Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

At the conclusion of negotiations that produced the far reaching Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), local cartoonist Vince Flynn provided a rather unflattering and sobering assessment of the pact. His cartoon showed then Conservative Trade Minister Ed Fast saying, “I think we gave them everything they asked for.” The text of the 12 nation agreement had not yet been made public and I hoped the cartoon was more for the sake of humour than to convey an accurate portrayal of what was agreed upon.

Vintage Harold Anderson Calendar Picture
Vintage Harold Anderson Calendar Picture

All we knew at the time was that the agreement had been negotiated in almost total secrecy behind tightly closed doors, as though the various governments understood they were doing something enormously shameful. To me it smacked of young boys guiltily puffing on their first cigarette behind the family barn. Although we might want to believe its tentacles will not reach into our beautiful valley, the agreement has the potential to impact each of us directly.

Most of us have little understanding of the international trade regulations that already enable foreign corporations to extract huge sums from our governments. One example of this is the terms the World Trade Organization used to rule against a successful clean energy program in Ontario which had created thousands of jobs. Similar regulations targeted a moratorium on fracking in Quebec. The Sierra Club says the TPP will impose further limits on government efforts to combat climate disruptions.

The agreement has already been signed by the Liberal government. If ratified by Parliament, it will give foreign corporations even greater powers to sue governments for billions over laws and policies they contend will limit their profits.

To me it is incomprehensible that corporations will be able to challenge our environmental laws, not before a Canadian court, but before a tribunal of private lawyers. These 3 lawyers will not be accountable for their decisions and there will be no appeal process. They will have the power to order governments to pay firms for future profits they could have hypothetically earned if the protective policies were not in place.

Siphoning off of public funds is one way each of us will be impacted. It will ensure governments have even less resources to maintain our already stressed medical system, build schools, repair bridges and highways, and much more.

Government officials typically ignore concerns about threats to the environment, claiming there are provisions that protect against abuses. George Kahale III, chairman of the world’s leading legal arbitration firm says of the highly touted environmental safeguard in the pact, “the entire provision for protection of the environment is negated by 5 words in the middle. The supposed safeguard is actually much ado about nothing.” His firm has defended various governments in lawsuits by international corporations.

The TPP is all encompassing and includes much more than the environment. Many seniors and others in the Similkameen Valley will almost certainly be hit hard in their wallets when they go to renew their medical prescriptions. D G Shaw of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance says “generic drugs will come onto the market less quickly and patients will have to wait longer for affordable medications.” Also, pharmaceutical companies will be more able to sue governments over policies they don’t like. Even under existing rules, they are already doing this. At the federal level, the giant pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, currently has a lawsuit against the Canadian government for $500 million because Canadian courts invalidated its Zyprexa patent. One observer suggested this is “the shape of things to come.”

Jim Balsillie, former Co-CEO of RIM, believes “signing the deal could be Canada’s worst ever policy decision.” Professor Ariel Katz, law professor at the University of Toronto agrees. He warns that “ratifying the TPP would lock Canada into a deal that could not be modified even if issues surface down the road.” He asks, “why would anyone in their right mind do this?”

Especially in regard to the environment, I’m puzzled by the Liberal position. Justin Trudeau proudly announced at the Paris climate conference, “We’re back. We’re here to help.” But his statements indicate he may favour ratification of the TPP by Parliament. Is it the citizens of Canada he intends to help, or multinational corporations? The TPP will impact us. If we’re concerned about greedy corporations blackmailing and plundering Canada, now is the time to inform our PM and our representatives in Parliament.

Africa Experience Draws Couple Together

Doug & Michelle Nimchuk
Doug & Michelle Nimchuk

“We were still in the dating stage when Doug asked if I wanted to go to Africa with him,” Michelle told Linda and me recently. “I agreed immediately, but had no idea what I was getting into.”

I had invited Michelle and Doug Nimchuk to our home for tea. Valentine’s Day was approaching and I wanted the perspective of a couple that had progressed beyond the euphoria of a spicy romantic relationship. Listening to their account of travelling 13 months in Africa, I decided their story was worth telling.

Doug and Michelle are wonderfully different. He’s pragmatic and not given to hyperbole. In response to my question about early thoughts concerning Michelle he said, “she was pleasant.” Michelle is endowed with a delicate sprinkle of effervescence. “An ex-boyfriend introduced us,” she said. “Doug was handsome, very fit and he’d been to Asia for a year. Also, he owned a 2-seater sports car.” She reflected for a moment then continued with a smile, “He wasn’t a good dancer, but he liked to dance. I liked it that he was very attentive and wanted to dance only with me.”

They began their odyssey in Durban, South Africa, equipped with a tent, sleeping bags, mosquito netting, camp stove and other items. When I asked how they got along, Doug replied, “we got along fine.” Michelle’s recollection was less rosy. “We had a spat in Kenya. Doug wasn’t living up to my expectations. I told him I was leaving. Then I looked around. We were in wilderness.”

She paused for a moment, her face serious. “In Canada I’d probably have got in my car and left. That would have been the end of the relationship. In this wilderness though, it wouldn’t have been safe to leave. I began to understand that one of us would have to initiate dialogue to make this trip work. It wouldn’t be Doug.”

“Communication definitely wasn’t my strong area,” Doug admitted. It was intriguing to observe them now calmly sort out their at times differing memories.

“I began to vocalize the issues,” Michelle said. “I encouraged Doug to also talk.” They had learned some things about communication.

Michelle’s brother Darryl joined them in mid trip. In a remote area of Burundi they encountered a crises of another kind. “The people told us they had not seen a tourist in 2 years,” Doug said. “They urged us to leave because it was too dangerous.”

This advice proved correct when 3 men accosted them and grabbed for Doug and Darryl’s money belts. Doug thwarted one assailant physically, but received a hard head butt that broke his nose. Darryl’s belt was taken. It held his plane ticket and passport so he and Doug gave chase. Doug’s nose was bleeding profusely, but with the help of construction workers they did recover the money belt.

Still in Burundi, Doug contracted malaria and Darryl had a serious bout of diarrhea. Michelle nursed them back to health. Before they were out of Burundi, she came down with malaria. “The men weren’t as compassionate or attentive as I was when they were sick. I told them they were poor nurse maids.”

Back in Canada, they agreed the Africa experience had brought them closer together. “I felt we were compatible”, Michelle said, “and I was ready to get married.” But Doug, always wanting to get things right, needed more time.

Doug & Michelle today, still in love.
Doug & Michelle today,
still in love.

When they tied the knot a couple of years later, they continued to focus on communication. “We realized we’d been raised in very different families. In both cases, our parents stayed together, but through some difficult times,” Doug said. “We we were responding to troubling issues the way they had. We found a small neighbourhood church where we learned more productive strategies for dealing with disagreements.”

Today the Nimchuks have 4 children. Michelle is Assistant Director of Immersive Technologies at the Heritage Christian Online School. She is also a board member at the Hedley Grace Church. Doug drives school bus part time and does renovations as well. He has been chairman of the Hedley Improvement District and is a firefighter and first responder with the Hedley Fire Department.

At the end Michelle said, “ I wouldn’t recommend 13 months in Africa to test a relationship. For us it worked though.”


Protecting the Dream in Cawston

Corey Brown, an organic farmer in Cawston, BC
Corey Brown, an organic farmer in Cawston, BC

It is common for “creatures of the city” to dream of buying a few acres in the country and settling into a peaceful, idyllic life. For Corey and Colleen Brown, the dream became a reality 11 years ago when they gave up the comforts and amenities of Victoria and bought just over 5 acres in Cawston. Since then they have become aware they must join with others in preserving the dream for themselves, their children, and fellow residents of the Similkameen Valley.

Colleen, a Dietitian, was at work when Linda and I visited the farm last week. “We wanted to raise our children in the country,” Corey said to explain their move here. “Also, I wanted to farm. It’s fortunate we came when prices were still low.”


Walking about the spacious domain of his 99 contented, clucking chickens and listening to Corey, it was easy to mistakenly conclude he is simply one more farmer passionate about his small scale operation. Certainly he is passionate and credits neighbour Moses Brown (no relation) for helping him get started in organic farming. People are eager to buy the eggs. In summer he also raises up to 500 broilers. From Harry Jones, former owner of Iceberg Meats, he learned the art of humanely slaughtering chickens. Interestingly, he was once a committed vegetarian. Currently he is involved with several organic farming organizations and vice president of the Penticton Farmers Market.

Sitting at the kitchen table of their comfortable home, another of Corey’s passions began to emerge, hesitantly at first. He doesn’t like to draw attention to himself.

“I’m deeply involved in the organic scene,” he said, “but I realize one day my 2 children may ask what I did about issues like pollution in the Similkameen River. I want to have an answer for them.” He paused for a moment, then continued, “I want to work with others to create an awareness of the threats facing our community and the entire valley. I feel people need to realize if we’re not involved, we’ll be sold out. Too often people aren’t interested until they understand an issue will impact them personally. It’s important to help them make that connection.”

To this end, under the auspices of “Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association” he recently showed a Naomi Klein documentary film in Cawston. Klein has authored several books, including “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”. He had expected younger people in the audience, but it was mostly Boomers who came. “I did it because I wanted people to be up to date with what’s happening.”

Corey expresses his views with clarity and vigour in conversation, but he’s reluctant to speak in public. “Sometimes after saying something in a meeting, I feel that I didn’t get it right. Then I think I should have remained quiet.”

He realizes though that if people remain silent, “the world will roll over us. We need to push against the boundaries that hold us back.”
He works with others to help people make the connection between their own lives and the destructive forces at work in their community and the larger society. He seems to understand intuitively the words of author John C. Maxwell who has said, “one is too small a number to achieve great things.”

On February 29, from 6 to 9 pm, Friends of the Similkameen River will sponsor a public forum at the Cawston Hall. “It will be a night about water in our valley,” he said.

Sometimes people ask how he continues to be positive when it’s so dark. “I tell them to do some thing,” he said. “If a lot of us do something, we can make things happen. I feel there is a vast grass roots movement around the world.”

Corey views himself simply as one of many seeking to produce positive outcomes in Cawston and the entire Similkameen Valley. He is quick to express gratitude for the encouragement he has received from organic growers and others advocating for the environment and healthy communities. “There’s a core of hard working people in the valley,” he said at the end. “When I’m involved with them, I feel like I’m accomplishing something important. Colleen and I know we must do our part to keep the dream alive for ourselves and others.”

Former Prison Guard At Peace In Hedley

Observing Frank Schroeder and his chocolate brown Standard

Frank & his loyal friend, Teddy
Frank & his loyal friend, Teddy

Poodle on the streets of Hedley, it would be impossible to guess where he has been or what he has seen. His stature has been reduced 4 inches due to a curvature of the spine caused by osteoporosis. He and Teddy present such a peaceful picture it’s unlikely anyone would think he had once been a gun carrying guard at the B.C. Penitentiary.

“Although the prison system was already changing during my 5 years at the Penn, many of the old line guards were still present,” he said. “They revelled in telling us how things were done in the past, especially the floggings.”

He recalls vividly the incident in which Mary Steinhauser, a prison counsellor was taken hostage by inmates. “Those guys were brutal”, he said. “I knew Mary, she sometimes sat at the dinner table with me. When the guards rushed in to end the standoff, they shot her.” She was liked and respected by the inmates and it was widely believed by them the guards deliberately targeted her. Frank doesn’t agree with this view.

After 5 years at the Penn, he was transferred to Matsqui Institution. For three years he did night duty in one of the towers overlooking the prison fences. He was expected to shoot in event of a break out or riot. An experienced hunter, he was familiar with a variety of firearms, but he never shot at a prisoner. For the last 2 years of prison work he was a Living Unit Officer and this offered an opportunity to make a positive difference in some inmates. “I took one of the men skiing,” he said. “He was doing time for murder and had been in prison for years. I taught him to ski. I also taught him how to order a cup of coffee in a restaurant. After a year I could trust him to ski alone.” Years later, while camping in a remote area of B.C. he met the man. He was working in forestry.

“Wearing the uniform hardens you,” he said. “I didn’t care for the atmosphere so I took a real estate course on the side. On April 30th, 1977 I took the uniform off for the last time and put the prison system behind me. On May 1st I began selling real estate.”

It wasn’t Frank’s dream job. He wished he’d been able to get a university education and become a meteorologist. Family responsibilities had made this impossible. He doesn’t complain, though. “I made a pile of money,” he told me, “and after 4 years I took time off to do some things I loved.” He travelled, hunted, fished, and built a house at Lone Butte. A workaholic, he had for some years run a renovation, gardening, landscaping business on the side. Building a house was not a problem. He also earned a brokerage licence and in time opened offices in Lone Butte and 100 Mile House.

The osteoporosis struck him in 2002, but Frank hasn’t allowed it to IMG_2227dampen his zest for experience and adventure. During the years away from real estate, he met Richard Canning, Director of the Canadian Bird Count. Canning is an author and a prominent authority on birds. Frank considers himself lucky to have done a number of bird counts with him since their meeting.

“My first encounter with birds actually happened when I was age 6,” he recalls. “I taught a young swallow to fly. The parents were furious and dived at me repeatedly. It scared me.” To date he has spotted 340 different birds and says, “I’m totally hooked on birding.” He doesn’t have a favourite bird. “If it wears feathers, it can come on my yard any time, in any number.” Teddy, his faithful companion, shares his enthusiasm. Seeing Frank look through his field glasses, Teddy sits beside him patiently and looks too. “Sometimes Teddy notices a bird first,” Frank said.


The man and dog have a special friendship. Both are congenial, but


in different ways. Frank is calm and steady. Teddy’s tail wags a lot.

Recently Teddy was seriously ill and Frank took him to a vet. When he was told his good friend might not survive the night, Frank slept in the kennel with him. Compassionate and caring, this former prison guard is a good addition to our peaceful little community.

Cat With A Better Idea

Former Hedley Hospital, photo courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum
Former Hedley Hospital, photo courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum

Yesterday Linda and I were on our daily trek, which includes climbing Hospital Hill. The “Hill”, famous with the more ambitious walkers in Hedley, lies just past the bridge over 20 Mile Creek. Although there is no hospital on the hill, it retains the name from the days when there was one.

When I say it is part of the route taken by the more ambitious walkers in Hedley, it’s necessary to keep in mind that most of the citizens of this community who actually climb the hill are 70 and over. At the outside, it takes no more than about 5 minutes and serious climbers would scoff at the thought that it’s a challenging climb. Still, it does provoke our heart beat into overdrive and we can distinctly hear our breathing.

Cat On a Warm Roof
Cat On a Warm Roof

Although the sun was bright, the mercury in our thermometer had been at just above zero when we started out. As we were approaching the hill, we noticed a cat warming itself on the asphalt roof of a shed. Obviously the roof was radiating heat we didn’t feel. Seeing the cat, which appeared warm and entirely at ease, I wondered for a moment why we were making ourselves do this. Sitting in a secluded sunny corner, a cup of steaming hot coffee in hand, seemed like a good idea. But, we are humans.

20 Years As Hedley Postmaster

Ruth Woodin Celebrates 20 Years as Hedley Postmaster
Ruth Woodin Celebrates 20 Years as Hedley Postmaster

It would not be an exaggeration to say last Friday was a Red Letter day for Ruth Woodin. The people of the community arrived in droves to celebrate her 20 years as Hedley Postmaster. The town’s organizations and many individuals brought cards and stayed for coffee and cake. Her body may have been sore at the end of the day from numerous warm hugs. It was the culmination of many years of smiling at customers and providing efficient, courteous service.

Postmaster Ruth Woodin  with loyal customers, Brad & Lana Bain
Postmaster Ruth Woodin with loyal customers, Brad & Lana Bain

“I’m really fortunate to have so many nice customers,” she said. “A lot of people are very loyal to their local post office. They won’t buy their stamps anywhere else. They know that helps keep the service in town.”

The importance of supporting the Post Office is a message she feels everyone needs to be aware of. Occasionally she reminds a local citizen of this. “Several years ago a man came in with 75 Christmas cards,” she said. “They already had stamps affixed to them. I mentioned I didn’t recall him buying the stamps here. He told me he had bought them in Princeton. I explained to him it’s important to support the Hedley Post Office so the service isn’t discontinued. He understood immediately and promised me it wouldn’t happen again. A number of people in town have committed to buying stamps and other services here.”

At this time Ruth is Hedley’s second longest serving Postmaster. She hopes to overtake and pass the 22 year record held by highly respected Thomas (T.C.) Knowles. Knowles was a decorated member of the Canadian Armed Forces and served in World War I. Although no longer living in Hedley, his daughters Bev and Ann have valued roots and friendships in Hedley. The Knowles family sent Ruth a congratulatory card.

The Hedley Post Office was opened in 1903, initially located in Schubert’s General Store. Ruth said it is one of the oldest in the province. For years the Postmaster’s first duty in winter was to get a fire going in the wood stove. She is grateful she doesn’t come into a frigid office in the morning. The premises were last renovated in 1978 and would benefit from another face lift, but no one is complaining. People are just grateful to have a Post Office in town. Without it, buying a stamp would entail a lot more effort.

Canada Post provided several door prizes for the occasion, including a 2011 book containing every stamp issued that year. Fittingly, this was won by local historian, Jennifer Douglass. The chocolate cake was baked by T.J. Bratt of the Hedley Country Market and received numerous positive comments.

Local MLA Linda Larson sent a letter congratulating Ruth on 20 years of serving her community faithfully as postmaster. Pat, who works in the constituency office had read about Ruth online. She spoke with a local citizen and said, “It sounds like a very friendly Post Office. I wish I could pick up my mail in Hedley.” Judging by the happy buzz in the place on Friday, the people agree with this perspective.

Photos By Terry Friesen

"Back in the Day" by Terry Friesen
“Back in the Day” by Terry Friesen

I discovered Terry Friesen’s online photos approximately 2 years ago and have returned to them repeatedly since then. I called Terry at his home in Abbotsford this week and asked if I could “borrow” pictures occasionally for my blog. He very graciously acquiesced so from time to time I will post examples of his photography.

In his work life Terry refers to himself as a Re-decorator. He paints and hangs wall paper (including tricky murals) He has frequently written on his blog (  about jobs just completed. For me it’s fascinating reading. For anyone contemplating giving a new face to their home it can be helpful.

Terry said he doesn’t do new homes. “From the beginning, I learned to be very careful around my customers’ furniture,” he said. “My son Andrew is my partner. He’s even more careful. It’s a privilege to work together with him. Working for customers in their homes is a lot more enjoyable for me than dealing with contractors. Contractors are more interested in getting the job done fast than in quality work.”

I hope you will enjoy Terry’s photos as much as I do. You can view a broad range of his photos at