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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Friday, December 21, 2018

Alternative Christmas plans

Some ideas for how to spend your holidays when everyone else in town is busy with family.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 12:07 PM

That's it for The Coast until the new year. Happy holidays, everyone!
  • That's it for The Coast until the new year. Happy holidays, everyone!


Ah, the holidays. Finally, the time of year when you can participate in that long-standing Halifax Christmas tradition of having your entire social circle head to Ontario while you're here by yourself. Great!

Vaughn Stafford Gray is an occasional opinion writer for The Coast. - SUBMITTED
  • Vaughn Stafford Gray is an occasional opinion writer for The Coast.
  • SUBMITTED
The yuletide season can be festive, delightful and frustrating all at once. From terrible Secret Santas (really, hand sanitizer?) to over-indulging in mince pies and peppermint schnapps-laced eggnog (don’t knock it till you try it), the holiday season is a rollercoaster of activities and emotions. What to do when you’re spending the holidays by yourself or with a reduced number of friends? We got you! The Coast understands that sometimes you want something off-piste so we have put together an itinerary for a non-traditional yet fun holiday.

Sunday, December 23
Think of a darn good reason to call in from work tomorrow. It’s a half day anyway.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea (if that's your thing). Open up your email and unenroll from all those newsletters that you’re no longer interested in and stores that you no longer shop from. Also, reply to those emails that have been lingering in your inbox since September or just delete them. Purge that inbox.

Head to a decent chain grocery store. Hang out in the baking aisle. Watch pandemonium ensue when key holiday baking items like nutmeg are nowhere to be found.

You know that nice restaurant in the north end that you’ve always promised yourself you’ll go to? Go! Don’t have a paramour or bestie to go with? Still, go. Sit at the bar order a good glass of wine or bubbly, people watch and eavesdrop.

Christmas Eve
Go through your closets and gather gently used cold-weather clothing and grab a few non-perishable items. Make a drop-off at Shelter NS or Out Of The Cold. Let’s not forget to help others this holiday season.

Head to the mall (best bets are Park Lane and Mic Mac) around 11am and watch male shoppers scramble to purchase last-minute gifts. It’s hilarious! There will be hundreds of women who will be getting the same box of chocolates and similar scarves on Christmas morn. It’s a great way to observe the unprepared males of the human species in the wild.

Head to a coffee shop and purchase a few gift cards and hand out to the less fortunate that you pass along the way. It’s a warm gesture that will be appreciated.

Stock up on necessities at the NSLC and your favourite brewery. Splurge on that bottle that you’ve been eyeing for a while. Tis the season for bubbles and excess.

Meet up with a friends/fam and gorge on Chinese food. Technically a Jewish tradition for spending Christmas Eve, it’s a hassle-free way to have a great night out and not worry about clean-up afterwards.

Christmas Day
Have left-over Chinese for breakfast and if there are gifts to open, cool. If not, no biggie. Call your loved ones and that friend who you’ve been meaning to call back since Thanksgiving.

Start searching for vacation deals. Look outside. Look at that picture of Jamaica on your screen. Look back outside. You see? Set up alerts to be delivered to your inbox once the price is right. Hold on, dear frozen one! Your tropical escape in February isn’t that too far away.

Head to the movies. See two. Enjoy the fact that you’re in plush leather seats not sweating over a stove and arguing with the family member who really wants store-bought stuffing.

Pop round to a friend’s or over to your neighbours' for dessert. Folks always welcome randos after the formalities of family time.

Boxing Day
Have a nice bath with lots of sweet smelling stuff you got at Christmas At The Forum. Head outside and help your neighbours shovel. Bond over cursing city hall and nature, then stay in bed and binge-watch something new on Netflix. Order a pizza—there’s nothing more festive than ham and pineapple.

Look at your chequing account balance and get your outfit for work ready. You’ll be leaving on time. Early, if you’re taking the number 7 Robie bus.

———

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, December 20, 2018

Support the artists that create your fantasies

Porn can be deviant and still be ethical. That starts with paying performers.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 4:03 AM

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

You’re probably a thief. If you’re not a thief, you have knowingly benefited from the work of another thief. Watch porn much? Maybe you aren’t a thief and you do buy your porn. Maybe you do support the creators whose content you’ve long enjoyed on Tumblr for free. Excellent! Keep paying for your smut. Changes are brewing and we need your support.

If you’ve been online at all over the last couple weeks you’ve almost certainly heard that on December 17, Tumblr banned all NSFW content. This comes shortly after an issue with child porn being discovered on the site. Apple immediately responded by removing the Tumblr app from the iOS store. Whether the policy shift is a direct response to the child porn issue or simply puritanical Apple strong-arming the platform, this is a major loss. No one is suggesting child pornography should be allowed. Settle down. But this is the latest in a series of attacks on open sexuality happening online.

Since SESTA/FOSTA passed in the good US of old A, Craigslist has ended its “dating” listings and Backpage has closed its advertising services to sex workers, forcing many back out on the streets and further marginalizing the already marginalized. Even Patreon has indicated it’s no longer supporting X-rated content.

This change is a huge blow to a variety of curators like those in the LGBTQ+ community looking for alternative bodies and content different from the cis-hetero normative porn offerings on major sites. This is especially hard on creators themselves. Artists, independent lingerie manufacturers, fetish wear entrepreneurs, smut authors, sex educators and sex workers of all stripes are losing an outlet to express themselves, their products and the opportunity to build fan bases that translates into clients.

If you’re worried about how you’re going to bust your next nut think about the people this change is impacting the most and consider supporting them. The hard-working people who create the material you use for a good wank deserve your continued patronage, even if it does cost you a few bucks. Find your favorite models, photographers, producers on their other social media pages. Buy their content. Louder, for those in the back; BUY THEIR CONTENT.

Help the people in your fantasies survive. Many sex workers have videos you can buy on ManyVids or Onlyfans. Subscriptions give you access to large archives of the same types of imagery you would consume for free on Tumblr but for a nominal fee. There are also sex worker owned-and-operated outlets like PinkLabelTV and Kink.dom. There are so many sites out there that do not steal from content creators. Search them out. Subscribe.

If you want to watch free porn or can’t divorce yourself from Pornhubs ease of use, try and use their verified section so you know the people making the porn are getting paid. Sex can be deviant and still be ethical. That starts with paying performers.

But sex work is illegal! Yeah, well, so is stealing content but you have no problem doing that every time you log into Pornhub or Redtube to get jerk-off material for free. So save me your hypocrisy. You wouldn’t walk into a grocery store and take your shopping home without paying. Stealing porn or using websites that allow stolen porn is no different.

Stop using unethical porn sources to fuel your masturbation fodder. Stop perpetuating the stigmatization and marginalization of folx already marginalized. Stop taking advantage of those you admire in the darkness of your room. Support the artists that create your fantasies. Be 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, November 29, 2018

On journalism and biting the hand that feeds you

Making the news industry dependent on tax credits risks giving a future government leverage to keep reporters in line.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 4:46 AM

Papers like the The Globe and Mail and Chronicle Herald should be careful about what money they take from the federal government. - THE COAST
  • Papers like the The Globe and Mail and Chronicle Herald should be careful about what money they take from the federal government.
  • THE COAST

Last week, as part of their Fall Economic Statement, the federal government announced several initiatives to provide financial support to news organizations, including tax credits to support the production of original news content and to support subscriptions to Canadian news media. They also announced additional direct support for non-profit local news organizations to create open source news content, and that these organizations would also be able to receive charitable donations. Predictably, Canada’s biggest newspaper chain welcomed the initiative. Equally predictably, opposition leaders accused the government of using the initiative to buy favourable coverage in the election year.

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
Over the past few years, plenty of ink has been spilled about the dire financial straits that the news industry is in, particularly when it comes to high quality, long-form journalism, which is expensive to produce. A robust news industry is an essential pillar of democracy, and we all have an interest in making sure newspapers can stay afloat. But the news industry is also facing a crisis of legitimacy. The constant screaming about “fake news” may originate south of the border, but it has echoes here in Canada as well. The funding plan raises a lot of questions.

In some countries, subsidies to journalists are used explicitly as a tool to control critical coverage. The government has promised that eligibility for the funds will be determined by an independent panel comprised of members of the news and journalism industry, who will also be tasked to “promote core journalism standards [and] define professional journalism.” But who will choose the members of this panel, and what safeguards will be put in place to protect its independence? Just a few years ago, Stephen Harper’s government used the tax breaks that Canada grants to charities as a weapon to attack his critics, particularly environmental groups. Since many of these groups depended on charitable donations, Harper’s audits threatened their ability to stay solvent, and chilled their willingness to challenge his government. Creating a dependence among the news industry on tax credits risks giving a future government the same kind of leverage to keep reporters in line. Just imagine if Donald Trump had the power to put CNN out of business!

The subsidy for local non-profit outlets who produce open source news content under a Creative Commons licence is also worth considering carefully. It could well backfire by further degrading the willingness of Canadians to pay for content, undermining the viability of existing, for profit, local news outlets.

None of this is to say that the programs are a bad idea. They may be the only hope of pushing back against another growing trend, where news outlets are bought up by wealthy patrons. This can be incredibly corrosive to democracy, as the people of New Brunswick can attest.

David Simon, creator of The Wire, and himself a former Baltimore Sun reporter, once responded to calls for government subsidies for the newspaper industry by saying: “High-end journalism can and should bite any hand that tries to feed it, and it should bite a government hand most viciously.” I generally have faith in the ability of Canada’s journalists to stay independent. But it’s not enough that they remain independent—people need to believe that they are independent. Canadians should keep a careful watch over any program which has the potential to expand the government’s influence over the very people that are meant to be holding them accountable.

———

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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Vol 27, No 12
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