1. Mi’kmaq seat

“A Nova Scotia senator says the time may be right to re-examine the establishment of a Mi’kmaq seat in the provincial legislature — and the premier says his government is open to it too,” reports Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press:

Dan Christmas, a Mi’kmaq who was appointed to Ottawa’s upper chamber as a non-partisan senator last fall, said he thinks relations between the provincial government and the Mi’kmaq have improved since the idea was first brought forward in the late 1980s.

The Liberal government announced before the May 30 election that it had formed an independent commission to consult Acadians and African-Nova Scotians on effective electoral representation and also pledged to create a separate electoral boundary commission in late January of next year.

Christmas believes the process could provide an opportunity if there is Mi’kmaq support for the idea. The Nova Scotia legislature agreed to the idea in principle decades ago.

The Springtide Collective explored the history and possibility of a Mi’kmaq seat in its Off Script podcast.

As I wrote earlier this month:

Since the 1990s the Nova Scotia House of Assembly Act gives the Mi’kmaq people a seat in the legislature:

Mi’kmaq representative
6 (1) The House hereby declares its intention to include as an additional member a person who represents the Mi’kmaq people, such member to be chosen and to sit in a manner and upon terms agreed to and approved by representatives of the Mi’kmaq people.

The Mi’kmaq, however, have declined to choose such a representative. My understanding is that they have declined the seat for principled reasons: They see their treaty relationship with the Nova Scotia government as that of an agreement between equal governments. To sit in the legislature is to agree that they are subservient to the provincial government, so they don’t take that seat. (If I have any part of this wrong, I hope to be corrected.) For much the same reason, many First Nations people refuse to vote in Canadian or provincial elections because they don’t recognize the Canadian and provincial governments as legitimate.

2. Cabinet

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Premier Stephen McNeil named his cabinet yesterday. Ministers and their responsibilities are:

Karen Casey — Deputy Premier; Minister of Finance and Treasury Board; chair of the Treasury and Policy Board; also responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

Keith Colwell — Minister of Agriculture, and Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Leo Glavine — Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage; Minister of Seniors.

Kelly Regan — Minister of Community Services; also responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Geoff MacLellan — Minister of Business, Energy, Service Nova Scotia, and Trade; responsibility for Tourism Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Business Inc., and Innovacorp; he will also be the House leader.

Zach Churchill — Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Randy Delorey — Minister of Health and Wellness; Minister of Gaelic Affairs.

Tony Ince — Minister of the Public Service Commission; Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

Lena Metlege Diab — Minister of Immigration; Minister of Acadian Affairs and Francophonie.

Labi Kousoulis — Minister of Labour and Advanced Education.

Mark Furey — Minister of Justice; Minister of Labour Relations. Labour Relations is “a new cabinet responsibility that will focus on contract negotiations and government’s relationship with public sector unions.”

Lloyd Hines — Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

Margaret Miller — Minister of Natural Resources.

Patricia Arab — Minister of Internal Services and Communications Nova Scotia.

Iain Rankin — Minister of Environment Minister.

Derek Mombourquette — Minister of Municipal Affairs; also responsible for the Emergency Management Office.

McNeil also will name Kevin Murphy as Speaker.

3. Sandeson case

The jury in the William Sandeson murder trial has been empaneled, and so reporters can now say what evidence was kept from the jury. Blair Rhodes, Zane Woodford, Natasha Pace, and Kieran Leavitt each have their take on it.

The reporting on the trial shows what can be done when enough newsroom resources are put to a story. This has been a long, complex trial, with lots of evidence and daily testimony, and the reporters have risen to the challenge.

4. A Free Country

YouTube video

“A Halifax-based organization that works with immigrants to build new lives in Canada is taking issue with song lyrics from a local band, saying the words are unwelcoming to newcomers,” reports Emma Smith for the CBC:

Last week, CBC’s Information Morning aired the song A Free Country by the Stanfields, in which frontman Jon Landry sings, “I don’t think much of strangers, much of you or your kind, you best fit in or you’re free to find a better place to be.”

Gerry Mills, executive director of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, said the organization was contacted by a community member who was upset by what she’d heard.

“The reality is words are usually taken at their face value and people in the public domain, and that includes bands, they have to understand that words can be weapons and that they can hurt,” said Mills, whose organization is one of the largest immigrant-serving agencies in Atlantic Canada.

After Mills heard the complaint, she played the song for about 10 people at a meeting and said there was complete silence.

“There are many songs that have racist, sexist or have violent content and I wouldn’t normally respond, but somehow when it’s a band based in Halifax and when it gets played by the CBC in the morning to thousands of listeners here in Nova Scotia, it gets to be more personal,” said Mills.

Irony is dead as a murdered doorknob.

The Stanfields are an accomplished band, winner of Music Nova Scotia and East Coast Music Awards. There’s nothing racist, sexist, or violent about their music or lyrics, and yet Landry is put in the ridiculous position of defending his work:

Those of you who know The Stanfields are well aware that our songs and politics champion those who are oppressed. We firmly stand behind our song’s satirical premise to reflect what we consider an unsavoury viewpoint in our society — regardless of how others may interpret it.

What does the concept of “A Free Country” mean to you? Freedom from bigotry, or freedom to express it? Where does the line between provoking thought and censorship lay?

Listen to both the song and the interview I did today with CBC Nova Scotia Information Morning. We would be grateful for your point of view. Please keep it respectful — these are two of the most important issues of our time.

Landry is right about “provoking thought.” Art is the one place where all aspects of humanity can and should be explored without fear of censorship, whether imposed by the state, societal norms, or internal fear of condemnation.

When I was working with a theatre, I quickly learned the difference between a boring, not very interesting “issue play” and a quality artistic production that explored controversial issues — the former has one-dimensial villains and heroes, bad and worthy respectively, while the latter represents all characters as complex, with their own story arcs that are worth pursuing. A murderer, or a dictator, or a misogynist, or a prison guard can be interesting, even likeable, and the play succeeds in part to the degree that the audience builds empathy with the “bad guy.”

Imagine watching the TV drama “The Wire” in which Stringer Bell is just a one-dimensional street thug, never contemplating his role in the universe, or police investigator Jimmy McNulty isn’t a tortured soul. That imagined show would suck. But thankfully in The Wire that made it to our screens, all the characters are complex and likeable, and so the show works.

Music has a long history of portraying villains positively. That’s what opera is all about. Mack the Knife is a song celebrating a serial killer. Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground was revolutionary in that his songs portrayed society’s despised rejects as complex people worthy of our consideration.

But A Free Country doesn’t attempt to win people over to racists; it is a simple satire, poking fun at ugly views that are often expressed in our society. Naming that view, making it the butt of a joke, is not racist. I don’t think the song portrays the narrator as particularly likeable, but even if it did, so what? Don’t we all have that embarrassing uncle who is stuck in the unenlightened past, someone we tolerate at Thanksgiving dinner and love after a fashion, but we’re glad they’re not in any position of power? When crazy racist uncle is in the White House with his hands on the nuclear briefcase, maybe we oughtta be making fun of his unenlightened views. When Stephen Harper was at 24 Sussex, that’s what The Stanfields did.

I don’t know what to make of people who are so humour impaired that they can’t understand the song or its purpose.

And no, this is not a case of “political correctness” gone too far. It’s just people being stupid.


No public meetings.

On campus


Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Friday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Brandon Groves will defend his thesis, “The Synthesis of Prodigiosene-Based Anticancer Reagents and Development of Reactions for Dipyrrin-Based Molecules.”

Ponies and dogs (Friday, 10am, Room B310, B Building, Sexton Campus) —Richard Florizone continues with his travelling road show.

Fluorescence Imaging (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Gonzalo Cosa, from McGill University, will speak on “Chemoselective Fluorescence Imaging of Nucleophiles, ROS and Redox Processes: From High Throughput to Single Particle to Single Molecule Events.”

The Icarus Report

I flew Porter Air to Toronto yesterday. On takeoff, I dutifully inspected the air safety card left in the seat pocket; the card contained the above image, which shows an evil man with laser eyes who can cause various disasters outside the plane: an explosion of glass shards, a fire, blue wavy lines coming in a door. I think that the exclamation point and the red circle with the line through it mean that should we see Mr. Evil Man With Laser Eyes on our plane, we’re to be alarmed but should take no action.

Here are mostly Atlantic Canadian incidents over the past week, with the addition of some more distant but notable incidents.

• On June 2, a helicopter was hauling timber to a gravel pit in a remote area near Cartwright, Newfoundland when the pilot “sensed an abrupt vertical motion” and dropped its load. It turns out one of the ropes holding the cargo net had snapped. Thankfully, the timber fell on an unpopulated area.

• On June 7, WestJet flight 8985 from St. John’s to Halifax was on visual approach to the runway but was pulled up by the tower because another plane was still on the runway.

• On June 7, an ultralight plane taking off from Woodstock, New Brunswick crashed. “1 soul on board (SOB), not injured,” reports the Transportation Safety Board, which is an interesting way to refer to a pilot.

• On June 10, a Lockheed C-130 operated by the Department of Defence “declared an emergency due to minimum fuel” and landed at St. John’s airport.

• On June 11, a Cessna carrying a pilot and three passengers was flying from Tofino to Langley, BC, when suddenly the engine stopped and the plane had to make a “forced landing,” which is the technical term for “crashed.” The Transportation Safety Board report gives details:

The pilot advised ATC and conducted a forced landing in an industrial area on the foreshore of North Vancouver, BC. The aircraft struck a bridge guardrail, chain link fence, power line and tree before coming to rest. All four occupants were taken to hospital. One passenger sustained serious injuries and the pilot and other two passengers sustained minor injuries. There was no fire and no ELT signal was transmitted. On site examination of the aircraft showed that the right wing tank was empty and the left wing tank contained a small amount of fuel.

• On June 12, WestJet flight 3426 from Halifax to St. John’s hit a frog on the runway in St. John’s. “The runway was inspected and about 12 frogs were removed all intact, with no evidence of a strike.” Air Canada flight 822 departing St. John’s for London also reported a frog on the runway. Someone went out to look again and found a dead frog.

• On June 14, a CANLink Aviation Diamond DA 20-C1 flying north of Shediac Bay reported it had been struck by a laser from someone on the ground.

• On June 14, someone in Cessna parked on the tarmac in Whitehorse jumped out with two dogs, walked across the runway so the dogs could do what dogs do, then walked back across the runway and got back in the plane. The folks who operate the airport were not amused.

• On June 14, a moose was running around the runway at Grand Prairie, Alberta, and so a Cessna had to wait a while before it could land.

• On June 15, WestJet flight 534 from Winnipeg to Toronto requested immediate landing because the cabin suddenly depressurized. Rescue workers were alerted, but apparently weren’t needed; the report doesn’t say if the oxygen masks fell from the cabin roof, or if passengers remembered to put on their own mask before assisting a child.


A friend of mine was on Westjet 534. I’d say oxygen masks fell from the ceiling!

— Skirt-wearing Senior! 🏳️‍⚧️🇨🇦🏳️‍🌈🇺🇦🇵🇹 (@Peter_Greathead) June 16, 2017

• Over the past weeks, pilots encountered drones above Pearson Airport in Toronto and above Canada Place in Vancouver. A helicopter inspecting a pipeline near Valleyview, Alberta encountered a drone that came within “10 to 20 feet,” and the pilot had to make a sharp turn in order to avoid striking the drone.

In the harbour

3am: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5am: Bilbao Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
10am: YM Moderation, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11am: Bilbao Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
Noon: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
6pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 back to Saint-Pierre


I was in transit most of the day yesterday, so of course a million people had emergencies that I could not attend to. I’ll try to respond as soon as possible.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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      1. Oh nice! Thanks. I’ll have to take a gander to those links when I get home.

        The wiki article wasn’t particularly clear tho. Do they mainly play at the airport, or are they really into mid-level quality underwears, er…?

  1. I would be a bit more careful when judging the people who were upset by the lyrics of the Stanfields. While I agree that it is sad that people do not seem to recognize irony anymore, lt’s not forget that the population served by ISANS are immigrants whose first language is often NOT English. Surely, the president of ISANS could have explained it to them, however, please be mindful that you might call people stupid who are still learning the language and all its layers, which is not an easy thing, if you have ever been in that situation.
    All in all, it was unnecssary to have that discussion on the CBC, and rather a private conversation or class about what irony is would have been way more productive.

  2. While I certainly understand the Mi’kmaq community in not accepting tokenism in the legislature I will always be thrilled by the memory of MLA Elijah Harper standing in the Manitoba legislature, eagle feather in hand, denying the passage of the Meech Lake accord in the 90’s.

    The was a hell of a moment.

  3. So, you ask ten people at a meeting to listen to a song’s lyrics and there is no framing of why you want ten people to do so? Well, ten people listened and there was “silence”. I am left to wonder, was there silence because people were shocked or was it because they thought their sensibilities were being challenged or what? Did anyone ask to hear the song again? Did anyone in this ‘audience’ have knowledge of the proclivities of the group called the Stanfields? There are far too many unanswered questions with this, and the way in which the task (listen to the lyrics of this song) was framed is important too.

    In the east end of Pictou County, the Stanfields are well-known as they are the long -time favorites of many who have attended the Black Top Ball- relax, the black top referred to is a reference to asphalt paving. That celebration in late August has been a wrap-up to summer event in Ponds for a number of years; its popularity has grown and the presence of the Stanfields is a key reason why.
    As I look at the t-shirt purchased at the 2016 Black Top Ball, the Stanfields get top billing followed by The Town Heroes, the Divorcees, Like a Motorcycle, The Mike Bochoff Band, Floodland and B. Anderson and the Resolutes. Among this musical family I believe there is a demonstrated intolerance of those who would exclude and offend while at the same time you get the edgy lyrics from a great group like LAM. Among performing artists there seems to be no time for anyone who wants to spread hate and distrust. To the contrary, they are among the first to speak up and defend, while leaders of powerful nations can talk about carpet bombing enemies and banning all Muslims and the world goes on as if that’s to be tolerated.

  4. I used to work airline and ‘souls on board’ is the term we used to report the number of passengers plus crew on board the aircraft.

  5. here we go round in circles….don’t listen to rap music…..the moral majority is at it again. I don’t like the lyrics so nobody is allowed to listen….poets, writers and musicians interpret the world around them. So now they have to make it palatable to the humourless? Um yes, satire is humour, sarcasm is too

  6. “Those of you who know The Stanfields…” To many, who don’t know The Stanfields from a murdered doorknob, the song’s lyrics are pretty disturbing. As Gerry Mills said in her interview, she HOPED the lyrics were satirical but was afraid they might not be, and could very easily be misconstrued, given the societal climate we are dealing these days.

    1. Then isn’t it up to Mills to dig a little deeper and find out for sure if there’s something that concerns her?

      There’s an awful lot of punk rock that, if taken literally, would make the songs racist, misogynist, or blatantly hateful. Of course, it’s exactly the opposite. Thankfully, many people who listen to punk can do so with a critical ear and try to understand the deeper concepts being explored.

      The general public would do well to expand their minds and understand the concepts of irony and satire. Of course, that will never happen, and we’re left with these kinds of stories.

    2. What we really need is some tool that allows us to search the accumulated knowledge on the Internet to find the answers to such questions.

  7. I heard Jon Landry on Radio One yesterday (I must say, pre-8 am he is much less coherent than normal). The story made me kind of sad. If regular racism is rampant enough that people can’t recognize a fictional narrator…. I mean, Harry Chapin wasn’t *actually* a cab driver, and Stan Rogers wasn’t really an amputee in the 1800s, and for that matter, I’ve met them and the Stanfields aren’t really pirates (nor racists).

    It is unfortunate that a song heard out of context made someone feel bad, but if it was so easily accepted as straight, not ironic, then that is a testament to the ability of Landry’s songwriting – he obviously captured a very authentic voice. And THAT is the sad part– it is authentic, and most of us from Nova Scotia have heard more than a few of the lines from the song before, from acquaintances.