The dusty foot philosopher makes tracks

July 2005 | The Martlet

Photo by Kris Krug

Asked to describe his music, Canadian rapper K’naan is at a bit of a loss.

“It’s tough to describe, to be honest,” he said. “Musically, it’s something that’s kinda new. It’s a medium between two continents.”

The same could be said of K’naan himself.

Growing up in Somalia, K’naan was given hip hop records from his father, who worked as a cab driver in New York. The young, would-be MC spoke only Somali, but taught himself to mimic the American rappers perfectly.

It wasn’t until he left Somalia — on what turned out to be the last commercial flight out of the country — and moved to first the U.S. and then to Canada that he learned what the words meant.

Even more than a rapper, K’naan is a poet. It’s in his blood — his grandfather is one of Somalia’s best-known poets — and it’s how he started. In fact, it was as a spoken word poet that he first earned notoriety. Continue reading →

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The war for the woods

November 24, 2005 | The Martlet and Canadian University Press

Ten years of negotiations and a landmark consensus threatened by government delays

Photo by Al Harvey/Slidefarm

There is peace in the Great Bear Rainforest, but it is a tentative peace.

Over the past four years, stakeholders—local communities, logging companies, labour, tourism and conservationists, among others—have sat down and banged out a land-use plan for the Central Coast, also known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

Located along B.C.’s coast between Bute Inlet and the Alaskan border, the Great Bear Rainforest is the last, largest stand of intact temperate old growth rainforest in the world, as well as the largest contiguous area of unprotected rainforest.

It has been nearly two years since those groups completed the first of two consensus agreements on land-use in the Great Bear Rainforest. Those agreements were followed by direct negotiations between provincial and First Nations governments in order to finalize the plan.

Although far from perfect, the plan is significant: it marks the first time the different sides have agreed on pretty much anything.

They’ve come up with a plan, but now it is all at risk, thanks to the provincial government, who missed a self-imposed December 2004 deadline for approving the agreement. Two additional deadlines—Spring 2005 and “end of summer”—have since passed, and stakeholders are worried there is more than the agreement at risk: much of the funding was promised based on approval. If it takes any longer, that funding might just disappear.

Roughly 8.5 million hectares of ancient cedar, salmon, wolf and bear habitat in the temperate rainforest are at stake, along with a billion dollars in wood and wood products sales and $200 million in financing for conservation-based economic initiatives.

Even more than that, 10 years of work at changing how environmentalists, industry and First Nations interact could be undone.

For years, all parties set aside confrontation in favour of negotiation,” said Amanda Carr, a Greenpeace campaigner. “But the value of the negotiation route is in question given the [provincial government]’s continued failure to meet commitments and timelines.”

Continue reading →