Peter Van Loan, minister of Crime and Punishment, was ready to head out, but had just one more task to perform before leaving. He crossed the room toward an array of video screens, and with remote in hand, changed the scenes from "Save the Prison Farms" activists, to animals in distress. This was his favourite part of the day, where he could view the effects of his arbitrary decisions.
After several engrossed minutes, he shut off the screens, smiled and left the room, clearly enjoying the fruits of his labour.
Meanwhile, in Kingston Ontario, the cattle at Frontenac Institute were huddled together in the barn. Rumours abounded that they may soon be leaving their familiar dwellings. And though most refused to believe it, there was no mistaking the change in the men who came to look after them everyday. Word was that many were now receiving grief counselling.
"Grief over what" asked a demure little Heifer.
"Over us, stupid. I heard them talking. We are to be sold."
"How can we be sold? This is our home. I was born here and so were my parents, and their parents before them."
"Doesn't matter. I heard it had something to do with the country's loss of dem ... dem ...democy ...."
One of the larger Holsteins, who had already settled into it's bed of straw, got up and approached the group. "Democracy, my dear. I'm not sure what it is but it has something to do with a fair and just society. That's what they said. A man named Harper suspended democracy, and no democracy means no justice, and no justice means that we can now be sold to the highest bidder."
The cattle slumped and all settled into their beds, but there would be little sleeping that night. And in the darkness, came the sound of a lone bovine voice, singing barely above a whisper, but the words were heard by all:
Beasts of Kingston, beasts of Frontenac,
Beasts of this great land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time.
Soon or late the day is coming,
Tyrant Harper shall be o'erthrown,
And the fruitful fields of Frontenac,
Shall be trod by us again.
But unfortunately, the uproar awoke Van Loan and Harper, whose ears are too big, and hearts too small. They seized their guns and were ready to react, until Stockwell Day brought them to their senses. "Wait men. Don't be hasty. We'll let them suffer a little more. You don't want to end the fun too soon."
And across the fields and highways, the melody reached another pair of ears. Stormy the donkey knew just what he had to do. But for now he must get his rest.
Stormy awoke to the sound of loud voices. His friend Jeff Peters was on the phone: "We'll fight this. They are not going to get away with this. It is not just about those prison farms, but this is an assault on Canadian farmers and the entire justice system."
He knew Jeff would come through. And all the others in the room were just as determined. Stormy had allies. All that was left was to draw up a battle plan.
Meanwhile at Frontenac Institute, the cattle were once again huddling in groups, pondering their future. They had noticed that the men were especially kind that morning. An extra little tickle behind the ear. One more pat on the rump. They liked it but couldn't help feeling a sense of dread.
"They know something, but are not telling us what it is."
"I told you guys. We are being sold. I hear things."
"Stop scaring the young ones. We've heard your rumours before. Remember when you had us convinced that they were experimenting with five legged calves. Do you see any five legged calves around here?"
Walking away, the heifer just shook her head. "They'll see. I'm right. I know I'm right."
Walking away, the heifer just shook her head. "They'll see. I'm right. I know I'm right."
But clearly she was hoping that this time she was wrong.
In Ottawa, things were heating up. The opposition parties demanded answers. Where was the proof that the farms were no longer sustainable? What alternative rehabilitation programs did the Reformers have in mind?
"Shhhhhh." They were told. "We answer to no one."
"But all experts agree that ..."
"There's that word experts again ... experts'. And 'facts'. Do you think we are concerned with 'facts' or what 'university types' have to say? Our base wants the farms gone, so they will be gone. End of"
Mark Holland reminded the Reformers that Canadians from all walks of life opposed their decision, and they deserved answers. But it was no use. As Wayne Easter reminded us, the buffoons had dreamt of super prisons and they were going to build super prisons, even if Canada did not have enough criminals to fill them. Said he:
The former Minister of Public Safety, Peter Van Loan, was the first to raise the spectre of the 'super prison' model. This strategy was based on a report, which was prepared for the Conservatives and which called for the construction of regional complexes across the country. These complexes would incorporate four or five penitentiaries within one perimeter, housing upwards of 2,000 inmates -- in short, the San Quentin State Prison model. No prison in Canada currently houses more than 550 inmates. The U.S. tough on crime agenda has increased their prison population to a point where it has incarcerated more people than any other country in the world. Few would claim that this has created a 'safer' environment.
What the government requires is the land base upon which to construct these facilities. San Quentin sits on 432 acres of land. Interestingly, the Frontenac farm in Kingston is comprised of 772 acres of class 2 and 3 soils -- prime agricultural land. In 2007, Correctional Services Canada was requested to develop a cost estimate for a new correctional facility that could incorporate the correctional activities of several existing facilities located in the Kingston area into one footprint. The plan for super prisons has been underway for some time.
But even the Conservatives knew they needed some kind of justification for closing the farms to acquire the land to build super prisons, so they decided to claim that the work on the prison farms -- agricultural work -- was worthless.
How could agricultural work be worthless, farmers wondered? I guess it was as logical as the Reformers' notion that a university education was worthless. Stockwell Day only got as far as high school, and he was doing alright, even if he was in fact, doing everything wrong.
And from the caucus room could be heard the familiar song:
All Hail Harper, we'll rub their noses,
In our bad decisions all,
Bit by bit, we'll destroy this country,
Total destruction, before we fall.
Riches will be ours for taking,
Farmers we don't like a bit,
Lock them up and fill those prisons,
Cause really we don't give a sh..... darn?
Stormy was feeling very optimistic. All around him were people engaged in activity. Sawing and painting "Save the Prison Farms" wooden cut-outs. Organizing rallies in Ottawa. Some were on the phone, others at their computers.
This kind of solidarity could move mountains. They would save his friends at the prison farms, human and animal alike. He just knew it. And he was going to help.
The humans spoke of all people from all political stripes joining in, except of course the Reformers. Hugh Segal their senator from Kingston got a case of "hoof in mouth" disease, and their candidate Brian Abrams sent one email suggesting that he supported the cause. Then Harper stuck a gag in his mouth, strapped a plough to his butt and demanded that he mulch the fields to remove any evidence that it was once fertile farmland.
But they had musicians, teachers, nuns, professors, farmers, seniors, youth ... everyone with a stake in the cause. In fact who didn't have a stake? This was about food and it was about justice and it was about doing what was right.
Even Margaret Atwood, a national treasure was lending her support. How could they lose?
But poor Stormy didn't understand evil. He had spent his life with people who cared about all those things. Maybe if he spent a day with the Reformers, he might understand about inhumanity.
Bright once shone the fields of Frontenac,
A star in our community,
Now foul odour rides the breezes
As we lose our democracy.
The cattle at Frontenac were up earlier then usual. The sky was cloudy and threatening rain. But that's not what had them feeling uneasy. There was something else in the air that day. They could feel it.
A rumbling outside the gates as trucks idled. Loud voices of people not letting them pass. And the inhumane sound of humans being thrown to the pavement by men and women in uniform.
But they were not the uniforms they saw everyday. These were different. These were the uniforms of a death squad. A death squad that would put the final bullet into the heart of Canada.
"I have some bad news guys. Stormy's been arrested," said the agitated heifer.
"Stop that. More rumours. You're frightening us."
"No, I'm not lying. I saw him being led to the Big House. And Jeff was with him. This is not good."
And they all sang now. A melancholy melody.
For all the days that we have laboured,
Building up this beautiful farm;
And for all the men who've found salvation,
This will do irreparable harm.
And indeed the worst had happened. The cattle were led away in chains and sold off, while their supporters were led away in handcuffs.
But the battle is not over, and there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Or should I say a glimmering Hope.
Those involved in this operation for a year and a half were able to purchase some of the cattle back. Only six of three hundred, but it's a start.
And one little calf, aptly named Hope will now symbolize that little light glowing in the darkness.
Meela Melnik-Proud now has Hope. The resident of Kingsmere subdivision travelled to the cattle auction in Waterloo on Tuesday, eager to buy one of the milking cows that had been removed from Frontenac Institution. Instead, she found herself the owner of a four-month-old calf, which she aptly named Hope.
"She's just perfect," said Mel-nick-Proud, who took part in the recent protests against closing local prison farms. "The whole point is that she represents hope, maybe rebirth, that we'll come back to the table with dialogue and diplomacy, not dozens of armed police officers."
Melnik-Proud said her university-aged daughters will help take care of the newest member of the family. "I'm not a farmer or anything," she said. "I just thought -- I was watching the cows being removed, and talking to farmers and the anguish of the whole ordeal -- I thought, 'Well, I'm going to go buy a cow.' "
And where there is a beautiful little calf and a determined little donkey, there will always be HOPE!
So to all former beasts of Frontenac,
And all of this great land and clime,
Harper's days are clearly numbered
Then we'll have a golden future time.
NOT THE END