Category: Borderlines

Scots Wha Hae!

There are few family names as Scottish as mine. There are five Scots tartan patterns for Stewart clans, and two more for those who spell it Stuart. That heritage doesn’t necessarily make me Scottish. I’m one of millions worldwide who can claim at least some Scottish ancestry (including a large number ... read more ››

The Mayan example

The historic battle for justice is winning against all odds The absence of despair. The refusal to lose hope. The determination to keep fighting in the face of implacable odds. These are the characteristics that struck me most about the many Guatemalan refugees I met in the spring of 1990 during a ... read more ››

A date for the General

A landmark trial for genocide and crimes against humanity concluded last week in Guatemala City, though you could be forgiven for not having heard of it. The trial of former Guatemalan dictator and army General José Efraín Rios Montt and his one-time intelligence chief, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, for wiping ... read more ››

When justice is injustice

Howard Sapers is ringing the alarm. If the rate of incarceration of a specific community’s people is an indication of the health of that community, First Nations in Canada are in an emergency. Sapers is the Correctional Investigator of Canada. His job is to provide an independent oversight over how the ... read more ››

Enduring the cold

Cold weather, real cold, is an awe-inspiring thing. Obviously, I’m not talking about Toronto’s call-a-national-emergency-at-minus-10 cold. I grew up in Alberta and Northern BC, so I am familiar with a real winter. I had the privilege recently to renew my acquaintance with winter’s deep freeze when I experienced record cold temperatures ... read more ››

Taking the long view

If you’re reading this, the world did not end December 21, as some doomsday crackpots and deluded hippies believe was predicted by the Mayan long-count calendar. That doesn’t mean 2012, as a year, didn’t deserve to die. In many ways, this does feel like the end times. Politically, socially, economically, and ... read more ››

First Nations will rise to the challenges

Things are not looking good for remote First Nation communities in northern Canada. In particular, there are serious problems developing for communities up the James Bay coast and much of this has to do with global warming and changes in weather patterns. My people, the Cree of James Bay, could always ... read more ››

David beats Goliath

Even for the winners, it was a shock. Last month, an unlikely coalition of local farmers, celebrity chefs, weekend cottagers and First Nations in Ontario learned they had successfully blocked what would have been the biggest open-pit mine in Canada. Buried by two years of bad press, beset by constant and ... read more ››

Pillars of propaganda

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before… A people is herded off its ancestral lands onto tiny, overcrowded and often infertile wastelands by a newly arrived occupier. Their economy is squeezed and blockaded at every turn. Their culture and language mark them as somehow less than completely human. Their ... read more ››

The great giveaway

The Conservative bulldozers are roaring, trampling over our parliamentary democracy, our rights and, soon, through the rivers that are vital to many First Nations. The federal government recently tabled Bill C-45, a bloated, 457-page assault on the common good that it dishonestly said is only intended to implement changes already announced ... read more ››

Four corners, bad signs

Guatemala’s Cuatro Caminos is an important intersection in the Central American nation’s western “Altiplano,” its mountainous highlands. Depending on which of the directions you take from Cuatro Caminos – west to Quetzaltengo, north to Heuhuetenango, or east to Totonicapán – you’ll find three major centres of the country’s Indigenous Mayan ... read more ››

Independence? Not for us!

Canada has celebrated its founding as a country since July 1, 1867, but it wasn’t until 1927, almost 60 years later, that it was first recognized as an independent state. That’s because our colonial overlord in London still controlled our foreign policy over that period. Canadians, through their elected representatives, ... read more ››

A dramatic debut

  Moments of crisis inevitably provide a revealing glimpse of a person’s true strength of character. Whatever else one may think of newly elected Quebec Premier Pauline Marois (and I’ve never been a fan of her personality, politics or leadership style), most people watching the live coverage of her victory speech ... read more ››

Taking a long shot

Is there a form of Quebec nationalism that can truly embrace all Quebecers, of whatever origin or mother tongue? Could there be a movement that could actually convince large numbers of les autres – the other “nous” – to actually vote to make Quebec an independent country? It’s a tall order ... read more ››

Public lands, private gains

I said goodbye to a close friend last week. No, no one died. This friend is a piece of land about nine acres large on the flank of a small mountain running down to a tiny lake, centred around a Swiss-chalet house built by Czech immigrants in the late 1960s. It ... read more ››

The Cree role in the coming election

  Quebec will soon be facing a crucial provincial election, likely sooner than later, and probably early this autumn. As in any election campaign, a well-organized party will deploy a two-fold strategy of negative attacks against its opponents combined with a positive message of optimism that it hopes to sell on ... read more ››

The clanging of change

Throughout my neighbourhood in east-end Montreal this evening at exactly 8 pm, people stepped out onto their doorsteps or walked around the block banging pots and pans. This activity carried on for about 15 to 20 minutes all over the city (as I could read in the immediate Facebook updates) ... read more ››

Sh*t my sister says

  I’ve threatened my big sister that I am going to rename this column with the title above. (My editor – hi W*ll! – warned me I would have to use an asterisk for the “i” if I were to make good on my threat, however. Family publication, he muttered, etcetera, ... read more ››

Deconstructing the contradictions

The contradictions are what make us interesting. The person who sends a yearly cheque to PETA, the purist animal-rights group, but who still loves to dig into a thick, juicy steak. The business owner who supports higher taxes and encourages their employees to form a union. The skinny antiwar pacifist ... read more ››

Our printemps érable

I must be a bad parent. A couple weeks ago, on March 22, I let my son skip school and then encouraged him to get into a fight. A real battle royale it was, in fact, in which we fought alongside at least 200,000 allies in downtown Montreal in an ... read more ››

Romeo, Romeo, where art thou

There are many who saluted Romeo Saganash’s candidacy for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party as historic. That it was, as we can say now in the past tense: Saganash ended his leadership bid February 9 after political and financial realities caught up to a campaign that won ... read more ››

Making a choice

  If the practice of politics is famously known as the art of the possible, the historic success of the New Democratic Party in last year’s federal election was a masterpiece of the oeuvre: the perennially minor parliamentary player smashed conventional wisdom with an astonishing breakthrough that the smart money had ... read more ››

Laugh at Pierre Poutine, but the joke’s on us

The only game in Ottawa right now is a variation on the popular children’s book series, Where’s Waldo? This week, it’s been updated for the nation’s chattering classes as Where, Who and WTF is Pierre Poutine? There’s no better symbol than this pusillanimous pseudonym for Canada’s graceless slide into a corrupt ... read more ››

Dust in the wind

  There’s nothing to put one’s daily concerns into perspective like reading about a black hole at the centre of the universe that’s about the size of four million suns and in the process of swallowing an enormous gas cloud with three times the mass of our planet.   As reported by Nature ... read more ››

Ethnic cleansing, Canadian style

There’s one thing that Canada’s First Nations chiefs can say in Stephen Harper’s favour in his approach to the housing crisis at Attawapiskat; and that’s that he achieved the unlikely feat of uniting the fractious and faction-ridden group of Native leaders across the country. They are coming together in solidarity ... read more ››

Drunk driver at the wheel

  “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it” – Stephen Harper, 2005 Never did a politician utter truer words. Indeed, we soon won’t even be able to find ourselves on Google maps. But no matter: the road to Stephen Harper’s Canada of the not-so-distant future is wide open and his ... read more ››