Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Landfill Fire & Its Effects

Last night, my husband and I went to the Ward 13 town hall meeting held by Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart regarding the landfill fire 2 weeks ago. It appears she's been wanting to deal with the fall out and has been getting some push-back because of jurisdictional issues. I don't understand this. Yes, the fire was on Tsuu T'ina land, but my house which is in Calgary - in ward 13 - was filled with thick smoke for a long time.  There wasn't a thing I could do about it.

I live about a kilometre and a half from 37th street S.W. I woke up at 4:00 am, the morning of February 8th after dreaming my house was on fire - thinking all of a sudden, my house is on fire! After determining everything was okay, I thought a neighbours' house was on fire. Great, I still have to evacuate. No, that's not it. So, what is it? I even called a friend of mine in Parkland to find out if she was smelling this smoke and sure enough, she was. Good start; I'm not having a stroke.

It took me searching the Internet and making phone calls until after 10:00 am to find out what was going on and it was in one small paragraph, but at least I knew. What I didn't know was how long this was going to last. The only saving grace was my husband was downtown. I don't have any respiratory issues but my husband does. I called my dad that day and he thought I was sick, that's how much this “5/10, moderate air quality” advisory was affecting even me.

I found what the air quality scale means. Moderate is suppose to be “Consider rescheduling strenuous activities” for the population at risk.  Are you kidding me? When that smoke was at it's thickest, stairs caused me a problem. Why didn't the Tsuu T'ina call the Calgary Fire Department? The fire may have lasted only hours instead of days.

At the time, and even now, it appeared the band administrators didn't take this fire very seriously. They seemed quite dismissive about the whole thing. When it was finally confirmed, the band said it could burn for upwards of 48 hours and it started spontaneously. They said it was controlled, it was just underground and hard to put out. To me, they should have called in more help than they did as a number of communities were covered in thick smoke. I, like many others sealed up my house as best I could. My husband went to work smelling of smoke. If it had burned for any longer, he would have had to get a hotel room. It was very close as it was.

Tsuu T'ina quite often talk about wanting to be good neighbours and they want us to be good neighbours. This fire and how it was handled is not by any means neighbourly. It was not merely inconvenient. It was a serious health and environmental hazard. Many people had to take precautions just so they could breathe. When even I feel the dry-lung, hacking, weeziness, I get very concerned for those who even have the slightest respiratory problem.

In the Calgary Herald, it said today that no Tsuu T'ina member was invited to the meeting. To me, if they were concerned and wanted to deal with this issue, they would have just shown up. Why do they need an invite? On Alderman Colley-Urquhart's site, it does say join us to talk about the Tsuu T'ina Landfill fire. I feel that's an implicit invitation. A woman from the reserve did show up. She said she wasn't sent nor was she invited. She spoke a little about the landfill, how it's not reserve garbage, how it's used by the city for materials not permitted in municipal landfills and how we need to cooperate. I know what she's trying to say but to be honest it should have come from someone else.

From what I understand, the landfill is suppose to be a Class III landfill, inert items only. That is hard to believe because of the smell that was emanating from the fire. Not only that, people who have used the landfill said they have witnessed companies dumping hazardous chemicals into that landfill. I personally don't have names because there is no absolute evidence, no photographs. I'm only repeating what others have said. Maybe if enough people say this, Environment Canada will go in and test for hazardous materials. If there isn't any, my bad for spreading rumours; if there is, something can be done about illegal dumping into a class III landfill.

This landfill hasn’t been licensed for three years.  So with that, how would one stop any kind of illegal dumping since it is a class III landfill?  According to what I've read, it's currently unlicensed because of unresolved issues and fees owed. What's sad is, this isn't the only unlicensed on reserve landfill. There are many throughout Canada. My question then becomes, what can we do about that? If anyone else anywhere did this, it would be shut down, fines owed, clean up, court time and things I can't even think of. I'm tired of Aboriginals getting away with so much. I'm Inuvialuit so I have no problem saying that. I myself have moved into the 21st century at the beginning of the 21st century. Maybe others should too.

Some people at the meeting came up with some good ideas. Since most people around here are familiar with the oil and gas industry, they took ideas from that industry. An Emergency Response Plan (or ERP) is obviously required so why not take from ones that have been created for the most extreme cases. That would also mean that a different ERP would need to be created for each part of the city and for different circumstances. Why not? I think it would help to have something printed in the home for different cases.  Designing ERP’s for Calgarians is tax money better spent than on mandatory art projects or an Airport Tunnel to nowhere.

This is not the first time a fire has happened on the reserve, this won't be the last. We do need to be good neighbours but a lack of communication, finger pointing and screaming about the past is not the way to go about it. If the Tsuu T'ina would take responsibility for what happened and be honest about it, then we could move forward and try to prevent this in the future, together. Being adversarial is going to get us nowhere. Get over the “us versus them”, get over the “reserve versus the city” and fix the problem, the symptoms and start on solutions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thoughts for the Gun Control Crowd

Why are anti-gun lobbyists so violent. I realize I’m making a sweeping generalization. I know not all gun control lobbyists have this attitude, it appears however, a good deal are.

Often, when speaking with gun control lobbyists, or listening to them speak with others, they respond with such violent rhetoric. I've seen “I hope you shoot yourself” or “I hope you shoot your wife.” Why is that? For a group of people to purport to be non-violent or wish to stop violence, why would they even say something like that?

Violent thoughts such as these never enter my mind. I don't wish harm to anyone. I absolutely believe in self defence but that's completely different than wishing harm on a group of people with opposing views.

I was thinking if I knew where these thoughts stemmed from, I could understand these people. Then it occurs to me, do I want to understand someone who would wish me or anyone else to shoot myself or my spouse? To me, that is truly murderous rage. Would I feel safe or be safe in the same room with someone who would say things like this?

Here's something else that confuses me, I would probably get investigated for saying such things because I'm a gun owner. Why are these people not getting investigated? Why is saying such things in an open forum such as twitter not a reason to have these people committed for some kind of psychiatric evaluation? Who knows, maybe if the “Lawful Access Bill” goes through, they will be. (See how I worked that in?)

I don't know what it was like last year, I wasn't involved in these debates last year. I have only recently become involved in the firearms debate because of the Long Gun Registry issues. So, I wonder, when it was finally, definitively a non-issue and the gun control advocates lost this argument, is that when they felt justified in making such crass statements?

This appears to me to be a serious case of left wing versus right wing ideals. Left wing supporters are about government control over our lives and property, right wing supporters are about freedom. Are these people that wish violence and death on us threatened by a newly won freedom for law abiding Canadians? Is it that simple? Or are they just angry that they lost the argument?

Do the left wing supporters feel morally superior in saying these things? I understand that people feel safe and anonymous behind their screen and keyboard but every time someone on one side of an argument says something so vile, their side of the argument loses credibility.

I believe in safety, I believe in freedom, I believe in my rights as a Canadian. I would never wish deliberate harm on anyone for any reason. I hope that those with opposing views to my own realize that when they wish violence on others, they are speaking of real people. Debating and arguing is one thing, but vilifying and harmful intent is something completely different.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Canadian Problems Become Greek Problems

The Greek Austerity plan has been in the works for a few months. It was supposed to pass in December but the Prime Minister decided to put it to a vote. His country is broke to the point Greece could take down the EU, but he felt, for whatever reason, his citizens should have a choice. This caused a vote of no confidence that he barely won. Either way, it's finally passed. Now with the austerity plan, there are rules the Greek government must follow and the Greek citizens don't like so they decided to riot, hurt their own people and burn their own cities.

Greece is a part of the European Union, the Euro is their currency and this has been the case since 1999 so intellectually, I'm having a hard time with what's going on. I figured they joined so they'd be a part of the larger economic force, not try to bring it down.

Greece's unemployment is at 20%, many small businesses are bankrupt, and the economy has been shrinking year after year. The government hid a great deal of debt and their spending was out of control. From what I can see, an effort to control it and bring them to a position of an effective country again is not what the Greek people want.

I find the timing of this interesting. Calgary City Council has a serious overspending problem and the Alberta Budget was just released with the idea of increasing spending with money it hopes to get from the energy sector. Canada is at its very core a social democracy but looking at what's happening in other countries, ideals need to change.

The City of Calgary has no money through 2018 with projects approved in 2011. I don't think a city council should be permitted to go into debt beyond their term without some sort of approval process. With the latest approvals, the City of Calgary will be in debt for a decade or two. Some people argue that the council has the right to make multi-million dollar decisions on our behalf because they were elected in. What I would have liked was a plebiscite on some of the larger projects. There doesn't need to be a plebiscite on every issue but if the project is large enough to break the bank, I'd like a say. I believe a number of Calgarians feel the same way. Instead what's been happening is the Mayor and Aldermen have decided they know what's best for us and then raise taxes to meet their expectations.

Not only that, the Mayor talks about how the provincial government has no money left to hand over to the city for debt reduction. If I were in charge of the province, I wouldn't be inclined to give money to a city that shows itself to be fiscally irresponsible. Anyone who takes a significant refund meant for the people then goes about trying to cut essential services such as the police budget doesn't show itself to be trustworthy with more money. Yet the city continues to spend on non-essential services like rec centres when it's already broke for years to come. Looking at Greece, how long did it take for them to reach a tipping point? What did it take to reach the point of no return? Where on the scale is Calgary sitting in comparison?

With our provincial government, similar issues are happening. The Alberta Budget was recently released. It has many amazing promises in it like increased spending for family and health services, no tax increases and hopes that the energy sector will grow to hold the system up. Relying on the economy to prop up the budget when Europe is currently so unstable doesn't seem the wisest course of action.

The Tories promise to lower debt and deficit in a few short years with no apparent cuts in government spending at any level. I may have (hopefully) missed them along the way. I also haven't found a backup plan if the economy doesn't grow as expected.

The Alberta Government also makes decisions on our behalf saying that any rational Albertan would make these choices. In a democracy, a leader would ask. In a dictatorship however, they, well, dictate. I'm tired of being dictated to. I believe this is becoming a problem at all levels of government, and not just in Canada. The solution to this one is easy, the politicians could actually listen to Canadians instead of speaking at us saying it's for the greater good. We may have more respect and trust for them then, not a lot more, but it could grow with time.

Each level of government must become fiscally responsible and fast. They have to stop going to the next level, with their hand out, asking for money for their ineptitude. I think what's been forgotten is that there is only one level of tax payer. There is an appropriate time for the municipal government to receive money from the provincial government. When they are at a point of begging for it, that is not appropriate. I don't want the city to be so broke that there must be intervention. With intervention there are rules. That is what Greece is facing and they are not facing it well.

Our leaders have become arrogant and I feel my opinion only matters on election day. Learn from Greece's mistakes; our politicians shouldn't be remembered for their grievous overspending and constant tax increases. I wish to be listened to by my governments and I hope many others feel the same way. I don't want any part of my country to turn to destructive rioting. I want people to care about what's going on. We don't need it to get to the point of borrowing or bailouts. What is required is restraint and proper fiscal policy and responsibility.

As a Calgarian, Albertan and Canadian, I am one person and I wish to be heard.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Protect Yourself; A South Carolina Sheriff Has it Right!

With guns, there are always going to be varying views. With sport shooters, there are people who'll shoot anything put in their hands (like me), there’s the long gun crowd, the shot gun crowd, the hand gun crowd and let me tell you, they are avid about their style. It's great fun! Then there are other categories of people. There are people who require firearms in their job, people who collect firearms because they are built beautifully, people who misuse firearms, and people who don't understand and hate firearms for ambiguous reasons.

I just learned of Sheriff Chuck Wright in South Carolina who is encouraging women carry a gun for protection. This is a man standing up for women in my opinion. Read the complete story here.

First, he says, abide by the law. To get the permit, the person must go through a course. That means education. Second, that means through this education, the firearm becomes familiar. Sheriff Wright even recommends the firearms women should carry to protect themselves and provides a situational example.

Sheriff Wright was prepared for anti-gun activists to verbally attack him but he did get a number of thank-you's from people for thinking of their well being. Some did disagree with him of course.

Melonea Marek, executive director of People Against Rape says in asking women to arm themselves against assault, he's blaming the victim. I beg your pardon? How on Earth is asking women to take a preemptive action to protect themselves “blaming the victim?” I've been stalked twice in the past. The first time, the person was harmless, the second time, not so much. He didn't do anything physical to me but did to a friend of mine. Being the kind of person I am, I immediately got help from a number of different sources. I was never armed as it's against the law in Canada, but deciding I wasn't going to be a victim, I took preemptive action to protect myself as best I can. Melonea Marek says a gun is no guarantee, but neither was anything I did. You know what?  I felt safer with the education I received and would have felt far better had I been armed. I would have never needed a gun but it's one of those situations of I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Considering nothing is guaranteed in life, what should I have done if my stalker did attack me?  Lie down and take it? I don't think so. 

Caroline Brewer, spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that people who carry guns are far more likely to be shot. I generally don't believe statistics as they can be manipulated to say anything you want them too. I've done stats classes, my husband is a financial accountant by trade, we've both manipulated statistics as have many other people. It's like saying you're 10 times more likely to be in an accident within a 5 km radius of your home than anywhere else. You know why?!? Because most everything you do is within 5 km of your home! Statistics reports never mention that part.

In Canada, it's tragic if a law abiding citizen uses a firearm to protect themselves against a criminal. The criminal may get charged for what they did, the law abiding citizen will get charged multiple times over for protecting themselves, their family, their property, their neighbours, it's shocking and sad. Ian Thomson is going through this now, his home was firebombed by masked men. Lawrence Manzer is going through this for helping his neighbour against vandals. His gun wasn't even loaded. In Canada, police say if you can disengage, do so and phone them. Fine, great, but that means police, in general, have to react faster than they do. Ian Thomson had to wait 10 minutes before the police arrived and his house was on fire. There are many more cases similar to this. It seems the police and the government would rather punish law abiding citizens than criminals. We're not frightening, we're not bad people, and in general we'll never pull a gun on someone unless they mean to do us harm.

What frightens me about wanting to disarm the population is, for thousands of years, people have been armed and have had the ability and right to protect themselves. For some reason, liberal thinkers want to take that ability and right away. Realists want people the ability to protect themselves by any method possible. Violence will never go away no matter how much law and legislation is put into place. Firearms aren't always the answer by no means, they aren't to be feared, but they are a tool to be used appropriately, like anything else.

We don't live in the world that a lot of these activists see with rose coloured glasses. I don`t wish to be a victim, and I don't wish to be treated like a criminal.  I'm not either of these things. I'm a law abiding, gun owning citizen. I'm no different from anyone else. I wish to live safely, feel protected and not be punished for having the ability and capacity for doing so. I have a lot of respect for Sheriff Wright and so should anyone else who as the ability and capacity to fight for their right to live.