StFX University and Coady International Name 2018 Coady Chair in Social Justice


Skilled Leader and Coady Graduate from South Africa Returns to Share Experience


Mfalatsane Pricillah (“Sadi”) Motsuenyane, former Chief Director of Sustainable Livelihoods with the Department of Social Development for the Government of South Africa, has been named the 2018 Coady Chair in Social Justice. A member of Coady’s Advisory body and a graduate of Coady’s Asset-based and Citizen-led Development (ABCD) and Livelihoods and Markets certificates, Motsuenyane has a longstanding relationship with StFX University and Coady International Institute.

“It is an honour to welcome Sadi as the 2018 Coady Chair in Social Justice,” Dr. June Webber, St. Francis Xavier University Vice President and head of Coady International Institute and Extension Department says. "Sadi’s longstanding history of community leadership and development through apartheid to post-apartheid reconstruction and development in South Africa will be an invaluable source of learning and inspiration for all at StFX, Coady, and in the greater community.”

In a manner that is consistent with the principles of the Antigonish Movement, Motsuenyane has been helping people in her own country study their social and economic situation. This has allowed residents to improve their livelihoods collectively, to earn more income, and to take more control of the local economy. By facilitating restorative justice dialogues in strife-torn communities, Motsuenyane has created a platform for collective discovery, recovery, and utilization of human and material assets with newly found mutual dignity and respect. 

“Social justice, equity, and the rights of South Africans has been central to my community development work during the years of fighting for the end of Apartheid in South Africa,” Motsuentane says.

Born on a farm into a family of entrepreneurs and community developers, Motsuenyane now has more than 50 years of community development experience.

“My community development work has been influenced largely by my family’s livelihood strategies which were strongly asset-based, and later in my career by the Coady International Institute’s asset-based community development approach, inspired by the late Dr. Rev. Moses Coady.”

Motsuenyane holds a Master’s in Public Administration and Development Management from the University of Stellenbosch. Her previous work experience includes roles with Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Agricultural Research Council, and Agricor. Since her retirement in December 2017, she has been completing her PhD at the University of the Western Cape, including her thesis titled, “Exploring the impact of asset-based thinking as an alternative approach to unleash the generative capacity of social grants in South Africa.”

The Coady Chair in Social Justice was created in 2012 to honour the spirit of Rev. Dr. Moses Coady and the leaders of the Antigonish Movement by bridging local and global concerns, involving the community, and encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to issues. The Chair is an important means to deepen StFX’s commitment to its service to society's mission, to develop students’ understanding and sense of social responsibility, and to support Coady as a centre for global citizen leadership and social justice at StFX. Key elements of the Chair’s tenure include public presentations, classroom seminars, and workshops that bring students, faculty, community members and citizen-leaders together for shared learning.

The 2018 Coady Chair in Social Justice will reside on the campus of StFX from September 17 – November 16, 2018.


Alan Syliboy Interview


Arts and Community editor Salome Barker and Co-Editor-in-Chief Yanik Gallie of The Xaverian Weekly did an interview with Alan Syliboy on June 24th, 2018 at NovelTea Bookstore Cafe in Truro, Nova Scotia. Alan is the artist of Mi’kmaw Animals, released on May 30th by Nimbus Publishing. The baby board book is now available for purchase at Chapters and select bookshops across Canada. 


Alan Syliboy grew up believing that native art was generic.  “As a youth, I found painting difficult and painful, because I was unsure of my identity.”  But his confidence grew in 1972 when he studied privately with Shirley Bear.  He then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where 25 years later, he was invited to sit on the Board of Governors.  Syliboy looks to the indigenous Mi’kmaq petroglyph tradition for inspiration and develops his own artistic vocabulary out of those forms.  His popularization of these symbolic icons has conferred on them a mainstream legitimacy that restores community pride in its Mi’kmaq heritage.


YG: Two years ago, you held the Coady Chair at StFX. What did you gain from that experience?

AS: I think the hardest part at the very first was, exactly what is that position? What do they expect? Trying to define what is was, that question, came up a lot early on. I didn’t worry about it too much and I just kind of let it happen and that’s generally how I do things. I do a diagnosis of it as it’s going on. I found a good number of indigenous students there who were very thrilled that I was there. In my being there, they felt supported. They got noticed too because I was there. Every time I would be invited somewhere, they were there. It was a mutual, beneficial, thing and I felt that I was already benefiting from the position. Also, there was an indigenous student who was in a wheelchair, and her husband who was sort of the manager in some way, sort of directed me how to be an ombudsman in a way. That’s how I saw the role.

The first day I was there I was on FOX campus radio. Well, I'll come and watch the show. I thought that was the plan all along. Right away, I’m running against the establishment in my very first day. There couldn’t be a better cause. I found out how difficult it is to make change in that structure, because it’s nuts and bolts, it’s money. If you wanna change a building, it’s a big effort. These buildings are from different ages. One student in a wheelchair had to crawl through the snow to get to class a couple times. It was just so difficult. When this woman got to StFX, she was so happy to have finally made it. And, it took her an extra year to graduate, because she had to drop classes as she couldn’t physically do them. She wanted to go to lunch and she had a lunch voucher but couldn’t make it there a lot of the times because she had to get the key to the elevator. You got to find that person with the key to get access. All of those things were against her. It’s amazing.

When we had the president’s colloquium, that was probably the highlight of everything I did there because I had panelists and they never did panelists that way before. I said, “It would have an effect, if I do it. But it would be a stronger effect, if I had 3 other opinions on the same subject.” That’s what I did, and it was a phenomenal success. That was addressed there, the issue of a person in a wheelchair. Very uncomfortable, I think, for the establishment who sat there. I was surprised that they sat there, and they listened. I felt that was one of my main achievements there. I didn’t do it alone, I had the right people. I listened to them who directed me too because I had no idea. I had Murray St. Claire there and we had the flag issue came up at the time, the Mi’kmaw flag. It’s up, it’s down. Murray was told about this problem with the flag. He said, “I went to the Senate. They gave me two flag poles and it was Canada and my Nation. He wanted another flag for his community. They said, “No. We only have two poles.” So, he said, “Ok.” He opened the window and he put his flag up and you could see it. That’s how we dealt with that. Next day, he had a pole haha.

There were a lot of grad students’ voice grievances, it was very touching. It’s very isolating when you come from a small community and you’re in this university. They’re not really equipped. Some of the indigenous personnel weren’t indigenous. They took the job because no one else was taking it. It’s getting better, of course. It shone light on issues like that which should have been addressed. They are being addressed now. It was good for me in the sense that I had all of these classes. I did more talking than I had ever done before. I was talking for three or four hours a day. Then you’re in big demand, so they’re trying not to wear me out.

I took classes voluntarily on my own. So, I couldn’t blame them for all the workload. I even had a daycare come into my studio on-campus. They came twice. I wasn’t there on the first day, but they watched my animation. The next day they came in, I read them a story. Some of them were three years old. I felt really connected in doing these things. It was very positive. I wouldn’t want to do that every day, I couldn’t do that every day. But, I’m glad of the experience.

Also, I had to talk and tell my story so many times it refined my story. It made me a better public speaker. It improved my message to a large extent as well. I felt that. Basically, you’re telling the same story over and over, so you refine it. You also find the keys that turn in the right direction at the right time. It was a very good and rewarding experience.

SB: You’ve had many accomplishments as an artist such as creating the first Indigenous coin for the Royal Canadian Mint. Reflecting on your career, what other big accomplishments stand out the greatest for you?

AS: The Queen’s Jubilee medal, I also got to meet the queen as well. I have a campaign to do more public art. In this area, we are almost invisible. Whereas if you go to B. C., indigenous art is everywhere. You do not see that here at all. To increase the visual profile of us. And, it’s working. I have a mural at the airport that is permanent, and I just put a piece in the Commons. I have a piece there and it’s up for Masterworks Arts Award as well. I should hear within a month about whether I’m on the shortlist or not for that. All kinds of things have sort of come up every day.

Pat Power and I have a meeting every day in the morning for two, sometimes three hours, just going through emails. Answering emails and everything. I have a sense that Pat’s good at filling out forms and taking care of the little details. He was a finance guy so that’s the kind of stuff he likes a lot which is a perfect partnership because details are not my area. It could take me an hour to write a paragraph, I’m almost illiterate that way. As far as a spell check and all that, they’re catching up to me. I’m starting to speed up because of that. On my own, my education was very poor that way.

Social media too was one of my major accomplishments. As Native and indigenous communities we are pretty isolated as a rule when I was young. Now, I have 5000 friends on Facebook. A great number of my friends are indigenous. It’s a daily thing. I like the intimate interactions. For us, community-wise, you have a living Mi’kmaw dictionary. If you ask a question, you’re gonna have a half a dozen people come to help you out. You feel like you’re talking to the whole community, even beyond Mi’kma’ki. Even out West, I used to do shows out there, so I know lots of people out there. I find that is the biggest. Like first when we started the Morning Drum featured on my Facebook. That was just a temporary one-off thing that we did, but people refused to let us quit that. They would not let us, they just demanded. That was by accident. It’s a thread that finds its way everywhere. I go to places and people tell me about the Morning Drum and a lot of them have been shown by their friends. I realized the power of that. You’re always in an age when you’re relying on a gallery to promote you to make you a star. But that couldn’t happen, you couldn’t get the critical mass on your own, or you’ll get it for a little while and it’ll fade. My approach is brick by brick and day by day. That’s how I’ve done everything. Sometimes you don’t look back and see what you’ve built, because you’re too busy in the middle of building the next brick. You have to come back, or somebody will remind you that you did things. A doctorate too is up there. Unexpected. A doctorate was one of the biggest. There’s a list but I don’t think about it very much. There’s a few on the top of the list for sure.

SB: How does art help you to express your own heritage?

AS: When I was young, just starting out, there was no indigenous art. Art was your view of yourself as what you saw on TV. I had to discover that I am a Mi’kmaw which is aside from other tribes, but no one teaches you that. When I was about to go to school, and I remember this clearly, we spoke Mi’kmaw all the time as kids. Then a letter came out from the church, it was catholic school, and they said, “You’re not allowed to speak Mi’kmaw anymore. If you go to school, it’s gonna hold you back so no more Mi’kmaw.” My parents bought into that because they were very, very fluent. Everything was fine up until that point. That’s why I stalled in school that much because it was not only emotional trauma of going to school. But, it was going to school and not understanding what they’re telling you. TV came on at the same time and the language went out fast. It was gone really fast. I never recovered. I never was a very good student. I excelled at making images under the table in whatever way I could make them. My art was sort of an underground movement. That’s what I did daily.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn any of the grammar rules or arithmetic. I was very poor at that. The nuns when they finally limped me into grade 7, there were 3 years of failure already in that time. I was diagnosed as “borderline retarded” by them. That was who they saw in their school. You couldn’t disagree with that because I had very little to say. I was actually afraid to talk. You go into the classroom, and you try to stay in the back to not cause any weight. You’d be singled out every now and then for entertainment purposes. They’d ask you a question they know darn well you don’t know the answer. Some of it was just for survival. I would say that school was residential-like. We’d head home every night. It wasn’t residential schools, but it was a version of it.

YG: Your artworks are often used in schools to teach principles of design such as balance, depth, and contrast. When students are introduced to art, they often ask “What’s art?” How do you respond to that question?

AS: I try to diagnose what level they are at artistically. For instance, I went to an inner-city school in Halifax which was primarily African. All of my classes before then were indigenous or rural, which is quite different. The first thing I saw was that the teacher had told them about me. They had got them prepared. They had already done artwork upon meeting. The first thing I did is I went place from place to place and individually looked at the work and gave them some critique and some advice. It was a one-on-one thing, and from then on it was just golden. I was in, we were pals. They were a generic group, killing time or something. Individually, you see where they are at. Some of them are quite advanced. You determine that and ask them what they want to know or how to do something. That connection is easily fixed with a one-on-one thing.

I do DAREarts, it’s an art program from Ontario originally. Look for DAREarts Atlantic. I started the program with them when they were down here, but they’re all over. I was impressed with them because they are like an art SWAT team. They come into schools and teach painting, music, theatre in one week. They have several teachers who have different strengths. Their program is free for schools. They finish a project and do a show at the end of the week.

I’ve heard a story that one group went out North. They were waiting for students to come and nobody came to their program. They decided to go knocking door to door and explaining what they’re doing. First thing we’ll do is feed your kids and then we’ll teach them art and take care of them. A handful came when it started. I think there was a dozen the first year. Next year there were almost three dozen. The year after was over a hundred and then on. Had they not knocked on doors, nothing would have happened. They might have said, “Well nobody wanted to come.” They didn’t take no for an answer. I like that because they’re aggressive. They work very hard. They select their people well.

I’m a painter, we’re doing The Thundermaker that is a vehicle for education in the arts. They also have people in the theatre, and somebody in music. All of these elements are touched at once and the fort of focus. We’re working with three schools, working on the same material. It’s all over Canada and it’s privately funded. I think McCain’s is one of our funders down here in the Atlantic Provinces. If you go onto DAREarts Atlantic, you’ll see all that information. That’s one of the ways I can be in the schools. I can focus in that way. I can go there for a whole week and affect quite a few students. I get asked almost every day by a class to come speak and it’s not possible. I’m a professional artist and that’s priority for me. I want to do work with students and do my part with students as much as I can.

There are exceptions for somethings like Québec. I’d never been there. I said I couldn’t get there because I needed to fly over. But, they were so determined to get me there. They covered travel expenses for me. They wouldn’t take no for answer. So I said, “I’ll go.” I feel that what I do is seen as important. This is not the political thing. I’m not talking about the band council or whatever. They are what they always were, they ignore everything. It’s business as usual for politics on reserves mostly. I wouldn’t say that as a whole. Very few politicians look at the arts that much. That’s changing, and you don’t wait around. That was one of my main things. If support wasn’t coming, you just worked around it. I always felt that way. I always felt that there’s a big world. When I went to the Art Project with Shirley Bear in the 70s, she made my world a big world from then on. We were being taught by world-class artists. We were going to the best universities and museums, and we were taught so well. The world was that, we never regressed. It was always looking ahead toward an extra horizon. I give thanks to Shirley Bear for changing everything for me that way. The main idea for Tribe Incorporated was that we did workshops on reserves. That was leading edge for indigenous people teaching indigenous people. Even now you don’t see that much. I did an art program in Wagmatcook. It was the first time they had an indigenous artist critiquing or judging their art.  That’s kind of amazing, but it shouldn’t be. The quality of work that was there was so astounding.

YG: What is the most valuable lesson Shirley Bear taught you?

AS: Shirley’s always been there all my life, and still is. I think she was very radical. She’d never ask any permission from anywhere. She was part of AIM and she knew Anna Mae Aquash. I met Anna through Shirley at a radical time. She was from Tobique which is sort of a radical place. I think that’s a sort of breeding ground for radical women. They take over the band hall every year few years and you hear of them all the time. That’s where she comes from and she was never afraid to speak up.

Indigenous people don’t like to rock the boat. It’s really hard for them to confront. It’s not easy to do. Shirley and Peter are the exception of that. And, that’s not always appreciated in the larger indigenous community. We’re taught by the Catholics very well to not say anything. However, that is changing more and more every day, things like Idle No More. Shirley and Peter J. Clair would do protests in the early 70s around here which is unheard of. When the Warrior’s Society took over, which was a bad approach, you’re in the red zone on the first day. You got a gun. Nothing got resolved over a long time. It was intimidation back and forth. No one wanted to support Warrior’s Society. That was a bit too radical too fast. It didn’t get the results that it had planned too. They were loosely structured and that didn’t help as well. Some of them had charges on them for domestic abuse and that didn’t help. When Idle No More came, that was completely revolutionary in the sense that their approach was superb. You know they’re working when the chief and band council are being asked questions they never been asked by anyone before. They’re not used to that, it never happened before. It’s in a better state than it was. I’m glad I’m around to see this.

YG: Nature comes alive in many of your pieces, especially in the cover artwork of Mi’kmaw Animals. Talk us through your creation process for your artwork.

AS: Shirley was giving me my first painting lessons, and I was doing landscapes, portraits and the typical kind of things. We decided we didn’t want to be just another landscape painter. Shirley is the one who discovered the petroglyphs book. That radically changed everything. We looked through that and decided that was what we wanted to do. We were teaching ourselves, but ultimately, we were teaching everyone. Mi’kmaw people didn’t know about petroglyphs at all. It’s way different now. We didn’t have anyone to follow at the time in the 70s.

The animal motifs, I learned about them. In the beginning, artists are very isolated in their studio. That’s changed for me. I have archaeologists, who are Mi’kmaw people now, and all kinds of support people that I can get better information. I can increase my knowledge and then convey that in art. Roger Lewis for instance, he was an RCMP and became an archaeologist. Now, he’s head of the Archaeology Museum in Nova Scotia. We’re the same age, we grew up together. He’s one of my best sources for information. I’ve asked him about anything and he’ll come up with some research and give me something. I prefer to do that. I prefer to base it on factual knowledge, but I’m bringing an artistic element to it too. It feeds a couple of things. It has the beauty.

Art can be beautiful. For instance, I’m doing a burial show now. It’ll be out in a couple of years. It’s not burial rights, it’s on burial practices and it’s never been done before. It’s been a few years since I’ve been researching this at Saint Mary’s University. Robin Metcalfe is my curator. It’s gonna happen there and I’ve got a grant for it too, it’s being supported by the province. All of this is coming together. Now I have animation that I use, we’re gonna have some hologram effects. We’re going to have some music that I do. All of these things that I’ve incorporated, we’ve flipped them for another use. This should be interesting. No one ever done a burial show.

One thing that bothered me when I was young was that it was a Christian burial. It was like one size fits all motif. That’s the way it was, they didn’t really speak about who was being buried. It was the word of God only and that kind of thing. To me, that was disrespectful in my opinion. I started looking around because you go to a lot of funerals when you’re an indigenous person. Going to funerals is a regular thing. Some of them start to change over time. You can see very subtle changes. Some of it like being buried with tobacco and sweetgrass. When my grandmother was buried, I was part of a sweat lodge group. We did a song in the graveyard which has never been done like that. We didn’t ask anybody to do it, we just did it. My grandmother supported us. She always told me all her life, “You should go back to the church.” She lived to be in the eighties. She saw what the ceremony was doing for me and then she said, “as long as you believe in something.” She stopped the "church" thing. She was supporting us. She was a forward thinker. She was always open-minded. I give a lot of credit to her for making me because we had a good relationship. We could talk about anything at anytime. She was radical in her own way too. She made some people nervous. Especially the priests. If she would disapprove of them, she would say something. They all had to pass the test to go see her, of course they had to go see Rachel Marshall.  

 From left to right: Salome Barker, Alan Syliboy and Yanik Gallie

From left to right: Salome Barker, Alan Syliboy and Yanik Gallie

SB: How did you select the 9 animals represented in the baby board book?

AS: I compiled a list of animals, but I was never thinking about a list when I made them. See the petroglyphs to me, there were so many varieties of them. 10 years ago, I started doing caribou. I never did one before. I had never done one before, so I started doing them from then on. Then, I started to draw eels. It’s just like I took turns finding them. Each one has a turn. The turtles have been there a long time. Whales are fairly recent. They’re already part of who we are, and petroglyphs give us that. That’s what I’m using as my source. These are the images that were available right now. None of them are new for this book, they already existed. The butterfly’s been around for a while, it took me about ten minutes to make the first one.

SB: I found myself really connecting to your “Qalipu” painting.  Interestingly enough, I come from the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations band in Newfoundland and Labrador.  I was wondering if you intended for aboriginal people from different nations to connect to your artwork?

AS: I know that it would, the caribou were all over the place. Over half of Canada at least. It was in the petroglyphs book. The reason I picked that at that time was that I did some research and found out that in Truro was where one of the last place they were shot and extinct. The last groups were shot here, so I said, “this was very close physically to where I was”. To me, it evokes the memory of what they meant. It’s also a teaching tool. Like Debert for instance, it’s an 11 000 or 12 000-year-old campsite there. You can imagine how long we’ve been here. There are two sites there that are really old. I’m talking to the new people who are working there and they’re telling me new things that they are finding, I’m up on that currently.

YG: Mi’kmaw Animals is an excellent educational resource for children to develop literacy skills. What is the connection between polylingualism at a young age and literacy?

AS: We were told that Mi’kmaw was gonna hold us back. People in the community, like our neighbor, believed that it was gonna hold us back. I said, “Well if that’s the case, why do Europeans speak six languages? It doesn’t hold them back” He didn’t have an answer to that, but that’s how I thought. To me, the more information that is brought forth the better. Now you have Mi’kmaw aritsts who are going to NSCAD, and their working on their own too. It’s opening up much faster intensity to different points of view and different ways to do things. To me, I feel that it’s a really great time.

Also, artists have never been considered important. I think if you’re learning about yourself, artists can bring you more than anyone else because it’s emotional too. It’s not just the text or the hard-raw information. It’s more than that. There’s an attachment that they can bring to make you feel something. Artists can do that. When I’m on Facebook, I see lots of excellent artists doing excellent things. I’m feeling pretty good about where we are right now.

SB: Can you share your vision of indigenous art for upcoming generations?

AS: Mike Sark. He’s in his fifties. He was in the Marines. He used to be in our sweat lodge. He was always connected to us all the time. He’s decided to go to NSCAD and become an artist. It’s amazing because of everything he’s done. All of that raw energy and knowledge with other things he did, he’s putting it into making art now. He’s popping out all over the place. He does animals, but he’ll cut them out and put them together and paint them. Like a 3D thing. Everything I’ve done, he’s made into 3D. That’s pretty cool.  I said, “That’s alright.” Next year, he’s going to carve. It’s not like he started when he was seventeen. He’s fifty-seven and doing this. There’s more and more people like Natalie Sappier-Samaqani Cocahqup in Tobique. I met her a few years ago. She’s doing terrific. There’s lots of new ones.

I went to Caraquet too. I’m working with the French in Caraquet. There is the biggest French community there. They really support their festival, it’s sophisticated. They all have careers as artists. It’s good for our artists because they can see what it’s like to be an everyday artist because we don’t have that facility. We don’t have that support. They were very welcoming, so it’s a good place and it’s mutual. We’re doing a show in Montreal at the Peoples' festival. I’m going to Montreal with Caraquet’s group in mid-August so I’m pretty happy about that. I’ve also got a new gallery of world-wide fine art in Toronto, we sold a painting yesterday. The gallery’s been around for twenty-five years. I think they are originally from Cape Breton so there’s a home attachment.

SB: The conversation of reconciliation has been happening for years now. It’s been three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. How do you see reconciliation moving forward?

AS: I’ve been approached by people to do events. The events were stirred by this reconciliation. It’s almost like they wanted to do something and now they have a blueprint to go by and I’ve seen that lots of times. That’s a step forward definitely. We have a lot more connection. I’ve also joined boards, and so on, because they just didn’t have indigenous representation. Like the ECMAs, I went there on the board of directors. A very daunting work to that position, however I did the best I could. Now they’re not going backwards. They are having visions and they’re moving forward. If they were sleeping, they would have stayed asleep. You have to go there and say, “here I am” so they can’t go to sleep again like I’ve done that in several boards. I’m more concerned about the next one.

Like the Coady Chair in 2017, Dorine Bernard was just amazing. I know her, but I didn’t know how much she did. How much effort she puts in everything. She is like steel, it’s amazing. She told me too about things, that is was real hard for her to do it, but she got it done. The focus once it happens, there’s a good chance it’ll be another indigenous person again. I see that as breaking a few trails. I see my role as a senior artist as something that will live on and contribute in a long-term and meaningful way.

YG: I’d love to get your interpretation of this quote by Black Elk, a medicine man of the Oglala Lakota, he said “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

AS: I totally agree with Black Elk. There was an indigenous Akwesasne Notes from New York, we got it every month. It had all sorts of indigenous ads, like tobacco and wild rice. We ordered all the posters, my brother and I, with the sayings of chief Joseph. We had them all. We got music from there too for years. It eventually stopped but it was a nice ride for a while to have that coming out. I miss it.

It’s been a long time, since the 70s, that I read the quote. Absolutely, his words are tremendous. I see that more and more. Years ago, there wasn’t much going on. People are appearing and doing things. You can feel the energy and see it. I’ve been here long enough to see it happening and I’m grateful for that. I see that the younger are the ones who are more dedicated. Their motives are better. That’s why you see people who go to sweat lodges and do things like that. Their motives are much more clear and pure. Some people just say words. It’s not just saying words, it’s actions. That’s always been my scale. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. If you’re not doing anything, then it doesn’t matter what you say.

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XXXTentacion and the Muddied Dilemma between Art and Artist


The death of the young rapper opens up an array of ways to remember him. Let’s not make it about his music.

On June 18th, two armed men pulled up on a black BMW i8 near a motorcycle shop in Deerfield Beach, Florida. They proceeded to shoot multiple times at an individual in the driver's seat, killing him instantly. This individual was colloquially known as XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy. He was just 20, yet lived a life rampant with grief, misery, aggression and unspeakable brutality that belied his years. He also had a straggly ascent as a musical success story.

Onfroy was one of the first to personify the Soundcloud era of rap. The gnarled, hectic sound of rappers that spawned numerous artists to break into the mainstream, like Smokepurpp, Tekashi69, Trippie Redd and the deceased Lil Peep.  Yet, whether it be Tekashi's sexual misconduct case (with a 13 year old) , or Trippie Redd's assault allegations, conflict and the come-up of these stars seem inevitable, yet their popularity is inarguable. Onfroy's second album, "?", debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, with over 20 000 in albums sold in one week. He even nabbed a spot on XXL's coveted Freshman List in 2017.  It is unmistakable the impact he has had on teenagers. His dreary, depressing lyrics found an analogous connection with teenage angst. His songs focus on the topics of heartbreak, depression, anxiety and paranoia, with his hit song "SAD! " an encapsulation of these feelings

Yet, we should remember him instead for his horrific assault allegations (which you can find here).  While in Juvenile Detention, Jehsah took his cellmates head and proceeded to stomp it on the concrete floor. His reason? "He was staring at me". 

We should really remember him more for his crimes on his ex-girlfriend; aggravated battery and domestic battery by strangulation (which you can find here). One night he purportedly started punching, elbowing, head-butting, and strangling her until she almost passed out. He then took her to the bathroom and demanded one last time that she tell him everything or he would kill her in the bathtub. She was pregnant at the time.

Even with these unspeakable allegations against Onfroy, he was propped up by streaming services, most notably Spotify, featuring regularly on their weekly-curated playlist Rap Caviar. When Spotify introduced their Hateful Conduct policy back in early May, XXXTentacion was one of the main artists to be taken off all promoted playlists. Yet, with much backlash and a threat from Hip Hop titan Kendrick Lamar of pulling his music, they reneged on the policy. It seemed that Onfroy's music was, in a way, too big to fail. 

As rappers and fans grieved the death of Onfroy, some began to paint him as a martyr in the gone-too-soon club amongst Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Jimi Hendrix. That is callous and aporetic. We should mourn for his victims, like the ex-girlfriend: Geneva Ayala and her $20 000 surgery she is going to need. We should instead focus our time on supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and disparage the remarks he made on them .

We listen to music to feel emotion. Whether it be in your room after a break-up or at the club dancing, the beats and melodies elicits a varying array of physical and mental cues. We don't necessarily think about the artist when listening and for many, that's OK. Chris Brown's voice is charming yet his actions to Rihanna? Repugnant. But after a death, RIP's and 'you will be missed' are usually what cascades out of people, regardless of their past. His songs will top the charts in the coming weeks, if only briefly, to fleetingly moan for his loss. Yet his vile past may forever be scrubbed.

I don't think art and artist will ever fully be coalesced together, in any circumstance, and maybe that is OK.

But, for me, whenever XXXTentacion comes on, the only mourning I am going to do is mourn the loss of two seconds of my life by clicking skip on my phone. Because all I see and feel when his voice floods my ears is unrepentable pain. Even in death.


Antigonish Library June Events


Call (902) 863-4276 for events' information

Preschool Storytime (ages 3-5, drop in)
Mon, June 4, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
A weekly library program for children ages 3-5 years. Please join us for stories, crafts, games & more. 
Block Play Tuesdays (NEW! drop-in)
Tue, June 5, 10am – 4pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
Join us in building something awesome with our new blocks, brought to you with support from Community Health Boards in the North Shore, Pictou and Antigonish Counties through their wellness funds!
A Special Storytime for World Oceans Day, with the library and Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans!
Tue, June 5, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
Join library staff and staff from Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada as they host a storytime with a special reading of 'The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.' All are welcome! On World Oceans Day, people around our blue planet celebrate and honor the ocean, which connects us all. Get together with your family, friends, community, and the planet to start creating a better future. Working together, we can and will protect our shared ocean. Join this growing global celebration on 8 June! For more information, please visit:
ToddleTime (ages 18 months - 3 yrs, drop-in)
Wed, June 6, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
A weekly library program for toddlers (18 months - 3 years) & parents/caregivers. Please join us for stories, songs, fun & games. 

Community Cafe presents 'Realism in Art' video by Peter Murphy with commentary by Anna Syperek
Wed, June 6, 2:00pm – 3:30pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
Join us for a talk on Realism in Art, a video by Peter Murphy with commentary by Anna Syperek.

Knitting Circle (all ages, drop-in)
Wed, June 6, 2pm – 3pm, Antigonish Library
Stop in, connect with others and knit! All are welcome, for more information call 902-863-4276.
Knitting for Kids (drop-in)
Wed, June 6, 3pm – 4pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
Join us for a weekly knitting program for kids! .
ABCs for Babies (ages 0 - 18 months, drop-in)
Fri, June 8, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
A weekly library program for babies (0-18 months) & parents/caregivers. Please join us for stories, songs & fun activities. 
Preschool Storytime (ages 3-5, drop in)
Mon, June 11, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
A weekly library program for children ages 3-5 years. Please join us for stories, crafts, games & more. 
Young Readers Club
Mon, June 11, 3pm – 4pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
A monthly book club for kids ages 9-12, the YRC meets after school at the library to share thoughts about the awesome books that they've read and talk about them. The first meeting, books that will be read will be decided on. Registration is required. Light snacks will be provided. For  registration, please call the library at 902-863-2476.
Block Play Tuesdays (NEW! drop-in)
Tue, June 12, 10am – 4pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
Join us in building something awesome with our new blocks, brought to you with support from Community Health Boards in the North Shore, Pictou and Antigonish Counties through their wellness funds
ToddleTime (ages 18 months - 3 yrs, drop-in)
Wed, June 13, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
A weekly library program for toddlers (18 months - 3 years) & parents/caregivers. Please join us for stories, songs, fun & games.
Knitting Circle (all ages, drop-in)
Wed, June 13, 2pm – 3pm, Antigonish Library
Stop in, connect with others and knit!
Knitting for Kids (drop-in)
Wed, June 13, 3pm – 4pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
Join us for a weekly knitting program for kids! 
Armchair Travellers presents 'India: Wishing Wells Projects, Farming and Tibetan Refugee Communities' with speakers Karen Fish & Mary Van Den Heuvel
Thu, June 14, 7pm – 8pm, Antigonish Town & County Library
Travel around the world without having to leave the library by listening to the adventures of others! All are welcome. For speaker suggestions, call 902-863-4276.
ABCs for Babies (ages 0 - 18 months, drop-in)
Fri, June 15, 10am – 11am, Antigonish Town & County Library
A weekly library program for babies (0-18 months) & parents/caregivers. Please join us for stories, songs & fun activities. 
Open Mic Night
Fri, June 15, 6:30pm – 7:30pm, Antigonish Library
Join us for Open Mic night - recite some poetry, play an instrument; all are welcome!


Lawrence Hill Interview


The senior English class of 2017-2018 at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Jenn Priddle and Yanik Gallie interviewed Lawrence Hill during the afternoon of May 10th, 2018. Seniors of the English class are Gabby Abaunza, Samuel Anthony, Lauren Breen, Bobby Burke, Ruby Cameron, Kara Christensen, Colton Coughlin, Danielle Elliott, Lucas Fabijancic, Peter Kopf, Emily MacEachern, Breanna MacInnis, Mya Mackenzie, Calum MacPherson, Timothy Matthews, Robbie Miller, Kendra Myatt, Jack Pittman, Michael Stevanovic, Kaitlyn Teasdale, Rory Teasdale, Carter van de Wiel, Emily and Laura Walker. 

 Photographer: Lisa Sakulensky

Photographer: Lisa Sakulensky

Lawrence Hill, a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph, is the author of ten books, including The Illegal, The Book of Negroes, Any Known Blood, and Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. He is the winner of various awards including The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and two-time winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. Hill delivered the 2013 Massey Lectures, based on his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life. He co-wrote the adaptation for the six-part television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which attracted millions of viewers in the United States and Canada and won eleven Canadian Screen Awards. The recipient of seven honorary doctorates from Canadian universities, as well as the 2017 Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, Hill served as chair of the jury of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, and is an honorary patron of Crossroads International, for which he has volunteered for more than 35 years and with which he has travelled to the African nations of Niger, Cameroon, Mali and Swaziland. He is the grandson and son of African-American soldiers who served with the American Army during WW I and WW II, respectively, and is working on a new novel about the African-American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway in northern BC and Yukon in 1942-43. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, and lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario and in Woody Point, Newfoundland. 


CW: Having written your first story with your mother’s C. Smith typewriter at the age of 14, can you speak on how your mother influenced your style of storytelling?

LH: My mother was as much an influence as my father, they just had different influences. My mother was a very sharp, astute, editorial-type person who would leap in and say, “That sentence is slack.” Or, “that sentence is weak.” Or, “it’s ungrammatical and not clearly expressed.” So, she pushed me towards clarity of expression. She also encouraged me to imagine playfulness with language. If you don’t like to play with language, there’s no hope for you as a writer. My mother read to us, us being my brother and sister and me, regularly. She read non-sense poetry, very funny poems that played with language in silly and absurd ways. The kind of ways that children love to see language turned inside out and upside down. My mother was very influential to push me towards critical thinking. She pushed me towards editing my own work more sharply and towards imagining the playful use of language. 

SA: Referring to The Book of Negroes, what sources did you consult to inform your writing about Nova Scotia?

LH: If you combine the A word about history, For further reading, and Acknowledgements sections, you get a sense of the art of the research. In short, the research had several components. One was to re-read or to read for the first time in some cases, the major books describing the overall arc of the transatlantic slave trade. Just to make sure that I had the fundamentals of how the trade worked when it happened, where it took place, and who was involved. Where were the key places in Africa from which humans were stolen? Where were they taken in the Americas and Canada? Then, of course, I started drilling down at much more specific things. Looking at letters, diaries and first-person accounts by men and women, African and European, that describe their interactions with the slave trade or slavery. I read slave narratives and documents such as the Book of Negroes ledger. Some of the research was looking at primary materials, not just published books and articles. And then, research involved interviewing experts who knew more about specific things than I can ever know. Another part of the research, a fourth part, involved going to the places where the novel is set, that would include Shelburne and Halifax. I did many trips to Shelburne and Halifax to visualize the story and where it would unfold. Research relating specifically to Nova Scotia involved going to the Black Loyalist Heritage Society many times to look at their documents. In fact, it was at the Black Loyalist Heritage Society that I first saw a copy of the Book of Negroes. That’s in Birchtown, Nova Scotia near Shelburne. Interviewing people who knew about it, meeting members of that Society, looking at their documentation, walking the streets of Shelburne and Halifax trying to reimagine the story that I was creating. Those were some of the forms of research that I conducted in Nova Scotia.

LB: How much did you fictionalize the narrative when representing historical events like the Shelburne riots?

LH: I fictionalized them a lot. It’s first and foremost a novel. I gave myself every liberty to play with or exaggerate or contort minor details for the purposes of dramatic effect. I didn’t make what I would consider to be any major deviations from my understanding of the grand lines of the transatlantic slave trade. But I was happy to make all sorts of little changes to improve the drama of the story. For example, no woman, no African woman, no woman at all helped to write the Book of Negroes. The ledger was written by an assistant to the Deputy Quartermaster in the British Navy. I had Aminata write the document because it made for a great story. I was happy to change that little bit of history because it improved the quality of the story. As for Nova Scotia, I moved the date of the Shelburne riots slightly because it was more convenient for me to move them. I think I changed the date by a year. I don’t think that’s very significant in the overall scheme of things to move the riots by a year or so to suit the purposes of the novel. I had some people killed in the Shelburne riots, also for dramatic effect. I don’t know personally, factually, I don’t know 100% that anybody was killed in the Shelburne riots. I took the liberty of writing that into the story without knowing that it actually happened. There are lots of little details that I changed, but nothing that I would consider to be profoundly significant.

Every novelist has their own notion of how closely they want to stick to historical accuracy. Not every book has the same answer. Some books may require you to stick very, very close to the truth and not even change the weather on a certain date in 1783; Other books allow you some latitude. I thought that my reader would go with me if I made small adjustments as long as I acknowledged them in the back of the book. For a keen reader, a reader can see where I’ve bent history a little bit to suit the novel. As long as I was clear about what I was doing and saying when I changed things a little bit, I felt free to use my role as a novelist to make the best story I could. Let’s face it, the facts are supposed to serve the story. So, you use the facts, and play with them, and maybe modify them a bit in order to create a good story. 

 Photographer: Jenn Priddle

Photographer: Jenn Priddle

CC: During your research, what did you discover about the Mi’kmaq people and their relations with the Black Loyalists?

LH: I didn’t discover much. I know the Mi’kmaq people were around. For example, this is outside the scope of the novel, but I know that the first black person to be documented in Canada was a guy named Mathieu de Costa. Mathieu de Costa was employed by Samuel de Champlain to act as an interpreter between the French and the Mi’kmaq people in Nouvelle France, New France, which is now, of course, Nova Scotia. We know factually that this first black person in Canada was free and working as an interpreter between the French and the Mi’kmaq. The Mi’kmaq, as you know, don’t enter merely into the story. I don’t want to claim anything that goes beyond the reach of the story. It was already a huge stretch for me to write the novel, and the novel doesn’t really explore the experiences of the Mi’kmaq people in Nova Scotia or their interactions with the Black Loyalists. That would be a great story, and perhaps you or somebody else should write that one.

CM: Few Canadian authors, one of them being Alistair MacLeod, have a clear sense of the story’s conclusion before they put pen to paper. Did you know how your story would end before you wrote it?

LH: I thought I knew how my story would end before I wrote it. I like to think I know how things are going to end when I start to write. I like to think that I’m sort of standing on the mountain top and looking at another mountain top in the distance. My job is to walk from the mountain I’m standing on to the mountain top I see in the far distance. But the distance between the two is in a valley covered by fog and mist. I have no idea how I’m going to walk through that valley, but I’m heading to that other mountain top. I don’t quite know how I’m going to get there, but that’s where I’m heading. That’s how I like to feel when I start. It’s a bit of an illusion. It’s a bit of self-deception to make me feel comfortable because really, I don’t know what I’m doing. The proof is that you see huge changes between my first drafts and my tenth draft. I like to think I know what I’m doing. I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I write to find out. Yes, I try to have an idea of where I’m going, and I write towards that imagined ending, but it always changes.

RT: Is there historical or fictional content you wanted to include in the book but did not end up publishing?

LH: Oh, yeah! There’s tons of stuff. Usually I come up with a very messy, very long, first draft which might be twice as long as the finished product. Part of the process of rewriting and editing myself is to strip out everything that’s not essential to what I think is the core of the story. Part of being a good writer, an experienced writer, is to cut fat, and cut fat, and cut fat until you get to the very bone of your story without any fat around it. You really want to focus on the core of your story, and not get too loused with other things. There are other things that I didn’t write about that I might have liked to write about or that I did have written about and have them cut out. For example, there is reference to Aminata and other people working on an indigo plantation in St. Helena Island, South Carolina. Those references to indigo and to working in the indigo plantations were probably five times longer with five times more information in the first draft. I decided that it was too laborious, too much detail that sort of killed the momentum of the story. So, I reduced the amount of details massively. I cut it down by 80% in terms of how much I write. I wrote much more about New York City, what happened between George Washington and Sir Guy Carleton, and the movement of the loyalists out of New York City into Nova Scotia. I wrote much more about historical details than I ended up using. Again, because I was concerned that I was providing so much detail that it was going to kill the momentum of the story.

Every time I write, I end up hacking out things that I decide I just can’t use because they’re in the way of the story. That is what writers do. Part of the discipline of being an artist is to have the courage and vision to say no. Even though I love this page or chapter, if it doesn’t really serve its purpose, it’s got to go. We have an expression it’s kind or rude and violent, but writers like to talk about this hacking out as “Killing your babies” because we love those pieces so much that we don’t want to get rid of them. It feels like we’re “killing our babies” and I know it’s an awful expression, but that’s a term writers use so you might hear that again someday. 

RC: Which part of the novel did you find most difficult to write?

LH: I’m going to interpret difficult as most emotionally painful. There are different kinds of difficulty. There’s creative, technical, and emotional difficulty. I’m going to focus on the issue of emotional difficulty, and say the hardest part was the first hundred pages when Aminata’s life ends as she knows it in West Africa. She is stolen from her village and sees her parents die. She is stripped of her clothes and made to walk to the ocean. That was by far the hardest, most difficult part for me to write. That, and of course what happened on the slave vessel. It was very hard. But let’s face it, it’s not a happy story. I didn’t want to sugarcoat history. I didn’t want to make an incredibly awful and violent, harmful segment of history seem like some sweet happy story. To me, that would be an insult to humanity and what we’ve been through. I wanted to write about it honestly, without sugarcoating it or making it look all happy. But at the same time, I couldn’t make it so painful that people would stop reading. I couldn’t make it such a bitter pill that nobody would want to open the book. When you’re writing about very sad or tragic things, you have to find ways to let shine some light on the story. You have to find something to give the reader some hope. We need hope to get up in the morning. We also need hope to turn the pages of a book. We hope that our lives will be better one day, if our lives are not so good now. We hope that whatever awful things are happening to a character on page 10 maybe will be better by page 50. You need to give the reader hope if you’re writing a very sad story, which I was doing. What was the hardest part for you to read?

RC: The hardest part for me to read was her encounter with Robinson Appleby.

LH: The encounter with Robinson Appleby was very hard. There’s something interesting about when Robinson Appleby shaves her head to punish her. I feel that in that moment she gained some emotional power over him. He thinks he’s going to destroy her by shaving her head to humiliate her, but he doesn’t destroy her. She walks away and basically, it’s just hair. Her attitude is you can’t destroy me, it’s just hair. I feel that in some subtle way, that moment of silence and of oppression actually allows Aminata to rise above him. Maybe not in sheer physical power, but she rises above him in their relationship. She transcends that moment. I didn’t write that scene in order to discourage the reader. I wrote that scene to show Aminata in a subtle way gaining power over Robinson Appleby. That scene gave me some hope about her own courage and resilience. That was my favorite scene in the mini-series, but I had to fight really hard to have it kept. It almost got pulled out of the mini-series. I was very partial to that scene so I’m glad it stayed in. 

LW: Who or what inspired the mood of the conclusion?

LH: I’ve never been asked who or what influenced the development of the conclusion. I guess it was my own personal longing. Basically, Aminata’s been to hell and back about five times and she keeps surviving. She’s lost just about everything one can lose in this life short of being murdered herself. I wanted to give her something beautiful. I wanted to give her a happy moment. I wanted to reunite her with her daughter, and I felt like she deserved that after everything she’s been through. Some people I’ve met don’t like that ending, they find it a little too sweet for their liking. I felt that it was realistic historically. If her daughter was stolen from her and ended up in London, they would probably meet again because London had a small black community. Everybody knew everybody in the black community in London. If they ended up there together, I believe they would find each other. They did end up there together, as did many Black Loyalists. I guess I was motivated by a desire mostly within myself, not by a certain person, to give her a moment of happiness. Also, there is a slave narrative by Olaudah Equiano. He wrote a slave narrative which was published in London around the time Aminata is going to parliament. I was influenced a little bit by his resilience and his movements all around the world. The slave narrative he wrote was one of the first and most famous slave narratives of all, that influenced my ideas for her ending too. 

EW: Was there a specific reason why you decided not to mention who May’s husband was at the end?

LH: Yes, he wasn’t important. One of the things that novelists have to do over and over is ask themselves: What am I going to write about? What am I not going to write about? I was focused on Aminata and her reunion with May at the end. I was focused on Aminata’s life and the things that happen to her. May’s husband wasn’t really in any way central or important to the story. I wanted to show that May had a husband and was probably going to have a child. I wanted to show the notion of continuity in the life of Aminata after she dies. It wasn’t really important to that story who her husband was. That would be a very concrete example of a pretty hard decision on my part about what I would and what I would not write about. Already, it’s a very long novel. I wouldn’t have had my editor too happy if I kept going on. I’m being a bit playful, but my editor would not have been too happy, and I wouldn’t have been too happy either, if I kept going on tangents that were removed from the core of the story. 

PK: Did you face adversity growing up? 

LH: Sure, I did. Few people in this world get to grow up and live and die without adversity. At the very least, they’re going to die. I think, to be clear because I don’t want to sing the blues and complain, I had a very fortunate and privileged life. My parents loved me. I loved my parents. I was raised with enough food and shelter. I had a good education. Most of all, I have the incredible fortune to do what I love to do in life. Not everybody gets to do what they love to do. Not everybody even finds what they love to do. I’m not going to sit here and complain about what a hard life I’ve had because I need to answer your question with the beginning part which is that I’ve had a very, very fortunate life. Have I met with adversity? Of course. Who hasn’t? I was called racial slurs from time to time when I was a child. I certainly knew that I faced moments of racial hostility or discrimination here and there in various encounters of my early life especially. For sure I’ve met with some moments of adversity. Also, it was very, very hard to start getting published and to begin my career as a published writer. It’s not easy to get going in the arts and make a life at it. You're going to meet with a lot of rejection and sometimes downright hostility. People will often say no. One of the things that is important is not to take somebody else’s no as a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of them. If someone is being hateful towards you, whether it’s sexism, racism, any other form of hostility or oppression, it’s not a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of them and their character flaws. You have to dig down and find the strength to keep going and not to be destroyed by other people’s negativity. Artists and others have to be resilient and need a thick skin not to be discouraged when people say no, when people don’t like who they are or what they’re doing. Have I faced moments of adversity in my life? Yes, I have. I don’t think I have faced any more adversity than any of you will face or than any other average person faces. 

PK: What kept you going forward in your profession as an author? 

LH: What kept me going is passion. You don’t become an author unless you’re just passionate about it. There’s so much insecurity. Will you be paid? Will you make any money? Will you be published? Will anybody read you? You have to labor for years with great insecurity about the outcome of your work. So, the only thing that keeps you going is passion. You have to want it so bad that you’re willing to deal with and put up with all that insecurity. Any normal person would have the brains to say, "Forget that. I’m going to be a dentist, stock broker, bus driver or a teacher. At least I know I’ll get a salary and I’ll be able to take care of myself." Most ordinary people wouldn’t put up with the insecurity of being an artist. The thing that carries you through those years of insecurity is passion. You have to really be burning with desire to be a painter, dancer, violinist, film maker or a novelist. Without that desire, it just won’t happen. Frankly, you shouldn’t do it unless you’re burning with desire. 

JP&KT: What challenges did you encounter and overcome in writing a character from childhood to womanhood?

LH: It was a big challenge because I was writing in the voice of a woman and I was writing a whole life. I wasn’t just writing about a year in somebody’s life, but I was trying to cover her whole life from earliest childhood to deathbed. In the course of her life, as you know, she moves in six key locations: West Africa, rural and urban places in South Carolina, New York City, Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone, and London. There are a lot of places in which to locate our novel and a lot of sections of life to write about. It’s not easy to create a life on the page and to imagine a whole life. My biggest challenge was trying to understand a woman’s whole life and then finding a way to represent that in just under five hundred pages. 

MS: The narrator begins sentences with conjunctions and writes one-word sentences. What is the function of this narration style?

LH: You sound like a grade five teacher, that’s funny. That’s a good question. When you are in grade three, four, or five, you learn all the rules about how you are supposed to write. You’re not supposed to start a sentence with the word “and” or “but”. You’re not supposed to write a one-word sentence. You’re supposed to use lots of adverbs and adjectives and be all hyperbolic or fancy with your language and prove that you have a big vocabulary. You learn all of this stuff when you’re going to school and they’re good things to learn because you’re learning how to use the English language on paper. Then when you start to write fiction, you have to unlearn every rule. Throw them out. There are rules that don’t apply to the creation of fiction, at least they don’t apply very fully. And then you have to learn to bend and use language in ways that suit the purposes of your story. One of the things that novelists do is to approximate human speech. Human speech isn’t always perfect or clear. Sometimes people do start sentences with conjunctions. Sometimes people do utter one-word sentences. I’m not too worried about the rules of grammar as long as the grammar that I employ suits the purposes of the novel. If I use an unclear sentence and the grammar was confusing the reader, of course I’d want to fix that, or my editor would tell me to fix it. If I’m bending the rules of grammar intentionally in order to capture a voice and the sound of a voice that moves with a kind of lyricism and character, then I’m happy to bend any rule of grammar as long as it suits the novel. That’s probably not what grade five teachers would want to hear when they’re teaching you how to write.

Every novelist must learn to throw out all of the teachings and learn to write all over again. For example, when you go to school and you’re little, you’re told that every story has a beginning, middle and an end. That’s complete nonsense. First of all, it’s not true that every story has a beginning, middle and an end. Some stories end at the beginning or conclude somewhere else. Not every story moves chronologically. Not every story works in that way. As you noticed, I began my story at the ending of her life. I also end the story at the ending of her life. I didn’t follow the rule that every story has a beginning, middle and end because it’s too basic for what the novelist is trying to accomplish. You have to create your own set of rules and be clear. Communicate effectively with the reader. Use grammar to do that, and then bend the rules of grammar when you need to bend them. 

TM: How did you come up with imagery for all the different settings?

 Photographer: Jenn Priddle

Photographer: Jenn Priddle

LH: It’s really hard to write about a place, isn’t it? Let’s think about the ways you might write about a place and the kind of images you might use. It might be the image of a tree or nature. It might be the image of sound. What is Aminata hearing? What kind of language is being used around her? It might be the image of history, the social or historical setting of the place. There are so many ways to construct a scene. Every time I set a scene or had a place where Aminata was going to be, I had to find a way to make that place seem real to the reader. Some of it might be how Aminata thinks and feels. When she’s stuck on Sullivan’s Island off the coast of South Carolina waiting to be sold into slavery she sees her breath and she thinks her face is on fire. She’s never seen her breath before since she’s never been to a place where the air is that cold. She thinks that she’s on fire, but she’s not. She’s just seeing her breath because it’s so cold. That’s a kind of imagery. I didn’t try to describe Sullivan’s Island by describing the kind of trees there were. I was more interested in describing the way she sees her own breath. To me, that was more interesting than describing an oak tree. Part of the decision about creating setting is what kind of detail will be most interesting. You know you can’t use five thousand details or the reader will be bored and fall asleep. Pick a few details for each place. Details that you hope will capture the imagination in the eye of the reader. It’s very hard to create a scene. You have to use a few details. Not too many, but not too few. Not too detailed, but enough detail that you give the reader something to hang on to. Preferably something surprising and unexpected. One of the hardest challenges in writing is to create a memorable scene in a place that seems real, and decide what ingredients you will use to make that place real. Will it be sound? Will it be nature? Will it be politics? Will it be blood? What do you use to make a place come off the page and seem real? That’s one of the hardest challenges in writing. Of course, not every scene has the same answer. Not every scene should have the same answer. If you took the same approach with every scene, the novel would soon be very boring and seem formulaic. It has to feel natural and it has to be evolving. You can’t just be doing the same thing. You need to have a lot of tools in your bag and you have to keep pulling out different tools in order to create those scenes.

LF&MM: Who inspired you to write the hilarious and strong character Georgia?

LH: Aminata is going to have a lot of problems in her life. She’s going to have a lot of suffering. She also needs a little love. She needs some people in her corner. Some people who will prop her up, help her and take care of her. She lost one mother while she is still very young. She is barely pubescent when she arrives as a girl almost dead in South Carolina. She needs somebody to take care of her. Basically, she needs a second mother. Georgia fills that role. Aminata is going to meet terrible people like Robinson Appleby, but she also needs to meet loving people to balance off her story and keep her alive. I have to be very careful to add enough beauty and hope in support of the novel that the reader would keep reading and Aminata would keep wanting to live. I imagine some of my own African American women in my own family, their voices and how strong they were. They didn’t put up with nonsense. They were determined, focused and fiercely loyal to the people they loved. Georgia treats Aminata like her own daughter. I think she’s a really great character because Aminata needs some good people in her corner. 

KT: What role do you think literature plays in activism for racial inclusion and human rights? 

LH: Not every book has to do the same thing. Some books will have nothing whatsoever to do with those issues and that’s okay. There’s room in this world for every book imaginable just like there’s room in this world for every person imaginable. Not every person is going to do the same thing in their life. Not every book should be asked to do the same either. I guess I would play with the question a little bit and rephrase it so that I can answer it because I don’t think there’s a uniform answer for every book. What am I trying to do in these areas with my literature? What I am trying to do is ask my readers to stop and think about the humanity of people whose humanity is often neglected, forgotten, denied or swept under the rug. We have forgotten, denied or ignored the plight of African peoples in the diaspora, including Canada. Unfortunately, Canadians still don’t know very much about black history. They know more about African American history than they do about African Canadian history, and that’s a problem for me. I guess I want to illuminate forgotten corners of Canadian history. I want to get people to think about people whose humanity might have been denied or forgotten such as people who were enslaved or people who became refugees. I want to give readers cause to rethink unexamined assumptions and to imagine their own history and their own people more deeply. 

EM: What social change do you envision in Canada and the rest of the world for the year 2020?

LH: Your guess is as good as mine. Unfortunately, two years before Donald Trump was elected, if you had said on national television that Donald Trump would be the next president in the United States, you would have been laughed at out of the room. Also, two years before Barrack Obama was elected president, no one would have believed you either if you said that Barrack Obama would have been the first black president of the United States. Nobody would have believed you because everybody assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the next president or that she would be the democratic candidate for the presidential elections. I’m only saying that because honestly, I do not know what is going to happen in 2020. It’s so hard to tell. Are we going to shift towards hatred? Are we going to shift towards being a more inclusive, loving and generous society that believes in equality of all human beings? I hope that we’re going to move towards a place of more generosity of spirit. We have much abundance of evil and hatred in the world today and I worry about that. It could be that hatred is on the rise for a little while before evil is vanquished and love gets the better hand. I don’t know where we’ll be in two years, I really don’t. I worry about the rise of intolerance towards undocumented refugees and other refugees in the world. I worry about people wanting to solidify their own wealth to the exclusion of others who are poor. I worry about nations becoming entrenched in their enmity, hatred and violence towards each other. I’m just not sure where we’re going. 

I encourage every one of you and myself to do everything we can in our lives to be just and kind, to insist on fairness and equality for all, to stand up against and oppose injustice, and to fight in our own ways. In our own backyards, in our schools, in our neighborhoods and our places of worship, to fight for what we know is right wherever we can. That really is the best we can do. We cannot let up. We are at risk of seeing democracy perverted. We are at risk of letting hatred ascend as it did in Nazi Germany. It is important to remember that Hitler was a democratically elected leader of Germany and we see what became of Hitler. We have to go to the poles and vote. Exercise our values and insist on a political leadership in Canada, in our cities, our provinces, our country, and around the world that reflects our own values. If we let up, then we will let others dominate and assert values inimical to ours. I do have faith in humanity, and I do believe that we will rise up against hatred. But, it seems to swing around over time and right now is a pretty dark time if you look at the world. 

There are many people who are doing fantastic things. People who are taking sometimes great risk around the world and in Canada to assert their freedom and human justice on the treatment and respect for all, across lines of gender, race, orientation, ableism and everything. There are people who show incredible vision in encouraging young people and older people. Without them and that kind of effort, we would be lost. Also, our politically elected leaders are sometimes influenced from the margins and when the margins become loud, vocal and insistent, when history is on their side, eventually leaders will listen. We need people jumping up and down, causing commotion and fighting for what they believe and what they know is right. Eventually, the rightness of their cause will seep through and affect decisions made by political leaders of Canada and the world. 

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Human Rights Violations in Guatemala: A matter of Canadian foreign relations



During Guatemala’s thirty year long civil war, the population suffered a massive genocide, whereby an estimated 200 000 people were killed, most of whom were a part of the Mayan Indigenous population. The civil war ended in the 1990’s, but the struggle did not. The country continues to exist under a repressive government.

This February, I was fortunate enough to join a delegation of students traveling to Guatemala. We went with Service Learning and Breaking the Silence (BTS), a solidarity network based out of the Maritimes. The purpose of the trip was to learn about, and bear witness to the human rights violations that have occurred in Guatemala, and the ongoing repression that Guatemalans face. During the trip, we were also called upon to consider Canada’s relation to the Guatemalan state, and how we can hold our own government accountable.

I would like to use two cases of injustice to illustrate the ongoing challenges that Guatemalans face: the Rio Negro Massacres, and exploitative mining practices. While in Guatemala, the group spent the first days in Rabinal, hearing from a survivor about the Rio Negro Massacres. We got to visit Pacux, where many survivors have resettled, and built monuments to commemorate their lost loved ones.

These massacres were a part of a larger politics of extermination by the Guatemalan government. In particular, the Rio Negro Massacres were over the building of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam, which was funded by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Residents of Rio Negro resisted the project, and were labelled as guerrillas because they stood up for their rights. What followed was a series of assaults on the town, which essentially wiped out the population. Today, the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam stands tall, but at a great cost; thousands of Indigenous people were senselessly murdered.

My delegation travelled to Rio Negro by bus and boat. Once there, we hiked an hour and a half to the Rio Negro Massacre site, where 170 women and children were brutally murdered. This was only one of a series of assaults that whose intentions were to exterminate the Indigenous population in the town for the construction of the dam. Today, survivors are returning to Rio Negro to rebuild. They have reclaimed the land, and are bringing life back to the region. Survivors of the Rio Negro Massacres have been fighting for recognition since the genocide, and they continue to resist efforts to extinguish their culture. The Guatemalan government has failed to pay adequate reparations to survivors, and they have failed to recognize the genocide as such. Genocide trials, spearheaded by survivors, are still ongoing.

Following the civil war, Peace Accords were signed, which essentially opened the country up to foreign investment. Today, there are four major mining corporations in Guatemala, all of which are Canadian. Due to the nature of these mega-projects, they have been harmful to the land and peoples surrounding them. Beyond this, a number of the corporations have committed atrocious human rights abuses.

In particular, I would like to touch on nickel mine in Guatemala, located near the town of El Estor. The Indigenous population living near the mine were forcibly removed to make room for the mine. As a result of conflict caused by this relocation, there have been a number of murders, assaults, and other human rights violations. Including: two academics who were assassinated, seven men who were killed, eleven women who were raped during evictions, and a community leader who was killed during protests in 2009. The company responsible for these actions is Hud Bay Minerals.

The company has had three lawsuits filed against them. However, Canadian courts are not required to hear these cases if they find that Guatemalan court would be more appropriate, or if the Canadian mining company does not owe a duty of care to the Guatemalan people. Fortunately, all three cases were accepted by Canadian courts in 2013 and are still in progress.

To complicate things even further, Hud Bay was previously owned by INCO – also a Canadian company. INCO became involved in Guatemala at the beginning of the civil war, in the 1960s. The Canadian Department of External Affairs was supportive of this venture. INCO planned to mine near the town of El Estor, however there were two significant challenges: law prohibited open pit mining and guerrillas in the area.

INCO worked around these challenges by having a lawyer rewrite the policies, so that open pit mining was made legal. They also gained permission from the military government to mine in the area, so long as stability was ensured. Colonel Carolos Arana Osorio was responsible for relocating the Indigenous people who were living where the mine was to be. Osorio then began what has been called by some a “reign of terror”. Between three and six thousand people were killed in the relocation.

During this time, Canada continued to support the creation of the mine, and the Canadian ambassador to Guatemala even toured the region. Also during this time, the mine was widely protested by the Indigenous population, as well as concerned Guatemalans. In particular, the topic was publicly protested by a group of professors at the University of San Carlos, who were silenced, and two professors were assassinated. These types of brutal acts of repression continued with Canadian support until 1982, when the mine was shut down because of the declining price of nickel.

I am telling these stories to bring readers attention to the importance of holding our government accountable. Recently, the government has implemented an office for the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. This was a fought for position, which will hopefully improve the conditions under which Canadian corporations operate. However, it is crucial that as Canadians, we continue to keep a watchful eye on the office, and we hold our government accountable for their actions.


A Word About The Bursary


My goodness has time ever flown by. It seems like just last week The Xav published an article introducing the Class of 2018 Student Refugee Bursary but with only a couple of weeks left in the school year, I figured it is time for an update and many thank yous.

We began our campaign in September with the goal of raising $50,000 to establish a bursary to help students who attend StFX and who were at one-time refugees. The goal was bold and seemed very ambitious from the start but thanks to the X-Ring Store, our Chancellor, UNIFOR, StFX for SAFE, StFX WUSC and students like you, we just might make it. To date, we have raised more than $21,000 and that number doesn’t even include Dr. Crocker’s offer to match all student contributions up to a maximum of $20,180 or the commitment that the X-Ring Store has made to donate all net proceeds from the year to our bursary. This means that our fund will grow from its current state, but we are far from guaranteed to reach our goal and any contribution would be so so appreciated.

I am so proud of our class for coming together and raising so much this year, and I would also like to recognize a few additional people and groups for working so hard over the year. Firstly, thanks to StFX for SAFE and StFX WUSC who have worked tirelessly doing coat-checks, bake sales and raffles to raise money. These students have donated their time to an incredible cause and for that I say a tremendous thank-you. Thanks to Drs. Susan Crocker and Kent MacDonald as well as everyone in StFX Advancement and the X-Ring Store for their encouragement, guidance, generosity, contributions and hard work. You know who you are and for your help I will always be grateful. Thanks to Majd Al Zhouri for performing his harrowing one-person, one-act play “To Eat an Almond” and shooting a video to raise funds and awareness. His story is incredible and he is even better. Thanks to Sylvia Phee for her help securing $2500 and $500 donations from UNIFOR national and local. An incredible union with a generous and socially conscious membership. Finally, thanks so much to Dr. Norine Verberg for all of her hard work and guidance throughout the year. Thank you thank you thank you thank you, you have all made a wonderful difference.


Sisters of St. Martha move out of The Bethany House


The sisters take big steps into their new residence

March 1, 2018, the Sisters of St. Martha have officially moved out of the Bethany House, which has been home to many sisters since being built in 1921. Their new home which has been developed over the last year is situated adjacent to the Bethany House. As soon as everything is removed, the building, which has many structural problems, will be demolished. The move was sparked by a number of safety concerns associated with the Bethany building including a lack of emergency sprinklers. The building was also found to be too old and too big for the aging residents.

The new facility, Parkland Antigonish, is sponsored and run by Shannex, a family-owned organization that offers many services including home care, retirement living, assisted living, memory care and nursing care. The new building includes 25 nursing home beds, and modern amenities. In the next 10 to 20 years, when beds are no longer needed by the sisters, the facility will open up rooms for community use and revert to become a public nursing home.

The move was contested at first, as many of the sisters have lived in the old Bethany building for decades. However, continued safety concerns have pushed residents to make the move into the Shannex building next door.

Shannex CEO Joe Shannon told the Casket “We’re thrilled to be able to bring this forward for all the Sisters as well as the community of Antigonish…and we are honoured to be apart of the next journey with the Sisters of St. Martha.”

The Sisters of St. Martha are a beloved and active part of our Antigonish community. Since their formal establishment as a religious congregation in 1900, they have continued to contribute to community work and causes including the Antigonish movement during the 1940s. Dr. Moses Coady was a strong admirer of the sisters, and once declared that fifty of Saint Martha's sisters could change the world.

Today, the sisters continue to celebrate and promote activism in the community such as Pink Shirt day against bullying, African Heritage Month, the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society, just to name a few. As well as events happening on the StFX campus through their Facebook and Twitter pages.

The new Parkland Antigonish location will have it's grand opening celebration on Monday, March 19, 2018 between 2:00pm and 4:00 pm to invite members of the community to come join them in their new journey.


Fighting Disappointment With Action


At every graduation, there are numerous speeches that congratulate the new graduates on everything they have done in the past several years and motivate them to do great things in the future. Each year, one graduate from each ceremony at StFX is chosen to be the senior class graduate speaker. I nominated myself for this position because I felt I had something to share with the senior class, and my friends encouraged me through heart-warming letters of nomination to include in the package I submitted. I met with a committee, and they interviewed me on the theme I would be speaking about. I chose the theme of home, inspired by the lyrics of the song “To Build a Home” by Cinematic Orchestra. Unfortunately, I was not chosen as a candidate to run before the senior class as their Grad speaker. I would like at this point to congratulate all of the candidates on their selection and I know that all of you would have done a fantastic job had you won. To Cameron, I look forward to hearing your words of encouragement as I experience the joys and sorrows of convocation alongside the lifelong friends I made here at StFX.

My desire to share my own words was not extinguished upon hearing that I was no longer in the running for the position. I was bitterly disappointed, and looked for excuses as to why I was not viewed as able to deliver this address. I went back to the committee to ask for feedback, and was told that it wasn’t my ability to speak, but rather the message I chose to speak about that limited this opportunity for me. They urged me to not be discouraged by this outcome, instead to think about it as “deking left instead of right.” I reflected on this feedback, and looked forward to find a way alleviate this disappointment. My grandfather says “if you don’t stand tall enough, you won’t see far enough” and this quote has inspired me so much that I had part of it engraved on my X-Ring. My interpretation is that you can never forget why it was that you started and what motivated you to put your hat in the ring in the first place. You will face adversity along the way, but you must stand tall and keep sight of your goals. My goal was to share words of congratulation, inspiration, and expectation with my graduating class, and although the platform of convocation is not available to me, I have the privilege of another avenue to spread my message. This avenue strips me of my ability to hide behind presentation skills, and forces me to focus purely on the message I was told would not resonate with my graduating class. To those of you reading this, I hope you find meaning in the words. This is the convocation speech I won’t get to make (at convocation).

“There is a house built out of stone, wooden floors, walls, and window sills. Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust. This is a place where I don’t feel alone. This is a place I feel at home.” Graduating class, parents, faculty, staff, and administration, welcome to our graduation ceremony. After years of work, we gather here today to celebrate perseverance, growth, and success. We come together as a community, to reflect on the chapter of our lives that is coming to a close, and to look forward to the exciting journey each of us will embark on. A short time ago, before we experienced this campus and understood exactly what it meant to be a Xaverian, we were explorers seeking out our next adventure. We were leaving our old homes with the values taught to us there by our families and friends in our hearts, and venturing into a new world. In this world, we would find new friends, new passions, and build new homes. Each of us brought our own values here, and shared them with each other. One of the magical things about this place is its ability to bring people together in ways it is difficult to explain. This sets the foundation of what we have created during our time here. Every passing hello, class discussion, and late night debate strengthened the floors, walls, and roof. This is a place where I don’t feel alone. This is a place where I feel at home. Home means something different to each of us. It could mean the quiet buzz of the Angus L. MacDonald Library as you study or pretend to study, the softness of a Students’ Union Building couch for a mid-afternoon nap, or the comfort of a Schwartz bathroom. With our exams behind us and nothing but the world in front of us, we can turn around and admire everything we have accomplished. These homes that we leave behind have everything we brought with us when we began, and now include everything we have shared with each other. Like every home, there are countless memories we look back on with happiness. But we can also see the imperfections born of missed opportunities and regretted decisions. It is our duty to learn from all of this, and as we walk into our futures to carry those lessons and use them as we build our next homes. No matter where we end up, the values we brought, learned, and carry with us will be forever intertwined into the homes we build for ourselves and the ones we care about. On behalf of the graduating class, thank you to everyone who has contributed to our growth, we hope you grew with us as well. To the graduating class, thank you for sharing your values with each other and with me. We have built magnificent things here, and we should be so proud of ourselves. We made it, and as we leave this home behind with our steps, we keep it close in our hearts and our hands, and we will build something even greater with these lessons in our heads. Congratulations to the graduating class, may we go forward and build places where we do not feel alone, and create a future where we can all feel at home.


X-Sledge hockey tournament


 The Motor Activities with StFX (MAX) program hosted an X-Sledge hockey tournament on March 14 from 2-4pm on the KMC main ice.  The MAX program, run through the Department of Human Kinetics, holds a weekly recreational sledge hockey program that allows HKIN students and community members with and without disabilities to participate. The program allows participants to be physically active and improve their fitness while having the opportunity to play a sport they love. Human Kinetics students learn about how to adapt physical activity programming for various disabilities and apply their knowledge in community practice.

The MAX program designs events and activities based on feedback from the individual participants.  Last semester, the participants were asked what they want to see happen in the program.  The immediate response from the participants was that they would like to hold a competition where family and friends can come watch them play a game with peers without disabilities. Secondly participants stated that they want more than one practice per week with increased access to resources, coaches and training. We are trying to take steps towards these goals and we have had great collaborative support from both StFX and County Recreation, the Antigonish Bulldogs Minor Hockey Association as well as the wider community.

Danielle Pellerine was one of the first participants in the MAX sledge hockey program 12 years ago and is very excited to finally have the opportunity to compete in a tournament.  Danielle states “I really enjoy coming to the MAX Sledge Hockey Program every Wednesday.  It gives me an opportunity to get some exercise and I love hanging out with my teammates and the StFX Human Kinetic students.  You really get to know everyone and they become life-long friends.  I am happy we’re able to do this and bring more awareness to our program and the sport in general.”

Indeed, the tournament illustrated that designing an event for various ability levels may be challenging but possible with time and effort. The StFX campus is aiming to move forward with greater accessibility via external funding for the Oland Centre which may be used to support changes to the built environment and make it more inclusive for all users.  StFX Recreation has also sought to find ways to adapt programming to accommodate for everyone regardless of ability. Dr. Casey explains that ``people sometimes think accessibility is costly and beneficial for only a small minority. Yet if you design universally then you can actually provide benefits for all users. Human Kinetics students are engaging with the community to see how this works in practice.”

StFX students are also learning an important lesson, especially how to make inclusive physical activity work in practice and overcome the barriers associated with it. StFX X-Woman hockey players have been involved in the MAX sledge hockey program since it started in 2006.  Current X-woman players, Emma Winters and Sarah Johnson said that “being able to step up and coach for the program in honour of the alumni on the team is an incredible opportunity as being coaches for the program has been passed down.  It is great to be a part of a program that encourages inclusion and we feel privilege to offer the opportunity to participate to all individuals.  Through on and off ice training we have seen tremendous progression and endless potential in these athletes.  The athletes are given a chance to excel and we constantly see improvements in quality of life and participants working towards future goals."

As a student, volunteer and assistant to the MAX program myself, I am grateful to have the opportunity to directly impact the community. Being a part of the design process and participating in the MAX program allows me to bring evidence into practice and improve the health of vulnerable populations.


StFX Basketball: A year of surprise and disappointment


Men are riding high off a great playoff run, while the women struggle for relevance after another poor year

After ending the regular season 5th overall in the AUS with a 9-11 record, another mediocre season for Coach Konchalski seemed to be the result. However, the team got hot at the right time in the playoffs and was able to knock off Acadia in the quarters, then number one seeded Dalhousie in the semi’s. The final was a gut wrenching, tough game that saw UNB eke out an 84-81 win, ending the season for StFX. Kevin Bercy, who competed for team Canada over the summer during the Universiade in Chinese Taipei, had a vicious 33-point effort in his final game ever for the X-Men. 

For the Women, it was a fourth straight year in the cellar of the AUS standings. It was also back to back years of a 1-19 record. The team has been a combined 10-70 in the last four years. At the crux of the issue is the lack of a true star on the team. The leading scorer on the year was freshman guard Kimberly Kingsbury at 7.3 PPG. Kingsbury was also named the AUS all rookie team this year. Luckily, the team is very young, as only one player graduates this year. With another year together, the hope is to claw out of last place, and become a team that is feared by others. The bereft of talent this year will hopefully decrease through another year of skill development. 

In his sixth year as head coach, Augy Jones was attempting to bring the team back to what he had in his first two seasons, which were back-to-back AUS final appearances. The recruitment of point guard Lucia Mackay for next year will hopefully form a potent tandem with Kingsbury. Unfortunately, he will not be around to see it, as he was relieved of his coaching duties on Monday March 12th. There is hope for growth from Center Katie MacIntosh, who at 6’2 provides size that the team clearly lacks. Having a consistent presence in the paint from Katie would help accentuate the strengths of the guards, most notably shooting. The team will have to count on leadership from impending seniors Jamie McCarron and Holly Scott, who were also second and third in scoring for the team. 

It is the end of an era for the men’s team, as the team loses it’s top two players, Julius Antoine and Kevin Bercy. Antoine averaged 17-4-3 on the year, while Bercy had 16.8 pts and 9.2 rebound averages. Center anchor Cameron Walker is also graduating, along with fifth year point guard Davonte Provo. 

The reigns of the team will be most likely handed to third year sharpshooter Tristen Ross, who averaged a scintillating 39.2% on threes this year. The emergence of freshman Point Guard Jaydan Smith this year gives the team a consistent presence at the one position for years to come. Sophomore guard Justin Andrew has also impressed this year, including a rollicking 29 point/7 three performance in the semi-finals against defending champion Dalhousie. High flying forward Azaro Roker will have to find consistency next year, as he will be tasked with more minutes. 

With a new court, and upgrades to the Oland Center on the horizon, there is an anticipation for an increase in recruitment for both teams. Coach Konchalski will be entering his 43rd season next year and for many, the monotony of a coach’s style can wear down players and desensitize the fans, something that K will be trying to fend off, as his retirement looms on the horizon. Augy Jones’ replacement has yet to be named, though the search for a new head coach has already begun.


Your 2018 NCAA March Madness Primer


The most exciting tournament in college sport is upon us, buckle up.

68 of the best college basketball teams in division 1 colleges and universities in the United States compete every year in March for the right to be crowned champion.

The tournament has 32 teams that are winners of their respective conferences along with 36 more teams that win an ‘at-large’ bid. At-large meaning that a committee of individuals pick them based on record, level of competition, and all-around ability.  The tournament occurs during a three-weekend period, beginning on the 13th of March.

The single elimination style makes every game a necessity to win, and this leads way to numerous upsets and ‘madness’.

Last year’s winner was the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by senior Joel Berry II and now departed Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson (15th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft).

This year, there is a whole host of teams with the ability to make big runs in March.


Virginia Cavaliers The current number one team in the nation is led by their vaunted ‘pack line’ defense, which is predicated on heavy team instilled abilities, with a reliance on packing the paint to prevent interior shots. The team is number one currently in points per game allowed, more than 5 points higher then the number two team. Sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are the key cogs in the team, with freshman De’Andre Hunter providing timely buckets.

Duke Blue Devils For Coach Krzyzewski, whom is in his 38th season at Duke, consistency and excellence is the main prerogative. This year is no different, as basketball resident villain Grayson Allen attempts to bring Duke back to where he was his freshman year, an NCAA champion. Luckily, he has help, with projected top five pick Marvin Bagley III (21 PPG, 11.5 RPG) along with surefire NBA prospects Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter Jr. Though they have underperformed, with seven losses on the year, one cannot take them lightly with their immense amount of sheer talent.

Xavier Musketeers Led by senior guard Trevon Bluiett with 19.5 PPG, Xavier fields arguably it’s most talented team ever, as coach Chris Mack looks for his first final four appearance. Feisty J.P Macura, along with Turkish born and brother of NBA player Enes Kanter; Kerem Kanter provides the Musketeers with complimentary scoring and lock down defense.

Dark Horses:

Cincinnati Bearcats In Mick Cronin’s 12 years under the Cincinnati program, his team has consistently been ranked as one of the best defensive teams, however If the Bearcats look to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1992, it will be because of their offense from senior forward Gary Clark and sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland. In the four losses on the year, Clark has shot a combined 16-40 from the field.

Missouri Tigers In one of the most interesting college basketball stories of the year, projected top five pick in this years NBA draft Michael Porter Jr. was supposed to lead this team to a high seed in the tournament. However, a mysterious back injury has plagued him all year. He recently returned last week and played his first game since their season opener in November. While his stat line left much to be desired (5-17 from the field), his mere presence could elevate the play of his teammates, most notably his brother Jontay Porter who has had a quietly productive year, averaging 10 pts and 7 assists.

Wild Card:

Arizona Wildcats It has been a crazy, almost unbelievable season for the Wildcats as they have been marred by FBI probes and failed drug tests. What is certain is 7’1, 250lb behemoth Deandre Ayton (who is only 19!) and his 20 pts and 11 rebounds that he provides for the team on a daily. Coach Sean Miller, who was initially reported to have been embroiled in a corruption scandal pertaining to the paying of recruits, is looking to scrub the negativity off his program and take them to a Final Four. Junior guard Allonzo Trier (18.7 PPG) was suspended earlier in the year for a failed drug test, but has been cleared recently, which greatly benefits the team.

Mid Major Hopefuls:

A mid-major program is one whom is in a conference that is not considered high quality. These teams typically play a low SOS (strength of schedule) during the regular season and as a result, tend to only get into the tournament by winning their conference.

Davidson Wildcats The tiny college in North Carolina, home to less than 2000 students had an incredible conference tournament run. They knocked off the Rhode Island Rams to claim the Atlantic 10 title and as a result, vaulted them into the field for March. They were 12-2 in their last 14 games, led by senior Peyton Aldridge and his 21.8 PPG. Coach Bob McKillop will hope to rekindle some magic from his best season at Dayton where a young point guard by the name of Steph Curry lit the tournament on fire, taking the school to it’s first and only Elite Eight appearance in 2008. They will be in tough in Round One where they will face a young Kentucky team chock full of former McDonald All Americans.

                The tournament ‘officially’ kicks off on Thursday March 15th with 16 games on the docket. So, kick back, procrastinate from school and watch the madness unfold!


Rawling Wins National Gold


StFX Track & Field star clinches first in 3000m race

This past weekend, Angus Rawling of StFX University won gold in the men’s 3000m race at the USPORTS National Track & Field Championships. The championships were held in Windsor, ON on March 8 through 10. The Calgary native went into the tournament ranked second overall after having qualified with a personal best time and StFX record time of 8:08:06 recorded at a Boston University meet earlier this season. Rawling also won silver in both the 1000m and 1500m races at the AUS championships earlier this year and was part of the 4x800m relay team that won bronze. In the 2017 Cross Country season, he was the AUS athlete of the year, champion of the 10km race and also competed at the USPORTS cross country meet.

In Windsor, Rawling finished his race with a time of 8:18:11, ahead of Sergio-Villanueva of McMaster University and Royden Radowits of University of Alberta. Interestingly enough, Rawling and Radowits competed against each other in high school. Rawling claims that Radowits was the faster runner every time they completed back in the day. After having finally outrun Radowits in Windsor, Rawling attributes his success and improvement over the years to hard work, time dedication, and good coaching. “Bernie is really great at developing his athletes over time,” Rawling explains.

Rawling was accompanied by his coaches, along with his teammates Allie Flower and Hayley Wilson. Flower, fourth-year sprinter and AUS Champion in the 300m event, competed in and placed 11th overall at the national meet. Wilson, fifth-year jumper and sprinter, was also an AUS Champion in her triple jump event, but could not compete at nationals due to injury. Rawling explained that many alumni living in the area came out to support. He says, “It was awesome to have so many friendly faces despite being so far away.”

This successful year for StFX Track and Field will have been the last of Coach Bernie Chisolm’s long and gratifying career. “It’s sad to see Bernie go after so many years. It was nice to have had him there and win that one with me,” Rawling states. Rawling’s win at USports Nationals will be one of many accomplishments that Chisolm and the team have seen over the years. While Rawling was the first runner to win a national gold medal for StFX, X-Women athlete, Erin Maclean won three national medals (bronze, silver and bronze) in the 3000m event in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2004, Eric Gillis won bronze in the 1500m race and silver for the 3000m. Gillis went on to compete at multiple Olympic Games and will be taking over Chisolm’s Head Coaching position in the coming years.  Rawling says he’s “excited to see what Eric will bring to the table considering his many years of experience.”

Rawling is a third-year business student doing an honours degree in accounting. He competes with both the X-Men Cross Country and Track & Field teams. He keeps a tight schedule between school and sports, and it proves to be tough throughout both seasons. With Cross Country and Track & Field both occurring while their respective semesters are in full swing, the school workload tends to pile up with all the hours put into practices and travelling. Professors and faculty have proven to be quite understanding and accommodating for this student-athlete. “The professors are amazing here, and I can’t complain,” Rawling said in discussing his success in school and sport


A Review: All in the Timing


Theatre Antigonish presented All in the Timing at Bauer from March 6-10, 2018. All in the Timing is a drop-dead laughing anthology written by David Ives. David is a graduate from the Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1971 and from the Yale School of Drama with a Master of Fine Arts in 1984.

The anthology originated from six one-acts that received the Outer Critics Circle Playwriting Award. A total of seven comedies and one tragedy made up the production directed by Andrea Boyd.

A call bell often reset and reoriented the dialogue between a couple of strangers in act one. It became a savior of the dead-end conversation. The call bell reminded me of absurdity in Samuel Beckett’s Ping. The technique is a critique of small-talk conversational conventions.

The appearance by Justin Gregg, 2017-2018 Board of Director at Theater Antigonish, as Don was a delightful surprise in act two. Justin did some freelance writing for The Huffington Post, BBC Earth and The Wall Street Journal. Justin also did some voice acting for The Ugly Duckling and Me! and Thor: Legend of the Magical Hammer.

Justin is a graduate with a PhD from the School of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin in 2008. Having studied dolphin social cognition in-depth, the science writer is author of books Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins and Are Dolphins Really Smart?.

Beloved Antigonish resident,  Majd Al Zhouri was one of six talented actors to animate three characters in the play. These actors ought to be praised for their skill in bringing 18 states of mind to life; each persona with a distinguishable costume, voice and mannerism.

The small cast of 12 indicates a need for aspiring actors to audition for Theatre Antigonish productions. In fact, All in the Timing replaced the highly anticipated Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman. Metamorphoses was postponed due to a shortage of people who auditioned for the production.

One of All in the Timing’s qualities was its minimalist stage props. As much as a costume, a table and a beer sustained the audience’s suspension of disbelief during the entire act five.

Act six involved three monkeys named Milton, Kafka and Swift trying to write Hamlet on typewriters. The act satirizes a study of animal language acquisition (Codename 6.001) at Columbia University led by Herbert S. Terrace. This act and others were riddled with allusions to literary works and authors of them.

One consistent allusion was to the epic hero, Don Juan. Pre-intermission, a universal linguist charmer named Don predictably got the girl at the end of the act. Post-intermission, three direct references to “Don Juan” flooded the dialogue.

David wrote a full-length play titled Don Juan in Chicago. Safe to say the playwright was inspired by the satirical work of Lord Byron.

Theatre Antigonish’s next production at Bauer is the One-Act Play Festival running between March 22-24, 2018. The annual Festival features amateur theatre groups and individual performers.


Are We There Yet?


Unpacking the hits and the misses of the 90th Academy Awards

On March 4, 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held their 90th annual Academy Awards. With so much momentum from the #metoo and Time’s Up movements from earlier awards shows of this year, many were eager to see whether The Oscars would carry on this progressive trend. Ultimately, there were some definite hits, but also a few obvious blunders, leaving viewers to wonder, is Hollywood really changing?

First and foremost, the successes of the evening. Host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with many comments about post-Weinstein Hollywood. He commendably decried that Hollywood cannot “let bad behavior slide anymore,” calling for an end to sexual harassment in the work place. Kimmel also made a poignant joke about Hollywood’s lack of belief in minorities and women in leading roles by stating, “I remember a time when studios didn’t believe that a woman or a minority could front a superhero film… And I remember that time because it was March of last year.” He also noticeably shined a light on those women who were shattering glass ceilings in their area of work, such as the first ever woman to be nominated for cinematography, and the first female to be nominated for best director in eight years.

As the award show carried on, many other females also took a stand to uphold women’s rights. Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, two women who spearheaded the #metoo movement, came forward about their experiences with Harvey Weinstein. They had made their triumphant return to Hollywood after being blackballed by the Hollywood mogul. Best Actress winner, Frances McDormand, asked every female nominee to stand up during her acceptance speech. She then called upon the audience to fund women’s projects and films, seeing as only 11% of movies are created by females. While Sandra Bullock announced nominees for the best cinematography award, she described “the four men and one trailblazing woman” nominated to draw attention to the lack of diversity. Similarly, Emma stone read the names for nominees of best director as “these four men and Greta Gerwig,"  which is another category underrepresenting women.

And now for the misses. Prior to the Oscar red carpet, famed host Ryan Seacrest faced a sexual harassment claim from a former stylist. E! News, which houses Seacrest, investigated the instance rather quickly, and stated the claim had no grounds. Therefore, Seacrest was permitted to work the carpet as usual. Except, it wasn’t business as usual for the previously celebrated host. Tensions ran high and many female stars chose to avoid Seacrest on the Red Carpet. Those who opted not to talk to the presenter included Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Jenifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Greta Gerwig, and Jennifer Garner. For a company that is already in hot water over the massive pay gap between co-hosts Catt Sadler and Jason Kennedy, this was not a sign of progression. However, the biggest blunder of the evening goes to Kobe Bryan’s win for his short film, Dear Basketball. Bryan was charged with sexual assault in 2003. The charges were later dropped by prosecutors, but the civil side of the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount outside of court. Bryan himself even publically confirmed that he retrospectively understood the woman in this case did not view their sexual encounter as consensual. In Hollywood’s bravest year to address and challenge sexual misconduct, giving an Oscar to an accused perpetrator himself was a slap in the face to all victims.

In short, there were strides made at this year’s Oscars. Sexual assault was addressed for the first time in an opening monologue, women broke barriers in both nominations and awards, as well as women publically pointing out the lack of diversity in nominees. However, with decisions to put Seacrest on the carpet so soon after the accusation, and granting accused rapist Bryan an award during a time where sexual assault victims finally feel safe coming forward, it is evident that there is much, much further to go. If the highest body in film still does not honour men as equally as women and does not support victims by refusing to honour perpetrators, how will the lower bodies, the directors, agents, and fellow actors, ever realize that the time is truly up on sexual misconduct?


Moving Beyond Fracking


Our community’s need for a renewable future

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rock in order to create cracks in underground rock formations and release oil or gas deposits. This practice is extremely risky and poses a number of threats to human and environmental health. The overwhelming balance of scientific research to date points to these risks, with recent studies revealing a worrying pattern of underreporting of issues by industry and regulators in Pennsylvania, BC and Alberta.

The process of fracking uses a significant amount of water, and can also contaminate drinking water through a leakage of chemicals into water tables. Methane emissions from fracking wells have recently been found to be massively underreported by industry, provincial and state regulators – a fact that is especially worrying given methane is a green house gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Fracking has also been known to cause earthquakes. The numerous threats that are posed by fracking have lead many community members and activists to protest the practice in their communities. In 2014, a bill was passed here in Nova Scotia legally banning fracking This was accomplished after community residents, primarily lead by indigenous individuals, rose up against fracking and disseminated critical information about the danger it poses to humans and the environment. This ban has been in place ever since.

Earlier this year, however, the municipality of Guysborough called for this ban to be lifted and proceeded to send multiple letters to the Premier and to other municipal councils throughout Nova Scotia, looking for support. This decision however, is not supported by most citizens; when one of Guysborough’s councilors held a town hall meeting on the issue, all those who attended were opposed the lifting of the ban.

Guysborough’s decision to propose this change comes with pressure from oil and gas supporters who used a freedom of information request to bring to light a provincial atlas of potential shell gas reserves in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia department of energy subsequently released an atlas that showed potential energy hot spots in the province, none of which are in Guysborough county. The Guysborough letter, therefore, seems to be more a part of an orchestrated campaign by the oil and gas sector rather than something that would actually lead to fracking in the county.

It turns out that a municipality site for an liquified natural gas (LNG) plant is being built in Guysborough county, a site where gas from around the continent will be held and distributed to markets in Europe. Germany has guaranteed a 4 billion dollar loan for the building of this plant as the country wishes to diversify where it is getting it’s LNG. Although, the plant does not need to use gas that is harvested in Nova Scotia, oil and gas supporters are pushing to have these options available, by pushing for the lifting of the ban on fracking.

Those who support the ban include many across Mi’kma’ki, including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, that come from indigenous and settler communities alike. As we know, Mi’kmaq land has never been ceded to settlers and thus the Mi’kmaq people have a strong say when it comes to practices that will affect the land. The critical analysis developed by many Mi’kmaq people is that while the fracking industry may bring jobs to this area of the country, it will also destroy natural elements such as water and land, that are sacred and important to indigenous ways of being, and to all life. The choice to propose a lifting of this ban, directly contradicts the concerns that have been presented by indigenous community members and settler-citizens alike. Communities throughout Nova Scotia have made it clear that they are completely against fracking. In 2014, when a fracking moratorium was being reviewed, the Nova Scotia association of Mi’kmaq chiefs unanimously voted against it along with the Mi’kmaq Native women’s association. So far, the conversation that has been held about lifting the ban has only been orchestrated in settler communities. The Guysborough effort therefore runs the risk of further damaging settler-indigenous relations in a time that these relations should be focusing on reconciliation.

On March 19, the Antigonish Town Council has planned to discuss the letter that they received from the Municipality of Guysborough and will be debating whether they too will call for the ban to be lifted. Responsible Energy Action (REA) has been organizing to encourage citizens to write to the mayor and town councilors in support of keeping the ban in place. If you are interested and having your voice heard in relation to this cause, I encourage you to do the same and email mayor Laurie Boucher.

The bottom line is that these conversations should be outdated; there is a strong understanding that we need to be moving towards the dismantling of the oil and gas sector and incorporating more renewable sources of energy. In California, for instance, the green energy sector is proving that transition to green energy is a major job creator. We need to be encouraging the promotion of Solar and Wind power and put our money towards getting more sustainable and safe energy sources up and running in our province. And we should be working in ways that respect the treaties here and reinforce reconciliation, not undermine it.


New Mindful Living Stream Open to All Students


An introduction to the courses that are carving out spaces in academia for students’ well-being

There is new development in the Religious Studies Department. Dr. Adela Sandness has constructed a new ‘Mindful Living’ stream of study consisting of 7 different classes. Dr. Sandness has been a prominent figure in the Religious Studies department in structuring her classes around issues of power, gender and gender relationships. She is trained as a scholar in the deep history of Buddhist psychology and the nature of mind, which has transferred over into her role as a professor in current classes about Modern India and Ghandi’s principles of truth and non-violence as a way of creating social change. The Xaverian sat down with Dr. Sandness to speak to a new stream of classes that will be available starting this upcoming fall.

Dr. Sandness prefaces our discussion by speaking to how the material involved in these new courses have been worked on already in various ways. What is unique now, is that the various elements already discussed, have come together in a single thread to create this stream focused on mindful living.

“These series of classes that Dr. Sandness will be teaching are really interesting and important, that sort of holistic approach to mental and physical health is an up and coming thing in society and it is something people are just starting to recognize. I think that culture has always been there but now it’s being brought to the forefront” says student, Matt Fleming who is not a religious studies major but has been drawn to take Dr. Sandness’ courses as electives.

Specifically, these courses will be addressing several issues that have been identified on the university campus. In part, the establishment of this stream of study is in response to the conversations we have been having as a campus community surrounding sexual safety. It has very intensely been brought to people’s awareness that the ways in which we relate to ourselves, and our own bodies, as well as with other people in the quality of our relationships is something that needs to be talked about. Dr. Sandness asserts that in the time speaking with individuals, after the sexual violence case that occurred last semester, no one was moving into a space of simplistic blame. Instead, the reoccurring narrative is an understanding that the occurrence of sexual violence and the responses that follow are situated in a broader, cultural aspect of how we are relating to each other as people. Dr. Sandness attributes the depth, intensity, sophistication and duration of these conversations to confirm that the campus is in need of structured space to do a “re-think.”

4th year student, Jillian Barvir who works closely with Dr. Sandness says that

 “[These courses] will be a part of addressing issues on campus like sexual safety and the rise in mental health issues and despair that some students face. Dr. Sandness will have direct access to these students to help them work through it.”

These conversations are both academic by nature with groundings in Ancient Indian or Veda cosmology. Or in other words, the study of the world through religious groundings alternative to contemporary scientific western materialism. It will be the pairing of this academic anchorage with honest and open conversations that will lead to discussions on the quality, sensitivity and genuineness of the relationships that we’re creating with other people; whether that is an intimate relationship or not. The quality of relationships that we have with one another will necessarily create structures or frames of thinking that can shape the views of the world we have when we focus in on broader social issues. Dr. Sandness identifies these as issues of safety, respect, gender and power relationships. These relationships will also offer insight into the ways that we service leaders in the world; whether that be the leader of a residence house, a family or the leader of broader situations.

Next year (2018-2019) will introduce the first two new courses. In first semester is RELS 294 Mindfulness: How to Cope with Hard Things. This course will be dealing with mindfulness in a very direct way through applying historic, old Indian understandings of the shape of the world and the mindfulness techniques that evolved at this time to a practical component such as meditating together as a class. Through looking at various aspects and shapes of the world, this course is very much how to cope with hard things and how to work with balancing emotions such as jealousy and pride.

The second semester class is RELS 297 The Body: An Owner’s Manual in which students will quite literally be making an owner’s manual to their bodies grounded in cosmology that comes out of Hinduism and Buddhism. “What is a body” in this case will be explored more broadly. Dr. Sandness expresses her intent in bringing in several guest lecturers to cover the basis of what a body is. For example, she aims to invite community members from indigenous elders to lawyers, to the AWRCSASA and even nutritionists in unpacking what students feel and think about their bodies and why they feel such ways. Relating it back to a response to observed campus conversations about student’s wellbeing, this course will find the space in between conversations to say “well ok, how do I understand my relationship with my body and what is the quality, dignity, and respect I am offering to myself. Do I feel like I would want to make some changes?”

RELS 315/WMGS 397 Authentic Power and Gender is another new course that will be offered in the following year (2019-2020) along with RELS 394 Authentic Relationship. These courses are going to look at the ideas of power and gender from perspectives that come specifically out of Ancient Indian Cosmology. These ideas will provide a framework for answering questions around what constitutes real and authentic power. They will explore the interrelationship of masculine and feminine principles in Hinduism and Buddhism and gender from outside the contemporary western understanding. The first class will unpack controlling, domineering, territorial and oppressive natures as the default understanding of power. Dr. Sandness asserts that these behaviors are rooted in fear which merits compassion but not complacency so this course will be looking at what defines a strong and powerful person. The latter course mentioned is the companion class and this will continue the conversation by saying “if relationships aren’t about predatory dominance, power, control or who is on top, then what actually is an authentic and genuine relationship?” At the heart of these classes is human connection and with what degree of sensitivity to ourselves and others.

These are the four new courses offered next year. Accompanying them are RELS 395 Selfless Leadership:  Be the Change I and RELS 397 Selfless Leadership:  Be the Change II. The first two courses apply these authentic leadership learnings into leadership questions, both inspired the work of MK Gandhi. There is a sense that it is entirely possible to create broad stroke social change and these courses will look at some practiced ways to do so. These courses are rooted in old Indian World Views that informed Gandhi’s non-dualism truth and non-violence, specifically in relation to colonialism. These courses will actively unpack the perceptions of success within leadership that are directly from colonial forms of thinking; thus up for complete re-working and review when as a culture, we begin to authentically decolonize.

As for the final course, Dr. Sadness refers to it as the capstone of a series of classes. Every August, Dr. Sandness takes students to the Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton. After three weeks of online study together, the group goes to the monastery and lives there for a week the way that the monastics do. In essence, it is a mindfulness immersion experience to provide quite a strong basis in exploring meditative practices. This has been a class that Dr. Sandness has been nurturing and loving for quite some time now.

Dr. Sandness has made these courses free of pre-requisites in order to make them as accessible as possible to students from all disciplines.

The Xaverian also had an opportunity sat down with 4th year student, Colleen Murray.

“I took my first class with Dr. Sandness in my second year and there is something about the way that she brings the people in the classes that she teaches together that is really unique to the education that I have received at StFX. We get to know each other in the classroom and she gets to know us to incorporate the experience that we have on campus, our feelings about our positions as students and our own personalities into the course material which makes it really meaningful and purposeful for students. Not only are you receiving an awesome education, for example, in the religion and modern India course that I took with her, we learned so much about the history and development of religions about politics and important people from India; but we also got to learn a lot about each other and ourselves and it was just a beautiful experience as a student to encounter that on a university campus. It’s not something I expected. The fact that now there is an entire stream so students can be introduced to that way of learning and that way of thinking and being in the world is so important.”

Upon completing our interview, the Xaverian asked Dr. Sandness why she felt that it was time to introduce these courses. She expresses that in Buddhism there is an understanding that in any situation there would be the outer, the inner and the secret. In this case, the outer rationale would be that these courses are simply interesting theoretical material. There are many ways to dream a world and it is very helpful and useful to look at alternate ways of understanding the nature of self, body and other. Dr. Sandness speaks to the inner layer by saying that we can help people make choices and now these classes offer an avenue. The students are asking the institution to do better and it is completely appropriate to offer a space to have that conversation in a sustained way. And finally, the secret layer to the rationale.

“If I were to give away my secret, I have heard it said that we really only need 10% of any population to identify with each other as being an alternative culture to create that socially viable alternative. We are a campus of 5000 students which means we would only need to have 500 students who are identifying each other as being people who are making alternative lifestyle choices in order to create that viable, peer, cultural alternative that people as far as I can tell are essentially begging for…It isn’t about either this or that, but there is a space in between in which we live and how we engage in that space in between here is honestly going to set the platform for the rest our lives not just in the way it shapes our personality style and our long term friendships and the ways in which we tend to carve relationships in the future. I feel that it is an appropriate for a way to create that viable cultural alternative, 10% of our student population is only the Schwartz Auditorium filled twice.”

As we said goodbye, Dr. Sandness offers one last comment

“Just breathe, you are enough.”


Cultivating Consent Culture


How do we rewrite the narrative of sexual violence in our communities?

"Smile and be nice." "Don’t overreact." "Don’t make a scene." "It’s just guys being guys." "He only picks on you because he like you." "Cover up." "You’re showing too much skin - it’s distracting." "He was just trying to be friendly." "You were pretty much asking for it."

As women, we’re constantly taught to remain idle in the face of sexual violence. Whether that’s through what we're told, media depicting violence as a gateway for sex, or simply the lack of recognition that sexual violence is a problem to begin with. Is it no surprise, then, that 1 in 4 women aged 15 to 24 will experience sexual violence? We’ve normalized sexual violence to such a degree that more often than not, women don’t feel comfortable or validated in coming forward - instead, they pass it off as “just a bad date,” or stay silent.

That is not okay.

On March 7, the Antigonish community came together to discuss what sexual violence looks like here in our community, and what we can do to change the narrative, and have an impact. Panelists Suzi Synishin, Sam Gan, and Katie MacDonald shared their research findings and experiences with the group - speaking to the normalization of sexual violence and the meaning of consent, the male perspective on leadership in consent culture, and sexual violence response in customer service positions respectively. Following the panel, the room was asked to answer two questions:

  1. What does sexual violence look like in your community?
  2. What needs to change? How can we make these changes happen?

Though the questions were discussed in a number of smaller groups, the answers of what sexual violence looks like all seemed to follow the same core idea:  sexual violence is simultaneously extremely pervasive, and invisible. The social repercussions facing victims prevent large numbers from speaking out, things like dick pics, revenge porn, and “kill counts” have become synonymous with teen and young adult culture, and university culture, as well, has become so intertwined with rape culture that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. On top of all of this, there is a general refusal to acknowledge that we have a problem.

So, what needs to change? How can we break the silence around sexual violence, and stop teaching our women to grin and bear it? We can start by teaching consent in our elementary and high schools - re-configuring Sex Ed to teach about healthy relationships, pleasure, and bodily autonomy - and integrating the conversation into every school, and every classroom. We can stand up and call out instances of toxic masculinity, harassment, and violence we witness every day, and turn to education to call people in.

Most importantly, however, in this fight, is that we not stay silent in the face of injustice. The actions above all came from this one conversation - but conversations like this one, when held as events or panels, attract the people who already care about these issues, and are already working to make change. For this conversation to be truly successful and sustainable, everyone has to be involved. So, keep on speaking out, speaking up, and being loud - ultimately, that is what will make a difference.


Don’t be Afraid of Feminism


 The Importance of Women and Gender Studies Courses at X

With women’s week having just ended here in Antigonish – and with all the different events and keynote talks that are going on this month – I was thinking a lot about how much my perspective on life and other women has changed since choosing to major in Women and Gender Studies.

I think, not to be completely biased, that the most influential courses a student can take in their undergraduate degree would have to be women and gender studies classes.

Yes, this is my major, so I obviously have a lot of wonderful things to say about this department, the professors, the courses and material that we learn in class. But there are so many other reasons as to why these courses are so fundamental in a young person’s learning.

Before you get tired of me rambling and decide to skip this article to read something else, please read a little bit of it; maybe it’ll even convince you to take a class in this area.

Before I even started taking courses in the WMGS department, I thought I had a relatively good understanding of feminism, issues of systematic oppression around the world and anything that was related to the equality/inequality of how humans are treated. Turns out I knew pretty much nothing.

In my first intro class with Dr. Lisa Pasolli, I got a bit of a taste of everything. The big thing that I learned from that class was intersectionality, which is something that everybody should be interested in.

Intersectionality is a concept used to analyze how all women throughout the world, whether they be Indigenous, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, trans, bi or a lesbian, are impacted by systems of oppression and how they differ from one another.

This concept opened my eyes to how differently women and men are treated as well as ways to tackle these systems of oppression and help our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, cousins and any woman that you can think of.

Now that I’m in my third year, a class that I’ve been taking – Critical Race and Sexuality in Canada with Dr. Rachel Hurst – in my opinion should maybe be mandatory for every student to take.

In the past three months of being in that class, I have learned more than I have in some in my year long courses (no shade). In this class we analyze Canada, we learn about the different systems of power within Canada and how it has had an impact on our own people: namely, indigenous peoples and black people. There are issues going on in Canada that frankly I was not aware of, and it is likely that many other students are not either.

Simply a few examples: the Japanese internment camps that happened in Canada during WWII, or the reality of how black people are treated like criminals in Canada, black men being carded in the streets of Toronto.

Most Canadians have a blanket over their eyes thinking that this country is a country of freedom, a land where no wrong can happen. That is so far from the truth. Yes, we do live in a country that when compared to other countries is doing a bit better, but when you look closely, we’ve still got a long way to go before we can claim to be the ‘best’ country in the world when it comes to equality and how we treat others.

If you’ve been avoiding taking a WMGS class because of how you see feminism portrayed in the media and you think that women are these men hating monsters, that’s not what it is. There are a lot of great advocates for feminism that are doing a great job, but there are also quite a few folks that are skewing the word feminism and making it only for them (white feminism) or using the word feminism without actually understanding it and standing up for feminist issues.

If you’re not interested in feminism because you think blah blah blah it’s only for women, a) you’re wrong, feminism is for everybody, and b) you should be taking more interest into women’s rights because, well… you’re a human, are you not?

Maybe you’ve been wanting to take a WMGS class, but you cannot find anything to fit your schedule or your program; that’s fair, it can be very limiting. This is why each program should have classes dedicated to pairing your degree with women and gender studies related course. I’m aware that that is another issue altogether, but it’s something worth looking into and fighting for.

Feminism is for everybody: it’s beautiful, it’s growing, and forever changing. The future of society relies on feminism.

So, don’t be scared. You know what, maybe be scared! Be nervous to not know about something, but then take that fear and push yourself a little further to educate yourself. You’re not only educating yourself, but you’ll then also be helping those around you who might not know as much, and you can take the time to educate them as well. Education is bliss!