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There’s no excuse for government refusal to help kids in millions of poverty-stricken families

“Where’s the money coming from?” That’s the question thrown at any individual or group seeking increased funding for health care, education, child care, or public pensions – and, most urgently, for the elimination or at least sharp reduction of the disgracefully high rates of poverty in Canada. The presumption underlying this question is that the federal government is short of cash because the Canadian economy is unable to generate enough tax revenue to support an improved social security system. The facts and figures disprove this fallacious supposition. Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, as calculated on a per capita basis by the CIA World Factbook, was $46,200 in U.S. currency for every man, woman and child in the country. That’s about the same as Denmark’s, but higher than the per capita GDP of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Russia, Japan, and many other countries. Significantly… Keep Reading

Letters/Opinion

This youth circus program is about teaching kids to be more brave, not less afraid

What’s a ‘social’ circus, you ask? ‘Social circus’ is a program and philosophy that aims to empower youth using circus props: juggling balls, hula hoops, aerial silks, and more. And now it’s come to St. John’s. As program instructor Danielle Knustgraichen says, “there is a prop for everybody, and every body, a prop and a skill that helps them realize just how strong and capable they are.” Knustgraichen’s social circus program is organized through Thrive, a community youth network in St. John’s, and supported by local circus studio Cirque’letics. With ten youth participants across the gender spectrum, Knustgraichen teaches circus arts skills including juggling, hula hooping, and acrobatics, supported by health care professionals and social workers from Thrive. A main goal of the program, which is offered through a series of 20 weekly classes, is to teach participants risk-assessment. The program guides youth to discover their own boundaries and abilities… Keep Reading

People may be living longer, but they suffer from lack of a genuine health care system

Canadians are living longer, with current life expectancy now averaging 81. Statistics Canada reports that last year 750,000 Canadians were in their 80s and 305,000 in their 90s, with women significantly outnumbering men in both categories. (Of the 305,000 nonagenarians, more than 200,000 are female.) But StatsCan can’t measure the well-being of these senior citizens. One of its recent studies found that the health of most Canadians starts to deteriorate at the age of 69, but the extent and cause of that decline varies considerably at the individual level and is not measureable. Obviously, it depends on the different internal and external determinants of health that affect each of us, and whether we can exert any control over them. People who choose a self-indulgent and dissolute lifestyle can shorten their life-spans to 70 or much sooner. But even when we eat nutritious food, exercise, and do our best to nurture… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

Beothuk Romanticism and Mi’Kmaq Realities

The Beothuk hold a unique place in Newfoundland culture. Objects of romanticism, they can be found in songs, poems, and paintings. Oft-repeated are claims of how their presence can sometimes be felt in the woods. But what are the roots of Beothuk romanticism and how does it impact the island’s surviving Indigenous people, the Mi’kmaq? As most know, the Beothuk were a small Indigenous group of about 200-300 when Europeans arrived, pushed them away from harbours, and brought disease and violent conflict. The Mi’kmaq were a larger Eastern Algonquian people with a vast homeland, called Mi’kma’ki, extending from Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula through the Maritimes, the Magdalen Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and parts of Newfoundland. Northern Indigenous people like the Mi’Kmaq did not farm but moved from one place to another during the seasons to access resources. As anthropologist Charles Martijn has proven, Newfoundland was very much a part of… Keep Reading

The rise of xenophobia and the death of Anthony Bourdain

In 2015 a Canadian Immigration officer handed me a beige laminated card, about the size of a driver’s license, and I breathed a sigh of relief: no longer would I have to worry about being separated from my spouse and my child. After my marriage to a Canadian citizen in 2010, and even more so after the birth of my Canadian-born son, I had grown to expect that my wife would be pulled aside by American immigration authorities, just as I kept a thick dossier of important documents to show to Canadian immigration authorities. That dossier included all three of our birth certificates, as well as my proof of employment by an American university, as well as the sheaf of papers that documented my wife’s application for American permanent residence, as well as my own growing sheaf of papers that documented my own application for Canadian permanent residence. I did… Keep Reading

Journalism

Brake receives freedom of expression award

Justin Brake received the PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression On Thursday, June 14, at an event in Toronto. This is the second award that Brake has been honoured with for his coverage of the protests in Muskrat Falls in October, 2016. At the time, he was working as a reporter and editor for this publication. Last month, on World Press Freedom Day, he was presented with the 20th Annual Press Freedom Award. While both awards celebrate Brake’s contribution to media freedom in Canada, he says the fight for that freedom is far from over. Brake faces civil and criminal charges after covering the protest and occupation at the Muskrat Falls site in the fall of 2016, which led to an emergency marathon meeting and a subsequent agreement between the provincial government and Indigenous leaders.  On October 22, 2016, demonstrators entered the worksite and Brake followed them, live streaming… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

Alleviating child poverty would save much more money than it would cost

Oh God! That bread should be so dear, And flesh and blood so cheap! –Thomas Hood, “The Song of the Shirt.” Canadians are fortunate to live in one of the world’s better countries, but we delude ourselves when we claim to be living in the best—or even one of the best. Not when more than a million Canadian children—15.1 percent or one in seven of them—are living in poverty, many thousands bereft of adequate nutrition and health care. Not when the OECD ranks Canada 15th—third last—among the 17 leading industrialized countries in the extent of its child poverty. (The OECD gives Canada a C grade, not much lower than the D grade given the last nation on the list, the United States.) Not when children in millions of Canadian households are living in sub-standard, crowded, poorly furnished housing conditions. Not when 21 percent of single Canadian mothers have to raise… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

Indian Road Trip: The summer movie you haven’t seen but totally will, once it’s finished

I suppose the only way is to get in the car with them. How else to tell the story of the production of an independent Indigenous movie called Indian Road Trip? Just get into the car on a reservation somewhere near Merritt, British Columbia, on a hot summer morning and feel the dust enter your lungs as the tires turn.  Allan Hopkins (writer/director): It’s about two young guys who want to leave the reserve because they’re bored. They want to go on a road trip.  Dale Hunter (plays elder Hetta Yellow-Fly):  Once you stay on the reservation you’re a lifer. Hank doesn’t want to be a lifer.  …… Where’s the car going? Wreck Beach, a well-known nude beach in Vancouver, British Columbia.  That’s how the movie begins. …… So much history–First Nation, Métis, and European–has to come together at the right time to make an independent movie like this one.  … Keep Reading

Featured/Journalism/Q&A

‘The opportunity to move toward prosperity’: Gerry Rogers

A Stephen Harper rally “catapulted” Gerry Rogers into politics back in 2011. In April this year she became Newfoundland and Labrador’s first openly gay leader of a political party. Still, she says it “doesn’t roll off my tongue very easily to say I’m a politician.”  I wanted to know how she made the transition from filmmaking to politics and what her plans are as leader. Here’s what she had to say.  Q: When did you know you wanted to get involved in politics? I never knew that I wanted to get involved in politics. Did I ever think that I would do this? No. I’ve always been on the margins pushing from that space. But I was a breech birth, so I always knew that there was always more than one way of doing things. Q: How did you make the decision?  So in 2011, just before the federal election, Kathey Dunderdale was… Keep Reading

About Books/Featured

War in Comics: ‘the training, the waiting, and the growing fear of the approaching invasion’

Given the chance to interview Canadian cartoonist Scott Chantler, I was both thrilled and filled with angst. Scott has made quite a name for himself in the comics world. His most recent work, Two Generals, (the graphic biography of his grandfather’s experiences in WW2) was nominated for two Eisner Awards, distinguished by the CBC as one of the 40 best Canadian non-fiction books of all time, and was selected by comics powerhouse Françoise Mouly as one of the Best American Comics of 2012. And his comic series for children, The Three Thieves and his graphic novel Northwest Passage were also nominated for multiple prestigious awards. Chantler agreed to chat with me about Two Generals, a comic, based on the 1943 diary of his grandfather, Law Chantler. It tells the story of Law and his best friend Jack Chrysler during World War Two. At the beginning of the book, the two young men from Ontario travel to England… Keep Reading

Featured/Journalism

Disney’s workers: Realities, fantasies, and lessons for NL

Disney is a word that inspires children across the world and the name of a company whose reputation stands for innocence, play, and beloved stories often featuring the victory of good over evil. But it’s a reputation built, squarely, upon the increasingly strained backs of America’s working class. In Orange County, California a Disney worker can expect to spend their day making every desire of visiting families come true, while watching their own hopes fade to dust as inflation and expenses speed ahead of their wages and benefits. “Sometimes I skip meals, so my kids can eat,” noted one worker speaking at a recent public roundtable entitled StopDisneyPoverty in Anaheim, California. The event, a live-stream of which is available for view, was intended to draw attention to the plight being faced by Disney’s employees, and was attended by Senator Bernie Sanders, who gave a speech defending workers’ rights to a fair wage… Keep Reading

About Books

Bypassing Dystopia could free Canada from the clutches of neoliberalism

The people in Canada who are intelligent, open-minded, and not ideologically conservative would probably number at least a million. But if only one in twenty of them—50,000—were to read Joyce Nelson’s latest book—Bypassing Dystopia: Hope-filled Challenges to Corporate Rule—the outcome could be a grassroots uprising that would free Canada from the corrosive clutches of neoliberalism. Canada would become the idyllic country of economic, social, and environmental well-being that our corporate and political leaders hypocritically boast it already is. For anyone who hasn’t read this book and doesn’t intend to do so, my prediction of its revolutionary effects may seem impossibly grandiose. Most of those who do read it, however, will almost certainly share my enthusiasm. Its stunning exposure of how neoliberalism has worsened poverty and inequality, while supplanting democracy with plutocracy, will both infuriate and motivate readers not yet aware of these and many other “free market” iniquities. A brief… Keep Reading

Opinion

Prime Minister Trudeau: ‘It’s Time to End the MSM Blood Ban’

Dear Prime Minister, It’s time. In March of 1983 the news was broadcast over CBC Radio: “The Canadian Red Cross announced it is advising promiscuous homosexual men, Haitian immigrants, and drug users not to give blood. These groups are all in the high-risk category for a deadly new disease, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.” I am writing to urge you to bring an end to the discriminatory MSM blood ban at Canada Blood Services. As you know, in its current iteration, the policy prohibits any man who has had sexual contact with another man in the last 12 months from giving blood. In order to understand the need to eliminate the MSM (men who have sex with men) ban one must revisit the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and the depth of its prejudicial history. Early reporting on AIDS was often problematic and actually labeled the disease GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency).… Keep Reading

Letters

Residents growing ‘increasingly alarmed’ about ‘lack planning going into development’

I am a resident of the Kenmount Park area in Mt. Pearl. After ten years of living overseas (to pay down our student loans and put enough aside for a down payment on a house) my husband and I returned to Newfoundland in 2016. We had already spent two years searching for a house online and following our return spent another 8 months seeing properties all over St. John’s, Mt. Pearl, and Kilbride before finally settling on a modest home, at the top end of our budget, that answered most of our needs. A deciding factor in our decision, were the woods and trails directly behind the property, as well as the view of the lovely trees behind the back fence. Following the purchase of this, our first home, we set to work cleaning, painting, re-sanding, and doing all the other little jobs new homeowners do to turn a house… Keep Reading

Opinion

Is the Canadian-American window a myth?

It was in the early hours of the morning that I finally went to sleep, but not before witnessing the election result that would bring in the current U.S. president. I messaged the words ‘are you okay?’ to my friend Rose in the U.S., who had as it turned out gone to sleep early. For them it would be a very different morning. For me it already was. From the second my friend had read the message they understood what had happened. While this was not the good news they had hoped for they thanked me nonetheless because it had been the gentlest way of finding out how the election had gone. Or at least a gentler way than turning on the cacophony of reports on TV. For so many of my fellow Canadians the events and conditions—both social and political—in the United States seem overwhelming. Our neighbors have always… Keep Reading

Why is the United States always fighting a war somewhere?

Why is the United States always fighting a war somewhere? Could it be because war is profitable? Harper’s magazine, in its June issue, reports on a panel of former soldiers that it convened at the U.S. Military Academy at Westpoint, New York. They were all veterans of wars waged by the U.S. over the past 30 years, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, or stationed in some of the nearly 800 military bases the U.S. maintains in more than 70 countries and territories around the world. These veterans were asked to explain why their country has been engaged in so many armed conflicts, and why, in none of them since World War II, has the outcome resulted in a decisive victory. And this despite the U.S. having the world’s best-trained and best-equipped armed forces. The war in Afghanistan has now dragged on for 17 years, under Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton,… Keep Reading

Featured/Journalism

Putting a human face on the risks at Muskrat Falls: Behrens

Supporters of the Labrador Land Protectors were met by police and a locked door when they gathered outside Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s office in Ottawa on May 28, said Matthew Behrens, spokesperson for the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition. There were about eight police officers and 15 protestors at the demonstration, Behrens said. The demonstrators, some of whom were constituents of McKenna’s riding, were there to voice their concerns over the Muskrat Falls megadam project. They had planned to present McKenna with bottles of water labeled “10% methylmercury” and pictures of Labradorians who live downstream from the project who are at risk of flooding and water contamination. Although the protestors arrived during regular hours and the lights were on at McKenna’s constituency office on Catherine Street in Ottawa, it appeared nobody was home.  “They knew we were coming,” said spokesperson Matthew Behrens during a phone call while at the Parliament Hill… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

Imagining the end: an earth without us

The lead editor of this publication, Michelle Porter, in a brief email a couple of weeks ago: “I’m interested in an intelligent, interesting response to this, if it grabs you.” She continued, “I find the idea that they’ve given up on humanity really interesting.” The first words in The Guardian profile of Mayer Hillman she was referring to? “We’re doomed.” I sent the article to an old high school friend, who now works for the American EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). She barely had time to blink, “. . . unfortunately right on point” was the succinct and rapid response.  Because Michelle and I likely read many of the same things that funnel through the internet that appeal to people of a certain intellectual and political bent, I had already read the piece. Mayer Hillman thinks that it is well past time for the governments and peoples of this planet to… Keep Reading

IndyShorts

In 2009 the New York Times did something quite remarkable – they created a near-perfect web storytelling form, combining photographs and sound in a slideshow. It helped that one of their very best, photographer Todd Heisler, was on the job. The collection One in 8 million that Todd and the team produced over that year is a visual and audio feast. You owe it to yourself to check it out: in September 2010 they won an Emmy for it. Since then, video has taken over the web and journalists somehow forgot the power of a few still photographs and a story well told. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we’re lucky that we live in a place of storytellers. We may not win an Emmy, but will take the wisdom of Paul Murray, our very first storyteller to heart – with our deepest respect for Todd and the NYT team, we will strive to… Keep Reading

Why is Canada far behind other countries in switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources?

It is depressingly ironic that, while many other countries are steadily switching from fossil fuels to clean and renewable sources of energy, Canada’s federal and provincial governments squabble over building yet another pipeline to British Columbia—one that, with the existing Trans-Mountain pipeline, would nearly triple the delivery capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil a day to 890,000. And the planned new Kinder Morgan pipeline would carry the thickest and dirtiest oil of all: bitumen. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blithely claims that this massive increase in the extraction of oil from the tar sands is not incompatible with saving the environment from global warming. He proudly points to his government’s carbon pricing policy as evidence of a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He projects emissions will fall by 90 megatonnes by 2022, conveniently not mentioning that this reduction, even if achieved, will still be inadequate. It will fall far below… Keep Reading

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