Reviewing the daily newspapers is a ritual in our household. When a single edition of the paper hits many issues all at once, with depth and insight, it is particularly gratifying. Such was the case in Saturday’s edition of the Globe and Mail.
So why was I so excited? Let me list the highlights and, if you missed them, let me encourage you to look them up on the internet. In addition to what is listed below, there were three legal reports of great interest which I will summarize in my next post. Watch for “An Update on Current Legal Issues.”
1) Ian Brown on Gord Downie’s Secret Path
Ian Brown has written a multi-level two-page Folio story entitled “Gord Downie: A Story of What Happens Next” about Gord Downie’s legacy project, his Secret Path songs, graphic novel and animated movie about Chanie Wenjack, the twelve-year old Ojibwa boy who ran away from a residential school fifty years ago and died from exposure. The Secret Path had its debut at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa last Tuesday to enthusiastic applause. Brown’s review is a fascinating account of how Downie is dealing with his medical condition, and how he, his brother and their associates learned of Chanie’s story, and what they have done to make the story known to the broader Canadian public. Addressing the issue of cultural appropriation, Brown describes how Downie and his team went to Ogoki Post in Northern Ontario, met Chanie’s sister Pearl Wenjack and learned about their community and culture. They have now established the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund “dedicated to cross-cultural education to support healing and recovery.” It’s a moving story that will bring you up to speed on this very interesting and potentially important cross-cultural endeavour.
2) Judy Stoffman on aboriginal painter Daphne Odjig
An upbeat companion piece to the Folio story is Judy Stoffman’s wonderful obituary to “Aboriginal modernist painter Daphne Odjig,” who recently died in Kelowna B.C. at 97 years of age. I am chagrined to admit that I knew nothing about her, although she is clearly a very prominent painter who has won great recognition. With great élan, Stoffman tells of Odjig’s early life on Manitoulin Island, family losses and rejection by her relatives, her migration to Toronto and her self-education in art, her multiple moves to western Canada, her evolving artistic styles, her leadership in the indigenous art community, and her continuing energy well into old age. This article offers a rich narrative of how Odjig came to appreciate her native heritage and how she became a professional artist. She is an inspiration to me, and to other women, as much as for her own community. If it takes an obituary to introduce us to the stars in our midst, better late than never. Do read her story.
3) The Focus section on Fraud in the American election, including Marcus Gee on Gerrymandering
The five-page Focus section on “rigging the American election” is fascinating. American election officials assure the public that intimidation and corruption at election time are not real dangers.
Marcus Gee, who normally writes about Toronto city matters, has written an in-depth article entitled “Divide, Then Rule.” It describes how both parties historically have drawn state electoral boundaries to make sure their own candidates are elected. Called “gerrymandering,” the practice is open, legal and well-established. Apparently, state officials use the results of the national census every ten years to “redistrict” electoral boundaries so that districts have roughly equal numbers of potential voters. They now use modern data-collection techniques to pinpoint pockets of support and either draw them into the district or to divide up areas of strength for the opposition party.
To illustrate the process, Gee describes how the Republicans used gerrymandering to great success in the North Carolina City of Asheville after the 2010 Census. Gee refers to journalist David Daley’s new book, Ratf**ked:The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. It describes how the GOP conducted a systemic campaign to seize control of state governments. Why? So that they got the power to gerrymander districts for congressional elections. The success of the Republicans has now prompted the Democrats to copy their strategy.
In Canada, a judge heads an independent commission in every province to define changes to constituencies. In the United States, a few states, including California and Idaho, have independent commissions to set boundaries, but most do not. According to the website, End Gerrymandering, “The United States is the only advanced democracy in the world where politicians directly participate in the districting process.”