Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sindi Hawkins, politician (1958-2010)

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 29, 2010


In the hothouse of British Columbia politics, where rival partisans are as friendly as Hatfields and McCoys, both sides of the Legislature found agreement in saluting the legacy of Sindi Hawkins.

Ms. Hawkins, who has died of acute myeloid leukemia, aged 52, displayed wit, grace and generosity in a promising political career cut short by her disease.

A registered nurse who later earned a law degree, she won three consecutive elections to the B.C. Legislature, where she held Cabinet posts, as well as serving as a deputy Speaker.

In those instances, she was a trailblazer as an Indo-Canadian woman.

Beyond her many accomplishments, it was her open and vigorous campaign against the disease that eventually claimed her life that earned her widespread popular affection.

After her diagnosis in January, 2004, Ms. Hawkins spoke candidly of her condition. She encouraged British Columbians to donate blood and she called on Asian-Canadians to register as potential bone-marrow donors after learning only 15 per cent on the list are non-Caucasians.

She wrote diary entries for the The Province, giving readers of the Vancouver daily newspaper an intimate look at the life of a cancer patient.

“People have talked to me about my ‘courage’ in my fight against leukemia,” she wrote. “If anything, in the beginning, let me say I was driven more by fear than anything I would ever recognize as courage. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the treatment. Fear of my prognosis.”

Such openness endeared her to fellow cancer sufferers.

Even before she suddenly turned sick, she had been active in raising money for cancer research, a cause for which she had become dedicated as a nurse. Her fundraising efforts intensified after her diagnosis.

Satinder Kaur Ahluwalia was born on Sept. 15, 1958, at New Delhi. Her mother, Sharanjeet, and father, Manohar Singh, immigrated to Canada with four daughters in 1963. Two more children were born here. The family settled in Sturgis, a town in east central Saskatchewan near the Porcupine Provincial Forest.

After graduating with a nursing degree from the University of Calgary, she spent 12 years treating cancer patients before returning to campus to earn a law degree in 1994. She then established her own law firm specializing in legal issues involving medicine.

In 1996, after moving to British Columbia, Sindi Hawkins, the name she used after marriage, contested the constituency of Okanagan West for the provincial Liberals. She won twice as many votes as her nearest rival, though her party narrowly failed to form government, having won the popular vote but taking fewer seats than the governing NDP under Glen Clark.

A star candidate, Ms. Hawkins presented a dynamic and sympathetic face for her pro-business party. Her background made her an effective health critic in Opposition.

In the 2001 provincial election, in which her party won all but two seats, Ms. Hawkins took nearly two-thirds of the vote in Kelowna-Mission. She won an easy re-election four years later.

Premier Gordon Campbell named her health planning minister and she later served as minister of state for intergovernmental relations.

As an elected official, she launched the Sindi Hawkins and Friends charity golf tournament, an annual event that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a local cancer clinic.

It was after a massage left bruising and a pesky cut on a finger refused to heal that Ms. Hawkins underwent medical tests. She decided to make her fight against leukemia a public one.

“You have choices,” she told the Globe’s Rod Mickleburgh six weeks after her diagnosis. “I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to be a survivor. I’ve always chosen to be a survivor.”

A search for a bone-marrow donor led to a match with her younger sister, Seema.

While recuperating, she eschewed her usual diet of Western foods for the comfort foods of her childhood — roti, rice, beans, lentils, chick peas and chicken, prepared twice daily by her mother.

As she recovered, her sisters prepared a Top 10 list of the reasons they loved her. No. 3, which referred to her eponymous golf tournament, read, “Only you would help raise $200,000 for cancer care and then spend it on yourself.”

When NDP Leader Carole James received a cancer diagnosis of her own, Ms. Hawkins offered a sympathetic and understanding ear.

“Sindi was there with support, ideas, and encouragement and I know she played that role with so many others,” Ms. James said in a statement released on Ms. Hawkins’ death.

Ms. Hawkins was a national co-chair for a Canadian Blood Services campaign to recruit stem and bone marrow donors. She also co-chaired a B.C. Cancer Foundation campaign two years ago with the American cyclist Lance Armstrong, a testicular cancer survivor. The Tour of Courage campaign raised $1.9 million for stem-cell research.

Her dynamic personality and positive outlook won over the hard hearts of the Legislative Press Gallery, a group known more for cynicism than sympathy. Les Leyne, a political columnist for the Victoria Times Colonist, became a blood donor because of her compelling arguments about the need for more donations.

Ms. Hawkins announced that a return of her disease would force her to retire from politics. She did not contest the 2009 election.

Hours before her death, the premier announced that a cancer facility in Kelowna would be renamed the Sindi Hawkins Cancer Centre for the Southern Interior. Gordon Campbell said the honour “will be a lasting legacy of her kindness, her passion for helping others and her generosity of spirit.”

Ms. Hawkins died in a Calgary hospital on Sept. 21, six days after her 52nd birthday. She leaves her parents; sisters Rupie Sachdeva, Moni Snell, Seema Ahluwalia, and Pamela Anderson; and, a brother Lakhvinder Ahluwalia, known as Lucky.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A tale of a Chinese place nearly lost to time

Singaporean actor Aw Yeong Peng Mun stars as Crimson in Jade in the Coal, a bilingual play set in the lost Chinatown of Cumberland, B.C. Michael Ford photograph.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 29, 2010


They came from a distant land, carving a townsite from a Vancouver Island forest.

Segregated by law and practice, a Chinatown rose on swampland on the edge of Cumberland, a coal-mining town. The neighbourhood had a garage and a laundry, a bakery and a barber shop, green grocers and dry-good stores, churches and dens of iniquity. Wooden boardwalks lined streets with names like Sing Chong and Hai Gai.

Cumberland a century ago was large enough to support rival 400-seat opera houses. The attractions included traveling troupes of Cantonese opera performers who entertained miners and railway workers.

Today, all that remains of Chinatown is Jumbo’s Cabin, a shack last occupied more than four decades ago by Hor Sue Mah, a man of prodigious strength and a memorable nickname. He was Chinatown’s last resident.

The forest now reclaims land still littered with evidence of habitation — bottles, pieces of broken ceramics, lumps of coal.

“There’s still so many traces in the soil,” said Heidi Specht, an actor who has made pilgrimages to the townsite. “A place is gone, but memory remains.”

Ms. Specht found in the lost Chinatown the inspiration for a ghost story.

The result is Jade in the Coal, an innovative play performed in Chinese and English that is in production until Dec. 4 at the Frederic Wood Theatre in Vancouver.

The play, written by Paul Yee, who has won a Governor General’s award for children’s literature, is the result of a two-year collaboration among Mr. Yee as writer, Ms. Specht as director, Jin Zhang as composer, actors from three lands, and the musicians.

The play features the Guangdong Cantonese Opera Academy First Troupe from China, as well as Singaporean actor Aw Yeong Peng Mun, an internationally-renowned actor who is one of the last of the nan hua dan, a male performer who specializes in female roles.

“In the opera, it was men who played female roles at that time,” Ms. Specht said. “Women were banned from performing. The male who played the female would be like a sex symbol in a town where there are no women.”

Jade in the Coal tells the story of a Cantonese troupe inaugurating an opera house in rough-and-tumble Cumberland. A tour of the coal mines leads to the lead actor being possessed by the ghosts of miners killed in an explosion a year earlier.

“Our protagonist is a character who’s torn,” she said. “She was born in Canada and torn between tradition and being influenced by the white community, trying to fit in, caught between two value systems, eastern and western philosophies.”

Musicians perform on dizi (flute), xiao (flute), suona (oboe), erhu (two-string fiddle), gaohu (another two-string instrument), yangqin (dulcimer), as well as saxophone and percussion instruments.

An actor herself, the 44-year-old Specht has long wondered what the actors from China who performed here more than a century ago thought of life in small, rough towns like Cumberland.

“It’s such a contrast — the bleak lives of the coal miners with the rich colour and the love stories of the opera,” she said.

She researched the visiting troupes at the archives in Victoria and Vancouver, where competing theatres attracted large audiences. A rare contemporary account by a Caucasian witness described music that was “an awful racket” and dialogue that sounded like “an endless ‘gobble, gobble, gobble.’ ”

The play, a co-production of Theatre at UBC and Pangaea Arts, premiered last week. If funding can be found, the director hopes to take the production to Vancouver Island in the future.

On Sunday, the elders who as children lived in Cumberland’s Chinatown were to attend the play in Vancouver. Before the performance, they were to be interviewed about their memories of a place where fragments found in the soil hint at a once-thriving community. The interviews are to be recorded before being sent to the museum in Cumberland and the archives in Hong Kong, preserving for posterity tales of a place nearly lost to time.

A ramshackle Chinatown emerged on swampland on the edge of the Vancouver Island coal-mining village of Cumberland, B.C. Photograph courtesy of the Cumberlabd Museum.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Impending loss of historic bridge has Victoria preservationists feeling blue

Workers place a wooden deck on the Johnson Street Bridge in 1923. The deck was later replaced with a steel deck. The bridge, known as Big Blue and the Blue Bridge for its paint job, is scheduled to be replaced in four years.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 25, 2010


For 86 years, the Blue Bridge has safely carried cars, trucks, trains, buses, cyclists and pedestrians across a narrow channel of water separating downtown from Victoria West.

It has two lifting spans. Each day, some 30,000 vehicles use the traffic span, while a solitary self-propelled Via Rail car trundles across the same rail span upon which George VI and Queen Elizabeth traversed aboard a Royal Train in 1939.

This is the terminus of the old E&N Railway, the promise of which lured the colony into a four-year-old Confederation. You can stand at the end of the track and marvel that but for a ferry ride you are connected by parallel steel ribbons to the remainder of a vast land.

The bridge links the Roundhouse in the Vic West rail yards to the century-old brick warehouses preserved in Victoria’s Old Town.

So, when the city announced plans to replace it with a modern bridge you can imagine the outcry.

A citizens’ group formed. A website was launched. Public meetings were held. A monthly magazine began a crusade. Documents were demanded and received from the city. Mayor Dean Fortin was accused of perfidy, as were the seven of eight councillors who backed a new bridge.

A petition campaign garnered 9,872 signatures, a surprisingly strong showing forcing a referendum.

On YouTube can be seen a singer wearing a model of the Blue Bridge on her head while crooning a protest to the tune of Bridge Over Troubled Waters:

“I’m just rusty, feeling blue. No one’s maintaining me, but I can be removed.

“I can be fixed, oh, for millions less, but scary lies abound and I’m a bridge that’s in troubled water.

“Dean wants to take me down...”

The showdown came on Saturday. Voters were asked to cast judgment on the city borrowing $49.2 million to plan, study, design and construct a replacement for what is officially known as the Johnson Street Bridge.

The results: 10,020 in favour of borrowing, 6,522 against.

Goodbye, Blue Bridge. Hello, new bridge.

So, what happened?

“We had no campaign team in the traditional sense,” said Ross Crockford, a writer and historian who was a prominent supporter of refurbishing the old bridge.

“A referendum is like an election. It comes down to what happens during the course of the 12 hours when the polls are open.”

The city had a slick pro-replacement advertising campaign featuring business notables, including former hockey star Geoff Courtnall. Brochures were distributed. On voting day, canvassers and scrutineers were busy.

The all-volunteer preservationist group relied on the aftermath of their year-long information campaign.

“We had an art gallery,” Mr. Crockford said. “We had a Blue Bridge art show. There was no phone bank. Nothing.”

After the polls closed, the No side could be found at the gallery in Fan Tan Alley sipping bottles of Blue Bridge IPA from Spinnakers brewpub and glasses of Painter Bridge wine from California.

Mr. Crockford vows to keep pressing the city for information in the next four years, during which a replacement is to be built adjacent to the Blue Bridge. The group will also continue to operate their helpful website at johnsonstreetbridge.org.

One reason for replacing the bridge is for fear of collapse in an earthquake. Victorians take seriously the question of bridge safety. There’s a history.

On Victoria Day in 1896, a streetcar with 143 passengers aboard caused the middle of the Point Ellice Bridge to collapse, spilling the car and its riders, as well as other passersby, into the waters of the Gorge. Fifty-five died.

The only prominent candidate to support the building of a new bridge won a city council by-election on Saturday. Marianne Alto, a labour-endorsed candidate, handily defeat Barry Hobbis, managing director of the company that operates passenger ferries in the harbour. The top two vote getters among 11 candidates both live in the neighbouring municipality of Saanich.

One of the unique contributions to the council debate came courtesy of Robert Randall, an unsuccessful candidate for council seat two years ago. An artist and graphic designer, he evaluated candidates on the aesthetics of their material.

He favoured the Alto campaign’s “palette of muted tones” combined with “an urgent, modest condensed typeface” in Yanone Kaffeesatz.

The runner-up was the conservative blue scheme favoured by the Hobbis campaign, which used the “reliable but dreaded Arial typeface.”

Oddly enough, his aesthetic poll was more accurate than his political acumen, as he predicted Hobbis winning the by-election. It must be noted his patented formula involved a careful examination of policies, demographics, past results, and a Ouija board.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chuck Davis, historian known as Mr. Vancouver (1935-2010)

Chuck Davis delights at finding another swell fact. Photograph by Les Bazso.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 22, 2010


Chuck Davis unearthed forgotten tales from Vancouver’s rollicking past, providing a history for a city whose memory seemed no deeper than the most recent property boom.

Mr. Davis, who has died three days after his 75th birthday, was an amateur historian who frequented archives and libraries. He mined documents and yellowed newspaper clippings, scavenging facts and oddball nuggets for his books and articles.

A man of boyish enthusiasms, he had an anecdote for every occasion. After a dramatic public announcement of a diagnosis of untreatable lung cancer, he told reporters about one of his recent finds. In 1909, the city acquired the first mechanized ambulance in the Dominion. The crew proudly took it on a tour of the city, during which they struck and killed a pedestrian.

The absurdity of that tragedy struck him as humourous, and one could not help but admire a man whose sense of the macabre was undiminished in the face of his own death sentence.

Mr. Davis was one of the city’s most familiar figures, an avuncular presence for nearly a half century as author, lecturer, quizmaster, cruciverbalist, television host, and radio announcer. No living person knew more about the city and its past, earning him the nickname Mr. Vancouver.

He edited two urban encyclopedias — The Vancouver Book (1976) and The Greater Vancouver Book (1997) — and was at work on a third, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, which he described as his magnum opus.

He had 17 titles to his credit and had nearly completed two more by his death on Saturday, three days after his 75th birthday.

An amiable man with a hearty laugh, Mr. Davis was, in the words of one of his many friends, a “delightful shambles.” His many passions did not extend to his wardrobe, which often consisted of rumpled shirts and formless sweaters of unappealing pattern. He worked from a home office through which passage was made treacherous by paper stalagmites of uncertain stability.

He was proud of a filing system that made little sense to an outsider and he happily repeated a description of his workplace as the world’s largest gerbil nest.

Though such an appearance hints at carelessness, Mr. Davis was devoted to facts, wasting no effort to track down accurate details. Such painstaking research caused some of his projects to stretch long beyond deadline, testing the patience of his publishers.

A large man with a round face and a ready grin, he had a magnificent, stentorian voice, as befitted a former staff announcer for CBC Radio. He used it to good effect when displaying his gift as a natural storyteller. He displayed little ego and was so self-deprecating he eagerly retold tales in which he was the butt.

Some years ago, he informed a colleague about his ambition to write an omnibus history of the Lower Mainland, promising the book would be “fun, fat, and filled with facts.”

“Just like you,” the co-worker said.

Mr. Davis repeated the exchange often, including during the evening in September when he told an audience at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre that he was dying and needed to raise funds to hire a writer to complete his final book.

Charles Hector Davis was born in Winnipeg on Nov. 17, 1935. His parents’ marriage soon after collapsed and he only once ever met his mother. In December, 1944, his father, who operated three modest confectionaries, moved with the boy to the West Coast. They lived in a former squatter’s shack built over the Burrard Inlet shoreline. It lacked electricity and shook ominously when freight trains rumbled past.

Two years later, a fire destroyed the shack and the homeless boy appeared in a photograph on the front page of a local daily.

A teacher’s etymological examination of the origins of “breakfast” — the act of breaking, or interrupting, a fast — sparked in the schoolboy a lifelong fascination with words. (Mr. Davis was a demon at Scrabble.) He also began compiling lists of such facts as the rivers of Australia and the prime ministers of Hungary. His father jokingly suggested he compile a list of his lists, which became much of his working life.

The boy and his father moved to Toronto, where they lived in rooming houses. Chuck sold copies of the Globe at the intersection of Queen and Bathurst, offering passersby a patter of slick talk (“almost like speaking in tongues”).

Since the neighbourhood included many Poles and Ukrainians, he asked another vendor for a Slavic word for newspaper. He later discovered that the day’s poor sales were the result of his trying to sell newspapers while bellowing the Polish word for feces.

His formal education ended at age 13 midway through Grade 8. At 17, by which time he had held 23 different jobs, he decided he wanted to go fight in Korea. He enlisted with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in June, 1953.

“That war ended in July,” he wrote, “so I guess someone notified the North Koreans. They didn’t tell me when I joined that you had to be 19 to go over, anyway.”

He found his calling while stationed overseas in West Germany. At 5 p.m. on March 21, 1956, Mr. Davis, a private, had the honour of making the inaugural broadcast on CAE, a 250-watt Canadian forces radio station.

On discharge later that year, he returned to Canada to launch a radio career in Ontario, working for stations in Kingston, Kitchener, and Kirkland Lake before accepting a job at CJVI in Victoria. He worked for the CBC in Prince Rupert, B.C., before being transferred to Vancouver.

A boom-and-bust mentality transformed the city every few years, as land speculation offered dizzying changes to streetscapes, as well as to demographics. Mr. Davis decided to create what he called an “urban almanac” for a port city no longer as sleepy as it once had been. He recruited dozens of writers for a compendium of history and information. Printed on cheap newspaper stock, which gave it the semblance of a telephone directory, The Vancouver Book proved enormously popular. The library staff told Mr. Davis that it was the second-most purloined title in the collection. The most-stolen title was Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

(Two decades later, while working on a succeeding volume, Mr. Davis shared this detail with newspaper columnist Denny Boyd. His response: “Well, thank God the other fellow isn’t planning a sequel.”)

The Greater Vancouver Book proved a critical success, winning two major literary prizes, but a financial disaster, the only black ink in the enterprise to be found in the book’s 904 pages. Writers went unpaid even though Mr. Davis took out a second mortgage on his home in suburban Surrey. “Memo to self,” he later wrote, “never publish, only write.”

He also wrote histories of radio station CKNW (Top Dog!), suburban Port Coquitlam (Where Rails Meet Rivers) and the stately Orpheum Theatre (Palace of Entertainment). His most financially successful book was Turn On To Canada, a Grade 3 textbook.

Mr. Davis also devised radio game shows such as Look That Up, with Vicki Gabereau, and Conquest!, about knowledge of foreign lands.

For the past several years, he has been beavering away on The History of Metropolitan Vancouver. Having learned his lesson from the previous fiasco, he enlisted corporate sponsors to finance the writing of a year-by-year account of the region stretching from Bowen Island east to Langley. An extensive website, which can be seen at vancouverhistory.ca, offers a flavour of the rich anecdote and telling detail Mr. Davis uncovered in his research.

The book is to be issued by Harbour Publishing next year to mark the city’s quasquicentennial. The author spent his final weeks raising $30,000 to hire a writer to complete the work. Negotiations are continuing.

Mr. Davis received a diagnosis of cancer in December, 2007. The following month he had surgery to removed his bladder and prostate. As he awaited the procedure, he wrote a limerick, a favored pastime, which he eagerly shared with his wide circle of friends. With typical gravitas, which is to say little, he wrote:

On the first day of 2008
Chuck Davis sat mulling his fate:
‘They’d make me feel gladder
To leave in my bladder
’Cuz peeing the old way was great!’

Students, historians and journalists owe him a tremendous debt, as his diligent work has made any project about the past so much easier.

The announcement of his ill health in September sparked tributes, many of which were overdue. The city declared a Chuck Davis Day last month and he was awarded the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for his literary work.

On Friday, just hours before his death the following morning, a plaque honouring Mr. Davis was placed on the Writers’ Walk at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, a home away from home for the tireless researcher.

Mr. Davis leaves Edna, his wife of 45 years, and a daughter, Stephanie.

Victoria art gallery takes a great leap forward

A worker can't wait to get to work on repairing tractors, as depicted in a propaganda poster titled, 'Struggle to speed up the realization of agricultural mechanization.'

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 22, 2010


All hail the glorious artworks of the Cultural Revolution!

No to the running dog lackeys of imperialism!

Yes to solidarity with the workers, peasants and soldiers!

Down with the revanchist critics! Resolutely oppose abstractionism! Down with bourgeoise modernism!

All hail Socialist Realism!

All out to support the opening on Friday of the exhibition of Maoist propaganda posters at the Art Gallery of Victoria!

You don’t have to be proletarian to appreciate “Communist Paradise,” a show based on the collections of a gallery curator and a professor.

The posters depict prosperity for peasants and achievement for workers, all under the beneficent protection of soldiers.

“It’s an image of an ideal world,” said Richard King, an associate professor at the University of Victoria. “It’s an image of a world that never quite was, but that was supposed to be. An image of a world of abundance, of unity, of loyalty, of achievement.

“This is a picture of socialism as it ought to have been.”

The reality, needless to say, was harsher.

Instead of reflecting the “terrible, terrible tales of Red Guard violence,” the images show wholesome youth reading the works of Chairman Mao beneath fluttering red flags.
Prof. King studied in China for two years at the end of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, a violent and unpredictable time.

He recalls a few months in 1976 when a government campaign denouncing Deng Xiaoping was halted after Mao died and the Gang of Four was overthrown. Posters were torn down and replaced. The new message: “Down with the people who were ‘Down with Deng Xiaoping.’ ”

The posters were designed to be posted in public places for a population including many illiterates. They were manufactured in vast quantities on inexpensive paper. Few kept such political posters in their homes, where one might instead find an image of Mao.

The political posters were ephemeral, so some today are rare despite having been produced in mass quantities. On eBay, posters in mint condition extolling the glories of Chinese socialism command bids that test the purse of a plutocrat.

Born in Willaston, a village in northwest England where his father worked as a large-animal veterinarian for the University of Liverpool, he took Chinese studies at Cambridge. In 1968, a year of student protest around the globe, he thought revolutionary China offered a vision of the world’s future. He decided to tackle a most difficult language at a time when there was little likelihood of his ever being permitted to visit China.

Later still, he learned the harsh truth about life there.

“By the time I found out I was fooled, it was too late. I was hooked.”

He arrived in 1975 to study language at Beijing and, later, literature in Shanghai. He spent time in a village and a factory. One of 14 foreign students at Fudan University, he shared rooms with Chinese classmates who, he later learned, were obliged to spy on him.

There were few pleasures available.

“One of the things that there was for us to buy were these beautiful, colourful, dramatic posters,” he said.

Over two years of study, he bought about 150 of the posters, many for as little as 20 fen, about four cents each. These were mailed home to Canada. Twenty-five will be on display at the art gallery, alongside posters belonging to Barry Till, the gallery’s curator of Asian Art.

Among his collection is a 1962 poster titled, “A Rest in the Melon Grove,” showing “charming and willowy ladies” draped over a tractor, an old man with a huge melon, and a fat baby, “all of these symbols of abundance and prosperity at a time when the greatest famine in human history is happening.”

Another poster image on display shows a beatific young woman with a toothy smile in spotless blue overalls holding a wrench. The legend beneath the image: “Struggle to speed up the realization of agricultural mechanization.”

As an image of female empowerment, it is reminiscent of American posters of the Second World War featuring Rosie the Riveter.

Other posters express hatefulness towards the “Four Old Evils” (old ideas, old cultures, old customs, old habits), and include denounciations of British and American imperialism.

Political power grows not only from the barrel of a gun, but from the bristly end of a paintbrush.

Tweed Curtain sets apart a riding with an independent streak

An old car and a cup of tea capture life on Oak Bay Avenue.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 20, 2010


The Tweed Curtain runs along Foul Bay Road, a dividing line of myth and imagination separating ordinary Victoria from the enclave of Oak Bay.

Behind the Tweed Curtain can be found a last bastion of the British empire, where high tea is enjoyed on a High Street. In the three-block long stretch of shops known as the Oak Bay Village, a Union Jack flutters above the Blethering Place Tea Room. The restaurant is a few steps from the Penny Farthing pub and the Tudor Sweet Shoppe, the spelling a bit twee even for a purveyor of fine comestibles of the chocolate variety.

The shopping district offers antiques and art galleries, bakeries and bookstores, a toy store and a crafts shop.

Every summer, along this stretch, a parade of antique vehicles and marching bands trundles past in the annual Oak Bay Tea Party Parade. The parade is led by a man dressed as the Mad Hatter. This Tea Party celebrates a favoured beverage, not a political tendency.

The local MLA, Ida Chong, has paraded in an open convertible, helpers distributing candies to the delighted children who line the route.

For 14 years, she has represented a waterfront constituency at the extreme southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. The double-barreled name of Oak Bay-Gordon Head evokes comfort and perhaps even privilege. The 38,415 voters share the riding with two private golf clubs, the city’s most prestigious private schools, and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. It is also home to two hospitals and the leafy campuses of Camosun College and the University of Victoria.

It has been called “veddy, veddy British,” “a suburban oasis” and a “conservative, upper-crust area.”

What does geography professor Larry McCann, born 65 years ago in Oak Bay and now a resident of the riding’s Cordova Bay neighborhood, think of the Tweed Curtain designation?

“Inappropriate,” he said. “Long gone. Just doesn’t apply because of relatively strong immigration. The ethnic mix has changed.”

At first glance, the riding does not seem promising ground in which to plant a political insurgency.

As is familiar to letter carriers and newspaper deliverers, simply canvassing some of the wealthy neighbourhoods — such as Ten Mile Point, or the the Uplands, designed by the son of the man responsible for plotting New York’s Central Park — can be daunting, as mansions sit on lots as large as 0.8 hectares.

Yet, the corporation of the district of Oak Bay also offers modest bungalows in a section just across the Tweed Curtain known as The Poets, where the streets are named Byron, Milton and Chaucer.

The riding’s Gordon Head section, which is part of the district of Saanich, is the more populous part of the riding. It is more suburban in design and also more ethnic, including a notable population of Chinese-Canadians and Indo-Canadians.

A snapshot of the riding provided by BC Stats shows an older, better educated, and wealthier population than the provincial average. One voter in five is a senior, while the average household income in 2005 of $90,526 was substantially more than the provincial average of $67,675.

Many of the residents have a professional background, as the riding is home to civil servants from all three levels of government, as well as clerks and educators.

Mr. McCann notes an influx of young families has made the riding more diverse, while a transient student population offers a group of voters perhaps more concerned with issues of social justice.

Elizabeth Cull, a small-business owner who represented the riding for the NDP for seven years before losing to Ms. Chong in 1996, describes the voters as active and informed, especially about public policy issues.

“I found you could spend an awful lot of time on the doorsteps talking to people about what was happening in the province,” Ms. Cull said.

“This is a well-educated electorate and they like to talk about the issues.”

The riding has a history of independence, often bucking the governing party. Dr. Scott Wallace won the seat for the Conservatives in 1969, held it against an NDP landslide and retained the seat after a revamped Social Credit party swept to power in 1975.

“They are independent minded,” Ms. Cull said. “They voted for Scott Wallace for years, because Scott was a person of integrity who represented them well.”

Ms. Cull lives in South Oak Bay, where “people know their neighbours. It’s friendly. It’s livable. There’s a sense of safety and security.”

The former B.C. finance minister is now proprietor of the local Dig This chain of gardening stores. One outlet can be found at the intersection of Oak Bay Avenue and Foul Bay Road, the very entrance to the Tweed Curtain.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

There's no mystery about who inspired the sleuthing reporter Jinnah

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 17, 2010


Hakeem Jinnah is back, my friend.

The crime-solving reporter for the Vancouver Tribune returns in a mystery novel featuring a decapitated body, a drug cartel, and a crazed religious sect.

Mr. Jinnah is a great character — a headline-grabbing Ismaili Muslim with a taste for strong perfume and weak coffee, whose every oleaginous statement is punctuated by the words “my friend.” The reportorial Poirot is a flirtatious, pill-popping hypochondriac who opens his silk shirts wide to reveal the “African rug” on his chest, possessor of good instincts but a weak stomach

He is the creation of Don Hauka, a New Westminster author who recalls an early Jinnah project being rejected because the character lacked verisimilitude. The judgment sent him scrambling for a dictionary. How could they say Jinnah wasn’t a true-to-life character? He was based on a real person.

Mr. Hauka got the newspapering bug as a high school student in his birthplace of Gibsons, where he helped produce a weekly paper at Elphinstone Secondary. He also covered sports and school-board meetings for the Coast News, an independent newspaper still produced with hot lead.

A short stint at the Williams Lake Tribune was followed by a time at a university student newspaper before he dropped out to take a job at a journal in a Vancouver suburb. It folded, and he got hired by the rival, only to quit when told the three telephones in the office were for the exclusive use of the advertising sales people. Reporters were expected to use the payphone down the street.

Being hired as even a temporary reporter at The Province, the No. 2 newspaper in a two-newspaper town, seemed an entree into the big-time world of a big-city newspaper. He was understandably eager to make an impression.

“I walk into the newsroom and there’s this guy who’s got his feet up on the desk, leaning back in his chair, almost horizontal,” he said. “He’s drinking a coffee and you can smell the sugar from here. He’s got this low, deep voice and he’s saying, ‘My friend, my friend, I can’t believe it, it can’t be true, no, no, no.’

“He comes over to me and says, ‘What’s your name?’ I say, ‘Don Hauka.’ ”

He asks if Mr. Hauka is any relation to Helmut Rauca, a Nazi war criminal who hid in Canada after the war.

“No, no relation. I’m Hauka, not Rauca.”

The big news that day was the discovery in South America of the remains of Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death of a Nazi concentration camp.

“Donald, Donald, come here,” the man said, pointing to an open telephone book. “Do you see that name there? What is that name?”

“That’s a Mr. Joseph Mengay who lives on West 41st,” Mr. Hauka replied.

“I want you to phone him. You phone him, my friend, and you say, ‘Are you not in fact Joseph Mengele, the Auschwitz butcher, the Angel of Death?’ ”

Mr. Hauka answered, “But he’ll say no and probably not politely.”

“Ah, but then you have a story,” he said, beginning to dictate. “Vancouver man denies he’s Joseph Mengele, whose remains have purported to be found. But The Province has learned ...”

That was Mr. Hauka’s introduction to Salim Jiwa, a Tanzanian-born reporter with whom he would soon after co-author a book on the Air-India bombing. An updated edition was released four years ago.

Like his alter ego, Mr. Jiwa is a headline-grabbing Ismaili Muslim with a taste for strong perfume and weak coffee, whose every oleaginous statement is punctuated by the words “my friend.”

Both the author and his inspiration have since left the newspaper. Mr. Hauka is a communications consultant, while Mr. Jiwa edits and publishes the Vancouverite online news website.

Mr. Jiwa’s reporting methods were not universally admired, as his own newspaper once described the Jinnah character as being “based loosely on real life — like many of Salim’s stories.”

The resourceful reporter debuted in Mr. Jinnah: Securities, a novel about the mysterious death of a shady stock promoter. A made-for-TV movie — Jinnah on Crime: Pizza 101 — aired on the CBC eight years ago.

The fictional reporter returns this week with the launch of She Demons (Dundern, $11.99), a rollicking adventure with peppy dialogue and plenty of inside jokes for the careful reader. (An aside about Scotch and cornflakes will revive memories of a scandal regarding the breakfast libations of certain British Columbia politicians.)

Set in such familiar landscapes as the downtown eastside, the Punjab Market on Main Street, and the confusing sameness of suburban Surrey, the mystery is tackled in exciting fashion by a character whom many might at first find off-putting, or offensive.

As the protagonist says, “They always end up loving Jinnah in the end, my friend.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Seals depart, leaving a void in Victoria

The Victoria Seals entertained fans for two seasons before abandoning the city. BELOW: Seamore the Seal was loved by children and adults alike. Photographs by Deddeda Stemler.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 15, 2010


Fans at Royal Athletic Park greeted every plate appearance of popular catcher Josh Arhart with a piratical cry of Arrrrrrr-hart!

Up by a few runs, or down by many (the latter unfortunately the more common scenario), the hearty salute to the slugging matey never failed to bring a chuckle.

In two summers at the park, through blustery afternoons and seasonably cool evenings, a small but dedicated corps of rooters cheered on the sometimes madcap adventures of the Victoria Seals baseball team.

Customers at the sad old park witnessed some odd events. In the final game of the season, Charlie Strandlund, the only Victoria-born athlete on the squad, played all nine positions — pitcher, catcher, four infield and three outfield. Eri Yoshida, an 18-year-old schoolgirl from Japan known as the Knuckleball Princess, pitched a game for a visiting team, striking out Victoria’s leadoff batter to the roars of the largest crowd in franchise history.

That same crowd endured unconscionably long beer lines. The ball park crew were unable to serve thirsty patrons whose queue stretched longer than the 90 feet that separates the bases.

At the end of each home game, one of the Seals players remained on the field to tidy up, repairing the pitching mound and removing the bases.

During one tense game, a Seals batter prepared to face a pitch before jumping dramatically away from the plate. The catcher spun around and the umpire retreated — a sprinkler had begun spraying the home-plate area.

It took several minutes before the geyser could be turned off. Then, the players tried to fill in a puddle on the field.

Welcome to the minor leagues, son. You learn to hit the curve ball and get an introduction to groundskeeping.

After two seasons, the club made a dramatic announcement last week.

Darren and Russ Parker, the father-son combination who owned and operated the Seals, announced the franchise had ceased operations.

The Seals had been clubbed.

No more Josh Arhart?


The Parkers blamed bureaucrats for not granting concessions in the lease for the city-owned park.

They blamed the independent league in which they played for being too far-flung, making necessary expensive airplane flights to Hawaii and such exotic continental locales as Yuma, Ariz., and St. George, Utah.

They blamed unionized workers for ... well, for having persnickety rules and for being too well paid.

Some of the complaints were disingenuous, as circumstances at Royal Athletic Park — a ground whose name is far more grand than the reality — are as they were when the Parkers came to town. They knew what they were getting into.

John Meldrum is a fan who followed the team by box office as well as by box score. An assistant professor at the University of Victoria, he has expertise in sport management and marketing.

“My thought is there’s probably no one to blame,” he said. “Could they get a better deal from the city? Probably. Should they push for the best deal they can for their business? Yeah. But the city has to say, ‘When you look at the business model of that league, how long are you going to be here?’

“How much concession are you going to give as a city to something that’s impermanent?”

The independent Golden Baseball League, a six-year-old circuit, has yet to announce the demise of the Seals on its website.

But wait. Upon further review, Ballpark Digest magazine is reporting three struggling independent leagues are in talks to merge. The economy has hammered minor-league baseball, but one drawback of an amalgamation will be even farther travel.

Meanwhile, the demise of the Seals puts out of work one of the finest mascots in the land. Seamore the Seal delighted children, amused adults, and otherwise brought a Looney Tunes mentality to the art of cheerleading.

Alex Pomerant, who worked more than 80 home games inside the overheated costume, taking breaks on hot days inside a walk-in beer cooler, will now complete his studies in law.

He wrote a gracious letter to his employer.

“I thanked them for letting me live out the dream I never knew I had,” he said.

In a tough economy, you have to wonder about Seamore’s future. Here’s a possible jobs listing:

Anthropomorphic pinniped, good with children, able to boogie to Village People’s YMCA despite oversized flippers, seeks part-time work with sports team, or perhaps sealant company. Will work for peanuts and Cracker Jack, but prefer fish.

Friday, November 12, 2010

One warrior who won't be forgotten

A basket of poppies was available for students attending Remembrance Day services at Victoria High School this week.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 11, 2010


She remembers waving goodbye from the station platform, bidding adieu to a husband off to war.

Only later, after receiving the worst possible news, would that poignant moment at the train station become frozen in memory as the last time she ever saw her husband.

“He went overseas,” she said, “and he never came back again.”

Patricia Hedley is 97 now, a widow a second time, busy this week with packing up her condominium before moving into a care facility, acknowledging at last her own frailties.

It is Remembrance Day again and a man now dead more than six decades is still mourned by a woman who remembers their first meeting and their final parting.

It has fallen to her to keep alive the memory of Frank Constant Hall, a young lawyer who became a warrior to protect his homeland and the rule of law.

Most of her own remembrance is personal and privately conducted. Her great contribution to her first husband’s legacy came in the simple act of noticing his name had been mistakenly excluded on a war memorial at his alma mater.

She was born Patricia Porter to a farmer near the Saskatchewan village of Strongfield. The family moved to Victoria, where, as a young woman, she was introduced to the handsome son of a judge.

“How’d I meet him? Like most people — on a blind date. Apparently, he fell in love with me at first sight.”

They married in 1937. He practiced law in Vancouver.

“He was very popular. Had a host of friends.”

With the outbreak of war, he decided to enlist.

“He first tried to get into the navy, but he couldn’t because he was too shortsighted.”

Instead, he joined the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.

Soon after their farewell at the train station, she began receiving correspondence.

“He wrote a great many wonderful letters,” she said.

One in particular stands out.

“Darling: If my handwriting in this letter is worse than usual, it is because of the throbbing of the ship’s engines and not my nerves,” Mr. Hall wrote.

It was July 3, 1943. He was aboard ship days before the invasion of Sicily, a fact he did not include. He wrote of his love for her and about his fond memories of their time together. He quoted the poet Thomas Macaulay. He discussed the possibility of his dying.

“Please don’t wear the widow’s weeds too long, if I go West,” he wrote.

“Death doesn’t mean a thing beyond getting rid of the encumbering fogs and fumes of the body.”

A month later, a government telegram arrived at his mother’s home in Victoria.

“The message came to my poor mother-in-law. She was home alone at the time. In a few hours, she got up to see me in Parksville. It was a great shock. But everybody was very brave.”

On a ridge in Sicily, the gritty Seaforths attacked an enemy position. Lt. Hall fell, gravely wounded. When his men stopped to treat him, he ordered them to continue the attack. After the enemy fled, the soldiers returned to find their officer had bled to death.

His widow became a home sister with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, creating a homelike atmosphere in the nurses’ mess.

She remarried after the war, becoming a copywriter for radio station CJVI in Victoria. She became a homemaker with the birth of a son and daughter.

Some years ago, she attended a reunion at Victoria High School, which maintains memorials for each of the two world wars in the foyer of the main entrance. The First World War memorial is an ornate bas relief, the names of the dead appearing on a shield.

A simple brass plaque lists 115 names of students and teachers killed in active service during the Second World War. It includes the engraved legend: “That the world might be free.”

The names are listed in alphabetical order from Joseph H. Addison to Richard Wright. She scanned the names, failing to see that of her first husband. She checked again. She told the organizers of the school’s alumni association.

A small plaque was later placed on the same pillar. It includes the names of three fallen students missed in the original accounting, among them a judge’s son.

Mr. Hall’s story appears briefly in popular military histories, the account of his death coming from Mark Zuehlke’s Operation Husky, the poignant letter to his wife reproduced in No Price Too High by Terry Copp.

The passing years left it to a widow to note his absence on a school plaque. Even after she’s gone, she has ensured future classes at Vic High will read her late husband’s name and perhaps wonder who he had been and what he had done.

She would like them to know a Vic High grad buried in the parched soil of far-off Sicily has never been forgotten.

Mutiny suppressed, a Siberian expedition goes bust

Canadian soldiers march at Rithet's Wharf to board SS Protesilaus before embarking to Siberia. Photograph from British Columbia Archives, I-78248, HP018921.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 10, 2010


The troops marched from the exhibition grounds to the Victoria docks, a six-kilometre parade during which they rested briefly at a downtown intersection.

The command to resume marching was disobeyed.

What happened next was hushed up by order of the Dominion censor, becoming a suppressed incident in a mostly ignored chapter of Canada’s military history.

It was Dec. 21, 1918, a cold morning in the port city. The Armistice halting the carnage of what was then known as the Great War had been signed only five weeks earlier. Europe was in tumult as dynasties collapsed. The streets were filled with talk of revolution, even as far away as Vancouver Island.

The soldiers billeted at Willows Camp in Oak Bay were mostly conscripts from Eastern Canada. They were to be sent overseas to fight not the Hun, but the Bolsheviki.

Civil war raged in Russia. Canada joined the Allied nations in a fight to replace the Red soviets with a government more favourable to Western interests.

The story of 4,200 Canadian soldiers sailing from British Columbia to the Russian Far East is told in From Victoria to Vladivostok (UBC Press), a fascinating account by the historian Benjamin Isitt. Earlier this week, the University of Victoria launched an extensive, trilingual online archive about the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia).

War offers savagery and heroism, carnage and healing, valour and horror. It also offers waste and stupidity and endless, mindless, pointless drudgery. The latter was the fate of the Siberian Expedition.

Some of the men saw more action on the streets of Victoria than on the plains of Russia.

On that chill morning, a handful of soldiers — farmers, labourers and lumberjacks from Quebec — urged their comrades to disobey orders.

A chaotic scene unfolded at the intersection of Fort and Quadra streets.

Alfred Laplante, 23, a mechanic from Richelieu, shouted defiantly in English a command to “Turn back. Turn back.”

Onil Boisvert, 22, a farmer from Drummondville, repeatedly insisted, “On y vas pas,” according to testimony presented at his later court martial. An officer fired a pistol at his feet.

Arthur Roy, a 23-year-old saw-maker, had been overheard earlier on a streetcar saying Canada “had no right to fight against the Bolsheviki.”

Officers ordered obedient soldiers to whip some of the dissenters with belts. Others were marched to the docks at bayonet point.

The mutiny was quickly suppressed, a dozen accused ringleaders shackled together in the hold of SS Teesta for the long journey across the Pacific.

Labour and socialist groups agitated against the intervention in revolutionary Russia, finding support among soldiers not eager to go to war. (In an editorial, the Globe acknowledged a large majority of the expedition’s soldiers “went unwillingly,” agreeing with them that the fight was one in which Canada “had no real interest.”) The Willows Camp became a place of rumour and intrigue, as radical newspapers circulated among the soldiers. Those of Russian ethnicity were especially suspect.

With another sailing imminent, a handful of officers disrupted a raucous “Hands Off Russia” rally at a downtown theatre attended by hundreds of soldiers. One of the speakers was James Hawthornthwaite, a Labour member of the Legislature. The departure of SS Protesilaus was delayed until after a lavish Christmas dinner and boozy dance was held for the soldiers.

The Canadians in Vladivostok saw little action. Among the mutineers, Mr. Roy got the harshest sentence — three years of penal servitude (later commuted to two years). Mr. Laplante got two years hard labour.

At an event at the University of Victoria library on Monday, the great distance from that era to today was bridged by the presence of four relatives of men who marched through the streets of Victoria to battle the Bolsheviki.

Diana McKay, 77, of Ladysmith, the daughter of Eric Elkington, of the 16th Field Ambulance, donated to the archives her father’s letters and photograph album. “He’d be thrilled, my dad,” she said. “I’m impressed that anyone could read his writing.”

The book by Mr. Isitt (pronounced EYE-sit), a 32-year-old assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, is likely to be controversial among military historians, since he approaches the subject from a labour history perspective. The notes and bibliography run 89 pages.

Born in Winnipeg and raised in Victoria, Mr. Isitt became a familiar figure here at Camp Campbell, a protest by activists who set up a tent city on the lawns of the Legislature in opposition to the policies of Premier Gordon Campbell. Mr. Isitt twice ran for mayor of the city, garnering 43.6 per cent of the vote five years ago in a surprisingly strong challenge to re-elected incumbent Alan Lowe.

In researching the book, which began as a history term paper and later a masters thesis, Mr. Isitt made a pilgrimage to the Churkin Naval Cemetery at Vladivostok. Among the 14 Canadians buried there are Lt. Alfred Thring, of Saskatoon, Sask., a shell-shocked veteran of the Western Front who committed suicide, and Pte. Edwin Stephenson, who had enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps the day after his ordination as an Anglican minister before dying in far-off Russia of smallpox at age 33.

As a military adventure, it was a bust. The soldiers who sailed from British Columbia as part of the Siberian Expedition never left the Russian coast and never reached Siberia.

The online archive can be accessed at siberianexpedition.ca . It includes maps, photographs and lesson plans for middle, secondary and post-secondary teachers. The archive is published in English, French and Russian.

Vandals who attempted to intimidate mayor have the wrong target

Shattered glass litters the back seat of the mayor's car, covering the safety seat and a stuffed toy. Photograph by the B Channel News.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 9, 2010


They came under cover of darkness with mischief in mind.

They snuck around a modest bungalow on a quiet street. The intruders targeted a home in a middle-class area of Victoria known as Oaklands, where the lawns are tidy and the neighbours friendly.

They spray-painted a number on a brown aluminum door. They went to the north side of the house to paint two letters.

On the car parked in the driveway, they spray-painted four letters in red.

They smashed the right rear passenger window. Glass spilled inside onto a child’s booster seat, showering a small stuffed pink pig.

No one heard a thing.

As far as is known, they took nothing — other than, briefly, a neighbourhood’s sense of well being.

Sleeping inside the home were two young girls and their parents, Donna Sanford and Dean Fortin, the city’s mayor.

“The family’s quite resilient. We’re upbeat,” Mr. Fortin said Sunday afternoon. “As mayor, I’ve just to go keep on doing the work we do.”

He had a busy weekend with a fundraising dinner on Saturday night, followed by a coaching session with his nine-year-old daughter’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon. There were leaves to be raked and compost to be spread.

The family car had to be taken to the shop and the graffiti had to be painted over.

Self-proclaimed militants issued a communique claiming credit. It is a document of childish invective and witless Weather Underground-era sloganeering about it being “time to take the fight directly to the pig politicians and give them a taste of their own medicine.”

The mayor is called “fatcat Fortin” and another alliterative expletive.

He is called a fascist.

Here’s a history lesson for homeless-by-choice political activists — attacking a family home under cover of darkness was a tactic favoured by fascist street thugs 70 years ago.

Here’s another history lesson. The vandalism occurred on the morning of Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated on these shores by armchair revolutionaries who romanticize a martyred would-be assassin without acknowledging his anti-revolutionary goal it was to bring a Catholic to the throne.

The tedious language of the communique echoes the insults to be found in the Front de Liberation du Quebec manifesto read on-air during the October Crisis 40 years ago last month. Is it possible one of the culprits recently watched a documentary on those events?

To top it off, the militants conjured a name for themselves as PG 72, which was spray-painted on the Fortin residence. PG stands for Pandora Green, a lawn-covered traffic island downtown on which a recent bylaw restricts overnight sleeping and camping. Seventy-two represents shelter beds recently lost.

Even in their numbers the militants are wrong. The loss of temporary spaces is more than made up by a recent increase in permanent accommodations and in the availability of shelter mats under an extreme weather protocol.

Those who work most closely with the homeless condemned the attack. Rev. Al Tysick called the vandalism disturbing and based on misinformation. The Victoria Cool Aid Society called the mayor “one of the best friends” of the poor and homeless, adding that “we ask citizens not to lose faith because of the misguided actions of a few.”

The mayor will not comment on the language found in the communique. The Victoria police said the language is considered threatening and is being investigated.

The communique also includes the mayor’s address.

It is not hard to find. He is listed in the telephone directory.

The home addresses of the 11 candidates running for a city council seat in a by-election later this month are also included in city advertisements. Victoria remains that kind of place and the mayor vows not to change the practice.

“We should be accessible,” he said.

His first official act of business in the hours after discovering the vandalism was a two-hour open-door session at city hall in which any citizen can claim 10 minutes of the mayor’s time.

The mayor has received calls from MLAs on both sides of the Legislature. City councillors offered him and his family a place to stay this weekend. The local community centre dropped off flowers and a potted plant.

As well, one of the neighbours came by and swept up the glass in the driveway.

Other attacks on politicians in B.C.

In 1977, an activist who said he belonged to a group called the New Questioning Coyote Brigade struck Progressive Conservative leader leader Joe Clark in the face with a coconut-cream pie. The dessert-wielding assailant was Brent Taylor, an activist later convicted for serious acts of sabotage, including the bombing of a factory in Toronto in which missile components were manufactured. Others pied in 1977: provincial cabinet minister Bill Vander Zalm and federal cabinet ministers Ron Basford and Marc Lalonde, those actions claimed by the Groucho Marxist cell of the Anarchist Party of Canada.

In 1982, a speech by the federal external affairs minister was cut short after prolonged heckling. Outside, he was surrounded by a small, angry mob. An aide was kicked in the shins and the minister was spat on by a young woman. Mark MacGuigan escaped from the ugly curbside scene when spirited away by car.

An angry gauntlet of 500 trade unionists jostled and swore at members of the Social Credit cabinet in 1972 after it imposed a return to work and compulsory arbitration in a construction industry dispute. Chanting “Seig heil!” and targeting Jim Chabot, the labour minister, with the rhyming chant of “Chabot must go!”, the protestors struck Attorney General Leslie Peterson at least twice with placards.

In 2002, a crude firebomb was tossed into the high-school office of Nancy Campbell, wife of Premier Gordon Campbell. Earlier in the year, another firebomb had been shoved through the mail slot of his constituency office.

The constituency office of NDP Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh was firebombed in a pre-dawn attack in December, 1999. Sprinklers limited the damage. Before going into politics, Mr. Dosanjh, outspoken in his criticism of Sikh extremists, was beaten nearly to death with a lead pipe outside his law office.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Premier governed from position of privilege, and the record showed it

Bob Krieger, the fine cartoonist for the Vancouver Province, owned Gordon Campbell.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 4, 2010


It was just before Christmas 14 years ago and Gordon Campbell was showing off the family home to a reporter.

A few months earlier, he had lost an election he expected to win.

“Lots of days you feel like you let down lots of people,” he told me.

Many thought he’d not stay as Opposition leader. Instead, he vowed to avenge a defeat he recounted with the anguish of someone who’d been hustled in a game of street craps.

He felt he’d allowed himself to be defined by his critics. In our conversation, he had the disconcerting habit of speaking of himself in the third person, as in “they had a deliberate policy of attacking and driving Gordon Campbell’s unfavourables or defining Gordon Campbell in an unfavourable way.”

He had been mocked for wearing plaid shirts on the campaign trail. He insisted he had a closetful of plaid shirts, adding that if he wore a costume it was the suit and tie he donned for seven years as mayor of Vancouver.

The brief house tour was intended to show him off as a successful man, though not a wealthy one.

When offered a compliment on a fine home — on a leafy street in the tony Vancouver neighbourhood of Point Grey — he was quick to respond with a tale about a taxi driver who was surprised he did not live in a mansion.

No, it was not a mansion. It was not any grander a home than those found in his social circle. But it was still finer than that enjoyed by the vast majority of British Columbians.

Mr. Campbell was born to privilege he seems incapable of acknowledging.

His grandfather owned a clothing manufacturer’s shop, producing police and firefighter uniforms for the city. As a boy in the 1950s, the family would drive past and little Gordon would see what appeared to be his own name on the sign.

(One of the employees was the immigrant father of Harry Rankin, the man who Gordon Campbell defeated for city mayor in 1986.)

Mr. Campbell hailed from an upstanding westside family. His father, a cardiologist, became assistant dean of medicine at the University of British Columbia. Charles Gordon Campbell, known as Chargo, worked hard and drank harder, struggling with depression and alcoholism before dying a suicide from an overdose of prescription pills when Gordon was aged 13.

The family’s circumstance changed in dramatic fashion. To his widowed mother’s great credit, Peg Campbell moved her bereaved family into a small apartment and found work.

Just last week, in a television address to the province, Mr. Campbell recounted the situation.

“I was raised by a school secretary, a single mom, on a school secretary’s salary and four kids,” he said. “I can remember what she felt like as she went from paycheque to paycheque to try and make sure that we had all the things we needed so we could live the kind of life that she wanted for each of us.”

He attended University Hill Secondary School before heading off to the Ivy League (Dartmouth College), after which he and his bride, the former Nancy Chipperfield, volunteered to teach for two years in Nigeria.

He returned to Vancouver and a steady rise thanks to political and business connections. He was ambitious and worked hard. The frustrating 1996 defeat was followed by three majority victories, an accomplishment in a province where politics is played as a blood sport.

On election night in May, 2009, a reporter asked what message could be taken by his win.

“No longer can we have a province that continually tries to divide one sector of the province against the other, one class against the other — if there is such a thing in British Columbia today — one income against the other.”

Alas, there is such a thing.

The minimum wage at the end of his first year as premier was $8 an hour. Nine years later, the wage remains unchanged. It is the lowest in the land.

When he took office, the province’s child poverty statistics were shameful. Nine years later, they remain so.

“It’s not always popular to do what in your heart you know is right,” he said in Wednesday’s resignation statement. On his list was “making our taxation system one of the most competitive in North America.”

Following his heart left the premier with a nine per-cent approval rating. It left many others waiting for the promised benefits of a competitive taxation system to trickle down.

Drunk skipper of freighter gets 14 days in jail

After its skipper was arrested for being drunk, the freighter SFX Daisy rested at anchor off Port Angeles, Wash. The ferry MV Coho, from Victoria, can be seen in the background. Peninsula Daily News photograph.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 3, 2010


At about 4 a.m., in the inky darkness before sunrise, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted a freighter in Juan de Fuca Strait.

The STX Daisy carried a large load of fuel oil destined for Washington State, where it was to pick up logs for the return voyage to China.

About once a week, the Coast Guard conducts unannounced security checks on ships from ports-of-call with security concerns. The inspections are standard procedure, usually lasting about 45 minutes.

The Coast Guard officers spent hours aboard ship.

They were shocked by what they found.

They were also shocked by what they did not find.

The captain of the 590-foot, 20,763-gross-ton freighter was radioed in advance by the Coast Guard, who instructed him to have his crew stand on the weather deck rail for counting. He was also told to provide a rope ladder for boarding.

Not only did the crew not present, but the Jacob’s ladder provided was both old and rickety.

Members of the boarding party wore dry suits and life jackets, as well as bulletproof vests. They carried such equipment as radiation detectors, a handheld computer, and a portable breathalyzer. Nine of the 10 carried sidearms and pepper spray.

The boarding team was in a small inflatable boat dispatched from the cutter Sea Lion. Bobbing in one-metre swells, the coxswain of the inflatable timed his approach to the freighter with the rise of the sea, as the Coast Guard officers clambered aboard.

The crew was found huddled behind the ship’s superstructure. On the bridge, the captain was ordered to provide the ship’s log book and other documents. He left, returning with only some of what was requested. Ordered to get his papers in order, the captain disappeared again. On his return, he spilled the records on the floor of the bridge.

After 30 minutes aboard ship, Tyson Muniz, the leader of the boarding party, told the Coast Guard Command Center about the disheveled state of the crew and described the scene aboard ship. He said his team was witnessing a “real shit show.”

The officers smelled alcohol on some of the sailors. They also smelled alcohol on the breath of the captain, who insisted he had a single beer with dinner.

Two breathalyzer tests were conducted during which the captain blew 0.102 and 0.108. Both samples were more than twice the legal limit of 0.04.

The ship was ordered to anchorage off Port Angeles, Wash., across the strait from Victoria.

Later on that day in mid-April, a search of the freighter found an empty bottle of whisky, an empty bottle smelling like chocolate liqueur, and three empty bottles of 40-proof soju, a drink popular in Korea. They also came across 76 empty beer cans. Incredibly, the ship’s garbage record book indicated all empty cans and bottles had been discharged at sea about 12 hours earlier. The crew had quite the party at the coast of North America loomed.

The ship’s list of provisions indicated some 38 bottles of soju had been consumed in the fortnight since setting sail.

It was also discovered the Daisy had no charts for Puget Sound other than a black-and-white fax that did not show the coloured variations for depth.

In the government’s sentencing memorandum, from which this account of the boarding is taken, prosecutors called for a $100,000 fine, as well as a three-month prison sentence as a deterrent to future mariners in these waters.

Though drunk and lacking charts, the freighter’s captain intended to sail 330 kilometres (205 miles) in waters “characterized by narrow channels and strong currents,” the memo states. “More importantly, the defendent’s intended track crossed no less than six Washington State Ferry routes, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and many areas of high shipping and recreational boating activity.”

The fuel oil he carried, China’s most widely exported oil product, “posed further risk to the marine environment.”

Last week, Judge J. Richard Creatura sentenced the captain to 14 days in prison followed by six months of supervised release.

Capt. Seong Ug Sin, a 53-year-old South Korean national, is currently a guest of the U.S. government at the Federal Detention Center — SeaTac, 19.3 kilometres south of Seattle. The facility has paid work assignments. The pay scale ranges from 12 cents to 40 cents an hour, significantly less than the wage earned by the captain of a freighter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ruth Dewhurst, Queen of the banjo (1926-2010)

By Tom Hawthorn
November 1, 2010

Ruth Dewhurst, who has died, aged 84, performed on stage, as well as radio and television, billed as Queen of the Banjo.

She was heard by national audiences as a frequent performer on Some of Those Days, a summer variety program aired by CBC Television for six years in the 1960s. The program, hosted by Bill Bellman, featured a Dixieland band fronted by Lance Harrison, for which Dewhurst played banjo.

The Dixieland band performed at the Canadian pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal before embarking on a 13-city Centennial tour of British Columbia. The tour, which began in Penticton and ended in Campbell River 16 days later, featured hour-long concerts that were recorded for later broadcast by CBC Radio.

The band again traveled the province the following year as part of a “Jazz on Tour ’68” series of free concerts sponsored and aired by CBC.

In 1965, she joined Harrison in recording “The Vancouver Scene,” part of a series of jazz LPs released by RCA Victor.

Dewhurst also played the saxophone for the Rhythm Larks, an all-woman band that played dance music on Saturday nights at Pender Auditorium in Vancouver for 15 years.

Ruth Arleene Dewhurst was born on Feb. 21, 1926, at Calgary. She died in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond on July 27. She was predeceased by Eddie, her husband of 53 years, who died in 1997. She leaves a son, a daughter, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

In Tofino, thousands will remember two who helped many

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 1, 2010


In the end, we pay homage as best we can — by donating, by remembering, by learning about the fullness of lives ended in tragic fashion.

Tofino, a village whose permanent population is less than 2,000, is preparing for twice as many visitors for a memorial service for two paramedics. It will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Wickaninnish Community School.

Jo-Ann Fuller, 59, and Ivan Polivka, 65, died when their ambulance careened off Highway 4 before plummeting down a cliff into Kennedy Lake.

Tofino mayor John Fraser calls these “dark days” for his “close-knit town.”

In so small a place, connections abound.

The school is where a bereaved husband has taught elementary students.

Poignancies, too, are plentiful.

All the out-of-town mourners driving to Tofino will travel a winding, treacherous road, passing the site of the fatal accident where, at dawn on Oct. 19, the ambulance crashed.

For Mr. Polivka’s family, it was a second loss following the death of his wife, Chris Webber, by cancer a year ago.

His own tragic death ends a remarkable journey for a man born in the ashes of a world war who later fled his homeland to create a new life on the West Coast.

He was a 23-year-old journalist in his native Czechoslovakia when Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops invaded to crush a reform movement that heralded a period remembered as Prague Spring. A critic of hardline Communists, he left, arriving in Canada in November, 1968.

He found kitchen work at the resort hotel at Harrison Hot Springs, washing dishes “which was good for him,” his family writes in a memorial, “because a lot of young Doukhobor girls worked there and he could speak Russian with them and they were teaching him better English.”

He became a busboy and then a waiter, moving up as he mastered his fifth language.

“While working at the Harrison hotel,” his family wrote, “he would get off his shift at midnight and paddle up the lake stopping at some spot where he would sleep on a simple blanket under the stars.”

He became a citizen, got married, moved to Tofino in 1989, where he became a popular waiter at the original Wickaninnish Inn. With his wife, he hand-built a home on the beach.

Those who live in the sleepy village at the end of the road find the setting conducive to exploring one’s creativity. It is also a place where passions are indulged.

Mr. Polivka was a poet and diarist, a carver and a hunter, a kayaker and canoeist, a photographer and a watercolourist, a mountain climber and a scuba diver.

At home, he baked rye bread and cinnamon buns. But he felt most at home in the wilderness and planned to retire to an isolated cabin on a Yukon lake.

In 1996, he became a paramedic, “a strong man with a gentle touch who helped many patients over the years and saved some lives.”

A memorial fund to honour the two paramedics has been started by the Justice Institute of B.C., which trains students in justice and public safety. The JIBC Foundation launched the fund with a $10,000 contribution towards a permanent endowment. As well, Lane and John D’Eathe, a Vancouver developer and chair of the foundation’s board, donated another $5,000.

Both paramedics graduated from the institute.

Ivan Polivka leaves two stepsons, five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and two brothers in the Czech Republic.

Jo-Ann Fuller leaves her husband, Brian; three daughters; a grandson; and, a brother. She served with the B.C. Ambulance Service for 23 years and was the unit chief of the station in Tofino.

“If anyone needed help in any way,” her family wrote, “whether saving a life or just giving a hug, Jo-Ann was always the first one there.”

The memorial service at the school is being held four days before what would have been Ms. Fuller’s 60th birthday.