Sunday, March 14, 2021

It's Always You

 

DARLING

 

 

 

It is you

It’s always been you

being little

took your voice

 you needed to discover for yourself

the choice was yours

the way you wound up being limited, small unimportant is no accident

with an open mind


With Brothers Roger across from me, Rossi next to him and Chris next to me at Holy Angels

as delicate as a flower

you realized your story

took all your power and

 imprisoned you by giving meaning in that moment

darling you know,

and you know you know.

It was always you

you held tight to be right

until last night.



My classmates -I am in the back, second from the left.

 Larger, more powerful

uncovering you had the key

 freedom was yours when you let go of being right

you’re larger than life open to unlimited possibilities

whole and complete.

And this darling this is you too.    

A Hero

A Hero 

I am taking a leadership course with Unstoppable Communications; it is the second time I have enrolled in this course, completing it last summer in August, 2020. 

One of the first exercises we did was to discover what word defined leadership. As I pondered the exercise, I discovered that the word I would use to define a leader is being a hero. In particular, someone who undertakes action that no one else would take and at a great cost to themselves. 

A few days ago, I became aware that a good friend, Dr. John O’Connor, has been honoured. He received the first ever award from Ryerson University for being a whistleblower. John received this award for drawing attention to unusual incidence of bile cancer in Fort Chipewyan, in Northern Alberta. This is my home community. He linked Cholangiocarcinoma (bile cancer) to pollution resulted from the oilsands industry. 

His actions came at great cost to him both personally and professionally, if you have been paying attention to any of the conversations around the oilsands you will know that the backlash was swift and severe. His actions resulted in complaints from his professional colleagues that led the Alberta Medical Association to suspend his license to practice medicine. 

As an Indigenous woman from the community of Fort Chipewyan I view Dr. O’Connor's actions as courageous. 

He put his reputation at risk to raise awareness of the damage being done not only to the environment but also to the very people who live on the land. His actions are not only brave but also demonstrate his integrity. In a news article I read he is reported to have said he was only doing his job as a physician. His fight took years before he received validation on his concern regarding incidence of bile cancer, but by then the damage to his personal reputation was marred. 

Dr. John O'Connor and his wife Char
When he took a stand for my community’s health and well-being, he inspired my Chief Allan Adam to take up a political fight against industry and the damage caused by the pollution. Having someone in the medical profession with credibility created the collaboration he needed, and the Chief was able to use the studies on the pollution to move his agenda forward, with a campaign against industry’s destruction that and raised funding for the community to take his fight through the courts. 

Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and  his father Alex
Without Dr. O’Connor’s actions I believe no one would have made the link between Cholangiocarcinoma and the oil industry in northern Alberta.


Only Dr. O’Connor could have made this link. First, he had prior awareness of this rare disease from a case in his own family. As a result, he was able to recognize it and also to realize how unusual it was when he first saw it in the community. Second, when he noticed the occurrence was higher in the community of 1500 souls it was his good character and sense of duty that led him to sound the alarm in spite of the negative consequences to his reputation.
 

Who else would take this kind of risk for an isolated Indigenous community? I echo his call for an independent research study of Cholangiocarcinoma in the community of Fort Chipewyan and surrounding communities in the region of the oil industry. I am extremely honored to call him a friend. 

He is an extraordinary leader, a hero. 


PS I sent a draft of this post to Dr. O’Connor and he replied: “The connection between pollution and cancers in the community hasn’t been formally made-despite the numbers, the documented toxin exposure and the U of M 2014 report-that’s where the health study comes in. Science hand in hand with Traditional Knowledge would complete the picture. Otherwise this is perfect!” 


Thank you, John!

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