1. My silences will not protect me…

Damn, I knew it was a slow news day when basically I’m the news, which means now I have to write news about myself which is awkward.

I want to talk about respectability politics. How my mother once told me that my Grandmother and her neighbour would be out in the morning hanging the washing and cleaning, doing all the domestic chores, and they wouldn’t look each other in the eye. And then they’d go in and get dressed and come out and pretend they were just seeing each other for the first time, because they were pretending they didn’t have to do labour.

I understand that pressure to present your face to the world like you’re put together, like you have no worries, like you never got your hands dirty. We have been taught not just to suffer in silence, but to see suffering as only what we should expect.

Black women are “so strong” because we are supposed to expect pain and hardship in our lives just as a normal condition. So when I say that I don’t have furniture and am living on the floor, or that I choose between food and rent, I am telling you about this legacy of public respectability where you go out and teach and perform and look together, and then go home to eat dollar store candy and don’t say a word because we do anything to keep up appearances.

Remember you are a lady, my Grandmother always said, which means don’t complain, don’t be angry, don’t let people see your emotions, always put up the front of being unruffled, strong and dignified.

So when I say this is a story about work or money or paying bills, I am saying this is a deep legacy of Black women’s labour, unrecognized, unseen, unclaimed even by us, not just the work we do for money but the work we are forced to do to not show our emotions, our suffering, our hardship, our depression, all so we can remain respectable, “professional,” hireable for less than we are worth but grateful for what we can get.

When I say this is a story about Black lives matter, I mean that Black women’s lives matter. I mean that we have been taught, no matter how strong we are, how outspoken, how confident, that we are worth less. That what we have we are being given. Like you actually get something prestigious, and you’re like “what’s wrong with this thing if someone thinks it’s for me?” because the whole low-wage sessional academic thing is basically set up to make you feel worthless.

Being “blessed” for what we are given because it means now we have what we need to give it away, because there are so many people who look like us in need and how can we live with that? And for years I accepted that I should be grateful for anything I got, because people made me feel that way, guilty and worth less. And so we give 10 times our labour, accepting when we are told we just need to work harder to be good enough. But our labour has never been good enough.

Once, years ago in a poem called “Ike and Tina” I wrote:

I’m Black, society’s white
I’m Tina. They’re Ike.
He nearly kills me, I say that I’ll go.
But he takes such good care of me, I always say no.

Deep down, I know that he’s messed with my head.
I know he’ll never be happy until I’m dead…
And I know I won’t leave, so I cover my bruises
I say, he don’t mean it, I make his excuses
I ain’t even mad he hurts me, if he apologize
I’m sorry you made me do that Tina, says Ike.

I wrote that while experiencing workplace racism. It comes back to me now, how we have been trained to keep our heads down, our mouths shut, work harder and harder and maybe we’ll be rewarded if we’re better than good enough.

But we have to value ourselves enough to say it’s enough. We have to value ourselves outside of work and what we can do for others. We have to value ourselves outside “twice as good to get half as much.” I worked for years as a performer, as a teacher, as a writer, and people applauded and gave me love but I never loved myself enough to know I could stop.

What I am saying is that in the academic job market we are told it’s a tough market. It’s almost like hazing, teaching the 8:30 classes, teaching three times the amount of tenured colleagues, terrified to ever step out of line, to ever have a student complaint, to ever be late with something or less than the best, to refuse any task or work, to be less than cheerful in the hallways, because there are 200 people who could have your job.

Now be Black and a Black woman doing that. Now be a political Black woman doing that. Add in the students we mentor unrecognized, the community work we shoulder, the task of educating outside the classroom constantly, unpaid. And we’re not allowed to talk about how this impacts our health, the crippling depression, locking the office door to cry, taking a phone call from someone in crisis and turning right around to meet with a student. We not allowed to talk about being constantly terrified, of being constantly watched because we’re always being evaluated, applying for another job, having to show those teaching reviews, knowing that if you mess anything up you’re out like you’re garbage.

So we don’t talk about it, we put our heads down and work. Because we still have to beg our way into the next course, semester after semester, always applying, always asking people to see if you’re good enough. And now be Black feeling that fear, and how that fear ties to the fear we feel every day walking around in a society where we can be shot, incarcerated, stopped and profiled. Now be Black and know you’re disposable, in a society where we always have been.

So yes, this is a story about not being able to find work, and having to look somewhere else. It’s a story about the value we are given elsewhere but not at home.

But it’s also a story, one I hid and never told, of suffering immense trauma through a teaching year and going to work and smiling in the hallways because I wanted to look like someone who might be reasonable to give a job to. But it didn’t work.

Of sobbing through the hour long drive to the Valley to teach, and putting on a face to go to class — prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.

Of taking phone calls at 2 in the morning from people who have been assaulted in prison and can’t cope with being out and sitting with them for hours, then going to work, then having people ask you why you can’t finish writing quicker.

Of hiding and hiding and hiding because you’re not allowed to be hurt by what has been done to you, you’re only supposed to work even harder. And you need to work harder because those calls from jail add up.

Of being completely, pathetically desperate, of feeling like you will literally die if this job doesn’t come through because otherwise what will happen to all those prisoners, all those youth, all those Black people, all those communities. And then describing that to people as “I’ve been kind of depressed lately,” as if you are not absolutely paralyzed with terror for the future, with being broke, with having to beg. Oh, my mother says I need to learn to keep my mouth shut and that by writing these things I am committing career suicide, because as a Black woman she knows what they do to us.

Of still, like every Black person ever, believing in those promised lands we make ourselves, that if I do every poetry event, and every panel , and every workshop, and every interview, and never sleep and never chill and feel guilty for every minute of the day I’m not doing something, then maybe someone will value what I have done, what I have to offer, what I give of myself. But they won’t, and so that promised land has to be within us, within our commitments to our community and people, to the love and energy and the work itself.

But damn, you still gotta pay rent.

So this is what I’m writing, since I’m writing about myself. Because I could write in an academic way about sessional labour and austerity, about brain drain, about Black women and tenure, about health care workers, about the death of industry in Nova Scotia, about the promise of jobs created that never seem to come to anyone in Nova Scotia.

But I might as well write honestly, about what it’s like to need things so badly that you know you shouldn’t need, about what it’s like to be Black and in academia and to be doing work that isn’t acknowledged as work and so you can’t do the work that is because there’s no more time, about how I went to a counselor once and he told me academia was a “disabling space” and I’d probably die if I stayed there, but how badly I wanted to anyway, and how hard I tried, and how much I sacrificed to give my best to.

I tried counseling once before that and I just kept saying “at least I’m not in a shelter.” “At least I’m not in prison.” I couldn’t even talk about the things that gave me pain, because at least I’m Black and alive, which is more than we’re supposed to be.

I talked to another poet and he calmly said that he hoped he got his book out before he died. He’s 30. I knew what he meant because sometimes I think I’ll be dead in two years too if I keep working and stressing like this, so I nodded.

Nobody ever taught us how to save our own lives, not in all those graduate courses.

I know Black women who died literally on the job. And after a decade I don’t know that I know how to value myself outside of what I can do and who I can do it for. I genuinely assess myself to see if I’ve gone crazy, because I’m pretty sure I agree with what my friend said, “we’re Black women. We have to be crazy.”

Like, maybe writing this, against everything I’ve ever been taught by my family about keeping your mouth shut and about respectability, is a symptom.

I like writing the Examiner because I get to be funny. People I’ve known for years were like, “I had no idea you were funny.” There’s so much serious shit going on all the time, you can know people for years and never have a chance to be funny because it just doesn’t have the time to come up when you’re dealing with all these crises that Black people have every day. People say sometimes they’re scared of me, that I intimidate them. So I like being able to be something else, to make jokes, not writing about crying in my office all the time. And I still don’t even want to write about this really, because I still want a job, just so I can sleep, just because a 60-hour week is looking like a rest, because gas to Renous costs money.

And I’m tired of Black women being scared of our feelings and of our truths, because the same thing that tells us we can’t be vulnerable is the same thing that tells us we are strong so that our bodies and labour can be exploited. And really, our only feelings are stoicism or complaining. That’s it really.

So yes, this is more than a story of jobs and money and why we have to leave. It’s about what it means to move through society as a Black women, to be raised at every point in your life being told that you have to be the best just to compete and what it costs to have to go out every time and kill it, about the pain of seeing so much Black potential never get the chance to live, to get an education, and the survivor’s guilt those of us who are “successful” feel, about being told that if you want to get a job you need to stop doing community work, just give it up, about being told to be quieter, less political, about fear every minute of the day that what you have can be taken away, and then it is. About every space you’ve ever been in subjecting you to abuse, to marginalization, even to death threats, and clawing your way in, fighting your way to the top, being rejected and rejected before you get even one thing, and going through all that only to find out it doesn’t matter and you might as well have not bothered. Imagine being Black doing this. Imagine being a Black woman doing this.

2. “As we all know, Haligonians are a magical people with time traveling, indestructible poop”

I have a childish mind, so the headline to this article cracks me up.  Because Poop.  Open and close.  Then I laughed at “Dingle Beach.” Then I laughed at Black Rock Beach, because damn, can the black rocks live already? Then I laughed at this comment because I am like a grotesque 12 year old: “Agree. Ive seen some dirty slits, takes a lot of fresh water to clean it up.”


The right to bear anus.

They’re trying to blame the “waterfowl and other animals on the beaches” for the fecal bacteria, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that all the sewage going into the harbour probably has more effect than, like, a racoon taking a dump.

This discussion is gross and hilarious.

Yes, my second story is basically just about saying the word poop. I told you it’s a slow news day.

I was going to put a Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo video here but even I couldn’t stomach that.

3. Slow news day


Look, it’s a summer weekend. There’s no news.

Sure, there’s an animal or two.

Tried to do something with poo.
Sidney Crosby went for fish and chips
The usual ships
Crime, crime, crime, crime, crime, drugs, booze
Guys, there’s nothing I can do.
Gay couples say I do
As usual, workers getting screwed
All the Els in the world making making moves
Plus, I can’t lie, I’m stressed as fuck too
Guess I have to hope someone does something else racist soon
Need some more rednecks or Confederate flags coming through
Maybe some more fuckery at Dal or SMU
This Mother Canada shit is still messing with the view
Sorry, but it’s true. There’s just no news.


1. Danger, Ontario Tourist


I love everything about this article about the warning signs at Peggy’s Cove.  

2. I spent way too much time on this


Sigh. Let’s take this opinion piece point by point.

(Not to “attack” the author but because we need to challenge this very common way of thinking.)

*Important note: when I googled images of Cornwallis I got a picture of a talking shit from South Park because apparently one of Mr. Hankey’s children is named Cornwallis. Presented without comment.

While conducting research for my 2012 book, Halifax and Titanic, I came across the following quote from Daniel Allen Butler, the American author of another Titanic book:

“There is something horribly hypocritical about passing judgment on another human being’s actions from the comfort and safety of an armchair. Even more hypocritical is making moral pronouncements on others’ actions having judged them by moral standards that they neither knew nor could conceive.”

Note: This is the same Daniel Allen Butler I mentioned last week who thinks that the biggest tragedy of Frederick Douglass being denied first class passage and threatened by slave masters is how unfair it all was to Cunard. This is Butler writing about why Douglass was wrong to demand equal treatment:

Perhaps most significant of all is that at no time did Douglass acknowledge the greater responsibility Cunard had to see to the comfort and safety of all the passengers: the consistent thread that would run through his correspondence on the incident was how his rights and freedoms had been suppressed, with little awareness or regard for the rights of his fellow passengers.  Apparently it never occurred to Douglass that because his opinions, and even his presence, might arouse the antagonisms of his fellow passengers – passions that were utterly beyond Cunard’s control – the consequences could easily threaten or harm other passengers who weren’t involved at all.

Just so we’re clear, Butler is arguing that Douglass had the temerity to speak about the brutality of slavery when he should have been thinking about not offending slave masters. And if the slave masters threatened violence, then that’s Douglass’ fault because angry white men can’t help being violent, can they? So this is the sort of ideology we’re dealing with in this article, where POC should really just consider if that need to be human isn’t just kind of encroaching on white people’s need to be oppressors.


I would also note that the claim that the atrocities of the past were simply normal and therefore cannot be judged is a complete distortion of the political dissent and debates that existed around colonialism, enslavement, and other forms of oppression. Las Casas was writing in 1542 about the extermination and genocide of Indigenous peoples in A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (published in 1552), and was debating Sepulveda in 1550. Montaigne’s Of Cannibals was published in the Essays in 1580. So the idea that nobody in the 18th Century “knew or could conceive” of moral standards that didn’t include genocide of Indigenous people is simply false. The 18th Century saw all kinds of radical thinkers who criticized and opposed colonialism, slavery, oppression of women, the treatment of the Irish, and all sorts of social and political issues. To claim that by the standards of the time nobody had ever thought that it was morally wrong to exterminate Indigenous peoples is simply wrong.

This phenomenon has become so common that it has even been given a name: “Presentism” is the anachronistic introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past.

This assumes that Mi’kmaq people at the time couldn’t possibly have any conception of their own suffering and oppression, as if only people today can recogniz that being scalped is brutal. Of course, Boileau isn’t considering Mi’kmaq histories and perspectives at all. He inherently assumes that the only perspectives that matter are European perspectives on the past and present, so if “dead white men” didn’t think it was wrong, there couldn’t possibly have been any other opinions.

Also, whenever POC bring up the past we’re told to “move on” and “slavery is over” and “that was ages ago” but then ask white people about some European colonist and all of a sudden we need to preserve the past and can never ever rethink it.

I’m pretty sure Mi’kmaq at the time also didn’t like Cornwallis.

I believe that’s what Dan Paul has done in his July 9 letter (“Reconciliation When?”). His treatment of Edward Cornwallis (governor of Nova Scotia/Acadia from 1749 to 1752) is one-sided, unbalanced, revisionist and applies today’s standards to 18th century colonial warfare.

Note that Indigenous people are “revisionist” when they assert the facts of their own history and experience, again, as if European histories and perspectives are the only ones that exist and matter. This ignores, of course, that the entire settler narrative has been about revising history through erasing Indigenous presence, amnesia about atrocity, and myths/lies about colonization. As Sherene Razack writes:

A white settler society is one established by Europeans on non-European soil. Its origins lie in the dispossession and near extermination of Indigenous peoples by the conquering Europeans. As it evolves, a white settler society continues to be structured by a racial hierarchy. In the national mythologies of such societies, it is believed that white people came first and that it is they who principally developed the land; Aboriginal people are assumed to be mostly dead or assimilated. European settlers thus become the original inhabitants and the group most entitled to the fruits of citizenship. A quintessential feature of white settler mythologies is, therefore, the disavowal of conquest, genocide, slavery, and the exploitation of the labour of people of colour. In North America, it is still the case that European conquest and colonization are often denied, largely through the fantasy that North America was peacefully settled and not colonized.”

This is all based on the myth that European histories are balanced and factual simply because they have been imposed and taught over time, and that to challenge those histories is to be distorting history, when it fact it is those European histories that have been deliberately constructed to hide genocide, deny the contributions and presence of other cultures, and perpetuate myths of white supremacy.

And also, it’s pretty disrespecful to reduce a letter premised on the need to truly reconcile Canada’s history with Indigenous people as “one-sided.” Like European treatment of Indigenous histories and cultures and people has been so inclusive. You mean one-sided like killing the Indian in the child? That kind of one-sided?


Conquest and colonization did not suddenly begin around 1500 when Western Europeans commenced the founding of their overseas empires. Conquest was not just something undertaken by “dead white men.” Many other races and ethnic groups established empires during the course of history.

Conquest and colonization date back to the time when humans first walked erect. Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Chinese, Arabs, Ashanti, Moguls, Mongols, Angles, Saxons, Normans, Incas, Aztecs, Zulus and Turks — to name but a few — invaded other regions, conquered locals and took over their areas for their own. Western Europeans are simply among the latest groups in this timeless march of conquest. This does not make it right; it is simply an indisputable fact of human history.

Which is why the Canadian parliament today is dominated by Assyrians and Mongols. Comparing the Huns invading the Romans or whatever to the 500 year genocide against Indigenous peoples which continues today in policies from the legacy of residential schools to high rates of addiction to missing and murdered Indigenous women, to mass incarceration, is to willfully ignore the ongoing impact of colonial practices upon Indigenous people today. Also, the phrasing “the timeless march of conquest” removes the actual writing of laws and policies, the removals to reservations, the deliberate starvation, the residential school assimilation policies, Indian acts, etc. enacted by actual human beings, as though these things just were inevitable and natural, as though Europeans had no agency and purpose in colonization, it simply was beyond their control.

Really, weren’t both sides equally wrong?  This song is like this letter condensed.

Outside the British House of Commons — the “Mother of Parliaments” — stands a magnificent equestrian statue of William the Conqueror. When the Norman duke invaded England in 1066, he expropriated Saxon property, replaced Saxon aristocratic, governmental, judicial and clerical elites and imposed Norman laws, language and way of life on the country. Many Saxons were driven away and many others died. Do we condemn him?

And if there are survivors of Saxon residential schools living today, Saxons on reserves, Saxons subject to the Department of Saxon affairs, environmental racism on Saxon lands, etc. then that would be a relevant comparison. This is of course, derailing, attempting to compare the genocide, by Las Casas’ numbers of 95-99% of the original population of the Americas, to the Norman invasion of England.

Thomas Jefferson was an American founding father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, the third president and one of the most intelligent men of his time and perhaps all time. Yet the man who coined the phrase “all men are created equal” believed that blacks were racially inferior and “as incapable as children.” In his lifetime, he owned more than 600 slaves and even fathered six children to one of them, Sally Hemming. They remained slaves until they came of age. Do we condemn him?

Um, yes. Like, he clearly doesn’t, but Black people do. Again with “we” meaning “white people.” Also, like dude, you just described the rape of a Black woman and enslavement of his own children and you think we should debate if that should be condemned? I think most normal people reading this would be like “damn, I didn’t know he enslaved his own kids, that’s messed up!”

YouTube video

Pre-contact native North and South Americans indulged in warfare, took prisoners and kept them as slaves for small-scale labour, where they were treated like animals: caged, beaten, tortured and starved. John Gyles was captured in present-day Maine in 1689 by Maliseet warriors and kept prisoner for nine years in today’s New Brunswick. His journal provides a good description of slave life under the natives. Do we condemn the Maliseet?

I like how much more graphic he is about Indigenous slave treatment — when he’s talking about white slave owner Jefferson we get this neutral language about “even fathered six children,” but now we’re describing Indigenous people we get the lurid details of “caged, beaten, tortured and starved.” It’s interesting how he won’t describe white slave owners who participated in chattel slavery in those terms, subtly whitewashing white atrocity yet again while trying to draw false equivalencies. At every point, there is an attempt to conflate warfare with genocide, as though Indigenous nations engaged in conflict with each other is the same thing as deliberate policies to wipe out Indigenous people, steal their land, and continue to this day to live off their resources.

And let’s not forget that Gyles was captured during a war precipitated by colonial conflict between the British and the French, and that the Indigenous nations were acting as agents of these colonial powers. So to treat Gyles’ treatment as unrelated to colonial violence, rather than as a symptom of colonialism as divide and rule tactics were used to exploit the tensions between Indigenous nations to benefit European settler interests is disingenuous. As is comparing violence in resistance to colonialism to colonial violence on a global scale.

Gyles kept a diary though, so unlike countless generations of Indigenous people whose voices were silenced and erased, we can actually know his experiences.

Also, I don’t remember all those schools and statues named for any Maliseet people who tortured anyone all around Halifax.

What Hitler and his Nazi henchmen did was wrong today and wrong then: sending Jews and many other “undesirables” to concentration camps where millions died. What the Japanese did in creating the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere concurrently with Hitler’s rise to power was wrong now and wrong then: invading and conquering much of East Asia, killing thousands of non-combatants, imprisoning Korean and Chinese females as “comfort women” to service soldiers sexually and treating prisoners of war (including Canadians) inhumanely through beatings, torture, starvation, denial of medicine and execution.

Wait, so why can’t those things be relativist? Didn’t the Nazis think what they were doing was justified? Doesn’t Mein Kampf exist exactly to explain why Hitler thought the Holocaust was necessary? And in fact, Eugenics was seen as a progressive social policy in the early 20th Century and a reasonable cure for poverty, including in Canada. Churchill and other European leaders initially supported Fascism and Fascist ideologies to combat Communism. So isn’t it “presentist” to judge the Nazis? Why is the genocide of Indigenous peoples negotiable then? I guess he didn’t want to go on record saying things like “Aren’t Jewish people violent in the Old Testament? Do we condemn that? Don’t they wipe out other tribes? So should we really condemn the Nazis?” But that’s pretty much his arguments about colonization and slavery.

Also, it’s obvious from this statement who counts. The Holocaust is an atrocity, but dead Indigenous people, that’s just the “timeless march of conquest.” Also note again how the most lurid descriptions are reserved for the acts of POC. Hitler simply “sends” people to concentration camps. But we get descriptions of the Japanese raping, beating, starving, etc. There’s just so many more ugly details when it’s not white people!

What Cornwallis did would be wrong today, but it was certainly accepted practice in 18th century colonial and other warfare. Atrocities were not just perpetrated against natives, but against white enemies as well, such as the English fighting the Scots.

Note how we don’t get any description of “what Cornwallis did” but he just loves telling us all about the Maliseet.

And of course the Scots remain the most oppressed group in Canada.

By the treaty of 1726, the Mi’kmaq agreed not to attack any British settlements “already made or lawfully to be made.” The founding of Halifax had the full backing of the British government through the Board of Trade and Plantations and was therefore legal. After meeting with Cornwallis personally, Mi’kmaq representatives promised to be friendly with the British. But it was the Mi’kmaq who broke both the treaty and their word when they attacked Halifax, Dartmouth and Lunenburg.

YouTube video

Using colonial law to defend colonial war and condemn those who resist being colonized. Well, just so long as the British government said it’s OK to take your shit and kill you, what are you mad about?  Also, this is a poor historical understanding of the role of treaties. The 1726 Treaty also states that “…the British promised not to molest the Indians or interfere with them in their hunting, fishing and planting grounds, nor in the exercise of their religion.”

In a letter written to Cornwallis in 1749, a Mi’kmaq man writes:

The place where you are, the place where you live, the place where you are building a fortification, the place where you want now to establish yourself, the place of which you want to make yourself the absolute master, belongs to me. Me, the Indian, I come out of this earth like a [blade of] grass. I have been born there the son [and] from father to son. This place is my land, I swear it. It is God who has given me this land to be my homeland forever…my king and your King together distribute these lands, and it is because of that they are presently at peace, but for me I can make neither alliance or peace with you. Show me where I could, an Indian, withdraw to. As for you, you hunt me down. Show me then where you want me to take refuge. You have taken over almost all of this land, so that the only resource left to me is at Kchibouctouk [Halifax.] Yet you begrudge me even this piece [of land] and you even want to chase me from it. That is what makes me know that you have sworn to not cease to make war on us and to never enter into alliance with us…

Is it possible that the Mi’kmaq were dupes of disgruntled Acadians, egged on by French officials who had been forced to leave mainland Nova Scotia for Cape Breton by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht? Or were their actions the result of agitation by Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre, leader of the Acadian/Mi’kmaq resistance against the British? In a letter to the French Minister of the Marine, responsible for the colonies, Le Loutre wrote: “As we cannot openly oppose the English ventures, I think that we cannot do better than to incite the Mi’kmaq to continue warring on the English; my plan is to persuade the Mi’kmaq to send word to the English that they will not permit new settlements to be made in Acadia …. I shall do my best to make it look to the English as if this plan comes from the Mi’kmaq and that I have no part in it.”

Is it possible that the Mi’kmaq were fully capable of understanding their own oppression, and having their own agency? Is it possible that the Mi’kmaq actively resisted colonization and defended their lands, lives, and livelihood?

Cornwallis’s orders in reaction to the raids were lawful at the time and he had full authority to issue them. The 18th century was a much harsher time than our own. Ordinary people were subject to a wide range of punishments for common crimes. Hanging was used not only for murderers, but also against perpetrators of property crimes. Children, youths, women and the mentally ill were not exempt from this punishment.

Claims of genocide of the Mi’kmaq made against Cornwallis simply do not hold up under scrutiny. For him to attempt to exterminate the entire Mi’kmaq race, he would have had to have jurisdiction over them. Yet Cornwallis’s authority extended only over mainland Nova Scotia; the rest of traditional Mi’kmaq territory — Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, eastern New Brunswick and parts of the Gaspé — remained firmly under French control until after Cornwallis departed.

Slavery was lawful at the time too, but we condemn. I also like his claim that the death penalty is some quaint harsh 18th Century relic and not legal in the United States, and as if Black ordinary people and the mentally ill and children don’t get executed for things like allegedly stealing cigars, holding a hammer, having a toy gun, being in Walmart, etc.

The proposal to remove the statue of Cornwallis or remove his name from features is as silly as proposing the removal of the magnificent equestrian statue of William the Conqueror outside the British House of Commons. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., is one of the finest monuments in that city. Similarly, the statue of Glooscap at Truro is a great tribute to the Mi’kmaq Creator. I am unaware of any movements by Saxons to remove William’s statue, Afro-Americans to dismantle the Jefferson Memorial (or change the name of many cities named after him) or whites to take away the statue of Glooscap.

The fuck? Like really, it’s 3 in the morning now and I just can’t with these time travelling Saxons. Why would white people be offended by a statue of Glooscap? What the hell does that have to do with anything?

Also, thanks for telling Mi’kMaq people their experience of their own oppression is silly.


Oh no! South Africans tearing down the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Yet white people did not suddenly die en masse.

Rather than accuse Cornwallis, the blame — if there is any — should be focused on the laws of the times. But laws are not concrete objects, and it is much easier to demonize an individual than a concept. We cannot simply apply today’s norms to the past. They would be incomprehensible to 18th century Europeans, who regarded all resources as theirs to be exploited.

After the founding of Port Royal in 1605, European diseases — especially smallpox, measles and tuberculosis — to which the Mi’kmaq had never before been exposed, devastated large segments of the native population whenever they struck, and they struck repeatedly, inflicting losses of 50 per cent or more. Additionally, changes in the Mi’kmaq diet resulting from more European foods weakened their resistance to common diseases they could have shrugged off earlier.

Both French and Mi’kmaq noticed the association between contact and a decline in native population, even if they did not initially identify the cause. Membertou, the great Mi’kmaq chief, told Acadian chronicler Marc Lescarbot that when he was young, his people had been “as thickly planted there as the hairs upon his head,” but since the arrival of the French, their numbers had diminished dramatically. The comparable course of action to removing Cornwallis’s statue is to destroy the Port Royal Habitation near Granville Ferry, where the French occupation of Nova Scotia started.

Additional thousands of Mi’kmaq deaths followed as a result of the disastrous French attempt to retake Louisbourg from the New Englanders who had captured it in 1745. The fleet sent the next year, under the Duc d’Anville, anchored at Birch Cove in Bedford Basin, where hundreds of sick and dying Frenchmen were put ashore to recover. Thousands of Mi’kmaq caught their diseases and spread them throughout the province. Between one-third and one-half of the entire aboriginal population of mainland Nova Scotia may have died during the fall and winter of 1746-47; thousands more than were killed under Cornwallis’s edicts.

Obviously, the only appropriate action is to dismantle Fortress Louisbourg, as its recapture was the reason why D’Anville’s fleet came here. And while we’re at it, let’s destroy Fort Beauséjour and any other remnants or reminders of the European conquest and colonization of Canada. Next, let’s move on to the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, South America and anywhere else Europeans colonized.

Okay!  Like oh no, not Fortress Louisbourg! How will we live without the signs and symbols of European conquest?  Of course, Indigenous languages are disappearing every day as a result of the ongoing effect of this conquest, but who cares about that, right? Entire nations were wiped out, children grow up not knowing their language or culture, children were adopted out of their families, but it would just be so terrible if any single piece of European history ever got removed!

I personally deplore what happened to the Mi’kmaq, but no one can change it. If we eradicate Cornwallis’s name, where do we ever stop?

Yeah, because then we might do things like demand sovereignty for Indigenous nations, or actually live up to treaty obligations, or actually make an effort to critique and come to terms with settler colonial history, or just not center white men all the time everywhere like this letter and everywhere else. Oh no!

Damn, that was tiring. He should have just posted this:

YouTube video

(direct link to this section)

3. All Hail the Pipeline.

Miles Howe on the Premiers meeting.


Sign the petition against the display of the Confederate flag.

A smiling young Black woman with long wavy hair

El Jones

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. There are numerous plaques with the names of the people who died on Ayers Rock in Australia. That was enough to stop me from climbing it. Just sayin’. I admired it from a distance.

  2. When I opened The Halifax Examiner first thing Saturday – which is my habit – I read a few lines and thought; “This will take time and my full attention”, so I closed it and went on with my weekend. I was correct, this edition is extraordinary. I can’t pretend to get everything you are saying, El Jones, not because your voice isn’t clear and your thoughts aren’t organized and communicated brilliantly, but simply put, I’m a white male. What I can say is that you have shared insights that I have never before encountered and made me face the notion of white privilege on an emotional and intellectual level I did not think possible. Thank you for that.

    Needless to say, I am enormously disappointed to learn that you have found it necessary to leave Nova Scotia. I am heartened to know that Tim has offered the opportunity for you to continue writing here and I hope you will continue to do so – even if its only on an occasional basis . Your words, your insights and yes, your humour will always be appreciated. I wish you nothing but the best as you move on and I hope for only good things in your life and your career. And I sincerely hope that you will someday soon find a good (paying) reason to come home to Halifax.

    1. Although I initially read the Examiner Saturday morning, I agree with your points and the sentiments yo expressed.

      Best of luck in the U.S. of A, El and I look forward to reading more from you.

  3. Good luck stateside, El – hope you can strike a healthy balance. Academia is a hustle at the best of times (for young, pre-tenure and especially contract scholars anyway) and your first essay forcefully expresses the way race (blackness) and gender make you do that hustle in quicksand.

    The Cornwallis critique reminded me of the broader movement in schools of teaching kids moral relativism and subjectivism… it’s good to a point, but kids are coming up believing that things in the realm of morality can never be true or false, which is absurd. Not only is this thinking applied to the past, but it’s also projected into the future so that decisions about what to do about x, y or z social problem have to be made on the basis of facts (ostensibly from an accountant or an economist) and not on the basis of moral commitments like, say, valuing all lives equally… because that’s an opinion, not a fact. Here’s the essay that got me thinking about it:

  4. The argument that we shouldn’t judge history by today’s standards – is this meant to protect us in the future when we are being judged for all the wars, crimes of humanity, murders, imprisonments, etc that are happening today here and around the world? Do we not know any better now?

  5. Perhaps at Peggy’s Cove, we could have someone dressed up as a warning sign going around with a loudspeaker, yelling at anyone who goes near the black rocks.

    1. I believe it’s Iowa not Indiana that El Jones is moving to. I know that for some, all the “I” states look alike (joke, relax).

      How insufferably condescending for Colin May to suggest that El Jones hasn’t been “getting out in the world”. No fair reader of this Morning File could fail to recognize how extensively and intensively El Jones got into the Maritime world — including in areas seldom visited by most of us. And who could fail to celebrate her courage and candour in presenting the reality of how such passionate citizenship is often “not good for you” if practised by people of colour.

      El Jones’s travel to Iowa (and we hope an early return to full-time paid employment in the Maritimes) will enrich those with home she interacts. And may such interactions include lots of time being funny and just hanging out.

      1. Iowa not Indiana
        ‘With home she interacts’, its ‘whom’ but I understood.your point.
        We all make mistakes.
        My earlier point being that travel broadens the mind, takes you out of your comfort zone, introduces one to new outlooks, new cultures and brings to your life that sainted word ‘diversity’
        Having had the opportunity to be paid to travel the globe I confess to seeing first hand the terrible poverty and the excesses of the inhabitants of this planet.
        She’ll do fine. A change is as good as a rest. A new milieu and an opportunity to recharge her batteries can only be a benefit.
        You and she may learn a little from the life of this person :

  6. Yes! So glad El continues to find the energy and time to create writing like this – important, uncommon, with that unique tone (funny as its centre) – and that Tim continues to be able to present it. Subscribe, people, subscribe!

  7. wow – it was time well spent . .Boileau’s view was upsetting, thank you for taking the time to explain why, once again, the word of the white man need not be (should not be) taken as the absolute truth . .

  8. Fair is fair, the Peggy’s Cove signs are subtle, and don’t actually say people die.

    Mount Washington is far more in your face, with the using of the word “Death” and providing a list and description of those who were “ignorant or stupid”. Obviously a sign designed before lawyers and PR types got involved with writing signs.


    But you actually have to get to the top to read the list.

  9. El, the essay above–the one you spent way too much time on– is one of the best I have read. Hope it’s ok to share.