With all of the celebrations and hype leading to the 150th anniversary of the founding of that thing we call Canada pride in our fair country is at something of a high. Evidence of it is everywhere and if you don’t believe me, just use retail capitalism as your wetted finger held to the wind. Take a stroll to your local dollar store and notice that the merchants have already placed, for sale, baubles and items of all types; mugs, shirts, even socks, all proudly wearing the maple leaf in our distinctive red and white. Yay Canada and our so-non-populist-buffoon-leader ways! For me, though, trust and respect for the political leadership in Ottawa is at an all-time low.
And I lived through Brian Mulrooney AND Stephen Harper’s “Ottawa knows best” administrations. Good lord.
I am so very disappointed. In October 2015 when I joined the wave of those who were thoroughly pissed with the Conservatives and their seeming indifference towards all things east coast, cast my ballot accordingly, and awoke to the news of a Liberal majority I earnestly believed there was some cause for hope. Sure, the Liberal economic platform was shaky at best and the funk, both social and economic, that the previous administration had left us in was not one that could easily be escaped from but, by Da Dynes, it did seem like we’d turned some sort of a corner. The lineup of those we’d elected was so impressive: doctors, a war hero, scientists, economist even (and I’m taking this from something I saw online a year ago) “a @!&$#@& Astronaut!” — reason for hope.
Richard Gillett. I learned of him a few years back when he was first featured on Cold Water Cowboys; a brash, burly larger-than-life fish harvesting captain out of Twillingate. Rough, tough and very determined; the type of person that Ted Russell would write recitations about if he was still around to do it. The type of person Ron Hynes would sing of if he, too, was still around.
Not just determined, but principled too, and totally rotted with the current state of fisheries management, so much that around two weeks back he resolved to do something about it. He brought a cot, some plastic & such, and set up shop just outside the DFO in St. John’s—a hunger strike. He’s been joined, on and off, by supporters, some who even staged a protest on-site last Friday, slowing the egress of the workers heading home for the weekend. At least that got some news coverage.
Now what, you might ask, has been the result? What, indeed has been the response from that fine socially and environmentally conscious group of leaders in Ottawa in response to the one who most assuredly speaks right from the minds, mouths and hearts of the many, many NL’r’s who know all too well just what a struggle it’s always been to wrest a living from this cold unforgiving place we, for whatever reason, so dearly love? Just what has been the response from that finely tuned group of leaders in whom we have placed our trust and, more importantly, our hope?
A $@&%# phone call from the Minister of Fisheries offering a vague suggestion of a meeting a few weeks down the road, that’s what. Oh, and that the Minister of Fisheries was put out because the DFO employees were having trouble getting to work.
So what is it that Mr. Gillett has been asking for? Just what unreasonable demands were being put forward that required the standard negotiating tactic of stalling and testing resolve? Is he looking for unfettered access to the fish stocks? Does he want his taxes dropped to zero? A handout of cash, perhaps?
No, he wants the science behind fisheries management reviewed and he wants the relationship between the Federal Department of Fisheries and the current Fisheries union investigated.
Honest to God, as I type this, I’m just shaking my head from side-to-side, thinking, “he should not have to even ask for that!” Science is, by nature, tentative, which means that any conclusions reached should be considered as the best we can come up with the data and methods we used. As such they should always be open for question; always up for review and, yes, always questioned. It’s only in the light of bitter, passionate, opposition that the best truths will ever emerge. The back-checks and reviews should be a part of the whole process anyway! As for the relationship between the Ministry and the Union, perhaps, in light of the protestations of the many fish harvesters who have expressed concerns, what’s wrong with taking a deeper look? For the average rank-and-file harvester absolutely no harm can come from it. The worst possible outcome is status quo, after all.
Tomorrow, I’ve been told, that Mr. Gillett will be joined by those who share his concerns. For my part, I imagine I will just make my way quietly to work, as always. I, too have a mound of debt to deal with and bills to pay so absence from work is not much of an option. I know though that it will be with a sense of guilt and not standing up for what’s right and for just letting another mother and father’s child do the job that I lack the resolve to do myself.
My thoughts won’t be far from that brave, tough, NL’r though and I wish him strength for the fight ahead. Perhaps you should too.