Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Blog Action Day #BAD2013 – Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

When I heard the theme for this year’s Blog Action Day was “Human Rights”, I knew immediately what I was going to write about: a case currently before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal brought against the federal government for discrimination against First Nations children living on reserve.

The Human Rights Case

“In 2007, the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint against the Federal government, alleging that Canada’s failure to provide equitable and culturally based child welfare services to First Nations children on-reserve amounts to discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin. After several unsuccessful efforts by the Federal government to have the case dismissed on legal technicalities, a hearing on the complaint began on February 25, 2013 at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and will continue throughout the summer.” (Source: First Nations Caring Society website).

I first heard about this case at a lecture by Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Caring Society, back in the spring and I have to say that I was astonished that I had not heard of this case until that point. I mean, the federal government being taken to the Human Rights Tribunal seems like it should be front page news, yet it’s been going on since 2007 and I, someone who pays attention to Canadian news and who has a particular interest in human rights and Aboriginal issues, didn’t hear about it until 2013. (To my Canadian readers: were you aware of this case prior to reading this blog posting?)

“The complaint alleges that the Government of Canada had a longstanding pattern of providing less government funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves than is provided to non-Aboriginal children.” (Source: First Nations Caring Society website)

The inequalities include things such as less funding for education, housing, and other social supports for First Nations children living on reserve compared to non-Aboriginal children not living on reserve, which then results in more on reserve Aboriginal children entering the child welfare system, which is also inadequately supported.

To give you some perspective on the scope of this1:

  • The federal government spends 22% less per child for Aboriginal children on reserves than than the provinces spend per non-Aboriginal children (and it’s the federal government’s responsibility to provide for on-reserve children that which children not living on reserve get from provincial services).
  • Aboriginal children are 6-8x more likely than non-Aboriginal children to end up in the child welfare system.
  • 65% of kids in the child welfare system in Alberta are First Nations children, though overall less than 10% of the children in Alberta are First Nations
  • in BC and Alberta, there are approximately 11,000 First Nations children living in foster care
  • There are three times more First Nations children living in care now then there were in residential schools at the height of that era.

And it is important to note that there’s no indication that First Nations children are taken into care more than non-Aboriginal children for abuse; rather, the children are usually taken away for “neglect”, which can mean things like not having adequate housing or food (i.e., being in poverty). So inadequate responses to housing and poverty results in parents being deemed “neglectful” and their children being apprehended and taken into care.

Retribution by the Federal Government

And as if the tragic consequences of discrimination against Aboriginal children weren’t bad enough, would you believe that in the midst of this, the federal government started *spying* on Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of the First Nations Caring Society, one of the groups who brought this complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal?

As confirmed by a report by the Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart:

“…two government departments, justice and aboriginal affairs, accessed Blackstock’s personal Facebook page, even making a formal request with their IT departments to circumvent security and get on the page. […]

The government dug into Blackstock’s personal Facebook page along with two other public, organizational Facebook pages and monitored her other social media accounts, including her Twitter account, YouTube, BlogSpot and Google alerts on her.

Stoddart found that the government accessed information on Blackstock’s friends — including their opinions and personal plans — as well as the personal views, skills, interests and residency of Blackstock.
“That information, alone in combination with other information, reveals . . . who she is as a person, and not just information related to or attached to her professional responsibilities with the Caring Society,’’ Stoddart wrote.

In fact, Blackstock says, the information in government screen shots included her Mother’s Days greetings, her travel plans, an exchange about her cookie-baking skills, chats with friends from as far away as Australia and a posting from a 12-year-old.” (Source: Toronto Star)

So, in response to a human rights complaint against the federal government, the federal government’s answer was to violate her privacy.

What You Can Do

So now that you know a bit about this case, I’m sure you are wondering what you can do about it. There are a number of ways you can learn more and contribute:

Every child deserves a fair chance. The fact that this is not happening, with children right here in Canada being discriminated against based on their race is shameful. It’s time to hold the government accountable.

  1. Source of these data: Cindy Blackstock interview by CBC Doc Zone. []
  2. I can’t embed the video here or I would. Also, a longer video was posted on the CBC Doc Zone website when I first drafted this blog posting a few days ago, but it’s gone now. If I comes back, I’ll update this posting with a link to it. []

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Blog Action Day – #Food #BAD11

Today is Blog Action Day, a day where bloggers, not surprisingly, take action. They take action, not surprisingly, by blogging, but on this particular day they all blog about the same topic, thus calling attention to said topic. This year’s topic is “Food.”

From the Blog Action Day website:

This year Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, a time that focuses the world’s attention on food, something we all have in common.

There is so much to say about food.

We use food to mark times of celebration and sorrow. Lack of access to food causes devastating famines, whilst too much is causing a generation of new health problems. It can cost the world, or be too cheap for farmers to make a living.

The way we companies produce food and drinks can provide important jobs for communities or be completely destructive to habitats and local food producers. Food can give us energy to get through the day or contain ingredients that gives us allergic reactions.

Food can cooked by highly skilled chefs with inventive flair, or mass produced and delivered with speed at the side of road. It can be incredibly healthy or complete junk and bad for your health. It can taste delicious or be a locals only delicacy.

Food is important to our culture, identity and daily sustenance and the team at Blog Action invite you to join us to talk about food.

Now, I blog about food all the time – it comes with the territory when one is both a foodie and a nutritional scientist – so I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what I should blog about today. And then I remembered that I’ve been meaning to blog about a book that I read that changed the whole way that I think about food and eating. It’s called “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and you should totally read it. Here’s why.

Intuitive Eating Book

First of all, this book is written by two registered dietitians – R.D. being the protected title for those who have gone through a rigorous post-secondary program and internship in nutrition, food, and eating1 – and these two R.D.s happen to have many years of experience working with people and through that experience have learned a lot about people’s relationships with food. Second, unlike “diet books” (think Atkins, the Zone, the blood type diet, etc.), this book doesn’t promise a quick fix. Because there is no quick fix when it comes to nutrition. It doesn’t promise you that you’ll lose 20 lbs in a week while eating copious amounts of every food you ever wanted to eat – because that’s just not how bodies work. So, right away this book is different than a lot of others on the market that purport to be about nutrition. OK, now that I’ve told you what the book is *not* about, let’s look at what it *is* about.

Key Take Home Messages From This Book

  • Essentially, this book is about mindfulness brought to eating. When we are born, we eat when we are hungry and stop eating when we are full. Somewhere along the way, we develop messed up relationships with food and eating and lose our ability to respond to hunger and satiety cues. The simple act of paying attention to what we eat while we eat it goes a long way to preventing us from over eating.
  • The idea of “dieting” is all about deprivation. But you can only deprive yourself for so long before you lose it and scarf down an entire cake! The worst part of this is that you don’t even get to enjoy that cake you are eating because you are shovelling it into your face so fast in response to having deprived yourself. And then you feel guilty about having “failed” – and not recognizing that “dieting” is just setting yourself up for failture.
  • There’s no need to deny yourself the things you like to eat – but there’s also no need to eat copious amounts of them either. I mean, think about it: have you ever had a lovely meal or a scrumptious dessert in front of you and you wolfed it down so quickly that, afterwards, you realized that you barely even tasted it? Or finished off a giant bag of Doritoes in front of the television without even really being aware that you were eating them? If you actually make a conscious decision to eat, say, some chocolate mousse, wouldn’t it be better to be present in the moment, paying attention to the taste and the mouthfeel, savouring each spoonful, than to down the whole thing in 5 seconds, not really tasting it at all?
  • Eating “everything on your plate” when you aren’t actually hungry is just as wasteful as throwing it out. A lot of people were raised to “eat everything on your plate” because to do otherwise means you are wasting food. But eating more food that your body needs, eating past the point where you are satisfied – you are still “wasting” it, but instead of it going into the garbage or the compost, it’s just adding unnecessary weight onto your body.
  • Do you really need to lose that “last 10 lbs,” or are you already pretty awesome as you are? This is probably the hardest part of the book for many people. We tend to focus on what we see as our physical “imperfections” – things like, “my thighs are too fat,” rather than “my legs get me around, let me go for a walk, let me run, or play hockey” or whatever else it is that you do. I mean, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being fit, with striving to run fast or be stronger. But is dieting to get rid of those “last 10 lbs” really going to make you happy? Or would that effort be better expended on being happy with who you are?
Reading this book really had changed the way I think about food and eating. I feel I have a much healthier relationship with food, just by being more mindful of what, how and when I eat. I no longer scarf down my meals like there is no tomorrow. I no longer agonize over eating particular foods – I just ask myself “Do you really want to eat that, or are you eating just because it’s there?” Sometimes I think, “No, I don’t actually want that junky food, because I know that when I finish it, I’ll remember that it doesn’t actually taste that good. But if I really want to eat it, I do. But I don’t eat crazy amounts – just savouring a few bites is usually all I need to satisfy me. And I really feel that I’m much healthier and happier because of it.
Of course, all this is just my take on the book. You really should read it yourself.

As per usual, I have no affiliation with this book or these authors. I don’t get any money if you buy the book – in fact, I got it from the library myself. But I really do think everyone could benefit from reading it@

  1. As opposed to “nutritionist,” which pretty much anyone can call themselves. []

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Blog Action Day 2009 – Climate Change #BAD09

The theme for this year’s Blog Action Day is Climate Change.

Blog Action Day is an annual event every October 15th that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.

In trying to think of what to write about, my first thought was “what can I possibly add to the conversation?”  Everybody knows all about climate change, don’t they?  Information on climate change is like carbon emissions – there’s tonnes of it out there, isn’t there?

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown blogged this morning that:

Climate change is the biggest threat to all our futures. It will affect every individual, every family, every community, every business and every country.

Google’s in on the action with a “green tour of their campus” on their blog, the TckTckTck campaign1 of course blogged and, according to the B.A.D.2 website even TMZ is going to be contributing3. And some 9,700+ other bloggers to boot.  What can I possibly add to all of this?

But then, that’s the point of Blog Action Day, isn’t it?  Having many, many voices all talking about the same issue at the same time.  And as much as I like to think that *everyone* already knows about all this, I think that maybe if they really did, we wouldn’t be in our current predicament.

At any rate, I’ve decided that what I should contribute to the day’s discussion is those things I know best.  Which, on this topic, are, in no particular order: nutrition, nerdery and cynicism.

1. Nutrition

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about local foods.  Eating is something you do every day and has a huge impact on your health, which is part of the reason I got into the field of nutrition to begin with4.  But it’s only quite recently that I’ve spent any time thinking about the impact of food on the environment.  I mean, I’ve long been aware that one of the benefits of being a vegetarian is the lesser impacts on the environment compared to a meat-based diet, but even with plant-based fare, my choices can have a major ecological impact.  How much energy does it take to ship my pineapples from Hawaii, my avocados from Mexico, or my tomatoes from California?  Why get yogurt produced and packed in, and shipped from, Ontario when I can get the same thing – only fresher! – from the a local farm?  I’m actually lucky enough to live quite close the UBC Farm, where I can buy food grown within a few kilometres of my house at one of the few urban farms around5.  But even if you don’t have an urban farm in your ‘hood, it seems like community gardens are popping up everywhere too, so be sure to check into those!  Heck, you can even now legally keep a chicken in your yard in Vancouver – fresh eggs in your own backyard!

I guess my point to all of this is: when you are thinking about climate change, think about your food choices!  Here are a few resources to get you started:

2. Nerdery

A tweet from the American Public Health Association led me to this site: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/, where you can check out the fuel economy of your car – both the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimates6 for your make and model and estimates entered by users7 – i.e., actual people driving actual cars, as opposed to cars driven under testing conditions.

For example, the EPA estimates the fuel economy of a 2009 smart car as 36 mpg8 and user-entered data gives an average fuel economy of 41.6 mpg9.  And here’s where my nerdery comes in: I’ve been tracking my mileage and fuel consumption10 since I bought my Smart car back in April.  My fuel economy thus far: 39.1 mpg11.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Check out the estimated fuel economy of your car, as well as how many barrels of petroleum and you use, and how many tonnes  of CO2 your car emits, per year,  at: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

3. Cynicism

And my last thought for this posting is on greenwashing.  Everyone is jumping on the “green” bandwagon these days, so I encourage you to think critically about the claims made by people and companies and politicians about how “green” they are, rather than just accepting their claims at face value.

Case in point:  Derek posted yesterday about the crazy shipping routes of two iPods he bought online recently, which traveled 17,000 km12 to get from the 9,000 km from the factory in China to his place in Burnaby and juxtaposed that with how Apple’s likes to position itself as “green.”

Case in point #2: All those Smart car drivers who love to brag about their car’s fuel economy don’t usually mention that the cars are built in France – how much fuel does it take to ship the car – plus any parts you need for repair or maintenance – from France?

Anyway, those are my random thoughts on Blog Action Day!  Let me know what *your thoughts* are!

  1. whose raison d’être is climate change awareness []
  2. I have to say – Blog Action Day has the best. acronym. ever. []
  3. although my admittedly quick look at their site didn’t see a B.A.D. posting as of yet []
  4. the other reasons including that (a) it made all the biochemistry I’d been learning in my undergraduate courses suddenly seem to matter and (b) I love to eat! []
  5. actually, it’s the only urban farm I know of, but I assume there must be some other out there. Does anyone know of any others? []
  6. this is a US website []
  7. which are not guaranteed to be accurate, since they can be entered by anyone and aren’t verified []
  8. miles per gallon; or 6.53 L/100km for us Canadians []
  9. or 5.65 L/100 km []
  10. I made a spreadsheet. I heart spreadsheets! []
  11. or 6.03 L/100 km []
  12. following two different routes, despite being ordered at the same time! []