Murray-Klippenstein-from-klippensteins-caI’m reading, of all things, lawyers’ bios at Klippensteins. They’re funny and short. Murray Klippenstein argued in 2011 that, on discovering diaries kept by Daniel D. MacMartin, treaty commissioner for Ontario 1905, oral promises had been made that contradicted the written Treaties between the Crown and First Nations and support First Nations’ claims, and that ‘oral promises that are part of the Treaty should override legislation.’ Good thing he likes reading. Good thing he likes brevity. If brevity is the soul of wit, he’s got a lot of soul. image from

Spence-by-fred-chartrand-from-the-g&m*** BREAKING NEWS *** (Well, it’ll be old news by the time you read this): ‘Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has decided to end her six-week-long hunger strike after members of the Assembly of First Nations and the Liberal and New Democrat caucuses agreed to back a list of commitments supporting aboriginal issues.’ image by fred chartrand.

Also, last Friday the Hupacasath First Nation of Vancouver Island filed an injunction that, according to Leadnow, could stop the passage of the Canada-China FIPA deal.

Leaders of Idle No More say the movement ‘has a responsibility to resist current government policies … without aggression or violence. This is an energetic, exciting and transformative time. This movement has been guided by Spiritual Elders, dreams, visions, and from peoples’ core values. We are here to ensure the land, the waters, the air, and the creatures and indeed each of us, return to balance…. It is up to each of us to see that this movement respects all people, the environment, and our communities and neighbours.’

FairTradeSome of this isn’t very funny. It’s pretty dry and without taste, like bran, but it’s good for you, also like bran. For example, I don’t know a lot about international trade, except that there’s a world of difference between the WTO (the World Trade Organization) and the WFTO (the World Fair Trade Organization). The ‘T’ in WTO means free trade, whereas the ‘T’ in WFTO means fair trade. Proponents of free trade see trade (and commerce and the market) as a positive, moral force (Adam Smith‘s ‘invisible hand‘) and it should be free of human laws and policies. Fair trade folks see the opposite, that trade is a very human activity and has no inherent moral force, and as such needs laws and policies. Free traders tend to be right-wing, fair traders left-wing. That’s about all I know. I would guess that extreme right-wingers think everything has a price. Does that mean extreme left-wingers think nothing has a price? That everything is priceless?

You have to like four-letter words to find this funny. If you do, it’s really funny. If you don’t, well….

I’ve posted recently about two of possibly three constants in the universe: change and paradox; this post is about the most unlikely–to me–of the three: humour (though I know these three in this order: ‘paradox, humour, and change‘). The universe isn’t a funny place, is it? Life is serious stuff, isn’t it? Or is it? These three posts are healing in so many ways. Maybe I should read the book.

Anyway, cosmic humour is not the gut-splitting, prank kind you might see on ‘Candid Camera’ or ‘Just For Laffs’. It’s the we’re-gonna-get-through-this-and-it’ll-be-all-right-in-the-end divine comedy kind, though it’s gonna look totally different, that’s for sure. Sometimes you need a big dose, especially if you’re aboriginal. First Nations peoples have suffered horribly. Even treaties could not protect them from disease, addiction, or cultural loss brought by Europeans. What’s so divine about that, I’d like to know? image by domenico di michelino from wikipedia.

When I read Green Grass, Running Water, I had no idea the significance that the title referred to. I had never read a treaty, although I live on, as do most Canadians, treaty land. It means ‘forever’ in treaty-talk.

treaty-chapter4hWhy are treaties so important? Because it sets the tone for negotiation, then, now, and forever, which makes us a distinct culture: ‘Unlike the Americans who had butchered their Native people in series of bloody and costly Indian wars, the Canadian had accomplished their settlement of the west diplomatically, peacefully, fairly … or was it fair?’ What is the way of the future, of now? Bullets or words?

The treaties started in the 18th century by royal proclamation. Historian John Taylor says:Treaties was something that Indians themselves wanted. Why you might ask would [they] want treaties? … Well first of all, they didn’t understand them as giving up their land, and secondly they saw the treaty as a mechanism to protect them.”

The government website adds that ‘starvation [caused by White disruption] and disease [again, brought on by Whites] quickly took the people of the plains from proud, self-sufficiency to a grim dependency on the will and whim of the white man and signing a treaty was the quickest way to get help.’ image from wikipedia.

Former Grand Chief of the Federation Saskatchewan of Indian Nations (FSIN) Perry Bellegarde: “The treaties were basically signed because they were forced to, they had to sign. A lot of the times, they didn’t want to sign the treaty, they didn’t want to agree to the treaty. But because of starvation, because of disease, the people were dying, our Indian people were suffering.” ‘

treaty8-caEven with their imperfections, all Canadians–aboriginals and settlers–should be proud of the efforts of treaty-making. The treaties were enshrined in the Constitution in the 20th century. They–and their modern equivalent, the land claims (the Comprehensive and Specific Claims Policies)–are a living, breathing, changing testament to what nations can peaceably achieve. image from

The government website concludes:

Taylor: “The important thing that Canadians need to know about Indian treaties are that they form an obligation of honour on the part of all of us to attempt to understand what it is that Indian people understand about theses treaties. And what it is they expect of us and what it is that we should be doing to try to fulfil those obligations that were made for us many years ago.”

Elizabeth_II-by-Bill Ingalls-May_8,_2007_editBellegarde: “We do as Aboriginal First Nations have a special relationship with the Crown, we do indeed have treaty rights and they are here as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows. They will not be terminated, there is no end to that, they are here forever. And people have to realize and understand that, what those rights are and the more awareness, the more education about them that can be taught, it’s more beneficial for both Indian and non-Indian people. So that we can peacefully coexist in this country that we can share the resources together.” image by bill ingalls.

‘Our treaties deserve constant study and review; for like any bond between people, they are only helpful as they reflect the ongoing realities which people face. Situations change; our response to those situations must also change. Perhaps by studying the treaties of the past, we can better understand why problems arose and work together towards more effective, compassionate, and realistic agreements in the future.’ image from (saskatchewan’s office of the treaty commissioner).


‘To examine the evolution of the treaty process in Canada is also to examine the historical evolution and shaping of Canada. The continuing discussion and debate on the treaty relationship and the modern negotiations of that relationship through the comprehensive claims process continues to exert a formative influence on Canada and its future direction. As new treaties are concluded, new relationships are added to the overarching Treaty Relationship between Canada and First Nations. This relationship defines not only mutual rights and obligations, but also assists both Canada and First Nations to work in a more cooperative and productive manner to improve the lives of First Nation people and all Canadians.’

Locally, a few months ago SHARE showed Surviving Progress, based on Ronald Wright’s best-seller, A Short History of Progress. Elizabeth May writes, ‘Wright was interviewed recently for a brilliant piece by Chris Hedges (The Myth of Human Progress [this is a good read!]). “We’re Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit,” said Wright. “We are not good long-term thinkers.”… We have a profound moral obligation to protect our children and their children from what many increasingly see as unavoidable…. Those who believe it is unavoidable simply cannot believe we will bother to try.’ image from the film.

In trying, EB White once quipped, ‘I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.’ Queen’s alumnus Stephen Wells tries daily and has a good time doing it too. He has ALS and lives in a hospital but is nevertheless a stock-trader. He says that ‘life is what you make it’ and ‘life is a one-way ticket.’ Gotta keep smiling…. It worries ’em. image from queen’s university.

Rebecca_Tarbotton-by-Hroeyerjoanna-macy-from-newworldlibrary-comHaving a good time means different things to different folks, but it helps if your personal story aligns with a ‘Great Story‘. Then you can really laugh. Well, that’s the theory, anyways. ‘The Great Turning‘ is Joanna Macy‘s name for our current great story, ‘a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.’ She says that ‘to see this as the larger context of our lives clears our vision and summons our courage.’ Becky Tarbotton (in the red shirt) says ‘the evidence that it’s happening is all around us if we care to look.’ Macy adds, ‘for all the apparent might of the Industrial Growth Society, we can also see its fragility–how dependent it is on our obedience, and how doomed it is to devour itself.’ image of tarbotton by hroeyer; image of macy from

While it’s turning, what best we do but laugh?

lighthouse-keeper-by-?Tuesday night (2013-01-22) we watched The Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes on the CBC, and before, on TVO, a new series, Coast, with Walking Man (Neil Oliver) and others who explored the province of Finistère (in Brittany), ‘The End of the Earth’. After Rick’s Rant and a remix of Chris Hadfield on the ISS, we watched the injustices experienced by five inter-sex persons in The Science Of Gender–sometimes discovering that you are not alone can lead to both discrimination and acceptance. On Thursday, SHARE in partnership with Zero Waste Simcoe showed The Clean Bin Project, part of the Great Turning. Then, at Cellarman’s, some kilted man piped in the haggis, Heather, and Johnny spake The Ode. That night, Kelly Lefaive sat in with my old band, Blind Mary. I gave my condolences in person to John, who recently lost Dawn, and we remembered Hutch and Linda, who died this week. carpe diem.

paul-chefurka-from-paulchefurka-caPerhaps being humourous is the ability to see a silver lining. For Paul Chefurka the silver lining ‘is that all the pressures coming from this process of [planetary] correction can be useful goads toward personal self-development. “In all matters, strive to do the right thing.” What does this mean to each of us? What does mindful living in the midst of the whirlwind entail, what does it require of us in terms of personal growth, in the development of wisdom and self-awareness? How might each of us resolve our alienation – from each other, from our societies, from nature, from our own place in the universe?  How may we find the re-connections that are essential if we are to emerge from this tumultuous, careless human adolescence into individual and collective adulthood? These are deep questions for dark times.’ image from

I know someone who has been through hell and back, and that taught him to laugh. When you work all day with addicted people, only to come home early one day and find the person you trust cheating you, what can you do but laugh? Well, first you get really p.o.’d. Eventually, hopefully you move on, for resentment and anger can trap you while laughter and letting go can free you. So now, when somebody flips him the bird, he just laughs. When he loses at chess (which is not often), he just laughs. Will he laugh at Death, too? I hope I do. I hope I think that it’s only the death of this pesky ego, that I’m actually part of a divine comedy. image from wikipedia.

TED-Ed-logoI’ve become besotted with TED ED. A little laughter goes a long way, if you can keep up, though this one is a little slower and a lot shorter and the content–questions without answers–more my style. The animation‘s pretty neat-o, too! And this one has the bestest wrap-up. But this answers what every dog wants to know: ‘Is There Poop on the Moon?’

rsa-animate-drive-the-surprising-truth-about-what-motivates-us-adapted-from-dan-pinks-talk-at-rsaWhich leads to this humourous animation from RSA. Very few of us get to poop on the moon, but we all cheat a little bit–taxes, partners, even ourselves–and rationalize we’re honest.

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