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A British Columbian

BC FlagHere I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

I concede that Martin Luther’s words in 1521 at the Diet of Worms were far more important than my borrowing them here but when I decided to write this, they were on my mind. I hope you and Luther will forgive my trespass.

I take the unusual step of publishing this on my website rather than first on Common Sense Canadian. My expressed viewpoint is radical in the true sense of that word so my friend and colleague Damien Gillis, who publishes CSC, should not feel under the slightest personal pressure to publish it.

I find I no longer come close to sharing the values Canada now stands for – I’m not talking about opinions but a philosophy of life, a set of basic values.

As a core value, I value the environment above the desire of bankers and developers to make money and bought and paid for politicians to support them. I accept the need for societal sustenance but do not accept plunder in the name of progress.

The flashpoint is the Trudeau supported revival of the Alberta Tar Sands and the Prime Minister compelling BC to sacrifice both principle and its environment to the transport and sale of Tar Sands product to places that will be under no constraints as to its use. I believe Canada must accept responsibility for safeguarding water, land and air in places it exports products and services. I cannot be loyal ro a country that has no such values.

By way of a quick background for those who don’t know me, I was born in Vancouver on December 31, 1931, received all my schooling here, including an LL.B from UBC in 1956. I was granted an LL.D (honoris causa) by SFU in 2009.

My career has mainly been in four areas, often overlapping – law, politics, broadcasting, and writing. I have acquired some special expertise in constitutional matters mainly but not exclusively Canadian. With the exception of five months in 1956 spent in Edmonton, I’ve spent my entire life in British Columbia living in the greater Vancouver area (Richmond, North Vancouver, Lions Bay, Vancouver itself) Kamloops, and Victoria.

I am 6th generation Canadian on my Mother’s side, my father was born in New Zealand. I’m of Anglo Scottish heritage and the Anglican faith. My politics are centre/left. My interests, reduced by health problems, are writing, reading with my interests in history and politics, in music Classical and Standard Jazz. My favourite active sports in the past were flyfishing, golf and squash and to watching, baseball and my favourite team the Brooklyn cum Los Angeles Dodgers.

I have long felt more British Columbian than Canadian. When BC Minister for constitutional affairs working on amending the BNA Act to become the Constitution, I observed the perpetual second class treatment of BC and saw how no one cared that the Senate was an ongoing, deliberate putdown of my province, observed its woeful lack of representation on federal boards and commissions, lack of BC prime ministers and utter absence oF BC Governors-General, the disgraceful Prussian arrogant treatment of BC’s fishery by the federal government, the unthinking and uncaring expectation that in the 1970 FLQ crisis that it was fine to put BC, which wasn’t involved under martial law (no one would surely suggest that a murder and a kidnapping in BC by BC separatists, would have resulted in Ontario and Quebec being placed on martial law). The put downs seemed endless and started early.

My generation grew up learning that Canadian explorers were Cartier and Champlain, Indians were Iroquois, Algonquin and Huron, and some limey, Sir Isaac Brock was a Canadian hero. I learned about Captains Cook and Vancouver, Quadra and Russian settlements in British History in a private school and about Simon Fraser and David Thompson at UBC. I didn’t read a decent history of BC until from Dr. Walter Sage and Dr. Margaret Ormsby in secohd year UBC and the real history of the land of my birth until I was nearly 70 and interviewed Dr. Jean Barman on her classic, The West Beyond The West. I doubt one in 100 kids of my vintage could name the first BC premier or the rich Victoria merchants, without a suggestion of public support, who sold us out to Ottawa for a mess of potage and a railway to help Ontario grab our resources cheap.

Let me tell you an instructive anecdote about my time as Constitution Minister. I was horrified at the attitude of Ontario and the Feds against BC. (Quebec marched to its own drummer but still more an ally than any other except Saskatchewan). Their ignorance and overwhelming indifference was palpable. I attended a high-powered constitutional conference in 1979 held by the University of Toronto and there was a huge wooden bas-relief map of Canada on the wall. When it was my turn to speak, I asked the distinguished Chairman what had happened to the Queen Charlotte Islands? This was before Haida Gwaii became the accepted name. No one paid attention save those who joked, and in some anger I pointed out that the little oversight was just under twice as big as Prince Edward Island. It was seen as childish petulance over a matter of no importance.

We were seen as childish pests when we said “Surely as we’re cleaning up and modernizing the BNA Act we can fix the Senate and make it fair!” Naturally no one wanted to see fair play for BC. Hell, they were enough of a bloody nuisance as it was.

The real reason I want BC out is a question of principles, or values, if you prefer. I’m not talking about political issues but basic tenets of belief.

The Meech Lake/Charlottetown Accords disclosed a basic gap between the Central Canadian elite – the people the late Denny Boyd called “Higher Purpose Persons (HPPs)”, who know best, – and those ignorant idiots in BC who refused to accept special powers for one province.

After Elijah Harper killed Meech Lake, BC said next time it won’t be the premiers deciding but the people in referendum and thus it was that The Charlottetown referendum was held and 67.9% of British Columbians said “we’ve had enough of your patronizing crap – get stuffed!”

Then Justin Trudeau decided, cross my heart, hope to die, to give Canadians a better voting system. To do it democratically, we’ll hold cozy neighbourhood meetings around the Country, then the House of Commons will meet, and the Liberal Party will cram through a reformed First Past The Post with a preferential ballot and presto! by an amazing coincidence, The Liberals will have its way and should carry Central Canada forevermore.

HPPs said there mustn’t be a referendum because, er, the people can’t understand these complicared issues and remember what happened when they voted on Charlottetown! In fact the HPPs were right for the wrong reason. Trudeau understood it was a Liberal Party Permanent Election formula he was after and wasn’t going to let those troublemakers in BC spoil it all for the elite, the HPPS as they did with Charlottetown in 1992. It was safer to break your word and lay low.

While I don’t pretend for a moment to speak for British Columbians my educated guess is that many of your values on the use of the environment differ radically from the Trudeau “values”. That’s not important though, for even if no one agreed with my values, I must do what I believe is right.

Here are some of my values:

I am an environmentalist. When we lose our environment, be it the extinction of a species we’ve never heard of, a valley sustained by its fauna, flora and water or a run of herring it is a huge tragedy. That list, as you know, is endless. Reading reports from Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd breaks the heart.

Does that mean that I oppose all industry and development?

That’s a pretty silly question. We have to work, eat and survive. But to the Canada exemplified by Trudeau, development, without more than cynical word service for the values I care about, trumps everything. Bear in mind throughout the balance of what I have to say that the Precautionary Principle is the law of Canada.

Definition – The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action.

Start with fish farms. Recently disease spreading from farms to wild salmon was scientifically demonstrated yet another time. The evidence of assaults on our wild salmon by sea lice from fish farms and disease from farmed fish, not to mention damage to other sea life and to the ocean floor, has piled up for 15+ years, is overwhelming yet, in as few words as possible, what was Fisheries Minister and DFO answer to the plethora of evidence generally and to the latest report? “BC, GO FUCK YOURSELVES!”

Forgive my language but when I look at the work Alexandra Morton has done, the long underfunded battle of First Nations, the impact of this fascist government on commercial fishermen and, yes, sports fishermen, going back to Confederation that’s the only way I can translate the Federal Government’s attitude of sacrificing our precious resources to a large Norwegian despoiler of nature..

Does this offend your basic set of values? It certainly does mine!

LNG (liquified natural gas) in the atmosphere is the worst of all fossil fuels, worse than coal or oil, as a contributor to Climate Change. In the case of the proposed refinery at Squamish there is the substantial added danger from pollutants into Howe Sound on all marine life including salmon and herring and by all standards, international and even Industry, Howe Sound is too narrow by far for LNG tanker traffic. Yes, you read that right, even The Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) says Howe Sound is too narrow for LNG TANKERS! To which the Trudeau government says “tell that to someone who cares!”

The only Environmental assessment done, which was about as close to fair as an old Soviet Show Trial was, has been admitted to be unsatisfactory by the Trudeau Liberals and the critical issue of the width of Howe Sound has never been assessed. The public has never been consulted.

Does this offend your basic set of values? It certainly does mine!

The Alberta Tar Sands, the world’s biggest natural polluter, producers a tar like substance artificially liquefied, which if spilled, especially on water, is virtually impossible to clean up as it usually sinks too quickly to be dealt with, a spill defined as minor into the Kalamazoo River, in Michigan, in 2010, has not yet been cleaned up and probably never will be. The federal government has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline to bring this from the Tar Sands through BC to Burrard Inlet (Vancouver Harbour) them taken by tankers across the Salish Sea, through or near the Gulf Islands through the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the Ocean.

The company claims this will “only” add 400 tankers a year but as the Duke of Wellington said to a man on a London street who hailed him ‘Mr. Robinson, I believe’, “Sir, If you believe that, you’ll believe anything!”

Spills are inevitable. So are tanker collisions and serious ones. Great damage will be done to our precious sea life, lives will be lost. And for what?

Does this offend your basic set of values? It certainly does mine!

I mostly leave aside Site C, perhaps the most monstrous of them all, because we have the opportunity on May 9 to rid ourselves of this massive destruction of farmland and desecration of First Nations Heritage in order to build a dam to provide power we don’t need to customers we don’t have just to satisfy the Campbell/Clark Fraser Institute Inspired mad philosophy.

A final word. Many things make up a nation but in my view shared values outrank all the rest combined. These aren’t political quarrels I have with Canada, though I have lots of them. No, these are fundamental values I can’t live without and Justin Trudeau can’t live with. None of these values destroy industry but put it, and what we are deeply committed to in British Columbia, on a level playing field where he who would impact the very essence of our homeland has the onus of proving he will do no harm or none which we whose home it is will not accept.

British Columbia, my home, has been pushed around the 85+ years I have lived, worked, served, loved and, yes, loafed in her. To be called a bad Canadian because I want to protect her wild life and their habitat and don’t want to assist uncaring capitalists and their captive governments to spread ruin here and elsewhere has finally become too much.

I hope you understand but that’s irrelevant, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

May God bless Cascadia, a land of values.

27 Responses to “A British Columbian”

  1. Gavin Bamber says:

    While I disagree with Mr. Mair, here and there, he has a principle that is indivisible from a truth shouted from the roof.

  2. Frank Siegrist says:

    Thank you Rafe, for articulating what so many of us have felt for varying amounts of time. As someone BC born and raised (with 6 years in Winnipeg due to some mental aberration of my father’s) I’ve felt many of the concerns and worries you mention above and had also come to the conclusion that separation is the only way to improve conditions for BC.

    I also would like to take the opportunity to thank you for the many years of enjoyment listening to you on the radio and reading your comments.

  3. Maureen Bodie says:

    Well said, Rafe.
    Thank you for putting fingers on keyboard yet again and saying so eloquently what many of us are thinking.

  4. Jennifer kerr says:

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou for this eloquent piece. Sometimes it is hard to keep your confidence when you’re considered just a flakey hippy. Or st least have flakey hippy values.
    This piece is really helpful.
    Fight on!

  5. Shirley McBride says:

    This piece lays out so well the total lack of understanding of successive Federal governments. Maybe BC should hold a referendum on separation? At least we would have more control over our destiny, or at least wake up the eastern poitical elite.

  6. David says:

    Your writing is a gift I cherish….and I’ll make damn sure I share it.

  7. Jeremy Arney says:

    Rafe,
    As usual I appreciate what you have to say and the way you say it. Though I am part of a federal political party, I too have been thinking and even promoting provincially that it is time for BC to say enough is enough, and leave confederation. Confederation has done little for us but has taken a lot, and to leave (or start the leaving process) in the 150th year would be a strong gesture to the rest of Canada that the dream that was Canada is dead. Corporate laws have turned us into artifical people which should just pay their taxes and shut up; they have stripped our real first inhabitants of their rights and turned most of their homes into less than 3rd world environments (yes a few, a very few have managed to better themselves) but their values have no meaning to the corporate powers from overseas who now completely control Canada for profit, potential and actual.

    I came to Canada 50 years ago this April and have witnessed the construction and then the destruction of BC as a wonderful place for all Canadians, at the same time I have seen the indifference grow among Canadians generally because they are not listened to and do not seem to understand that they hold the cure for that.

    Rant on Rafe, your well thought out and passionate rants are resounding with many of us.

  8. Peter Kent says:

    Thank you my old friend for telling the truth at a time when being ” politically correct” is silencing the Vox populi. We need indignation. We need anger. We need fight. We need to take back our country.

  9. I believe Christy Clark’s purpose re Cite C is so she can award extremely lucrative contracts to her friends. It will be the largest pork barrelling scheme Canada has seen.

  10. Rafe says:

    Thank you all for you heartwarming – and heartening – support.

    For Stephanie – on Premier Photo-op’s track record you can be sure that them’s what’s paid their dues at friendly little dinners will find themselves suitably blessed, sort of though not quite, like Brad Bennett (forgive me Bill!). I, like you I’m sure, intend to do everything possible to get them both off the public tit. This is one corrupt government utterly without scruples – just think what we’ll save in trips to China and photographer bills when we send Christy back to University … do you suppose that might be in Kelowna?

  11. Michael Hill says:

    Thank you for writing your letter Rafe.
    I am an adoptive son of BC arriving in 1976 and for years have wondered aghast at how Beautiful BC has been auctioned off to what ever big money has showed up. It really is time to put the brakes on so that what is left can still be saved.
    I work in construction and the rules are getting more stringent every year about what kind of hazardous material we can install in a building. It will all be good in the long run then….piping a million barrels a day of one of the most toxic substances on earth through the countryside, agricultural land, river valleys, large communities to a massive tank farm that is a serious threat to the surrounding communities including Simon Frasier University is shear insanity. Then they are putting in poorly regulated international tankers that likely are owned by a numbered company with inadequate insurance, maintenance or operation. Over life of the pipeline the chance of a major spill approaches 100%. Another level of insanity. How on earth can our Premier even mouth the words that it is safe. There is not even a method developed to be able to clean up a spill. That is truly criminal.
    Thanks again
    Michael Hill

  12. Jill Kennedy McCabe says:

    Thank you for this. Yes. Yes to all of it. I have lived half my life in B.C. and (the first half) in Toronto. You capture well the attitude toward B.C. And while I will always love the place of my birth, I am fierce about protecting B.C. from predatory capitalism. My children and grandchild grew up here and I have come to love my adopted home with a deep and enduring gratitude.

    So, with you: “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

  13. Ken Dresen says:

    Aside from your age, education and expertise, we share a great deal of experience and history. I am a British Columbian, and in a nutshell, this is what I’ve felt in my gut my entire life. Thank you for putting it, so well, into words.

  14. I add my thanks to the others here. Your political commentary is as wise and clear headed as any in the province, including the output of the captured crowd in the Legislative Press Gallery. George Orr’s documentary TALK! shows how important news gathering and political conversations once were in British Columbia. Instead of voices like yours and others who followed Webster’s path, now the voices heard are those shilling for corporations or politicians who hold both power and the public purse, which they use to dispense rewards to loyal soldiers masquerading as journalists.

  15. Rafe says:

    To Michael Hill. British Columbia is famous for and very grateful to its zealous converts. You know better than most what we’ll miss if we let it go and you have, thank God, the guts to say so. Bless you.

    Another very sobering thought for all.

    If Trudeau, with Premier PhotoOp yapping at his side like a love starred puppy, get their way with Woodfibre LNG and the quasi criminal Kinder Morgan, does anyone for a second think that this will be the end of the outrages? That, fellow British Columbians, sure as hell isn’t what history teaches us. We simply can never let up with these bastards! Never!

  16. Doug Alder says:

    Thank you Rafe. At 67 I have lived all of my life in BC and while I have not always agreed with you (never liked the Socreds) I have great respect for your integrity and love of BC. For me, my real awareness of the east and their disdain for the west clarified when PET gave us the finger from the back of that railroad car in Salmon Arm in 1982. Well the apple didn’t fall far from the tree did it now. The Kinder Morgan decision was Justin giving us the finger.

    Born and raised here , I’ve worked from Haida Gwaii to Vancouver to the West Kootenays. My love is for BC and I have few feelings for the rest of Canada. I’d love to see Northern California, Oregon, Washington and BC form a country of our own – Cascadia.

  17. Brad Carpenter says:

    Great article Rafe!
    If Cascadia ever becomes a nation, you will be remembered as one if its founding fathers.

  18. Chris Green says:

    Rafe, you are a great British Columbian, even for a former Socred Cabinet Minister (as a lifelong NDP partisan descended from partisans of the Nanaimo Labour Party pre-CCF, it has been a long struggle to forgive you for that, to be honest).

    BC is seen by what was described at the Laurentian elite (from the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal axis) as some kind of third rate colony that needs to be led by the nose and conform with decisions made 4800 km from here, in the name of the “national interest”. We always need strong governments willing to stand up for our society, and willing to demand renegotiation of the Terms of Union (with abrogation always being a possibility in my mind, although the common law on secession, Western Australia and Rhodesia being the test cases, says otherwise) and secede if necessary. Decisions about British Columbia need to be made in British Columbia.

    In any case, best wishes to you and yours, sir. Keep up the fight for BC.

  19. Gordon Adams says:

    Thank You Rafe, I agree with you that it is time to leave Canada & to form our own Nation that will follow through on what is best for British Columbia first & foremost. We have to long been controlled by the East it is time for us to go our own way & care for ourselves & our Province.
    Keep up he good fight, as we need people of your stature to move this along. B.C. Has to be our first priority.

  20. Raymond Comeau says:

    Mr. Mair I agree with the eloquent presentation you have given us. And I am honoured to be among the supporters who have agreed with your views . I too love BC and will never forget the vacation I had with my 3 children, Lynn , Phillip , And Deborah ( an tiny kitten named Beaster). We were living in Edmonton at the time, and drove to Dawson Creek then down through BC. It was beautiful. We camped and drove in a 1984 Honda wagon .

    I too agree with your beliefs about Justin Trudeau. He is a corporate whore ! If he is not defeated in the next election, Canada will be worse off than the USA with Donald Trump.

    My heritage is being born an Acadian , after my ancestors were plundered, killed and expelled from Nova Scotia. So Acadians have a history of Government deception.

    I have voted against Liberals and Conservatives all of my life.

    Mr. Mair, you are a gift to Canada, and I will follow your wisdom from this day forward. You are one of Canada’s treasures !

    Ray

  21. Troy says:

    We know our country has a fierce globalization/corporate agenda that has nothing to do with serving and protecting the average Canadian. However, this is not new, oligarchs have controlled our doings in one way or another for centuries, the difference today is they dont even feel compelled to hide their true ambitions.

  22. Dave Filgate says:

    Well said Sir.
    Like you, I’ve felt for a very long time that BC is getting the shaft from the rest of Canada.
    It is now time for us to strike out on our own.
    Liberation for BC is necessary and needs to come soon.

  23. Mary .Ladell says:

    Great read – thank you! Raw log exports are sucking BC dry too. Cascadia could be an oasis where we grow enough fruit and veg and fish and meat to trade with our neighbours in Canada!

  24. Angela Squires says:

    Thank you Rafe for putting so eloquently what many British Columbians think and feel. Like you I was stunned when JT ignored our values and approved KM. I stand with you, shared values are what make a country. I’m an immigrant from England who’s lived in BC since 1976 and am passionate about our gloriously beautiful province. We have to succede if that’s the only way we’ll preserve our environment. The Alberta Tar Sands are the largest global polluter including extraction, transport and end use pollution. Nobody’s mentioned the fuel used by tankers crossing half the world or the danger to unregulated and understaffed crews.
    Cascadia makes sense geographically and WA, OR and Northern CA share our values too. I recall the concessions Quebec obtained when they threatened succession. It shouldn’t be that way but we also need our planet, there is no Planet B. Canada cannot fulfill its Paris commitments by exporting the Tar Sands. We need value added industry, not exporting our raw resources to pollute elsewhere and return eventually on the wind to smog up BC!

  25. Hey Rafe, from kemano completion to Abel danger

  26. Well well. I saw this piece right after reading a news item about California, Washington and Oregon turning their backs on the Trump agenda. The word Cascadia popped into my mind and here you are. I am very fond of Canada, my adopted home since 1969, but if I had to pick B.C would come first.
    After a brief start in Calgary a job for the geologist husband took us to the West Kootenays. We fell in love with the place and B.C. has been home ever since. I love your current stance, but speaking about environmental destruction, have you been to the Arrow Lakes lately? The Socreds did their share.

  27. Michael Irwin says:

    You caught me off-guard, Rafe. I’m 80, was born in BC and have lived here all but 2 years of my life. You are right!!

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