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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

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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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For Labrador Land Protectors ‘fear is gone’

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Time is running out for the Labrador Land Protectors. As spring thaws the frozen ground, anxieties are escalating for those who live downstream from the widely-contested Muskrat Falls hydroelectric mega-project: without an independent review of the stability of the North Spur and with a final decision yet to be made made on the methylmercury mitigation recommendations put forward by the Independent Expert Advisory Committee, residents say that they are desperate for answers and solutions. Last Monday, over 100 people gathered in Ottawa to send a message to the federal government, who have provided billions in loan guarantees to make the project happen: We’re still here, and we need support. Members and allies of the Labrador Land Protectors marched from the Human Rights Monument to Parliament Hill, where they intended to leave coloured pictures of Labradorians who currently live in fear of flooding and being poisoned on the desks of all…

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St. John’s Gay Men’s Chorus is going places

in Featured/Journalism by

Its first season opened barely a year ago, and already the St. John’s Gay Men’s Chorus is putting this province on the map. The Gay Men’s Chorus is a community chorus for LGBTQ men and allies, explains Yohei Sakai, the group’s founder and director. “We don’t do auditions – everyone is welcome,” he emphasizes. Sakai is a graduate student in music at Memorial University, and is originally from Japan. He had been part of gay men’s choruses in his native Japan as well as in Mexico when he moved to this province to continue his studies. “When I came here, Spectrum [Queer Choir] was already here but I noticed that not many gay men were singing, and for me gay men should sing. So I [knew] I had to do something.” After putting out a call on social media, the chorus launched its first season in April 2017, and it…

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“There’s no worse feeling in the world than feeling all alone in a city of seven and a half million people.”

in About Books/Arts & Culture/Featured by

Seamus Heffernan is not the first Newfoundlander whose background in journalism led him eventually to fiction. But finding his home in crime writing has been the culmination of a long-held dream. “Some kids dream of wanting to be an astronaut, some kids dream of scoring a Stanley Cup overtime winning goal, but for me, I always wanted to be a writer,” he recalled, the day after the launch of his debut novel Napalm Hearts. “So I guess last night was my overtime winning moment.” Throughout years of working for newspapers, magazines, and policy think-tanks, Heffernan yearned to write a serious piece of fiction. “I knew if I did that it was going to be in the crime genre, it was always the one I was drawn to. That was the format I was most comfortable with and I thought you can have fun with it while also saying an awful…

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‘Things are not all right in Labrador’: Cole

in Featured/Journalism by

You probably know there were rallies and protests across the country in support of the Labrador Land Protectors yesterday, but it’s a good bet you don’t know exactly what they are asking for. There are two things Denise Cole said they’d like the province to push for right away in order to reduce the risks identified by scientists: 1. remove the soil to reduce the risk of methyl mercury poisoning, and 2. cap the wetlands to prevent the spread of contaminants.  Sure, they’d like to shut down Muskrat Falls, but, barring that, they’d really like the expert recommendations to be implemented. You know, the ones in the reports outlined in this linked story by Ashley Fitzpatrick. There’s not much time to get this done as another summer is coming, said Cole, the communications coordinator with the group.  Government stalled on remediation efforts: Cole “We have governments in the province that…

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Taxes and fairness, Part 2: Anti-social transfers

in Featured/Indy Essay/Journalism by

Tax cuts are not the primary means chosen by governments in Canada to ensure that our tax regimes systemically favour the wealthy. A myriad of methods undermine tax fairness. The combined effect in 2015 of these anti-social transfers reduced by at least $633 million the taxes paid by those earning more than $100,000 a year in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). Social transfers are government programmes designed to reduce inequality by helping the vulnerable in society. They can be funded directly out of general revenues, or by contributions from the people and firms who are likely to benefit from the programme. Our income tax system itself can also be thought of as a form of social transfer, inasmuch as it taxes wealthier people at higher rates. A progressive income-tax system is fundamental to reducing inequality in Canada. By contrast, anti-social transfers are government actions that increase inequality. These can take many…

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Does your voice chafe? A book launch, a crowd of people, and two dentist appointments

in About Books/Featured by

I went to the book launch to see what Helen Fogwill Porter had to do with the the world I lived in. It was one of those things. I’d clicked ‘going’ on a facebook invite without actually knowing if I’d be able to attend. Like a lot of people, I have a lot on the go and I never know how my day will shape up until it arrives. But when my husband stepped up to take our daughters to their dentist appointments, that Thursday afternoon became unexpectedly clear. So I went.  I googled her name on my phone in the cab on the way there. She was born on the Southside  of St. John’s (and wrote a memoir about it). She’s been writing since the 1960s, novels, stories, and poetry. She’s a feminist. She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2016. The year before that,…

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Taxes and fairness, Part 1: Danny’s other legacy

in Featured/Indy Essay/Journalism by

We hear a lot about Muskrat Falls as Danny Williams’ legacy, but it is hardly the only problem he left us to sort out. He rejigged provincial income tax rates between 2007 and 2010 so as to primarily benefit our wealthiest citizens. The result is that people earning in excess of $100,000 a year have since received – in the form of reduced taxes – more money than the province normally raises through income tax in an entire year. Income distribution changing Income figures for 2015, recently released by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), reveal our province to be profoundly divided. Our income distribution now exhibits a strangely inverted symmetry: more than half the people earn only a fifth of the income, while a fifth of the people earn more than half. This pattern is new and results from changes in provincial government policy that favour high-income earners. This policy…

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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?

in Featured/Journalism by

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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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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