It’s sad on so many levels when you realize that those who purport to lead you feel compelled to use deception–or maybe obfuscation is a better term–as a tool.
Last spring I had the opportunity to meet with, and interview, Phillip and Dorothy Riteman. Philip is a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp system from the second world war and spent time in seven of the most infamous locations including Sachsenhausen, Dachau and Auschwitz. The story he told me of what happened when they disembarked the train after his arrival at the first camp after his arrest was particularly chilling. He said (and I am paraphrasing):
“They asked us one by one what did we do. Well I was only a boy and I didn’t do anything so I didn’t know what to say. Someone told me to say I was a locksmith so that’s what I did and they told me to join one group and I went over to be with them. Others said they were lawyers, judges, teachers, clergy and doctors so they told them to join a second group. When everyone had been sorted they told the second group to line up against a wall. Once they did that they machine gunned them all, just like that. They didn’t want the educated people in the camps. They were no good to them; they would only cause trouble.”
Phillip’s eyes burned as he told that story and it left me cold, just thinking about how that age-old tactic of getting your way by eliminating the knowledge and wisdom that feeds dissent still plays out today. Nowhere as obvious and brutal, to be sure, but every bit as effective.
A walk by the Ocean Science Centre at Logy Bay reminded me of how relevant Phillip’s experience is even today. While this centre still carries on, still funded through Memorial University (itself under siege right now, as government seeks to trim its budgets), it’s partner institutions are not nearly as lucky as, one by one, scientific positions and institutions fall, no longer funded by the federal government that could benefit so much from the unbiased information that they were created to provide. Information hat should be available to inform good decisions; ones that promote stewardship, manageable growth and, above all, sustainability.
Instead, now, our decisions are guided only by short-term glimpses at balance sheets, and by the incessant whine of highly paid lobbyists. The federal government so arrogantly proclaims that it is focused on what matters most to Canadians: jobs. That’s as much as they know.
You’d never say it here in Newfoundand Labrador. There’s essentially no federal presence here at all, noting much to see, just noise–a muted sucking sound as Ottawa drains what’s left of our natural resources while slashing the jobs that would benefit our economy and society the most.
When this place was built we still had a viable fishery. Fishers knew it was in jeopardy due mainly to the wanton destruction of the fish stocks due to the unchecked over-fishing being carried out by huge fleets of foreign vessels. “Get those damned foreign trawlers out of there and enforce sustainable limits,” was said time and again by fishers and scientists.
The complaints fell on uncaring ears. The Liberals did nothing when they had the chance. The Conservatives did even less–abetting the actions by continually dealing away the fish to gain things deemed more valuable by a federal government located so far from the ocean as to lose the ability to care for it. (Funny: Ottawa is in Ontario, which considers itself eastern Canada. Go have a look at a map. It’s more or less central, thus indicating that everything east of it–Quebec, New Brunswich, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland Labrador–is nothing. Its policies are more or less indicative of that too.)
Instead of doing something to make matters better for those of us who would like to live in harmony with our oceans Ottawa is, apparently, choosing to respond by doing what it feels will best quiet the voices of dissent–namely to cut off the supply of what which best feeds it: knowledge. The practice of ocean science, as well as the treasured storehouses of information, thus obtained over the decades, all no longer a priority; the funding pulled and the documents quietly removed from sight.
Today these seals know much more about our fishery that does the fed. At least the seals know a cod from a herring, as well as where the few that remain may be found. Suppose I were to ask you how many fishing vessels are currently on the Grand Banks. Would you know? Try a web search. Ask an expert. You won’t find out because the Harper Government does not care enough to ever find out. There’s no monitoring, no meaningful regulation enforcement and, essentially no clue whatsoever just how many fish-catching machines are out there, particularly on the nose and tail of the banks busily scooping up every living thing from the water.
And the fish migrate; those who plunder what remains don’t really have to come inside the international boundary very much but they don’t have to. They just take what they want. My guess is that there are over 1000 vessels at it on a yearly basis and they’re landing about nine times what they have been allocated. And the allocations are right to the limit of what’s sustainable, so you can imagine what this is doing to what little remains.
But how are you to know for sure? The patrols are virtually nonexistent, as is the on-board catch monitoring. And as for the science, how can it happen without resources–something the federal government has been systematically taking away.
What’s left is an unregulated mess in which foreign interests simply ply the waters here and take whatever they want, with no fear whatsoever of any retaliatory action on behalf of an uncaring Canadian federal government. Just think about how it would be if the situation was reversed. What if some Canadian vessels decided to fish the EU waters instead? It would not be long before the vessels would be seized, towed to port and the operators arrested. Not here though. We “agree” that infractions committed by foreign vessels will be dealt with in the home country. Right on–we cite a Spanish vessel and send it on ts way for prosecution back home. What happens? It just stays on the banks and fishes until its hold is full. When it returns home it sells its catch. Prosecution? What a joke.
Logy Bay, a fitting name, one that aptly describes Ottawa’s whole attitude toward the fishery and, for that matter, to Atlantic Canada in general. Just close your eyes and sleep it off. Everything will be just fine.
For us in the rest of the country.
Not you left hanging on to the Eastern Edge where nothing matters.
And, besides, there’s so few of you left.
And who’ll be left when it’s all over? Who will speak for the oceans? I recently took the opportunity to take quick stock of what’s up with the many students I’ve taught through the years, residents of rural NL, all of them. Where are they now? Not there. Not anymore. About one in ten have stayed in rural NL. Only about half still even reside in the province at all. The rest–mostly gone west in pursuit of greener pastures.
A dark green perhaps, much the same as the boreal forest that thrives here in the midst of hardship. It will survive, despite the best efforts of its harsh surroundings.
The PM is from the west of Canada, as far from here as it gets, so he’ll make doubly sure that it prospers no matter what. No matter what the cost to the environment, to Atlantic Canada, to truth or, for that matter to anything but the economy in the here and now.
In the meantime, as far as Ottawa is concerned, oceans be damned, along with our north, our wetlands and, for that matter, any part of our environment that gets in the way of the arse over kettle rush in search of what the PM and his closest circle deem what’s best for everyone else.