The story of Hope Ness

IMG_0186Oh, if only these rocks could talk, what a story they could tell about how they got here thousands of years ago. They were part of what’s now called the Canadian Shield, a primeval formation of igneous rock, forged over many millions of years. When the vast glaciers of the last ice age began their slow, relentless march south, these rocks were broken off the shield and pushed south by the immense power of the ice. So great was the weight of the ice, several kilometers thick, that it tilted the eastern edge of an ancient sedimentary rock seabed upward, thus creating the unique, cliff-edge rock formation we call the Niagara Escarpment. When the ice age waned, and the ice began to melt and retreat, these rocks were left right here, where you see them now, on the section of the Bruce Trail from Hope Ness to Hope Bay, on the Bruce (Saugeen) Peninsula.

Prior to 1854 the peninsula was the territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nations, the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, and the Saugeen First Nation. As a result of Treaty 72, signed that year under duress and and other questionable circumstances, the two First Nations ‘surrendered’ most of what remained of their territory and were left with several relatively small reserves. Even so, in 1857, the Nawash people were compelled to move from their community near the present-day city of Owen Sound to make way for the new, non-Indigenous town’s expansion. The name of the Saugeen Peninsula, as it was known before 1854, was changed to Bruce Peninsula, after the name of the Governor-General of the Province of Canada, which was still a British colony at the time. Canada, an independent and sovereign country, is a Constitutional Monarchy, with a legal obligation to uphold the ‘honour of the Crown’ regarding treaties First Nations.

In 1994 the Saugeen Ojibway Nations (SON) took the unusual step of filing a land-claim lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The action claims the honour of the Crown was breached by the manner in which Crown negotiators negotiated Treaty 72. It also claims the Crown failed in its Fiduciary duty to protect SON territory from incursions of non-Indigenous squatters as promised when an earlier treaty was signed. That 1836 treaty ‘surrendered’ the larger part of Saugeen Territory south of the Saugeen Peninsula, as far south as present-day Goderich on the Lake Huron shore, and west as far as the Nottawasaga River near present-day Wasaga Beach. Crown negotiators said they were unable to stop trespassing in that huge area. The two First Nations only agreed to sign the 1836 treaty on the promise that their territory on the Saugeen Peninsula would be protected “forever” by the Crown from further trespass. But again, in 1854, the Crown negotiators said they couldn’t stop the trespassing. The trial into the SON lawsuit began in April, 2019. During the trial, which ended in the fall of 2020, SON presented evidence that showed that was a lie.

On July 29, 2021 Justice W. Matheson’s 211-page judgement was presented to the  court and made public. It found in favor of key elements of SON’s claim related to Treaty 72, including that Crown negotiators breached the ‘honour of the Crown.’ However, the judgement denied SON’s claim for a declaration of Aboriginal Title to the lakebed under a large part of Lake Huron on both sides of the Bruce (Saugeen) Peninsula.  Phase 2 of the case will determine the amount and method of compensation owed the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations. But that won’t start until after any appeals of the judgement are heard.

Hope Ness was almost destroyed more than 50 years ago when the Dow Chemical Company wanted to develop a huge quarry to mine the limestone bedrock for its rich magnesium content. The plan included a large shipping facility at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment at nearby Hope Bay. The plan did not proceed for reasons that were never clear. It may be the market for magnesium crashed; or it may be that in the mid-1960s the Ontario government was already developing a plan to protect the Niagara Escarpment, and political pressure was applied. At any event, Dow had already bought up most of the farms in Hope Ness when the quarry plan was dropped. The company offered Hope Ness farmers $5,000 for their 100-acre farms, and all but a few accepted, though it caused grief and bitter discord and in some homes. Most of the homes and barns were demolished. One exception was the home and barn on the property I now call home. It survived only because Dow used it as its on-site base of preliminary testing. So, although the natural environment of Hope Ness escaped disaster, the homestead community, the sons and daughters of pioneer settlers, was devastated. The Ontario government soon acquired that land and to this day still owns most of it. A large portion is now the Hope Bay Nature Reserve, a provincial park. More details of the story of how all that happened, and other aspects of the history and continuing existence of a special place can be found here in this blog, Finding Hope Ness. Welcome.11 Revisions

Morning thoughts (11): The plot thickens

Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles

Finding a good book, or books, to read is one way to survive these frigid January days of a Canadian winter. The one I recently purchased on-line has been thought-provoking, enough to distract from the bitter cold as we, the dogs and I, took our morning walk down Cathedral Drive.

I should clarify, the dogs went about their usual busy-ness of sniffing out whatever creatures had been about during the night, and so on. I was the one distracted with thoughts about what I had been reading in King’s Counsellor, Abdication and War: The Diaries of Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles. That name may ring a bell for the millions who have watched the Netflix series, The Crown, a dramatic rendering, not necessarily totally accurate, about the ongoing reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Three Kings: L-R, Edward VIII, George V, George VI

I was especially interested in the early episodes focusing on the abdication of Edward VIII in December, 1936, less than a year after becoming King upon the death of his father George V. After ascending to the throne, Edward, formerly Prince of Wales, had hoped to marry his lover, Wallis Simpson, when she obtained a divorce from her husband, Ernest Simpson. But the ensuing constitutional crisis went against him, leading to his abdication. His brother, Albert (Bertie to his family and friends) the Duke of York, became King, as George VI. As a result, his daughter, Elizabeth, now Elizabeth II, became heir presumptive, or first-in-line to the throne. Edward got a new title, Duke of Windsor. Wallis did get a divorce and they married, in France, months later, making Wallis Duchess of Windsor, but not welcome as part of the Royal Family.

In the midst of all that, to a significant and influential degree only fully revealed in recent years, was Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles. The grandson of Henry Lascelles, the 4th Earl of Harewood, Lascelles initially struggled to find suitable employment as a young man after graduating from Oxford University, and twice failing the Foreign Office exam for a possible diplomatic career. He served as an officer in the First World War, earning the Military Cross, after being wounded in action. Crucially, for future events, he became Assistant Private Secretary to Edward, then Prince of Wales, in 1920. Initially, he was impressed by the young prince, already a world-famous celebrity who travelled the British Empire and Commonwealth extensively. Edward visited Canada twice formally in the 1920s and liked the country so much he bought a ranch in Alberta.

But Lascelles’ attitude toward Edward changed drastically, mainly because of the lack of moral character he had observed time after time in Edward’s behavior. He finally resigned his position in disgust, in 1929, despite being a married man with a young family to support, and no immediate job prospect.

“Tommy came to regard (Edward, Prince of Wales) as hopelessly selfish and irresponsible, and quite unfit for his future role as Sovereign. So disgusted was he with the Prince’s behaviour that in January, 1929, he resigned,” Duff Hart-Davis, the editor of King’s Counsellor, wrote in an introduction to the book.

Also of interest to me, though not included in The Crown, is the fact Lascelles became Secretary to the Governor-General of Canada, Vere Ponsonby, the 9th Earl of Bessborough, in 1931, serving until 1935. If the reader is curious about the reason why I’m interested, I refer them to this link.

In late 1935 Lascelles was offered the position of Assistant Private Secretary to King George V. He was reluctant to accept because as Prince of Wales, Edward would immediately become King when his aging father died. However, assured by Royal officials that the King was in good health and likely to reign for at least another seven years, he accepted the position. But as fate would have it, George V died within a few months, and Lascelles again became Edward’s (as King Edward VIII) assistant private secretary, until he abdicated. Then, Lascelles served in that position for George VI, before being promoted to Private Secretary. He was knighted by the King during a successful Royal tour of Canada in 1939, which Lascelles helped organize. He remained Private Secretary during the first year of Elizabeth II reign, starting in 1952, until he retired in 1953. Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles died August 10, 1981, at Kensington Palace, at the age of 94.

His close connection with Edward through his several titles and manifestations is one of the great ironies of Lascelles’ long life and career in Royal service. His character as depicted in The Crown is that of a stern, ‘stuffed shirt’ of a man with an unpleasant personality, rather shallow, and lacking in sensitivity. Despite, how little I knew of Lascelles, except intuitively, I sensed the depiction was not accurate. My reading of his own words as recorded in his daily journal, letters and other documents confirm my sense of who he really was: thoughtful, sensitive, a good judge of character, and with a timely sense of humor to lighten a too-serious moment when needed in conversation or conference. It is noteworthy that he and King George VI were on exceptionally good terms, the king, who suffered from a speech impediment, being especially grateful for Lascelles’ “encouraging” attitude.

However, King’s Counselor, also reveals Lascelles as a man of his times, and perhaps his particular culture, in a disturbing way. In 1947, in the midst of a Royal Tour to The Union of South Africa, in a letter to his wife Joan back in England, he describes a “country of supreme beauty” where he might be “quite glad to live … if only it wasn’t for the blacks” who greatly outnumber “whites.”

Also, in journal entries near the end of the Second Worlds War, his lack of empathy for the countless victims of massive Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities was more than disturbing: it showed the extent to which war can bring out the worst, even in basically good people. Lascelles’ journal entries themselves stopped after the war ended. I hope he found it in him to feel differently about those attitudes.

Winston Churchill

The moment I found most touching in King’s Counselor was what Lascelles wrote in a letter to a friend dated January 30, 1965. He had just attended Winston Churchill’s funeral service which he called “deeply moving,” adding, “I cried a good deal. I was very fond of the old man, who was, for many years, abundantly kind to me. And I am more sure than I am of future life that, but for him, I should not be sitting here a free man.”

King’s Counselor is the most recent of a series of several books based on Lascelles’ journal and other papers stored in the Royal Archives. As Hart-Davis, the editor of the books notes, Archive officials were stubbornly reluctant to permit publication of certain documents for the second book, In Royal Service, published in 1989, which included an earlier period of Lascelles’ royal service; but it did not include a “devastating retrospective assessment of the Prince’s character and behaviour,” Hart-Davis wrote in an introduction to the 2020 edition of King’s Counsellor. Both that edition, and the earlier 2006 edition of the same book contain that revealing document, which corrected errors in the previous historic record.

For example, Lascelles shot down the prevailing sentiment that Edward, “a lonely bachelor, ‘fell deeply in love’ for the first time in his life with the soulmate for whom he had long been waiting.” Lascelles called that “moonshine,” adding, “he was never out of the thrall of one female after another. There was always a grande affaire and, coincidentally, as I know to my cost, an unbroken series of petites affaires, contracted and consummated in whatever highways and byways of the Empire he was traversing at the moment.”

I will say I found that interesting as well: apparent proof that it was entirely possible Edward, Prince of Wales, before he became Edward VIII, and then the Duke of Windsor, left inconvenient, illegitimate children behind him as he travelled the Empire; one in particular, and under circumstances that cast a long shadow to this day.

Morning thoughts (10): Being human at our best

Yes, indeed, the snow was coming down heavily when the propane truck showed up early this morning. And none too soon either: the tanks were getting low, and to be on the safe side, I had turned the thermostat down to 60.

So it was, with a certain level of relief I saw the truck coming down Cathedral Drive as I put a blue box full of recyclables at the end of my long driveway, after spending a frigid hour or so blowing it out with the tractor-and-snowblower attachment.

The truck driver was a cheerful young man, talking about the weather, as Canadians are famous world-wide for doing obsessively. (That must be why I’m writing this now, eh?).

He said the last time he had delivered propane to my place earlier, in the late fall, it also had been snowing heavy on Cathedral Drive. “A winter wonderland, eh,” he said cheerfully as he started to pull the long, black hose around to the side of the house where the propane tanks are located. Inside, the dogs were barking excitedly as they always do when the propane truck arrives, or for that matter, anybody or anything.

I decided to keep the tractor block-heater plugged in because, the way the snow was coming down, I’d likely have to blow the driveway again. That’s one of the essentials of getting through a Canadian winter:  you have to keep on top of it, whether it be clearing the driveway, shoveling snow off the roof, or making sure the tractor essentials have been looked after: motor oil, antifreeze, gear and hydraulic fluid, battery charging okay, and especially, the block heater working well. Any one of those things neglected, and many others not mentioned, and winter will make you pay the price.

The other thing about winter is it demands you re-arrange your priorities, like, in my case, keeping up on the news is relegated to second place.

Still, I find it hard to imagine how people can live without up-to-date news about what’s going on in the world, especially if it’s something that has the clear risk of being able to create catastrophic chaos. And when I say that I immediately think of the world my three grown daughters, and my many grandchildren may inherit.

In the almost four-score years I have been on this planet, I have never seen such troubling times. At the top of the list of those worrisome troubles is the ongoing crisis south of the border. Make no mistake, the future of Canada, as well as the rest of the world, and the U.S. itself, hangs in the balance depending on what happens there. This new year, 2022, will see it go one way or the other: the survival of American democracy, or a virtual authoritarian regime, even an actual civil war. There’s a virtual one already.

Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic has come back with a vengeance because of the omicron variant, after seeming to be on the wane last summer. It threatens to aggravate the socio-political problems in the U.S. Inevitably, the administration of President Joe Biden, already showing signs of strain, will be blamed if the situation doesn’t change for the better. Talk about a ‘perfect storm.’

And if 2021 didn’t provide enough evidence that climate change is real and closing in on catastrophic consequences – think 50-degree summer temperatures, and -50 winter temperatures in western Canada, for just one example – then I don’t know what more evidence will.

What is the matter with us, we human beings? As Shakespeare had the character, Puck, say in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “What fools these mortals be.”

All that being said – and much left unsaid – I am compelled to dig down deep and come up with hope, that most positive quality of human nature:

We have it in our power, in the ‘better angels’ of who we are, to change things for the much better. Once our most prehistoric, human ancestors, facing a life-threatening, environmental catastrophe, got together and went in search of a way, and a place to survive and go on living. It was a long and hard journey. It took many years, perhaps many generations. Everyone had a role to play, everyone worked together. They learned out of existential necessity how to be a supportive, peaceful community; otherwise, they would not have survived. Sometimes they laughed, often they cried; they learned how to sing and dance to help keep up their spirits; they created and made tools; they fought off predators by outsmarting them. And they no doubt also prayed to the Great Mystery for strength, inspiration, and guidance.

And they succeeded. And so have human beings succeeded many times in accomplishing all manner of great, good things. That’s who we are at our best: intelligent, individually and collectively, and multi-talented, problem solvers.

Nothing is impossible.

Morning thoughts (9): doing what comes natural in the garden

The garden at rest, January 2, 2022

No sooner has the New Year arrived than thoughts about gardening come up like newly-sprouted seeds. Never mind how many times I told myself last summer, as I got down daily on my hands and knees to pull weeds, that I was going to cut back on the size of the garden next season: the seed catalogues have arrived, and this old heart yearns for spring.

So, then why, when I look out the kitchen window, do I smile at the sight of snow starting to fall, with more to come every day this week? Because, on our morning walk, as the dogs and I passed the front garden where I planted numerous rows of garlic last fall, I heard them say, we’re cold. The garlic, I mean.

Okay, I know that’s a tad imaginative, maybe more. But as I approach four-score years of being on this precious little planet I feel like I’m entitled to some flights of fancy. Besides, if there’s one or two things I’ve learned in recent years, anything is possible, both good, and not. But let’s say a prayer for ‘good’ in 2022. It is sorely needed.

The reason why I’m happy to see snow is because an extra layer of insulation is good for the wintering garlic. Yes, it’s winter-hardy, remarkably so, but there is a limit. I follow ‘the book’ on garlic when, after planting, I covered the rows with plenty of fresh, clean wheat straw. That straw is now largely exposed, amid what’s left of the mid-December snow that mostly melted after the unseasonably mild weather that followed. But the temperature fell to -14 Celsius last night, and the sooner the garlic gets a fresh layer of snow-insulation, the better.

And then there’s also the expanded strawberry patch, with six rows of strawberry runner-plants transplanted last September. Some will say spring is better for transplanting; but over the years, I’ve had good luck with early fall. Strawberries also overwinter well, with the help of a good layer of straw insulation. Even so, I’ll be happy to see the snow come for their sake as well.

Jorden and Grandpa, and friends, in the garden

Those who love gardening will understand how one develops a personal relationship with plants. I suppose it’s best described as a matter of faith: the idea that good feelings are expressed, and exchanged back and forth; and that, I swear, is beneficial to the growth of a healthy garden. That and the good, old routine of the gardener’s hard work.

This seems like a good place to say, I don’t and never will use herbicide, including and especially those containing the active ingredient Glyphosate, with the main one being the first, Monsanto’s Round-up. Such herbicides are now used in vast quantities around the world in large-scale commercial farming; to the extent that it’s hard to buy food free of glyphosate residue. I daresay that’s one of the reasons why grow-your-own gardening is booming. Those of us who have the land to do that are indeed fortunate, especially if that land is as far away as possible from areas of extensive, cash-crop farming because of the risk of glyphosate-spray drift.

Yes, I hoe and pull weeds, hopefully before they go to seed; and thus, I kill plants. Some will compose and add organic matter to the soil. Some, like twitch grass, the farmer/gardeners’ worst nightmare, are better burned. But the whole idea of spraying chemicals on the field or the garden before planting or emergence, and thus leaving glyphosate residue in the soil for any amount of time, strikes me as utterly unnatural. Worst of all is spraying herbicide just before harvest, to stop the plant from growing and to begin the drying process. That’s called ‘staging.’ How can that be good, when the fact is glyphosate residue remains in many of the foods people eat? Canadian government food-safety regulators say the levels are not high enough to pose a threat to human health. But do you really want to eat Glyphosate?

Anyway, after that bit of drumbeating about my glyphosate obsession, bon chance with your garden in 2022. And may the love be with you.

A view of the garden, early summer a few years ago. Many rows of potatoes, onions and kale.

Morning thoughts (8): A great moment in American history

I understand the risk in posting the link below, of it possibly being misunderstood by some south of the border who would wrongly claim for their own that great moment in American history. Freedom is a thoughtful word.

But, I’ll take that chance. Readers of this blog will know from previous content where I stand regarding the current existential crisis in the world’s first and greatest modern democracy. As John Adams said then, and would, I’m sure, say again today, he was “not without apprehension.” But rather than the “apocalypse” certain members of the Continental Congress predicted if the American Revolution continued, “I see hope,” Adams said.

Adams, one of the Founders, went on to become second President of the United States, after George Washington.

Now, as then, the fate of The United States of America, hangs in the balance; it will survive as a free country under the rule of law; or it will become what the Founders feared and tried to guard against most of all: a tyranny, an authoritarian, one-party state born of one man’s atrocious lies, and unprincipled pursuit of power.

This is my way, from up here in Canada, to wish the best in the New Year to our great neighbour, and my relatives and friends who live there.

This morning’s walk with the dogs down Cathedral Drive to the touchstone featured another interesting, and, I choose to believe, hopeful sunrise.

Morning thoughts (7): Ravens speak on Christmas morning

Grey and misty this Christmas morning, as we walked to the touchstone down Cathedral Drive. In the woods over to the west, one of the family of ravens that lives there was calling persistently, a kind of ‘whoop, whoop’ sound. I took it to mean, in the fog, “where is everybody?” For a few seconds there was no response. But then came a lower-voiced, continued croaking, as if to say, “we’re here, we’re here, don’t worry.”

“My ravens,” I called them a few years ago when a mating couple built an impressively large nest up high in the barn where two, big, hand-hewed beams meet. That was in the spring of the year. Later, in the late fall, when we were walking back one morning and the first snow of big, fluffy flakes came down, the parent ravens and their three, young offspring flew over from the barn. And I swear, just over our heads, they danced in the snow, wheeling and soaring joyfully. It was as if they were putting on a show, sharing their joy with us. I stopped to watch, and so did my dogs, Buddy and Sophie. No barking, just watching. And then the ravens flew away into the trees on the other side of the house, where they chattered back and forth to each other for a while, pleased, perhaps with their performance.

I don’t know why, maybe because I took visitors over one too many times to admire the Raven nest, but a couple of years later they set up ‘house’ in the woods near the barn. Or maybe they were just expanding their territory into the hardwood forest that stretches far to the west alongside the old hay field being allowed to regenerate back to the forest it once was — claiming back its territory, you might say.

So much for close to a century of back-breaking work, the hopes and dreams, of the weary, struggling settlers and their children who cleared that long, winding field through the forest; and then, like most of their neighbors, ended up selling the farm too cheap to Dow Chemical almost 50 years ago. But Hope Ness didn’t become one big limestone quarry; all that land about 2.000 acres (800 hectares) of it, became Ontario Crown land, with some of it now called The Hope Bay Nature Reserve, by Ontario Parks. I count myself fortunate to have ended up living here, surrounded by that nature reserve, on a few acres of what used to be one of those farms.

And so it goes, in the life of humankind. Who knows what or who will be here a hundred, a thousand, a million years from now? But I wouldn’t be at all surprised, if I were somehow able to go forward in time, to find ravens still here.

For a while, a few years ago when the family of ravens had vacated the barn, I wondered if they moved away, found a new territory. I even hoped to a certain extent it wasn’t because I had in some way offended them. But if they left it was only for a little while. they seem at home still in the nearby forest. And when the dogs and I go for our morning walk, the ravens greet us with what I fancy may be the ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ chorus.

I mean these intelligent, interesting, talkative, fun-loving creatures no harm. To be completely honest, I’d prefer they weren’t nest robbers. I can still see the sky-blue remains of robin’s eggs I found one morning on the driveway near the house. For all I know, maybe they saw my reaction, and chose to make a territorial adjustment on that account when they left the barn.

And ravens are the last thing a cattle farmer wants to see around his herd, especially when new calves are about. Yes, it’s true, amid all its beauty, nature can be cruel.

Ah, the myriad of thoughts, some of them perplexing, that come to mind on a morning walk because the ravens were heard talking.

But having a sense of wonder is, after all, the key that opens up one’s heart, mind, and soul to the ultimate wonder: the appreciation of this sacred gift of being alive, this opportunity, this journey of being and becoming, and where it leads.

Morning thoughts (6): An azure-pink sky, the silence, the music of life

Rising more or less at first light, the beloved ritual of morning coffee and quiet reflection duly observed, the online morning news perused – the Tiananmen Pillar of Shame unceremoniously removed by a paranoid regime at Hong Kong University; a reclusive American heiress living in Italy getting a lot of attention for inadvertently funding the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capital — I look up from the screen for a glimpse out the kitchen window facing west. The sky is a lovely, soft, azure-pink color. Astonishing.

I am moved to capture it: I grab my camera and go outside quickly as the dogs complain, wondering why they’re being left behind. But, outside, the moment has already passed, enough that the pink hue in the sky has started to fade.

I should know better, I tell myself, than to think I can, even for a brief moment, stop the natural flow of the world. “What conceit, man!” I tell myself. Buddy and Sophie, look at me questionably, appearing to agree. I give them their morning meal, and, with their usual joyful anticipation, we begin our morning walk down Cathedral Drive toward our waiting Touchstone.

Right away, I take note of the profound stillness in the air: not like yesterday morning when the nearby forests on both sides of the ‘no exit’ road roared in the strong wind, each trunk and infinity of winter-bare branches an instrument within the perfect, natural orchestra. I stop to observe the uppermost branches of ash and wild apple trees along the sides of the road: not a hint of a tremble among them.

In due course, I know, the still air will soon begin to move as the sun rises, prompting the winds to play their part again in the chorus of life.

But in the silence there is also music: a calmness of spirit, a moment of quiet reflection, a gathering of strength. The sky knows, the clouds know, the sun knows, the trees know, and every big or small creature in the forest, in the grass, and in the soil under the new, snow cover; they all know.

The music does not have to be analyzed, picked apart and explained, though that doesn’t necessarily hurt if you keep the essential ‘thou’ in mind: above all, it is heard and understood in the great mystery of heartfelt wonder and appreciation.

And so, dear hearts, this is how we nourish ourselves, as creatures of the world and of the spirit. And, just as important, this is how we nourish, and bring peace and hope to a troubled world.

Morning thoughts (5): Hope

Hope is the most precious …

I was going to say ‘commodity.’ But that primarily refers to a raw material or agricultural product that is ‘bought and sold.’ It has also come to be applied in a more general sense, as in, “Water is the most precious commodity.”

That’s certainly true enough, including spiritually; but then I would add calling water a commodity doesn’t do it justice. Likewise, Hope, perhaps to an even greater extent.

So, what should we call Hope? Preferably, not ‘it.’ The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, best known for his book, I and Thou, would suggest ‘Thou.” The title denotes the different quality of relationship people may have with other beings, ultimately leading to relationship with God, the Creator, the Great Mystery. I use that word, ‘beings,’ in the broadest spiritual sense, as applied to all the natural wonders of our world, and beyond.

Whatever we may call Hope, it is most essential. We cannot live without Hope. Surely that’s true — who can deny? — problems of varying degrees of troubling impact are bound to happen in our lives. It can be, it often is, a hard and frightening world for most of us who simply want to live our lives as best we can with a sufficient level of peace, security and stability, and hope for the future.

But Hope is strained under the weight of too much heartbreak and adversity, and of fears engendered by an overwhelming series of major troubles in the world around us, far and wide. Despair can set in if that persists day after day, month after month, year after year.

Despair is a terrible thing. Taken to heart internally, it will break the spirit, leading to other terrible personal and and community consequences like poverty, homelessness, drug addiction that further eat away at the possibility of renewed hope. It is a foolish society indeed that fails to recognize the need to reach out to help those in such critical need.

Despair also expresses itself outwardly, in confused anger and violence. Millions of people in unknowing despair are easily exploited by selfish, unprincipled people for their own gain, including the pursuit of personal power.

Such, I fear, is the world we now live in; and I confess, I am losing hope.

The Covid pandemic is heading toward the beginning of its third year, with a fourth surge fueled by a new variant that appears to be more infectious, spreading quickly around the world. The Omicron variant originated in southern Africa where, like other poor areas of the world, vaccination levels remain extremely low, compared to richer countries, where booster shots are being pushed to meet the challenge amid indications vaccines are less effective against the new variant. It is hoped booster shots will help.

Meanwhile, the other big story is the continuing crisis in the U.S. Make no mistake, that is an existential, world-changing story that affects us all. I have sensed for some time people are tired of hearing about it. But bury your head at your peril.

In recent days, much new evidence has surfaced about the extent to which the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Congress was the result of a coup conspiracy orchestrated from the White House after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. He continues to claim election fraud, and insists he has the best interests of his country at heart.  

The White House

Many observers are publicly wondering why, with more than enough evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice appears to be so passive about laying charges, or otherwise showing its hand. To some extent that is the nature of the beast when it comes to enforcing the rule of law; you take the time you need to do your due diligence to ensure you have a strong case. In this case that is even more important. If charges are laid, especially against Trump, and there appears to be anything less than an ironclad case, there is a real chance of civil war breaking out.

Meanwhile, Republicans control a majority of the state legislatures, many of which are busily passing new laws giving them more power to declare the results of the 2022 mid-term elections in their states, if the outcome is not to their liking.

So, in effect, the coup is still underway. And time is running out.

I don’t know how you feel about that. But I am worried.

The decline and fall of American democracy, and therefore, America itself, will shake the stability of the world to its core. Russian troops are massing on the Ukraine border, because Russian leader Valdimir Putin is, at the least, testing the resolve of the U.S. to do anything.

U.S. President Joe Biden and allies have warned of “consequences” if Russian invades the Ukraine. They would likely be more economic sanctions.

The possibility of war is hanging in the balance. It must be noted that any war between Russia and its allies, and the U.S. and it’s allies, would be fought to a large extent in cyberspace, where Russian operatives have already had much experience attacking the U.S., by interfering in the 2016 presidential election in support of Trump.

Am I getting carried away? I actually hope so. But if the last few years have told us anything, it’s that anything is possible.

In the meantime, I keep my hopes up as best I can by, first, going for morning and evening walks with the dogs.

This morning the sun rising through a line of trees to the southeast was enough to stop me for a while. Then on the way back I was struck by how much in a few minutes the sun had risen over the trees.

And that led me to think about how for ages people believed the apparent movement of the sun meant the Earth didn’t move, and therefore must be the center of the universe. In the 16th Century a pretty smart guy named Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish mathematician, astrologist and man of many talents, wrote a book that proved otherwise. It was titled, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres). A Roman Catholic canon himself, he was praised by other learned people, but also strongly criticized by protestant and Catholic church leaders alike for many years.

Nicolaus Copernicus, who put the sun back in it’s right place

Copernicus, being human, worried that might happen, and delayed publication of his book, until shortly before he died in 1543. But even so, he was hopeful: he believed the truth did not diminish, but rather glorified the wonder of Creation; and the day would come when others would see that.

So, thinking about Copernicus raised my hopeful spirits. And then later in the day, I baked bread, and that always helps.

“To know the mighty works of God, all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High.”– Nicolaus Copernicus.

The Saugeen land claim and the ‘path of peace’

The out-of-court settlement just reached by Bruce County and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) is the latest indication SON’s long-standing land claim is heading toward similar, land-transfer settlements with the remaining defendants.

Those defendants include the governments of Canada and Ontario, and the three local municipalities on the peninsula that were always most at risk. That’s not only because the ownership of local roads has been at issue since the claim, as a lawsuit, was first filed in an Ontario court; but also because of the large tracts of Crown land on the peninsula held either by the province and/or the federal government, including two national parks. As a result, those settlements when they happen, will more than likely be much bigger.

The Bruce County/SON settlement involves 306 acres (124 hectares) of county forest in two tracts on the peninsula. The full details of the settlement are confidential.

Grey County and SON reached a similar settlement in September 2020 that included the transfer of 275 acres of county forest northwest of Owen Sound in Georgian Bluffs.

SON and Saugeen Shores, a local municipality in Bruce County that includes the towns of Southampton and Port Elgin, announced this past September they had reached a settlement. It included the transfer of four acres (1.7 hectares) of municipal property, financial compensation, and municipal support for housing development.

SON is comprised of two, closely-related First Nations, the Chippewas of Nawash, on the Georgian Bay side of the Peninsula north of Wiarton, and the Saugeen First Nation, on the Lake Huron side, south of Sauble Beach. In 1994 they combined to file a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court claiming multi-billion-dollar damages for alleged improprieties committed by Crown before and during negotiations that led to the signing of Treaty 72 in 1854. Under that treaty, SON’s ancestors, under pressure from Crown negotiators, including threats from one, surrendered most of what was then called, the Saugeen Peninsula. They were left with several, relatively small areas of land and hunting grounds on the upper peninsula.

The Grotto, in the Bruce Peninsula National Park

The surrendered land was surveyed into 100-acre farm lots, to be sold, and the money put into trust funds for the benefit of the Saugeen/Nawash people. But, for one thing, no provisions were made in that regard for newly-surveyed road and shore allowances and the land they took up.

The roots of the Treaty 72 claim go back to a treaty signed in 1836, when SON ancestors occupied a much larger area, as far south as present-day Goderich, east beyond present-day Wasaga Beach, and north to the tip of the peninsula. But that territory was being overrun by non-Indigenous squatters. Crown officials said they were unable to keep the squatters out. But they promised, if the Saugeen surrendered the larger, southern part of their territory, they would keep squatters out of the peninsula “forever.”

But, just 18 years later, Crown officials, were again looking for a further surrender of Saugeen land on the peninsula, and saying, yet again, they weren’t able to keep squatters out. One in particular, T.G. Anderson, went so far as to threaten the Saugeen that if they didn’t surrender the peninsula, the Crown would act unilaterally.

The SON lawsuit claimed Crown officials had thus brought the honor of the Crown into disrepute, and also breached the Crown’s Fiduciary (trust) Duty owed to First Nation people. The Supreme Court of Canada, in previous judgements, has recognized both as violations requiring compensation.

The Saugeen were, and still are, a fishing people active on the waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay on either side of the peninsula. In 2004 SON added an additional claim to the lawsuit, calling for a declaration of Aboriginal Title to the land under those waters. That would have been a first-such declaration in Canada.

The trial into the SON claims began under Justice Wendy Matheson on April 23, 2019, and ended October 23 of the same year. In her 211-page judgement released July 7, 2021, Justice Matheson did not find in favor of the claim for Aboriginal Title. She also found SON’s claim that the Crown’s Fiduciary Duty had been breached did not meet the requirements based on Supreme Court precedent.

SON and its lawyers have appealed those judgements.

Justice Matheson did however find the Crown had failed to keep the 1836 Treaty’s promise to keep squatters off the peninsula “forever.” She also found T.G. Anderson’s threats in preliminary negotiations for the 1854 treaty that summer breached the Crown’s honor. “He said that the government had the power to act as it pleased and that he would recommend that ’the whole, excepting the parts marked on the map in red and blue, be surveyed and sold for the good of yourselves and children,’” Justice Matheson said in her judgement.

“To do so would have been contrary to Crown policy, which, at least from the time of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, had required obtaining the agreement of the Indigenous group.”

Laurence Oliphant, the newly appointed Superintendent General of Indian Affairs for Britain’s Canadian colony, travelled from Quebec to take over the 1854 treaty negotiations. After arriving in Guelph, he and a member of the Upper Canada Legislature travelled by horse and buggy to Owen Sound, and from there to the Saugeen Village near the mouth of the Saugeen River. On the way, Oliphant saw the squatter and associated problems first-hand and recorded them in his final report after the treaty was signed. He spoke of “the tide of immigration, the search for ‘wild lands’, gangs of squatters, bloodshed and threats by squatters to settle on Indian Lands in defiance of the government,'” Justice Matheson wrote in her judgement.

During the trial, SON presented evidence to back up the claim that Oliphant lied when, in treaty negotiations, he told the assembled Saugeen/Nawash Chiefs “that squatters were, even then, locating themselves without permission” on the Peninsula. He went spoke of “the extreme difficulty, if not impossibility, of preventing such unauthorised intrusion,” as Justice Matheson later noted.

After Oliphant’s arrival, the treaty negotiations did not begin in earnest until the late afternoon of October, 13, 1854 because the Chiefs were out on their fishing grounds. The discussions went on into the night, until the treaty was signed about 1 a.m.

The next day, back in Owen Sound, Oliphant issued a public notice warning that squatters were not allowed on the peninsula land just surrendered in Treaty 72, thus making it Crown land. He wrote to the sheriff of Grey County, informing him of the surrender and requesting his assistance in “summarily ejecting” squatters. And, finally, Oliphant also wrote to surveyor Charles Rankin, asking him to do everything he could to keep the sheriff informed and help remove squatters.

However, Justice Matheson, did not agree Oliphant lied during the treaty negotiations and, thus, did not breach the honor of the Crown like Anderson. SON has also appealed that decision.

Since it was first filed filed in 1994 the SON lawsuit has claimed damages totalling $90 billion, an amount often cited in news media reports. In legal parlance that is known as a “placeholder,” John Bainbridge, a lawyer with land claim experience, wrote in the Bruce Peninsula Press in August, 2019. “Any litigant who fails to put in a figure for compensation in their Statement of Claim will get zero dollars if they win the lawsuit. If the SON establish that they have a valid claim, a negotiation will begin to determine an accurate figure for compensation that will probably fall far short of $90 billion,” Bainbridge wrote. He noted “the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is one of the biggest so far in Canada and the compensation they received was $1.4 billion.”

The SON lawsuit is being handled by the Ontario court, as agreed by the participants, as a two-phase process. It’s still in the first stage, to determine the merit, to one degree or another, of the SON claims. If in favor of SON to whatever extent as determined in phase one, the second phase will consider an appropriate amount of compensation and how that will be paid.

In that event, given the fiscal restraints of government coffers, made worse by the current Covid 19 pandemic, a purely financial settlement is unlikely. The stage has been set for settlements based on land transfers, as in the three out-of-court settlements already reached.

The overall process, as it now stands, may yet take more years. Or there may be a final out-of-court settlement involving the remaining defendants sooner, possibly in 2022. A lot depends on motivation of the two senior defendants, the federal and Ontario governments.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I note here that the province has about 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of Crown land in Hope Ness, just north of Hope Bay on the peninsula. My home and property are surrounded on three sides by it, including the Hope Bay Nature Reserve. That provincial Crown land is a prime candidate for inclusion in a potential Ontario/SON settlement.

Am I worried about that, for my sake, and the sake of my family? Not really. Despite the dishonourable way they were treated, over and over again, since before 1836, the Saugeen/Nawash people chose the path of peace in the courts of their historic oppressor to seek justice. That was, and remains a huge expression of hopeful trust in the current legal processes of the Crown and Canada, as well as the inherent justice of their cause.

And that is a thought worth taking into consideration as everyone on the peninsula waits, and thinks, about how the claim will, or should be, settled.

Morning (evening) thoughts (4): “He would have proved most Royal”

“My God, he’s been here before!”

So said my father when he first set eyes on me, just brought home from the hospital, when I happened to open my eyes just as he looked down into the crib. He covered his eyes with an arm and looked away in surprise, and, apparently, shock. That’s the story my mother told me many times when I was a boy. For some reason she never explained, or perhaps knew; in which case she must have felt instinctively it was something I should always remember.

And, so I have, though not precisely this morning when the sun rose in a mostly bright, blue sky. A few clouds were gathering on the horizons over Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The day stayed cold and bright until late afternoon. But by early evening dark clouds were rising up on the horizons over Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, to the west and east respectively. I fed Buddy and Sophie, and a few minutes later we went for our ‘evening walk’ down Cathedral Drive to the touchstone.

I started thinking about how certain great poems or lines from Shakespearean plays have often come to mind; and not always when I’m in a mood and need that consolation. Sometimes, just the sound of words spoken dramatically, with the wind roaring through the bare branches of late-fall or winter trees — sometimes that’s more than enough reason; and I hold forth with lines like:

“Dark hills in the west, where sunset hovers like a sound of golden horns that sang to rest, old bones of warriors under ground,” the first few lines of The Dark Hills, one of my favourite poems, by the American poet, Edwin Arlington Robinson.

That led me to thinking about my father and how from an early age he loved words and devoured the great works of English literature, especially poetry, Shakespearean plays, and the short stories of Ernest Hemingway, who he regarded as an underrated author.

My father certainly certainly encouraged my own interest. I remembered one time in particular when I was 11 and we were still together as a family. He came into the living room and noticed I was reading a seriously thick, hardcover book. I think I got it from the school library.

“What are reading?” he asked. “Two Years Before the Mast,” I replied. He lit up with keen interest and recognition. He didn’t have to say, he had read it: it was written in his eyes. “A good book for a young man to read,” he said, as he sat down beside me. “You must be enjoying. I see you’re more than halfway through it. Good for you. Quite a story, isn’t it?” It was Richard Henry Dana’s classic, 1840 memoir of his two year journey as a young man from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the California coast. In those days, long before the Panama Canal was built, it was a long and perilous voyage down the Atlantic Ocean, through the Magellan Strait at the southern tip of South America to the Pacific Ocean, then north to California.

“Oh, yes,” I said, happy and proud to have my father’s approval.

It was about that time, either the Christmas before or after, when he gifted me with a bound copy of Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Inside, he had written: “Read as a boy, understood as a man.”

My father’s formal education ended when he turned 15 and he went to work to help his poor family survive the Great Depression. At most he got a year or two of High School, at Western Technical School in Toronto.

He was born in 1923, and adopted as a newborn baby within days of his birth. He was just days away from his 20th birthday when he looked down into my crib and said what he said about me apparently having had a previous life. Where did that come from at such a young age, one might ask. He prided himself on being a rational man by then. But already, he had seen enough of life’s pain and heartache to inform his soul. The death of my parents’ first child, a baby-girl named Susan who died at birth, was especially painful. At that hospital, in those days, my mother was not allowed to see the body of her still-born baby. But my father saw her. I don’t know that he was ever the same again, though my much younger sister, who he also named, Susan, and my brother, David, have told me our father found some peace of mind before he died.

He died in Los Angeles, in August, 1970. He was just 47 years old. With his, literally, last breath, he reached out desperately for more. Life had not been kind to him in many ways, with being abandoned at birth his first misfortune. But he loved life with all the passion of his deep, though troubled being.

“For he was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most Royal …,” Shakespeare wrote for Fortinbras to say, after the death of Hamlet. That’s one of those lines I also often call out for someone to hear, somewhere. My father may have had good reason to do the same.

Had he seen those dark clouds gathering across the skies over Cathedral Drive and Hope Ness this evening, and felt the cold, ominous wind blowing out of the Northwest, I have no doubt he would want with all his heart and soul to savour even that precious moment of being alive again.

But what am I saying? He was there, of course.

Morning thoughts (3): potatoes and glyphosate don’t mix

Potatoes and glyphosate were on my mind this morning as the dogs and I walked down Cathedral Drive to the touchstone.

That may come as no surprise in the worldwide community of Finding Hope Ness readers well aware of my continuing concerns about the risk vast quantities of weed-killing herbicide containing Glyphosate being sprayed on crops around the world may pose for human health.

And, yes, I have gone on and on about how much I like potatoes often enough, that some might shrug and say, ‘so, what else is new?’ and turn the page, so to speak. But bare with me.

I have taken it for granted that because I don’t use Round-up or any other herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate that my potatoes are free of it. But I bow my head. I confess, after all these years it has taken me too long to find out that may not be true.

So, the question now is: what to do? And the answer may be … Well, I won’t go so far as to say ‘life-changing,’ not in a world where ‘life-changing’ events have become an ongoing or sudden reality. Not being able to do the things you love and live to do because of Covid-related travel restrictions or because climate-change-related weather extremes have already destroyed your life’s work – that’s truly life-changing.

As a good friend has often said when something goes wrong, “it’s not the end of the world” if I have to stop growing potatoes. But I love doing it; and I take pride in the way I do it, especially my habit for the past 25 years of mulching the newly emerged plants with good, clean straw. As a result, I’ve never had to spray any kind of insecticide to control the Colorado potato beetle, the major pest of potato crops. Also, I’m old-fashioned when it comes to weed control. I never use herbicide, and nowadays that means products that contain glyphosate, the best known being Round-up. Developed by Monsanto, it was first approved by the U.S. 45 years ago.

Glyphosate has been increasingly controversial in recent years, with the big question being, does it cause cancer or doesn’t it? Several lawsuit cases in the U.S. have answered yes and ordered multi-million-dollar damages. Bayer, the current owner of Monsanto, has set aside billions of dollars to cover similar future judgements. Various regulatory agencies, in Europe for example, disagree on the answer to the fundamental question. A study done for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) from 2015 to 2017, with results published in 2020, concluded levels of glyphosate residue in food product samples taken from retail stores do not pose a health threat, based on Canada’s existing Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs). The study gathered 7,955 food samples from Canadian retail stores. of those samples, 3,366, or 46.3 percent, contained a “detectable” amount of glyphosate. And of those, 99.4 percent were within the Canadian MLR limit, while 46 samples were “non-compliant.”

“The high level of compliance (99.4% of samples with the Canadian regulatory limits) and the lack of a health risk for non-compliant samples indicate that, with respect to glyphosates, the food available for sale in Canada is safe,” the study concluded.

This past August Canadian officials decided after a period of public consultation not to go ahead with proposed increases to some MLRs until “at least” next year. Meanwhile, the government will look at enhancing its monitoring of pesticide matters.

Ah, the beautiful potato, fresh from the garden

In the best of all possible words, I would much prefer to consume no glyphosate. None at all, zero, nada.

Which brings me back to the beloved potato, that which my Celtic ancestors largely survived on; which Hope Ness pioneers, I’ve been told, had nothing else to eat except; and which originated in the Andes mountains a very long time ago, thanks to the indigenous people who lived there.

Winter is the time to start planning for next year’s garden crops. Every year I tell myself not to bite off more than I can chew, but rather, focus on the essentials, of which potatoes are one. So, with that in mind, as well as glyphosate, I went looking online for any possible concerns. Overdue, yes, I know.

I was surprised to find potatoes are, if anything, more sensitive to damage from incidental, wind-drift spraying somewhere else than I imagined. In fact, I thought I was far enough away on the Bruce Peninsula in secluded Hope Ness that it wasn’t a problem, despite the prevailing west and southwest summer winds. I assumed too much.

I found several online sources that spoke of the damage even a small amount of such incidental exposure to glyphosate can cause to potato crops. Most troubling was how glyphosate can travel down the parent-plant into the soil, and the daughter root ‘tubers,’ They are the actual potatoes that are marketed either as food, but most worrisome here, as seed potatoes.

“Tubers may have a normal physical appearance but have glyphosate in the seed that can cause a variety of germination problems the following year,” says a current article in Potato News, written by two associate professors at North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

I routinely buy seed potatoes from certified growers to plant in the spring. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for the federal Seed Potato Certification Program.

“The objective of the Seed Potato Certification Program is to supply Canadian growers of seed, table stock and processing potatoes with certified seed which is of high varietal integrity and is relatively free of tuber borne diseases,” says a CFIA web page. (my italics)

No offence, dear CFIA, but I think I may have to delve deeper into seed potato suppliers and how they deal with possible glyphosate contamination. As other on-line sources note, ‘organic’ is no guarantee regarding the effect of incidental drift.

I want to be able to say, “no glyphosate residue in potatoes grown at Cathedral Drive Farm.” Hopefully, that will be possible.”

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