Betty Krawczyk on Friday

by Yule Heibel on April 9, 2003

This afternoon I listened to another Royal Conservatory of Music-based grade 2 level piano recital at the Festival of Performing Arts, performed by children ranging in age from about 6 to 10. Music pedagogy has it sussed in this respect: kids aren’t separated according to age — “you’re 8, so you have to be grade such-and-such” — but rather by ability. A kid who’s been taking piano lessons for 2 or so years will be more or less in grade 2, regardless of age — unless he or she is a prodigy, but they don’t crop up that often. It’s still an intense week, especially for the adjudicator who sits all day listening to grade 1 through 8 junior & intermediate honours classes, all banging out a similar repertoire in the listed categories: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern, and Canadian. No jazz, and Modern means circa Bartok. The Festival continues for the entire month, but my daughter’s piano category ends this week. The adjudicator, Calgary native Rosalyn Soo Mauldin, will fly back to her teaching post at Georgia State University in Atlanta, her head no doubt ringing.

Afterwards I took myself to the University of Victoria campus to check out a coming attraction of a different sort. A patch of campus forest known as the Cunningham Woods is slated for clear-cutting, and several university actiivists have set up camp in a tree (literally: 10 meters off the ground) to protest the proposed action. You have to understand that cutting down trees in British Columbia has moved way beyond the “I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok”-joke variety of Monty Python’s dead parrot skit. The current Liberal government, practically a direct subscriber of the right-wing Vancouver Frasier Institute think-tank, is poised to pass a “Working Forest Initiative” that will allow publicly held Crown lands to be clear-cut by multinational corporate logging operations. It’s an initiative that was floated a couple of years ago by the often-anti-business NDP (left of centre) government of yore, but quickly dropped when the public got wind of it, and that now has been magically resurrected by the pro-business Liberal government, who don’t seem to be that interested in what the voters think. The students have engaged Betty Krawczyk to speak to the interested public this Friday at noon.

Betty’s biography is colourful and big:

“Born in America, she was first married by the age of 16 and had divorced soon thereafter, leaving her a single mother who worked as a waitress. In those days she participated in a strike that lead to the loss of her job. When money was tight she would get up at four o’clock in the morning, before her little children would wake up, and wrote cheesy romance novels with titles like ‘I was his slave in love’. With her third husband, she fought against the Vietnam politics of the US government and refused to pay her taxes as a result. Finally, she immigrated with her family to Canada. With spouse number four, she ran away to Vancouver Island and fell in love with the Island’s beauty. In the out-of-the-way Cypress Bay, one of her sons built a house for her. It was when a landslide buried the beach near her home that she first became aware of the consequences of forest clear-cutting. In 1993, Betty was one of eight hundred demonstrators who were arrested for protesting against the cutting down of the ancient forest in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island. Since then, she has been called the ‘Clayoquot-Granny’. Today Clayoquot Sound is a protected UN Biosphere Reserve. Betty, who sees herself as a member of the working class, doesn’t dismiss the fact that her protest may directly threaten the way of life of the lumberjacks in B.C., many of whom are becoming unemployed due to the decline of the forest industry. But she is convinced that environmental concerns must eclipse everything else. Her days in jail are spent writing letters and working on a new book.”

I missed going to her court appearance last month, but I don’t want to miss this. Hence, my foray to the forest to make sure that I’d find it on Friday. I felt a little stupid asking one of the long-haired bicycle-riding organizers where I could legally park my big fat Honda van, and I knew instantly that my yellow-leather mules were definitely not the right wardrobe accessory with this crowd. On Friday I’ll wear runners, but I’ll skip the lumberjack shirt.

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