Reflections

 
 

Remembrance

A couple of months before the world turned upside down, I had the rare privilege to observe an elephant herd honouring one of their dead.

All that remained of the fallen elephant was its massive sun bleached skull, lying exposed on the the parched African veldt. Each member of the herd slowly approached in turn, to reverently touch the skull. Some nudged it a bit, while others caressed it in remembrance for long minutes, before moving off to permit the next member of the herd to pay their respects. The matriarch lingered the longest, followed closely by the oldest adults, while at the end of the line came the youngsters, obviously too young to have known the fallen one, and acting much like human kids might at an aged aunt’s funeral, gave the skull a perfunctory pat, before scampering away.

A vivid recollection of that solemn encounter popped, unbidden, into my mind today, and prompted this blog. It seems to be happening to me a lot recently, memories gurgling to the surface, as one day day drifts into another in uninterrupted Covid topor.

Not just memories, but dreams- vivid ones, of people and places far in the past. Nights in self -isolation are filled with intense and action packed dreams. I’ve skied epic lines down slopes that far surpass my waking abilities-taking big air, and floating effortlessly back to earth. I’ve canoed at least a dozen wild rivers in my sleep during Covid, and hiked in deserts, rainforests and jungles, joined in my travels by an ever changing cast of companions, some contemporary, but some only dimly remembered from decades in the past.

Barred from the inside of any courtroom for over a year by the wretched virus, I’ve nonetheless crafted intricate legal arguments, and laid down withering cross examinations in a score of dream courts; amazing myself upon awakening to realize that the cases being litigated were completely new, not a re-hash of old battles or even a rehearsal for anything languishing in the filing cabinet now awaiting the opening of the courts, and often involved areas of the law of which I am innocent of any knowledge, while awake. One night last week found me, in my slumber, parsing fine points of constitutional and jurisdictional caselaw pertaining to a log-jam on a tributary of the Nechacho river, when suddenly the courtroom dissolved and we were all in the water, counsel, judge and court clerk all struggling in a maelstrom of white water.

I am sure that there are those far more learned and erudite than this blogger, who can theorize why, during Covid, our dreams have become so intense, and intricate, and have pried open so many forgotten corners of our subconscious. Some may even be brave enough to attempt an interpretation of their meaning.

For me, I am content to simply savour the experience. You see, amongst the most vivid of my dreams was a youthful walk along a leafy, sun dappled path to a lake where I fished, and talked to my father, just after the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Most recently, I delighted in an animated conversation with a much young version of my mother, a conversation impossible now in the light of day, as she fades away, barricaded, safe but unhuggable, in assisted living.

Nighttime, during Covid, has become a time to pause on the journey across the veldt, to caress old bones- to reflect, and to remember.

Categories: Africa, death and dying, In memoriam, Reflections | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Disrupting the supply chain – for the better!

Innovation fascinates me – there is surely something in the human psyche that compels us to continuously examine the world around us and to incessantly ask the question “Is there a way this can be done better?”

Uber is a great example of how re-thinking an old established business model can revolutionize an industry and produce a service that offers the customer a better overall experience.

Our household recently discovered and signed up for another service that is attempting to turn a long-established sector of the economy on its ear. It is SKIPPER OTTO, a company, or rather, a community-supported fishery, dedicated to disrupting the fishing industry, and its traditional supply chain.

Presently the vast majority of BC’s fishing fleet fish for one guy, Jimmy Pattison, who controls Canfisco, the largest company in the industry. It controls the coast through its ownership of boats, of processing facilities, but more importantly, of quota. At the heart of BC’s complex system of fisheries management is the Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ), which allocates the entirety of the ever-declining commercial catch.

ITQ’s, which can be bought, sold or leased, have become a valuable financial asset in their own right and have attracted corporate interests to the sector, given that it is more profitable to own and lease a quota than to actually fish it. They also represent a significant barrier to entry for young independent fishermen wanting to enter the industry. Purchasing quota, in addition to a boat and gear, is a huge capital outlay.

The result has been an extreme consolidation of the industry, with every step of a long supply chain, from netting the fish to processing them, as well as wholesale and retail distribution, all falling under large corporate control.

Skipper Otto (the company is named after Otto, an independent fisherman who enlisted the help of his business and tech-savy family to help him bypass the middlemen, and get his catch to market, for a fair price) is a membership-based, community-supported fishery.

Members share the catch from the independent fish boats they sponsor, by pre-purchasing a set amount of seafood each year, leaving the fisherman free to start his season knowing he has an assured, and direct, sale for his catch. Essentially, independent fishermen are funded by the membership, not their friendly local billionaire. The catch is flash frozen, packaged and distributed directly to the members, who pick up from Vancouver’s Fisherman’s Wharf or from local drop-off points.

We started off with a modest $400 annual commitment, and monthly go onto Skipper Otto’s website to select what we want – so far we’ve sampled prawns, salmon, halibut and hake, and tomorrow will attempt scallops for the first time. The product comes frozen, in meal sized portions, and is labelled with the name of the boat, where the seafood was harvested and a photo and background of the skipper who caught it. We pick up our share at a local health food store, which provides the pick-up service gratis (in hopes of making collateral sales) and cook it with the help of recipes and cooking tips from the company website.

The product has been excellent, the pricing beats the hell out of supermarket prices. And it is a nice feeling to know that dinner came directly from Scott, or Doug, who caught it and froze it, to our table.

Categories: Reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Air Flight 752

This is a difficult piece to write, and the little editor/censor that sits on my shoulder and occasionally whispers in my ear to shut up, is practically shouting at me. Possibly I should listen, but here goes anyway:

I am offended by Prime Minister Trudeau’s gesture to make a $25,000 gift to each of the 57 families who lost loved ones when flight 752 was shot down on take-off from Tehran.

Like all Canadians, I am shocked and angered by the inexcusable loss of innocent lives that occurred as a result of Iran’s stupidity, negligence or worse. The loss to Canada was especially egregious, given the remarkable accomplishments of the victims. We lost doctors, scholars, promising students, entrepreneurs, the very best of what we hope our immigration policies will attract.

Indeed the families of the victims deserve our support and respect. I applaud the government for taking a stern line with Iran, demanding answers, and compensation, and for the consular support they are providing to the families.

That said, it is, I believe, wrong on principle for the government to provide compensation in such circumstances, where they are not to blame for the loss that occurred, and where to do so sets an unhealthy precedent.

Compensation should flow from fault, or responsibility for the loss, not from a politician’s desire to be seen as virtuous.

Consider that aircraft crashes in Canada last year claimed at least as many lives as we lost on flight 752. Eighteen Canadians were lost in the equally unforgivable Ethiopian Airways Boeing 737 Max 8 crash, without the government feeling the need to start writing cheques, and there were 22 aircraft fatalities in Canada in July alone last year, all resulting from small aircraft crashes, and none resulted in the government rushing forward to pay the victims’ families.

Please understand this is a difficult matter of principle, and not intended to be hurtful to the families involved, who deserve, and in the fullness of time will doubtless receive, much more fulsome compensation from the proper source, the government of Iran. It is a reflection on what is, and is not, the proper role of government.

The government will easily spend more than the $25,000 now being paid to each family, in order to send investigators and consular officials to Iran. Indeed they have already spent far more than that in order to convene and host a meeting of foreign ministers from affected nations, in order to forge a united plan of action. That money is appropriately spent. The $25,000 gift payments are not.

The families of the Ethiopian Airlines disaster have suffered every bit as much as the Flight 752 families, and in addition to the anguish of sudden, and unnecessary bereavement, have faced the same expenses of repatriating bodies, and conducting funerals, and many have felt compelled to make the expensive journey to Ethiopia to visit the crash site.

When authorizing the expenditure of taxpayers dollars governments need to look beyond the political value of the headline the expenditure creates, and be guided by policy – hopefully by policy not formulated in the midst of an emotional maelstrom – and a policy which is applied consistently.

Is it now government policy that the family of every Canadian who loses their life in a plane crash anywhere in the world is to be given a payment? I certainly hope not. If so, it marks a complete about face from Canada’s long-standing policy against providing gratuitous assistance to Canadian travelling abroad. Consider the Canadians presently trapped inside Kashmir who have been denied financial assistance to leave, or the 300,000 Canadians  nervously living in Hong Kong who are hoping in vain that the Canadian Government might ride to their rescue if things get worse.

There is a limit to what any government can do, and we deserve to know what criteria the government is using, when they spend our money. Buying a photo op is not an appropriate one.

To the families I say, we all share your grief, and we understand that you did not want to be thrust into this awful spotlight, and you did not come to government with your hand out, expecting anything. I truly wish we didn’t have to make any comment at all.

Categories: law, Politics, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Slight Misunderstanding

Travelling the safari lodges of Botswana one soon realizes what the locals have long known- their Setwana names are impossible for a Westerner to pronounce. So, a custom has grown up in the service industry for workers to adopt  simple, pronounceable nicknames, to cater to us linguistically challenged tourists. Continue reading

Categories: Africa, Bucket list, Etiquette & manners, humour, Reflections | Leave a comment

A promise kept

He came into our lives by accident nine years ago. After an exhaustive internet search for cats available for adoption, we had made our choice and found our way to Katie’s place, a wonderful  ‘no-kill’ cat shelter in Maple Ridge that accepts all comers, to meet and adopt the handsome young lad who had caught our eye. Continue reading

Categories: death and dying, In memoriam, pets, Reflections | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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