Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What happened to Santina Rao in a Halifax Walmart should never happen again

When rates of women in our prisons are rising, things must change.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2020 at 11:50 AM

SUBMITTED
  • submitted

The Hyde Inquiry. The Wortley Report. The Fraser and Gardner trials. Constable Joseph Farrow's assault charge.

Indigenous, Black, people of colour, trans and nonbinary people have been calling this out forever, but the outrageous violence Santina Rao experienced at the hands of police last week has to be the last straw for Halifax's tolerance of police brutality in our communities.

There is simply no possible way to justify an officer punching a mother in the face in front of her toddlers.

Yet a few are entering the comments section to say she should have acquiesced, just done whatever they demanded, to avoid the fight. That now she bears some guilt. But her actions, to stretch her hands out and put herself between them and her kids, were pure protective cortisol.

When such intuitive defence happens in the movies, it is heroic and lauded. When it happens in Walmart, it gives the police a veil of legitimacy for uncontrolled and unlawful reactions. Let's see through this.

Unwarranted and illegal street checks allow police to later say so-and-so is known to police, designating the person as other, not ours, criminal. Well, we are all criminals. My children eat unwashed apples as we walk through the grocery aisles and I jaywalk every day.

Some of us get punished, some of us do not. We have plenty of painstakingly researched and beautifully written analyses of racism and policing in Nova Scotia and across Canada by El Jones, Desmond Cole, Robyn Maynard and others. We do not need to wait for any more information, or to hear from both sides. State violence does not get the benefit of the doubt. These platitudes subdue us out of moral righteousness, action and change.

And things must change. Our prisons are full of women, rates rising speedily and disproportionately among Indigenous, Black, women of colour, trans and nonbinary people. All who clapped back, lashed out against threats: the threats of poverty, violence, unaddressed and untreated sexual assault and criminalization of substance use. At what cost does this punitive state reaction to women's strategies for survival come? The criminalization of women breaks apart families and traumatizes generations. The colonial foster care system is stretched to breaking from racism and removals of Black and Indigenous children. Cities are in crisis as trauma and a poisoned opioid supply kill thousands. As we watch the video of Santina Rao's experience, we ask, "Who are we protecting through incarceration, when police perpetrate such violence?"

We know who our true protectors are. On the east coast this week it was the bravery of Santina Rao. On the other side of the country, fearless grandmothers are placing their bodies in front of RCMP to guard the earth at Wet'suwet'en. In every place in between, folks are holding marches, rallies and fundraising auctions. As civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander wrote on Friday, "a politics of deep solidarity is the only politics that holds any hope for our collective liberation."

A grapefruit in a stroller is not and never was a problem. It is clear from the police's actions that we do not have their support in the real struggles in our communities. The solution is not more police or more tools of policing, whether they be security footage or body cams or tanks. We need confidence in our collective solidarity to support our communities against the threats of white supremacy, child poverty, the overdose crisis, corporate greed, climate apocalypse and enduring violence against women.

Drop the charges against Rao. Compensate her generously. Hold the officers accountable. And never let this happen again.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

HRM’s shopping centres are a no-go zone for folks with accessibility needs

Poor design at Bayers Lake and Dartmouth Crossing is putting people at risk and costing businesses money.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 1:00 AM

Unpaved sidewalks like the ones pictured above outside Walmart in Bayers Lake make shopping dangerous for people with physical or visiual impairments. - OLUWATOMISIN ADESINA
  • Unpaved sidewalks like the ones pictured above outside Walmart in Bayers Lake make shopping dangerous for people with physical or visiual impairments.
  • Oluwatomisin Adesina

Q

uestion: What did the pedestrian’s $100 bill say to the Walmart in Bayers Lake? 
Answer: You ain’t getting none of this! 

Bayers Lake Business Park and Dartmouth Crossing are two of the busiest shopping areas in Halifax Regional Municipality, but are the most neglected when it comes to accessibility.

HRM has done well with taking care of the highly visited downtown commercial areas, but what about others? People who don't live in that area need to shop, but the municipality lacks infrastructure to keep them safe.

HRM needs to ensure safe intersections by installing audio signals for people who are blind or partially sighted. These areas need ramps and sidewalks with connecting walkways to the stores.

And what about the businesses? Do they know that they are losing money? Jennifer McNeil-Noble, the lead employment and technology coordinator for Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) says, "If you have universally designed spaces, you will attract a diverse population and increase spending power."

She says that Bayers Lake was not always as dangerous as it is today. "Ten years ago, it used to be safer because the 52 bus would go into the Superstore and Walmart driveway so you would not have to cross these roads." That bus has been cancelled and replaced by the 21 and 28 bus which, drop pedestrians off at bus stops. When pedestrians get dropped off, they likely have to cross a dangerous intersection to get to their destinations in the sprawling 2.36-kilometre-squared area of land.

In Dartmouth Crossing, the 56 bus is the only bus that serves pedestrians in the region. There are few crosswalks at the Crossing and those that are there lead to snowbanks.

Did someone scream "lack of planning?" Gerry Post, executive director of the Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate, suggests the solution is to run shuttle buses through stores in both commercial areas, especially IKEA.

McNeil-Noble works at building relationships with businesses to promote the employment of people who are blind or partially sighted in HRM. She warns that the inaccessibility of commercial areas restricts the range of jobs open to people with disabilities.

Brian George, a wheelchair user—and one of the most daring men in HRM—works at a store in Dartmouth Crossing. You did not read the last sentence wrong. He says he thinks the biggest problem is there are no sidewalks that lead to the store. George has a fluorescent yellow flag holstered by his wheelchair.

"There have been times that I have gone to grab a coffee and I would see a customer later that afternoon saying, 'We barely saw you and would have hit you if we hadn't seen your flag,'" he says.

What does this result in? Less money for businesses, fewer jobs for people with disabilities and backlash for HRM.

To finish, one more joke:
Q: What did Dartmouth Crossing cry to HRM?
A: Help!

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Clinic 554 has institution status in Canada’s abortion access history—why the changes it propelled shouldn’t spell its demise.

The only non-hospital surgical abortion clinic in the maritimes is in danger of closing.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Martha Paynter is a registered nurse who provides clinical abortion care. She is a lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Dalhousie University School of Nursing. Her doctoral research is supported by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. She is a member of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and the New Democratic Party. She was an active member of RJNB and she organized several fundraisers for Henry Morgentaler's legal disputes with New Brunswick. - MO PHUNG
  • Martha Paynter is a registered nurse who provides clinical abortion care. She is a lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Dalhousie University School of Nursing. Her doctoral research is supported by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. She is a member of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and the New Democratic Party. She was an active member of RJNB and she organized several fundraisers for Henry Morgentaler's legal disputes with New Brunswick.
  • MO PHUNG

T he only non-hospital based surgical abortion clinic in the Maritimes is in financial trouble. Unlike other provinces and territories, New Brunswick has a clause in its provincial Medical Services Payment Act (Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2 a. 1) specifically prohibiting public payment for abortion "unless the abortion is performed in a hospital facility." Ten thousand people signed a petition against the regulation, which forces patients to pay between $700 and $850 out of pocket for the procedure. Patients cannot afford to pay, and Clinic 554 cannot afford to stay open without payment for one of its core services.

On Monday, prime minister Trudeau spoke with New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs about the clinic's threatened closure. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited Fredericton last weekend, calling for federal action to save Clinic 554. Former Green leader Elizabeth May said her support for the federal throne speech is contingent on funding for the clinic. NB Green leader David Coon suggests if the regulation is not repealed, the health authority could buy the clinic, and then hopefully the health care providers would be paid.

Higgs claims his refusal to cover surgical abortions at Clinic 554 is because the province does not fund private clinics and abortions are available in hospitals. As a nurse committed to education about abortion in Canada, I see that, after Canada's geography, persistent misinformation is one of the last barriers to accessible care. Understanding how we got here is important in deciding where we need to go.

When physician and pro-choice advocate Henry Morgentaler died in 2013, the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic, located at 554 Brunswick Street, was placed for sale. At the time the clinic was one of the only options for patients in NB and PEI. Terrified about potentially losing the clinic, Reproductive Justice New Brunswick (RJNB) fundraised enough to cover a down payment. Physician Adrian Edgar assumed ownership and responsibility for the clinic. In early 2015, Clinic 554 opened its doors.

The clinic provides surgical abortions up to a gestational age of 15 weeks and six days, and family practice services, including invaluable care for a growing and otherwise underserved trans and non-binary patient population. Physician services at the clinic, except surgical abortion, are funded by the New Brunswick Department of Health­—the standard for the remuneration of physician services under Medicare. In general, every physician, in clinics or hospitals, operates as a private for-profit business, funded by the government.

Since its reopening, three major regulatory developments have affected services at Clinic 554. In 2014, newly elected Liberal premier Brian Gallant repealed the requirement for physician referral to receive hospital-based abortion care. Three hospitals (one in Bathurst and two in Moncton) now offer self-referral for surgical abortion up to gestational age 13 weeks and six days.

In 2015, Health Canada approved Mifepristone, the gold standard medication for medical abortion (pills to induce abortion at home). By 2017, Mifepristone could be provided by any prescriber, family physicians and nurse practitioners included, in their private offices.

In 2016, PEI admitted its abortion ban was unconstitutional, and began offering self-referral surgical and medical services the following year.

Widening abortion access by introducing self-referral, expanding hospital provision, and the introduction of medical abortion across primary care empowers Higgs to continue to exclude clinic surgical abortions from the Medical Services Payment Act. Indeed, there are considerably more options than five years ago.

But we still need Clinic 554. Fredericton is a university town with students and others needing local services. Some patients are too late for the hospital gestational age cap of 13 weeks and six days. Many require the sensitive care offered by clinicians at an abortion-focused clinic. The persistent exclusion of clinic-based surgical abortion from public payment is also simply wasteful. The clinic serves thousands of patients for primary care and trans health. It is recognized by the National Abortion Federation as a safe site for surgical abortion, with a dedicated and experienced provider. It must be supported enthusiastically by the government. The repeal of anachronistic 84-20 Schedule 2 a. 1 is overdue.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What is the biggest determinant of achievement in education?

Think bigger than teachers. It’s economics.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 4:58 PM

city-opinion.png

What is the biggest determinate of a quality education? Is it teachers, or is it something far beyond the reach of teachers? What are the factors that continue to keep the achievement gap a seething sea of despair?

I'll start here and tell you that it comes down to economics, plain and simple. We may blame it on a whole bunch of other things and give it many names, but it boils down to economics.

As an educator in the public school system for the past 18 years, I've worked in priority—schools that tend to score the lowest on standardized assessments—and non-priority schools, and spent time as an African Nova Scotian support worker, employment/life skill counsellor, income assistance worker, family skills worker and curriculum consultant. I clearly see economics as the biggest culprit in determining how students fare emotionally, socially, mentally, physically and academically. Until these former needs are met, students are not able to work to their full academic potential.

Let's start with one of these economic culprits: Nutrition. It's likely students who have poor diets are not functioning to their full potential. If that diet consists of refined sugars, chances are students will have difficulty focusing and be more likely to make poor decisions that lead to behavioural difficulties.

I've seen students consume upwards of 60 grams of sugar in less than 15 minutes during their recess snack, compared to students who have balanced diets with less than 10 grams of added sugar during their learning day. It is not difficult to predict the behavioural effects of diet on both these groups.

Simply put, eating healthy can be challenging and expensive.

Another determinate as an effect of economics is trauma. Students who are exposed to multiple traumas during their formative years have an increased chance of displaying traits that closely mimic those of ADHD. Often these behaviours are treated with medication to relieve the symptoms and render these students more "ready to learn" in a classroom environment.

Students who have been exposed to multiple traumas without interventions are at increased risk of long-term behavourial problems and chronic diseases.

Expose a brain to trauma and the effects can be long-lasting, possibly generational. Intervention can play a key role: The brain has a way of rewiring and rendering itself moldable, especially in children. A safe, engaging environment can foster healthy brain growth. If we can't control trauma, we can at least treat it. There are ways, even in the classroom that trauma can be dealt with, or at least addressed.

When trauma and diet are not addressed as reasons for low academic achievement, the practice of teaching is. The expectation is that teachers need to become better at their practice. Teachers need to be unwavering, unbreakable and more accountable. The reality is that teaching is hard and working in "priority" schools tends to be more demanding.

Schools in affluent neighbourhoods traditionally have better assessment results, fewer issues with behaviour and subsequently, higher teacher retention. Why? Are the teachers better at these schools? I know this not to be the case. Regionally, teachers are all exposed to the same types of professional development and are certified based on the same criteria.

These two determinants of education—diet and trauma—are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the link between economics and education. Add race to this and, well, that's a whole other article.


———
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ramadan supports unavailable for prisoners in Burnside

“These people don’t care about my religion.”

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 3:04 PM

Masuma Khan is an Afghan settler born and raised in Mi'kmaq territory. Masuma is also soon to be a Dalhousie alumni, graduating this spring with a double major in International Development Studies and history. She is also a very active community member and organizer. - MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • Masuma Khan is an Afghan settler born and raised in Mi'kmaq territory. Masuma is also soon to be a Dalhousie alumni, graduating this spring with a double major in International Development Studies and history. She is also a very active community member and organizer.
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, a religiously significant month for Muslims, because it is during the Month of Ramadan that the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). For 1,440 years, Muslims around the world have experienced Ramadan as a time to reconnect with the creator. The most special part about Ramadan to me, is that it fills my soul. Spiritual healing experienced during Ramadan fills me with the strength to survive another year.

This is not the case, however, for Muslim brothers incarcerated in the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside.

Last year Muslim brothers complained that they had no access to Islamic programming during Ramadan and their fasting needs weren't being met. So this time Musa, a Muslim man, asked for changes. He hasn't seen any yet.

Musa told me over the phone he was feeling isolated, uncomfortable and very unlike himself. He doesn't have any visitors and is trying to hold onto his deen [faith]. After last Ramadan, Musa spoke with the deputy super and manager and put in a request asking to have regular access to an imam [Muslim leader of prayer]. There used to be access, but eight months ago it stopped. He says that before Ramadan, he asked for some books and got no response, so he got his sister to send some of his books and the box was sent back without even being opened. "Every day I tell them about Ramadan, they don't take it seriously," says Musa. "So now they're violating my rights. And I've put forward so many requests and complaints forward. These people don't care about my religion.

"I think I they're trying be a thorn to the reversion of brothers who turn Muslim. Every day I read the news about how Saudi and Somalia is like this, but Canada is the leading country for human rights. That's a farce. If you're Black or Indigenous, they do not upkeep your rights. They do not uphold the charter. They do not treat people humanely."

Musa wants more accountability, and wants the Muslim community to "keep the brothers that are incarcerated in their duas [prayers]," he says. Our call ended soon after that, how they always end. I read Musa Quran. It is a beautiful moment to share with Musa, where we both focus on the words of the creator.

But I am sad, because Musa's Ramadan is nothing even remotely close to mine. While I have no barriers to access Islam, Musa is using his time talking to me, to learn more about Islam and work on his character.

All I know is that I don't want Musa and others to feel this way. I want them to know we are here. And, yes you are in our prayers, but it doesn't stop there. We need to take action; it is time for accountability.

And to the chaplain at Burnside Jail, I ask you brother, what would Jesus do? Jesus would never act as a barrier to faith, he would not do this to his Muslim brothers. So why are you?

——— 
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Are there really any Shannon Park stadium stans out there?

Halifax’s true favourite sport: stadium bashing

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 1:00 AM

ARCHITECTURE49
  • architecture49

Stadium-bashing has evolved into a far more popular and fun sport around here than football ever will be. The flames of public ridicule and horror are amply fanned by the announcement of some eye-watering costs to be taxpayer-funded, followed by the protracted absence of any firm business proposal from Maritime Football.

The latest: Shannon Park's "grand stadium" plans have been scaled down to a cute college-style facility. If you'd like to get a feel for how much of a thriving community hub it will (or won't) be check out the Wanderers Grounds off Sackville Street.

Nothing underlines our stadium tunnel-vision more than the forgotten alternatives. What else could we do with this prime land? Could it benefit the community and local economy more without pro-sport allurement?

Shannon Park enjoys close proximity to our urban core, killer views over downtown and the Bedford Basin, a unique history and an awesome coastal landscape. It's an opportunity to showcase our renewed enthusiasm for reducing sprawl by creating a walkable urban community which has everything onsite—housing, shops, employment, green spaces and a school.

Public consultations in 2015 revealed our desire for a mixed use development with ample green spaces, waterfront access and an emphasis on people, not cars. We asked that the heritage of the area including the Mi'kmaq settlement at Tufts Cove be respected.

Shannon Park is owned by Canada Lands Company (CLC), the federal government's real estate and redevelopment corporation. It's still waiting for approval from Halifax Regional Municipality of their comprehensive concept plans submitted back in December 2016, and says it's been ready to build since the summer of 2017.

Could Shannon Park work as simply a great place to live, work, play and explore? Can we trust CLC's decades of experience with distilling liveable places from public opinion? And vitally for the taxpayer, their ability to self-finance projects? Or do renderings released last month on Twitter by Architecture49 announcing the Atlantic Schooners and Sport Nova Scotia's plans for a Shannon Park Community Stadium mean a loophole has been found and the stadium is inevitable?

Look at all those fans: Beer-drinking, fry-scarfing, car-driving football enthusiasts. - ARCHITECTURE49
  • Look at all those fans: Beer-drinking, fry-scarfing, car-driving football enthusiasts.
  • architecture49

Why the scurrying at our expense to justify and deliver a stadium-cum-aquarium? Isn't taxpayer cash for essential services? Instead of staff working out a business case to support this expensive enticement, they could work out the revenue and jobs created from CLC's current plans for Shannon Park.

Then estimate the cost of losing the proposed services, workplaces and homes to the 20 acres of land Maritime Football want including occasionally used car parking space, and the suggested hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds required to buy, build and maintain a temple for football worshippers.

Maybe that commercial analysis will provide us with renewed enthusiasm and gratitude for the Moosehead and Wanderer action we can enjoy right here and now in Halifax, also CLC's on-the-table and ready to go self-funded proposal?


Martyn Williams is an Englishman who is here for the hockey, warm hospitality and awesome nature. He is also an advocate for improved safety for vulnerable road users, founding facebook group HRM Safe Streets for Everyone.


———
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cogswell’s flyovers and flyby consulting

“Not a travesty, but an opportunity missed.”

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 5:24 PM

city-opion.png

As soon as early fall, those much-loathed suspended highways could come crashing down amid applauding crowds. God knows where all the traffic will go whilst we await Cogswell to be reborn from the rubble, but with all those great new public spaces and viewpoints this is a story about people winning over traffic, right?

Back at the 2013 Shake Up public consultation we dreamt up a Cogswell which prioritized people. Consequently, the 2014 Cogswell Land Plan declared the new Cogswell would be a "walkable and transit-oriented extension of the fine grained downtown of Halifax" in "stark contrast" to the current auto-centric Cogswell. Critical: It must "recognize the scale, special urban design issues, and special qualities of the city that make it unique."

Thanks to the Integrated Mobility Plan, rehabilitated streets in our urban core must follow the Complete Street approach, with first priority given to the safety and comfort of pedestrians through bumpouts and traffic calming.

Fast-forward to 2018. Given all the above, we expected impressive people-focused stuff. But what we got in the 60 percent complete plans was a Cogswell which didn't look and feel like Halifax, with roundabouts and wide roads foremost in priority.

Twenty-three stakeholders including key business and active transport organizations expressed concern that the plans did not meet the design remit and priorities identified by regional council in 2014. Although public consultation over the summer of 2018 was focused on public spaces, not street and block configurations, design consultants Gehl provided some last-minute input.

Verdict: The plans were traffic, not people-focused. Buildings were too large, and streets needed to be redesigned as places. It was unclear how Cogswell would reflect Halifax's unique identity, or how pedestrians would be protected from traffic.

Things had clearly gone awry. Gehl recommended decision-makers should create a shared vision for Cogswell: Time to go back and consult.

I believe this didn't happen. The 90 percent complete plans were produced quietly, just a few days before they were approved by council, without giving stakeholders the chance to review the plans and provide feedback.

The 90 percent complete plans retain the look and feel of the 60 percent complete plans—a road network with some peripheral, indirect and sometimes traffic-marooned buildings and routes for residents, pedestrians and cyclists. As Patty Cuttell of the North End Business Association aptly puts it, Cogswell has been reduced to "loose infrastructure ideas without an overall vision to bring it together."

The final work is on building designs. Will this be driven by commerce, or the community? Without buildings that are attractive, full of character and which reflect Halifax's heritage, the opportunity to realize the vision we dreamt up in 2013 is well and truly sunk.

Cogswell will be more than just about traffic, but it may not be liveable, loveable and full of the character which defines Halifax and makes it a great place to be. Not a travesty, but an opportunity missed.

——— 
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Making the case for Black spaces

Survival-mode shouldn't be the status-quo.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Vaughn Stafford Gray (VSG to his friends) is a professional ex-pat, writer and Malcolm Gladwell superfan. He shares his birthday with Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde and has a storage locker solely dedicated his collection of books on etiquette and entertaining and back issues of Monocle magazine. - SUBMITTED
  • Vaughn Stafford Gray (VSG to his friends) is a professional ex-pat, writer and Malcolm Gladwell superfan. He shares his birthday with Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde and has a storage locker solely dedicated his collection of books on etiquette and entertaining and back issues of Monocle magazine.
  • Submitted

No, it’s not segregation. Neither is it reverse racism which, by the way, is not a thing. The need for Black people to have their own spaces is, in a word, healing.

It’s been almost 54 years since the end of Jim Crow and whether it’s Gucci or Halloween, we are still trying to convince people about the ignominy of blackface. Yet we are told as Black people to regularly suckle the insipid teat that says we are living in a post-racial world. Fun. 

Simply put, we are tired. Black spaces allow Black people to have an intermission from the performance of the parts of ourselves that make white people comfortable. “Having Black spaces allow us to be together and be our true selves without the pressure of minimizing or changing who we are,” says Bria Miller, program coordinator at the Khyber Centre For The Arts and case-worker at Elizabeth Fry Society.

As an immigrant to Canada who has lived in both Toronto and Halifax, finding Black spaces was crucial to my well-being. For me, it was the barbershop. I realized that even though I “fit in” with the culture of the racial majority, I needed a respite from the daily dallying around micro-aggressions.

Kate Sunabacka is a community volunteer and industrial engineering student at NSCC. When asked about the importance of Black spaces, she says: “How to interact within more dominant Caucasian situations becomes normalized but often minorities go into survival like modes as a way of protection. People don’t realize that survival mode takes a lot of strength and energy. These spaces are important because it provides a ‘safe’ space where one can relax from ‘survival’ mode.”

Says Haligonian R&B singer-songwriter Kwento (AKA Kirsten Olivia), who is currently on the Mother Land, without missing a beat, “Black spaces are important because I can’t love my face until I see its reflection.”

In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates observes that terms like race relations serve “to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth.” 

Even within marginalized communities like the LGBTQ+, Black people oftentimes have to politically take up space in order to be seen and heard. Cue: Black Lives Matter at the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade. 

Due to the racial imbalance of our society, it is imperative for oppressed voices to be heard. There, however, is hope. 

It lies with Black millennials, as they are among the first generation to engage in a comprehensive discussion about healing. And, in the words of Kwento, “All Black people know why they need space.”

——— 
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.
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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Racism persists amidst Nova Scotia's school systems

African Nova Scotian educator and writer Maxine Tynes's poetry is a tool for teaching

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Halifax writer Evelyn C. White is the author of Alice Walker: A Life. - SUBMITTED
  • Halifax writer Evelyn C. White is the author of Alice Walker: A Life.
  • SUBMITTED

I’m among those who cherish poetry as the highest literary genre. So, I was delighted to discover, after moving to Halifax from BC, The Door of My Heart, a poetry collection by Maxine Tynes. A beloved African Nova Scotian educator and writer, Tynes died from complications of post-polio syndrome in 2011. I never met her.

But my sadness about her death, at 62, was recently assuaged when I attended a meeting at the Alderney Gate Library. It was held in the Maxine Tynes Room, which showcases a magnificent portrait of the author.

I enjoyed all the poems in The Door but one struck me as especially profound. As the book had been loaned to me, I photocopied the piece, “Head Count: Black Students in My Academic Nest.” Its importance became clear when I was later hired as a part-time tutor for African Nova Scotian students enrolled at Nova Scotia Community College. Through them, I’ve gained a greater understanding of the long history of racism that has undermined the longest-standing Black population in Canada. 

In Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth Century Halifax, Ted Rutland cites an 1850s editorial in the Halifax Morning Post that decried African Nova Scotians as an “unproductive and destitute group” best suited for slavery. The Provincial Magazine chimed in: “We have no hesitation in pronouncing [African Nova Scotians] far inferior in morality, intelligence and cleanliness, to the very lowest among the white population.” 

Fast-forward to the infamous 1989 snowball fight at Cole Harbour High School that drew international attention to the bigotry in Canada’s Ocean Playground. The response to the crisis (as reported in Maclean’s, February 27, 1989) by then Member of the Legislative Assembly David Nantes? “There is no problem with racism in the educational system—it simply doesn’t exist.”  Well, hush my mouth. 

An NSCC student I work with proudly traces her African Nova Scotian roots back several generations. But such was the degradation she suffered in local schools that, decades later, she remains unnerved around whites.  

After a single tutoring session at the Central library she asked me to schedule future meetings at the Gottingen Street branch in the historically Black north end. “I’m not comfortable at the new library,” she explained. “I feel like I don’t belong.” As a Black woman who chose Halifax, in large part, because of the spectacular new facility, it pained me to promise the student she’d never have to set foot in it again. 

Another student I tutored, then a housekeeper at a hotel, told me that her white supervisor “teased” her about returning to school. Unsympathetic to the student’s request for work shifts that didn’t conflict with her classes, the supervisor ultimately forced her to make a decision: Read books or change sheets. I never saw her again.   

The smiling visage of Viola Desmond on a $10 bill notwithstanding, African Nova Scotians continue to suffer the wounding effects of systemic racism. Think about it: An image of a scantily clad Black woman, poised to smoke a cigarette, and holding a baby reigned, for days last year in the Early Childhood Education program at the NSCC campus in Yarmouth—until African Nova Scotians complained. We’re still waiting on the report about this despicable “Hoochie Mama” incident.


Maxine Tynes celebration
Thursday, February 28, 6pm
Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute
5450 Cornwallis Street, free

"Head Count: Black Students in My Academic Nest"
By Maxine Tynes

the drift
the crowd, and then
the ones and the twos of you
the odd and too few
dark faces in a class set of you
we eye-connect
across a sea of chalkdust
and of desks
Black students in my academic nest
at arms length
I hear and I share your bravado and your banter
I jump-back time
I am you again

we know the beast-beat of salmon
against the tide
against the tide 

From The Door of My Heart (Pottersfield Press, 1993)

———
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

No more booty smooshing: A vow of celibacy in 2019

Undertaking a year of no sex in the name of self-love.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 11:36 AM


Leslie Greening is a queer member of the local kink community and former cam model. You can find her on Twitter and Fetlife, @PinkPunkSlut. - ADOBE STOCK
  • Leslie Greening is a queer member of the local kink community and former cam model. You can find her on Twitter and Fetlife, @PinkPunkSlut.
  • Adobe Stock

Declaring a year of celibacy feels ominous. Like I am punishing myself for not tidying up my life so I took away my toys...except I still have my toys.

I haven’t lost my mind. I’m just trying something new. No sex, for a year. Can I even do this? 

This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of smooshing booties, I am hanging out solo. I haven’t figured out how to navigate dating without sex yet. What do people do after so much time together romantically? Kiss and say goodbye? I’m not ready for that kind of pressure. 

It’s only been since February 1 that I’ve decided to abstain, and I’m still learning to navigate the world from this different perspective. 

There are some asexual folks, people who experience no sexual desire, who might still engage in sex acts to please their partners despite not feeling desire themselves. I spoke to one woman who is asexual and she explained that being polyamorous in addition to asexual can have the added benefit of alleviating the pressure to please a partner since there is some reassurance their needs are being met in another way. This is about my speed. 

Highly sexual people often date with the anticipated outcome of sex. It’s not expected but often desired. How does one date without sex? I don’t know, yet. When do I broach the conversation of sex with potential partners? On my profile, during that ever-awkward introductory chat, during the first date? 

If I disclose my non-sex-having status upon agreeing to date, I might save everyone some time if it’s not something they are willing to navigate. Which is fair. I think. 

Though chastity before marriage is a fairly well-known social construct, I’ve only known a handful of people who successfully followed through with it all the way from first date through the ceremony. While I don’t anticipate matching with a devoutly religious person, I can appreciate the social pressure to “put out” a bit better now that I won’t be. 

While I can strongly relate to (though not fully understand) celibacy before marriage, I don’t want to assume I know the ins and outs of what it is like to navigate the dating word as asexual or greysexual, experiencing limited sexual desire only in specific circumstances. Though I can relate to certain experiences, my sexual desire still exists and I’ll have to learn to cope with that separately. I hope the motor on my Hitachi survives. 

Sexuality really isn’t just orientation but also drive. The desire—or not—to have sex is fairly innate. Wanting to satisfy one’s partner is reasonable but I need to consider navigating my own limitations as well. Do I even want to date someone unwilling to be understanding of these boundaries, however new they may be to me? 

I’m not sure cuddly sleepovers after a night of drinks would be particularly restful if I’m grinding my teeth in frustration all night long. For the sake of being affectionate and showing attraction, do I just suck it up and potentially have a terrible night’s sleep? Or do I avoid a tempting situation altogether? 

Realistically most of the answers to my many, many questions are going to boil down to the type of relationships I keep. Maybe a  cuddly sleepover full of lust is worth it for the right person. For now, the only right person I’m worried about is me. I need to take a beat and spend my time differently. Maybe I’ll pick up a hobby like knitting…or kickboxing. 

Whatever it is, I hope I learn something from this personal experiment of sorts. Otherwise, a year is a long time not to do a thing I love.


———

Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

When will Dalhousie learn?

The appointment of Peter MacKinnon is just one more way the university is ignoring its goal to foster inclusion.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 4:01 AM

Students use free expression to protest Dal hiring “free speech” advocate Peter MacKinnon. - ASHLEY CORBETT
  • Students use free expression to protest Dal hiring “free speech” advocate Peter MacKinnon.
  • ASHLEY CORBETT

Within the last six years, you’ve probably heard Dalhousie boasting about strategic priority 5.2. This directive urges the university to “Foster a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness.”

The fact that this is not strategic priority number one tells you a lot about Dal’s priorities and foreshadows the climate of the campus. Many of us have sat through countless presentations on 5.2 and what has Dalhousie learned? How many times have staff and students been tokenized to teach the university how to not erase our identities from existence, to the extent that some of these presentations have literally been focused on addressing implicit biases?

Masuma Khan is an Afghan woman who is a second-generation settler on Mi’kmaq territory. She is the vice president academic and external for her second term at the DSU, and in her final year of international development and history at Dalhousie. - MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • Masuma Khan is an Afghan woman who is a second-generation settler on Mi’kmaq territory. She is the vice president academic and external for her second term at the DSU, and in her final year of international development and history at Dalhousie.
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
Furthermore, how has Dalhousie not learned from the very public mistakes it has been making? How many more Dal dentistry scandals will it take? How many more disciplinary cases will they have to proceed with when racialized students use hashtags like #WhiteFragilityCanKissMyAss?

In Peter MacKinnon’s book, University Commons Divided, the new interim Dal president justifies blackface, refers to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 16th call to action as “problematic,” and caricatures students and faculty who care about social justice as either unreasonable and/or violent. And that’s not even the half of it. Can someone please tell me how Peter MacKinnon’s appointment supports strategic priority 5.2?

It is clear he doesn’t make any effort to understand racism. It is clear the university’s “commons” to him is for white people only. So how does hiring someone who explicitly thinks that student’s pronouns are up for debate due to free speech, or thinks blackface isn’t racist, fit into strategic priority 5.2?

Throughout the years, I have seen Dalhousie persistently treat its most marginalized students in horrific ways with no accountability from the institution. What baffles me is the use of the rhetoric of free speech to uphold these acts of oppression. In my experience, freedom of speech doesn’t exist unless you’re white. Just look at the reaction of board of governors chair Larry Stordy to the student protestors at MacKinnon’s welcome. You’d think, if this book really promoted free expression, he’d be thrilled to see students take up MacKinnon’s call. Instead, he was furious, and insulted the students by saying that they didn’t understand the book, otherwise they wouldn’t be speaking out.

I’m tired of hearing cis white men uphold their supremacist ideologies by connecting them to freedom of speech. It is not OK, nor is it fair, that people are remaining complicit in upholding these ideologies. This freedom of speech debate isn’t so free.

I thought freedom of speech existed so that those in marginalized communities could openly state their thoughts, rather than to uphold the ideologies of the oppressor while silencing everyone else. People are more interested in debating the realities of people’s existences than respecting the territory they’re on—at least that’s what the air tastes like at Dal. A fog of microaggressions ensues as you approach the campus, until the racist wrath of Dalhousie holds you in its grips and attempts to destroy you. It has been hard to exist in such a racist learning environment.

Dalhousie is happy to charge international students exorbitant fees and recruits students for this purpose, but then doesn’t want to respect their cultures and backgrounds once they are here.

During my time as a Dalhousie student, I have had my fair share of racist incidents—both by individuals, as well as the institution as a whole—as have countless others. Many of us have had to put everything on the line to call out Dalhousie for its hypocrisy. There has been a consistent cycle of anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, sexism, rape culture, homophobia, transphobia and countless other forms of oppression.

What message is this sending students at Dal? I see countless students every week who are scared to talk about the stuff that happens to them on campus. And somehow Dalhousie thought that hiring Peter MacKinnon would foster a collegial environment of diversity and inclusion?

I have to ask, seriously, when will Dalhousie ever learn?

———

Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.
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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Doing less means more for city streets

The focus of HRM’s complete street plan should be places where we can feel complete as a community.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 3:59 AM

Halifax is looking for big changes on Spring Garden Road. - VIA HRM
  • Halifax is looking for big changes on Spring Garden Road.
  • VIA HRM

Transport diversity? Just cram more into our streets! Add a transit priority route, cycle lanes, more space for pedestrians. But we’ll need to keep everyone happy by maintaining plenty of room for traffic—including those precious dedicated turning lanes—and oodles of on-street parking fit for a fleet of Yukon XLs. All of this and more for our “complete street” remake recipe a la Cogswell.

How about space where you can hang out and enjoy just being on a really great street? Could trying to do less with our streets achieve transport diversity, and gain more customization for shops and services?

Martyn Williams is a demotivated English pedestrian who refuses to shop in a mall. VIA HRM - SUBMITTED
  • Martyn Williams is a demotivated English pedestrian who refuses to shop in a mall. VIA HRM
  • SUBMITTED
I caught up with Frank Palermo, planning professor at Dalhousie, who expressed his concerns at the Spring Garden Road public meeting that such proposals “miss the point” of what a main street is really about.

“A real main street has a social function—it is a marketplace for people to enjoy, shop and linger. But transportation needs, including using Spring Garden road as a bus transit corridor, dictate the proposed plan options for Spring Garden Road. Making the street exciting, entertaining and a great destination is totally neglected.”

Palermo says we need to revisit the conceptual elements of the design process: How can Spring Garden Road become more of a place where people enjoy shopping and just being there? Could we, for example, make green space, garden beds and planters as the defining central feature to promote relaxation and enjoyment?

“It might be fine to maintain one or two tight lanes for traffic, but the bump outs, loading space, bus priority lanes and forced turns create a traffic dominated feel to the street and severely compromise its main street function,” he says.

Patty Cuttell Busby, executive director of the North End Business Association, expresses similar criticisms.

“The changes to Gottingen were marketed to us as a ‘complete street’ transformation but that didn’t happen,” she says. “Instead, it was just to pave the way for Gottingen to become a transit priority corridor.”

The result, says Cuttell Busby, is a street worse-off as a destination. The central traffic lane created by the bus lane enables traffic to move at consistently higher speeds. Because the curb bump-outs don’t encroach into Gottingen, there’s nothing to slow traffic or make it easier to cross for pedestrians, and buses moving at speed right by the sidewalk is disconcerting.

My experience seeing ambitious main street plans unfold and succeed in Britain is that the more the design focuses on the actual experience of hanging out on the street, the more the space becomes busier and better for all. Businesses can open up along the middle of streets. Urban cores are transformed into an incredible open space for relaxation, enjoyment, peace and ultimately (attention: decision-makers) a load of people spending money and loving living right, slap bang in the middle of the city.

Couldn’t work here? It’s colder, but a lot less wet, grey and miserable than Britain where we mainly shop on streets, not malls. Yes, in Halifax we’re accustomed to driving everywhere and parking right by our destination.

But, as former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat put it when she visited Halifax last year to discuss our Centre Plan, “This city was founded in 1749—with small, walkable urban blocks. Walking has been the main form of transportation here much longer than driving has.”

Maybe we can build on this and make the focus of our complete streets a place where we can, just feel complete. In return, we’ll make a ton of money for people.


———

Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Nova Scotia’s approach to data protection remains stuck in the past

The government’s blasé attitude to securing sensitive data is pretty galling, even by provincial standards.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2019 at 11:37 AM

VIA NOVA SCOTIA
  • VIA NOVA SCOTIA


South of the border, U.S. president Donald Trump is facing a barrage of mockery for the fact that his proposed border wall is “a 1st-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, given the way our own government struggles to implement technology.

Michael Karanicolas is a human rights advocate who works to promote freedom of expression, government transparency and digital rights. You can follow him on Twitter at @M_Karanicolas and @NSRighttoKnow. - SUBMITTED
  • Michael Karanicolas is a human rights advocate who works to promote freedom of expression, government transparency and digital rights. You can follow him on Twitter at @M_Karanicolas and @NSRighttoKnow.
  • SUBMITTED
On Tuesday, Catherine Tully, Nova Scotia’s information and privacy commissioner, released her report into the massive data breach of the province’s Freedom of Information web portal, which revealed that the leak was far more damaging than first reported, and included not just social insurance numbers, but also “extremely sensitive personal information” such as medical information and reports of child abuse.

The government’s blasé attitude to securing this sensitive data was pretty galling, even by Nova Scotian standards. The report tells a story of repeated warnings ignored or kicked down the road, including from the information and privacy commissioner herself, who specifically flagged the possibility that users of the website might be able to access unauthorized documents back in December 2017. The government treated legally mandated privacy and security assessments as little more than a box to check, copying and pasting information from the vendor’s own promotional documents rather than carrying out its own analysis. The report points to the government’s “comfortable vendor relationship” with Unisys as having led to complacency, and a failure to rigorously assess the risks associated with the project.

The report, and an accompanying letter which the information and privacy commissioner sent to the premier, includes a number of common sense recommendations for updating the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, including stronger requirements for privacy impact assessments, and enhanced powers for the commissioner. But while the government claims to be taking these seriously, many of these same recommendations were made by Tully’s office back in June 2017. Indeed, the idea of giving the commissioner order-making power goes back to a Liberal Party campaign promise from back in 2013!

The report raises issues beyond those Tully focuses on. For example, the chummy relationship between Unisys and the government leads to questions about the procurement process by which government contracts are awarded and the need for better transparency and open contracting policies. Similarly, we’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why the initial messaging was that the government had been hacked, when the truth was that the government had left these files sitting on the open web. Tully does not fault the police in their response, though it is worth noting that, six months later, the “perpetrator” still hasn’t been given back his computer. Still, while the information commissioner’s recommendations won’t solve every problem, they are at least a good start.

Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was passed 25 years ago, when grunge was king and the commercial internet had just been introduced. Much has changed since then, but Nova Scotia’s approach to data protection remains stuck in the 20th century. While it’s tempting to call this a wake-up call, the information and privacy commissioner—and civil society voices—have been sounding the alarm on these problems for years. Premier McNeil’s government needs to stop pressing the snooze button.

———

Voice of the City is a platform for any and all Halifax individuals to share their diverse opinions and writings. The Coast does not necessarily endorse the views of those published. Our editors reserve the right to alter submissions for clarity, length, content and style. Want to appear in this section? Submissions can be sent to voice@thecoast.ca.
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Forget about commuter rail

Here's a better way to improve HRM's transportation needs.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 4:25 AM

Commuter rail cars run by the Massachusetts department of transit. - MASS DOT
  • Commuter rail cars run by the Massachusetts department of transit.
  • MASS DOT

Won over by the irresistible romance of railway? I’ll try to conjure up the experience of what might be to come. Chuffing slowly but surely along by the shores of the Bedford Basin, you soon leave the crappy sprawling environs of Bedford behind you. Hark! The call of an eagle penetrates the soft rhythmic clatter of wheels on rails. The rotunda flashes past as you gather speed. Order a beverage at the buffet and enjoy the best commute there is to be had for thousands of miles around. The woes of the Bedford Highway long since forgotten, this is travel the way it’s meant to be.

Martyn Williams is a derailed Englishman unlikely to recover from perpetual shock over transportation infrastructure choices in North America. - SUBMITTED
  • Martyn Williams is a derailed Englishman unlikely to recover from perpetual shock over transportation infrastructure choices in North America.
  • SUBMITTED
An unrivalled 21st century commute, right? Right. But our commuting problems are compounded by a disturbing set of circumstances: Increasing use of private vehicles for our transportation needs and its very significant effect on climate change and our health. And the large burden of this on both our personal and municipal financial resources.

Council has approved a 63 percent annual increase in our budget for street recapitalization (maintaining and resurfacing our streets) since 2012/13 from $18.5 million to $30M. Our combined proposed budget over the 2020/21 financial year for road-related spending is a whopping $64.5M. Most of that expenditure is utilized by people making unsustainable journeys by car, with a token $3 million dedicated to active transport projects.

So, no surprise given the very significant and ongoing resource bias towards road maintenance and infrastructure, that more of us are using cars. And with drivers providing the largest and loudest voice for our tax dollars, we need to think clever and efficient to deliver our strongest and most cost-effective solution with the leftover cash. Is a train service that killer number-one remedy?

First up, a train fixes some issues, worsens others. Bedford and every other area blessed with a railway station would become much more desirable as a place to live. House price increases and more development and sprawl will be sparked as soon as plans are firmed up for the railway link. It may also ease congestion on the highway routes to and from downtown which could promote more traffic, speeding and all of those undesirables. Many accustomed to a lifetime of car commuting will not give up door to door convenience for a multi-legged commute on a train, but they will be hoping others do, so their own journey time is quickened.

Crucially a train only “fixes” one commuting journey into downtown. What about the others? No train joy for Cole Harbour, Eastern Passage, Sambro, Timberlea and many more from our geographically dispersed communities. For them, it’s carry on with the cramped car commute.

One solution does stand head and shoulders over all others—express park and ride. We have some “park and ride” parking lots which are served by our regular transit services. We don’t have European-style park and ride solutions which combine enormous out of town car parking lots with express dedicated non-stop buses leaving every 15 minutes max during peak times. This solution is aimed squarely at the unchangeable reality of how we travel, but crucially it wins over drivers before the congested parts of their journey commence, utilizing dedicated bus lanes to get those queue-hating commuters downtown quicker than they could by car.

This last requirement is essential. Why bother taking the bus at all if you can get there quicker by car? So for this, we must use another common European solution—straight swapping traffic lanes for bus lanes, including at congested parts of the “at capacity” Bedford Highway.

Park and ride does not match the romance or experience of railway, but it delivers a solid solution for all out-of-town commuters in our municipality, if done properly. Even better, the understated and unromantic solution it offers is less likely to increase house prices or create more sprawl.

Let’s revisit that commute: Sambro neighbours car-pool to the park and ride at Spry- field, where they pick up a bus within 10 minutes which zips by queuing traffic to take them non-stop to multi drop-off locations downtown. Doesn’t sound quite as idyllic? Nope, but it fits perfectly with how we travel here.

———

Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.
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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Totem poles and online threats

None of my writings has resulted in violent threats quite like my comment on NHL imagery.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2019 at 4:27 PM

Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate. - VIA TWITTER
  • Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate.
  • VIA TWITTEr

In 2017, I wrote a poem called “What Good Canadians Do” for the Canada 150 events that were held on the Halifax Common. It was a part of my official duties as the city’s poet laureate. I was tasked with writing something celebratory about a country that was built on the removal and eradication of my ancestors. So instead of writing about hockey, being polite, Tim Hortons and winter, I decided to hold a mirror up to the audience.

I stepped on stage that evening and began my poem with “Are you a good Canadian?” to which the crowd responded with a great cheer. I went on to talk about how Canadians love to explore the mountains, the prairies, and ocean, all the while being a supportive community to the people who live in this country. They roared louder with each line. That is until this one: “You would never use words like squaw, red- skin or Indian. Of course not, because you are a good Canadian.” Don’t get me wrong, there was still a small cheer, though this time, it sounded confused. As though the momentum of cheering caught the audience off-guard and the content settled on them as they voiced their agreement.

The subsequent cheers were less robust as I began picking apart the fantasy of who Canadians think they are versus the lived reality for those of us who might not ascribe to the rhetoric of the north. See, “Canadians” are wonderful, community-oriented folks as long as you don’t challenge certain tropes. A fact that I learned quite viscerally these past few weeks when I called out an appropriative knick-knack that was associated with Canada’s most sacred pastime: Hockey.

I tweeted out a picture of an NHL themed totem pole being sold by Lawton’s Drugs, calling the piece appropriative. I came back to my phone to see an explosion of notifications including one from Lawton’s who said they were removing the item. What followed was a series of media interviews and deluge of internet trolls. I was called every dehumanizing thing you could imagine. I was called a mongrel, a freeloading Indian living off the backs of Canadian taxpayers, a crybaby, a snowflake, along with a wish list of violent undoings people were hoping would befall me. All for what? Because I dared to ask a company to stop profiting off Indigenous culture? Cultures that this country spent the better part of two centuries trying to destroy.

I’m not new to criticism. As an Indigenous activist, I’ve had to grow a thick skin. I’ve faced criticisms and backlash when I’ve spoken up about the killings of Tina Fontaine or Colten Boushie by “well-meaning” Canadians who are compelled to share their perspectives on how those two could have somehow prevented their deaths if only they hadn’t put themselves in danger. My critique of the Supreme Court’s decision on Indigenous consent for land development passed without a whisper from the twitterverse. But none of my writings on Indigenous strife and white privilege resulted in violent threats of retribution quite like my comment on cultural appropriation that just happened to involve NHL imagery. My criticisms were about cultural theft, not about hockey.

If an Indigenous woman’s valid critique results in a rage so fierce that anonymous online threats feel like an appropriate response, then perhaps Canada should take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are, in fact, good Canadians.

———

Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.
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