Category Archives: Canada

An interview with author and poet Ian Williams

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Ian Williams at a coffee shop on Main, Vancouver in May 2019 (Photo: Alison Bate)

In his debut novel Reproduction, Vancouver-based poet and author Ian Williams tells the story of Felicia, a teenager and immigrant from an unnamed island.

“I not from anywhere,’ she tells Edgar, an older white guy from a wealthy German family. They meet in hospital where their mothers are seriously ill and their lives become intertwined over the generations.

Williams explores non-traditional family arrangements, racism and male entitlement in Reproduction, published by Random House Canada.

I met up with Williams in a cafe on Main Street, Vancouver recently and my Q. and A. interview is now online at Cascadia Magazine.

My Site C and Peace River story published

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Yvonne Tupper from Saulteau First Nation in front of beaver dam at Moberly Lake (Photo: Alison Bate)

My feature Fighting for Peace Valley is now online at  Cascadia Magazine.

In August 2018, I visited the Peace Region in northeastern B.C. with two friends and talked to long-time residents fighting against the controversial Site C dam project. These included Yvonne Tupper from Saulteau First Nations, farmers Arlene and Ken Boon, and horse breeder Esther Pedersen.

“I want all this industry to slow down and let the land heal. Then the people can heal and know they matter,” said Yvonne Tupper.

I also spoke with West Moberly chief Roland Willson, dropped in on the court case in Vancouver to hear B.C. Hydro’s arguments and finally, visited the dam site itself.

Read the feature, with some great photos by Jennifer O’Keeffe, at  Cascadia Magazine.

Gabriola Pass without an engine

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Sailing Pelegrin in the Gulf Islands (Pix: Alison Bate)

“You won’t get any thanks for this, you realize?”

My brother-in-law John is talking to Mickey, a Gabriola Island buddy with a 35-foot sailboat and the willingness to tow us home.

“Not the damsels-in-distress routine, you mean?”

“God, no, that’s not going to work. Won’t go over at all well.”

Sailing in Pelegrin in the Gulf Islands

Sailing in Pelegrin in the Gulf Islands, B.C., Canada (Pix: Alison Bate)

Gill and I are on her veteran Martin 29 sailboat, with a dead engine and limping in light to zero winds back to Degnen Bay after four nights in the Gulf Islands in Canada.

The rusty but usually reliable Volvo engine, circa 1974, had a couple of starting hiccups before we set sail. But nothing that Gill – my twin sister – didn’t think a good engine run wouldn’t solve.

The first day, we beat south on “Pelegrin” from Gabriola to Prevost, a quiet island opposite Saltspring.  A steady five-knot SE kept us sailing and happy all day, before dropping anchor in Glenthorne Passage around 7pm. The biggest decision of the day? How much carrot cake to eat.

Our engine woes began the second day. Continue reading

Bitmakaly helps immigrant women

My Sudanese friend Lubna Abdelrahman is a very enterprising lady.

In the last 18 months, she has set up an organisation to help immigrant women and their families and is also busy writing articles for and promoting the new Alqalam Arabic newspaper in the Vancouver area.

Lubna Abdelrahman speaking at Edmonds School, Burnaby, BC (Pix by Richard Greenwood)

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Kathy Corrigan, MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake (Pix by Richard Greenwood)

Her new outfit, Bitmakaly Women’s Association, hosted a community fair at Edmonds Community School on Feb.25.

One of the guest speakers, Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan, told the audience that even though Canadians believed in equality, Canadian women still only made two-thirds the money that men did.

As a result, it was even more important to encourage immigrant women and their families and help them settle into their new country effectively, she added.

Lubna described new workshops she is setting up to help women with a Middle Eastern, Sudanese or Somalian background set up new businesses and learn more about financial institutions in Canada.

“I know it’s very hard. Most new businesses don’t know how to sell their products. You are not alone. We will try to help you,” she said.

Lubna worked for the Ministry of Health for UNICEF in Sudan before moving to Burnaby, B.C. with her husband more than 10 years ago.

Since then, she has worked as an outreach worker, community health worker, program coordinator, translator and hosted numerous workshops. She is also kept busy raising two young daughters.

Bitmakaly Women’s Association (also known as Bitmakaly Women’s Empowerment Organization) can also be contacted on 778-919-1208 or via their Facebook site.

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The monster of Kitimaat and other tales at Enbridge hearing

Everybody loves a good storyteller and I’m no exception.

Last week, I listened to some of the live streaming of the Enbridge hearings from Kitimaat, the First Nations village a few clicks outside the company town of Kitimat in northwest B.C.

It was the tail end of the first day and the Haisla’s Chief Councillor, Ellis Ross, was telling how Kitimaat was founded and the stories of betrayal over the years.

Now I’ve been to nearby Kitimat, and my memories are of a blue-collar town dominated by the blazing hot furnaces inside Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan);  the Eurocan Pulp and Paper mill spewing God knows what (now closed); and touring around Methanex  (also closed).  To be honest, I never even saw the native Indian village, on the east side of the Douglas Channel.

I’ve always known Kitimat and nearby Prince Rupert as shippers of the “dangerous and the dirty”.  If Enbridge has its way, shipping bitumen and condensate through the long fiords embracing the Northwest Coast will continue that tradition, managing to combine the  worst of both worlds: the dangerous (for the environment) and the dirty (heavy oil).

But Chief Ellis Ross and other members of the Haisla Nation took us back eloquently to the time before the “dangerous and the dirty”, before pollution wiped out the eulachon runs and when whales chased herring all the way up the Douglas Channel.

Continue reading

Three thoughts about the Vancouver riot

June 22, 2011

I was working the evening shift at The Vancouver Sun the night the first hockey riot broke out.

Depressed about the Canucks losing, we’d just about finished laying out the front page and “put the paper to bed”. Then news came in that a mob was forming at Robson and Thurlow, with drunken fans climbing lampposts and breaking windows.

It was June 14, 1994, and as assistant design editor, I was responsible for laying out the front page and selecting and editing the pictures the photographers brought back. We were still using negatives, then, of course, peering over them carefully with a loupe, selecting the sharpest and the best.

As the night wore on, we stripped apart the front page and inside pages to add more and more dramatic photos of the rioters and the riot police. We worked flat out until 1:30 a.m., doing a triple chaser for the paper.

Media photographers and broadcasters were really the only ones at the riot scene in 1994 and our negatives showed people climbing lampposts, wrecking and looting stores, and assaulting police officers.

That night, we didn’t really have time to analyze the reasons for the riot, or even the consequences of having captured evidence of people committing crimes.

But the next day, I remember how protective we felt about the negatives, and how we even considered hiding them. In our department, we didn’t want to hand them over to the police. We were worried that it would turn our photographers into targets for criminals in the future and also wanted to protect the civil liberties of those photographed, even those committing crimes. That time, the riot police seemed to have charged in aggressively, as well, and we didn’t quite trust the police not to massage their own role in the riot. Continue reading

Enbridge releases tanker plans for Kitimat

Better late than never, I’ve been plugging my way through the marine side of Enbridge’s application to bring supertankers into B.C.’s northwestern waters.

Last weekend, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw Enbridge’s huge advert in The Vancouver Sun claiming its Northern Gateway project would make “B.C.’s North Coast safer for all vessels”.

The company must be cursing the timing of the terrible oil spill now reaching the shores of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

Enbridge’s proposal doesn’t involve an oil rig, but the spill demonstrates yet again what oil response experts have always said: once the oil is in the water, you’re hooped.

Anyway, this weekend I downloaded Volume 8A of Enbridge’s proposal to the National Energy Board – the volume dealing with marine transportation.

A lot of the info is simply background filler, and despite being 152 pages long, details are very sketchy.

For example, talking about the type of tankers to be used, Enbridge’s report notes: “At this stage of the project, there is limited information regarding marketing plans, trade routes, or details of potential charterers or their tankers and, as a result, specific plans or technical documents of the design ships cannot be provided.”

However, here are some the key parts of the plan, as described in the report.

How much extra traffic?

About 220 vessels per year would travel through Douglas Channel, an increase of 86 per cent compared to current traffic to Kitimat. At Wright Sound, the project-related tankers would cause a 13 per cent increase in reporting traffic. And at the Prince Rupert MCTS station, project-related tankers would cause an increase of 3 per cent for the total reporting traffic.

What route would the tankers take?

The tankers would use one of three main routes:

1. The Northern Approach (for tankers arriving from or departing to Asian ports). 158 nautical miles. Via Haida Gwaii through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Browning Entrance, Principe Channel, Nepean Sound, Otter Channel, Squally Channel, Lewis Passage, Wright Sound and Douglas Channel.

2. The Southern Approach (Direct) (for tankers arriving from or departing to west coast ports south of Kitimat) 98 naut. miles. Via Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait, Caamaño Sound, Campania Sound, Squally Channel, Lewis Passage, Wright Sound and Douglas Channel.

3. The Southern Approach (via Principe Channel), (in weather conditions where Caamaño Sound cannot be used) 133 naut. miles. This route goes via Hecate Strait, Browning Entrance, Principe Channel, Nepean Sound, Otter Channel, Squally Channel, Lewis Passage, Wright Sound and Douglas Channel.

What kind of tankers would be used?

Tankers calling at the Kitimat Terminal would, most likely, be chartered. They would all be double-hulled, due to international regulations requiring all tankers in international trade to be double hulled by 2010.

Most likely, Aframax or Suezmax tankers would carry condensate and the larger VLCC (supertankers) and Suezmax tankers would carry export oil cargo.

Pilots, escort and harbor tugs

Local pilots would board and assist all incoming and outgoing tankers. During good weather and in daylight, helicopters might be used to lower pilots onto the tanker.

A close escort tug would be used for all laden and ballasted (empty) tankers, beginning at the pilot boarding stations (Triple Island and proposed sites in Browning Passage and Caamaño Sound) to and from the marine terminal. The close escort tug would normally be positioned approximately 500 metres astern of the tanker, or as directed by the shipmaster or pilot during transit.

* A tethered tug, in addition to a close escort tug, would be used for all laden tankers in the Confined Channel Assessment Area (CCAA). The tug would be tethered to the stern of the laden tanker at all times, ready to assist with steering or slowing down.

* Three or four tugs for berthing and two or three tugs for unberthing the tanker. One of these tugs could also provide escort services.

Rescue tugs

At least one of the escort tugs would be equipped to provide ocean rescue capability and would be available to any ship in distress along the north coast of British Columbia.

Tanker speed

Average tanker speeds close to shore would be 8 to 12 knots: eight to 10 knots in confined areas and 10 to 12 knots in straight channel areas such as Principe Channel and Douglas Channel.

Navigation aids

Radar would be installed along important sections of the Northern and Southern Approaches to monitor all marine traffic and provide additional guidance to pilots and other vessels in the area.

(Posted: June 8, 2010 by Alison Bate)
RELATED:
* What if a tanker heading for Kitimat hit another vessel?
* Enbridge’s marine safety plans
* Emergency prevention, preparedness and response – report by Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel

New blog for Bowen Island writing festival

I’ve just set up a new blog for the Write On Bowen festival. I’m on the board and also interviewed a couple of the presenters last week.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen runs six blogs and plays around a lot with different ads on her sites. “It takes a long time to earn money from a blog but it’s easy because it’s so much fun to put on different ads and experiment with what works,” she says.

Sylvia Taylor, executive director of the Federation of BC Writers, helps writers with their manuscripts and told me: “My authors all give me different nicknames: one calls me ‘The Literary Midwife’ and another calls me ‘Metaphora Editrix.’ ”.

Fight over Arctic shipping routes

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The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy mapping together in the Arctic (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Patrick Kelley)

By Alison Bate

In September 2009, two German heavylift ships dropped anchor at Novyy Port after a historic trip, transiting the legendary Northeast Passage over the top of Russia.

After discharging 44 cargo modules in the Siberian outpost, the MV “Beluga Fraternity” and “Beluga Foresight” sailed on toward Rotterdam with the remaining 3,500 tons of construction materials.

The ships left Ulsan, South Korea  on July 23 and 28 respectively, and although accompanied by Russian icebreakers for part of the journey, only met small ice bergs, ice fields and ice floes on what used to be an impenetrable route.

Traditionally, these ships would have traveled from Korea through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean and finally the Atlantic –  roughly 3,000 nautical miles longer than using the Northeast Passage or so-called Northern Sea Route.

As commercial trips like these become more common – due to global warming – the world’s major players are jockeying for position to exploit the Arctic for their own interests.

Geopolitical, economic and environmental issues are all at stake, not to mention changes to the way of life of those living in the Arctic. The five Arctic nations include Canada, the U.S. (Alaska), Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland), but other countries such as China are also hovering nearby.

The Canadian Navy’s Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific discussed these thorny issues at the recent Association of Canadian Port Authorities conference in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Rear Admiral Tyrone Pile said that while Canada’s government has pledged to build more ships and increase its Arctic infrastructure, very little has actually happened. Meanwhile, Russia is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure to its Arctic ports as well as flexing military capability.

“We (Canadians) aspire to be an Arctic nation, but Russia is,” he said. “Why are we not paying attention to the Arctic?”

China is also engaged, renting space from Norway for a permanent ice weather station in the Arctic, sending research ships for the last eight years, and now developing icebreaker ships.

In the U.S., Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska is also concerned and has introduced a bill, the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Implementation Act of 2009, to improve shipping safety and include funding for navigational aides, vessel tracking, oil-spill response, search and rescue capabilities and ice-breaking escorts.

At the Prince Rupert conference, Pile showed pictures of the Arctic icecap in 2001 and 2007, noting that one-third of the ice had disappeared in just six years, Of the three possible shipping routes, the Northern Sea Route over Russia would be the first one to truly open up, he suggested.

The second route, through Canada’s Northwest Passage, opened up for the first time in 2007, but its potential is a bit of a red herring, according to Pile. “It’s difficult to get through; more like a backroad detour,” he said. The third route, the Trans-Polar, will be the last to open up.

Pile said the Arctic is also attracting attention because of its vast untapped amounts of oil, gas, gold, zinc, and other minerals. A U.S. Geological Survey report in 2008 estimated that the Arctic has about 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil; 30 per cent of the undiscovered natural gas; and 20 per cent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids. More fish are also likely to migrate north, due to global warming.

Pile didn’t discuss the legal issues, but ownership of the Arctic waters is hotly disputed, and a fascinating race against time is under way.

Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), each country controls resources up to 200 nautical miles offshore, but its territory can be expanded if it can prove that underwater ridges and rock formations are connected to its continental shelf.

Russia, Norway and Denmark have already made submissions, while Canada has until 2013 to submit its scientific data. The U.S. has not signed on to UNCLOS, but is working with Canada to locate the outer edge of the North American continental shelf.

For the second summer in a row, scientists on board the U.S. Coast Guard cutter “Healy” have been mapping the Arctic seafloor with their counterparts on board the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker “Louis S. St-Laurent”.

Despite working together, the two countries are at odds over who owns the Northwest Passage. Canada claims that the seasonal shipping lane is internal Canadian waters while the U.S. and others argue that it is an international strait. The U.S. and Canada also disagree on how the border should extend into the ocean between Alaska and the Yukon.

However, while some Canadians view the U.S. as a danger to their sovereignty, Pile doesn’t see it that way. “We will present our views, but we aren’t going to go to war over that,” he said in an interview. “It’s in both our interests to work together in the Arctic.”

Note: This article first appeared in Cargo Business News

My Olympic experience

Bags on seats at Cypress Mountain

Feb. 27, 2010

By Alison Bate

It’s Saturday morning and my sister Gill and I are hanging out over coffee in my little cottage, listening to the rain beating overhead and enjoying being dry again.

Yesterday we spent the day up Cypress Mountain watching the women’s snowboarding live at the Olympics.

Huge buses from California took us up the local mountain; all of us ready to sit in the rain, the fog and the wind for five hours. We waited in a plastic warming hut for a couple of hours, reading the papers and chatting with a Seattle couple, before climbing up endless stairs to the giant stand.

The whole day was like sailing in winter – revelling in getting cold and wet while having a great time. By the end of the day, instead of bums on seats, there were bags on seats: all of us in the stands wearing billowing see-through plastic bags over our clothes…not exactly a fashion statement.

The Europeans were the main stars in the parallel giant slalom (our event), and in the end, a Dutch woman came first, followed by a Russian, and an Austrian. The Dutch were standing on the benches cheering madly when she won.

It was all very exciting though, especially at the end, with the knockout stages. Canada had a couple of faint hopes, but I managed to be taking a pee break when the best Canadian hope had her run (as Gill kept pointing out afterward!).