Category Archives: news

No such thing as freedom of the press in Indian country

Lynda Powless now has ready access to the local police force -- but that wasn't always the case. When she first started her newspaper, police, not used to press coverage, tried to block her from taking photos and reporting on their investigations

On May 11, 1993, in a conference room of the Radisson Hotel in London, Ontario, Lynda Powless stood before the two men and one woman who were heading up the biggest ever public inquiry into the injustices facing Native people in Canada.  Powless, a Mohawk reporter for the CBC, was there to talk about media.

The stout, boisterous brunette was characteristically blunt.  “There is no such thing as freedom of the press in Indian country,” she told the Royal Commission of Aboriginal People.

In August, when I interviewed Powless for a profile that is in this month’s More magazine, she said that her 17-year-old statement still holds true.

If non-Aboriginal journalists try to get information from the band council that should be publicly accessible, Ottawa will tell you that it belongs to the band.  “I’ve had to resort to the fact that I’m a band member to get basic information, like the annual audit,” she says, “that shouldn’t happen.”

But Powless also wonders why journalists are still going to jail in Canada over freedom of information. “Press rights should be enshrined in this country, as they are in the U.S,” she says.

Powless and her oldest son, James, TIN's photographer covering a smoke factory investigation

One year after the RCAP testimony, Powless started Turtle Island News, an independent weekly newspaper on Six Nations. I saw her speak at an awards event in Toronto two years ago, and was taken in by her story: A single mom moves back to her reserve (the most populous and one of the wealthiest in Canada) to raise three sons and start a newspaper.  Her muckracking turns nearly everyone in the 15,000 strong community – apart from her sister and few close friends – into an enemy.  Not an easy path to walk, but Powless chose it.

Today, there are maybe two independent national newspapers focusing on Aboriginal issues – Powless’s amoung them – but independent, community newspapers on reserves are almost non-existent.  The profile focuses on Powless’s determination to run an independent newspaper on a native reserve in Canada.  The stonewalling and isolation she suffers is one big reason why most reserves don’t have a free, local press.

Does it matter?  Sure some community papers are nothing more than vanity presses, but the majority report transparently on important, local government decisions.  And at a basic level, how are you supposed to cast an informed vote if you don’t know what’s going on?


1 Comment

Filed under journalism, news, thrifty

Mike Holmes, sex researchers & St Clair West

It’s great when articles you filed back in May finally come to fruition.

Last spring, contractors across the country kindly answered my very basic questions about building closets, knocking out walls, and all things hot water tanks (winning hed: Go Tankless) for two service features I wrote for Mike Holmes’s magazine, on newstands now.  I also wracked my Dad’s construction brain for the basics.  He was delighted to help.  In three years of journalism, my parents have never been more excited over any gig I’ve had.  What I learned working for this magazine: everyone loves Holmes.

I also interviewed longtime residents of St. Clair West – one even took me on a bike tour in the rain – to find out all about the neighbourhood for this month’s Toronto Life. Sadly, my juicy, gossipy tidbits got cut — if they’re not posted online next month, I’ll share them here.

I also chatted with ten leading sex researchers, wizards, therapists and teachers across Canada and the U.S. who swear that pilates, eating liver and watching porn designed for ladies will up women’s libidos.  That should be in the October issue of Glow.

Finally, a story I’ve been thinking over and working on for a (sadly long) two years is in October’s Walrus.  It’s about the fur trade, told from a visit to the North Bay Fur Harvester’s 19th annual convention this April.   I love this story – and hope you will all read it.

Leave a comment

Filed under journalism, news, Toronto

New chair of TDSB; Home for the Games; China welcomes Canuck bacon but shuns pigs; Spend stimulus or lose it say Feds; Monbiot says Canada biggest climate change criminal; UK’s crack rape team; Rwandan genocide banker jailed; Brit sailors freed by Iran

My morning newscast for CIUT 89.5FM – listen to today’s Take 5 show – and my best newscast yet – here

In National News
Last night’s election of Bruce Davis as chair of Toronto District School Board promises to strengthen director Chris Spence’s ambitious plan to makeover the Board with ideas like an all-boys learning academy and a marketing campaign to lure students from private and overseas schools.

A new website – Home for the Games – is matching Whistler and Vancouver homeowners with 2010 Olympic visitors.  Half of the money from renting out their homes will go to B.C. charities for the homeless.

China has lifted its ban on Canadian pork product imports but live pigs are still locked out.  Industry experts say the ban will make little difference because of the rise of China’s homegrown, subsidized pork production industry.

Use it or lose it – Canadian provinces, cities and towns have two months to spend the $62 billion dollars allocated to them by the federal stimulus money or the government will take it back and give it to better shoppers.  The provision came as the Conservatives released their fourth budget update early this morning which found only a fraction of the stimulus cash has been spent.

Canada will cause the world to self destruct
One of the world’s leading climate change campaigners, Guardian columnist George Monbiot, says the harm Canada could do in the next two weeks will outweigh all the good it has done in a century. Monbiot teamed up with Elizabeth May in Toronto last night for the Munk Debate on the urgency of tackling climate change going head-to-head with naysayers Lord Nigel Lawson and Bjorn Lomborg.

He says Canada’s government is about as sophisticated as “a chimpanzee’s tea party” when it comes to the environment and derides it as a “corrupt petro-state.”

He says Canada is the only government to abandon its Kyoto greenhouse gas targets and its anticipated refusal to be punished for doing so make it the nation that is the biggest threat to climate change because it renders the Kyoto agreement null and void.

Roll this together with Canada’s tar sands industry and Monbiot claims the biggest threat to a world peace is not Iran, Saudi Arabia or China – it’s us.

In World News
Scotland Yard says its new $1.4 million dollar, 27-person unit is the biggest rape investigation squad in the world.  The crack team promises to clean up Britian’s horrendous response to rape investigations – the conviction rate for rape in the UK is about six percent.

In Brussels yesterday… Ephrem Nkezabera, known as the genocide banker, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan massacre.

NATO welcomed yesterday’s announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama’s to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and says it hopes other NATO countries will follow suit.

Iran has released five British soldiers that it snatched last Wednesday after they claimed the crew of the Kingdom of Bahrain racing yacht veered into Iranian waters.

Honourable Mentions
Girl Guides’ new motto: We’ll fight if we have to
Celebrating the beginning of the end of bottled water in Canada

Leave a comment

Filed under journalism, news

National News for Take 5, CIUT, on Rememberance Day

National news stories as reported by me on Take 5, CIUT 89.5 FM this morning — and my photographs from the Service of Remembrance at the Soldier’s Tower, University of Toronto

Think you’re biting into wild Pacific salmon? It’s probably farmed Atlantic salmon. That Chilean sea bass?  Patagonian toothfish.  And Tilapia was found posing as snapper and even white tuna.

A cross-Canada study by the University of Guelph found at least one quarter of the 500 fish samples they collected from supermarkets, restaurants and frozen fish boxes were stooges for more expensive species.

Experts say buying local is one way to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.

Gender wars on ice
The 900-member Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association says it is being regularly shut-out of prime ice-time at public arenas to give time to adult male leagues.

Association President Ron Baker said yesterday his league has spent over $1 million dollars in the last five years for practice time in private arenas.  He has written a letter to Mayor Miller asking him to enforce its equity policy at public arenas – or face a human rights complaint.

A spokesman from Miller’s office, Stuart Green, says the issue is a legitimate concern for the Mayor especially as female hockey leagues are on the rise.

The city’s policy dictates that priority at public arenas should be given first to youth recreational leagues, then to youth competitive hockey and finally to adult recreational shinny.

An Alberta Doctor exaggerated cancer rates near the oil sands
Earlier this year Dr. John O’Connor claimed he found an influx of a rare cancer in 12 members of a small First Nations community saying it could be linked to contaminants from the oil sands.

But an investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons found only two cases of the rare cancer and six cases of colon cancer.

O’Connor admitted to the error and does not face disciplinary action.

TTC riders boycott the rocket
Nicole Winchester is one TTC rider who does not want the city to vote in favour of a proposed fare hike on November 17th.  The vote – widely expected to pass – would see an adult token jump from $2.75 to $3.00.

Winchester started a Facebook page – with thousands of members – asking riders to find a different way to work or school on Friday to show the TTC the effect a fare hike could have.

But transit critic, James Bow, editor of the Transit Toronto website says the TTC has little choice but to raise fares because it’s among the two least-subsidized public transit agencies in North America.

He advises protesting riders to send their message not just to the TTC, but to City Hall and Queen’s Park to lobby for subsidies over fare hikes and service cuts.

Remembrance Day Renaissance
All over the world today Canadian military members are pausing to remember the fallen.

About 80 men and women on the HMCS Fredericton are gathering at the Malta Memorial in Valletta, where the names of 285 fallen Canadians are etched on a monument dedicated to Commonwealth military. The ship temporarily docked to mark Remembrance Day, is headed to the Arabian Sea.

In Kandahar a provincial reconstruction team pauses to remember comrades who have died recently in Afghanistan.

And here at home, historians say Remembrance Day is more poignant and popular with Canadians than it has been in 20 years.

Queen’s University military historian Allan English says quote — “There’s a real fascination among young people about the war experience.  I think what it is showing is a real kind of renaissance and interest in part of our history.”

Experts point to the ongoing war in Afghanistan and growing numbers of World War II veterans dying every year as reasons for high turnouts to Remembrance Day Ceremonies.  In 1993, 8000 people attended the ceremony at Ottawa’s National War Memorial – ten years later, 2 million people turned out.

And this year the House of Commons passed a motion asking the public to double the minute of silence at 11 a.m. to go back to the original two-minute silence from 1918.

Speechless in Afghanistan
Only about six out of 252 Canadian government diplomats working in Afghanistan are fluent in Afghan languages – and opposition critics are asking why language training and communication was not given higher priority.

Critics note the government has spent tens of thousands of dollars on translation, but almost $10 million trying to sell the mission to Canadians. And they question why more of Canada’s Afghanistan immigrants have been recruited into the diplomatic fold.

And though Afghanistan Task Force officials say they manage by relying heavily on locally engaged translators, a former mission official is urging current staff to hit the books, saying important messages often get lost in translation.

Reforms to Canada’s international aid agency don’t go far enough, critics say
The Canadian International Development Agency is doomed to fail again because it still doesn’t have a legislated mandate and an independent minister say government critics.

But Minister Bev Oda says CIDA is already implementing most of the recommendations from last week’s auditor general’s report on the agency which found major failings.

The report blames ever-changing leadership and shifting priorities for CIDA’s haphazard approach to distributing international aid money.

Liberal critic for CIDA, Glen Pearson, says unless CIDA’s mandate is legislated it will always be at the beck and call of various government departments and shifting priorities.

And Linden MacIntyre is the winner of this year’s Giller Prize for his novel The Bishop’s Man.
Take 5’s David Peterson interviewed MacIntyre at length about the novel and his award-winning journalism career – and we’ll be re-playing that for you in the next week or so.

Leave a comment

Filed under journalism, news

Take 5 News: Voice for missing Aboriginal women under threat; Toronto tap water now with extra bacteria; Jarvis now Ted Rogers Way; Tory Senator ties to Quebec funding scandal; All-day kindergarten costs another $400 million in Ontario

apple_pickingDon’t turn out the light on missing women
Federal Liberal critic for women’s issues, Anita Neville, is calling on the Conservative government to guarantee a renewal of the five-year mandate for Sisters in Spirit.

The national organization has become the main voice for the epidemic of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

Neville’s call comes after a funding crisis threatens to kill the $5 million dollar program.

530 native women have vanished across Canada in the past 25 years.

Neville, also repeated her standing call for a federal inquiry into why a disproportionate number of Aboriginal women go missing.

Ted Rogers has his Way
And it will run on Jarvis Street between Charles and Bloor Streets.
Toronto City Council is renaming that section of Jarvis to remember the late communications mogul and head of Rogers Communications.
Rogers died last December at the age of 75.

I’d like a glass of tap water with extra bacteria please
University of Michigan researchers are finding bacteria in Toronto tap water that is resistant to some antibiotics.\
While researchers stress the water is safe to drink – the drug-resistant bacteria has scientists worried about genetic pollution.

They think human forms of bacteria or viruses could copy the drug resistant genes of their water-borne neighbours, making it even tougher to treat infections.

Researchers don’t know the exact type or source of this resistant strain.

$400 million dollars more
That’s one of the changes Premier Dalton McGunity will announce this morning to the government’s full-day kindergarten plan for all four and five year olds in Ontario.

The government now wants teachers to be in charge all-day – instead of the original proposal to have teachers in the morning and early childhood educators in the afternoon – costing Ontario $400 million dollars more than forecasted.

To help offset the cost, class sizes will get bigger from 20 to 26 children and the phase-in will take five years.  Next year only 15 percent of Ontario children will get spaces in the all-day program.

Yesterday Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the premier should rethink all-day kindergarten given the growing deficit.

Food Rich, Cash Poor
For the last two years the Daily Bread FoodBank has fallen far short of its fall fundraising goal of half a million dollars.

Now Executive Director Gail Nyberg says she might have to revise the goal down to $350,000 dollars.  Everyone likes a winner she says.

But the Food Bank is a champion when it comes to food donations – this fall the public donated 633,000 pounds of food, spilling over its 500,000 pound goal.

Nyberg says people are more likely to give food over money in failing economies because they know that can of soup is going to someone in need.

But Daily Bread needs cash to buy items it doesn’t get like dairy, meat and vegetables – and necessities like baby formula.

The number of families with at least one working adult using the food bank has more than doubled since 1995 — indicating working families are having trouble making ends meet.

World’s scientists are sleeping through tar sands pollution
A new report by Global Forest Watch Canada is calling for urgent attention by the World’s Scientific Community to the problem of contaminants leaking from Alberta’s tar sands.

Dr. Kevin Timoney and Peter Lee’s new study titled “Does the Alberta Tar Sands Industry Pollute?” finds some contaminant levels are threatening the ecosystem and human health.

But it says industry churns out so much money that no one in a position of authority wants to look closely at the problem.  To date there are no comprehensive, peer-reviewed assessments of the cumulative impacts of tar sands development,” say the researchers claiming “serious problems of scientific leadership.

They say the problem demands immediate scientific attention – especially in light of plans to triple tar sands activities over the next decade.  The full report is available on This Magazine’s website.

A Tory Senator is the latest to be tainted by Montreal’s corruption scandal
New reports reveal top Conservative organizer and senator Leo Housakos worked with recently disgraced Montreal politician Benoit Labonte from August 2008 to last February.

Mr. Labonte is at the centre of the corruption scandal rocking Montreal’s Race for Mayor.

After Labonte’s relationship with construction kingpin Tony Accurso – who made a $100,000 dollar donation to Labonte’s campaign – came to light, Labonte resigned.  Then the former opposition leader told all – describing an elaborate kickback scheme to finance Montreal’s political parties.

Now Senator Housakos has been linked to Labonte and Accurso while working with the Vision Montreal party.
There is no evidence the Senator knew of any wrongdoing, but the Senate Ethics Officer is investigating whether Mr. Housakos breached any articles of the Senate Conflict of Interest Code.

Also check out:

The Tyee’s in-depth report on how provincial politicians are steamrolling over local protocol to create a jumbo ski resort in a government-run town

AND why people staying in low-cost housing or boarding houses aren’t much better off than the homeless

Leave a comment

Filed under Aboriginal, journalism, news, Toronto

Take 5 Newscast: Why the Swiss are afraid of minarets; Stimulus funding goes to conservative ridings; Alberta faces up to Aboriginal education gap; Hunting blockade in B.C.

banff gondolaWell, after a long hiatus due to a two-week workshop at the Banff Centre for Emerging Aboriginal Writers (super awesome, check out the pics here), and a cold, I’m finally back on Take 5 News.  Here is my selection of world and national news for Wednesday, October 14th.

And a hot tip:  We interviewed filmmaker Dennis Allen this morning on his CBQM doc about a radio station that is acting as a modern social network in the Far North – the elders on air are colourful and delightfully funny – check it out at its imagineNATIVE premiere this Friday afternoon.


Euthanasia?  Oui, Oui!
Three out of four specialist doctors in Quebec say they want the government to legalize euthanasia.

That’s according to a survey conducted by their professional association –  and the doctors are urging the association to take a public stand on the matter.

But 20 per cent of those polled say that even if euthanasia were legalized, they would refuse to perform it.

The Federal Stimulus stimulates Conservative ridings
That’s according to Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy…  he’s suggesting that the recent wave of federal infrastructure stimulus funding favoured Conservative ridings.

Kennedy’s report claims that in several provinces the Conservative ridings received an average of $3-$4 million dollars more than opposition ridings under the Building Canada Fund.

And under the $500-million dollar Recreational Infrastructure Canada program, 18 of the top 20 Ontario ridings by number of projects are held by Conservatives.

Yesterday, National Conservative caucus chair and MP Guy Lauzon, dismissed the claims saying the Liberals are trying to create another excuse to have an election.  He says it was up to the municipalities to apply for funds.

Don’t shoot our moose
In Northern B.C…   the Tahltan Nation continues its standoff against the government over hunting rules – but the Environment Ministry says it won’t come to the table until the blockades are down.

New roads into the northern territory and the longest moose hunting season in the province is causing unchecked hunting in Tahltan territory and its decimating the moose population, say local Elders and protesters.  They are patrolling a blockade preventing hunters from coming into the territory.

One hour south, Iskut residents occupy another blockade – this one against Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration for coalbed methane in an area known as the Sacred Headwaters – only this blockade started four years ago.|

Elder Lillian Campbell, says the two blockades are linked, “It’s about bears, it’s about wolves, it’s about salmon — it’s about our culture,” she says.

The Environment Ministry says moose populations are healthy and it won’t talk to the Tahltan Nation until they stop the blockades.

Alberta addresses its failing grade for educating Aboriginal youth
Yesterday the Alberta Government and eight members of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities made the first move to formally address the education gap facing Aboriginal youth.

They formed a ministers’ council on Aboriginal education – expected to meet several times a year.

The move is being heralded by education consultant Thomas Erasmus of Goodfish Lake First Nation.

He says problems with gangs and drugs on reserves, and among native youth in Edmonton’s downtown, are tied to gaps in education and worrying school drop-out rates.

He says the on-reserve school system is failing – schools are often isolated and use a hodgepodge of curriculum.  Teachers are paid less than in nearby provincial schools, so they often move on quickly after gaining experience.

Erasmus hopes that by sitting down with aboriginal people, the council will force ministers to give education for aboriginal youth higher priority.

In Vancouver…. a memorial mass is being held today…
marking the second anniversary of Robert Dziekanski’s death moments after he was tasered and pinned to the ground by four RCMP officers at the Vancouver International Airport.

Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski will attend the 5 o clock mass at the city’s  Holy Rosary Cathedral.

The Braidwood Inquiry investigating Dzienkanski’s death is hearing closing statements this week by lawyers from both sides.

Meanwhile Dziekanski’s mother is reiterating her calls for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to look into whether criminal charges can be laid against the four RCMP officers who confronted her son.

Hands off the beverage cart
The pilot of an Air Canada Jazz flight from Vancouver to Fort McMurray grounded the plane after a passenger stole a beer from the flight attendant’s beverage cart.

The RCMP whisked the man in question off the plane – they say he nicked the beer and then tried to hide the evidence by flushing the empty can down the toilet.

The plane then got on its way, leaving some passengers hankering for the good old days when beer was included with your plane ticket.

Al-Qaeda’s credit crunch

The US Treasury claimed yesterday that Al-Qaeda is in its worst financial state for many years while the Taliban’s funding is rising.

The Taliban are in better financial shape partly because of Afghanistan’s booming drug trade.

Senior Treasury official David Cohen says the al-Qaeda leadership has warned that a lack of funds is hurting its recruitment and training efforts.

Cohen says without money, Al-Qaeda is losing influence.

Unsafe abortions are killing about 70,000 women around the world every year, says a new report by the U.S.- based Guttmacher Institute.

And five million women are treated every year for complications arising from unsafe abortions.

While the number of abortions worldwide fell from 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003 – the number of deaths has not been reduced.

The report blames the high death rate on rising populations of women in parts of the world where safe abortions are not widely available.
Half of the deaths due to unsafe abortions are in Africa, followed by South Asia.

The report claims the key to prevention is contraception – and it calls on governments to expand high quality family planning services, liberalize abortion laws and make investments to make safe abortion services available.

Who’s afraid of a Minaret?
Well some people in Switzerland are. That country is divided as it readies to vote in a November referendum to ban the construction of minarets on mosques.

The controversial campaign is being led by right-wing Christians like Daniel Zigg, a member of the Federal Democratic Union.  He sees minarets as symbols of Muslim victories over newly conquered lands – and a source of quote “ideological emissions.”

The move is so radical that even some die-hard members of right wing parties are expressing discomfort with the issue.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aboriginal, journalism, news

A first for Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project



Three European credit agencies have backed out of Turkey’s massive Ilisu dam project. Turkey claims it will back the 1200 megawatt dam with its own money despite local and international protest over its inability to meet World Bank Standards on human rights, cultural heritage and the environment.

From right: translator Metin Baran, and Hasankeyf residents Halil Güzel and Abduhlah Erididil,

From right: translator Metin Baran, and Hasankeyf residents Halil Güzel and Abduhlah Erididil

Last year I travelled to Hasankeyf -a 10,000 year old village set to be flooded – to talk to the villagers and see what would be lost if the dam were to be built. It was tough to get the piece published as editors claimed they were “awash in dam stories,” but with the recent news of the pull out, the New York Times Green Inc. blog took the story.

Check it out:

Ataturk dam

The Ataturk dam - the first dam in the Southeastern Anatolia project

1 Comment

Filed under green living, journalism, news