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Writer-s-Bloc

Oil is NOT dead

By Tim McMillan

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May recently said “oil is dead” and her “heart bleeds for people who believe the sector is going to come back.”

It’s foolish to assert “oil is dead” at any time, but it’s particularly ignorant to say it in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis.

Canadians are relying on oil to deliver their food, heat their homes, and provide the building blocks of the health-care products we need to keep us safe and alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May’s nonsensical and condescending statements were backed up by Yves-Francois Blanchet, the Bloc Québécois leader who offered that oil “is never coming back.”

One could simply write off these comments and point out that May relies heavily on oil products to live in her exceptionally beautiful yet isolated riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands, where oil and natural gas are required to shuttle her via ferry to mainland British Columbia.

As for Blanchet, it would be difficult to justify that he’s speaking for Quebec, which is home to one of Canada’s largest oil refineries as well as to Bombardier, which makes planes that require jet fuel.

Quebec oil consumption is the second highest in Canada and a recent study by researchers at business school HEC Montreal showed the province is on track to grow its petroleum consumption by 30 per cent over the next decade due to rising truck and SUV sales. Oil and natural gas now provide more primary energy in Quebec than hydro.

However, we should examine their views a little more closely. There’s something behind these comments that should be deeply troubling to all Canadians.

We’ve seen the rise of the argument put forward by May and Blanchet from fringe activist groups that seem not bound by reality. However, it’s shocking to hear it from elected officials who are expected to lead and unite our country in a time of crisis.

We’re experiencing an exceptional period in human history. The locking down of economies around the world has meant a drop in global energy consumption for the first time in decades. Oil is by far the largest source of energy in Canada, bigger than wind, solar and hydro combined.

Prior to February 2020, global oil consumption was growing to record levels and all credible forecasts predicted continued growth for decades to come. The global economic crash halted that growth and has thrown all predictions into varying states of disarray.

However, we do know that stores will open again, cars and trucks will begin to run and planes will fly. Our lives will continue – and life takes energy.

Without oil and natural gas, our society would be almost unrecognizable. Medicines, warm showers, ample food supplies and the devices that connect us would virtually disappear, or become astronomically expensive luxuries.

I don’t believe this is the future Canadians want. We want to go back to work and enjoy the freedoms we once took for granted. We want to visit our aunt in Saskatoon, help our kids who are attending university in Halifax and stroll on the beach in White Rock on a long weekend. We want to get a ride to a downtown pub and watch the playoffs with a hundred other hard-core fans.

While May and Blanchet show derision for Canadian oil and natural gas, they’re in the minority. A Global Energy Pulse survey conducted by IPSOS in 2019 showed that 70 per cent of Canadians would prefer to use Canadian oil and natural gas than foreign imports. About half of Canadians surveyed believed critics’ views of the industry are about political confrontation and not the realities of the sector.

Oil and natural gas are Canada’s largest export products and the sector generates over $100 billion in gross domestic product and $8 billion annually in revenues for governments in the form of royalties and taxes.

It employs more than half a million Canadians and has a supply chain that reaches across the country.

The sector is also the largest investor in environmental protection and clean technology in the country, to the tune of more than $3 billion annually.

A strong oil and natural gas industry can drive our recovery, rebuild our industries and help restart our lives – something the majority of Canadians are looking forward to.

Tim McMillan is president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.



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500-year-old plague advice

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel 

It has been said that there are no atheists in a fox hole, and I can’t help but wonder if we on planet Earth aren’t in a fox hole now. 

Here we are in self-isolation, waiting, hoping, and praying the COVID-19 virus missiles won’t strike us and embed in us that bacteria’s awful shrapnel. The virus is a serious health threat that has already claimed over 312,000 lives worldwide.

This pandemic is commonly referred to using warfare terminology, such as the front line, meaning those who work closest to and against the enemy. This foe, being none other than COVID-19, and the army who is fighting it includes doctors, nurses, scientists, cleaning staff, truck drivers, food servers, and store clerks, along with the real military personnel; essentially anyone and everyone who is putting themselves at risk to help others. 

Warfare jargon has had some spiritual battle components associated with pandemics of the past as well. Firstly, Martinus Luther back in 1527 was of the opinion that the plague was caused by evil spirits who poisoned the air and exhaled pestilential breath.

More recently, the belief that demons caused the pandemic was also a view shared by the Chinese community, during the Spanish Flu, which struck Kelowna in 1918. That group of people said that an evil spirit shape-shifted to look like a barefooted young Caucasian boy, who lurked in the shadows of buildings at night and anyone unfortunate enough to see the apparition died.

Is not COVID-19 some kind of malicious entity, wreaking havoc and destruction in the world today, and so far is not one that can be stopped?

The idea of a malevolent spirit plague phenomenon is not some superstitious primitive notion, in my estimation, because Martinus Luther, the famous Protestant Reformer, lived to tell about the Bubonic plague that swept through Wittenberg, Germany, where he lived. He also had sound, practical, ethical and spiritual advice on the subject, which he lived by as a survivor of that pandemic. 

Luther for instance, warned the public to take the medicine that was provided by the doctors and to follow personal hygienic practices, to purify the air in the streets and in their homes by disinfecting them. In regards to the handling of the human remains, he said they should be cremated to prevent the spread, or at least buried outside the cities for the same reason. 

Interestingly, he was also aware of contaminated bodily fluids entry points, even through the eyes of the dying, going into the eyes of those doctoring them. PPE, such as goggles, face masks and shields, are used today to prevent this particular entry point, but not something readily available in that form, or known of back then.  

Obeying the ordinances established by the local governments, such as quarantining and avoiding public spaces, was something Luther also recommended. He had strong admonitions for those who would put themselves at risk, either by thinking they were somehow invincible under their own steam, or that God would protect them and they need not take any precautions.  

Both ways is suicide, and homicide, many times over, according to Luther, as those individuals are murdering others who otherwise would have survived, had these reckless persons taken basic safety measures.  Consequently, they needlessly exposed family friends, neighbours, and the general public to the plague by their careless actions.

He also was horrified at the reports he received of some people who knew they were infected and deliberately went into other peoples’ homes and contaminated women and children. These people are assassins, he stated, and vehemently condemned, saying that these ruthless individuals should be delivered over to Jack the Hangman promptly.  

He hoped those allegations weren’t true; otherwise: “We Germans are more devils than human beings,” and he supposed it would be better to live with wild beasts than such as these. 

Sadly, there are similar reports of people today, who knew they are contaminated with the virus, and needed to be put in ankle bracelet tracking devices, because they wouldn’t stay home. It would appear that the cruelty some people are capable of hasn’t changed much in that regard, in the 500 years since Luther was around.  

Luther also believed that those who take chances by not protecting themselves as best they can, are like someone who falls out of a boat and refuses to swim, saying God will pull me out of the water if He wants to, or that He is punishing me, so I must die.  

Same goes with a family that doesn’t leave a burning house when able to, saying God will put out the fire and we don’t have to escape. Likewise, if neighbours see the fire and say the same thing, then the whole city would burn down. In those instances he says we are putting God to the test, which is not a good thing, when God gave us brains to use and self-preservation is instinctual for a reason. 

The Protestant reformer also believed that to flee the plague was not a bad thing in and of itself, if those whom you are responsible for are taken care of, such as employees, neighbours, and other adults. But to abandon them in their need to save your own skin would lead to a much worse eternal fate.  

To ignore and leave an unfortunate person lying in the street like a dog or a pig, to succumb to whatever calamity befalls him, is to also have that person’s blood on your hands, according to Luther. He also believed we must take in the orphan or the adult, even one who may be covered in as many boils as the hairs on their body, if the hospitals are full and overwhelmed. It would be better to die helping the plague victims, than to live with their deaths on your head, Luther insisted.  

He said that if Jesus died for us, we can die for each other if necessary. Those who say they would look after Jesus if he fell ill but ignore their neighbour is a liar, as Jesus had said whatsoever you did for them, you did for him – or neglected to do. (1 John 40:20 and Matthew 25:40.)

Nonetheless, God promised also that, as our gracious attendant and great physician, he will sustain them on their sick bed and heal their infirmities, referring to those who help others, or are sick and ask him to save them.  

The plague is a feeble germ according to Luther, and God is in control, and can and will help those who ask of him. Psalm 91:11 states that God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you from the perilous pestilence.  The catch, however, which he did not mention, is that it is a promise for those who believe in Jesus and the word of God, and do what is right according to following scripture, not what one may arbitrarily think is right or wrong in their own minds.   

Finally there are those, both then and now, who stubbornly object to the word God, or Jesus or praying; or the notion that good and evil forces are at work. These individuals rely entirely on scientists to come up with a vaccine, and on medical personnel to save us. For some unfortunates it will be too late.

It would seem that things are spiraling out of control, and whereas this pandemic may not take as many lives as it did back in Luther’s time, what we do know though, is that life as we know it won’t be the same again.  

Once this pandemic is stamped out, the fallout from COVID-19 is as still as of yet unfathomable. The shrapnel from the COVID-19 missiles will take many forms, with various consequences. However, God is still in charge and in him I put my trust, and have peace in knowing that.  



A deficit of empathy

By Matthew Rigby

Never. 

That’s how often you should read the comment section on a parenting blog. This is probably true at the best of times, but I think we can all agree, these are not the best of times. 

Like a lot of parents, I’ve recently been navigating being at home with three kids in different grades. I’ve been clapping out syllables with my 10-year-old, assisting my 12-year-old with multiplying and dividing fractions, and instructing my six-year-old in the proper way to hold his pencil. I’m signing into multiple Zoom conferences, Google classrooms, Freshgrade, Epic, ReadTheory, Razkids, Newzella and Zearn accounts (yes, those are all real). I’m also trying to bake bread, make crafts, facilitate my kids reaching out to friends, get outside and limit screen time. 

All while working and trying to keep myself and my family safe from a pandemic.

Some days are bliss. A new concept begins to make sense to your child. An unscripted conversation surprises you in the best possible way. Siblings play well together. The bread rises, and you punch it down with satisfaction. 

Other days are marked by anxiety and frustration. Hours spent on schoolwork with little to show for it. A complete inability to get even the simplest of projects completed. When the novelty of crafts and baking has worn off completely. When you are only going through the motions of normality, and everyone knows it. These days are exhausting.

Recently a writer published an article on a popular parenting site sharing her experience of one of these tiring days at home with her child. It was honest, it was vulnerable, and it didn’t paint her in the best possible light. 

She was destroyed in the comments section. 

Some readers attacked her for complaining about a life marked by privilege. Some patted themselves on the back for their superior upbringing and parenting, taking the opportunity to showcase the ways they have managed this crisis so far. Some derided the writer for allowing her child to become spoiled and run the household. Another chided the writer for writing about a concept so obvious: “Of course parenting is hard!” they scold.

What was universal among so many responses was a complete lack of empathy. Each respondent unable or unwilling to imagine a scenario different from their own. Unable to listen to another’s grief and frustration without expressing judgment. Even those attempting to contribute helpful parenting advice (dangerous, that) came from a place apart, above. Very few seemed willing to accept her vulnerability and meet her in the midst of failure. 

Of course, no one is surprised by this story. People displaying their vulnerability is uncomfortable, and expecting empathy and compassion from strangers could be considered naive and idealistic.

But that is exactly what we are depending on right now. The empathy and compassion of strangers. A deficit of empathy affects more than just the comment section of a struggling parent’s blog. It needlessly puts others at risk and prolongs this crisis.

For the longest time, individuality, competition and self sufficiency have been given much higher stature than seemingly ‘soft’ virtues such as empathy and compassion. The unspoken message has been that seeing another’s perspective is nice and good, but inessential. And now we are in the midst of a crisis that the individual is incapable of addressing. Suddenly, we are being asked to see ourselves as a whole. To do our part, and trust that others will do the same. 

From the beginning of this pandemic we watched the outliers with disdain and fascination. Fistfights over toilet paper and sanitizer. Customers emptying entire meat sections. People stealing boxes of respirator masks from hospitals. Used and discarded masks and gloves littered on the ground for essential workers to pick up. The subtle or complete disregard for social and physical distancing shown by some.

It is easy to make a caricature out of the outliers. Most of us are not getting into fist fights, hoarding supplies or intentionally putting others. But as our province begins to lessen restrictions, and we begin to salivate at the possibility of seeing faces of our friends and family, it’s more important than ever that we strengthen our collective empathy, and remain vigilant. 

Without that empathy, we can’t see the big picture. When I can’t (or won’t) see from another’s perspective, I will make all of my decisions based on my own perceived risk and discomfort. And daily, I want to make those concessions. I want a return to normal.  And as I estimate my risk to be lessened (whether that is true or not), I will make greater and greater concessions to ease that discomfort.

I don’t say this to shame anyone. We’ve all seen an influx of self appointed ‘social isolating police’ pop up online. There is a thin line between reminding people of best practices and social shaming, and it gets traversed daily. We are all making decisions about how to best navigate this crisis with acceptable risk. Some of us are making concessions out of exhaustion, for productivity, for childcare, for mental sanity.

But empathy asks whether I would make those same concessions if I were the one immunocompromised? If I had an underlying lung condition? If my health and safety depended on the vigilance of others? Because when I take a risk that is manageable to me, but not to someone else, it is a failure of empathy. That I cannot, or will not see from another’s perspective. 

I know from conversations with those most at risk that they have not reduced their vigilance. That the steps ahead to reopen are necessary, but terrifying. They cannot afford to pretend that we’ve magically returned to normal, or that this virus is a hoax or a government conspiracy. Denial is not a coping mechanism available to them. To them, denial is deadly.

Perhaps we can begin by admitting that we have a deficit of empathy for a long time now. That whether it is in a comment section or a grocery store, we need to increase our empathy. Now, more than ever. That in the face of threat, we have focused mostly on our individual needs and fears. And that in our conceived scarcity, we have become less generous, even with our concern for others.

As is often the case, we do not know where we are weakest until we are tested. And this is our test. To find the ways to see this crisis through more than just our small perspective. To expand our imagination, our consideration, and our compassion. 

It has been said that we will get through this together. 

This is true. But how we get through it, and who we are together, will depend greatly on our empathy.

Matthew Rigby is a grateful husband to one, father to three. He works as a nurse in emergency care, and writes about making meaning through connecting with the great human narrative. You can find his writings and recordings at somethingfromeverything.com.



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Family escapes to Canada

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

A threatening letter anonymously sent warned the Gonzalez family that they were targeted for kidnapping. It was the last straw, and so they fled Mexico, where they’d just arrived a year earlier. Arturo Gonzalez and his wife Carmen Cortes were childhood sweethearts and DREAMer’s from the United States. 

Their Hispanic parents had tried unsuccessfully to adjust their legal status in the U.S., but due to the complexity of the immigration laws, they were never able to. Therefore, Arturo and Carmen were considered alien minors. The children were brought to America from Mexico at nine and five years of age, and were American in every way except on paper. The two of them grew up in the same neighbourhood in Orange County, Calif., and went to the same schools and attended the same church where the couple eventually married in 2006. However, they were not fully able to connect with and participate in that society because of the lack of documentation. 

Carmen and Arturo were without social security numbers, and they could not get decent employment, even with a good education. Their driver’s licenses had a mark on them showing that they were foreigners; hence were questioned all the time about why they didn’t have legal immigrant status.

There was an attempt on behalf of the American government to reform the immigration system with a program for young aliens with the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act, but was not successful, besides which, Arturo did not qualify, as the Act had an age cap that he exceeded.  

The couple, now in their 30s, had three school-aged boys to think about and grew tired of living in the shadows. They saw how their parents struggled without being able to retire. The pair wanted a better future for themselves and their sons, Jacob, 12, Samuel, 11 and Benjamin, 10. 

Arturo was offered a promising position at a Linda Vista University in Chiapas, Mexico, as a bilingual assistant pastor/English teacher and so he jumped at the chance and moved his family there in July 2018.

Upon arrival, however, trouble arose, as it was apparent to the locals that the Gonzalez family spoke and dressed differently, being raised in America. Their Spanish dialect sounded strange to the locals. There was also the misconception that their upbringing in the U.S. meant that they were rich, which was the farthest thing from the truth. 

The children lived in fear because they could only speak English, which couldn’t be spoken in public as it would draw unwanted attention. There was also the intense anxiety felt from being under constant scrutiny. The Gonzolez’ were also cautioned by the faculty at the university to not allow neighbourhood children inside their home, as sometimes kids were sent to spy and report back on things like what kind of furniture they had. The Gonzalez’ were being cased, and soon felt very unsafe being in their country of birth.

The neighbourhood was dangerous, too, and gunshots rang out just outside a store where the family had been shopping at the time.  

Within a month of arriving, there was a shooting, and several months later, a case of mistaken identity happened when a fellow pastor was shot while trying to protect a student from being kidnapped. It was later known that the pastor’s son was targeted. That pastor was (as the Gonzalez family believe) erroneously thought to be Arturo. 

Hence the family fled, but returning to the States was not an option, as once they left, an automatic 10-year ban came into effect, which was instated by the Clinton administration back in the 1990s.

Consequently, they escaped to Victoria, B.C., and stayed with the Gonzalez-Aruizu family for six months. They sought refugee status with the help of a lawyer. The Gonzalez’ had a final immigration hearing on March 4, and because the prosecutor didn’t show up, their lawyer said that it meant that they had a good case.

Arturo had meanwhile applied for an assistant pastoral position at the SDA Rutland Church and was successful. The lawyer gave them the go-ahead to accept it. The Skuka family provided them with a newly renovated three-bedroom 1/2-duplex to rent, and the iServe team got some basic household furnishings set up for them. Another church member donated new pots and pans, along with a couple of dinner sets. 

A hot and delicious full course meal was waiting for the Gonzalez’ on the evening of March 6, when they arrived after a long trip from Victoria to Kelowna in their Mazda, which was filled to the brim with only their clothing and four bicycles that a friend had gifted them in Victoria – the extent of their belongings. 

The children were so excited to get to their new home and said it felt like Christmas to them. Right after eating their first meal there, the boys were anxious to go to sleep in their new bunk beds. They had been through so much at so young an age, and the ordeal left them with a diagnosis of PTSD. 

The boys were terrified of the thought of going back to Mexico and could not sleep with the lights off. They needed a lot of reassurance, but are starting to breathe easier. 

The Gonzalez family is overwhelmed with the generosity of Canadians, in both Victoria and Kelowna, who took the family under their wings. Ten-year-old Benjamin said it was angels in disguise (as Benjamin calls the iServe team) that gave them a place to finally call home. Then there were the spiritual fathers Marian Kossovan and Rodger Estevez in Victoria who were a huge support for Aturo and his family, as well as the Gonzalez-Arvizu family whom they stayed with.  

They have seen God’s hand on everything, including getting them safely out of Mexico and in making the decision to come to Canada. 

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Kelowna writer.



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About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

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Opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Castanet. They are not news stories reported by our staff.



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