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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For corporate killers, the free ride's over

For corporate killers, the free ride’s over

Hell’s History: The USW’s fight to prevent workplace deaths and injuries from the 1992 Westray Mine disaster through 2016
By Tom Sandborn (United Steelworkers, 76 pp, 2016) Each year on April 28, unions and other labour organizations across Canada observe the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job. A solemn public ritual, the Day of Mourning ceremony typically features a procession of “pallbearers” carrying empty ...
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The stubborn persistence of justice

The stubborn persistence of justice

Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and The Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice By Matt Eisenbrandt University of California Press (226 pp, $37.95) For those old enough to remember it, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980 still resonates as one of the late twentieth century’s more tragic events, its historic significance extending well beyond the borders of El Salvador. For ...
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Fifteen Minutes of Shame

Fifteen Minutes of Shame

Predictably, it’s over before most of us knew it had even begun. The meteoric career of a cartoonish right-wing troll and social media shockmeister who happens to be gay—a sad human being who didn’t deserve a moment of serious attention—has come crashing down with all the sordid sensationalism that gave rise to it. Like most people in the English-speaking world, I was blissfully unaware of this vacuous sham artist’s existence ...
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A Letter to Justin Trudeau

A Letter to Justin Trudeau

Dear Prime Minister, As a native-born, Canadian male who happens to be married to an immigrant male who once fled a military dictatorship, I was heartened by your initial response to the U.S. ban on our Muslim neighbours. “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war,” you Tweeted, “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”. Such admirable sentiment, however, is not enough to prevent injustice unless ...
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2016: A Year of Good Reads

2016: A Year of Good Reads

According to some of my fellow writers, novelists should never read fiction while their own work is in progress. In the midst of writing a magnum opus, the argument goes, one should not be unduly influenced or distracted by another novelist’s style or method; to do so would risk derailing one’s own creative process by engaging in some form of subconscious mimicry. I would say that’s true while the writing itself is ...
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