We had another great turnout at our November 3 Public Salon. Ryan Going, a student at Douglas College, was in attendance and provides us with a summary of the evening’s speakers and their topics. We will post videos as soon as they become available.
November 3 Public Salon Recap
By Ryan Going
On Wednesday November 3rd members of the Vancouver community from all walks of life gathered at the Vancouver Playhouse for the 7th Public Salon put on by Sam Sullivan’s Global Civic Policy Society in Cooperation with Green College UBC. The purpose of the Public Salon is to strengthen the knowledge of the community and to bridge the gap between the world of experts and the world of the public. By bringing together various members of the professional community and having them speak on issues that they think are important and will have a significant impact on our society, the Public Salon establishes a dialogue amongst the citizenry, treating topics that would otherwise be seen as somewhat esoteric.
The first speaker on Wednesday evening’s Salon was Donald Macpherson, director of the Carnegie Center in the Downtown Eastside and Drug Policy Coordinator for the City of Vancouver. Macpherson spoke of the need for change in the way we approach addiction and illegal drug use in Vancouver, and proposed that we look to Portugal – a country that has not only decriminalized personal possession of drugs, but also recently beat out Canada for a spot on the UN’s Security Council – for an example of how we could be dealing with our drug problem more effectively.
Chief Kim Baird of the Tsawwassen First Nations then took the stage and gave a narrative of the adversity faced by her community, including an eighteen-year struggle to enact a treaty that would give the Tsawwassen band Coast Salish ownership of lands, fishing rights, self-government and a pecuniary settlement. She also illustrated what it takes to effect change in a society that has set one up to fail: “it takes time, patience, and yes, compromise; but it is very possible.” Chief Baird encouraged the audience to take an interest in and engage with their public institutions.
Graham Harrop, a cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun gave a hilarious satirical retelling of some of his experiences during his driving career.
Mark Angelo, chair of the Rivers Institute at the British Columbia Institute of Technology emphasized the value of healthy water ways in our country and the importance of preserving the “arteries of our planet.” Angelo also told the inspiring story of the origins of World Rivers Day, something that started on the Thompson River in 1980 involving just 40 people, and now involves 60 countries and millions of people worldwide.
There was also a musical performance by the Borealis Quartet. Yuel Yawney of Vancouver’s only professional string quartet described music as “a world language that speaks to everybody regardless of their ethnic background.”
Dr. Brian Day, founder of the Cambie Surgery Center and former President of the Canadian Medical Association spoke on the issue of our country’s confused approach to Medicare. Day brought some imminent issues to light, including threats to sustainability, long-term planning, and the ability (or lack thereof) of citizens to pay for medical care instead of being placed on lengthy waiting lists. He was also adamant that the media have a substantive ability to effect change by engaging the issues and that “change will impact positively on the less privileged in society.”
Bestselling cookbook author and bookstore owner Barbara-Jo McIntosh gave a nostalgic chronicle of growing up among books and expounded on how her childhood love for literature and latterly-discovered love for food ushered her into the business of cookbooks. McIntosh elucidated the importance of “concocting dreams for ourselves,” and that “food and books matter, and will always bring us together.”
Dr. Redouane Al Fakir, founder of the Muhammad Institute for Space Science at Green College UBC, attested to the need for a space launch facility in Canada. Fakir has a specific space project in mind and says that many other members of the international community are willing to collaborate. He noted that other countries such as India and China are beginning to have more advanced space programs and that Canada is being left behind in an area where we could be leading. Fakir asked the audience to get involved and join the campaign for a space launch facility to be built in Vancouver.
The last speaker was Professor of Business Ethics and Management in the Segal School of Business at Simon Fraser University, Mark Wexler. Wexler expanded on Nobel Prize Winner Herbert Simon’s idea of the attention economy and how it pertains to the level of civility in the Commons. He brought forth components of the attention economy in the forms of the deluge of information being pressed upon us as a society, our own selective attention, and the need for a continual change in the way our attention is obtained due to desensitization.
Throughout the evening local actor, writer and director Jay Brazeau gave readings from various books written by local authors. These books included “A Political Crisis and Its Legacy” by Harry Swain, “A Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Vancouver” by Christopher Macdonald, “Chasing Clayoquot: A Wilderness Almanac” by David Pitt-Brooke, and “Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey, The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking” by Meeru Dhalwala.
The Public Salon also achieves a dialogue among the members of the audience by making the presentations interactive. On Wednesday night everyone in the Playhouse Theatre was asked to turn their cell-phones on before the speakers began, and twice in between presentations, a question on a formerly discussed topic was posed to the audience and respondents were asked to text in their answers which were reviewed at the end of the evening. The first yes or no question was “Do you think drugs should be criminalized?” Twenty-eight percent of the audience texted yes, while seventy-two percent were against criminalization. The second question was whether or not it is true that Canada has a two-tier health-care system: one for people who know how to work the system, and one for people who don’t. Audience decision was nebulous on this issue, with yes and no split by fifty-two and forty-eight percent.
The founder of the Global Civic Policy Society Sam Sullivan concluded the night by restating the mission of the organization and the themes that it will be focusing on in the future, such as reaching out to the multi-cultural communities by learning the basics of other languages, finding ways to maintain a healthy, environmentally sustainable and economically efficient city, and also looking at the ways in which we perceive and treat issues of mental-illness and addiction in Vancouver. Sullivan encouraged the audience to get out of their comfort zones, to “be interested in other people and ideas” and “never stop learning.”
Born and raised around Vancouver, Ryan is a twenty-two year old student in the Print Futures Professional Writing Program at Douglas College in New Westminster. He believes learning has an intrinsic value that will help carry us through our lives and that deepening our understanding of current events will help build a stronger community. Ryan is hoping to pursue a career in the field of writing or editing after graduation.