Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Remembering Remembrance Day and the Occupy Movement

Consider Remembrance Day November 11th. I watched with much interest the 2011 ceremony of several thousand people in downtown Ottawa observing this event with the sounds of bugles, words of praise for the fallen soldiers, the laying of wreaths and the red poppies, and the march past by young and old. Even the Governor General was in the spirit — dressed in his military clothes. It was all very patriotic.

It was 11th November, when on the 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice ended the war called Great. This was soon followed by the words of John McCrae in his poem: 'In Flanders fields where poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row.' Then, in propaganda style, the poem which is sung every year at the televised National Remembrance Day service in Ottawa, urges the listeners  to 'take up the quarrel with the foe.'

Why 'take up the quarrel with the foe'? Was not the intent of the old soldiers to end the collective insanity known as war? Today 2011 Remembrance Day seemed so out of step with the real meaning of the commemoration of the past wars. Surely the intent was to create a culture of peace, not a culture or war. Surely, the Day should not be used as a recruiting rhetoric for more soldiers? Yet today in the fields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, we seem to have forgotten this lesson. Recently Canada's Defence Minister Peter McKay is determined to convert Canada from a peacekeeping country to a macho militarized one.

Let's stop and not buy into this madness! Let's cease to produce victims of wars. Or as Russian philosopher Lev N. Tolstoy would have said: 'Let's stop the slavery of our times'  meaning, let's stop war and militarism. This means stopping the criminals who engineer these events. (Lev N. Tolstoy. The Slavery of Our Times. 1900. pages 95, 104)

For example, the Conservative Government in Canada today wants to purchase several dozens of F-35 fighter planes worth billions of dollars — planes that are designed for attack and not for defence purposes. These fighters are useless in the North and cannot be called to rescue people in need. All this is being proposed without thorough debate at a time when the country is going through an economic recession. In fact, the democratic process of debate is bypassed and trampled upon. Is that not a contempt of Parliament?  (Jet fighters a costly mistake for taxpayers, by Tamara Lorincz and Steven Staples, Time-Colonist,  December 10, 2010.)

Now let us look at the Occupy Movement which began in mid-October 2011 in the Wall Street district of New York City  and since then has spread around the world as a popular social movement. Its dissatisfaction is wide-spread. Generally it is aimed at narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor; including protesting corporate greed, corruption and  undue influence of the world's wealthiest over governments. These are all legitimate citizen issues.

I visited the group in Ottawa's Confederation Park where I saw some 50 tents, including a large kitchen tent and a smaller Media one. I  took several pictures of the tent community and spoke to Laura who told me: 'We are an emerging paradigm. The movement is a base for hope.'

What is encouraging is that this Occupy Movement has captured the attention of many bright young activists who have espoused nonviolence and mutual aid. In a sense, they are the vanguard of the oppressed people of the Earth. That is indeed commendable.

Although the protests have broadly been leaderless and nonhierarchical, the movement seems to have gained wide popular support in the short time of one month. In response, municipal officials feel themselves as responsible owners of the property and are now rallying the force of the state to shut them down. What the next move of the activists may be has yet to evolve.

In the meantime, we need to step back a moment and see what we have learned from both the Remembrance Day and from the Occupy Movement? If we do not learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. May I suggest the following short list of items is a good Socratic beginning to our quest for wisdom and action in creating a peaceful, just and a more equitable and caring society:
  1. Is anyone listening? Are we listening? Is the media brave enough to critique corporate interests? Moreover, is the media willing to publish both minority and majority opinions? How about looking at Pension reforms and Tax reforms. Let's make sure that our health care programs are intact and available to everyone as a human right. 
  2. Implicit in our quest is a critique of the military industrial complex and its threat to our civilization. What kind of country do we want? I sense that Canadians want to regain their peace-keeping tradition and distance themselves from that of a military conquering power. How about working to establish a Canadian Department of Peace? Let's make nonkilling our mantra for the new world.
  3. We need to continually ask 'How do we make life more just and equal?' The answer requires a critique of extreme capitalism, including banks, stocks, deregulation, tax reform, 'free trade',  the whole works.  More and more thinking people are coming to the conclusion that a better system should be based on the common good and not on individual greed and the desire to control. We need to develop a creative structure of redistribution of wealth and resources. 
  4. How can we use the co-operative movement as an engine in creating a better society? Recall that on October 31, 2011, the United Nations launched the International Year of Cooperatives. Here, then, is a new opportunity to see how co-ops work differently than that of corporations which primarily are designed to make money for shareholders. Co-ops work on the principle  'One person, one vote'.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Peace Festivals in Ottawa, Canada

Talk and Slide Show to the Kiwanis Club of Sage
Ottawa, Ontario, November 16, 2011 


Kiwanis is a global co-educational service club organization (mostly in North America and Europe) of volunteers dedicated 'to changing the world one child and one community at a time'. The organization was founded in 1915 and today is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Current membership is 240,000 in 7,700 clubs in 80 nations. The average age is 57, with men making up 74% and women 26%. On November 16th I was invited to speak to the Kiwanis Club of Sage in Ottawa, which is an all-men club with an average age of 80. The Club has 53 members. Its president A. W. ('Tony') Myres welcomed me and my wife Kristina to the meeting and later Hank Lagasse (President Elect) introduced me. The Notes for my talk follow, after which I presented a slide show of some 400 images of the 5th Annual Ottawa Peace Festival held September 21 to October 2nd. A Question period followed.

The Talk

Good morning everybody!

I understand that the Kiwanis founders years back took 'We build' as the original motto of the Club, which today has been translated to 'Serving the Children of the World' through a variety of local programs including nurturing literacy, music festivals, student-led projects, Air Cadets and Remembrance Day services, supporting Salvation Army, and hands-on assistance to those in need.

In a real sense, your motto is similar to the Peace Festival theme. As a well-known sign says 'We are building peace for children and other living things'. For all of us, of course, peace and justice have no boundaries — whether for children or adults. We are all one in this world.

The very interesting annual Ottawa Peace Festivals have taken place in Canada's capital city since 2007, with the 5th one being a 12-day festival earlier this Fall. The dates form book ends of two UN International Days of Peace (Sept. 21) and Nonviolence (October 2nd).

As photographer, writer, and peace activist, I have had the honour of attending the five festivals and have visually recorded them for all to see on links found on my website, including links for images on Picasa. Before showing you a slide presentation of the latest Festival on my iPhoto Mac program, I would like to briefly give you a flavour of some of the wisdom of this unique citizens'-based cooperative effort which this year hosted 25 events by 19 civil society organizations and participants. So far this was the largest Ottawa Peace Festival.

The key facilitators have been Dr. Bill Bhaneja (retired foreign service officer, political scientist, member of Pugwash Group, Gandhi scholar and Co-Chair of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative) and Dr. Peter Stockdale (founding chair of the City of Peace Ottawa).

The idea came to Dr. Bhaneja at one of the global summits of DoP when a delegate from the US mentioned that they were thinking of 11 days of peace activities leading to 9/11. 'We wondered', said Dr. Bhaneja, 'if we could do something similar in a Canadian setting using the two universal UN resolutions. The resolutions define the spirit of CDP/DoP mandate of working towards a Culture of Peace and Nonviolent Resolution of Conflicts.'

The effort coincided with the work of a local civil society group, the City of Peace Ottawa, whose mission statement was: 'To develop Ottawa as a model city of peace, and be a model for other peaceful cities, promoting social harmony and inclusiveness.' And so the Ottawa Peace Festival was born around the theme of 'Peace, Unity, and Harmony'. (See Dr. Bhaneja's talk of September 17, 2011 on Peace Festivals and Cities of Peace)


I would like to briefly share with you some of the wisdom of the past festivals. Click here for the text of my presentation: Peace Festivals in Ottawa, Canada, 2007 - 2011, with links to stories and images of each event. Also see: Ottawa Peace Festivals : Archive & History.

Slide Show

Now to my 383 photos of the 5th Annual Ottawa Peace Festival 2011. Enjoy.

Questions Asked

1. 'What is the inner threat to Canada?'
The questioner wanted to know if it was some nation, or what? He suggested that it was 'a clash of religions' between Muslims and Christians. This is an answer that needs to be explored further. What do readers think?

2. 'Should governments be involved in the peace movement?'
Yes. I replied that while individual action and non-government organizations are important in peace making, ultimately we need to involve our government with its huge resources.

3. 'Does the Department of Peace Initiative support the Wall Street movement?'
Yes. As a non-government group, I said, the Initiative supports the protesters around the world in seeking peaceful change towards more equality, justice and a greater voice in our society. DoP members believe that a peace structure in government will go a long ways to promoting the transition of the economy from a war-based one to a peace-based one. This path towards a culture of peace, it is expected, would greatly benefit the economic, social, and psychological status of the 99 percent of the population that the Wall Street movement is working to improve.

4. 'Besides Ottawa, do you have other Chapters across Canada?'

Yes indeed. There are 12 chapters across Canada from coast to coast. The Department of Peace movement is now active in 30 countries. Since 2006, three countries have established Peace Departments: Costa Rica, Nepal and Solomon Islands.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Anna Markova: 'A Doukhobor Martyr'

A Doukhobor Martyr : Anna Markova : 1902-1978 is a chapter in a new book 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces, by Merna Forster, pages 236-239. This entire 4-page Anna Markova chapter appears on Google Books in 2 file segments — first 3 pages and last 3 pages.

She was passionate about family and faith — and forgiving of those who imprisoned her.

The short 4-page biography, with a photo of a young babushka Markova (above), positions a Doukhobor woman among female scientists, doctors, scholars, educators, pioneers, athletes, business women, politicians, peace activists, artists, actors, an astronaut, detective, soldiers, and other notable women who impacted Canadian history since the 1700s.

'Doukhobor pioneer Anna Markova…' appeared in the announcement: 'Book continues list of Canada's most important women,' Times Colonist (Victoria & Vancouver Island, BC), Oct. 9, 2011.

This book is the second in a series for Forster, who places Markova among the 101th to 200th of her selection of heroines in Canadian history. References used were:
  • George Woodcock and Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1968).
  • Jim Popoff, "Passing of a Doukhobor Martyr" and "An Interview with Anna Petrovna Markova," Mir No. 17, pages 2-23, May 1979.
  • Koozma J. Tarasoff, 'An Esteemed Babushka Who Weathered the Storm,' Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living, 2002, pages 113-114.

Forster concludes: 'Anna Petrovena Markova [Voykin] … One of the first Canadian Doukhobor social activists, she is still remembered as a visionary. The local newspaper noted, "She was zealous, but not a zealot, and a staunch advocate of enlightenment, family unity, spiritual and moral rebirth."' And she adds that Markova was memorialised in 4 ways:
Forster missed much online:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Doukhobor Russian Language Research

"Saskatchewan Doukhobor Native Speaking Fluency" is a joint research project at the University of Saskatchewan with the State University of St. Pertersburg, Russia. The Russian government is funding the study and a related Russian website.

The project was launched by Dr. Veronica Makarova, Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Linguistics and the Interdisciplinary Linguistics Program Chair at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1992 she earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of St. Petersburg. Her bibliography lists 37 papers published up to 2011.  She is editor of Russian Language Studies in North America : New Perspectives from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (200 pages) to be published March 2012. In 2012 she moved to the Department of Religion and Culture.

Most Canadian Doukhobors recently learned about this project from newspapers on Saturday Oct. 29, 2011.
  • Linguist to rescue Doukhobor language, The Star Phoenix, Saskatoon
    (copied on Doukhobor Genealogy Message Board)
  • Russian linguist wants to rescue dying Doukhobor language, The Vancouver Sun
  • Researchers try to save language, Edmonton Journal, October 31, 2011

Dr. Makarova published her first paper about Doukhohor Russian in March 2011:
Язык саскачеванских духоборов: введение в анализ The Language of Saskatchewan Doukhobors: Introduction to the Analysis
В.А. Макарова, Э.В. Усенкова, В.В. Евдокимова, К.В. Евграфова. Известия вузов. Серия «Гумани-тарные науки», 2 (2) 146-151. 25-05-2011.  Markarova, V.A, E.V. Usenkova, V.V. Evdokimova, K.V. Evgrafova. News of Higher Schools. Series "Humanities", Vol. 2, Issue 2, 25 March 2011, pages 146-151.
В статье описывается состояния русского языка этнического меньшинства канадских духоборов провинции Саскачеван. Этот уникальный диалект, находящийся на грани исчезновения, никогда ранее не подвергался лингвистическим исследованиям. В статье приводится краткая история духоборов Саскачевана, описываются некоторые характерные черты их речи и показываются причины постепенной утраты ими русского языка. Речь данной группы представляет особый интерес с лингвистической, социолингвистической и антропологической точек зрения. Описание и сохранение образцов этого уникального диалекта, находящегося на грани исчезновения, для последующих поколений является важной задачей. This paper introduces the description of the state of Saskatchewan Doukhobor Russian, the language of an ethnic minority residing in one of Canadian provinces. This unique dialect is on the very brink of extinction, and yet it has never been subjected to any linguistic studies. The speech of this minority group is of particular interest from the linguistic, sociolinguistic and anthropological perspectives. The paper gives a brief survey of Saskatchewan Doukhobor history, describes some characteristic features of Saskatchewan Doukhobor Russian speech and outlines the reasons for the language loss.

Mae Popoff (B.Ed, BA and PDG graduate studies), president of the Doukhobor Cultural Society of Saskatchewan, and editor of the Sheaf, contacted Dr. Makarova and cleared the main question most have asked — about all the Russian-speaking Doukhobors in B.C. Popoff reports:
  • I arranged for her to interview Russian speaking Doukhobors, including myself and my Chernoff relatives. 
  • Professor Evgrafova from St. Petersburg has been in Saskatoon for 10 days and leaves Nov. 6, 2011. 
  • I made Professor Makarova aware of British Columbia Doukhobors but she is concentrating on Saskatchewan for now.
  • I will continue to be in contact with Dr. V. Makarova and the Saskatoon Doukhobor Society

Also see Blog: Q43: Is 'Doukhobor Dialect' Defended? about Dr. Schaarschmidt defending the Doukhobor-Russian language dialect. Malarova's project was news to him, as he writes (11/1/2011):
If she is correct about the fact that there are still about 50 speakers of the language there is hope for the maintenance and revitalization of the language but it will take more than the efforts of a linguist to accomplish this goal or else the language will only be "rescued" as a museum language and not as a form of daily communication. It will take a community effort to be willing to achieve the maintenance and revitalization of Doukhobor Russian in everyday communication. I know that the situation in BC is much better than the one in Saskatchewan but nonetheless I look with concern at the obituaries in Iskra.

UPDATE July 1, 2012:

A chapter about the Canadian Doukhobor Russian dialect is at the end of Dr. Makarova's book published June 1, 2012:

Schaarschmidt, Gunter. "Russian Language History in Canada. Doukhoboor Internal and External Migrations: Effect on language development and structure," (Chapter 10, pages 235-260) in Russian Language Studies in North America: New Perspectives from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, edited by Veronika Makarova. London: Anthem Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780857287847.

See previews at Google Books, and Anthem Press.

Introduction, page xvii: "... the author illustrates an interplay between the colloquial and ritual functional styles in Doukhobor Russian. The unique features of Doukhobor Russian are explained by its largely oral traditon, relative geological isolation, deliberate resistance to the influence of Canadian English, and the influence of Ukrainian, dating mainly to the first generation of settlers in the province of Saskatchewan. This study is the first major work introducing the language history and structure of Doukhobor Russian."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tamara Tarasoff Awarded for Volunteerism


On the evening of October 28th, 2011, I was in Aylmer, Quebec where I attended the West Quebecers 2011 Community Awards. Here my daughter Tamara (b.1964) received their annual Education Community Award for her outstanding volunteer work in the Wakefield area of Quebec.

As a father with Doukhobor pacifist roots growing up in Western Canada, tears came to my eyes when Tamara in her response acknowledged the role of her parents in instilling the spirit of inquiry, activism and responsibility for ones actions. She mentioned the peace marches that she and her brother Lev used to go with us as parents and other members of the concerned public in Saskatchewan, holding signs for peace and universal brotherhood.

Acceptance by Tamara Tarasoff for Education Community Award

What we do as parents does matter. As an example to our children, we affect our gene pool and the future generations. That is Lesson 101 of the celebrated biologist Charles Darwin. That is how the quality of the world is achieved.

As well, individual actions do matter. At the end of her emails, Tamara adds a priceless bit of advice, taken from the wisdom of popular US anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) whom I as an anthropologist met years ago in Moscow and Montreal:

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'

Tamara has taken that wisdom to heart. I have followed the EcoLaPeche Blog which she has written over the past two years to inform fellow citizens about the poorly planned regional septic sludge plant that her regional government wishes to build along the Gatineau River near Wakefield. Her brave efforts combined with the collective support of concerned community members is a classic case of basic democracy at work. The community has virtually raised the roof and brought to light the actions of seven mayors in the Gatineau area while pushing for a better solution, one that all citizens can live with. The combined efforts of 'thoughtful committed citizens' is having an effect.

As parents we are of course proud of Tamara and her non-paid volunteer work in the Wakefield community of Quebec. As father I would like to add one other attribute that deserves mention.

In our materialistic digital age, Tamara has not forgotten her Russian Doukhobor roots. When the Canadian Museum of Civilization was holding its Spirit Wrestlers Exhibition in the mid-1990s, she did a contract for the Museum in creating modules on the best of Doukhobor traditions and culture. Also she volunteered in demonstrating the art of cooking as well as spinning wool. Moreover, as time permits, she has been working on a Traditional Recipe book largely based on her first-hand lessons and memorable anecdotes from her Saskatchewan grandmothers who were both excellent cooks: Baba Luba Konkin in Kamsack and Baba Anastasia Tarasoff in Saskatoon. We all look forward to a 'best seller'.

At the Awards ceremony we were reminded that 'it takes a whole village to raise a child'. Absolutely!

West Quebecers 2011 Community Award Education
This award is given to the person who has made the most substantial contribution to the development and enhancement of education.
Tamara Tarasoff
Tamara (right) with son Nicholas and daughter Elena.

Tamara Tarasoff moved to the Wakefield area with husband John in 1996. Soon after children Nicholas and Elena were born, she was inspired to become part of this community's outstanding volunteer tradition. As a young mom, she first brought her energy and ideas to Wakefield School. She volunteered in the classroom and worked with other parents to establish the Butterfly Garden and organize events and fundraisers. One year, she organized a parent petition asking the Municipality of LaPêche for a grant to complete the school playground; after she made a presentation at a municipal council meeting and received the desired funds.  In recent years she worked with community members to create a plastic bag education program for the school. As a result of this program, students reduced their use of plastic bags and encouraged community members to do likewise.  In 2011, she co-led Life Before Plastics, a follow-up to this program; over several months, Grade 4 and 5 students explored the history of plastics, participated in oral history and photography workshops, took photographs, and conducted oral history interviews with elders in the community who lived before plastic was a common material.

Other areas of Tamara's community involvement include local sports clubs, the Fairbairn Museum, the Harvest Festival and Eco Echo. More recently she has taken a leadership role fighting for a sustainable alternative to the regional septic sludge treatment plant planned for the banks of the Gatineau River; she believes it makes no sense to scar the beautiful rural landscape north of Wakefield with huge open lagoons, truck the septic tank contents from 20,000 households in 7 municipalities to these lagoons and release the effluent into the River.

She is grateful for this award and wants to thank her friends and family for their support and involvement over the years. She also wants everyone to know that, when she grows up, she wants to be a Wakefield Granny. 

From Wakefield, Quebec, there was another community award winner. It was 70-year-old Neil Faukner, this year's recipient of the Founders Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Regional Association of West Quebecers. He said that we need to depend on partnerships in making our communities work. Our spirit ought to  be similar to the one that President Obama in his election speech said 'Yes, we can!'

Neil Faukner

Signalling his advancing age, Faulkner wants to inspire youth to get involved. 'I want to encourage people to have a bigger vision of the future and what it is that we want here,' he said. 'We are lucky to live in a community where people are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.'

Final Thoughts

As writer of this article, I would like to add a reminder to all of us as citizens of Canada. If we are not satisfied with the way that the country is going, we need to stand up and be counted not only at the ballot box, but also in our communities as volunteers. This may mean standing up to oppose the militarization of the country (instead of the Pearsonian emphasis on Peace Keeping), the attempted privatization of our basic institutions of public health care, education, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Wheat Board, and so forth.

As Tamara, Neil and so many others have shown us: Yes we can!