Indigenous lives, white agendas: A lesson

Indigenous lives, white agendas: A lesson

Twenty-one years ago, when I was far less cynical about the potential of journalism to wake people up about climate change, I wrote a book called Vanishing Halo: Saving the Boreal Forest (Greystone/Douglas & McIntyre, 1999). Commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation, the book’s purpose was to raise awareness about the coniferous crown that serves as the earth’s northern lungs: the array of plants, wildlife and people that inhabit the boreal region, ...
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Reading 2019: A catholicity of interests

Reading 2019: A catholicity of interests

NEW WESTMINSTER—The last time I posted a blog about my previous year’s reading (2016), the list was comprised of eleven books written by men. All but four of the authors were white, and the top two have since been “cancelled.” (The first, already in hot water for profiting from dubious claims to Indigenous ancestry, was Joseph Boyden; the second, two years before publishing a self-exculpatory essay by serial sex abuser Jian ...
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So long, Grapes

So long, Grapes

It should have happened a long time ago, this cancelling of Don Cherry, the Seventh-Greatest-Canadian-who-happens-to-be-an-unreconstructed-racist-in-loud-suits. But it seems fitting that his long-awaited sacking from Hockey Night in Canada’s “Coach’s Corner” would occur on Remembrance Day weekend, of all occasions. Sour for “Grapes,” definitely, given his oft-stated dedication to veterans, but surely opportune for many of the immigrants he insulted: since his remarks aired on Saturday, the news cycle has featured a ...
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The perils of nostalgia

The perils of nostalgia

Five or six years ago, around the time I was turning fifty, I joked with some friends that if I ever wrote a memoir (apart from The Rice Queen Diaries, that is) I would call it When We Were Twinks. Reflecting with mock wistfulness on the good old salad days, this breathless tell-all would cast a nostalgic eye on the glories of early adult gay consciousness: on the bountiful harvest ...
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Dear Jason Kenney...

Dear Jason Kenney…

Dear Jason Kenney, Two years ago today, kd lang asked you rather bluntly on Twitter: “You’re gay, aren’t you?” She wasn’t the only person who wanted to know. I suspect that millions of other Canadians—including plenty of the celebrated singer/songwriter’s fellow Albertans—were curious, too. One reason for the question was that, on March 28, 2017, you told the Calgary Herald’s editorial board that you thought schools should inform parents when ...
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A close call in Bali

A close call in Bali

Heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth.                           —Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights UBUD, INDONESIA—Near-death experience is not something most travellers would consider an essential part of any successful vacation. But after my own close shave during a late winter getaway to this renowned Southeast Asian Arcadia, ...
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What if we're ALL alcoholics?

What if we’re ALL alcoholics?

Dear Alcohol, We need to talk. With the holiday season now in full swing, you and I have been seeing more of each other lately—but I feel our relationship needs re-examining. You see, now that marijuana is legal in Canada, I can’t help noting how easy a ride you’ve been getting in the court of public opinion compared to other mood-altering substances, including cannabis. Since the end of prohibition, really, ...
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Walking anachronism tempts fate, pays price

Walking anachronism tempts fate, pays price

Since news of his death broke a few days ago, the sensational story of ill-fated American Christian missionary John Allen Chau has been getting lots of attention in social media—and mostly for the right reasons. For every religious dingbat who calls him a martyr, there are countless other people who take no pity on the 26-year-old zealot for meeting an end that even his own family admits was entirely of ...
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After the Asshole Apocalypse

After the Asshole Apocalypse

When American author Edmund White finally published his much-anticipated biography of Jean Genet in 1993, not all of his peers were impressed. Playwright and activist Larry Kramer, for one, wanted to know: at the height of a global AIDS crisis what was White doing, spending seven years in Paris writing about a decadent, bohemian artist/outlaw while gay men by the thousands were dying in the prime of their lives? During ...
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Xenophobic nationalism: Myanmar's curse

Xenophobic nationalism: Myanmar’s curse

With the corpses piling up in Rakhine State and the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing into Bangladesh eclipsing the 400,000 mark, international good will toward Aung San Suu Kyi appears to be hemorrhaging by the minute. The whole world, it seems, is piling on Myanmar’s former beacon of democracy, blaming her for a crisis the UN describes as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. And with good reason. Once celebrated for her steadfast ...
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Omar Khadr: Window on the Canadian Soul

Omar Khadr: Window on the Canadian Soul

You can tell a lot about Canadians from how we talk about Omar Khadr. Right now, there’s a lot being said about Khadr that isn’t exactly flattering to those who are saying it. It has been been two years since the former child soldier, accused terrorist and youngest Guantanamo Bay detainee was released from a medium security prison in Edmonton, ending 13 years of incarceration that had divided Canadians on partisan lines. With ...
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Cultural Appropriation: The Elephant in the Room is Us

Cultural Appropriation: The Elephant in the Room is Us

[NOTE: As I write, I am supposed to be in Vancouver at the Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC)’s annual general meeting. Having flown to previous ones in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Toronto, I had every expectation of finally attending an AGM in my home province. Instead, thanks to a careless mistake involving my passport, a trip to Berlin that was supposed to end on May 31 was extended until June 5—the ...
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