Monday, April 14, 2008

Farley Mowat bails out crew and namesake ship after N.S. arrest

SYDNEY, N.S. — Canadian writer Farley Mowat put up bail money Monday to free anti-sealing activists arrested on the waters off Cape Breton, saying the seizure of a ship named after him was a totalitarian act.

Mowat, 86, said he was deeply honoured when the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named their vessel the Farley Mowat, and was ashamed of the Canadian government when he saw it being towed under arrest into Sydney on the weekend.

"A gross miscarriage of justice has been perpetrated by Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn and any Canadian with any conscience would try to rectify it," the animal rights activist said in an interview from his home in Port Hope, Ont.

"I have some conscience - not much - and a little money - not much - so I'm putting both to use and I'm doing my best to rectify a wrong."

The ship's captain and chief officer have been charged with getting too close to the hunt in the Cabot Strait - the body of water between Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, took the $10,000 donated by Mowat and paid the bail to free two crew members jailed in Sydney.

Half of the bond was in 2,500 toonies, which Watson described as "doubloons."

Watson said he wanted to pay the bond in coins because he considers Canada's seizure of the Farley Mowat an act of piracy - and that's how pirates like to be paid.

"It's a pirate's ransom," said Watson, who has cultivated an image as a pirate himself, painting his 54-metre vessel flat-black and flying the Jolly Roger.

Watson said the coins had to be counted twice after Cape Breton court officials lost track the first time and had to start over.

It was the latest theatrical flourish in a drama being played out following Canada's decision to crack down on Watson and the Sea Shepherd group in the struggle over the embattled East Coast seal hunt, which started March 28.

Government officials and animal welfare activists hurled insults at each other throughout Monday.

"I consider him to be a terrorist," Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams said of Watson, who infuriated many in the region by saying recently that the slaughter of young seals was a greater tragedy than the deaths of four Quebec sealers last month.

Ordinary citizens waded into the fray, with callers to a phone-in show on VOCM radio in St. John's, N.L., strongly supporting Hearn's decision to arrest what the Newfoundland minister called "a bunch of money-sucking manipulators."

"I'd like to have the money that they've raised off the backs of poor Newfoundland sealers," said a caller named Don.

Mowat called both Williams and Hearn "guttersnipes."

"They're big mouths," he said. "They'll call anybody anything but if someone turns around and calls them what they are, Lord Jesus me son, then the shit hits the fan."

Hearn, bristling at Mowat's comments, remarked on one of the author's better-known books about Newfoundland life, "The Boat Who Wouldn't Float."

"I'd suggest to Mr. Mowat and Mr. Watson this one is not going to float either," Hearn said outside the House of Commons.

Watson took umbrage with Williams's description of him as a "terrorist."

"I've never been convicted of a felony," said Watson, who is originally from St. Andrews, N.B. "I've never injured a single person in my life, so this is ridiculous."

Still, the Sea Shepherd group is infamous for militant tactics aimed at stopping hunters from killing seals, whales and other marine wildlife.

The group claims to have sunk six whaling ships since 1979, saying no one was hurt in those actions.

Watson, who arrived in Sydney on Sunday night, said the seizure Saturday of his vessel hasn't sidelined his push to end the East Coast seal hunt, which he called a cruel and unnecessary slaughter.

He described the Sea Shepherd campaign this year as "brilliant," thanks largely to Hearn.

"Mr. Hearn just handed us all of the publicity we needed to direct worldwide attention to this issue."

Hearn later conceded that Ottawa was, at one time, losing the public relations war to the anti-sealing movement.

"We have done, I think, a poor job over the years by being too diplomatic - sending our nice little diplomatic notes around," he said. "They got to nobody except foreign bureaucrats."

But he insisted the bid to save the hunt is on the rebound and the European Union prepares to vote on a motion this summer to ban all imports of seal products.

"We've addressed it now minister to minister," said Hearn. "We have an ambassador, our fisheries conservation ambassador, who's been doing a great job internationally at high levels."

There was nothing diplomatic about Hearn's decision Saturday to approve a provocative operation by the Mounties' elite marine unit to storm and seize the Mowat.

The order came two weeks after a group of seal hunters complained that Watson's ship came dangerously close to them not far from Cape Breton.

Captain Alexander Cornelissen, who hails from the Netherlands, and first officer Peter Hammarstedt are accused of steering the Farley Mowat to within 900 metres of the hunt. That's an offence under federal regulations unless an observer's permit has been granted. The Mowat does not have one.

Both Mowat and Watson said the seizure and arrests were illegal since the Farley Mowat is a Dutch-registered vessel and it was outside of Canada's 12-mile territorial limit.

On Monday, Hearn said the ship was seized within that zone, but he staff later said the minister misspoke.

Two Maritime law experts said Monday that Canada was within its right to arrest the ship and its crew if they were indeed violating seal hunt regulations.

"Canada has jurisdiction over fish and marine mammals out to 200 nautical miles," said Ted McDorman, a law professor at the University of Victoria. "So for purposes of marine mammal management, the waters out to 200 nautical miles are Canadian waters."

William Tetley, a professor of maritime law at McGill University in Montreal, said international ships have a right off passage in many Canadian waters but they don't have the right to violate Canadian laws.

"The Farley Mowat had a right of passage through the Cabot Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but it had to be innocent passage," Tetley said.

"If they're going to do something that is illegal, that's not innocent, and if they have committed a crime and are subject to arrest, they're not innocent. So they were properly arrested."

Cornelissen and Hammarstedt are due back in court May 1.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Beware an angry China

Beware an angry China
By Philip Bowring International Herald Tribune
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tibetans have a strong case against Beijing. But mixing it in with the Olympics and Darfur is a red rag to a wounded young bull.

Nationalism is more often aroused by setbacks than success, so the Tibet problems and the possible threats to a triumphal Olympics are stirring it in China.

On the horizon is the possibility that these will combine with high inflation, stagnating exports and trade tensions with the United States to create a perfect nationalistic storm.

The Chinese leadership faces a difficult balancing act.

As its legitimacy is now based on national achievement, not communist ideology, it must appear in step with popular feeling. Yet stability at home and good relations abroad require keeping nationalist emotions in check. The paranoia about evil foreign designs that thrived under Mao and was discarded by Deng Xiaoping is still close to the surface.

Almost all of China is offended that foreigners are so keen to lecture them and to encourage the petty boycotts that could spoil the Olympic party. It genuinely infuriates the Chinese that they are blamed for Darfur while their Western critics occupy Iraq. Beijing is happy to let such nationalist resentments vent in the sometimes violent language of Internet blogs and chat rooms.

The anger, in turn, makes it easier for the government to pin the Tibetan problems on foreigners and Tibetan exiles headed by the Dalai Lama, to arrest human-rights advocates and crack down on foreign media.

Beijing plays up the foreign threat - much like the U.S. government used the Al Qaeda threat as a justification for invading Iraq. For example, Beijing has raised the specter of Tibetan suicide squads organized by the "Dalai Lama clique" attacking the Olympics.

Such acts cannot be ruled out. But a cooler government would quietly strengthen defenses rather than raise the temperature - and raise fears that terrorist outrages might be staged to discredit the Tibetans.

Under pressure, officials have fallen back on Cultural Revolution language and lies. The Communist Party secretary in Tibet described the Dalai Lama as a "monster with a human face."

Less dramatically, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that the channel for dialogue with the Dalai Lama was open so long as he "abandoned claims for Tibet independence" and used his influence to "stop the violence in Tibet." In fact the Dalai Lama long ago accepted the principle of autonomy within China, so long as it was real autonomy. And he is at odds with many Tibetans who oppose his advocacy of peaceful means.

Equally important is the way official Chinese media has depicted the violence in Tibet as attacks on Han Chinese. This predictably arouses the hackles of the Han, who comprise 90 percent of China's population, and who tend to view Tibet as a backwater they improve by their modernizing drive.

They see no reason why Tibetans should be unhappy with Han migration and dominance of trade, and they resent that Tibetans do not feel grateful for the money poured in by the government.

"The Communist Party is like a parent to the Tibetan people and is always considerate about what the children need," declared the Tibet party secretary. The party, he said, was the "real Buddha" for Tibetans.

This racial/cultural aspect not only makes it even more difficult for China to resolve minority issues, it also raises the Han identity issue in a wider, international context.

Racial mythology as well as cultural identity run strong, whether vis-à-vis immediate "barbarian" neighbors - be they Japanese, Mongol or Russian - or toward the Westerners who long lorded it over the Middle Kingdom.

How will the Chinese react if the Olympics really do become noted more for demonstrations and boycotts by Tibetan-inspired foreigners than for the achievements of China's athletes and organizers? At whom will popular anger then be directed?

If the party is spoiled, whether by Tibet or air pollution, the demand for top level scapegoats may be irresistible.

Worse still is if this coincides with heightened trade tensions with the United States, which could arise as the U.S. economy enters a recession.

If the Chinese come to perceive that the benefits of globalization have peaked, will the leadership retreat from 30 years of Deng-ist engagement?

None of this has to happen. But ethnic pride and thwarted ambitions are powerful forces. It is worth recalling that foreign economic pressures, patriotic fervor and rising military power made a once liberal Japan into the expansionist, militarist and hyper-nationalist Japan of the 1930s.

Tibetans have a strong case against Beijing. But mixing it in with the Olympics and Darfur is a red rag to a wounded young bull.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Transit system shifting gears

One Person's View

Bill Scriven
Monday April 07, 2008
Woodstock Transit is about to enter a new era in its operations.
On Thursday night, city council threw its full support behind recommendations from the Mayor’s Transit Task Force. First off the block will be a new fare structure starting in July and new routes to be implemented possibly by October.
As has been mentioned in this space numerous times, Woodstock Transit is a much needed and highly valued operation relied upon by many people in our community. It may seem the buses travel their routes with very few passengers, but there are decent ridership numbers that hopefully will improve significantly under the new changes being implemented.
One change that will be appreciated by riders is scheduled to kick in at the end of June. Bus drivers will announce upcoming stops to passengers by way of a public address system. This is similar to systems such as the Toronto Transit Commission, although it can be difficult to hear upcoming stops particularly on the subway system.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to our transit system will be to the routes. With residential development in Woodstock heading north and northeast, new bus routes will be expanded to these areas. The changes are to take effect in October, about the time production is scheduled to begin at the Toyota assembly plant.
The transit system will only be used to its fullest if the routes accommodate those who use it. It appears the changes to the routes will provide more accessibility to citizens in our community. Check out the new routes at
Students are going to have to dig a little deeper to use Woodstock Transit, with student fares increasing to $2 from $1.
Look for a new logo and brand development as well for Woodstock Transit.
The system is moving along the right course as it moves into a new era.
If you haven’t travelled Woodstock Transit, give it a try and meet some of the finest transit drivers in the country.

Paul Maurice says Maple Leafs need Mats Sundin more than ever

TORONTO — Paul Maurice says the Toronto Maple Leafs need Mats Sundin more than ever now.

With the team a non-playoff failure for the third year in a row, which hadn't happened to the franchise since 1928, some fans are screaming for a total overhaul. Sundin will be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and some say it's time to let him go.

The head coach disagrees.

Maurice, who might not be in the Leafs employ once a new general manager is hired, led into his reasoning on Sundin by saying his team has left itself open to ridicule because of disappointing season after disappointing season.

"When you lose, all things are wrong, and that's where we're at - three years without making the playoffs," Maurice said during a news conference Monday. "This is not a statement on the media but there's a fair amount of negative tone to (coverage of) the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"When you're making the cover of national magazines, it's easy to say, 'You stink.' That's now almost a sign of intelligence if you can say something nasty about the Maple Leafs. But we're in that environment and, because of that, all things are wrong.

"The GM's got to go, the coach has got to go, the captain has to go, all the players have to go, you have to blow everything up. That is certainly something we've put out there by losing."

Getting around to Sundin, Maurice couldn't say enough positive things about the captain.

"Mats Sundin is a fine a man as you will ever meet," he said. "He's got a track record of what he says he means, which is a little bit rare at times.

"Maybe now, more than ever, it's more important that he's here. Because of the example that he brings, going forward with younger players coming in and so much of a change, you've got one man in that room who knows exactly how to carry himself as the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"My feeling on him is that he's more valuable to this franchise today than maybe at any other point because he has to be the light for this team going forward."

Maurice says he's not a bundle of nerves as he awaits the hiring of the new GM and thus the determination of his future.

"It's not as difficult as you might think being that I've grown up in this game," he said. "It's a rumour.

"It's going to be out there from now until the time the next general manager is hired and it'll be talked about and contemplated. The things that went well will be talked about occasionally and the things didn't go well will be talked about repeatedly and the new guy will come in and take a look at the hockey club and make a decision on where they think they want to go."

He declined to knock the underachieving skaters in his lineup by name. That's a matter between him and the players, he said.

"I still have a higher opinion of this hockey team than I think everybody else does, which doesn't relate to our finish very well," he said. "The easy thing for me to do would be to come out and say, 'These are the things that we need to fix."'

The Leafs have "some good developing mid-range players who are going to be very good Toronto Maple Leafs."

He offered Matt Stajan, Alex Steen and Ian White as examples.

"Then a couple of the young kids came in and gave you a little bit of hope," he added. "So that's a real strong positive, and we've got a goaltender. He'll be good here for a long time."

A 13-game stretch in the middle of the winter did the Leafs in, he said.

"We didn't survive that stretch and that was clearly, looking back on it, the death knell."

It has been reported that Jason Blake is critical of the way he was used. Maurice wouldn't shoot back.

"If I have any concerns with players' performance, I have those conversations directly face to face with them," he said. "I'd leave it at that.

"I know he played with four different centremen. We would have liked to have found someone he was very comfortable with in playing. He had a career year in assists. I'm clearly disappointed in his goals production output. That will be an important issue for this hockey club - to find the pieces that fit with the right people, especially in the top six (forwards)."

It was an off year for Darcy Tucker, and for Bryan McCabe, too.

"For Bryan, it was a very, very difficult year," said Maurice. "He got off to real tough start and drew the attention of the fans, which I don't think was easy for him by any means.

"His first injury set him back. There were a block of games between injuries when I think he played better hockey than at any time of the year prior. But, clearly, after he came back off his injuries . . . the end of the season was very difficult for him."

Being the Leafs' highest-paid player, earning more than US$7 million this season, was a factor.

"When defencemen get big contracts it puts more focus on their offensive production, and when that falls off that's what is pointed at," said Maurice. "Clearly, when you pay somebody that much money they have to put pucks in the net and they have to produce numbers."

Maurice will keep an eye on the playoffs and the world tournament, and he'll attend games played by the Toronto Marlies AHL farm team.

"It's nearly impossible to go cold turkey on hockey," he said.

When his fate is determined, he'll stay or coach somewhere else. Life will go on.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Link to Proposed October 2008 Route Map

Woodstock Transit’s new identity

Friday April 04, 2008

WOODSTOCK - New fares, a new route map, a new identity - welcome to the new Woodstock Transit.
City council unanimously approved the recommendations from the Mayor’s Transit Task Force, which has been working for almost two years to revamp Woodstock’s transit system with an eye to increasing ridership. The first phase of this makeover, as detailed in a comprehensive transit strategy report, will begin at the end of June, with a new fare structure in July and new routes possibly by October.
"Council is aware of broad public presentations on this," Woodstock Mayor Michael Harding said. "Not everyone was provided for immediately in this phase, but we have a plan in place."
With county’s vote, bus drivers will begin manually announcing stops to passengers beginning on June 30, which will require the installation of public address systems on each bus.
The following day, a new fare schedule will go into effect with the following changes:
• student fares will increase from $1 to $2 per ride;

• Han-D-Ride passes will cost $20 for 12 rides, a change from the current 22 rides for $35; and
• student and senior bus passes will drop to $40 per month.
Harding explained changes to the fares are structured to encourage consistent use of transit and the purchase of either the Han-D-Ride pass or a monthly pass.
Other changes approved by council will see a new logo and brand developed for Woodstock Transit, one that would be incorporated on the vehicles themselves as well as on bus stops, route maps and shelters. Bus stop signs, cement pads and shelters will be moved ahead of the intended October implementation date for the new bus routes.
Per the strategy the new bus stop signs will include information on the route schedule as well as the location of the next stop along the route.
The final mapping for the new bus routes will be available on the city’s website, and in new maps to be published prior to the change. Per the illustrated changes, the city will maintain six routes, but change them in order to accommodate service north of the Pittock Reservoir and into residential areas in the city’s northeast end.
Both routes travelling south of Dundas Street will overlap, providing double service to St. Mary’s High School and the Norwich Avenue box malls.
Implementing this first phase of the new Woodstock Transit comes at a cost of $126,000, to cover the new brand, new bus stop signs, the relocation of bus stops and the promotion of the new routes. Part of the funds will cover a contract staff position to manage the required changes.
Council’s work with the transit strategy isn’t yet complete- once enough new buses have been purchased to revitalize the fleet, Phase two changes could begin. Those include the addition of a seventh route in the city, an off-street transit terminal in the downtown core and the extension of service hours to evenings and Sundays.
Harding thanked Couns. Pat Sobeski and Connie Lauder for their service to the task force, along with city engineer David Creery and public works and transit superintendent Rick D’Entremont.
"If not already, this has the support of the drivers and hopefully, the people who ride," Harding said.

What Doug Ford has done so far, "For the People"

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