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Featured/Journalism/Q&A

Two thousand hours: Speaking Mi’kmaw in Newfoundland and Labrador

When Marcella Williams’ grandmother was angry at Marcella’s mother, she’d let loose a string of words Marcella didn’t understand. It was only as an adult, when she started learning Mi’kmaw from fluent speakers in other provinces, that she realized her grandmother had been calling her mother thick-headed, or stubborn. And, it was only when she started going to gatherings and heard Mi’kmaw songs that she realized that some of her early childhood campfire songs were traditional Mi’kmaw songs. She didn’t know because nobody in her family identified the words or the songs as Mi’kmaw. That’s the long reach of colonialism: it forced generations of Indigenous communities in Newfoundland and Labrador (and around the world) to hide their culture for survival (if they could) to avoid discrimination. As a result, languages began falling away, one by one. Marcella says her great-grandmother would have spoken Mi’kmaw fluently. Her grandmother spoke phrases and words… Keep Reading

Opinion/To Each Their Own

The selfishness of thieves

The question on everyone’s minds is – why do they do it? Don’t they realize it’s hurting all of us? Making off with their ill-begotten gains? Just because they’re able to? How does their conscience let them get away with it? Do they do it just for a bit of fun? Because they’re young and they think the world is theirs to do with what they will? Of course, I see the temptation. We’re all hard up these days. Cost of living is through the roof, it’s impossible to get a nice affordable place to rent any more, and the electricity costs…don’t get me started. Yes, we’re hard up, but that’s no reason to just turn your back on your neighbours and line your own nest. It’s downright anti-social. We live in a society, and when any one of us decides we’re going to simply put our own needs above… Keep Reading

Trade unions get scant coverage in modern mainstream media

Back in the 1960s, 1970s, and into the ‘80s, almost all of the large newspapers in Canada had a reporter who specialized in labour-management relations. Wilf List covered labour for The Globe and Mail for an amazing 35 years. I wrote a labour relations column for the Toronto Star for 15 years (1968-1982), and the editorial staff of several other papers at the time also included labour columnists as well as labour reporters. Conventions of the largest labour unions and the Canadian Labour Congress attracted dozens of reporters. The names of union presidents were almost as well known as those of prominent politicians and corporate executives. Once a year, in my Star column, I listed, in order, the ten labour leaders I considered the country’s most influential, without having to identify them with much more than their names. Today, not a single daily newspaper employs a labour columnist, much less… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

Good fences make good neighbours and other lies your father told you

Any number of  critics have noted how a poem, play, or novel appears to shift, to evolve, to grow with a reader. The change can feel quite dramatic in some cases, so much so that even a delicate haiku—all seventeen gossamer syllables—appears to become something quite different. You read it when you were thirty, and childless; now in your thirty-third year, your infant daughter has appeared. You have changed—not the three lines—but the profound change can make it feel like you are reading a new poem. This evolution of interpretation becomes even more intriguing when applied to entire cultures, rather than individuals. After the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after the fire-bombing of Dresden, after the My Lai massacre, the stirring patriotic speeches of Henry Vread a little differently, perhaps. Or take an example from pop culture: my entire generation has had to learn to reread the classic teen… Keep Reading

About Books/Featured

Waste, weeds, and poetry

Waste defines not only the modern era, but modern humanity, according to some writers. We are what we throw away. Or: we are because we throw away. Yet, waste has been invisible to many of us most of the time. No longer. Today waste is appearing everywhere. It isn’t staying neatly out of the sight of the middle and upper classes. It’s on our streets; it’s on our beaches; it’s in our fish and in our birds. There’s a waste research fund here at MUN. Researchers are grappling with questions about social justice and micro plastics in our oceans and mapping e-waste as it travels around the globe. Amidst all this, one small book of poetry appears on the scene in Newfoundland and Labrador: Mary Dalton’s Waste Ground, a book of short poems from the point of view of local plants that have been categorized as weeds. Defined as waste,… Keep Reading

Where next in the fight over Muskrat Falls and rate mitigation?

On Friday, a group of protesters gathered at the Public Utilities Building in St. John’s, as they have for the past few weeks, protesting current and anticipated power rate hikes as a result of the Muskrat Falls project. Earlier this week, meanwhile, a coalition of over two hundred prestigious academics and authors signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling for a halt to the Muskrat Falls project, in light of the risk of irrevocable damage it poses to the environment and culture of Indigenous-led communities in Labrador. On the Island: power rate hikes. On the Labrador: threats to health, safety, and culture. The thing that binds these two acts of protest is Muskrat Falls. It’s a scandal that has united the people of the province in scorn, derision and outrage against a bad deal signed and supported by successive provincial governments, which threatens the very future of the… Keep Reading

Science fiction helps us understand the future as well as past and present

When I started reading science fiction, in my teens, it was widely regarded as a disreputable form of literature. This was not surprising, since at that time—the early 1940s—sci-fi was confined to pulp magazines with lurid covers, often depicting scantily-clad heroines shooting ray-guns at BEMS (bug-eyed monsters). Living in Newfoundland at the time, while it was still a British colony, I had to order sci-fi periodicals from the United States. They had to be cleared by customs officers, who also doubled as the colony’s censors. The censor who examined the magazines mailed to me from New York was Mr. Howell, who happened to be our nearby neighbour. Shocked by the trashy cover art, he spent an hour or more leafing page by page through Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales, searching for evidence of pornography or obscenity, all the while shooting suspicious glances at me. Fortunately, the stories… Keep Reading

About Books/Featured

‘You’re not this and you’re not that’: author Lorri Neilsen Glenn

A few years ago, an aunt told writer Lorri Neilsen Glenn  about her great-grandmother’s tragic death in a steamboat fire in 1908 in northern Manitoba. Wanting to know more, she started a journey that led her to histories she didn’t know were hers. Neilsen Glenn learned that she had roots in northern Indigenous and prairie Métis communities. The haunting account of her journey became Following the River: Traces of Red River Women, a book that gives the reader insight into uncelebrated histories, including the stories of Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors and their contemporaries. The book mirrors the fragmented nature of these women’s lives, Neilsen Glenn says. She shows us who these women are in a mix of evocative poetry, documentary material, and narrative prose. Together, these pieces offer the reader incredible glimpses of the lives of Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors based on what she could find in newspaper reports, archives, and museums. I wanted… Keep Reading

Featured/Opinion

A modern harassment policy for the House of Assembly could help change the political culture of this province

The provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador is moving to establish a new harassment policy to apply specifically to elected officials within the House of Assembly—for the fall of this year. This policy comes on the heels of three accusations of harassment against two cabinet ministers. Both Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby have been removed from cabinet and caucus following harassment and bullying accusations. They remain on paid leave until an investigation has been conducted and a report is made. Both ministers had requested leave from the House for an unspecified amount of time and were approved with pay. In the absence of a harassment policy specific to the provincial legislature, complaints are currently being directed to the Commissioner of Legislative Standards, Bruce Chaulk, who has stated he will be hiring an independent investigator to assess them (where he deems that an investigation is warranted). Under the rules governing the… Keep Reading

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

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