Sunday, November 29, 2009
Photo: Maude Barlow, United Nations senior water advisor, speaks to a crowd on Parliament Hill as part of the 10th annual Water Watch in Ottawa. Activists from around the country gathered together to attend the Blue Summit. Activists are calling on the leaders who will be attending the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen to commit to a binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases and to help developing countries better deal with the effects of climate change. Speakers also called for local governments to invest in water services, infrastructure, and come up with solutions to raw sewage problems.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Several Cambodian nationals staged a peaceful rally on Parliament Hill today to protest against the Cambodian government's decision to strip opposition leader Sam Rainsy of immunity from prosecution.
Mr Rainsy (who is currently in France) has been charged with misconduct for encouraging villagers who were evicted from a border area to uproot wooden posts that had been placed along the newly agreed border with Vietnam. Opposition groups have said that Vietnam is stealing land from Cambodia – something that both governments deny.
In 2006, Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious 1,270-kilometre border in an effort to end decades of territorial disputes, according to a report in the Phnom Penh Post.
This is the third time this year that the Cambodian government has voted to strip parliamentary immunity from the opposition party, so that they can be prosecuted on defamation charges.
Members of the Sam Rainsy Party of Ottawa are calling on the international community to get involved by demanding the Cambodian government respect democracy and human rights.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Photo: Ottawa's Union Station on Lebreton Flats in 1881. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada. Click on the photograph for a larger view.
A new exhibition called Track Changes: 150 years of Rail Transportation in Ottawa recently opened at the City Hall Art Gallery on Laurier Avenue.
The exhibition features paintings, photographs, scale models of trains and postcards of Ottawa streetcars – including one going down Sparks Street (which is now pedestrian only).
Some of the artifacts include: a conductors cap and pin, train lanterns, bells and a locomotive brass name plate. There is even a ticket to board the special train to go to Sir John A. MacDonald's funeral back in 1891.
For those who have lived in Ottawa for some time, you may get nostalgic when you see the excellent colour photographs of the last streetcars to run in Ottawa back in 1959.
One of the streetcars had I Will Miss You All Good Bye painted on its right side.
The exhibition does a good job of explaining the history of rail in Ottawa and mentions some of the important entrepreneurs who were involved in bringing the train system to the nation's capital.
The installation continues until January 3, 2010. Admission is free.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Photo: Landmine warning sign in Pursat, Cambodia.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has just released its 11th annual Landmine Monitor report and like their previous editions, this one contains both good news and bad news.
Fewer casualties were reported last year (5,197) compared to the year before (5,473); however, mine action experts believe the actual number of casualties is higher than reported. The exact number is unknown due to inadequate reporting mechanisms in developing countries.
Forty one per cent of civilian casualties last year were children. What were many of them doing when their lives were changed forever? They were collecting food, water, firewood, or tending to animals.
While Canadian children are free to walk in their neighbourhoods without the risk of landmines, the same cannot be said for those residing in 70 countries/states elsewhere in the world.
Victim assistance is one of the pillars of mine action and it is the least funded. This is something that must be addressed at the upcoming Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in Cartagena, Colombia, 29 November – 4 December.
Another area of concern is the fact that even though international funding for mine action was up last year to US$518 million compared to US$430 million the year before, 15 State Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty failed to meet their required deadlines to clear all antipersonnel mines from areas under their jurisdiction.
As well, three countries – Belarus, Greece and Turkey – missed their stockpile destruction deadlines.
For Canadians, the report should raise concern, as Canadian mine action funding fell seven per cent last year.
Canadian taxpayers contributed US$43.1 million in funding. More than half of that amount went to Afghanistan. The remainder was divided amongst 12 countries.
As a result of the decrease in funding Canadian mine action NGOs operated at less than capacity last year.
To read the report, please click here.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Photo: Dr. Rob de Loe speaking about water at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.
The RBC National Lecture Series – A Canadian Perspective on Water kicked off last night at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.
Dr. Rob de Loe, University Research Chair in Water Policy and Governance, University of Waterloo in Ontario, was the keynote speaker and his presentation delighted the crowd with what was essentially, a tour of how we use and abuse water in this country.
More than 97 per cent of all the earth’s water is saltwater, Dr. de Loe reminded the audience. How we use the remaining fresh water is of the upmost importance.
“We have an exceptionally long history of mucking around with water,” said Dr. de Loe.
Dr. de Loe’s presentation focussed on the importance of groundwater and how it is negatively affected by the hardening of the earth – pavement, concrete and other forms of development and urban sprawl.
A large part of his presentation was devoted to how we use water in Canada – agriculture, drinking water, household chores, gardening, recreation, manufacturing, mining – and something most people would rather not talk about – getting rid of human waste.
As the talk took place in Ottawa, he made mention of the fact that the city’s combined storm/sewage system flushed millions of litres of raw sewage into the Ottawa River this year and downstream for someone else to worry about.
Dr. de Loe suggested that we need to look at our own behaviour and offered ways in which we could have a positive affect on water issues.
Some of these were obvious – use less water overall, gather rainwater for use in gardening, washing cars, flushing toilets and refrain from dumping toxic substances down the drain.
He also said people need to become “active consumers” and question manufacturers more.
“You can’t believe all the labeling on the cans,” said Dr. de Loe.
As an example, he warned the audience about cans of tuna that have been marked as “dolphin safe.”
Just because they are marked that way, does not necessarily mean that other potenially-endangered species were not killed while the massive drag nets brought in tuna.
The series continues with more lectures along with the exhibition – Canada’s Waterscapes – Yours to Enjoy, Explore and Protect.
For more information please go to the Canadian Museum of Nature's website.