Tag Archives: Victoria

GE Free Victoria passed. Unanimous.

Eloquence is the poetry of prose.

– William C Bryant

First of all, I was inspired by a quote from Robyn O’Brien. The gestalt was “Keep speaking, even when you’re trembling.”  I was trembling.

This post has been more widely shared than most of my recent posts on the Deeper Side.  A comment on Facebook just came up that made me realize that I need to expand this post with more background information to help more readers understand. So if you are familiar about the subject, please skip the rest of this paragraph.  For some background on the terminology: GE = Genetic Engineering = GMOS.  Not talking about an extension of traditional plant breeding. I’m talking about Canadian food crops that have been modified to withstand herbicides (like glyphosate) or express a pesticide (like BT). Many GMOS have both traits. Talking about food crops that are not modified for higher yield or better nutrition. No governments have done their own safety studies. GMOs contaminate non GMOs. And Canadian law favours the patent holders of the GE seeds over the farmers who have had their crops contaminated. For some background, I recommend the 2013 documentary ‘GMO OMG’. Another great resource is GMO Myths and Truths you can find online.

Now for the specifics of the Motion put forth by Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday,  There is a bunch of Wheras’s.  If you want you can look up the motion or write back at me and I’ll include them all. Generally given the lack of long-term studies both for human safety and on ecology, and following the precautionary principle the “ask ” was that the City of Victoria go on record to oppose this new technology until the requisite studies are done.  Specifically to quote from the motion:

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria hereby opposes the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, plants and trees in the City of Victoria.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City call upon the Federal and Provincial governments to implement a regime of mandatory labelling of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for sale in BC and Canada.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City call upon the Federal and Provincial governments to impose a moratorium on bringing further GMOs to market for sale until a regime of independent and transparent scientific assessment and GMO management is introduced.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Victoria shall forward copies of this resolution to the Premier, Prime Minister, all local MLAs and MPs, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).”

Let me give you a play by play account of how tonight’s Victoria Council Session went.

I came into a mostly empty council chambers as a virtuoso pianist was serenading the room from about 6 – 6:30.  Robert Holliston.  Beautiful playing.  Set the tone? I was not expecting that – it was kind of surreal.  Actually, it was almost mystical.

I met Tony for the first time.  Love his sign and his smile. 
Then Mayor Helps and councillors came in.  I need to give props, snaps, shout-outs to Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremey Loveday for their commitment to this important cause.

Mayor Lisa Helps (in what looked like a locally-made smoking lily dress oh ye followers of the Style-Diet) called the session precisely at 6:30 and after a few words, I was the first speaker for GE Free Victoria.  Read from my notes.  Held by my trembling hands.  Heard my voice quake and shake. But hung in there.  You can probably guess what I talked about.

Second up was Jim Jordan, a seeker of social and environmental justice.  A soft-spoken man, an organized thinker and most importantly: a do-er.  The steady driving force behind tonight.  Jim spoke about seeds and how the machines and chemicals of war were repurposed to agriculture. Jim provided the council with a speech and presentation by Dr Thierry Vrain, former GMO scientist and current organic farmer.  Dr Vrain summarized recently findings about the biocide/herbicide glyphosate.

Third up was Arzeena Hamir, an agrologist and organic farmer of Amara Farm up in Courtney.  An excellent speaker (a fabulous soul too), she focused on how Richmond benefitted from a GE Free Resolution.

Next was Tony Beck, a PhD from London and a UN Advisor on food security and gender issues.  Eloquent, beyond knowledgeable.  I wish I had taken notes!  What I recall was how municipalities need to take the charge and how 50% of seeds lies with only a handful of companies.


Afterwards, Rob Pearce, virtuoso drummer and therapist spoke clearly about the dubious and unethical practises of certain biotech patent holders.  Like me he is more of a musician than a public speaker.  But he was wonderful, informative. He went out of his comfort zone.  Respect.


Dr Joan Russow, erstwhile leader of the Green Party delved into the history of the international struggle against this questionable technology.  Even since I first met Joan, I have been totally bowled away by her energy and focus.  Gratitude for her voice.


Frances Litman, sparkling, a great speaker and 2012 CRD EcoStar Community Leadership Award Winner on behalf of Creatively United For The Planet, read two statements.  One from the conscious dietician Rachel Dickens and another from Dionne Laslo-Baker from DeeBee’s organic tea pops.


It didn’t stop there.  No folks.  Three more speakers followed.

First of the trinity was Michael Coon who has been railing against GMOs in Hawaii (ground zero for GMOs).  He’s a powerful speaker and focused his talk on the findings of Steven Druker in the book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.”  Wonderful and terrible at the same time. But the eloquence….


Next was Professor Emeritus Edwin Daniel.  In his 9th decade, he was clear as a bell. And he hit home that there is no independent, long-term studies showing the safety of GMOs.


To round out was sharp Dr Judy Gaylord.  She was commanding, delivered one truth after the other.  Such impressiveness.


I was honoured to be there, to be a part of it.  I wanted to take a group photo but we all dispersed at different times.  None of us understood when the motion would be voted on and all thought it would be weeks, not minutes. So I left.  On the way out I got a quick pic with Arzeena and Tony. (Thanks to the dude in uniform at the door for snapping)


The light outside was good so I finagled a selfie for fun (uncle Godfrey first pointed out this excellent sculpture of Sir John A. Macdonald a couple years ago.)  I like to think of John A holding up the sign!


I left feeling light, thinking that we’d hear something maybe in a week or two or at the next council session.

BUT THEN, Francis texted me!  It passed.  Unanimously.  Jim called to confirm the news!

This is why Im writing this post now.  In jubilation and exaltation!  Need to share with you all.  Ye who are curious.  Ye who want to know what a council meeting in Victoria looks like.  Ye who may want to bring a motion to your own City Council!


A little history was made.  In a small provincial capital.  But an important one.  My home since 2009.  This GE Free Resolution is a first for Victoria – and a first for me too.  (Did you know that this was the first time I spoke at at council session?!)

I guess that thinking globally but acting locally has made some kind change.  Today.

Courage is contagious.  Infect others.

Tomorrow.  (Now it’s late: Goodnight dear ones)


The March

I was so stoked to see so many marchers in Victoria today!

Unfortunately I was only able to stay for a short time. But in that brief time, we marched as if our lives depended on it.  And they do!  Wanting to spread a positive message, our signs read We Didn’t Grow Up Eating GMOs.  Why Should You? Our Grandmas Didn’t Grow Up Eating GMOs.  Why should We?  Misty and I were dressed like our glamorous grannies in 1950s garb with our signs held up by Wooden Kitchen Spoons.




With Rachel, fellow fighter for food democracy.  DSC_0305 DSC_0322 DSC_0324 DSC_0326


Great Canadian Shore Cleanup

We are in the middle of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup week.  Feeling bad about the oceans full of plastic and the sea life whose bellies are filled with plastic?  Do something about it, turn that angst into action!  http://www.shorelinecleanup.ca/en/search/cleanups  Find a clean-up near you.

Anissa Paulsson, the Director of Exhibits at the BC Maritime Museum invited me to clean-up a local shoreline park in Victoria’s inner harbour .  Pick up garbage?  On a Sunday afternoon?  (The last time we did a beach clean-up, we collected curious objects that I was loath to explain to my kids.)  But we don’t want birds and seals and otters (of which we have several residents) eating them either.  So fricking A, we were in!

Martime MuseumHere we are outside the Maritime Museum with Anissa and her mini-me, Amara (and the haul).   As you can see, we are hoisting bags of garbage.  Cute Amara was getting into the spirit of the photo-op!  All this was an hour’s worth of collection from about 8 volunteers from the small park at Yates and Wharf Street.   

Think of how wonderful this is for our local seals, sea otters, sea gulls and other birds and wildlife!   I’m so happy Anissa told me about it in her apologetic email.

She spread the word to me and I’m now spreading it to you.  All is takes sometimes is a reminder.

Please spread this to others so we can all cycle in positive feedback.

Wynn’s Book

I was looking to do a bit of recording when I moved to Victoria and just happened upon Wynn Gogol.  I found a musical brother!  And a fantastically clean funky little place called “One Ton Studios” that Wynn set up.  One Ton refers to the supporting beam that weighs…. Are you ready…. one ton!  At One Ton Studios Pianist Lisa Olive and I recorded our first song together.  The Svd Song, by Michael Greenacre, has gone on to be our greatest hit so far at over 19000 hits on youtube.  Michael Greenacre and I also recorded our second album Below the Surface and the song about renewable energy Water, Wind, Sun and Sea at OneTon Studios with whole bevy pint-sized singers.  That song and video clip is due out this year.  (I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the Turkish animator to finish her part.)  Thanks to Wynn’s gentle ear and inspiration as a producer,  I’m extremely pleased about a version of I Did a Spell on You, which I’ll share with you as soon as I can.

Wynn Gogol B&W_SMALL

Wynn has only “done” music his whole life and when I met him were were both writing books.  Wynn’s book is about song-writing about which Wynn and I could talk up a storm.  If it weren’t for wee babes to watch (and my crazay travel schedule), we would never stop talking.  I have been working on drafts of “Deliver Me” about being a living liver donor, “A futile Search For Modern European Plumbing”, and “Wood Storms and Raging Canvass” a coffee table book about my Uncle Godfrey’s Art, to name a few.  I’ve gotten distracted along the way…  Wynn has been producing music and writing about the process of writing song!

Not that it was a contest in any way, I’m writing to you today to let the world know that Wynn has beat me to press!


He’s done his book!  The Artful Songwriter: The Soul and Science of Creating Songs

 I told him that I had to post about this momentous occasion.  His book launch party will take place at Hermann’s Jazz Club in downtown Victoria this coming Thursday the 25th of September.  I won’t be there but I wanted to lend him my full support, love and big-up respek via the da blog.  Wynn will be playing with the Back Dirt Road Band (he plays a whole slew of instruments and sings too).  Doors open at 6.30 and books will be on sale.

An excellent musician and with a killer ear, Wynn’s eloquent both musically and lyrically. (He’s also got a green thumb.)  You’ll  want to hear him play and speak.  And you’ll
want to read his book if you’d ever wondered about the soul science of song-writing.

Chef Survival Challenge

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

– JRR Tolkien

Today is Victoria’s Chef Survival Challenge! Billed as a cross between Iron Chef and Tough Mudder, it promises to be a downright hoot.  http://chefsurvivalchallenge.com/index.html


The ties that draw back to community, that revolve around locally grown food are amazingly ritualistic and atavistic.  Like dancing around a fire, it’s primal to delight in the offerings nature provides. We lived in Italy for 6 years in the hills of Tuscany and Florence. When we first arrived, we were curious about several signs regularly posted throughout the year like “Sagra del Chianina” “Sagra del porchetta”, “Sagra del vino chianti.”  What on Earth were these Sagra all about?  Sagra comes from the religious connotation of feast or celebration. It has been diluted to mean festival, feast. Sagra di Fungi Porcini was a common one. The Sagra brings community together in an informal celebration of local food.

sagra del tartufo

We attended several of the Italian Sagra over the years.  Sometimes a band would play, but mostly they are a stuff-your-face event.  (In case you were wondering- No pie or porcini-eating contests – the Italians are much too elegant for that)

Chef Survival Challenge in Victoria is a tradition similar to the Sagra but more entertaining.  There will be obstacle courses, a cooking competition by local top chefs, food foraging by said local top chefs who pick food that they cook.  Local celebrities will attended.  Andrew Weaver is scheduled to speak.  I have been asked to sing This Earth is Mine!  The vegetables fruits, berries and mushrooms from Madrona farm are sustainably grown; Nathalie is a passionate advocate for Bees and Biodiversity.  This event is to support Nathalie’s Chamber’s Big Dream Farm Fund and Farmland Conservation.  I can’t think of a worthier cause to support – whilst having fun – I’ve been looking forward to this for months!

I will report back after the next Style-Diet Shot.

Video of My First Rally Speech

“Courage is about doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”

– Eddie Rickenbacker

Until May 25th 2013, I had never addressed a crowd at a rally.  I was scared and prepared my speech for days.  Speaking at a rally is something I had never seen myself doing.  I like to sing songs in front of people, stir up lyrical and melodic beauty, make people laugh (or cry) – with song.  I have never considered myself an activist.  But I suppose I am becoming an activist if it means that I want to know what’s in and on my food that I then put in my body.   At this time in history, we are activists in N. America if we want to know whether our food has GMOs in them.

64 countries in the world either ban GMOs or require them to be labelled.  There are countless compelling reasons for this.  I realized that if I didn’t do something, how could I rely on others to speak for me, address my concerns?  More selfishly, if I didn’t take some kind of action, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, knowing that our bees are dying, our waters are being poisoned and our soils destroyed by GMO agriculture.  Every independent study shows that toxins from GMOS are in our blood and our urine.  These are known carcinogens, hormone disruptors   These are poisons.   They are toxic.  They are in our foods because the companies making them did 3 month-long rat studies saying that they were safe for humans.  This ‘scientific evidence’ was rubber stamped by the FDA.  Europeans and others did similar studies and came to drastically different conclusions.  GMO have never been tested on humans.  The promise of GMOs reducing pesticide use was quickly deconstructed.  I was speaking with two young French biology students yesterday who told me that GMOs were necessary to reduce pesticide use.  What they were not being told was that even with plants that have a pesticide spliced in the gene, farmers still dump copious amounts of pesticides.  I’m going to send them the data this morning to convince them.  The use of pesticides is ever exponentially increasing.

Like the Moms who are marching across America (Moms across America March to Label GMOs) to demand mandatory labelling of GMOs I see Canadian moms following the common sense of our American sisters.  We must stand up for our poisoned soils and waters.

Someone posted this 12 min clip of my Speech at the March Against Monsanto

There are a couple errors.  For the record, I have an Honours BA in Biology from the University of Chicago.  I have an MA in Biopsychology also from The University of Chicago.  I began Doctoral Studies in Cellular Biology in Neurobiology at the University of Barcelona but left after a year.  I have one co-authored scientific article on Rat Behaviour.  All that said, I dont consider myself a “Biologist” not being an academic and not having completed my doctorate in Neurobiology.  Also the bug study In the GMOs versus organic fields wasn’t an independently reviewed study.

My favourite part of the speech is at the end when my daughter leaped into my arms, wearing her favourite green GMO shirt with three armholes.  She likes to put her leg through the third armhole.  The T-shirts, made by Nature’s Path Foods say, “GMO shirts are easy to spot, GMO foods aren’t.”

Demand labelling, demand your right to know what is in your food.

If it’s scary and you feel like you’re becoming an activist, welcome to the club.  What can be more important than how we treat others, how were treat our Mother Earth?  What we put on our bodies?  What we put in our bodies?

You tell me.

Magic For Elephants

“Elephants are contagious”

– Paul Eluard, Dada and Surrealist poet

Just today I admired a baby elephant clip my friend Marilyn had posted on facebook.  This sweet elephant was meeting the sea for the first time.  I smiled in glee as the wee (Huge) elephant laughed endlessly with his little trunk undulating in the waves.  Little did I realize that tonight I would be getting a chance to support the African Pachyderms.


Kimberly Meldrum (L) and Dr. Jennifer Dyck heading on a 100 mile journey across Kenya this fall to raise awareness for our elephantine brothers and sisters

We had tickets to a sold-out Magic Show which turned out to be a benefit for the African Elephants.  Multiple – award winning magician Eric Bedard said, “If we don’t do something like this, in 15 years there will be no elephants left in Africa.”  Eric and his wife are going to Africa in September on a 100 mile trek to raise funds and awareness for the elephants.  The trip is put together by Dag Goering and Maria Coffey of Hidden Places Travel, who also set up Elephant Earth http://www.elephantearth.org/  Dag and Maria’s initiative is endorsed by the Dalai Llama.


Eric Bedard, Magician.  He said that when he was emailing his friends in the magic community to ask for their support of this event, he wasn’t sure how many would be able to participate.  Every single one of them wanted to come out tonight and Eric was overwhelmed by their positive response.

Dag explained to me that NGOs have been working to counter the loss of elephants due to poaching.  However, Dag and Maria want to honour the local people (not the NGOs) who are risking their lives every day to save the elephants.  Elephant Earth will give awards to those individuals to who struggle for these noble, beautiful, strong, and sensitive creatures.  They are doing this to highlight the positive, Dag said.


Elephant lover selling raffle tickets for elephant gift basket including Elephant Poo Poo paper (made from elephant dung of course)

Highlight the positive?  That’s what I want to do to inspire change!  There was such positive delight in the Jame’s Bay Hall tonight.

We got treated to the Who’s Who in Victoria’s Magic Community.  First of all, a slew of deft-fingered magicians came to wow and dazzle us at each table with various illusions, from cards to nuts to balls.  Our table had no less than 5 different magicians for the first hour and a half.  They were alternately cute, professional and even shocking.  For example, I almost got my hand burned with magic tin foil (Thanks Shanye King!).  Eric Bedard explained that everyone there contributed not just time; each magician also bought their own ticket to support the elephants.


Renegade wizard Kendall

The magicians included Dave Attwood, Eric Bedard, Ron Bell, Mike Bice, John Graham, Murray Hatfield, Steve Hignett, David Kendall, Shayne King, Justin Louie Dave Morris, Aaron Peek-Vout, Doug Poruchney, Ryan Stanley, and Chris Yuill.  Here is fourteen year old Jason Yeners wowing a table:


After the Table Magic was a show featuring multiple international award-winners including Eric Bedard, Shayne King, Dave Attwood, Chris Yuill and Murray Hatfield.  We only stayed for the first three acts, leaving early to put sleepy kids (who didn’t want to leave) to bed.  Eric Bedard, went first.  A consummate performer, Eric had us all laughing or oohing or spontaneously cheering every thirty seconds or so.


Eric Bedard, on stage in his blue zoot suit. He is the “Cool Magic Dude” and has performed for countless celebrities and won numerous awards.

Shayne King magicked his head to blow up and then shrink and did some kinky stuff with a cord of rope.  David Attwood ended his set escaping from a straight-jacket.  It was a Houdini-esque parody set to Nat King Cole’s Pappa Loves Mambo.  After he contorted out of the straight-jacket, red-faced from the exertion David said, “The worst thing about doing that trick is that I always lose my hair.”  We all laughed (cuz he’s bald).

But then he pulled a live hare out of thin air.

It was classic, magic.

Just what the elephants need.