Canada legalised marijuana last month. On the way home from the optician on legalisation day, I decided to call into the Sunshine Wellness pot shop I’ve been visiting for the past few years to stock up on CBD oil. Pure CBD oil has no THC (the ingredient that makes you high) and is very useful for inflammation, pain, insomnia and dismay.
The fentanyl crisis in British Columbia continues unabated. There were 128 overdose deaths in November, the worst month on record until December’s figures were released this week: 142 deaths. There were nine fatal overdoses in Vancouver on the night of 15 December alone. Last year, 914 people died in the province from illicit drug overdoses, an increase of 80 per cent on the previous year. (The problem isn’t restricted to Canada. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘the death rate of synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl, increased by 72.2 per cent’ in the United States between 2014 and 2015. In 2013, more than 2000 people died from opiate overdose in the UK.)
Last April, British Columbia’s chief health officer took the unusual step of declaring a public health emergency after 200 people died from (suspected) fentanyl overdose during the first three months of 2016. By August the number of deaths had risen to 488. This is a record high, a 61.6 per cent increase on the same period in 2015 (302).
Last week I lost my part-time job that feeds us. I had it for 16 years. It did not pay well, but I didn’t have to speak to anyone and I could do it anywhere there was internet. It also gave me the time and space to write two novels. I can’t save lives or fix broken pipes: I need a job with the potential for staring into space or reading Pinget on the side – a car park attendant seemed ideal. I found an advert online and immediately entered a car park of excessive adjectives. The parking lot attendant they were looking for needed to ‘Be a trail blazer … Be Bold, Open-minded & Entrepreneurial’.
In his Essay on Diseases Incident to Literary and Sedentary Persons (1769), Samuel Tissot warned that ‘the devourers of books, who exhaust themselves only by reading, should desist as soon as they find their comprehension more than commonly slow, their sight moaty and dimmish, or their eyes hot and watery.’ Undeterred, I stayed in bed last Christmas Day until 4 p.m., reading Lost Illusions.
There isn't much primary source material on the foreign women who have gone voluntarily to Syria and Iraq and chosen to live under the Islamic State, alongside the thousands of women Isis have kidnapped, beaten, raped, forced to convert and sold into sexual slavery. We know the places the volunteers have left but can only speculate as to why.
I should like to apologise to Brigid O’Duffy (née Davis), who served in the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising in 1916 but did not see her military pension until 1937. Her pension application (MSP34REF20583 in the recently digitised Military Service Pensions Collection) is date-stamped December 1936 by the Department of Defence. The files of 433 other women have also been unveiled.
One Saturday afternoon last summer, the forecast for rain, I set out on a dérive. Or not quite a dérive, because I knew where I was going, or aiming to go: to the dump, more than 70 blocks away across Vancouver, while reading Michèle Bernstein's The Night in Clodagh Kinsella’s new translation. Bernstein’s intention fifty years ago was to create a ‘fake popular novel’ that would both form a ‘critique of the novel itself’ and alleviate her and Guy Debord’s financial woes. The narrator of La Nuit, Geneviève, is in a ménage-à-trois with Gilles and Carole. The novel describes a walk through Paris over the course of a night.
Yesterday, David Kawapit, Stanley George Jr, Geordie Rupert, Travis George, Johnny Abraham and Raymond Kawapit, along with the 263 other young people who joined them en route from Whapmagoostui, arrived in Ottawa, on foot, having walked 1000 miles in temperatures that hit a low of -58ºC, as part of the Idle No More movement.
This photograph was taken on 16 January by Rachel Kawapit, a member of the Whapmagoostui First Nation, who live in Northern Quebec on the shores of Hudson Bay. It shows David Kawapit, Stanley George Jr, Geordie Rupert, Travis George, Johnny Abraham and Raymond Kawapit, aged between 16 and 19, with their guide Isaac Kawapit (47), setting off to walk a thousand miles from Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuaraapik to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, through temperatures lower than -30ºC, as part of the Idle No More movement, protesting against the violation of Aboriginal Treaty Rights.