Arthur Bull Interview Transcript

Nov. 9, 2000
Arthur Bull
Outreach Coordinator
Bay of Fundy Marine Resource Centre
116 Atlantic Ave., Bldg 2
PO Box 273
Cornwallis Park, Nova Scotia B0S 1H0
W Ė 902-638-3044
Fax Ė 902-638-3284
Email Ė

Digby, NS B0V 1A0

Dave Beckwith:
So we start with what do you do and how did you get started?

Arthur Bull:
Well, Iíll start with the marine resource center and what it came out of.


Basically, I'd been working with adult literacy and that area, sort of community economic development for the

Really, where?

In Ontario.

I want to hear more about that but go ahead.

Okay, well I'll jump into that, too, because a whole part of my life is there. I ended up being here, and they changed the fish quota and out of that there was a huge protest. Out of that came negotiations, which resulted in a community program.

So the quota doesn't go to a company or a particular fishing concern or an individual, it goes to a place.

Right. So they took this region on the map, they took this part of the province and divided it into regions, by the Bay of Fundy you take care of it. That's all we're going to do as government, so they actually had to set up a self-government organizational strategy to manage.

The community.

The fishermen basically said, well in this area what we want to do, because this is a good opportunity,

Yah, and it should happen in all areas in the fishery. So Scotia/Fundy is divided up into areas and our area goes from here to Clare, so it's 5 counties. They set up something called the Fundy Fixed Gear Council, which is a community based management board, and they set up a fairly elaborate management, self-government. You know, harvest, hand line, long line, gill net; analyzing each one. Each had a committee and there was an overall management board, there was a research and advisory committee made up of scientists and environmentalists and so forth. The problem was that the DFO said they wouldn't enforce anything, so they could set limits to be able to say well we want only so much harvested, but so what? They had to do the whole thing through civil contract and they had to set up an infractions committee, a very elaborate system so that it was fair and anonymous, as for the files of people who had actually had infractions, so they didn't know who they were. It worked quite well. This is not enforcement on the water, where they pull up and inspect your boat. It's more like if they said we crated a thousand pounds of crab fish and they came in with 10,000 pounds what would we do, if someone just went ahead. We had to have a way for the fishing industry to say, well now, you can't catch 5000 pounds next week, or this is your 4th violation, so you're suspended or whatever, so very interesting self government kind of stuff.

How many people involved in this?

It's actually gone down a lot since the start, but initially it was 250, down to about 60, around there. There's about 17 or so really active in the group, with a lot more, mostly fisherman along. So this is mostly ground fish and lobster fishing as well. Community based management has been very well started and it's got a lot of problems but it's still going and it comes out as part of a much wider movement. Itís just happening all over the place. It's called the Atlantic Movement for Community Based Management, and that takes in all kinds of resources, forestry, watershed, fish, and so on. So that's very interesting, and that's also involved the First Nations community. The reason I'm going into that first is because out of that a couple of things happened. One was the Marine Resource Center, which basically came out of the recognition of the league that they wanted to answer the research questions that we could answer, and needed organizational development in terms of a whole bunch of groups. They realized they needed them but also the clam rakers, or the sea urchin divers or the people that were involved in right whales. And so on. This was about 4 years ago. We realized what we needed was a center that could basically provide those services. So we got together with some of the other organizations and came up with the idea and we got no grant to sort of study it and build up the infrastructure that way, so we just plunged in. We rented out offices to other groups and other government agencies; we've got some partners and basically operated through almost 2 years with no operating cost. We did a couple of youth projects and things like that. It's just gone ahead, it's one of those things that you just sort of sprint to keep up with the people, the community really, those tools, we want to do this, we want to do that, which is good. But basically the functions I mean are information resources: to find out how you get a license, how to get into aquaculture or you know, all that information. You know, where can I take a course on accountancy or computers. This is community-based research, mostly to do with water quality. Then there was education, working with schools. That's a very big part of it, and additional support through the outreach coordinator, for development, conflict resolution, a whole bunch of things that don't happen normally. We have things like we've done a lot of conflict resolution work between First Nations and non-native, commercial fisherman businesses. We played a role in facilitating the dialogue there. It's a huge thing, all about resource management. So weíre just kind of getting started and we've done quite a bit of that research, education, and organizational support. So we've got quite a few projects going on, you don't really want all of it. The idea is to constantly adapt. We rent half of this to the health corps, the other building we're hoping to get some funding to actually put a lab in it, have a community based lab for water quality. It's kind of an incubator for small businesses and agencies. We may lose the health board, or whoever moves in they may move out. It's sort of tentative. That may turn out to be sort of a cash down. But the idea is that this place is sustainable, if we don't have any grants, and we actually want to make it more so. But we are going to need something. We have a couple of big projects going on right now. One is the Federal Office of Learning Technologies, which is to set up something of an all day community learning network. Innovative technology, that means we would do research on what's going on, networking education and information referral, but basically develop that into the community learning network kind of idea. That would mean let's say that key research is going out of our area. That would mean having a web site and someone to update it and there's a whole bunch of things like that that all together would be the function for the community learning network. It also involves outreach, both networking people together. But anyways, that is more or less what we do, right now we have a manager, I'm the outreach coordinator, we have a research coordinator, and we have a bunch of interns weíve attracted to work under the research section on questions they have interest in. Itís faster than anything I've ever been involved in, I'm used to you know, writing things along and waiting to get a grant,

And getting ready to start and not starting. Instead of start and then get ready.

Yah. Exactly.

Well honestly, the project that I'm doing, and the interest behind it is I'm a community organizer, I've been a trouble maker since I left the curtain factory back in 1971. My work in the States has been organizing, technical assistance and the organization I work with is national. I work with local groups all around the country. I've got a sabbatical, a year off and we're talking to organizers and activists all over Canada and Australia. The short version is talking to troublemakers! The methodology is really this, the questions that I ask people are what do you do and why do you do it, how did you get there? The purpose of which is to find out how to get more, how do we sustain people who are doing change work and in the process how do we figure out how to get more?  So I would ask you to start, I mean you've already told me a lot about what you do. How did you start and why do you do it?

Well yah, I should go back to Ontario, to Bear River, to the Parkdale Project Read. It's such another life. I was involved in community development in a downtown neighborhood, I coordinated programs for those communities and then I went to the Ontario government helping community literacy programs get set up all over Ontario and setting up organizational support. Are you going to Ontario?

Yah, eventually.

It had a larger Indian population and also lots of immigrants and it was very interesting and the library there was maybe one of the key community organizing things. So community based literacy took hold in the early 80's, late 70's. I was involved with that and in a lot of ways what I'm doing now I've realized is really what I thought I was doing then, itís what I wanted to do then. It wasn't really about literacy, it was probably about literacy, it was about organizing, and more and more when I think about why I do it is community-based management. I've been thinking more and more about the institutions of self-government that are non-governmental but they're not dependent. They have some sort of governing authority. It seems to be something that is emerging and it seems to be a very important part of this idea of helping communities organize themselves into self government structures with some real authority. Without that, you know, decentralization means that a community is only cut loose. It needs to be well focused on any asset. Fisheries is really real. So that's why I'm interested and there's other reasons that we're excited. That's what I like, I like the fact that I'm on the board of the fisheries association. You know, I was elected the president of the fisherman's association in 1995, which was really strange, you know, I'm not a fisherman. I said, you know, I don't know how to do this. They said, well we're fishing and we just want somebody with common sense as a leader who can go to a meeting in Halifax. I said well I know how to do that. And within a month every federal fishery office was occupied, within a month. There was this big non-violent civil uprising really. I'm not kidding, a thousand people marched in that parking lot, and they all held onto a rope and we said, weíre at the end of our rope. In Halifax 5000 people marched, it was the worst blizzard of the year, and they all did the thing. It ended up,

To walk through the office, everybody holding the rope, single file, 5000 people single file takes some time to pass by!

Yah, it does, it's big, it was a very large thing. What it wasn't, it wasn't very well managed in terms of media and stuff like that, it got very little attention in the national media and it was more spontaneous. So I'm at the head of the rump group with these other 20, there was an alliance that was created, completely spontaneous. Had a meeting in the hall with 800 people and the meeting was 5 hours long! And that excitement went though this really bogus mediation process and you know, it did end up ok. Anyway, that whole thing was quite a ..

Quite a moment.

Now, there's a t.v. show called David Suzukiís The Nature of Things, which I think might be on PBS. But they did a profile of the Fundy Fixed Gear Council, and the other half is the South Indian Fisheries Movement, which is quite an unbelievable thing about these people. I mean, in India. Anyway, so this got some recognition. So that's sort of how I came. I'm more and more interested in the idea of creating these structures of self-government.

What brought you here from Toronto?

I worked for the government for about 5 years and it was a great job, I got to fly into the north, and all kinds of..

Helping to create literacy councils and


Solve their problems and,

I did that for five years and I maxed out on that and it was probably good. So I took it for that. We had bought a house down here, my family,

How big is your family?

2 boys and my wife.

How old are they?

One is 21 and one is 16. My wife is an artist, I'm also a writer, but we came here and that was it. So I did a little bit of literacy consulting type of thing. And then the fishery stuff and basically got involved, particularly the Digby Neck Community Association. That's really how I got into this, they wanted to set up a literacy program, so I would help out with that, I thought I really wanted to get back into that field. And it turned out really what people wanted to do was do community development stuff. And then people said, what you really need to do is help reactivate the fisherman's association. Well there's nothing wrong with that, and that's how I ended up falling back into that. And that's pretty much the story.

Wow, and why, why not write ad copy, or make money that way, why?

Yah, why?  That's a good question. I was very involved with government; they had a big project in this area. They did a big plan, and they had someone to ask you why you've done this, and if you just say, well we want to bring in an innovative approach,

What plan is that from?

What is innovative? Is that a value? No, integrated is how you do it. So I was saying that to them, you know. But to me it has to do with justice issues. What's interesting about fisheries is that justice becomes an ecological thing. It has to do with balance between different communities, individuals within a community but also between communities and .so that's just really interesting. It's one of the very few projects left where you can actually talk about that, I mean there's a wildness, hunting and gathering, you go out and hunt down and kill fish, so it's a very basic thing, and so I'm not, my background is I'm not an environmentalist. But it's from the point of view of the resource. The idea is to petition the communities and get the prime result. I guess why I'm not writing ad copy is I'm not interested in that. To me I think that would be just not interesting work, I think what interests me is when people are working together and it doesn't go a lot further than that. I'm not ideological, I mean when I was a teenager I went through all of that stuff but then you know, I was basically a Trotskyite, but it is political. But if I had to say, where is it ideologically, it's probably closer to anarchy in a sense of local mutual self help, that type of a thing. But I think it has to do with this idea of civil society, more and more. It has to do with people. That's about as far as I can see.

The interesting question to me is how close can you get to government without losing the edge. I think particularly in the Canadian context, because there are people in various places who kind of use the government chair as a place from which to do interesting work. But what's the point where thereís a trade off, where do they lose the challenging of existing institutions, where do you lose on the protest?

Right, right, and I tend to be more on the non-governmental side. I think there is a tremendous amount you can do, but it only works if there are people on the outside of the government. I think that's the key thing right there is that if the public is not part of the state, you know like there's a notion back here that legislation for integrative management is the key. There's lots of people working on that stuff in government, but it only works if there are people actually in communities that they can engage with. Like this group yesterday of all these provincial government officials who are going to do this mega project in this area and it has to do with community. They think there's something called community, once they get their act together they're going to turn and go and talk to the community. So what is community is maybe something else. And they do sort of think that it's there, and they're only going to have someone to engage with if there's that work happening which is really not governmental. And you know, we rent to government, and we're close partners. But the line with the government has to be very clear, and there's lots of agencies in that sort of angle, that position where they're really, the government sets them up so they're not really independent. We're talking to communities, but really when you go into the town, and ask where is that thing, nobody knows where it is, and it doesn't belong to the community. The challenge of this place is to become a citizen run institution; we're not there yet. I think that's my job at this point is that we actually have hundreds of citizens in this area who have a real stake as members of this organization.

You do have members?

Yes, oh yes.

How many members?

Well now there's probably, let's see, there's a whole bunch of work to do.

You have to have the structure to do that.

There's got to be a governing structure and we have a lot to do there. Hand in hand with that is this idea of developing collaborative partners. I found a wonderful web site from U.S. to help NGO's, I forget the name of the organization, I guess they have a lot to do a lot with universities and so forth. And it's called a collaborate framework that they worked out which is really a process for articulating how you're going to work with another organization or agency of government. I think that's a key thing prior to the answer to your question is that we have to develop new ways, instead of having sort of the client sort of relationship, where we're really a branch of government but we're saying community. We have to sit down and articulate. And basically what they said is well you start out with values and do we share those things, let's look at some of that. And then they say, rather than just say partnership, lets say, let's look at the different ways in which we can share, from mutual support, right up to where we are joined at the half-point and our boards are going to merge. So there's a continuum and you have to articulate that and you decide, we work together with this work to do that job. I think we need to start doing that more clearly, between community organizations and between community and government.

It's interesting for me in some ways, your relationship with the government is as a landlord, you are their landlord, and that's very different!

We realize that there's a tenant landlord relationship. Yah, so we've had to be really quite thoughtful about that. Because in Canada, the federal government is it, it's not like in the States. They are it, in human resources they provide just about anything, even things that seem to be provincial, most of what you see is federal money. It goes through every aspect of our businesses. So it becomes very important, I mean in terms of federal government, you start thinking about your relationship, it doesn't mean you're going to break away. The trap there is that there is sort of a right wing fad. We have a party here and it's sort of a trend and everybody says, that's great, let the community dig in, you know, less government, the government shouldn't be involved. I don't think we're saying that, what we're saying is there needs to be a real engagement, community has to have the autonomous standing to be able to sit down and say okay here's how we're going to work with our government. Like I said to these guys yesterday, now we're ready for this thing to move to the next stage, we want to engage in the community, let's start building relationships. You're the employees, and you know, it's true, but how often is it said?

Itís something you wish you would say to the RCMP after they've pulled you over.

But I said to them of course, we have a lot of work to do before we become a true employer.

Well, this conversation is about how to advance organizing. Part of the question is where does the organizer come from and why. Part of it is what sustains you, what keeps you going and part of it is what's your opinion about what needs to be done or what could be done to advance organizing.

The thing that keeps me going is almost when I'm not needed anymore. The thing that keeps me going is when my role almost becomes unnecessary. Thereís nothing that keeps me going more than when like the board makes a profound decision.

You're not the chair there.

No, I'm not president anymore.

For instance, that was a very positive thing, when I stopped being the president and somebody else came in who was just really good. I think that, to me I find that really rewarding, I get energy from that. In terms of the second question, I think that one of the things that's needed is support for people who have been working at this kind of work for a while, so that they can keep learning and also keep sharing what they have learned. I chair the Coastal Communities Network. We've been trying for about 10 years, and introduced things like CED, marine infrastructure, lobbying. Weíre quite involved in cross-cultural communications, things like that. That conversation keeps me in quite a bit, you know how do you avoid people getting burned out and create a gateway so that they can share that with others and basically you bring in new blood.

So where are people coming from?

Yah, right. Well there are people coming from different places.  I think that's kind of tough. There are various focuses on CDCís and so forth, and I'm not really big on that. It seems to be community economic development is so layered in development, you know, mostly university based, and other stuff. It almost seems to be the most productive part of CED, like there's all sorts of support organizations, but I'm not sure how much support it is. Because it's sort of like well you can get a grant to bring in such and such a person who is a very high profile, well known person in the field to do workshops for a day and then go away. I never, I have a bias there about people coming in and then going away. Unless they come in and they come for a while and with a passion it's less than useful. So I think that's better, because every time somebody does that there's some kind of mentoring or something, there's something left there. That whole processing is the key. Thatís the thing about working geographically. You would think in that particular place, it's only got 1000 people, you would think that it's hit rock bottom, but no, it's like an umbrella. People are out there. They now have a farmer's market and that's where the real expert is. They are doing real things. They've been doing small farming and stuff, and it's you know, the real deal in a sense. I really think those are very small-scale things of course but then there needs to be this sort of nesting of support. So they belong to the community development corporations, and the resource center is networked with the resource center in Eastbrook, Maine and we have partners around the bay and so that sort of nesting I think is being executed professionally.

Community based management, coastal communities.

Yah, that's the same kind of thing. So there are people dealing with issues all around Nova Scotia, and that would sort of bring them all together and help them have a place to come home or to ask key questions.

I was going to ask you more about CCM. There are 250 organizations?

There's more than 300 I guess. Itís very interesting; we have a newsletter that goes to each member in the group that's good. The real heart of it is we have a monthly meeting in Truro. It's central. We have a speaker but also we have a go around, so it's a place where you can go and actually hear what's going on.

So how many people come to it?

Oh, it varies. Sometimes it's not huge, sometimes 50, 60. Sometimes as low as 25. Up and down, but it's an interesting thing because of the geography of Nova Scotia, unlike most of Canada, you can actually do that. .

In thinking of nesting, when you get beyond the province what else do you nest with, what else do you relate to?

Well on the community advancement stuff we've found very little. We look around, well who is doing this stuff, nobody in Canada, we couldn't find anybody, we found ourselves in the Philippines. So, I've done a fair amount of traveling in the last 5 years, I went to India and the Philippines. So we've been working. We've done a lot of adult education. E have the Coadey Institute here in Antigonish, and I'm not too up on this, but some point in the system it became international, they stopped doing much work in Nova Scotia and they started doing work on the world. So thereís this big tradition of international development in Nova Scotia.

Other international groups?

Yah, if you go out and you go right past here youíre at the water. This is a Bay of Fundy community. I've also just joined the government alliance called NAMA, the North Atlantic Main Alliance, which started as a fascinating network to go States side and is now up in Nova Scotia. They've been going for years and they've got a whole lot of government structure. They've been working with a guy named Dee Hawk, complex adaptive systems. Like this guy, Dave, he's a true believer in terms of this systems thinking. They're all very big on it; myself I don't think Iím on either side. So there's a lot of networking that way. Nationally we've networked with CEDNET. Are you going to BC?

Weíve already been there.

There's a very active group on Vancouver Island.

I talked to Mike Lewis.

I've met him but I don't really know him. Heís involved with Rams or something, Regional Aquatic Management Society. They're doing community based management and so we've mixed with them a little bit. The Coastal Communities Network is trying to set up a rural network. At first we thought we'd just make like 10 phone calls and start a rural network, but there aren't corresponding numbers, but there are a rural women's network, a rural agricultural network, so we'll start working on that.

The sort of closing or focusing question is, what question do you have for the others, or observations, what do you want to put on the table as questions?

I think my questions right now, I think I've already talked about them in a way. I'm interested in how people have developed the means of collaborating with other groups and establishing how they've worked with government and what's possible, how close should we get and all of that. So there's that and I'm interested in the question of self-government and about people's taking authority to make decisions. I'm also interested, if I was in a room full of people I would be interested in saying well is there some way we can work up to some informal mentoring, I mean right now. We have people like Mike Lewis and those kind of providers and so that's good, but I'm really interested in how would we do that more informally and allow that to happen, so that's something I'd like to talk to people about. Get somebody from, you've been in Montreal, right? Or somebody from the north here or get people from here to Winnipeg or whatever.  I'm sure once you get us together you would end up with something.

Without doubt.

The other thing is this idea of having a small place to fund things. You know, quite responsive to different needs. You know, like if I want to go to Toledo, and we're talking to somebody there, so we're actually connected to people. There are very few rural community foundations specifically focused on what is going on financially, about economics, how do you set up an industrial park, and the other technical questions. Sometimes small organizations, if they had 3000 dollars to do something, they would make a tremendous amount out of it, but there is no place to go.

Are there questions I havenít asked?

I think the questions that you're asking are good. I don't think those are the questions we ask often enough. They are the things that we share in the work. But it's a good thing to get at. I would think that when you get a bunch of people together that that would be a good thing to ask. Basically we're all kin, that there's common values. But you've already done that a bit.

So youíd like more information on what people are doing, too?

There's not enough of that, using the Internet. We have a web site, but actually having a place where you could go, even having sort of a multi-media like you were saying, with one pagers. These people are doing some really interesting work on community based management or whatever, a little bit of a presentation of that, here's what you have to know when you really want to get into a project. Who's really doing it. I'm going to pick up the phone and call that person and next time I'm in Vancouver I'm going to go meet him. This kind of story telling I think is doing that. It's a little bit different than reporting or documentation, it's more the sort of thing, why are we doing it and who is involved.

It needs to be a multi-cultural thing, too.

That's a key point. A lot of people here don't' realize that there's not good communication between Nova Scotia's cultural communities. Although Nova Scotia might seem like it's not a multi-cultural place, it is, and it has been basically the same population in the same places. So you have black Nova Scotians,

They've been here for 10 generations,

Yah, they came here they were loyalists, what we call Tories, political refugees. The Mikmaq are here, the Acadians are here, they were all thrown out once and came back, and then there's the Scottish population when they cleared out the highlands and we've got a huge population of economic refugees. We actually have a significant population that were drafted as loyalists. That's where this part was populated. So anyways, they were all cultural communities. We did a number of projects, one was a project where we a number of people went to Escasone, which was the biggest band among the Mikmaq in Nova Scotia, up in Cape Breton. We had what we called a dialogue dinner and got the other people from the black community and the Mikmaq and some other British Isles. We had this workshop and dinner and it was also storytelling. People talked about Nova Scotian history, the removal of the Acadians. They talked about the 1980's, but the people in the black community talked about slavery and it was very needed, nobody had heard the other group's story, it was a very emotional thing. And it became a series, now we're having, each community is hosting it, it goes around and they host these things. Very interesting. Anyway, I don't have that report to give you, and I'm going to have to get it to you because it's very interesting, it's called the Common Grounds and it's an ongoing thing, so, that's very important, when you talk about story telling.

Well and that's a feeling that you need in these communities, it's not a project, it's a really neat idea of telling stories, it's over food, too,

Food is good! And you know, it's cooking up the connections. Itís very much a cultural thing. I mean my kids, Iím almost certain that they actually didn't even know what the concept of race was because everybody is naturally from some other place, you know, someplace else. Nova Scotia is multi-cultural. Itís very geographically distinct. The black community is centered in Ashley, a pretty big town. The Mikmaw community is, they're not living all around the Atlantic. They're up in Bear River. As you go along the shore, French is actually the language. It's not like out and out conflict; it's just that they're separate worlds, so this has been a very interesting project.