Thursday, June 28, 2018

Educating Shawn Cleary about journalism

The Halifax councillor's comments that reporters need formal credentials is elitist, dangerous and counter-productive.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 4:08 AM

Councillor Shawn Cleary speaking to reporters. - THE COAST
  • Councillor Shawn Cleary speaking to reporters.
  • THE COAST

District 9 councillor Shawn Cleary went on one of his ill-advised Twitter rants this past week. What set him off this time was an opinion piece by Stephen Kimber published in Tim Bousquet’s Halifax Examiner. (Disclosure: I have written for the Examiner and I am enrolled in a King’s MFA program in which Kimber teaches.) Kimber was critical of the councillor’s support for the controversial Willow Tree development. He painted Cleary as developer-friendly, but also as someone who has refused money from developers and who favours a municipal lobbyist registry.

“Cleary is clearly a complicated, sometimes contradictory fellow. Like the rest of us,” Kimber said.

Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer and journalist living in Halifax. He does not have a journalism degree. Find him at moscovitch.com and @PhilMoscovitch - SUBMITTED
  • Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer and journalist living in Halifax. He does not have a journalism degree. Find him at moscovitch.com and @PhilMoscovitch
  • SUBMITTED
Well. That was simply too much. Cleary complained that he hadn’t been interviewed (writers do pieces on politicians based on their public record and statements all the time), suggested to Bousquet that “in the interest of actual journalism you might think about checking with the source,” dismissively called the Examiner a blog and asked what journalism school Bousquet went to. When I asked Cleary on Twitter if he was arguing that all journalists should be j-school grads, he replied, “Medical school required for doctors. Engineering school required for engineers. Given potential public impact of news reporting...”

Following the principle that once you’ve said something dumb, you should proceed to say something dumber, Cleary—who has an MBA along with a BA in financial and economic studies—then explained journalism to Bousquet, an award-winning journalist: “Journalists do journalism. Non-journalists do ‘citizen journalism,’ blogs, opinions, et cetera. There are skills of balance, ethics, standards one learns in j-school.”

Insisting that reporters go to journalism school (or have any other kind of formal credentials) is elitist, dangerous and counter-productive. Journalism remains a profession in which it is still possible to make a living without going tens of thousands of dollars into debt. If you can write decently, have a talent for finding good stories and are willing to constantly upgrade your skills, you can do well. Of course, you’re going to need to understand journalistic ethics and standards, but those don’t require a degree.

Like politics, journalism is strengthened by welcoming people from varied backgrounds and a range of life experiences. Carol Off earned a BA and tried to start a career in fiction before falling into journalism. Peter Mansbridge never finished high school. Francine Pelletier has an MA in comparative literature.

Are there problems in journalism? Of course. Is fake news an issue? Sure. Today I saw a fake report saying that under new legislation insulting Islam in the UK can land you a six-year prison sentence. Last year at Peggy’s Cove I met a tourist from Quebec who believed a fake report about police cars replacing French with Arabic. Would ensuring journalists had to get a j-school education do anything about cracking down on this garbage? Of course not. The young Macedonian guys pumping out stories through dozens of faux journalism sites aren’t suddenly going to pack it in.

Who wins when you create requirements for being a journalist? Authoritarian regimes and politicians with something to hide. They get to exclude anyone who asks uncomfortable questions. Last year Justin Brake (now a reporter with APTN) and Amy Goodman (celebrated host of the Democracy Now radio show for more than 20 years) were both arrested for trespassing while reporting on stories. Brake was at the site of Muskrat Falls, while Goodman was in North Dakota, covering protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have no idea if either of them has a journalism degree or not. I do know their work was inconvenient to people with power and money, and if we lived in a world where journalists had to meet legislated criteria to do their jobs we would all be worse off because of it.

In the follow-up to Cleary’s rant, some compared him to Trump, which I don’t think is fair. But we do live next door to a country in which the president has repeatedly called journalists enemies of the people. Hectoring the publisher of a site who ran a piece about you that you didn’t like doesn’t contribute to improving the climate. Would an education requirement for journalists mitigate the fake news problem by ensuring minimal educational standards? Let’s just say I can’t imagine people who now consider journalists enemies will suddenly embrace them if they all have approved university degrees.

Cleary didn’t point to any actual errors in Kimber’s story. Politicians are always going to take issue with the work of journalists. They may complain stories are unfair, but then fail to point to any actual, you know, inaccuracies. And, like other human beings, journalists will make mistakes and should apologize and correct them. You don’t need a degree to know that.

———

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, June 21, 2018

DNA does not define us

Culture and community is what makes us Indigenous, not faulty genetic testing.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 4:13 AM

A young dancer participates in the Mawio’mi 2011 International Pow wow held on the Halifax Common. - VIA ISTOCK
  • A young dancer participates in the Mawio’mi 2011 International Pow wow held on the Halifax Common.
  • VIA iSTOCK

I’m ambiguously brown. By that I mean I have brown skin and almond-shaped eyes. I get those from my dad who is Mi’kmaq. I also have curly hair, freckles and thin lips from my mom, whose grandparents came from Scotland.

“Where are you from?” is a very common question in my day-to-day as people try to sleuth out my ethnicity. In high school I once had someone tell me that everyone knew I was “not white” but weren’t quite sure what I was. When people find out I’m Mi’kmaq, the inevitable next part in the conversation is the person telling me about their great-great-grandmother who was part native.

Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate. - HANNAH GRACE
  • Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate.
  • Hannah Grace
There has been an explosion of DNA testing that has led people to find tenuous Indigenous genetics in their family tree with the expectation First Nation communities will roll out the buckskin carpet for their arrival to their newfound identity. They use these genetics to undermine Indigenous struggles by turning fights for sovereignty, dignity, basic respect and empathy into indignation because Costco wouldn’t exempt the tax from their TV purchase.

What’s worse is individuals rate what identity is best with a sliding scale to Metis—a gross insult to the Metis who have fought long and hard to be recognized and now have to compete with new “metis” communities that have jumped on the DNA bandwagon. I have had individuals tell me they tried for a status card but were rejected so they got a metis card instead. What. The. Fuck.

Furthermore, what these genetic groupies don’t understand is that identity is earned and shaped by experience. Not by DNA. Whether a person is born and raised on the rez, a fluent language speaker, dealing with generational and residential school traumas, reconnecting after being a victim of the ’60s scoop, growing up in foster care with a white family, an urban aboriginal or thriving as an artist, activist or poet, they are all real Indigenous experiences that build upon a long history of being native in Canada. There is a story thousands of years old that connects us to this land. Our culture defines us and our communities claim us.

Recently, CBC published an article where a man sent in a cheek swab from his dog only to have the results come back saying that it was 20 percent Indigenous; 12 percent Abenaki and eight percent Mohawk. So the legitimacy of these tests should be just a questionable as Mikinak band cards.

If you can trace your family tree back to initial colonization of Turtle Island, of course, you will have an Indigenous ancestor. But that does not an Indian make. When early European explorers came to the shores of Mi’kma’ki, they didn’t bring women with them. The women they had access to for their “entertainment” were the women who were already here—a thought I shudder to think about.

I get it. We’re cool as shit. I can understand why you want to sit at our table. But if you’re going to eat with us, I better see you at the next language class at the Friendship Centre or holding a flippant sign at the next Alton Gas protest. I might get my eyes from my dad and my hair from my mom but I get my band number from an oppressive colonial and racist document called the Indian Act that seeks to arithmetically eliminate Status Indians and our ties and rights to our land. Genetics have nothing to do with it.

———

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, May 24, 2018

Canada needs more space for Indigenous people in academia

If we lived in a world where all things were equal, then yes, white professors could teach Indigenous courses. However, we do not live in an equal world.

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 4:34 AM

Mount Saint Vincent University's campus. - VIA WIKIPEDIA
  • Mount Saint Vincent University's campus.
  • VIA WIKIPEDIA


Last week, Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax came under fire for assigning a white professor a course about the residential school system that housed Indigenous children for forced assimilation. The university picked a knowledgeable and well-meaning ally. And I am not here to discredit her.

But I have long been a proponent of Indigenous peoples telling our stories. We’ve always served as background characters in our own history.

Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate. This piece was first published by the Washington Post, and is reprinted with the author’s permission. - HANNAH GRACE
  • Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate. This piece was first published by the Washington Post, and is reprinted with the author’s permission.
  • Hannah Grace
I am l’nu of the Mi’kmaq Nation of Mi’kma’ki. We have the dubious honour of being among the first Indigenous peoples contacted by European colonizers. For 500 years we had to work with, be oppressed by and share land with the British and French. The Peace and Friendship Treaties signed by my ancestors led to precedent-setting landmark decisions for Indigenous rights at the Supreme Court of Canada. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve avoided the pitfalls of colonization.

For more than 100 years, 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend the residential schools where their culture, language and spirit were violently removed from them in an attempt to “save” the child and kill the Indian. Thousands of children died in the system. The schools were active until the last one closed in 1996. My father is the product of this system, which took him away when he was five years old. It took him decades before he was able to talk about what happened to him. The legacy of residential schools has left Indigenous peoples over-represented in the criminal-justice system and the foster-care system. We have higher morbidity and mortality rates than non-Indigenous Canadians, along with suicide rates up to 11 times that of the rest of the population.

I believe that the university course should be taught by an Indigenous person. But we, as Indigenous peoples, cannot be solely responsible for the decolonization of institutions.

I’ve worked in postsecondary institutions for the entirety of my career. I’ve been the sole Indigenous voice at the table far more often than I’ve been surrounded by my peers. I am often the one-stop shop for knowledge on Indigenous history, law, culture, social structure and language.

I try to help faculty members who don’t quite understand why their teaching approach can be exclusionary or isolating for Indigenous students. I’ve spoken with the president about what it’s like being the child of a residential school survivor. I have been asked to be on every diversity and inclusion committee. If there is anything remotely related to Indigenous peoples, I get asked and am expected to take the lead on it. I do so willingly but at a cost.

I am exhausted.

I feel a tremendous obligation to my community. On days when I simply cannot muster the energy to step up, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt that I am letting my people down.

Organizations can’t be allowed to simply throw their hands up and say they tried their best after their token minority member decided not be the mascot for their reconciliation attempts because they were tired or had other interests. After all, we are a part of the people they are trying to reconcile with, a fact often forgotten.

It’s important that you understand that I don’t tell my family’s story to get attention. It’s not fun to bring up painful memories. I tell them so people understand where I and so many other Indigenous people are coming from. They are important stories that give context. But no mistake, they are my stories to tell.

I’m often asked whether I believe only Indigenous peoples can teach Indigenous subjects. I say yes. That often leads to the all-or-nothing argument that if that’s the case, then only women can teach women’s studies and only Black professors can teach African studies.

If we lived in a world where all things were equal, then yes, white professors could teach Indigenous courses. However, we do not live in an equal world. We live in a world where I have to apply for my ethnicity to be validated by the government every 10 years. We live in a world where we have to beg and plead for empathy when our girls and our women go missing. We live in a world where an unarmed 22-year-old Native Canadian man can be shot point-blank in the back of the head and his killer walks free. We live in a world where I have to reopen my scars over and over so individuals and organizations can feel good about giving me bandages.

I do this so those who come after me hopefully won’t be asked to. I take up space, not always because I want to but because I have to.

———

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, May 17, 2018

Halifax cosplaying an accepting community

Transgender cosplayer Rae O'Neil says the local geek community is a welcoming and liberating space.

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 4:01 AM

Rae O’Neil in costume at the recent Spring Geequinox. - APRIL BAIRD
  • Rae O’Neil in costume at the recent Spring Geequinox.
  • APRIL BAIRD

Rae O’Neil is dressed in an outfit based off a mash-up of two Final Fantasy characters. The cosplay is a bit out of the ordinary in everyday life, but at local conventions like the recent Spring Geequinox or Hal-Con it’s a perfectly normal—and fun—mode of creative expression.

“I get to build stuff, which I like to do, and show it off in an homage to something I enjoy,” says O’Neil. “It’s also a great way to learn a multitude of new skills.”

The first time O’Neil cosplayed was two years ago at Hal-Con, shortly after she came out as transgender. At first, it was an anxious experience.

“As the con went on I got less scared as I would kind of forget myself,” she says.

Some assumed she was “crossplaying,” which is when someone of one gender cosplays as a character of another.

“But others would gender me correctly, which rarely happened in public at all at that point, which felt pretty neat,” adds O’Neil.

“Here I was presenting female and no one was recoiling like my internalized transphobia and anxiety kept making me think they would. In a way, at the time, this was the most out I’d felt in public. It was super liberating.”

O’Neil says the cosplay community as of late is very body positive, welcoming all newcomers.

“Everyone’s crammed at the same restroom mirror fidgeting with their makeup or making last-minute adjustments, helping each other,” she says. “I rarely feel unwelcome and usually end up participating in those well-worn discussions on how to keep your makeup on, cover something up, squeeze into something, breath inside a constrained costume.”

Cosplay, she says, is a movement that’s often pushed back against misogynistic ideas of body image. So far, O’Neil says she’s had nothing but support from the community.

“I’ve been lucky locally,” she says. “Some bad eggs pop up on the con Facebook page from time to time, but I haven’t run into any overt transphobia at the local cons. Knock on wood.”
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Smudge for sale

Selling Indigenous medicine and ceremony intends to profit off of another person's pain.

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 4:54 AM

Mini white smudge stick value-pack available at Canada’s largest book retailer. - VIA CHAPTERS INDIGO
  • Mini white smudge stick value-pack available at Canada’s largest book retailer.
  • via Chapters Indigo

I learned to pick my medicines from my white, Acadian stepmother. I was around 14 years old when we walked out to the salty marsh grass with a handful of tobacco. As we walked to the spot near her home where sweetgrass still grows, she explained to me the concept of respecting Mother Earth; how it was important to leave behind some plants and never take more than I needed. When we got to where the grass grows, she put tobacco in my hand, we said a prayer and offered some to each of the four directions and to the ground to say thank you for what we were taking.

Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate. - HANNAH GRACE
  • Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s former poet laureate.
  • Hannah Grace
I learned from her because my father wasn’t able to teach me during that time. He was still battling his demons from Residential School. My stepmother had learned from him and the Elders he would bring around when he was sober. When we got home with our bundles of grass, she taught me how to separate the blades and how to tie and braid them. Then over the course of the summer, she gave them all away. She said other people needed them more than her.

As an adult, when I asked my Elders if it was OK for non-Native people to smudge and teach, they said everyone has a right to heal and that sharing our ceremonies honours the intentions of what they are. My father always told me that the only thing I was to ever ask for when I smudged was to think in a good way. Which leads me to the sale of “smudge sticks.”

There has been an uptick in the commercialization of medicines and ceremony by both non-Native and Indigenous peoples. Urban Outfitters pulled their “energy balancing smudge kit” in 2015 after Indigenous peoples called for its removal, but a quick search shows they still sell “sage incense sticks” and other medicine bundles. And it isn’t just large companies like Urban Outfitters that appropriate and exploit our ceremonies. Here in Halifax, you can buy smudging services where you pay per square footage to have your home cleansed of negative energy. Every craft fair has someone selling “smudge sticks.”

I started smudging at a very young age. It was one of the very few parts of my culture that has been present in my life at nearly every stage. The smell of sweetgrass brings me back to my childhood. As an adult, I smudge regularly to stay connected to my culture. I smudge to start meetings. I smudge my students when they need grounding. They don’t have to be Indigenous to do so or to take part. But like 14-year-old Rebecca who was just learning to pick medicines, the intention behind the use of them is what matters. I learned to respect medicines because of the significant role they play in connecting and healing people. Furthermore, given the ban on Indigenous gatherings from 1885 to 1951, the fact that smudging continues to persist only cements my beliefs that medicines should be honoured.

Sometimes, Indigenous peoples might have no choice but to buy their medicines because they lost the knowledge of where to get them. Some people sell medicines because they think it’s their right to do so. My goal is not to shame people for the misuse of medicines, but rather invite them to rethink their intentions. Whether or not they choose to believe it, selling medicines and ceremony intends profit off of another person’s pain. Let me ask you: How is that supposed to help them? How is that supposed to help you to think in a good way?

———

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 26, 2018

A housing-first model will help end homelessness in Nova Scotia

Offering a place to live to anyone who needs it is a cheap and effective alternative to social support networks.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 4:05 AM

VIA DAVID TREMBLAY, ON FACEBOOK
  • VIA DAVID TREMBLAY, ON FACEBOOK

In 2015, the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta took a compassionate and unprejudiced approach to ending homelessness by using a housing-first model.

Homes are offered to anyone who needs them. Ten days are now the most an individual or family stays in a Medicine Hat shelter. With a roof over their head, people are able to address other challenges; reducing the financial burdens in the health, justice and child welfare systems.

Housing someone in Medicine Hat costs about $20,000 a year. Leaving them on the street works out to around $100,000.

It’s high past time Nova Scotia look into similar programs to fill the gaps in this province’s spotty homeless support network.

Recently, it was found that Cape Breton has more homeless women than men. However, there is no shelter services for women on the island. Ally Centre of Cape Breton provides services during the day but at night the doors close. According to Christine Porter, who runs the centre, many women end up trading favours for a place to stay.

Then there was Lucy MacDonald, who sought help from a women’s shelter for herself and her daughter. Due to MacDonald working full-time, she was declined shelter but her daughter was accepted. Arbitrary red tape separated a mother and daughter during a very traumatic time in their lives.

We have a homelessness epidemic in Nova Scotia and the disingenuous approach is not working—it’s perpetuating it. We have shelters and outreach programs that all do great work, but it is not enough and we need to rethink how we invest in combatting this growing epidemic.

Leaving people in shelters and on the streets to work through the issues that caused them to become homeless is cruel, and we should be ashamed that we are willing to burden our health, justice and social service sectors financially instead of investing directly in the affected.

How can anyone overcome addiction or become mentally healthy living in shelters or sleeping rough? We house people together in shelters who are facing similar issues and expect miracles of them.

The average cost per person to stay in a shelter is $100 per day to the taxpayer. At $3,000 a month, that’s almost four times what a disabled ESIA recipient receives for shelter and personal allowance.

We have been using the same unviable approach for decades to ending homelessness and expecting different results. Our vulnerable need investment, not Band-Aids.

Medicine Hat mayor Ted Clugston had little faith in the housing-first initiative of his city at its outset, but within a year the cost savings motivated him to advocate other governments about using similar community models.

Utah has taken the same approach and reduced its chronic homelessness by 91 percent.

We can end homelessness, but we have to be bold and provide housing along with the means for basic needs to the homeless, without judgment.

It’s time to be compassionate and logical. We spend far too much on shelters and outreach programs. It’s time to rethink how we distribute the funds available to help some of our most vulnerable residents.

Homelessness can end with a community approach that is humane and that addresses the issues by actually investing in those impacted, instead of cumbersome programs with high costs that only patch over the problem.

———

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, April 25, 2018

Being a Jamaican man in Nova Scotia

Regardless of their level of education, Jamaicans can tell you all about Nova Scotia. It's a shame the opposite isn't true.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 2:04 PM

Maroon boys collecting wood in 1908. - H. H. JOHNSTON
  • Maroon boys collecting wood in 1908.
  • H. H. Johnston

Last week, Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin gave me my “told-you-so” moment of the month when she shared her concerns that legalizing marijuana could make Nova Scotians lazy like Jamaicans.

Smith-McCrossin said in a subsequent apology post on Facebook—since deleted—that her comments “were criticized as racist and insensitive.” Of course, they were.

Many quickly came to the defence of Jamaicans including Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil and Halifax’s new poet laureate Afua Cooper. Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia president Olive Phillips told the CBC Smith-McCrossin’s comments were “really disrespectful” and her generalizations have “no basis in fact.”

And what is even more egregious is that we all know that Jamaicans are some of the hardest working people around. The Netflix series Luke Cage had a character opine, “this brother got more jobs than a Jamaican!”

There were those who defended the MLAs statements as simply being conjecture. Many were shocked by her utterance. Not I.

The problem we have is that many people believe racism needs to be malicious for it to be called racism. We need to change this perception.

Growing up in Jamaica, Nova Scotia was spoken about with ecclesiastical reverence. The 1796 relocation of Maroons to Halifax is a solid part of the local primary school history curriculum.

Participants in the annual Farm Work Programme want their placement to be in Nova Scotia because they know about the historical connection that Jamaica has with the province and wish to experience this amazing land for themselves. 

Regardless of their level of education, Jamaicans can tell you about Nova Scotia welcoming Black Loyalists and escaped slaves from the Underground Railroad.

For many Jamaicans, Canada is Nova Scotia, Toronto and Vancouver—the rest might as well be terra nullius.

After spending over a decade living in Toronto, I was really excited to become Haligonian. Really excited.

“You know Halifax is the Mississippi of Canada, right?” said one friend. “Have you thought this through? Halifax is hella racist!” said another.

I should have known something was up when all the warnings were coming from my woke white friends. But the siren call of beaches, more craft beer than crosswalks and affordable rent outweighed their negativity.

And then I got here. I quickly realized that Nova Scotia’s motto—“One [hand] defends and the other conquers”—should be changed to “Defending micro-aggressions and racist behaviour since the 1600s.”

I love living in Halifax, but being Black, especially being Black with a foreign accent, is just damn hard here.

One night last summer as I was walking down Agricola four white men trailed me, heckling. They were asking why is it that I can say “nigger” (they used the hard R) but they cant.

I’ve never had this happen before, and as a mountain of a man, I immediately felt frail and afraid. I went home and cried.

During the third round of interviews for a local job, for which I was headhunted by a Toronto-based organization, I was told that “you are a great candidate but I am worried that you won’t fit in with the rest of the team because you weren’t born here.” That day I also went home and cried.

Having someone you thought was a friend call your outfit “thuggish” felt like a stab through the heart, and yes, you guessed it, that day I also cried.

I didn’t even cry during the opening scene of Up but there I was regularly feeding the north end my tears.

Saying that we have a race problem here in Nova Scotia sounds trite, especially with the troubled history that the province and the city of Halifax have had with Black and Indigenous peoples. But here we are in the age of easily-accessible information still having to deal with Proud Boys and statues of abominable men and sweeping generalizations about Jamaicans.

Don’t just apologize, do better.

———

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 19, 2018

The FOIPOP breach and the dangers of criminalizing research

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 4:02 AM

Halifax Regional Police deputy chief Robin McNeil's brother, Stephen. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Halifax Regional Police deputy chief Robin McNeil's brother, Stephen.
  • VIA FACEBOOK

Last December, two journalists in Myanmar, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were invited to dinner by police officers to discuss their research into war crimes carried out by the military. The officers handed them some documents, then immediately arrested them under the country’s Official Secrets Act for possessing the classified material.

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
As absurd as that case is, it is reminiscent of a story unfolding here in Nova Scotia in connection with the recent breach of the province’s Freedom of Information web portal. Although details of the case are still emerging, it seems as though the province left sensitive documents on publicly accessible URLs, alongside material it had cleared for release. These materials were then downloaded by a researcher using a program which automatically retrieves all available files connected to a website—a practice known as scraping. The researcher has since been charged with unauthorized use of a computer and may face up to 10 years imprisonment.

This was not a hack. Website scraping is a perfectly valid research tool, which is routinely done by journalists and researchers who may find a website’s built-in search and retrieval functions to be cumbersome and inefficient. The alleged perpetrator has since told journalists he thought the material was open to access, since it had been uploaded to the public freedom of information website. This seems like a reasonable assumption. Information which is available via the internet, with no safeguards for access, has for all intents and purposes been published.

Some have suggested that the researcher is being used as a scapegoat, to deflect from embarrassment at the security failures that led the province to distribute sensitive material. Whether or not that’s true, the uncertainty around the legality of what the researcher did is troubling. Unless there is some clear evidence of harmful intent, like for example that the alleged perpetrator was utilizing the information to commit identity theft, it seems difficult to justify charging them. It seems even more difficult to justify the heavy-handedness of the police response, which involved an early morning raid, 15 officers and the accused’s 13-year-old sister being questioned in the back of a police car.

It may not be fair to compare this case to that of the Myanmar journalists, who were deliberately entrapped, but the stories are similar as both relied on the good faith and competence of official sources. When a researcher visits a government website, they should be able to assume that the material which is made available is intended for public consumption and has been adequately vetted. Imagine a police van driving up to your street, dropping a few boxes of classified files onto the sidewalk, and then arresting anyone who stopped to take a look.

We still don’t know all the facts in this case. Maybe it will emerge that the researcher was, in fact, looking to siphon up personal information to facilitate identity theft. But if, as seems more likely, he was motivated by curiosity or legitimate research, the police and province owe him an apology for their rash and indefensible overreaction.

———

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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Free speech warriors fighting a selective battle

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 4:02 AM

Smiling Goat protesters outside Just Us! two weeks ago. - THE COAST
  • Smiling Goat protesters outside Just Us! two weeks ago.
  • THE COAST

Nova Scotia loves to get on the bandwagon a few months or years after a trend has hit its saturation point everywhere else. It’s a few years late, but we’re still all in on hamburgers, re-opening coal mines and building failing convention centres. The latest cool thing from last year is enlisting to fight in the free speech wars.

Chris Parsons (@cultureofdefeat) is a political organizer, health care activist and occasional writer from Halifax. He is the co-host of Dog Island, Atlantic Canada’s premier cultural-Marxist podcast. - JALANI MORGAN
  • Chris Parsons (@cultureofdefeat) is a political organizer, health care activist and occasional writer from Halifax. He is the co-host of Dog Island, Atlantic Canada’s premier cultural-Marxist podcast.
  • JALANI MORGAN
If you’re in search of an off-brand version of Trump, Peterson or Shapiro in Nova Scotia, then you are in luck. This province has no shortage of aspiring public figures who have tried to cast themselves as martyrs telling hard truths, even if those truths are actually just demonstrably false. Rick Mehta and Matt Whitman are the most obvious local examples, following a now-tired script of saying wildly and intentionally offensive things and then acting aggrieved when they get the exact reaction they tried so hard to provoke. Whitman simply revels in the reaction but Mehta and his defenders have tried to frame his provocations as one piece in some bigger debate about fundamental freedoms.

Aside from being boring and largely inconsequential, these very public and very stupid debates often obscure much more about free speech than they elucidate. By concentrating almost exclusively on the rights of students, academics and professional commentators, free speech is cast as the right of an extremely narrow group of people, speaking or writing in very specific venues, often about issues which do not impact their daily lives or material survival.

In contrast, the most egregious assaults on the free expression of Nova Scotians in 2018 haven’t come from angry students, constituents or Twitter users, but instead from bosses. After going public with allegations of racism and indicating that they would be filing human rights complaints, six Black janitors say they were fired. Similarly, months of bouncing paychecks and other workplace issues led workers at six Smiling Goat coffee shops to apply public pressure to a boss who refuses to follow the already inadequate legal requirements of being a boss, including organizing the four previously non-unionized shops, holding rallies and speaking to the media. One worker alleges that after exercising his right to demand that he get paid, the Smiling Goat’s owner fired him.

Working people whose bosses have allegedly refused to follow basic employment and human rights law have—allegedly—been economically punished for talking about it. Threatening low-income workers with sudden unemployment if they speak out is an obvious assault on free speech, so where is the outrage from the national free speech organizations? Why haven’t we been blessed with the opinions of Toronto’s pundit class lamenting a culture of entrepreneurial entitlement? Where is the pearl-clutching from our local political commentators? For too many free speech warriors fighting over who is allowed to say what isn’t about a commitment to any real concept of economic or political liberty, it’s just another front in the culture 
war.

If we’re going to talk about our right to speak openly then we need to acknowledge something right off the bat: The vast majority of people do not study or work on a university campus, write a column or hold elected office. But almost all of us have had a shitty boss, and those shitty bosses already have way too much control over our lives. So if we’re going to have a debate about free speech let’s not make it a debate about whether or not ageing edgelords have the right to trigger the libs without any pushback. Let’s make it a fight about our need to be able to use our right to speak to make our lives and the lives of other people a little bit better. Because at the end of the day, the right to free speech doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the right to tell a bad boss to fuck off and pay you the money you’re owed.

———

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, March 22, 2018

Five steps for making that dreamcatcher you liked on Pinterest


A Mi’kmaw woman whose culture does not originally include dreamcatchers gives your settler ass a step-by-step process. 


Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 4:00 AM

VIA ISTOCK
  • via istock

You're a good person who really cares about diversity, inclusion and the plight of historically oppressed people. You have at least three tattoos from other cultures on your body, you do yoga, you don't wear headdresses to music festivals (we won't talk about that bindi or those white-people dreads) and you really appreciate and respect Indigenous cultural artifacts and artistic expression. So naturally, you want to make a dreamcatcher! Let me, a Mi'kmaw woman whose culture does not originally include dreamcatchers, give you a step-by-step process for making one.

1. Forget everything you learned about the diversity of Indigenous Peoples: That shouldn't be hard because it probably isn't much. With over 600 federally recognized Indigenous communities and over 60 distinct languages broken down into regional dialects, it can be hard to remember who's who and what's what when it comes to cultural appropriation. Furthermore, if we're all Indigenous, why do you need to know the difference between Métis, First Nations and Inuit? It's not like we have vastly different cultures or anything. Just think leathers, feathers, tipis and of course, dreamcatchers. Federally issued ID cards to prove ethnicity is a whole other kettle of fish and OMG, I just can't right now, OK?!

2. Somehow, if at all possible, tie this activity to reconciliation: Reconciliation is trendy AF right now. Sure there's that whole truth part where we, as a collective society, sit in the horrific understanding that Canada was built on genocide and colonization. Millions of people were killed and dispossessed from their land so some dude with a crown could own more. However, that sounds hard and it would really harsh your vibe. So you're going to harness the power of positive thinking and only think about what can assuage those pesky feelings of guilt that might creep in. After all, that would require a lot of learning and you're doing the best you can since your one Native acquaintance hasn't offered to be your personal tutor yet.

3. Prepare speaking points on why you didn't buy from an Indigenous artist: You will face backlash on your homemade dreamcatcher. Haters are gonna hate. Therefore, it's crucial you are prepared to defend your "Native-inspired" craft. I get it! You appreciate the craftsmanship of our traditional wares. But dang, Native art is EXPENSIVE. Why do we jack up the prices on a jumbling of sinew, sticks and feathers? It's not like a set of beaded earrings takes hours of practice to perfect or that each bead is stitched with intention and care. You don't have that kind of cash flow.

4. Actually make the damn thing: You've spent the last few hours prepping yourself to make a traditional Indigenous handicraft that has millennia of meaning, so naturally you go to the best and most authentic place to learn the technique: YouTube. A quick search yielded over 500,000 results so you'll have plenty of options. Connecting with community and building trust with elders takes too much time. There is an empty space on your living room wall where negative energies are creeping in and needs to be filled ASAP.

5. Instagram the shit out of it: If it's not on your story, did it really happen? Be sure to source out the best hashtags and scrutinize the filters. Once you are ready, hit post. Watch the notifications roll in. You're such a good ally and you didn't even have to interact with a single Indigenous person to do it. Pat yourself on the back. You deserve those likes.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Getting blamed for our own murders

Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine prove what we’ve known for generations: There is no safety for Indigenous people in settler Canada.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 4:00 AM

Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s Poet Laureate. - HANNAH GRACE
  • Rebecca Thomas is a Mi’kmaq activist and Halifax’s Poet Laureate.
  • Hannah Grace

I was 18 years old the first time I drank—three years older than Tina Fontaine was when she was killed. It was at a party in university held in my residence dorm. It was one of those parties where the house leaders mix together a big vat of mystery booze in a plastic garbage can and dole out cups to the willing and brave. I had two cups of it. It was certainly enough to get a buzz on with my inexperienced liver, but hardly enough to knock me out at 5'10" and 155 pounds—83 pounds heavier than Tina's 72-pound frame.

Three people carried me back to my dorm room because, in my naivety, I had assumed my drink would be safe on a table while I went to the bathroom. In the morning, I had to sit with my residence assistant who lectured me on party protocol. Never leave your drink alone, she told me. She made it clear to me that my safety was in my hands. If I left my drink alone and someone roofied it, it was my fault for letting my guard down. I believed her and berated myself for my carelessness. It wasn't until I was much older did it occur to me, in all the "safety" talks I had been given as a woman, never was the blame placed on the person putting things in other people's drinks.

I watched January and February of 2018 go by with headline after headline about Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine's state of intoxication as leading factors in their deaths. Exasperated comments and tweets from "well-meaning" Canadians who believed that if Colten and Tina had not been drunk or high or in the wrong place at the wrong time, they would still be alive. It became very clear to me that it was not Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier who were on trial, but rather Tina and Colten. Their crime? Being Indians.

Many of you may cringe at that word, but as Robert Jago wrote in his opinion piece for the National Observer, that's what we are when we are killed or go missing. Loretta Saunders was revealed to have struggled with addiction only once her ethnicity came to light, while Tanya Brooks was just another squaw in the sex trade.

I was just a drunk Indian the night someone who lived in the same building as me decided to put something in my drink. I used to make a point of only using my driver's license when I bought alcohol at the liquor store, foregoing my Status Card because I was afraid of being judged by the person working the cash.

We don't get to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We don't get the privilege of being judged by a jury of our peers like Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier, because my peers are too busy texting each other to see if they are safe when they walk home. My peers are standing guard over their cups because they know someone wants to do them harm. My peers are being sentenced to two years in prison for firing a gun because they "could have killed someone" like Cedric Ookowt.

The next time an Indigenous person is killed or goes missing—because it's only a matter of time before it happens again—instead of blaming them for their death, why not blame the person who pulled the trigger? After all, all I did wrong was trust that I would be safe in my own home.

———

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 25, 2018

Anti-social media: Why are academics like Rick Mehta so bad at Twitter?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 5:20 AM

Acadia University professor Rich Mehta. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • Acadia University professor Rich Mehta.
  • VIA YOUTUBE

Acadia University psychology professor Rick Mehta is in hot water over his social media posts about residential schools and multiculturalism. He’s not the first academic to find himself in this position.

In October, a Drexel University professor was placed on leave after posting on Twitter that a “narrative of white victimization” was to blame for the Las Vegas mass shooting, while in September a professor at John Jay College, which specializes in criminal justice, was suspended for tweeting that it was “a privilege to teach future dead cops.” 

Jessica Durling, who started the petition calling for professor Mehta’s ouster, is right to point out that freedom of expression does not mean freedom from accountability (though, she is manifestly wrong in trying to classify his tweets as “hate speech”—which has a clear legal definition in Canada). But beyond the discussion of whether his online persona should disqualify him from the classroom, the issue raises an interesting question as to why social media (and Twitter in particular) seems to have a tendency to coarsen and even dumb down otherwise intelligent people.

Michael Karanicolas is a human rights advocate who works to promote freedom of expression, government transparency and digital rights. You can (ironically) 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 (ironically) follow him on Twitter at @M_Karanicolas and @NSRighttoKnow.
  • SUBMITTED
One of the transformative things about the internet is the perception of anonymity that it provides, as a result of the faceless nature of online interactions. Connecting from behind a computer or a mobile screen, people feel comfortable sharing opinions and ideas that they would never express in the real world. This sense of remoteness from one’s audience can foster people’s foulest impulses, but it also facilitates candid and open engagement. The #MeToo movement could never have taken off without social media. To put it another way—going online makes people lose their filters and say what’s on their mind, whether it’s pent-up frustration over years of sexist treatment or, in the case of professor Mehta, trolling the liberal academic establishment he works in.

A lot of ink has been spilt about the impact of social media on our political discourse and on our evolving relationship with the truth. But it is equally important to consider social media’s impact on how we actually express ourselves, and ultimately how we think. While it’s tempting to see Twitter as a place for casual observations and fleeting thoughts—the modern equivalent of what an earlier generation would say around the water cooler—it’s actually a terrible place to develop ideas: It’s permanent, it’s public, and through aggressive competition for attention and engagement it often pushes discussions in extreme directions. Floating an idea privately to a group of friends or colleagues can help to expose the weaknesses in the argument, and possibly lead you to rethink your position. Posting it online publicly attaches you to the position, which makes it more difficult to change course. What’s more, since social media platforms are effectively designed to be addictive, there’s a risk that, rather than providing a space to develop ideas, social media habits may increasingly dominate the way we think and express ourselves.

Looking at professor Mehta’s research specialization, it does not seem naturally connected to First Nations rights, residential schools, or even freedom of expression. And yet, with the growing attention as a result of this controversy, his tweets probably have a wider audience than any academic paper he’s ever published.

I wonder if he sees that as a bad or a good thing?

———

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 18, 2018

Audit needed at community services

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 4:48 AM

Minister of community services Kelly Regan. - NOVA SCOTIA
  • Minister of community services Kelly Regan.
  • NOVA SCOTIA

The department of community services has failed children in its custody and children of parents reliant on its programs. Something needs to be done.

Abdoul Abdi, along with his sister and aunts, should have been welcomed by Nova Scotia with open arms. Instead, shortly after they arrived, Abdi and his sister were placed into the permanent custody of the province. Children services staff failed to obtain citizenship for them, and Abdi now faces deportation to Somalia after time served in prison.

Gayle Collicutt is an anti-poverty advocate in Halifax and co-chair of the Child Support Clawback Working Group who has experienced the struggles first-hand faced by Nova Scotians experiencing poverty. - SUBMITTED
  • Gayle Collicutt is an anti-poverty advocate in Halifax and co-chair of the Child Support Clawback Working Group who has experienced the struggles first-hand faced by Nova Scotians experiencing poverty.
  • SUBMITTED
More recently, the minister who handles both family services and Income Assistance had the gall to apply for permanent custody of a toddler simply because her parents were poor and unable to secure safe and adequate housing. This has left anti-poverty advocates more disturbed and restless than usual.

Justice Elizabeth Jollimore dismissed earlier this month the province’s request to place a 20-month-old toddler into permanent custody, telling the minister that “there is a difference between parents who are poor, and poor parents.”

These recent cases prove what clients of the Department of Child Services and their advocates have been saying for decades—the department is callous and lacks the ability to apply a social justice lens in its decision making. Every single client and their dependents of the IA program is in poverty. Policies and the poverty rates issued by the IA program have exasperated child poverty, food insecurity and burdened healthcare, education and justice.

Adequate access to three fundamental human rights—shelter, food and clothing—is virtually impossible with current Income Assistance rates. Shelter rates have been stagnant since 1995 despite rising rents, and personal allowances intended for food and utilities have seen slight increases but do not reflect inflation.

Instead of raising the rates, the department spent $1.5 million on two out-of-province consulting firms for a transformation that promised positive change but has kept recipients and their advocates in the dark. Since the transformation began in 2014, food insecurity has increased and Nova Scotia still has the highest child poverty in Atlantic Canada.

Despite the premier acknowledging last fall that deducting child support from single parents on assistance is cruel, the minister still allows her department to continue a practice that goes against federal laws. Both Ontario and British Columbia have abolished this cruel and inhumane practice.

The prejudice and tone-deaf department of community services needs to be audited. An audit would put the minister and her department’s policies, custody applications and band-aid support programs under scrutiny.

It would shine a spotlight on how the community services continually fails vulnerable children, with assistance rates that fall below the poverty line and violations of fundamental human rights.

It is time the auditor general acted on behalf of our children. The minister simply cannot be trusted to prioritize quality of life for children over balanced budgets.

———

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, November 30, 2017

Tax avoidance is legal and that should make you furious

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 4:01 AM

"Tax The Rich" mural by Megan Wilson on Clarion Alley San Francisco. - VICTORGRIGAS VIA WIKICOMMONS
  • "Tax The Rich" mural by Megan Wilson on Clarion Alley San Francisco.
  • victorgrigas VIA WIKICOMMONS


Earlier this month the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Paradise Papers—a massive leak of documents that show just how pervasive legal tax avoidance through offshore banking has become. Some of those whose dealings in Bermuda have been questioned have defended themselves by explaining that their critics’ outrage is misplaced since sending money offshore to places like Bermuda is completely legal if the accounting is complicated enough. What has largely been lost in the weeks since the papers were made public is that it is precisely the legality of these tax arrangements that should make us angry.
Chris Parsons (@cultureofdefeat) is a political organizer, health care activist and occasional writer from Halifax. He is the co-host of Dog Island, Atlantic Canada’s premier cultural-Marxist podcast. - JALANI MORGAN
  • Chris Parsons (@cultureofdefeat) is a political organizer, health care activist and occasional writer from Halifax. He is the co-host of Dog Island, Atlantic Canada’s premier cultural-Marxist podcast.
  • JALANI MORGAN

As CBC pointed out in 2016, Canadians have moved almost $80 billion dollars in Barbados. That means that wealthy Canadians and the companies they own have amazingly deposited almost $285,000 in Barbados for each human being that occupies the island nation. Barbados’ role as the tax-haven of choice for Canadians is not an accident. It is the result of tax treaties signed almost four decades ago which opened the floodgates to legalized tax avoidance. Similarly, by 2015 Canadians had “invested” $22.4 billion dollars in Bermuda; an island nation with just 65,000 inhabitants and no significant manufacturing or natural resources.
It is impossible to determine exactly how much tax revenue Canada loses to corporate and individual offshore tax avoidance, in large part because the Canada Revenue Agency has fought to keep those numbers secret. What we do know is that the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us has only gotten worse in Canada. We also know that public services like health care are in crisis in Nova Scotia and we are constantly being told that there is no tax-revenue to spend to make sure that people don’t die in hospital hallways.

And that is what should make us furious. While politicians tell us that despite living in one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world we lack the resources to ensure everyone can get a hospital bed or clean drinking water, they simultaneously have built a system which lets the rich avoid paying taxes in Canada.

It’s insulting to the intelligence of the average Canadian to suggest that for reasons that have nothing to do with tax avoidance, companies are pouring tens of billions of dollars into countries whose entire economies are built on legal tax avoidance. It is outright despicable to suggest that the crisis in what is left of the Canadian welfare state has nothing to do with the policies that generations of elected officials have pursued that have lowered the domestic and foreign tax burden on wealthy Canadian individuals and corporations.

We have never had a public spending problem in this country, but we’ve chosen to create a public revenue problem. That revenue problem has hollowed out the modest programs we built to try to take care of each other; programs like public health care, public housing and social assistance.

We should publicly acknowledge that we have legalized tax-avoidance for large corporations and the ultra-wealthy, and at the same time we need to be honest about the cost of these policies.
More than anything else we need to accept an uncomfortable truth: A tiny part of our society has decided that their right to hoard their unfathomable wealth offshore to avoid taxes is more important than making sure that their neighbours don’t die. And we’ve all decided to create a system of laws and tax regulations which says that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

———

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, October 26, 2017

ASK HOLE: Help! I need a last-minute Halloween costume

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Comedian, musician and overworked student Cheryl Hann answers all of Halifax’s most-pressing social dilemmas. - JESSICA HARTJES
  • Comedian, musician and overworked student Cheryl Hann answers all of Halifax’s most-pressing social dilemmas.
  • JESSICA HARTJES

Dear Ask Hole,
Halloween is upon us, and I still don’t have a costume. It seems that I’m the only one in my friend group who leaves Halloween to the last minute, panics and goes as a potato. I really want to wow my friends this year, but I’m fresh out of ideas. Do you have any costume recommendations for uncreative folk like me?
Signed,
Without Ideas, Costumes Can Aggravate Neuroses



Dear WICCAN,
I LOVE Halloween. Every year I have one million costume ideas and am bummed I can only use one. So it gives me great joy to present you this list of possible costumes, which I have divided into three categories: Funny, sexy and scary. Hopefully, there’s something here for you. If not, feel free to toilet paper my house. I think those are the Halloween rules.

FUNNY COSTUMES
A lot of comedy costumes are rooted in the only type of humour everyone definitely likes and is never annoyed by—puns. So, I’ve put together a couple of punny costumes that are guaranteed to get a big laugh (or at least a reasonably sized groan) from your pals.

Jerk Chicken: Instead of being a COOKED chicken prepared with Caribbean spices, you’re a LIVE chicken who is a bit of an ass! It’s great. It’s simple, yet sophisticated—OK, please don’t go as this. I’m mad at myself for even thinking of this. Puns truly suck. Let’s try again.

(My) Sugar Daddy: You wear a moustache, throw a bag of sugar in a baby carrier and boom: Sugar Daddy. But, if you want to play it like MY dad, you carry the sugar around for a biiiit, then leave it on its own for 26 years so you can start a new family in Alberta. LOL I’m laughing already.

SEXY COSTUMES
Funny not your thing? Then why not sex it up! Let’s not forget that Halloween was originally created so that ancient Celts could get laid...or scare away harvest ghosts...I’m not sure.

Sexy Principal: For this costume, you need a picture of my Grade 7 principal, Alice McMillan. Copy it exactly. Short, bristly grey hair, large glasses, mole, ass that won’t quit and has tenure so it also can’t be fired. If you see me, tell me to stop running in the hall. What you won’t realize is that I’m running away from my lesbian crush on you, which scares me because I’m VERY Christian.

Sexy Wage Gap: Dress half of your body as a white man and the other half as literally anyone else and play up the “subtle” differences. Perhaps white man half-drinks Grey Goose while the other drinks Russian Prince. Perhaps non-white man half-experiences significantly more stress, is less likely to take time off, and is constantly “leaning in.” Get creative! Also, both sides should be wearing hot pants. That’s what makes it sexy.

SCARY COSTUMES
Alright, time for the good stuff. Halloween is all about freaking out your friends and I’ve come up with a few costumes that will help you achieve iconic ghoul status on a budget. Hope you like nightmares!

Student Loan Statement: Grab a sheet of Bristol board, a few markers and this costume is ready to go. When your friends are least expecting it—say, when they’re eating dinner, or feel like maybe their lives are finally on the right track—jump out from a dark corner and scream, “DON’T FORGET ABOUT THIS $40,000, YOU STUPID PIECE OF CRAP!” The goal is to remind them that their degree means nothing and they’re locked in a state of constant financial panic. Guaranteed scare!

Halifax Property Developer: For this spooky costume you need a suit, a confused, benign expression and a small model of the city that you stomp all over and re-populate with unfinished buildings that make no sense. If anyone asks what you’re doing, push those cumbersome wads of cash deeper into your pockets, shrug and whine, “I’m helping the invigorate the downtown cooooore!”

Happy Halloween!

———

Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author. Send your 
awkward social questions to 
askhole@thecoast.ca and we might answer it in a future column.

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Vol 27, No 43
March 19, 2020

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