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Will the latest report on Canada’s shoddy childcare help to reduce government neglect?

in Featured/Opinion/The Nonagenarian’s Notebook by

A recent report on Canada’s abysmal failure to protect and care for the country’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens—its children—made headlines and stirred ripples of shame and outrage. Compiled by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, the study found that children in Canada suffer from shockingly high rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, abuse, suicide, and declining mental health. Calling these grim statistics “deeply disturbing,” Sara Austin, director of Children First, pointed out that “Canada ranks as the fifth-most prosperous nation in the world, but there’s a big disconnect between the well-being of our country and the well-being of our children. All levels of government need to do more to ensure that children benefit from Canada’s overall wealth.” This plea for decent high-quality child care in Canada is only the latest in a long list of such supplications. It is only the latest such report detailing…

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Talking about the weather in Windsor Lake…

in Featured/Opinion/To Each Their Own by

It’s unusual for this publication to let an election or even byelection go by with nary a comment. Yet despite the rapidly approaching Windsor Lake byelection, it took me a while to figure out what to say. I considered focusing on the Liberals. Oh, where to start? Their failure to tackle unemployment, which is the province’s biggest crisis and one nobody seems interested in talking about? Their failure to do anything remotely constructive to grow or diversify the economy over the past three years? The fact they fall to their knees grovelling at any big industry that comes knocking, handing the big mainland industrialists whatever they ask for on a silver platter, whether it’s royalty concessions or waiving environmental regulations? The fact that they’ve done nothing to secure the people of the province against ruinous energy bills as a result of the Muskrat Falls debacle, besides some vague promises that…

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

in Featured/Journalism/Q&A by

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…

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

in Featured/Indy Essay by

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…

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Is creativity overrated? On the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Opinion by

Is creativity overrated? Oli Mould is a human geographer at University of London in the UK, and the title of his latest book—Against Creativity—might lead you to think so. The provocative argument Mould makes in his book is that “creativity is a barely hidden form of neoliberal appropriation. It is a regime that prioritises individual success over collective flourishing. It refuses to recognize anything…that is not profitable.” He’s referring to the manner in which neoliberal, corporate capitalism has appropriated everything we thought of as creative—from the arts to scientific innovation—and harnessed it for the exploitation of profit. His book offers numerous examples. Real estate developers have taken to spray-painting graffiti in housing developments in the hope of making them seem trendy and appealing to the hip and wealthy. Other developers will convert empty warehouses into art galleries or offer free apartments to artists, not because they want the arts to…

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Waste, weeds, and poetry

in About Books/Featured by

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,…

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

in About Books/Featured by

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…

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

in Featured/Opinion by

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…

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Coming out and finding a home in music: Gays of Our Lives comes to NL

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Inkshed by

I was in my early twenties when I told my happy-go-lucky uncle Jim I was gay. He froze with a look of shock and horror on his face, he even started to cry, which utterly bewildered me because he, too, was gay. This was not the reaction I was expecting. Wait this isn’t about me. It’s about the Vancouver Men’s Chorus. Let me refocus. I live downtown in one of the densest areas of North America and if I leave the house I have almost a 95 per cent chance of seeing someone from the chorus. Actually, as I was told, Sandra Oh was in town and she almost collided with one of us named Yogi; that alone would be a tale, be like her bumping into Vancouver’s very own Kevin Bacon/Glinda the good witch. So, frankly, we are literally everywhere. There’s a 130 plus guys engaged in what I’d…

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Beothuk Romanticism and Mi’Kmaq Realities

in Featured/Indy Essay by

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…

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The rise of xenophobia and the death of Anthony Bourdain

in Featured/Indy Essay/Journalism by

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…

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

in Featured/Indy Essay by

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…

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

in Featured/Indy Essay by

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.  …

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‘The opportunity to move toward prosperity’: Gerry Rogers

in Featured/Journalism/Q&A by

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…

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

in About Books/Featured by

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…

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

in Featured/Journalism by

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…

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

in Featured/Journalism by

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…

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Imagining the end: an earth without us

in Featured/Indy Essay by

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…

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IndyShorts

in Featured/IndyShorts/Journalism by

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…

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