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The missing ingredient in the Muskrat Falls Inquiry

in Featured/Opinion by

The one thing that government apparently doesn’t want discussed at the Commission of Inquiry is why our democratic institutions allowed such an uncritical handling of the project. On Friday, April 6th, hearings took place at the Beothuck Building on Crosbie Place to establish who would have standing to appear at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry. A coalition of three volunteer based civil society groups (The Council of Canadians, Democracy Alert and the Social Justice Cooperative) were among the twenty-two requests for standing. I ended up as the spokesperson. What does Muskrat Falls have to do with three groups that have no expertise in finance or engineering? What could we possibly hope to contribute? Look carefully at the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry and you’ll see that they largely confine participation to what the Commissioner, Judge Richard Leblanc, referred to at the hearing as “the business case” of Muskrat Falls. What’s…

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The buggy, from a car window

in Featured/Indy Essay by

There is a man pushing a shopping cart along Elizabeth Avenue. The cart frame is studded with salt and rust. It’s thronging with beer bottles, wine bottles and cans, most of them tied into transparent plastic recycling bags. “Have you talked to him?” my husband asks. The man is a binner: he works scavenging through garbage bins to find reusable and recyclable items that can be exchanged for cash. We’re in a car. In the backseat our four-year-old is covering her nose against the new-car smell. She’s near rebellion. My bag is in my lap and I’m searching for a stale chocolate chip cookie, a broken granola bar, anything that will distract her. The man and the buggy are on the road to the right, just ahead. Is he the one they call “The Governor,” I wonder? I can’t see his face, yet. He leans over the handle as he…

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What’s a budget for, anyway?

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Finance Minister Tom Osborne used the words “methodical, fair and responsible” to describe the recent budget, but representatives of civil society and community organizations said that Budget 2018 failed to provide a vision for a sustainable future for Newfoundland and Labrador. Debbie Forward, head of the Nurses’ Union, referred to it as “a flat budget.” She said while there’s not a lot to be upset about, there’s not much to be excited about either. Mary Shortall, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour said she was looking for a jobs strategy from the budget, but couldn’t find one. “There’s nothing in this that indicates there’s any plan ahead for that. I didn’t see a vision in this budget for what’s going to happen for our population going forward,” she said. The March 27 budget “doesn’t inspire confidence with respect to what we have been able to observe today,”…

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The stories maps tell: A librarian and his travels through space and time

in Featured/Indy Essay by

I didn’t always think of maps as a way to tell stories. To me, maps were tools that documented spatial relationships. And yet it’s been a while since I thought of maps that way. Over the next few months in this column, I want to take you on a journey through the kinds of stories that maps can tell. Over the years I have been asked “what do you do as a map librarian”? When I take a few minutes to explain the work I do, I often see that I haven’t found the right words. My listener’s eyes might glaze over or they might respond with a polite “oh, interesting.” After one of my spiels, my aunt once said: “I’ll just keep telling people you work in a library.” What I need when I tell people what I do is a map. I need a map I can roll…

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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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In the public interest?

in Featured/Journalism by

Free press advocates argue there is no public interest in pursuing the civil and criminal charges against Canadian journalist Justin Brake. “Quite the contrary, there are clear harms to public interest in pursuing this case against Mr. Brake,” said Duncan Pike, co-director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Protecting private property rights Two questions drive the controversy over the charges that national and international advocates say are ‘deeply troubling’ and ‘contributing to the decline’ of Canada’s ranking in the press freedom index. First, is it in the public interest for the crown attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges against a journalist covering an event of national importance? Free press organizations say that the journalist’s role in providing information is in the public interest, while Newfoundland and Labrador crown prosecutor for the case Jennifer Standen says that the protection of private property rights and the enforcement of court orders are in…

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As ArtsNL funding crisis deepens, province’s arts organizations fear for their future

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Journalism by

Several of the province’s arts organizations are in a bind after ArtsNL—the body which adjudicates grants and disburses provincial arts funding—has cut their funding over what the arts organizations say are very minor errors in online reporting forms. Last week the Folk Arts Council—which puts off the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, one of the province’s premiere music and culture festivals—learned that the second and third years of a pre-approved three-year funding grant had been cancelled due to reporting errors. They have since announced they’re suing ArtsNL over the decision, since funding was supposed to be guaranteed for three years and they say minimal effort was made to alert them to the reporting discrepancies. Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues Festival and Gros Morne Summer Music have also had their funding cancelled, and on Tuesday the provincial arts and culture magazine Riddle Fence made a public statement announcing their funding was…

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What could happen if the province increased funding to libraries?

in About Books/Featured/Journalism by

An event featuring three of the city’s top poets last week doubled as an occasion for library supporters to raise their voices in demanding an improved public library system for the capital city—and the province. The second event in The Once and Future Library series—organized by the St. John’s Public Library Board—took place on March 14 in the AC Hunter Public Library, and proved to be as lively as it was literary. All three poets, and the writers and librarians who introduced them, read from their works but also reflected on the value of libraries to themselves personally, as well as the role libraries play in the broader community. George Murray is a well-established poet. Author of eight books of poetry, as well as a published author of fiction and children’s literature, Murray has served as poetry editor for the Literary Review of Canada and contributing editor with Maisonneuve. In…

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ArtsNL Forfeits Riddle Fence Sustaining Funding

in Featured/Letters by

Riddle Fence, along with The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society and Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues, was recently denied year 2 and 3 of their previously approved multi-year sustaining funding as a result of administrative errors. Riddle Fence requests that its sustaining funding be reinstated and that an artist engaged review of ArtsNL be conducted. We stand in solidarity with The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society and Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues. Riddle Fence is the only independent arts and culture journal in Newfoundland and Labrador. It encourages, supports and reflects arts and culture in Newfoundland and Labrador while contributing to a national and international dialogue. It is integral to the fabric of our artistic and cultural community across all disciplines. Specifically, our error occurred in CADAC, a financial data software program where arts organizations are required to input information from Review Engagements prepared by accountants. Grant Thornton prepared Riddle…

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It’s time for serious talk about the NL fiscal bail-out

in Featured/Opinion by

The news is full of prognostications of doom and gloom these days. Province set to go bankrupt, unassailable debt, unpayable power bills. What are we to do? For one, we need to start talking seriously about what a bail-out of this province’s crippled finances would look like, if it happens. More and more people (such as the economist cited in this CBC story) think it’s likely to happen. A country like Canada, which espouses to first-world status, does not simply allow an entire province to go bankrupt and shut down. What we should be focusing serious public discussion about, is not if there will be a bailout, but what the terms and conditions of that bailout will be, and how it will happen. On whose terms, and with what end-goal in mind. We need to be having that discussion now, and it is deeply troubling the government has not made…

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‘I don’t consider myself an activist… I feel responsible’: Beatrice Hunter

in Featured/Journalism/Q&A by

Beatrice Hunter is one of about fifty Labradorians who occupied Muskrat Falls in 2016. The Inuk grandmother continues to fight the resulting civil and criminal charges that were laid against her (and other land protectors) in court. In light of the recent provincial court ruling that allowed criminal charges to go ahead against Justin Brake, the former editor of The Independent who entered the Muskrat Falls site to report about the actions of the land protectors, I asked Hunter if she would talk with me. I asked her about the status of the charges she is facing, her thoughts on the charges against Justin Brake, and what the future of Labrador might look like for herself and for her children. Hunter says that “the more the people know about the situation here in Labrador, the better.” She believes that Justin Brake’s coverage of the events changed the way the rest of the…

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The Maritime Link: Remember how we were going to use it?

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Muskrat Falls was once touted as the key to long-term economic and energy independence for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. No longer would we be living under the shadow of the bad deal done at Churchill Falls, no longer would we need to burn oil at the aging Holyrood Thermal Generating Station, or face another DarkNL. We would have a transmission link to the mainland through Nova Scotia, giving us access to the energy-hungry eastern United States. Yet, last week the island of Newfoundland began importing mostly coal-fired power from Nova Scotia over the Maritime Link. The Maritime Link consists of two subsea cables that run 170 km across the Cabot Strait between Cape Ray and Point Aconi with the capacity to carry 500 MW of electricity. It was built by Emera to supply Nova Scotia with power from Muskrat Falls and provide NL with access to export markets.…

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The Gossip Mill: 25 Years after the Village Mall Affair

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One of the most fascinating things about the Village Mall affair is its longevity. Nearly a quarter century after the investigation into cruising at the shopping mall, people are still gossiping about what happened. Some people will recall the story of the Habs jersey. The rumour at the time was that men who were looking for sex at the Village would wear Montréal Canadiens jerseys in order to identify one another. This only makes sense if one forgets that the Habs won the NHL playoffs in 1993 the last time a Canadian team got the Stanley Cup. It is safe to assume that many men were wearing those hockey jerseys in the winter and spring of that year, not just ones cruising for sex. Recent discussions over Pride, police, and public apologies have raised concerns over the way LGBTQ histories come to be celebrated and the challenges that arise when…

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‘Wounds don’t need to be closed’

in About Books/Featured by

Mi’kmaq poet and writer Shannon Webb-Campbell was living in Halifax in 2014, the February that Loretta Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador, was murdered. “I felt devastated and I wondered how I could help in any way. And so I started thinking maybe I could write a poetry book about this,” Webb-Campbell said. Who Took My Sister? explores the different kinds of trauma Indigenous women live through, with, and alongside. I invited Webb-Campbell to join myself and two other women as we talked about her new book (to be released March 20). So, in the middle of February, at an office in the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, three women met to talk with Webb-Campbell by phone about trauma, murdered and missing Indigenous women, and love. Métis cultural support worker with the Friendship Centre, Amelia Reimer, musician and community arts organizer Kate Lahey, and myself, a Métis writer and…

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‘What we can learn for the future’: David Vardy on the Muskrat Falls inquiry

in Featured/Journalism/Q&A by

The name David Vardy has been linked with criticism of the Muskrat Falls project since its earliest days, when he had already retired from public service. Vardy, a former Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet and chairman of the Public Utilities Board, says the questions we really need to answer are about democracy and how we as a society are going to respond to Muskrat Falls. I sat down for an interview with him before he left for the Muskrat Falls symposium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Q: What makes you happy about what’s going on with the Muskrat Falls issue right now? Anything? So what makes me happy is that we finally have a public inquiry. And this is not the public inquiry that I asked for: what I wanted was a panel of people that were very knowledgeable about construction projects. And what do we end up…

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Colonial narratives

in Featured/Opinion/To Each Their Own by

On a bitterly cold Saturday, with ice crystals in the air and a light scattering of snow underfoot, five or six dozen people gather at the steps of the Court House in St. John’s. They’re here to demand Justice for Colten Boushie, the 22-year old Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan who was shot and killed by Gerald Stanley, a 56-year old white farmer. The rally is hastily organized. There are two cheap loudspeakers, but most of the speakers forget to use them. There are no power outlets, and only one reporter present. One speaker forgot their gloves, and shivers as their skin turns an eerie shade of red. You’d think tears would freeze in cold like this, but they don’t—they flow strong and free. Drummers take to the steps of the Court House, and the rhythms they pound out, coupled with the clear and confident…

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An all-white jury runs from justice in the trial of Gerald Stanley

in Featured/Opinion by

Last night, a crowded Saskatchewan courtroom heard the verdict of the 12-person jury in the trial of 56-year-old Gerald Stanley, the white farmer charged in the 2016 shooting death of Red Pheasant First Nation member Colten Boushie. The decision to find Stanley ‘not guilty’ of the second-degree murder of 22-year-old Boushie set off a firestorm of reaction across social media, on both sides of the case. Here, Indigenous entrepreneur and commentator Robert Jago shares his perspective on what we should take away from the verdict. There is a video from outside the courthouse in Battleford, Saskatchewan, last night. It shows a screen which is split in four and displaying the courtroom, the jury box, the judge, and the accused in the Gerald Stanley case. As the verdict is announced, there are gasps and shouts; Colten Boushie’s mother cries out. Bailiffs grab Gerald Stanley and run out of the frame, and to a waiting truck…

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Tax evasion is costing our government billions

in Columns/Featured by

“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin. “In this world death is certain for everyone, but taxation is far from certain for those allowed to avoid it.” –Ed Finn. I recently received an unexpected letter from the Canada Revenue Agency. I always pay my income tax on time, but I still felt some trepidation. When my wife returned from the mail box and gave it to me, she said the expression on my face was akin to that of someone handed a ticking time bomb. My foreboding turned out to be unfounded. The four-page letter consisted of a detailed analysis of my 2016 tax return, with tables and graphs and a form to fill out and send back to the CRA. I could have trimmed the bureaucratic jargon to a single sentence: “We have reviewed your last tax payment and found that you owe the…

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The last season of the cofferdam?

in Featured/Journalism by

There are other sunken ships in Canadian waters that are labelled risks—ships besides the Manolis L., the one at the centre of this story. There are hundreds of other ships left at the bottom of Canadian waters, with names like Scout, Genie G., Arrel, M.F. Therese, the Northern Osprey, Dorothy B., and Mink. Sea Alert, Danny Boy, and Atlantic Charger, too. Many of them pose the same kind of environmental risks as the Manolis L. If you asked biologist and Memorial University professor Dr. Ian Jones, he’d say that’s what this article is really about. He’d say that what I should write about here isn’t just the Manolis L., with its fuel tanks deteriorating at the bottom of the Notre Dame Bay, off Fogo Island and Change Islands. He’d tell you that this story is about what biologists say is an ever-increasing risk of oil spills in the Canadian waters,…

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Telling the story of harassment in the RCMP

in Featured/Journalism by

On February 1, former RCMP Constable Janet Merlo spoke to a packed gathering hosted by the Department of Gender Studies at Memorial University about her experience of sexual harassment in the force. The harassment she along with thousands of other women in the RCMP experienced became the subject of a class action suit that was settled out of court last year. Her story, which is outlined in detail in her own book No One To Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP, is a powerful one that tackles a misogyny still deeply rooted in many workplaces, and one we thought we should share. Merlo looks out across campus, reminiscing about her days as a student and how much the university landscape has changed. An alumni of Squires House, she fondly recalls some of the antics of residence life. Joining the RCMP was not a career move she’d planned…

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