1. The far-right ideologues promoting Cape Breton as a refuge from the ills of the world
While I was slacking off on the weekend, tooling around St. Margaret’s Bay on a friend’s Cape Islander, Baxter was hard at work on an amazing follow-up, looking at just who the people selling dreams of Cape Breton as a refuge from horrors like a multicultural society really are.
The set for the Herman & Popp online video show, produced for a German-speaking audience, is slick and professional, with the hosts Andreas Popp and Eva Herman sitting side by side, a laptop between them as they chat before the camera.
Behind the camera is Mash Mashaghati, who along with his wife Alexandra, is part of the five-person team running the real estate company Cape Breton Real Solutions Inc. that has been set up to sell land to Germans.
Popp and Herman were identified in an article last week by Germany’s largest weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, as members of a right-wing network luring Germans to Cape Breton to buy land and establish a colony of far-right radicals and ideologues, as the Halifax Examiner reported here.
Popp and Herman say they will be taking legal actions, and say they “disassociate” themselves “from any right wing ideas in any way possible.”
The thing is, when you threaten to sue people for defaming you, folks tend to start looking into what you’ve said.
Enter Joan Baxter:
To get a clearer idea of what Popp and Herman are doing in Nova Scotia, we need to come back to the Popp and Herman show, particularly the May 2020 edition, in which Herman poses “important questions” that have been sent from their followers to Popp.
The questions are all about setting up a safe haven or “refuge” in Cape Breton, from what Popp describes as the “shocking” situation these days in their German-speaking European homeland of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Normally, Popp says, such a discussion would be held during the “exciting” weeklong seminars that he has been hosting for more than 10 years in Cape Breton. The seminars are intended for “clear thinkers” (presumably only ones who speak German as the seminars are German-speaking only, and for people with €2,850 Euro — about CN$4,450 — to spare for the whole package)…
In one exchange, Popp says that the world is on a war footing, and he lists several ongoing crises (spoiler alert: the climate crisis is not one of them he names, nor is it a theme on the Wissensmanufaktur website that does feature themes such as “lying press” and “media manipulation”).
Popp refers to the Corona crisis (which in other broadcasts they suggest is part of a conspiracy that would lead to global digitization of people’s identity so they can be watched and controlled more easily)…
Then, says Popp:
“We have an invasion from the Arabian side at the moment, which is directed at Europe, and European politics is behaving with — if you excuse me — incompetence, that is my personal opinion.”
Herman interrupts Popp to say:
“It is not just an Arabian [invasion], but also Arabian, African, and Asian invasion.”
Baxter gets into much, much more in this story, untangling the web of connections among the various players.
This story is for subscribers only, and it is well worth the price of admission.
If you’re spending less than usual on gas and restaurant meals, heck, you might as well use some of that money to enjoy the benefits of a Halifax Examiner subscription.
2. Masks in university towns
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.
Masks become mandatory in indoor public spaces in Nova Scotia this coming Friday, and that has the mayor of Antigonish feeling relieved.
“The underlying tone is that everyone has concerns about the students coming back — and not just students, but about the Bubble opening up,” said [Antigonish mayor Laurie] Boucher. “People are nervous and anxious, and that’s just a normal reaction. But as Dr. Strang and the Premier said, we do have to start learning to live with COVID-19 and therefore change our behaviour.”…
Wolfville, Sydney, Church Point, and Halifax are also communities where universities are located, but the stakes may be higher in Antigonish. That’s because St. Francis Xavier University plans to deliver in-person instruction for 72% of its undergraduate programs. That’s a much higher percentage than other universities, which are providing more online courses and fewer face-to-face interactions…
Wearing masks won’t grant Antigonish immunity from this sneaky virus. But in the birthplace of the co-operative movement, the messaging from both the university and the town reflects an understanding they need to work together if they hope to keep the virus from spreading once classes start.
As an aside, I’m glad Henderson mentioned the co-operative movement. It’s an important part of Nova Scotia history that I think far too few people are aware of.
3. An unlikely but possible path to a full public inquiry
In his weekly column for the Examiner, Stephen Kimber looks at the members of the panel who will be conducting the review into the mass killing of April 18 and 19, and, like the rest of us, wonders about why the provincial and federal governments chose a process absolutely nobody wanted.
Unlike the rest of us, Kimber also has a suggestion about how the panel members can still get us to an inquiry.
The distinguished panelists can’t have missed the roaring-tsunami backlash that washed over news of their appointment to what Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells calls “a toothless, rickety review panel” and has effectively undermined their legitimacy. Consider:
- … the anguished cri de coeur from family members like Amelia McLeod, whose father and stepmother were killed in the rampage. “They won’t give us a full public inquiry,” she declared in the Globe and Mail. “Why? Because they are covering up facts that happened that night and day. We deserve a full public inquiry. My parents deserve the truth.”
- … the frustrations of inquiry-demanding senators like Mary Coyle. “We don’t need any more secrets around this, there’s already been enough erosion of public trust. This is not the best we can do. It’s pretty clear the voices of the families of those victims have not been respected.”
- … the incredulity of legal experts like Dalhousie University law professor Archie Kaiser. “It’s as if [the governments are] living in some kind of alternate reality, particularly on the points of independence and transparency that they allege would infuse the independent review. I don’t understand how they maintained their positions, frankly, with a straight face.”
Given all of that, the panelists should now immediately issue a second public statement, this one written by themselves without the aid of government handlers.
I will not spoil the rest of the column. It’s a good one and you should read it here.
I was going to say this article is for subscribers only, but I see it’s not. So, for you non-subscribers, go ahead and enjoy it. But also, please consider subscribing.
4. More calls for a public inquiry; protest today
When I looked last night, the Nova Scotians for a Public Inquiry Facebook group had about 13,500 members.
That’s a jump of 7,500 since Friday, when Yvette d’Entremont wrote about the group in a story on Nova Scotians’ outrage over the announcement that there will be no public inquiry into the atrocities committed on April 18 and 19 of this year.
d’Entremont speaks with Dawn Parke, one of the administrators of the group. She knew three of the victims personally:
There’s a lot of anger, and the majority of the people that have joined the page believe that there are mistakes, that this is a cover up, and that there’s been no transparency,” Parke said in an interview.
“There are people from every different background, regardless of political affiliation or personal belief. I think we are all united in our grief and in our rage and the ineptitude that has been demonstrated.”…
Parke said many Nova Scotians reaching out via the group say they have no faith in the review process announced yesterday. She said even if the review could address all their concerns and get the answers they were seeking, the level of mistrust in government is currently too deep. Because a public inquiry is what the families want and need, she believes we should all be listening to them.
“This is their (the governments’) version of a bandaid, or in some ways a muzzle, not just for the victims and their families, but for all of our communities and for all women,” Parke said.
Meanwhile, a demonstration is slated for noon at Victoria Park in Halifax, calling for a full public inquiry.
Martha Paynter, who is one of the organizers (and an occasional Examiner contributor) tells the Canadian Press:
“We need systemic and structural change to come from this, and a little review is just not going to cut it,” Paynter, one of the strike organizers, said in an interview…
“This was a horror, an enormous trauma for the entire country, and we all should be truly enraged by the inadequate government response,” Paynter said…
Jenny Wright, another co-organizer of Monday’s strike, said a public inquiry is the best way to get to the bottom of what happened — and prevent future massacres.
“We must have an inquest that looks at the specific links between misogyny and violence against women and mass killings that we are seeing here at home and across Canada that we are not acknowledging,” Wright, a feminist activist who lives in both Halifax and St. John’s said in an interview.
Paynter’s organization, Women’s Wellness Within, is one of the organizers of the demonstration, and they are calling for a nation-wide 22-minute strike to take place across the country, and gives 22 reasons to support an inquiry.
On Monday, July 27th at noon, we are calling for a Canada-wide 22 minute-strike.
Join in person or online.
We ask that you stop what you are doing and demand that our leaders call for a comprehensive public inquiry of the largest mass murder in Canada in our lifetimes. Flood their inboxes with emails demanding a public inquiry. Tag their social media accounts telling them all the reasons why we need a public inquiry.
I’ve read the 22 reasons, and I’ve got to say they are pretty compelling.
5. Taxi driver charged with assault wants his licence back
Zane Woodford reports on the case of taxi driver Navneet Jaggi, who was charged with sexual assault on June 25, and had his taxi licence suspended the same day. Jaggi is appealing the suspension of his licence on the grounds that his wife does not speak English, and he needs to earn a living for his family.
The appeals standing committee is scheduled to hear Jaggi’s appeal at a virtual special meeting on Wednesday…
This could be one of the last taxi appeals the committee hears. Due to their controversial and complicated nature, council voted in March to create a new arms-length committee to hear taxi appeals.
6. You can’t fight anti-Black racism in schools without acknowledging it exists
In mid-June, Andrea Marsman put out a call on the Black Educators Association Facebook page, asking people to share their stories of anti-Black racism in schools. I saw some of those stories reposted (anonymously, and with permission) on the Educators for Social Justice Nova Scotia website, so I called Marsman, a guidance counsellor at Hammonds Plains Consolidated Elementary and past president of the BEA, to talk about them.
In my story, “Anti-Black racism in schools, still a long way to go,” I write:
Asked if anything about these stories surprised her, Marsman said, “Absolutely nothing. Not one thing.”
But one thing did strike her. “It’s still the same battles that we had back when I was a student and all through my teaching career.”…
“We have lots of policies that speak to anti-racism,” Marsman said. “But the policies, of course, are only as good as the teachers who are upholding and enforcing them.”…
She added, “We’ve always talked about multiculturalism, which is not addressing anti-Black racism. We’ve talked about being inclusionary, which has not addressed anti-Black racism… Because of these stories and because historically it’s so painful and almost so unbelievable in many cases, a lot of people are very much afraid to address it.”
I also get into the groundbreaking BLAC report, released in 1994, and interviewed Ben Sichel of ESJNS.
This story is for subscribers only, and you know the drill, you can subscribe here.
7. Facing $170 million lawsuit, Gospel for Asia files for creditor protection
The charity, which also operates in the United States, promises that the money will help people living in poverty in India and surrounding countries. In 2015, it brought in the equivalent of more than $43,370 a day from Canadians.
However, a CBC News investigation found dozens of former donors, GFA staff and board members had concerns about how the organization was actually spending the money it accepted. They believe hundreds of millions of dollars intended for the poor in Asia were “missing.”
The charity is not currently allowed to send money out of the country, because of the lawsuit, but that has not stopped it from fundraising, McMillan says:
In the meantime, GFA is still appealing to potential donors about the need to provide help in South Asia due to the coronavirus pandemic. Under a heading of “bringing hope and relief to starving masses,” its website states: “We are in a unique position to provide aid where others cannot.”
A mailing sent out in June implored people for coronavirus response money, asking them to agree to, “Please use my gift in South Asia to help feed the hungry, minister to the hurting, save lives — and express the love of Jesus!”
With donations down to a paltry $2.5 million so far this year (they took in $7.7 million last year) Gospel for Asia is seeking creditor protection because it owes… $8,900. Yes, that’s right.
The website Charity Intelligence, which provides information on charities’ transparency and on how they spend their money, has this to say about Gospel for Asia:
Charity Intelligence has scored GFA World as a zero in financial transparency because the charity failed to provide full financial statements when requested.
The site gives GFA a D+ when it comes to how the charity reports on what it actually does and has no information on demonstrable impact of their work.
This week, the always-excellent On the Media podcast spends quite a bit of time looking at disability rights, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The episode looks at how changes to the built environment to make it more accessible for all may hold lessons for the change we will need to make in the era of COVID-19, and it also has an extended interview with disabilities rights activist Judy Heumann, which touches in part on the fantastic-sounding documentary Crip Camp.
There was a lot to think about in this episode, including the notion that we now take for granted of thinking about access as a fundamental human rights issue. Back in the 70s, Heumann says, you had to fight to get any media coverage beyond raising money and looking for cures.
One thing that really struck me while listening, which was not explicitly part of the subject of the interviews, was how language shapes perception, and how even well-meaning people like hosts Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone stumble.
Garfield plays a clip from British disability rights advocate Mik Scarlet, who says, “The medical model says I am disabled by the fact that my legs don’t work… That’s my impairment, but I’m disabled because when I go out in my wheelchair, the world around me is designed for people who can walk.”
Soon after, Garfield uses the term “wheelchair-bound,” which runs counter to the point Scarlet was making. This really jumped out at me, because we so rarely hear anyone saying it, and I imagine Garfield was probably kicking himself after the episode was released. (I am surprised nobody picked up on this in editing though. Or maybe I shouldn’t be.)
The interview between Gladstone and Heumann was particularly illuminating. Gladstone talked about how moved she had been by the Crip Camp documentary, and how (and she noted this reflected badly on her):
The whole front section about the camp, I suddenly had patience to listen to people I couldn’t understand, to pay attention where I hadn’t paid attention before… If you had stopped me on the street and said, ‘Do you think people with disabilities, especially people with disabilities who can’t talk are lesser than?’ I’d say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ But did I ever stop and hear what they say? First of all, not a lot of contact…
At this point, Heumann jumps in:
It’s not that people can’t speak, but they’re not speaking in a way we typically understand because their speech patterns are different.
Later on, Gladstone says, of the people in the documentary:
I had the opportunity to experience their sense of humour and depth and insight, not just their suffering.
Well, you’re presuming they’re suffering… Somehow I feel when people look at those of us with disabilities, they presume everyone is suffering. Why is it difficult for so many non-disabled people to see us as individual people and look at the absence of us in the community and be questioning, where are we?
People who go on and on about cancel culture frequently raise the spectre of politically correct Twitter mobs and groupthink and the silencing of people who inadvertently use the wrong kind of language and are then cast out, etc etc.
But here we see what happens far more typically, I think. Someone uses a phrase that reflects deep-seated assumptions about, in this case, disability, and the person they are speaking with offers a reply that allows for some reflection on those assumptions. This isn’t about not offending people, or people being too sensitive. It’s about questioning deep-seated attitudes and reflecting on how language can be harmful when it comes to shaping those attitudes.
While many podcasts now make transcripts available, I note that if you want to get a transcript of On the Media, you have to write to WNYC in New York and request one. Maybe I’ll write and request they change that policy.
Let me also plug one of the books I’m reading right now. It’s an anthology of short fiction called Nothing Without Us, written by and featuring people with disabilities. From the blurb:
Typically, we’re faced with stories about us crafted by people who really don’t get us. We’re turned into pathetic, tragic souls; we merely exist to inspire the abled main characters to thrive; or even worse, we’re to overcome “what’s wrong with us” and be cured.
Nothing Without Us combines both realistic and speculative fiction, starring protagonists who are written “by us and for us.” From hospital halls to jungle villages, from within the fantastical plane to deep into outer space, our heroes take us on a journey, make us think, and prompt us to cheer them on.
The book is edited by Cait Gordon and Talia C. Johnson.
Stephen Archibald is out and about noticing things again.
In the latest post on his Noticed in Nova Scotia blog, Archibald writes:
It’s been so long since I’ve been out noticing, it feels like the training wheels need to be reinstalled. Here are some wobbly observations from a little test drive.
Given that it’s Stephen Archibald, even wobbly observations are pretty great.
He tours the Aspotogan (apparently clockwise is the way to do it) and then settles in for a week in Chester, where:
Many homes… are owned by people from away, who have had to stay away this year, so the village feels a bit empty. Still lots of little things to appeal to the eye.
Since Archibald is going to be in Chester for a few days, I hope we’ll get a Chester-themed blog post after his holiday.
Archibald’s line about being out of practice when it comes to noticing may sound funny, but rings true to me. Noticing is a skill that takes work to develop. One of the first radio pieces I did for CBC, for the now-defunct Outfront (or Out Front?) was about a contemplative photography course I’d taken. Essentially, what the course was about was using your camera as a tool to help you better notice what is around you, and to create the intention to notice.
One of our assignments was to walk around Bayer’s Lake noticing colour.
Others were more close to home. Here are some grasses behind my house.
I closed the radio documentary talking about a photo I took of the sky when the clouds seemed particularly incredible, and then realizing the sky where I live looks like that really often, and that I just didn’t notice most of the time. I think about that a lot.
Special Halifax and West Community Council (6pm, virtual meeting) — agenda here.
Human Resources (10am, teleconference) — Agency, board, and commission appointments.
In the harbour
Even when he’s not doing the Morning File himself, Tim Bousquet provides the shipping news that goes here. But he is on a much-deserved staycation this week, so we will do without.
As I said above, Tim Bousquet is on holiday this week, so Suzanne Rent and I will be splitting Morning File duties. I hope Tim is staying away from his devices, enjoying his holiday, and not reading this.