Military casualties must be public

6 12 2008
Kara Bertrand
Life Editor, Humber Et Cetera
Published: October 23, 2008

The United States Department of Defense enacted legislation in Aug. 2008 granting journalists access to ceremonies honouring fallen military personnel, a motion that was not present in any legislation until this point.

For the first time since the Vietnam War, under the Fallen Hero Commemoration Act, photojournalists and videographers can now capture flag-draped coffins returning to American soil.

Canada has no such legislation. In April 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even banned the media from ramp ceremonies at C.F.B. Trenton. While this particular ban has been lifted, there is no official legislation allowing the media to capture these tragic yet poignant moments in Canadian military history.

It’s true that with the ban lifted people can see footage and photos of ramp ceremonies but there is no guarantee that the media will not be prohibited from documenting a service.  Canada should have legislation to ensure every death can be broadcasted for the public record and for history.

The war in Afghanistan has produced the largest number of fatal casualties for any single Canadian military mission since the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 where 516 were killed. With 98 dead and hundreds wounded, the sacrifice encroached by this war is not unknown. Without legislation stating the media can attend these ceremonies, government decisions made on the fly could keep the public in the dark regarding military deaths, forging the effects of the war.

As each day passes, insurgent forces continue to gain strength, and critics wonder when the deaths will cease.  However, with Harper’s promise to begin a pull-out of Afghanistan in 2011, there still is no excuse for forgetting those who gave their lives in the war. Media coverage has given light to each death, providing the family with comfort and support, while putting a human face to the war.

When faced with the decision of enacting legislation, like the Fallen Hero Commemoration Act, hesitation might hang on the notion of Canada forever following in the footsteps of Big Brother America, often looking south to see what’s next on the horizon. Emulating the act should not be taken as lowering ourselves to a game of follow the leader, but rather as a step up to respect not only those who have died but their families and the Canadian public in general.

Failing to cover these issues leaves a great hole in the fabric of Canadian society. With Canada often taking a peacekeeping role in more recent wars, the Canadian public was not used to hearing of military deaths in 2006. Harper was presumably trying to shelter the sensitive ears and eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Normal, and leaving us in the dark regarding the war.

But we should not forget those fighting in Afghanistan, especially with Remembrance Day approaching, regardless of our personal beliefs about the war.

Harper arts cuts spark controversy at college

5 12 2008

Kara Bertrand
Design Editor, The Daily Planet
Published: October 3, 2008

In the midst of economic turmoil and a federal election on both sides of the border, even cultural and artistic matters are being brought to the fore by political leaders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced a $45 million tax cut on the arts communities across Canada. Theatre professionals in Toronto say they saw this coming.

“It’s interesting because we’ve seen a change in the landscape around us and we kind of knew that this was starting to happen,” said Diana Belshaw, head of acting in the theatre performance program at Humber. “Not the specifics, but that the world is no longer as easy a place to earn a living.”

She said the theatre program at the Lakeshore Campus shifted six years ago to train students to create and produce their own work. This highlighted a community base for all productions. Belshaw said the arts cuts won’t be a large issue for Humber students at this point in their careers.

“Clearly when they reach a certain level in their careers it becomes huge because at a certain point it would be nice to make a decent living,” she said.

Belshaw recalled an example of a production called Goodness about genocide put on by a theatre company named Volcano. They were invited to Rwanda for a performance, but she said the Canadian government refused to fund the trip.

“It’s a very successful company and has toured internationally before, so to have that company turned down was just kind of a shock to everyone,” she said.

John Bourgeois, program co-ordinator of the acting for film and TV program also at Lakeshore Campus, pointed to a similar situation within the Canadian TV industry.

He cited the CBC series MVP, The Secret Life of Hockey Wives, “a home grown TV series the New Yorker magazine hailed as fresh and original. Had the show been supported at the federal level, it would still be on the air, telling our stories with our artists,” he said.

Bourgeois said he feared a film and TV industry without Canadian content.

“There will be fewer – if that’s possible – Canadian stories on our screens, fewer actors, writers, directors working to tell our own stories and fewer producers willing to take the risk of funding a Canadian story,” he said.

Belshaw said arts cuts are no new thing and something that happened under the Mike Harris government.

“That really made it very difficult for theatre for young audiences which were going into schools and touring,” she said. “And they’re fundamental to the artistic life of the province. But, I don’t think we’ve seen cuts like this before.”

Belshaw said when she started out in the theatre industry in the early 70s, the liberal government at the time gave out LIP grants, “local initiative project grants, which were used by little companies to start out.” She said there was a great deal of what was called ‘seed money’ at the time, but now that has disappeared.

In a time of election, both Belshaw and Bourgeois said voting for a candidate who supports the arts is the only way to reverse the cuts that are happening.

“Canadians must elect responsible governments that will address the cultural needs of all Canadians,” said Bourgeois.

Humber ready for proposed coffee cup ban

5 12 2008

Kara Bertrand
Design Editor, The Daily Planet
Published: September 25, 2008


Toronto’s solid waste department put forward several proposals to ban or tax coffee cups, take-out food containers and plastic bags, in a move toward diverting 70 per cent of its landfill waste by 2010.

Humber College’s food services have moved to biodegradable cups, plates and cutlery at the beginning of this school year.

“It’s obviously an issue that the government wants to undertake but it doesn’t really affect us at the moment,” said Kim Mantovani, director of food services.

She said Humber began a gradual change in January 2008 whereby all Chartwells-run locations would use biodegradable cups, plates and cutlery.

The college has now changed 100 per cent to use only biodegradable materials at the start of this school year. For instance, Mantovani said, the cutlery is made out of corn. She said they would begin to liaise with Harvey’s and Williams Coffee in University of Guelph-Humber further down the line to shift this process to these chains as well.

Eliminating non-biodegradable materials from Toronto’s landfill system was included in the Target 70 Strategy outlined in June 2007, said Vincent Sferrezza, director of policy and planning of Toronto’s solid waste department.

“This particular component is part of our strategy whereby looking at reducing in-store packaging, we would reduce about 10,000 tonnes of waste that would enter into our system and it would contribute to getting us to 70 per cent,” he said.

According to Toronto’s website, over 367,000 metric tonnes of residential waste was diverted from landfill in 2007, which amounts to 42 per cent of all waste.

Still, a city audit in 2007 found fast-food containers in 77 per cent of garbage bins in Toronto. The report stated that in 260 of the 480 bins, Tim Horton’s cups and lids were the top waste contributors.

David Griffin, maintenance and operations manager at Humber, was not convinced the city’s proposals were good ideas.

“How is the city helping people get to the point where they can be good stewards of the environment?” he said.

Griffin said high-rise buildings and rental real estate add to the garbage problem, as residents cannot recycle in the same way as house dwellers.

“Most only have one chute per floor and that’s for garbage,” he said.

If the proposals don’t take effect in Toronto, Sferrezza said recycling programs would always be collecting material that takes up space in the landfill sites.

“But we’re looking at reducing the materials before we even have to manage it,” he said.

In the event of a total ban, Sferrezza offered options for retailers and consumers. Reusable bags and mugs are already available at grocery stores and coffee shops and he said this would become the norm in the event of a complete ban.

“At Tim Horton’s, for instance, if you go there [with a reusable mug] they charge you 10 cents less,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that and it makes a difference. Some of the options that exist are good and we’re trying to promote and encourage those.”