in order to have equality with First Peoples, so be it.  I also hope that in this process, we go as far and as fast as we can to put education decisions in the hands of our First Peoples.  Let the dollars not be absorbed by bureaucrats and consultants who get the employment instead of teachers and consultants chosen directly by the Indigenous Peoples themselves.  

And of course, it is equally important that we work aggressively to solve long-standing problems of inadequate drinking water, housing, and so on. 

It is time our reconciliation with our First Peoples goes beyond words to action.  I appeal to you to make the symbolic gesture of restoring the falls, and restoring the Victoria, Chaudière and Albert Islands during our 150th anniversary as an important first step.

In faith that we will achieve reconciliation if we try,

Rev. Frances Deverell (Retired Unitarian Minister working in the community in Ottawa)

cc. The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,  K1A 0A6
cc The Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,  K1A 0A6

Cc  Rona Ambrose, Leader, Conservative Party of Canada
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,  K1A 0A6

CC.  Thomas Mulcaire, Leader of the NDP
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,  K1A 0A6

Cc Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,  K1A 0A6

Cc Mayor Jim Watson,
Ottawa City Hall
110 Laurier Avenue West 
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 1J1

Cc Russell Andrew Mills,
Chair of the National Capital Commission
202–40 Elgin Street
Ottawa ON  K1P 1C7

Cc Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building 
Queen's Park 
Toronto ON M7A 1A1

Cc Philippe Coullard, Premier of Quebec 
Édifice Honoré-Mercier, 3e étage
835, boul. René-Lévesque Est
Québec (Québec)  G1A 1B4 

Cc Douglas Cardinal (
Cc Claudette Commanda (
CC Albert Dumont (
CC Annie and Robert Smith St. Georges. (
Cc Gilbert Whiteduck (
Cc Chief Kirby Whiteduck (
Cc Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck (
Cc Ghislain Picard  (

·      This letter will be made open to the public.

Monday 14 December 2015

Post COP21 - What Next?

Post COP 21 – Now what?

For those of us who have been working hard on climate concerns everyone has an opinion on the outcome of COP21.  Personally, I am relieved that they did as well as they did.  I respect the challenge of having so many players all pressuring to have input and having to build consensus on how to move forward.  I congratulate the Canadian Government and Climate Activists on a wonderful job.  Of course, it is not perfect.  Perfection does not exist in such a process.  But as far as I can tell, it is the turning point I’ve been looking for.  Climate issues and policies are part of the daily discussion.   We have committed to leave some oil and gas and coal reserves in the ground.  The Canadian public is much more aware of the need for policy turnaround and that it will mean changes. 

The problem is, the vast majority of people around the world have no idea what that means.  In order to get this far we have had to simplify the message.  We focused attention on 100% renewable energy as something people could understand.  People have a vague awareness that we need a price on carbon.  They may know we expect green jobs but they probably don’t know what those look like.  Naomi Klein as popularized the notion that Capitalism isn’t working, and that we need some fundamental systemic changes, but what does that mean?  Now is the time that we need to help Canadians visualize concretely the kind of world we want to move to.

Our new federal government has made a good start by promising to bring the country’s top leaders to the table to negotiate new climate targets and to make a plan to move the economy forward toward a low-carbon future.  The process will be democratic.  They have also sent a signal that they will be looking for innovation and infrastructure development as major directions in the search for solutions. 

I agree with Naomi Klein that Capitalism has shown that it is fundamentally flawed when its fundamental motivator is greed and it operates in a social context where the moral standards of society have been eroded.   We need some fundamental changes in the philosophical ground of our society.  For me this would require that in addition to rights to make a profit companies would also require to have responsibilities toward their workers, toward the communities that sustain them, and toward the earth.  Some call this the triple bottom-line of people, planet and profit. 

There have to be some limits to pure selfishness and greed.  I am looking at companies that pull the rug out from under communities by moving key jobs to Asia.  I am looking at Monsanto that expects to control seeds after it has allowed its GMO seeds to contaminate organic crops.   I am looking at a pharmaceutical company that jacks up the prices of essential life-saving drugs by 700- 5000% just because they can.  Companies owe something to the communities that provide them with educated workers, virtually free clean water, and so on.  They must not be allowed to operate their businesses without planning for the costs of cleaning up their messes and then externalize those costs to the public purse. 

Secondly, I think that it is time that we have a serious review of what we now view as legal property rights.  We need to reconsider as a human society what we can own.  Can we own land, or do we use it and share it with others?  This is the message from our First Nations neighbours.  Can we own the building blocks of life?  DNA?  Or is it a sacred substance that belongs to God.  How long should innovation be subject to patent before ideas can be shared and made accessible to all?  If we are going to have the kind of innovation we need to solve our current problems I believe we need a very free exchange of ideas all around the world.  We need people to freely experiment and create the solutions that don’t exist yet. 

At the same time, eliminating the private sector is not an option.  It’s great strength is the freedom of people to implement their ideas and turn them into viable businesses.  Monolithic public sectors are too sluggish and subject to corruption to operate without a vital private sector.

I foresee an explosion of creativity, innovation, new businesses, and ideas in all sectors of the economy as we search for new ways of living in relation to each other and the earth.  We will be looking for the electric car, new methods of electricity storage, new methods of heating our homes and conserving energy so we need less.  We hope for much better public transit within cities and between cities.  Power generation will be revolutionized from huge centralized systems to localized, distributed systems that are suited to particular ecosystems and local circumstances.  We need to unleash our creative capacities symbolized for me by a Nigerian School Girl who learned how to make electricity out of her own urine for her science project.

I also hope that we will see much greater awareness and more conscious living amongst Canadians.  I’d like to see a return to making quality clothing that lasts more than one season, and planning for manufactured goods, electronics and computers that are expected to last ten years or longer before they need to be replaced.  Employment needs to be less focused on the production and distribution of stuff, and more focused on increasing knowledge, and on services to improve the quality of our lives that don’t take such a toll on the natural world.  Agriculture will need to have a serious review of its energy-intensive practices and more people will be working to either grow or gather food, both in rural areas and in the cities.  We have to really think about the pollution caused by our middle class fetish of flying all over the world to personally experience every ecosystem and culture. 

We can face the future with fear because we don’t know where the work is going to be or how we will be living, or we can vision the future we want and start creating it.  For me this is truly a great time of hope and opportunity.  Canadians can come alive and create a new relationship with the land, with our First Nations neighbours, and with each other.  Let us empower ourselves to rise to the challenge and build a civilization for our children and grandchildren that we can be truly proud of.

But that’s for the New Year.  For now we all deserve time to celebrate and take a rest.  Merry Christmas to all and all my best to you for a good year in 2016.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Prayers For Paris, COP21

9 am

Today I send my prayers to the universe.
First, I prepare myself by fasting.
I fast with my sisters and brothers in ClimateFast
And Fast For the Climate
All around the world.
We fast for the earth.
We fast for the children for the next seven generations.
We fast for the enlightenment of the consciousness of our species
That we may understand
That all the plants, animals, birds and fish
And all the crawlers and the pollinators
And everything that lives
Are our brothers and sisters, our relatives,
And that the destruction of their habitat
And the pollution of our earth, our water, our air
Is a crime
that must stop.

I focus my mind on the world I want to see.
A world with reverence for life as its core value.
A world where every form of life has rights
To share in the bounty of the earth,
And where every person,
And every corporation,
And every level of government
Has a responsibility
To care for the earth;
To care for the community that sustains it;
To care for its workers;
And to ensure that we live with one another
With justice and compassion
For those who are more vulnerable.

I send my prayers to the leaders of the world
Who are meeting in Paris.
I pray for my leaders from Canada,
The Prime Minister, The Premiers, the First Nations,
the Religious Leaders, and Civil Society
And for all the World Leaders.
May they be filled with a vision for sustainable living on this planet.
May they be inspired to find ways to move forward with that vision.
May they be free from personal ego and desires for power.
May they be grounded, and humble, and respectful.
May they attend to their own personal physical needs for well-being.
May they listen well to all the voices, all the needs, all the fears, all the hopes.
May they open themselves to the spirit of love and justice and transformation.
May they find a path to wholeness
For all the people and all life on the planet.

And I send my prayers to the people of Canada,
And to the people of the world.
May you inform yourselves of the importance of this time.
May you become more aware of how we are living in relation to the earth,
And how we want to be living.
May you feel the urgency and the need for action.
May you be prepared for change as we make this transition to renewable energy.
May you be ready to contribute your gifts, your energy, your creativity
To helping to make this change.
May you be ready to provide support to those who are most vulnerable
And who have the most to lose
Out of a spirit of justice and compassion.
Let us join together as one people
And move toward a vision of living on this planet
Based on Reverence For Life.
Let us pass a legacy of a healthy flourishing planet
To future generations.

So may it be.  All Our Relations