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Preparing for the post-oil economy

in Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL by

While some groups are helping workers transition out of the volatile oil industry, provincial legislation itself is proving a barrier to growth in renewable energy For nearly 30 years, crude oil has been a vital part of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. After the mass layoffs of the cod moratorium in 1992 left 30,000 people out of work, many hoped that the burgeoning industry would be the province’s financial saviour. In many ways, it was. By 2008, 10 years after the first barrels were pulled from the Hibernia oilfield, Newfoundland and Labrador became a “have” province for the first time in its history. The unemployment rate steadily declined, and for a time, things were looking good. The Sound of Post-Oil NL Listen to our conversation with Delia Warren about a future economy that takes advantage of the skills of the current work force, one that doesn’t leave oil workers…

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Southern Inuit feel leader used them for political gains

in Journalism by

Editor’s Note: This is a story co-published on APTN by Justin Brake. As a journalist with TheIndependent.ca, Justin Brake followed the land protectors onto the Muskrat Falls site and covered the occupation. He is facing criminal and civil charges from the event.  Justin Brake/APTN News Land protectors in Labrador facing civil and criminal charges related to the Muskrat Falls resistance are questioning the RCMP and a crown energy corporation’s decisions not to pursue charges against an Indigenous leader who went on to the dam’s construction site during a movement to stop the project in 2016. They also say that their leader, NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) President and former Liberal MP Todd Russell, failed to support Southern Inuit who were criminalized after following his lead.  They say throughout the movement to stop Muskrat Falls Russell was in pursuit of separate deals with the federal government and a provincial crown corporation. A video taken…

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Northern Ireland’s Unlikely Spirit of Freedom: The Art of Laurence McKeown

in Indy Essay by

“Do you think it will ever end?” one character asks another in Laurence McKeown’s 2016 play Green and Blue. He is referring to the Troubles, the decades of violence in Northern Ireland that saw over 3600 dead, 16,000 shootings, and at least 10,000 bombings. McKeown is a former member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977 for attempted murder. He joined the IRA at 17 after seeing people he knew interned without trial and feeling that his freedom amounted to hypocrisy. He was released in 1992 following a campaign that framed IRA prisoners as political hostages kept behind bars indefinitely while ordinary “lifers” were set free after 7 or 8 years. Today, at 62, McKeown works as an artist, producing films, books, poems, and plays aimed at responding to the political struggle that has shaped his life.  For centuries Ireland had been under British rule.…

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A Post-oil Newfoundland and Labrador?

in Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL by

Sure, the province decided to double-down on investment in oil in its last budget. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re heading toward a world with a lot less oil. There’s a lot of ink that could be spilled here about the various failures of leadership, citizenship and the media in getting us to the brink of a post oil-dependent world without any thought (never mind planning). But we want to focus on talking about what a future without oil might mean to us here. We’re not delivering solutions. We’re not prescribing tough medicine or pretending we know what medicine is the right kind. We are asking questions about what our future is going to be like and opening a dialogue. We’re hoping that, as a result, a few good ideas, some change-making energy, and some broader good comes of it all. We’re trying to move a mountain with a…

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From Manitoba to Newfoundland – why understanding the significance of the treaty relationship is so important

in Featured/Journalism by

When Loretta Ross was a young girl growing up in Manitoba, her school had a career day. The place was full of professionals from all sorts of fields. Yet there was only one Indigenous person. Ross was therefore drawn to him, and it was he who put the idea in her head that was to shape her future. “He said [Indigenous people] need lawyers. He talked a little bit about why we need lawyers—and I said that’s it! I’m going to do that. That’s what I want to be.” After the session, students returned to their classrooms, and their teacher asked them what careers they had decided they wanted to pursue. “I put up my hand, and she said: ‘What do you want to be?’ I said ‘I want to be a lawyer. I’m going to be a lawyer!’ And she squished her nose at me, and she said ‘Don’t…

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It’s a Hard-Rock Life for Us: Unlocking Social Mobility to Fix our Economy 

in Editorial/Opinion by

In the summer of 2012, when oil was still going for over $100 a barrel, a Rex Murphy-led documentary returned from commercial break and opened with the line “he’s a symbol of [Newfoundland’s] happy reversal of fortune.” The camera cut to a shot of a rusty Bell Island Ferry and then to my mother’s home kitchen.  I had turned down a sizeable national scholarship in a decision to earn a bachelor’s degree in my home province, with the intention of running for the Bell Island town council inside of a year. Murphy saw my decision as an expression of the confidence people felt since shrugging off our status as a have-not province four years prior.  But we hadn’t all shrugged off our have-not status so easily. “Have” status in tow, every young (and old) Bell Islander can still recall someone refer to their hometown as Fraggle Rock—the setting and namesake…

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“God Curse Thee Megadam”: Greg Hewlett on Muskrat Falls

in Featured/Indy Essay by

Six chance descriptions of the Muskrat Falls project: A project touted for its contribution to a sustainable energy future, and pursued doggedly for its renewable energy credentials by provincial and federal governments failing to meet emission targets, that not only produces huge amounts of CO2 and methane, but also becomes the foremost source of a debt that effectively binds provincial economic survival—at least in the near-term—to oil and gas production. A project presented as the cornerstone of the province’s long-term economic and energy security becomes a palpable threat to both. A project whose massive capacity is justified solely on the merits of future export revenues becomes one with no discernible viable markets. A project proposed as a major public asset, becomes the medium through which an essential service and its customers are financialized into a source of revenue on the global bond market, in an upward transfer of wealth that is as subtle as it is significant. In response…

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Heroes, sisters and Christine Blasey Ford

in Indy Essay/Journalism by

I’m writing now about heroes: the different kinds of heroes sisters need in their lives, and the different ways sisters can—sometimes without knowing it—sort of accidentally, at the right time, be the kind of hero that sisters need.  I’m writing this today twenty minutes after a breaking news report tells us that Senator Jeff Flake has announced he will support Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court in the United States, just after survivors of sexual assault confronted Flake with their own stories. I read a Globe and Mail column that recounts Professor Blasey Ford’s story and the stories of so many other women who’ve come forward to tell us all that we still don’t know what to do about sexual harassment and assault and the inequalities it creates between men and women. I just read Elizabeth Renzatti’s words: “They’ll be remembered as heroes and I hope that counts…

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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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Local books, universal journeys: The 2018 Newfoundland & Labrador Book Awards

in About Books/Arts & Culture by

There is a strength to local writing grounded in, but not limited to, connections to Newfoundland and Labrador. You can see this in the six books nominated for the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards, in the categories of Fiction and Children’s/Young Adult this year. There’s something about recognizing place. Now that I have come to know the streets of St. John’s, I can walk in Wanda Jaynes’ footsteps through Georgestown to Sobeys, thanks to Bridget Canning. I know someone who lives near the street Maureen grew up on and I recognize the significance of her desire to get away, as Mary Walsh did when she came up with Maureen’s story. And like Johnny, I am familiar with the bizarre connections that can be formed with strangers on the road here, as Joel Thomas Hynes writes.   Reading the three children’s books, I saw what Lar’s Fruit Stand looked like through…

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70/70: The Art of Modern Fabric

in IndyShorts/Journalism by


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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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The year of Newfoundland’s triumph

in About Books/Arts & Culture/Journalism by

1974. For most of us, it’s just a year – either one buried in distant memory, or one we are too young to have even experienced. Places have a longer memory, however, and for Newfoundland and Labrador, the year was a momentous one. It marked the province’s twenty-fifth anniversary of Confederation with Canada: an event celebrated with awkward abandon, including a series of disastrous dinners and fishing expeditions with the country’s premiers. For a new generation that had grown up after the entire Confederation imbroglio, it was an exciting time, and one aptly reflected in the province’s first big national game-show triumph. Reach For the Top was a quiz-style trivia program broadcast nationally on CBC television from 1966 to 1989 (with a brief revival in the mid 2000s). Teams of high school students across the country competed for prominence, and no Newfoundland team had ever won. But that year—1974—a team…

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

in About Books/The Nonagenarian’s Notebook by

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…

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Ed Riche on satire and our capacity for self-delusion

in Arts & Culture/Journalism/Uncategorized by

Ed Riche is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and more. However, he’s perhaps best known for his humour, and especially his satire. But according to Riche, we are now living in a “post-satiric” age. It’s one in which the seemingly satirical often turns out to be true; and in which there is a feeling in some quarters that speech which hurts should be shut down. How does a satirist ply their trade in a post-satiric age? “You just get ready to absorb more blows,” he says. “We’ve got the unthinkable – Donald Trump in the White House. That’s a punch line. It’s beyond all comprehension. Every day we look at that same reality and go ‘How could this have ever happened?’ He’s a horror clown, he’s a con man, he’s a grifter, he’s an idiot, he’s a crook, and yet he’s the most powerful man in the world. “And on…

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