1. Adults are Ghouls

The killjoys on the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional school board are at it again.


Last year, the board banned dances at the middle-school level. I wrote about that decision, and the Ohio “education expert” who advised the board, in the Examiner.

The board brought in Dru Tomlin, the “Director of Middle Level Services for the Association for Middle Level Education.” The AMLE’s partners include America’s Promise Alliance, “Founded by General Colin Powell…comprised of corporations, nonprofit organizations, foundations, policymakers, advocacy groups, and faith groups.” Other AMLE partners are active in the school privatization movement. As I wrote at the time:

It’s difficult to find much information on AMLE, but even from this cursory look into their partnerships, there seems to be ideological and business interests worth investigating further before we import these policies and “experts” into Canada. This article by Bruce A. Dixon provides some background on school privatization and its devastating effects on Black communities in the US.

This story is being reported as “it’s like Footloose!” but if these policies are driven by the undermining of public education, the attack on teacher’s unions, the privatization of schooling, and the further disenfrachisement of poor and racialized children, we should be giving these “experts” a much closer look.

And now, this year, they’re removing Halloween costumes from elementary schools.

When dances were banned at the behest of an American expert, the rationale given was about the importance of the school atmosphere:

A very big part of middle school is building up positive camaraderie, cohesion and a positive school climate, ” said Donnie Holland, the board’s acting co-ordinator of school services.

“He (Tomlin) talked about a lot of the activities that they have done that have built that type of atmosphere and he kind of led us down the path that school dances at a middle school level weren’t a great way to achieve that.”

My take on that last year was:

The suggested “alternate social gatherings, such as pep rallies and athletic events” sort of sounds like this quasi-Victorian idea that if the kids are kept busy with sports and the outdoors and “healthy” activities, they won’t be thinking about scary things like sex. It’s like the Junior Anti-Sex League in 1984.

Well, now we’ve left 1984 behind and gone full Thomas Gradgrind:

“Sometimes (costume parties) take away from instructional time in the classroom,” said Cathy MacNeil of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

Jesus, lady, maybe you should start a factory after school hours and have the kindergarteners work there. I hear that small infant hands are useful for reaching into the machines. Too bad about the amputations! What’s next, cancelling lunch so the kids can eat at their desks just like real working adults?

Image from http://rodriguez9-7.pbworks.com.
Image from http://rodriguez9-7.pbworks.com.

MacNeil also claims that banning fun helps kids with anxiety:

“We have some children who are quite anxious and costumes that show a lot of fake blood or weapons do cause them some anxiety,” she said.

It seems, then, like you could simply set guidelines for appropriate costumes. No blood or weapons!


Bad kitty! You can’t wear that costume!


Aw, much better!

Look, I have an immigrant mother who didn’t grow up with Halloween or possess any kind of creative skills. I was totally the kid sent to school wearing a sheet as a costume. One year my mom dug out an old Sari and wrapped me in it, except I couldn’t walk so I had to hop everywhere. I used to gaze in envy at the girl whose mother bought her one of the Swan Lake tutus from the ballet company. So pretty! Meanwhile, my mother was too cheap to even buy a plastic costume at Walmart (“Why would I spend $20 on an astronaut costume? You want to be an astronaut, save the money and go study physics in university”) so I would be dressed as a cardboard box or whatever.

So I can understand the arguments some schools (not the ones in Cape Breton though) have made that costumes aren’t in everyone’s culture and that kids without parents or money can end up feeling stigmatized or left out if they don’t have an awesome Nerds box costume.

In which case, ok, chill on the costumes, but still let the kids have the little classroom party and play Halloween games. But this “the time would better be used teaching” argument is some bullshit. Like kids in Cape Breton are busy engaged in fucking advanced robotics programming in Grade 1 or something and they can’t take two hours out of the day to eat a cupcake with a witch on it. Do they have a deadline at Apple to meet or something? Is the Grade 3 class at Sydney River Elementary releasing a new waterproof phone? Are they designing a new rudder for the Bluenose II?

Image from dailymail.co.uk.
Image from dailymail.co.uk.

Maybe the Cape Breton elementary school kids should have been given the contract on the Convention Centre since they apparently work round the clock.

I say, good on the school board for clamping down on the “prevailing headwind of union sympathy in industrial Cape Breton”  (thanks, Chronicle Herald!) That’s right, teach these drones kids now that they don’t get any breaks, leisure time, or enjoyment! That’ll stamp the commie right out of them! Today it’s Halloween costumes, tomorrow it’s walking the picket line!

Image from whatsgoinon.ca
Image from whatsgoinon.ca

It would be funny if people sent their kids in little orange prison jumpsuits for Black and Orange Day (“students can wear those colours during class.”) Yay. Sounds fun. You mean I can wear a colour I can wear anytime and also do math?sleeping

So wait, now parents have to find a black and orange outfit and a Halloween costume for later. Couldn’t all that time shopping and changing clothes be used to sew garments as a family or to go pick fruit or mine some coal or something? Seems impractical.

But also, damn, there’s a ton of racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim bitching about this issue. When I looked up “Orange and Black Day Halloween” almost every article is blaming brown people.

It doesn’t make any sense, frankly. Why would we alter a centuries old tradition to accommodate a cultural minority? A cultural minority, that didn’t even ask for the sanitization.

The debate is just getting started. In 2 months it will be Christmas. The seasonal celebrating starts the second the pumpkins are composted. The Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays and Best of the Season wishes will start flowing as nobody dare say Christmas at the risk of offending the Jewish, Muslim or Hindu among us.

Or this:

Parents are upset about seeing Canadians continually give up traditions and losing sight of accepting others for whoever they are,” said Shannon Taylor, who has a child in Grade 4, at the school…

And it’s not just in Windsor. The issue reared its head in London, Ont., where a candidate for school board trustee promised to bring back Halloween. Shawn Lewis, the candidate in question, won his seat. He called “Black and Orange Day” political correctness run amok.

The Toronto District School Board encourages “Black and Orange Day” over costume-clad Halloween: in 2005, the board issued a memo that schools should avoid Halloween parties because they may offend some Wiccan students — this despite the fact most witches say they aren’t bothered by the watered down version of Samhain.


As far as I can tell from teacher comments and message boards, the concern is more with kids peeing their costumes than with the brown hordes.

But anyway, back in Cape Breton, last year “experts” representing “corporate” and “faith based” interests advised them to ban dances in middle school to “build camaraderie” (presumably of the Stalin’s Five-Year-Plan kind.) Now they’re banning Halloween costumes and parties in elementary school to “increase instructional time.” I suppose next year they’ll be instituting “innovation co-ops” in high school where students work for free at the local Burger King or implementing “technologically diverse learning” by having the daycare toddlers work a phone bank.

Or maybe they can just have the grade primary kids make an assembly line and inject needles and razor blades into Halloween candy. That will work.

2. Laziness

A news run down of people who clearly did not attend Sydney River Elementary School and are therefore lacking in work ethic:

“Lazy” people who illegally dump garbage along Webber Lake.

Based on the items dumped, [Sackville Rivers Association president Walter] Regan said he believes most of the garbage is from private homeowners.

“I think there’s several reasons: One, the cost of disposal, the ease of disposal,” he told CBC’s Maritime Noon on Friday….

Some people who illegally dump are lazy, he said, and others don’t like the inconvenience of proper disposal.

They obviously wore Halloween costumes as children.

My favourite heading in the article is this:

Dumpers are going to dump.

Yes. Yes. That is like an existentialist truth. It should be on a t-shirt. The dumpers gonna dump, dump, dump, dump, baby.


Other non-alumni of Sydney River Elementary School’s forced labour program include the Kentville councillors Skyping into meetings from Florida.

For the past three years, Bill Boyd and Mark Pearl have done this for January, February and March meetings.

“That’s just wrong. They represent roughly 1,000 people each,” said resident Marcia Eyre, who’s lived in Kentville for 25 years. “So, how can they do that from Florida?”

Town of Kentville councillors are paid an annual salary of $18,600.

Maybe they were dressed as Florida oranges though while they were Skyping in?

Image from buy costumes.com
Image from buy costumes.com

Look, Marcia. Don’t get so worked up about lazy politicians exploiting the system. Dumpers gon dump, okay? It’s just a fact of life.

This quote is awesome:

Boyd says he’s following an approved policy and always looks after any constituent who calls for help.

“For example, snow removal. That’s an operational matter, so I quickly pass that on to the CAO who deals with the operation,” said Boyd.

Pearl did not return phone messages from CBC News.

Maybe CBC should have Skyped Pearl instead.

That snow removal quote keeps cracking me up. It’s like, “quick, think of something that might be part of my job! Snow removal! We have snow guys for that!” Except, like, maybe don’t bring up snow when you’re off lounging in Florida all winter, right?

Both (Deputy Mayor, no less) Pearl and Boyd have experience with Parks and Recreation according to their profiles on the Kentville site, so maybe they just take the recreation part of their training really seriously.

YouTube video

Jeez, Kentville residents. How much work do you want them to do? They’re not your —– oh wait, I was channeling George Baker there for a moment, sorry.

Photo: CBC
Photo: CBC

3. The Herald gonna Herald

In more “Dumpers Gon Dump” news, the provincial edition of the Chronicle Herald ran a “a glowing full-page ad quoting the county’s warden extensively…little more than a week before the municipal election.”

Image from cbc.ca.
Image from cbc.ca.

The ad is titled How Kings County Took A Page Out Of The Ivany Report. It appeared in the provincial edition of the Chronicle Herald. It lauds the municipality for “adopting new vision and innovative approaches, seeking greater collaboration and embracing an increased willingness to take on risks associated with economic change and progress.”

The ad includes quotes from Diana Brother, who is the warden of the Municipality of the County’s of Kings, CAO Tom MacEwan, and some Michelin executives. It lauds the agreement to relocate the Waterville airport in anticipation of a Michelin expansion, and work to develop a business park.

Coun. Jim Winsor only learned about the ad Friday morning when some constituents brought it to his attention.

“I’ve seen some outraged people this morning,” he said.

He said the timing is in poor taste, given election day is Oct. 15 and advance polls open Saturday.

People in the rest of the article are described as being all, how did this happen? and the answer is: because it is the Chronicle Herald. The owners never met a business posterior they could resist affixing their lips to. Look, you can’t expect the Herald to not run anything that has the Ivany Report anywhere in it. That would be like expecting kids to just skip Halloween!


Hey, Tim. What’s that white courtesy phone thing? Seems like this is your kind of story.

4. Dear Carrots…

The moral of this story, to skip ahead, is basically that poor people should go out in the woods and try to get shot because at least the food is better.

Ugh, where to start with this story?

There’s the luring of cute little baby deer with carrots so that their mommies and daddies can be shot in the head:

Ian Avery, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, told CBC’s Information Morning many hunters use carrots to lure deer, allowing them to shoot the animals at close range.

“It allows the hunter to be more relaxed and basically to wait for a clean, ethical shot,” he said. “It’s within 35 or 40 yards.”

Avery said by using carrots as bait, hunters can also be more selective with the animals they shoot.

“If you’re trophy hunting looking for a larger buck, you can actually let the little ones come in, feed, and they will leave, and you just have to wait out the deer that you want.”

Holy shit, dude. Haven’t you seen Bambi?

YouTube video

Seriously, guy. LALALA here I am with my carrots all relaxed just waiting to orphan some baby deer. Like, even Hannibal Lecter is like, “damn, dude, chill on the dinner invitation there.”

Ew, I was going to include a YouTube link for that reference, but no.

Not making hunting look all that nice is what I’m getting at about that quote.


You monster!

Okay, and then there’s also the judging and shaming of carrot bodies:

Last year, Wallace sold one million pounds of deer carrots. They’re the same kind of carrot that you’d find in the grocery store. They come from the same field as grocery store carrots, and they’re safe for human consumption.

But so-called deer carrots are culls or seconds. They don’t meet grocery store standards because they’re crooked, broken, or not the ideal length and width. Most carrots sold in grocery stores must be 1.9 centimetres in diameter, and 17 to 20 centimetres long.

Maybe people should bully the “ugly” carrots on social media.

I wonder if men feel insecure after reading how size does matter. Like, if these are the standards we impose on mere vegetables, what about human “carrots” that aren’t the “ideal length or width.” Just saying.

And apparently while these eugenics carrots are considered so repulsive they can only be used for massacring deer, food banks desperately need fresh produce:

Karen Theriault, director of development and communications at Feed Nova Scotia, would like farmers who have cull carrots to consider donating them to a food bank.

She wants to get the word out about a relatively new tax credit, where farmers who donate surplus or misshapen produce to Feed Nova Scotia or a local food bank can receive a tax credit for 25 per cent of the donation’s market value.

Theriault says the donations make a difference.

“We are really pleased to see more produce being donated this fall than last fall, and we’re hoping that’s going to continue,” she said.

“Carrots are a great product for us to be able to distribute to our food banks and shelters across the province, because they have such a long shelf life.”

So again, basically if you’re poor and don’t want scurvy, go put on a baby deer costume (unless you live in Cape Breton) and find a hunter who might feed you some carrots. Just try to dodge the head shot.


El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Great as usual, El. One note on the deer killing thing: First, I have nothing against hunters and hunting game, because I’m an omnivore. I do however, know a number of city folk who hunt for “sport” and thus, I find the comment above, expressing the notion that Nova Scotians may starve to death if they can’t bag a deer, to be a bit over the top. If that’s true, let’s have a minimum annual wage. After all, there are lots of deer now but after DNR et al finish their clear cutting massacre of our forests we will run out of deer steaks eventually. Simple equation: No habitat, no wildlife.

    Secondly, During my many travels in the back country, I have occasionally come across a deer bait station. Carrots are new to me. I usually find apples and the “hunters” start to put them out as soon as the apples are available. The idea is to get Bambi and her folks used to visiting before the season opens. Then, when the season opens you load up the ATV with beer and guns and head for the camp – often featuring a nice front porch with deck chairs, conveniently located with a great view of the bait station about 15 meters away. Then you just sit back, have a beer and wait for your buck. Then, BLAM, you have full freezer.

    Finally, I’m not against hunting and responsible hunters, but it does piss me off that a few people who do what I described above actually call themselves hunters.

    1. Well, I’m aware of those hunting practices, and well, as long as they’re sustainable, I don’t care. I mean, sure, there’s a certain lack of sport, and I can’t fathom the motivations other than cheap meat (which is legit!), but at least they’re willing to get up close and personal with the bloody reality of where meat comes from.

      You know, I’ve sat on a dock, drank beer and fished (which I killed and ate), and really don’t see too much of a difference.

  2. Ahh sarcasm. It’s kinda like music. When you’re tone deaf, it’s just noise.

    This as awesome El! Absolutely freaking awesome!

  3. I read the comments about hunting the same way. Sadly, there’s a lot of smug urban arrogance in our culture as well as disdain for anyone who does any of the messy business of actually keeping civilization running. I don’t think El Jones was guilty of this, we have a lot of whitetail deer in North America (the problem is actually worse in most places) and nobody is really interested in going hunting anymore.

    I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons, but it just blows my mind that people who are perfectly content to eat factory farmed meat are suddenly concerned about the rights of game animals when it comes to hunting. To be clear I’m not accusing El Jones of this, but it’s a disturbingly common view among the smug-urbanite set.

    “I wonder if men feel insecure after reading how size does matter. Like, if these are the standards we impose on mere vegetables, what about human “carrots” that aren’t the “ideal length or width.” Just saying.”

    “I wonder if women feel insecure after reading how size and shape does matter. Like, if these are the standards we oppose on mere vegetables, what about human “melons” that aren’t the “ideal size and shape.” Just saying.”

    You know, it’s funny that you put penis insecurity and hunting together – is it possible that obsession with penis size (and other less funny aspects of ‘toxic masculinity’) is a result of the complete absence of socially-sanctioned standards of masculinity or male roles from our society? And I don’t mean things like ‘male ally’, I mean meaningful social or economic roles which are exclusively male (or female), which has been part of every human culture since arguably before there were humans. I’m not saying we should pass laws explicitly delineating particular things as ‘male’ or ‘female’, but it would probably be best to take a hard look at the assumption that everything should be ‘co-ed’ because current year or something.

    So yeah, I can understand why some guys ‘compensate’, but I don’t think that what they are actually compensating for has anything to do with the size and shape of their genitals. And I think that women compensate as well (for reasons, again, unrelated to their physical attributes) – (in a different way then men typically do), but I don’t really feel like sticking my neck out that far.

    1. Wow, I mangled my first paragraph. It should have read:

      I read the comments about hunting the same way. Sadly, there’s a lot of smug urban arrogance in our culture as well as disdain for anyone who does any of the messy business of actually keeping civilization running. I don’t think El Jones was guilty of this. There’s also a lot of hypocrisy about hunting among the smug urbanite set.

  4. There is more than a little urban smug arrogance in this carrot-deer screed.

    I think the person quoted was referring to smaller bucks, for one thing. You could have called him to clarify.

    Second, I am entirely sure of NS laws as I don’t live there but I think you to shoot a doe there you have to win a draw to get a special licence, and you can’t hunt does at all in Cape Breton IIRC.

    For some people a deer in the freezer makes a difference between a good winter and a bad one, and there is definitely no shortage of deer in NS. I don’t hunt myself, but I think El Jones should watch fewer Disney films.

    As for the reject carrots, there is no carrot so ugly I wouldn’t eat it.

    1. Hmmmm. Tone is notoriously hard to read in print. I thought the “you monster!” accompanied by a picture of a cat in antlers was a pretty clear indication of sarcasm. And that the phrase “deer mommies and daddies” indicated this wasn’t serious commentary!

      (I also don’t really think carrots are being body shamed or that they should be bullied or get plastic surgery…)