1. Get to know a white person day…

(…aaaand a bunch of people stop reading right at the headline and decide to skip Saturday Morning File.)

On Saturday, the Muslim community in Halifax is holding a hijab day at the Halifax Central Library to help combat “misconceptions about their faith.”

“One event organizer hopes the simple act of trying on the hijab will help to forge a path to a larger understanding of Islam that could dispel anti-immigrant sentiment, focused on Muslims, that have been fanned by the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut.”


On Friday, Imam Abdelkader Tayebi of Ummah Mosque invited the media to the prayer service at the mosque. In response to hate crimes in Canada against Muslims, Tayebi suggested that people need to get to know the Muslims in their communities.

“Make sure you engage in discussion with them. Get to find out what kind of people they are. The same way you hang out with your friends and so on, you get to know that person deep inside,” said Tayebi.

“So make that effort before you make any judgement.”


The response by the Halifax Muslim community is generous and graceful. In the face of a torched Mosque in Peterborough, an attack on a Muslim woman in Toronto, and (as the article on hijab day reports,) women in Halifax being told to “go home” and “teased and questioned” about their hijabs, the community has responded with openness and a willingness to embrace and educate non-Muslims and to patiently create greater understanding of their religion and community.

That’s great, but it’s amazing that Muslims have to do so much work to prove they’re human. None of the Muslims in Halifax have participated in any terrorist acts, yet unlike white people, they are forced to constantly demonstrate that they not only condemn terrorism and violence, but that they belong in Canada and share “Canadian values.”

Why don’t white people feel compelled to hold a “get to know white people” day? After all, there are many misconceptions about the majority of peaceful white people in our communities. We may think that white people mostly drive around in Confederate flag festooned vehicles, racially harass immigrants and international students, burn crosses, scrawl racist graffiti all over the place, gentrify and displace communities, relentlessly post racist comments against Indigenous people on news stories, and racially profile people left right and centre, but I think we’ll find that if we get to know white people deep inside we can realize that we’re all human. In reality, it is only a small minority of radical white people who are so extreme and violent. Most moderate white people condemn the terrorists in the white community. While it is true that we probably associate white people with acts of violence such as colonizing Africaenslavement, or the global genocide of Indigenous peoples, these acts surely do not represent the beliefs and actions of the wider white community. If we could sit down and talk with white people and find out what kind of people they are we might see that, despite their history of extremist violence, we shouldn’t judge all white people in our communities. White people should be given a chance to prove they’re not all perpetrators of hate crimes and that most white people are actually good people when you get to know them!

#notallwhitepeople. Image:
#notallwhitepeople. Image:

Members of the non-white community are invited to the library, where they can try on their own cultural clothing appropriated by white people. 

Nah, never happen.

2. OH NO! “Social Justice Rant” ahead!

It’s the Holiday Parade of Lights tonight (OMG WAR ON CHRISTMAS WHY CAN’T IT BE THE CHRISTMAS JESUS DAMN FOREIGNERS BIRTHDAY PARADE OF NOT HANUKKAH.) My least favourite float will no doubt be in the parade AGAIN this year:


I guess it hasn’t occurred to parade organizers that children watching the parade may have an incarcerated parent.

YouTube video

180,000 children in Canada have a parent in prison. These children already have to spend Christmas without their parent, or, as is often the case with an incarcerated mother, spend Christmas in care. Families struggle to explain incarceration to their children who receive messages all around them that “bad” people go to prison. How do they reconcile that with visiting or talking to a parent they love behind bars? Having an incarcerated parent also places terrible financial burdens on families who are already likely to be living in poverty, and who are already struggling in the Christmas season to buy presents, and may be relying on food banks, donated boxes, which in turn further stigmatize impoverished families.


How do you think it feels to be a child of an incarcerated parent, or the parent or guardian of a child dealing with incarceration, to go to a Christmas parade and then see the Grinch behind bars in a cage? How do you explain to a child that knows their parent is in prison that their parent is not bad? Celebrating incarceration does little to reduce crime in our communities, but it does a lot to further the stigma around prison. Given that one of the biggest prediction of future incarceration is having a parent in prison, the way we publicly treat incarceration and particularly how we present these issues to children has an impact on how those children are criminalized.  Rather than stopping crime, this float directly contributes to building a culture of incarceration.

The parade encourages donations to FEED Nova Scotia, but then includes a float that helps contribute to social stigma around incarceration that leads to increased poverty in families. Even if people work while inside and attempt to contribute financially, inmate wages average less than $3 a day. The difficulty in finding a job with a criminal record means that even upon release, parents face difficulties in financially supporting their families. Discrimination in housing and other services and a lack of programs, supports, or resources to help incarcerated people when they return to their communities also contributes to the poverty and social marginalization facing released inmates. There is a strong connection between poverty and incarceration, and maybe that context could be recognized in a parade that raises money to help feed families.

Hey, given all the snitching going on in the Nova Scotia Legislature, maybe Stephen McNeil and Andrew Younger should be repping on the Crime Stopper float instead…


“You’re a mean one…”

3. Um, Wtf

My reaction upon seeing this photo on the CBC news site:



“A competitive American angler says she was not involved in a banned practice known as “high-grading” while fishing for tuna in Nova Scotia.”



Now I get to write about a lady riding a tuna. 

Stephanie Choate is also like, YES!


The allegations of “high-grading” come after a DFO “sting operation.”


Sting operation, hahahah.

YouTube video

This is by far my favourite quote in the article:

“Choate says a photo, posted to Instagram, showing her straddling a tuna with a wine bottle in her hand, “was a private photo shared with friends and family who would understand my passion and never meant to be public.”

YouTube video

Well, yes, it’s perfectly normal to kill something and then straddle it and ride it with a bottle of alcohol. Just your normal “exuberant celebration.” How could such a mundane picture be so cruelly misconstrued by the media? Frat boys everywhere are like “word.”

Choate says she “has always respected the great animals we fish for.” But do you respect them in the morning, huh?

The 10 other Tuna who got away before she got the 928 pound one are like, “no, it’s cool.  DON’T RESPECT ME.! Like, damn, can we be an Eskasoni Moose instead?”

Random Tuna meme. Image from
Random Tuna meme. Image from

4. Halifax International Security Forum

It’s the Halifax International Security Forum (thanks former defence Minister Peter MacKay!) which means it’s also the annual anti-war rally outside the Westin. 


The CBC article discusses the “heightened security” around the Forum, and follows up by quoting Peter Van Praagh, president of the Forum, about the “cozy atmosphere” of Halifax. Yes, so cozy when you post snipers on top of the Westin and barricade in the protesters!

Tony Seed had this to say about last year’s Forum:

The HISF is inextricably linked to NATO, a venue for the U.S.-led aggressive alliance to hold PR events, plan future aggression and spread disinformation about the role of NATO in the world. The HISF has also emerged as one of the mechanisms through which U.S. imperialist agencies determine the Canadian foreign and military agenda. The warmongering meetings are also an occasion for the United States to form new military arrangements to integrate the Canadian Forces under its command. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Robert Gates announced that U.S. Marines would henceforth exercise in the Arctic to “defend Canadian sovereignty.” In 2011, Chuck Hagel, U. S. Secretary of Defence, announced that Canada had signed a still secret protocol to join Obama’s Asia Pivot strategy aimed at China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

This relationship of subservience to U.S. interests is underscored by the use of the important port of Halifax for such an event. Halifax has one of the largest natural harbours in the world, which should be used to promote Canadian nation-building and peaceful relations and trade with all countries, big and small, based on respect for their sovereignty and mutual benefit. Instead the Harper government permits the Washington, DC-based HISF to commandeer the city for its annual war conference.

The agenda for the Forum is available online, including such hilariously titled sessions as “Mullahs with Moolah: The World After the Iran Deal,” and “China’s Bottom Line: A Dim Sum.”  HAHAHA.  Who said conservative think tanks don’t have a sense of humour?

Lobster dinner for 300 escorted in via bag pipes @HFXforum #HFX2015

— Bruce A. Heyman (@BruceAHeyman) November 21, 2015

^^^Not serving Dim Sum, apparently.

Jauntily titled panels aside (“What’s New With Nukes?”), the Forum schedule provides a rather chilling look into the global military agenda, sprinkled in with a few token “human rights” panels (which in itself demonstrates the collaboration between NGO’s and the charitable industrial complex with military aims of the West.) Looking at the archives throughout the years, you can trace not only the military interest and pre-planning for many of the conflicts and “interventions” today, but also the media and academic narrative through the think tanks, university departments, newspaper editors and other public opinion makers that justifies and promotes these military actions. 

On Sunday at 7am, you can apparently join the Canadian Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan for a 5K run (location: the Westin Lobby. Guessing it’s not actually 5k around the lobby. Clever heightened security measure there!) That didn’t work out too well for Peter McKay in previous years:


I was once at a luncheon event with some government officials, and I was listening to them rhapsodize about the Forum, and how all these ministers and generals can come to Halifax and walk around without security and nobody even recognizes them and how wonderful it is. And then they were like, “of course you have to walk through these protesters yelling ‘war mongers out of Halifax!’” and they were laughing about the protesters, and I was sitting at the table literally finishing the poem I was about to leave the lunch to do at the protest.

And that was how I spent my time as Poet Laureate of Halifax. And then the American Embassy sent me to the International Writing Program. And then I came back and protested the Forum this year.  Um, thanks for funding me though! #grateful


1. No comment.

There’s an argument going on in the letters section of the Chronicle Herald about which white people should be credited more with forming Canada and Canadian identity.


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. Hey, Freeman, you kinda missed El Jones’s point about the plight of children with a parent in jail or prison seeing the Grinch behind bars which says, as it were, that their parent is a bad person. Maybe the parent is. Maybe they are not. Probably, like you and me, they are a mixture of good and bad. There’s a very good chance they are poor. The thing is, what does it feel like to be a kid in this situation? Must be awful.

  2. While I agree with the Editor’s dissing of the tasteless CRIMESTOPPERS float, I have to take exception to the lily-gilding of CRIMINALS and her propaganda that they’re «perfectly lovely people». They are ANTISOCIAL PREDATORS and we, the TXAPAYERS, are told by the Bleeding Hearts that we not only have to provide them with Country Club gourmet-menu accomodastions, «culturally-appropriate TV porn, front-of-the-line medical care (even those uninsured and unafdfordable «non-covered» pharmaceuticals, state-of-the-art fitness facilities (so they can maintain their «FIGHTING-form», but worse, ««Conjugal Cottages»» so they can procreate more anti-social predators.

    ENOUGH! PRISON is NOT a «prize». It has TWO primary purposes:
    (1) deterrence; and (2) PROTECTION OF THE PUBLIC.

    The sorry history of the Burnside institution’s numerous (and utterly RIDICULOUS!!!() escapes and the subsequent beatings and killings of innocent citizens SHOULD be ringing alarm bells, but instead is swept under the rug by the Bleeding Heart cabal, and the irresponsible operatives (employees, courts, politicians) who presided over these totally-preventable KILLINGS OF INNOCENT CITIZENS.

    While CRIME PAYS we can only expect it to thrive and increase.

    1. I think by “propaganda” you mean a consistent reminder that people convicted of crimes are people (just like the rest of us who haven’t been convicted of a crime) with families, loved ones, and the need to find employment and support in community (upon their release). I agree with that message. You don’t have to be a bleeding heart to have compassion or empathy for someone else. I hadn’t thought of the impact of seeing that float on a child whose parent is incarcerated, I hadn’t considered what I should say to my own children about it, should they ask, so I’m grateful for this perspective. It’s unnecessary to oversimplify the issue by making broad general statements about criminals that don’t address the main point of the argument against the float, or the related issue of poverty and prison. People commit crimes everyday, but the poor are disproportionately punished and stigmatized for it.

    2. Respectfully: despite your gratuitous use of capitalization and all caps, I think you have probably a good heart and some valid concerns.

      You mention Burnside’s history of errors and problems, but it is worth noting that our whole system is subject to human and circumstantial errors which may include the wrong person being incarcerated and sometimes, laws that penalize people who are not reckless sociopaths but merely poor, or suffering mental illness, or trying to survive in a society that consistently tells them they’re worthless. Let’s put a conservative estimate of 10-20% of the prison population falling into that last category.

      Prison is generally accepted to have four purposes: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. Protection isn’t actually one of them. Police protect. Prisoners are incapacitated from action which can serve to protect the public. But rehabilitation is an almost archaic concept these days, isn’t it? The idea that someone might want to emerge from prison a worthwhile redeemed citizen? And retribution is of course our little dirty human guilty secret. No matter how evolved we are, we want our pound of flesh. Someone transgressed? We need them punished, and we ideally want to know about and experience their suffering, as if this payback will mitigate our own.

      Anyway, I just wanted to say that perhaps the truth is somewhere in a gray area between “all prisoners are lovely people” and “all prisoners are reckless sociopaths bent on destroying our social order.”