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Cheers & Jeers

A dead vaquita caught as bycatch in a gillnet in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico. — Photo by Flip Nicklin, Minden Pictures, WWF
A dead vaquita caught as bycatch in a gillnet in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico. — Photo by Flip Nicklin, Minden Pictures, WWF

Jeers: to homelessness. Apart from the disturbing horror of Marcel Reardon’s killing, and the anguish the reliving of it must be causing his family and that of the accused, Anne Norris, the glimpse the public is being given through her trial of what it’s like to be homeless on the streets of St. John’s is sobering indeed. If you’ve ever thought no one is truly without a place to stay in this city, think again. Through witness testimony, we’ve heard of people seeking refuge in a parking garage when they had nowhere else to sleep, their few meagre belongings in a knapsack, and of turning to drink and drugs to get through nights on the cold and sometimes dangerous streets. If you have a safe, warm bed to call your own, always remember there are those who have far, far less.

Cheers: to making a difference. The Marine Institute boasts the only flume tank in North and South America, and last week it was put to good use, helping a delegation from Mexico test new, more selective fishing gear. Mexico is trying to save the vaquita, a small playful porpoise unique to the Upper Gulf of California whose very existence is threatened. There are thought to be only 30 of the creatures left, and they are too often the unfortunate and unintended bycatch of the gillnets used for other Mexican fisheries. To have the only flume tank in this part of the world is an advantage in aquatic resources research, to be sure. If we are able to declare that local expertise and equipment were used to help save a threatened species, that would be a very proud moment for us all.

Cheers: to choosing words carefully. For years, Poland has bridled and bristled at the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” to refer to the concentration camps Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during the Second World War. On Friday, The Associated Press in Warsaw reported that the lower house of the Polish Parliament passed a bill that would make it a crime to use such phrases. The bill still has hurdles to clear before it would become law and there’s no certainty that it would be able to be enforced consistently or whether it’s even a good idea, given the chilling effect it could have on freedom of expression. But it does make you think — at least for a moment — about how much weight words can have, and how we weaken and negate their true meaning every time we reach for “Hitler” to refer to someone the slightest bit dictatorial or “Holocaust victim” to describe a person experiencing a far lesser plight.

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