Category Archives: Uncategorized

My brother knows me, and I like it

A collage I put together for a presentation I was giving on my life’s transitions.

My birthday has come and gone this year, but I just came across this post on Facebook that my little brother (I have three older brothers – all just as amazing) posted as a tribute to me on my 54th in March.

I want to cherish this writing, so have chosen to publish it here. It’s not everyday we can hear a loved ones speak about you. Often that is reserved for our funeral.  I particularly like to do similar on family birthdays, to let people know how we feel about them, and to let them know that we are aware and understand the strides they are making or are attempting to make in life.

Nollind wrote, “My sister Robbin Whachell turns 54 today. While conventional minds might say she is entering the latter part of an already full life (and maybe needs to slow down a bit), it’s evident to me that she is just getting started with a whole new life in a whole new world unfolding before her.

In a simple word, Robbin is a pioneer, just like her parents before her. Perhaps unbeknownst to many, she has been peripherally settling and cultivating a new home in the wilds of a new world for many years, while sustaining herself and her family at the same time within the conventional old world. As such, she is a living bridge between what has been and what will be, giving others a wonderful glimpse at the future emerging in our present today.

Seeking more personal meaning beyond the limited identity and confines of the traditional work world, Robbin branched out within her social life, enabling her to spread her wings and achieve a heightened vision to help the communities that she cared about the most. While some might say this was time wasted due to a lack of monetary compensation, she saw and felt something greater within it, something priceless that stretched far beyond economic value to a deeper, social value.

While I’m sure Robbin herself still feels like she has many miles to go on her transformational journey, it is without a doubt that each day her purpose is becoming stronger with clarity. Yes, the wilds of this new world are a chaotic, confusing, and uncertain place but each day her purpose, as her internal compass, helps her slowly map this new world and her new identity, giving them both a deeper sense of meaning and empowerment to her life.

In closing, I just want to refer to a couple of quotes by Marina Gorbis from her book The Nature of the Future. These quotes epitomize what Robbin is becoming and already is. She is a pioneer, a leader, living and leading by example. She is an advocate of a better world by building and living a better world out of her own life. She is a teacher, showing others the time and patience required to weave a better, integrated life whose social fabric can contain the complexities and uncertainties of the future to come.

Happy Birthday Robbin!

“In the past we’ve been advised to leave the personal and social at the door when we go to work. But the new work is all about the social and personal. It draws on the power of personal connections and the diversity of personal tastes, talents, and quirks.”

“What the pioneers of socialstructing are doing looks less like management and more like community organizing. Yes, good old-fashioned community organizing, but with a new set of tools and motivations. And their efforts are more akin to social movements than to managed organizations. Much of the motivation for building and contributing to socialstructs comes from a sense of urgency and greater purpose. This drive has often grown out of a particular vulnerability or personal experience of founders, making them into powerful advocates for their causes.”

— Marina Gorbis, The Nature of the Future

A collage I put together for a presentation I was giving on my life’s transitions.

Trudeau statement on Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Canada-Rez-schools
“The Indian residential school system, one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history, has had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on Indigenous culture, heritage, and language. As a father and a former teacher, I am overwhelmingly moved by these events,” said Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau on December 15th upon the release of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Seven years ago the Government of Canada apologized for this abhorrent system. The apology is no less true, and no less timely, today. The Government of Canada ‘sincerely apologizes and asks forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly’.

“Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I have the honour of accepting the Commission’s Final Report. It is my deepest hope that this report and its findings will help heal some of the pain caused by the Indian residential school system and begin to restore the trust lost so long ago.

“To the former Indian residential school students who came forward and shared your painful stories, I say: thank you for your extraordinary bravery and for your willingness to help Canadians understand what happened to you. As the previous government expressed so eloquently in its formal apology: your courage ‘is a testament to [your] resilience as individuals and to the strength of [your] cultures…The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country’.

“Moving forward, one of our goals is to help lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families, and from your communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities – and our failings – as a government and as a nation.

“This is a time of real and positive change. We know what is needed is a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. We have a plan to move towards a nation-to-nation relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, cooperation and partnership, and we are already making it happen.

“A national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is now underway. Ministers are meeting with survivors, families, and loved ones to seek their input on how best to move forward. We have also reiterated our commitments to make significant investments in First Nations education, and to lift the two per cent cap on funding for First Nations programs.

“And we will, in partnership with Indigenous communities, the provinces, territories, and other vital partners, fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“We recognize that true reconciliation goes beyond the scope of the Commission’s recommendations. I am therefore announcing that we will work with leaders of First Nations, Métis Nation, Inuit, provinces and territories, parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, and other key partners, to design a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework, informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

“The Government of Canada is committed to walking a path of partnership and friendship with Indigenous peoples. Today’s Final Report marks a true milestone on that journey. Again I thank the survivors, their families, and communities for this monumental achievement towards healing and reconciliation. I also thank Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair, and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson who worked tirelessly to bring to light the truth about residential schools in Canada.”

December 15, 2015
Ottawa, Ontario

I paddled the Fraser River from Fort Langley to Coquitlam for FraserFEST!

Once I had a vision:  I was a young native man, and I was walking down the mountainside to  the water. I could see my canoe down at the shore.  As I walked down the bank I noticed a bear in the distance. I placed my canoe on the water, got in and took my paddle. A wind came up suddenly and the skies darkened. The water turned choppy and I felt the rain spray across my face. I became afraid. So afraid, that I thought I might die. I remembered the bear, and I found peace in my uneasiness. I began to focus on the shore across from me, and found my rhythm in paddling. I became one with the waves, and before I knew it, I was safe upon the shore across the inlet. As I stood solidly upon the river rock, I heard an eagle’s cry. I  looked up to see the clouds had opened, to blue sky…

I am new to canoeing, but I am registered to begin training with Nothin Dragon, a 50+ paddling team that trains in Port Moody, BC, close to where I live in Coquitlam.  Being a director of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society and I manage their social media pages, I try to keep in touch with other like-minded community groups.

Last Friday, while winding up my work day, I received an email  from Rivershed Society of BC about FraserFEST, a 3-week event created to educate on the Fraser River’s history, culture, and the issues threatening its health. The mighty Fraser is the longest river in B.C.  The email advised that spots were still available on a 25 km canoe trip from Fort Langley to Coquitlam that coming Sunday.

I thought, how perfect it would be to get a taste of being out canoeing, before I start with the dragon boat team in October. Within minutes I had registered for the Sunday morning event (even though my mother was moving in on Saturday night), and later on Facebook saw that they still had openings available, likely due to the foreboding weather, so I tagged my eldest daughter and encouraged her to join me, which she did.

Our Voyageur Salute! FraserFEST paddlers on the Fraser River, en route to Colony Farm Regional Park Left to right: Fin Donnelly, Loryn Blower, Robbin Whachell, Jon Torrence, Samantha Lorber, Deb Taylor, Brenda Flynn, Michael M, Rob Lorber, Thom Giberson, Yuan Radies (Missing from photo, photographer and skipper, Doug Radies)
Paddles up for a Voyageur Salute! FraserFEST paddlers on the Fraser River about to leave Fort Langley. —— Left to right: Fin Donnelly, Loryn Blower, Robbin Whachell, Jon Torrence, Samantha Lorber, Deb Taylor, Brenda Flynn, Michael M, Rob Lorber, Thom Giberson, Yuan Radies (Missing from photo, photographer and skipper, Doug Radies)

“It is no coincidence communities and cities are built on large and healthy waterways tend to also have healthier financial foundations with more abundance of wealth and prosperity to go around.”

A solid number of intrepid cyclists and paddlers showed up on August 20th at Colony Farm Regional Park, which is located on Kwikwetlem First Nations territory at the Coquitlam River, and served as host site for the Coquitlam festival portion. The forecast called for rain, winds and possibly lightening, but we were all geared up as ‘west coast’ people know how to, and were ready for an adventure.

We  were treated to coffee and yummy Uprising Bakery goodies.  I was not aware this was the inaugural event, nor that cyclists would be joining us. They would be pedaling along a trail on the north shore of the Fraser as we made our way by water.

The group was welcomed by Kwikwetlem Band Council member, Ed Hall, and founder of the Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, who is also an environmental activist, and local politician. Donnelly is well known for  swimming the 1,400 km length of the Fraser River twice, and was our excursion leader for the day.

I had heard Fin speak before, and I introduced him to my daughter,  asking him to tell her about his historic swim and the annual 20 day trip that he leads each summer providing young adults the amazing opportunity to travel down the Fraser River.

"Canadians are explorers..."
“Canadians are explorers…”

Later, bikes were loaded into a transport vehicle, and we boarded the school bus to Langley. Being new to canoeing, I was a bit nervous about the weather, which worsened as we crossed the Port Mann Bridge. After meeting a few people on the bus, I learned I was not alone with those feelings.

“FraserFEST’s goal is to increase watershed awareness of those who live, work and play in the Fraser River Basin, through river adventures and community festivals blending music, art, speakers, food and culture…”

In Langley we were greeted by Wendy Dadalt, Manager, Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. Bikes were offloaded, and cyclists mounted up and were on their way along the 25 km trail beside the Fraser.

The rest of us were traveling by canoe, and we were joined by Jay Lundy of Voyageur Adventures, who expressed that the canoe is a symbol of Canada’s culture. He spoke of the early years and spirit of Canada, and how we still rely on our waterways, to connect us, providing us food, energy, and enjoyment. “As Canadians, we are diverse and we are explorers,” said Jay.

It made me think of my Canadian-German grandfather, who was a Hudson’s Bay trapper. I wondered if he ever went by canoe when he would head out and lead trapping exhibitions in the 1940s. I bet he did.

My trapper grandfather Heintz married a Metis woman, and I noticed Jay Lundy wore a Metis sash on his hat.  Jay made sure we were educated  on the basic canoeing strokes, and showed us how to do a ‘voyageur salute’ with our red paddles, which was fun.

Amid a heavy rain, we got seated in the 34’ voyageur canoe which are built in Alberta. I sat up front behind Fin, and my daughter Loryn was behind me with Michael, a young member of the Kwikwetlem Nation, who has just moved up from the USA and was also new to canoeing. He was honoured to be with us and his people had given him a special Kwikwetlem paddle to use for the journey.

“A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too.” – Aidan Chambers

Fraser River log boom (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Fraser River log boom (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

From historic Fort Langley, with Fin leading as stroker, and Doug at the back as our steerperson, our 12 member group got underway! Our aim was to keep in unison, but it did become tricky at times, especially as arms tired. With Fin in front of me, and setting a pace that never waned, I did my darnedest to keep up with him, and I feel I did a pretty good job over the 4 hours.  There were moments when I’d get into the strokes, and my mind would wander, and then I’d snap back to reality, finding I’d lost the group’s rhythm. We were encouraged to take breaks when we were tired, or get water, take photos, etc. The large canoe felt extremely safe, and hardly tipped sideways, event when we were met with choppy waters.

On our journey we paddled past Barnston Island, under the Golden Ears Bridge and by Douglas Island to the mouth of the Coquitlam River. The weather changed many times, and we saw eagles and seals. When we stopped for lunch at a camping area, we watched a log boom pulled by 5 tugboats go by – a scene common to the Fraser.

The cyclists who were well ahead of us, waited for us to catch up at a dock along the trail, and it was so nice to see them.  They waved, cheered us on, and took photos as we saluted them with our paddles.

After 4 hours we were elated to finally turn in, and head up the Coquitlam River  into Kwikwetlem territory, where we were greeted by those we’d seen earlier in the day, as well as many newcomers.  We helped hoist the canoe from the water, and then formed a circle as we were officially welcomed back by Kwikwetlem Nation.  Each of us were given flags to carry into the festival area, where we enjoyed a hot meal of salmon lasagna from Pasta Polo.

P1040914
The inaugural FraserFEST at Colony Farms during a short reprieve in the weather (Photo: Doug Radies)

The sun came out over the festival grounds, as well as a rainbow,  and along with others, we enjoyed live music,  a variety of speakers, and educational community booths.  Words were offered by Founder, Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, MP, New Westminster- Coquitlam & Port Moody; Selina Robinson, MLA Coquitlam-Maillardville; Mark Angelo, Founder, BC Rivers Day / World Rivers Day;  Bonita Zorillo, Coquitlam City Councillor; and Ed Hall, Kwikwetlem Band Council.

“Our early forbearers held many festivals to give thanks to the land and the rivers from whose bounty they thrived. The Fraser River is still one of the largest salmon producing rivers in the world. FraserFEST will culminate with World Rivers Day, the last Sunday in September. Participants are invited to come celebrate the watershed in which they live while enjoying local entertainment and food.” – Rivershed Society of B.C.

There are three more festivals planned this week, in New Westminster Quay on September 24th; in Vancouver at False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf on the 26th; and the final one in North Vancouver at Cates Park on Sept. 27th. FraserFEST will be held annually.

Listen as Fin Donnelly speaks about FraserFEST to our group that morning.

You will find more information about FraserFEST at: www.rivershed.com

SEE MORE PHOTOS on Facebook, or Google+

California Woman Charges Doctor With Assault & Battery For Forced Episiotomy

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 9.46.04 PM
(Photo collage above from Facebook: ImprovingBirth.com #BreaktheSilence)

Landmark case seeks to affirm fundamental legal, constitutional rights apply to women in pregnancy and childbirth 

Los Angeles, CA—(Press Release) Mother Kimberly Turbin (previously known as “Kelly” to protect her privacy) has filed a complaint with the Central District of the Los Angeles County Superior Court against her former obstetrician, Dr. Alex Abbassi, for forcibly cutting her with scissors 12 times (“episiotomy,” the cutting of the perineum between the vagina and the rectum, link) despite her explicit refusal to consent during the 2013 birth of her only child. Advocates served Dr. Abbassi with the lawsuit yesterday (June 3) (link to complaint).

“Every time I hear one of these stories about women being ignored when they complained about how they were treated in the hospital, it reminds me of why I’m doing this,” said Ms. Turbin. “It took a lot of people to get this far, but this is the proof that you can do something.  This is a big step for women who have been silenced.”

Ms. Turbin is represented by prominent lawyer Mark Merin of Sacramento, who is widely known for his success in high-profile civil rights cases (link).  Mr. Merin stepped up to take the case after a year-and-a-half-long search for a lawyer, dozens of whom turned down Ms. Turbin’s case on the assumption that courts would not assign meaningful monetary value to the injuries she suffered.  “This is a historic action,” said Mr. Merin.  “Today, legal protections for American women in childbirth are uncertain—but with Ms. Turbin’s case, I intend to show that there are, indeed, real consequences when providers inflict harm on vulnerable patients.”

The alleged battery, which occurred at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California, was caught on video by a family member and has been viewed on YouTube by hundreds of thousands of people, generating support and donations from around the world (link).  The incident involved the outdated use of episiotomy—vaginal cutting that has been discredited for decades as harmful to women and not beneficial to babies when performed routinely (link).  Despite the weight of medical evidence, episiotomy is still sometimes imposed on women without medical need and often without consent (link), apparently for provider convenience. Such treatment is characterized as obstetric violence, which has now been criminalized in a handful of other countries. 

Forced and coerced procedures are a normal part of institutionalized childbirth in many places, including the United States (link), where multiple organizations endorsed the World Health Organization’s recent call for an end to “disrespect and abuse” in childbirth (link), and where the well-documented overuse of risky medical procedures in childbirth poses health risks to women and babies (link).  Although the U.S. has the costliest maternity care system in the world, it ranks with or below many third-world countries in maternal and infant health outcomes, and suffers from widespread failures to respect women as autonomous decision-makers in childbirth (See legal brief here).  Mothers’ advocacy group Improving Birth, which has been assisting Ms. Turbin along with Human Rights in Childbirth and others, continues its fundraising efforts to cover the costs of the case, estimated to be as much as $50,000 (link).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also been notified of the claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, as the defendant doctor appears to have been employed by federally supported health center El Proyecto Del Barrio at the time of the incident.

For more information on Kimberly Turbin’s story, see Caught on Video: Improving Birth Breaks the Silence on Abuse of Women in Maternity Care and We Will Not Be Silenced: An Update on Kelly’s Story.

For more information on the issue of respectful treatment in childbirth, see Rinat Dray is Not Alone (Hayes-Klein, 2015) USAid’s Exploring Evidence for Disrespect and Abuse in Facility-Based Childbirth (Bowser and Hill, 2010) and the World Health Organization’s Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth (2014). 

Contact Cristen Pascucci, vice president, Improving Birth (443-622-2892 / cristenpascucci@gmail.com) for interviews, including with lawyers involved in the case and childbirth rights.

Improving Birth is a national 501(c)(3) consumer organization that advocates for respectful, evidence-based maternity care.

(Photo collage above from Facebook: ImprovingBirth.com #BreaktheSilence)