The Last Day in Brussels

Look at this! I am definitely back on track now! Consecutive posts, I think that I’m back into the rhythm just in time for the trip to come to a close. I don’t want to be too preemptive in saying that because there are still two full days left here in Belgium, however things really do feel like they are winding down. Today was our last official day in Brussels and I definitely feel like we made the most of it. We entered the city like every other day-by train- and succeeded, like every other day, in making the morning commute a little bit louder for the poor Belgian people in our car. I find myself shaking my head at just how loud and exuberant we are. I’m pretty sure that everyone thinks that we are Americans! The Belgians can get as excited as anyone, but they don’t typically do it on the train or on the metro. I’m sure that they have just about had enough of Justin Beiber’s ‘Baby’ being sung throughout the train system!

Anyway, after reaching the city we stepped out into an absolutely gorgeous day of sun and about 25 degrees Celsius. For the second straight year (according to Dr. Brooks) we have lucked out on the weather. Typical Belgian weather is apparently rainy, damp and relatively cool. We have had the ‘cool’ part but have had consistent sun for every day with the exception of the Battle of Waterloo adventure.

Our first meeting was at the European Parliament where we were briefed on the structure of the organization and shown around the very impressive looking building. Unfortunately, of all days, I forgot to bring the memory card for my camera today, so I will have to snag someone else’s photos to show you what I am talking about.

After the Parliament we headed off to grab lunch. I had a great chicken sandwich at a little place called the “Tasty Corner” and paid a very reasonable 3 euros for it. Cheap and good meets two very important criteria. That being said, I think that I am going to have a tough time facing anymore bread, meat, cheese or pasta when I get home. All of the carbs are starting to stack up and I’ve got to say that I may be a little bit ‘over-sandwiched’, meaning that I have eaten way too many sandwiches for my own good!

Following the meal we met Dr. Brooks and went for a brief tour of the Chocolate Museum. While at the museum we were given a demonstration of chocolate making by a very exuberant Belgian. He certainly made an impression on our group!

After consuming a little bit of chocolate, we made our way back to the European Council, the same building where we started our trip. We were briefed by a Council official on the relationship between the EU and Canada on Human Rights. I’m sure that people are rather tired of hearing me ask questions relating to First Nations in Canada by now, but I had the opportunity to ask him whether or not the EU had an opinion on Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples within its borders. I am very careful not to use phrases like ‘our First Nations people’ or ‘Canada’s First Nations people’ because that suggests some sort of ownership. In fact we are two very distinct people that happen to co-inhabit a continent. Anyway, the response I got was very interesting, mostly because this official did know a fair amount about Canada. He knew that the EU had voted for a UN resolution on indigenous rights that had been opposed by the Canadian, American, Australian and New Zealand governments. Anyone know why those governments might oppose a UN resolution on indigenous peoples? Take a read through this article, it gives a good, although perhaps a slightly biased look at the situation http://www.shunpiking.com/ol0406/0406-IP-TS-canadacondem.htm. Anyway, he actually related my question to climate change and the impact that it has on the Inuit peoples in Canada. He said that if the Canadian government really valued the human rights of the Inuit they would likely want to get serious about climate change. The concept here is that the Inuit way of life and their ability to live as they always have would be compromised by a melted icecap. I thought that this was an interesting perspective on First Nations rights and certainly presents another angle that could be used to gain concessions from future, more progressive Canadian governments. However, at the end of his answer, he said, I’m not an expert and I’m sure that you guys are doing a good job and that there is no problem with your indigenous people. This comment was completely well intentioned and meant as a bit of pro Canada commentary, but for me it just proved how well hidden our horrible treatment of First Nations people is. The rest of the world sees and respects Canada as a leader in Human Rights, yet we violate the rights of Indigenous peoples ever day by allowing them to live in poverty and without clean drinking water. It really is time for the rest of the world and the majority of Canadians to realize what a horrendous lie we are being fed and that something needs to be done to help the situation. As much as I think that the G8 and G20 protests are rather silly, I do hope that the First Nations people will be able to somehow communicate their message to the rest of the world. Someone needs to take the rose coloured glasses away. Try sending the leaders of the Western world to Kasechewan or Attawapiskat and see how they feel about Canada’s human rights record.

Anyway, needless to say, the meeting was once again interesting and it apparently ignited a little bit of passion in me. I don’t really know if I feel much better after that little rant, I think I might just be more outraged…

After saying goodbye to our last official EU meeting we headed back to Leuven where we have spent the evening. I went for another run, ate some fresh local strawberries and some fresh bread and cheese for dinner and am now getting read to go to bed. Tomorrow we visit Antwerp. For those of you familiar with diamonds, Antwerp is apparently the place where the art of diamond polishing was invented. The ‘Antwerp Cut’ is, according to their website, synonymous with quality and brilliance. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

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