COVID-19 limbo in Nepal

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A typical scene in Kathmandu, which has been under lockdown since 24 March. © Marty Logan

With only 16 cases detected since January, how seriously are Nepalis preparing for the pandemic?

Nepal’s long land border with India (1,800 kilometres) is usually open, so that citizens of both countries can come and go easily without visas and usually with little notice from the police posted at entry points. On March 24 India closed that border, along with all other access to the country of 1.4 billion people. The same day Nepal also declared a ‘lockdown’ and barred all entries. But it’s been estimated that there are 500 official and unofficial entry points along the imaginary line between the two countries and in the days before and after the lockdowns as close to half a million Nepalis living in India crossed home, according to the Nepali Times newspaper.

Since Nepal’s first case of COVID-19 was detected in January the country has tested just over 6,000 people. Yet only 15 other cases have been detected, and no one has died of the coronavirus. How can that be? is the question that everyone is asking, including officials in the ministry of health.

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Missing and murdered in Canada

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Shae-Lyn McAllister is the fourth women to go missing from Robyn Lawson’s family in Canada since 1988.

On 25 August Robyn Lawson posted on Twitter that three women in her family had disappeared in Canada in the last three years. Robyn is Indigenous, one of about 1.6 million Indigenous people in Canada (5% of the population).

In June, the report of a national inquiry found:

“First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and girls and (LGBTQI) people in Canada … have been the targets of violence for far too long. This truth is undeniable … (and) amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, which especially targets women.”

I have read much over the years about the experiences of Indigenous People living in Canada (and written about some of them in this blog and beyond). But Robyn’s tweet hit me hard — it’s difficult to imagine three people disappearing from my family.

I wrote and asked Robyn, who is an activist for Indigenous people’s rights, to describe those incidents and the broader context of the lives of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Her powerful, authoritative answers, lightly edited by me, are below.

Can you tell me about the 3 women in your family that you Tweeted about — they all went missing in the last 3 years?

There were actually four that went missing within my family, all cousins. The fourth went missing in 1988 from a Cultus Lake campground in British Columbia (province) after she accepted a ride that was to take her home to Surrey, BC. She has never been found. Her name is Roberta Ferguson, and she was 19 years old at the time she was taken.
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To fix unhealthy diets: activism before ‘an apple a day’

Marty_Logan_blog_health_environment_070419Kudos to CBC News reporter Kelly Crowe for this article about a recent global health study on the deadly impact of unhealthy eating, in which she goes beyond simply presenting the newest numbers to discuss the ‘why’.

The news itself is shocking: in 2017  poor diets worldwide caused 11 million deaths, concludes the report, published in The Lancet journal. Eating too much salt and not enough whole grains and fruits were the major culprits.

Obstacles to healthy eating

But what Crowe also highlights are those factors that are beyond the control of individuals and are known as ‘environmental determinants of health’. These range from absent or misleading labels on food packages to prominent placement of junk food in supermarkets to the unaffordability of the fruits, vegetables and other healthy food that we’re supposed to be eating more of to prevent those 11 million deaths. Continue reading

Canada has best quality of life globally* (note asterik)

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A warning sign posted at Grassy Narrows First Nation, Ontario, Canada, in 2016. Photo: Jody Porter/CBC

You live in Canada. You:

  • Have been unable to drink the water coming out of your tap without first boiling it, for 25 years in the case of one community (1);
  • Are preparing to leave your home on short notice as community leaders consider an evacuation because mould growing in houses is causing skin rashes and respiratory ailments in rising numbers of residents. There is reportedly a list of 100 children waiting to see a doctor (2);
  • Have for decades complained about deformed fish being caught in nearby rivers and lakes after a paper mill routinely dumped mercury in the waters in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, kids whose mothers ate fish from those waters are four times more likely to have learning disabilities (3);
  • Hope that your community – including your teenage daughter – will not be the next one caught up in a wave of youth suicide. For indigenous people up to the age of 44, suicide is the leading cause of death (4).

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Cricket loss lost on Canadians

Nepal players rejoice after beating Canada in cricket.

Nepal players rejoice after beating Canada in cricket. (c) ICC

Here’s a fun piece I wrote for Nepali Times after Nepal defeated Canada at the last-minute in an important cricket match:

Miracles Happen

A Canadian living in Kathmandu, I woke up Thursday to the headline news in all the dailies that Nepal had defeated Canada in cricket.

My family in Canada woke up to read about another murderous shooting spree in the neighbouring US, a new government initiative for the country’s indigenous people, and a political leader in the province of Ontario claiming to be the target of a conspiracy.

To state the obvious, cricket is not big news in Canada. In fact, it doesn’t even rate its own page on the website of CBC, the national broadcaster. Athletics, tennis, swimming, cycling, rugby and volleyball are all there. No cricket. Ask Canadians what they think of when they hear ‘cricket’ and the vast majority will mention a hopping, chirping insect. Continue reading

The new voice of Indigenous Australia

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Uluru Convention delegates Irene Peachey, Jackie Huggins (National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples), Irene Davies and Commissioner June Oscar. (c) Australian Human Rights Commission)

I’m constantly drawn to the similarities between the history of Indigenous People in Canada and Australia. In both places, settlers stole their land and tried to wipe out their cultures, mainly by taking children from their parents with an aim to ‘kill the Indian in the child’. (The approach was shockingly similar in the US also).

The newcomers failed however, and today Indigenous People in both Canada and Australia are becoming more powerful, as their populations grow, become better educated and politically active. This has led to reconciliation movements in both places. In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has finished its work and now, as they say, the hard work begins. Continue reading

Haida repatriation thriving

Canoes in front of the museum in Haida Gwaii.

Canoes in front of the museum in Haida Gwaii.

I was happy to read an article recently about the Haida people repatriating articles from museums in Canada and around the world. In many cases the articles were stolen, in the 19th and 20th centuries, in the name of collecting evidence of dying indigenous peoples.  Continue reading

Nepal’s villagers; Canada’s Indigenous People

A Nepali woman gets a pre-birth checkup. (c) UNICEF.

On the surface they are poles apart: Canada, one of the world’s most ‘developed’ nations and Nepal, still classified as a least developed country. But still, I keep finding parallels between villagers in Nepal and Canada’s poorest — Indigenous People. (See a previous post). Continue reading

Senator Lynn Beyak meet Justice David S. Gibson – and learn something

Report of Canada's TRC.

Report of Canada’s TRC, at the 2-year point of its 5-year mandate.

Two Canadians in powerful positions with totally divergent views about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples: thankfully the one with the decision-making power has taken the time to understand the painful history, and legacy, of this atrocious system.

In January, Justice David Gibson of the Ontario Court of Justice wrote an insightful commentary on the history of Pikangikum, a First Nation community in northern Ontario.

(I’ve written about Pikangikum before, including in this post.) Continue reading

Menstruating girls forced to skip school in Nepal, and Canada

I am astounded. One of the first items I posted on this blog, in 2010, was about girls’ toilets in schools in Nepal and other ‘developing’ countries. It described how the lack of designated toilets for girls in many schools meant that once they reached the age of menstruation, girls would stay home when they had their periods.

Today I read that in Canada’s province of Saskatchewan, girls in some northern communities are staying home from school because they can’t afford sanitary pads or medicine when they are menstruating. The CBC article lacks details, but I’m assuming that some, or all, of those communities are “reserves” where many of Canada’s Indigenous People live. (The article does mention “First Nations” communities).  Continue reading