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Doctor describes Harper government "pathology" at Kelowna JRP

Dr. Warren Bell is one of the founders of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, a family doctor with a background in psychology.  Dr. Bell spoke yesterday before the Kelowna Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, outlining "four diseased elements" that put the proposed Enbridge pipeline in context and condemning as dangerous Prime Minister Stephen Harper's concentration of power.   

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Dr. Warren Bell is one of the founders of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, a family doctor with a background in psychotherapy.  Dr. Bell spoke yesterday before the Kelowna Joint Review Panel hearings on Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, outlining "four diseased elements" that put the pipeline proposal in a social and political context and he condemned as dangerous Prime Minister Stephen Harper's concentration of power and the apparent depth of his associations with corporate interestsWhen Bell finished speaking, he was surrounded by reporters.  Here's what he said:

I am a family physician, in clinical practice for just over 36 years in rural BC. As a professional reflex, I have a sensitivity towards the behaviour of others, and towards the impact of my own conduct. 

While still in medical school, I learned that many of the most important influences on a person's health derive not just from what doctors do, or even from the choices made by patients themselves, but from broad trends in the community – from the immediate neighbourhood right up to the planetary environment.

When I began my practice, however, the term "ecosystem" was unknown, and the term "environment" referred almost exclusively to a person's immediate social or physical situation.

Today, thanks to global telecommunications and transportation, and especially the Internet and social media, our worldview has expanded greatly. As we humans have multiplied exponentially, we have learned that we can degrade the functional capacity of our planetary home, which in turn affects our survival.

In 1995, I helped to found the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment or CAPE. Our purpose was to scientifically examine the intimate inter-relationship between human and ecosystem health, and improve the former by addressing the latter. With 5,500 members, CAPE has become the environmental voice of the medical profession. 

Today, however, I am here not as representative of CAPE or any other organization. I am speaking as just one person, and as a physician.

I want to address what one might call "structural pathology" in the governance system in Canada, which has led to the contention surrounding the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project – which I have followed closely since its inception.

Your work as members of the Joint Review Panel is taking place in a social context. As a medical professional – with, I might add, extra training in psychotherapy – I would like to examine four diseased elements in this social context, and suggest remedies for them.

The first pathological element is historical.

Up until about 400 years ago, the land base subsumed within Canada was home to various peoples, originally from Asian roots, broadly connected by culture and race. They lived, like all our forebearers once did, seeking survival in an unforgiving but also bountiful natural world. Through a combination of force of arms, disease, mass immigration and various legalistic arrangements – including a genocidal strategy called the residential school system – the land base occupied by the original inhabitants of this country was progressively reduced, and their role in society was relentlessly marginalized. The small land base and the few prerogatives left to them thus have become critically important to their well being.

In Salmon Arm, I have patients, neighbours and friends who are aboriginal, who embody the experiences I’ve just referred to, both in their physiology and in their psyches. Many First Nations communities, with similar individual and collective experiences, are in the path of the proposed pipeline.

The second element in this structural pathology is the electoral system.

Elections to the House of Commons are based on the "first past the post" system. The elected candidate just has to get one vote more than any other candidate – even if only a minority of citizens actually vote in the first place.

This kind of selection procedure, in a community with many disparate parts, is psychologically grossly inefficient. Especially in complex or conflictual situations, it generates a mixture of cynicism, despair and anger. 

The third element in this structural pathology is the nature of the Prime Minister's Office, or PMO.

In Britain, the PMO is surrounded by powerful committees and advisory bodies whose comments and decisions have a major influence on government decision-making and cannot be readily ignored.

In Canada, the PMO has vastly more political power. It has, in fact, absolute veto power over several hundred different government bodies.

(6) Comments

Jerry H. January 29th 2013 | 4:16 PM

Regardless of your accusations of the speaker, the speach is valid and well written.  Any discredit you have given did not strike down anything he had spoken about.  You are acting like this man is the devil.  

Janet Vickers January 30th 2013 | 9:09 AM

Thank you Dr. Warren Bell for this insightful response. Thank you Linda Solomon for this report. It is clear, easy to read and resonates with chilling authenticity.

Daisee January 31st 2013 | 9:09 AM

Absolutely concise and on the nose. Funny I'm not seeing it on FB.

Nadine Lumley February 1st 2013 | 8:08 AM

Repost from Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize winner and former war correspondent for the New York Times) on Canada’s right-wing neocon Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

 

Harper is a poster child for corporate malfeasance and corporate power, just sort of dismantling everything that’s good about Canada.  So he’s the kind of species that rises to political power and is utterly subservient to corporate interests at the expense of the citizenry.

 

Yeah, he’s a pretty venal figure.

 

http://www.straight.com/article-732826/vancouver/chris-hedges-harper-ven...

 

.

 

plg February 9th 2013 | 3:15 PM

Thank you for publishing Dr. Bell's testimony.

I congratulate Dr. Bell for the time and effort he gives to not only his patients but also to the living world.

I have been told by a few who testified before the JRP in Vancouver of how impressed they were of the presenters to the JRP and how we, as citizens, were not afforded at least the highlights of these presentations in our local media.

Again, thanks for doing this and assisting in reaffirming my own personal actions to prevent this and any other oil/gas pipeline for export in my province.

 

luc February 17th 2013 | 10:10 AM

Dr. or not, that statement is still just personal opinions. I work with many educated people, engineers, geologists and scientists, and they are just people.People with opinions and personal morals.I respect the education system, but not all educated people. Trying to relate a pipeline to symptoms of depression in young people, our democratic shortfalls or the plight of aboriginals is rediculous. The U.S.A. will be oil self sufficient soon. Our P.M. is trying to replace the loss of exports to the U.S.A. with exports to Asia. Those exports pay for our education system, roads, police,payments to aboriganal peoples,hospitals and everything else that makes us a developed nation and allows us a comfortable lifestyle.We live in a democratic country, and I invite anyone who doesn't like our form of democracy to go live somewhere else.The people who need to see a Dr. of this nature are NOT a good representation of the average Canadian.When did we start letting maladjusted, depressed people set public policy? Our P.M. will be remembered as the man who saved Canada. He was right when he said "those who oppose pipelines are an enemy of Canada"    Pipelines cause depression? Rediculous. Pipelines are responsible for misstreated aboriginal people? Rediculous. Pipelines ruined our democracy? Rediculous.