All posts by Sarah Poko

French-language books drop in popularity


French-language books are not as popular as they used to be. Government funding and small market sizes outside Quebec has affected its sales.

According to the 2011 edition of Canada’s Year Book, in 2008 publishers who printed mainly French-language books had a growth in revenue compared to publishers who printed mostly English-language books.

Errol Sharpe, co-owner of Fernwood Publishing, has been in the publishing industry for 30 years. One reason for this, he says, may be the competition English Canadian publishers face with American and British books in the Canadian market. Sharpe continues to say the sizable French readership in Quebec may also be a factor.

“There’s a much stronger cultural base in Quebec than there is in English Canada,” said Sharpe. “For the last 20 to 30 years, Quebec has been fighting to maintain its language and its culture. There’s a great deal of cultural awareness in Quebec that doesn’t exist in the rest of the country.”

However, this has changed. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s publishing industry had an 18% drop in both operating expenses and operating revenue between 2008 and 2014. English-language books accounted for 79.2% of sales, while French-language and other languages accounted for only 20.8%. E-books, not too far behind, made up 13.1% of sales.

According to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (as shown below), the Nova Scotia book market is worth $36.3 million and the sales of books across Canada contributes $1.15 billion to the Canadian GDP.

Over the years, some English-language book publishers like Gavin Will, owner of Boulder Publications, have experienced notable growth in revenue. Will would like to publish books in French as well but he says there are “steep barriers” to overcome.

There are federal grants available for publishers who wish to translate books to French or other languages. However, they are required to have published at least three books in that target language by themselves before they can qualify for the grant and Will says it’s not that easy.

“Not only do you need to have a translator, you need an editor as well,” he said. “I might be able to afford a translator but an editor on top of that would be difficult… It’s about $5,000 per book, depending on the size of the book.  Some charge by page or by the word. ”

Marion Vitrac, program officer at the Canada Council for the Arts says the requirements to apply for the Translation Grant are at a minimum for publishers.

“For a publisher to try a new venture in another language means a new audience, new distribution channels, new everything,” said Vitrac. “We don’t fund organizations that are just starting because we’re accountable. We need to fund arts organizations that have proven a minimum of stability and their commitment to their mandate.”

Michael Hamm is a manager at Bookmark on Spring Garden Road. He says a “good bookstore” caters to the demands of the community and explains that bookstores try to stock books in languages other than English to show diversity.

“It just adds another cultural depth to your store and people like to see it,” said Hamm. “I couldn’t imagine a store where you don’t have some French language books, besides dictionaries and workbooks. It adds another level of meaning to the community just to see these books here.”

‘We need to look at how the police investigate these cases,’ – Denise Mitchell of Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre

Denise One Breath Mitchell has worked with several families of victims. She doesn’t believe the missing persons database is reliable in the first place.
Denise One Breath Mitchell has worked with several families of victims. She doesn’t believe the missing persons database is reliable in the first place.

Last week, government released the inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). It focuses on the number of MMIW, perpetrator characteristics, outstanding cases and victim circumstances. However, Denise One Breath Mitchell doesn’t believe the missing persons database is reliable in the first place.

Mitchell is the Victim Support Navigator at the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre and has worked with several families of victims, including the family of Tanya Brooks, an aboriginal woman who was murdered in 2009. She believes there are more missing women than the 1,181 reported by the RCMP and says the attitude of police when missing aboriginal persons are reported is a factor.

“They [police] have an attitude or an opinion, especially if they’re working the sex

A dream catcher made in the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre by members of the Aboriginal community. Each feather represents a missing and/or murdered Aboriginal woman. Mitchell says more feathers shall be added in the near future.
A dream catcher made in the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre by members of the Aboriginal community. Each feather represents a missing and/or murdered Aboriginal woman. Mitchell says more feathers shall be added in the near future.

trade, or they say ‘they’ll come back’,” said Mitchell. “We need to look at how the police investigate these cases and if the police took them seriously.”

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), has also worked with families of victims. She says another problem is there are inconsistencies on whom to report a missing person to.

“The police forces will turn them [families] back and say ‘no, you go to your own police force and report it to them’ or our local police force would say ‘well she got missing in Toronto, you need to report it to Toronto’,” said Lavell-Harvard. “There is no standard of practice, there’s no protocol.”

The missing persons database is a national public website called It contains information about missing aboriginal and non-aboriginal individuals as well as unidentified remains. According to the site, cases only appear on the website when the investigator or medical examiner of that case concludes that a profile of the missing person will assist the investigation.

A recommendation in the final report of Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons (2007)

The cases are broken up by province, age, sex and probable cause with categories marking the circumstances of a disappearance; like ‘abduction by stranger’, ‘wandered off’, ‘runaway’ or ‘presumed dead’, to name a few. However, over 300 were not included in the 2015 report as there was ‘no probable cause entered’.

When asked for clarification, the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) responded via email:

“As for the ones with no, or an invalid, probable cause, they cannot be counted in the existing categories, therefore they were not included… Only the original investigating police service for each of the specific incidents may have that information, and even that is unlikely this long after the fact. It may be that they would fit into one of the categories; we simply don’t have the information.”

Lavell-Harvard is working with the RCMP to improve how reports are taken and investigations are conducted. She’s satisfied with the RCMP’s new policy of taking immediate action when a person is reported missing but says other police forces need to follow suit.

“There’s over 300 other police forces out there across the country so even though the RCMP has this protocol, that doesn’t necessarily translate into effective action, we need that protocol with all the police forces,” said Lavell-Harvard.

According to the Missing Persons Act, any information received by police is considered confidential and cannot be released, even to a spouse or family member, unless the information may assist in the investigation.

Mitchell says keeping families in the dark does more harm than good.

“The family is left carrying these unanswered questions about what happened to their loved one,” she said. “Keeping that rapport and communication open is letting families know that something is being done, that their loved ones matter to them, and that they’re taking this seriously.”

Lavell-Harvard calls for police forces to come together and do their part in the MMIW cases.

“We need to stop allowing indigenous women and children to slip through the crack because of jurisdictional boundaries,” she said. “People need to start putting the whole politics and jurisdiction aside, and recognise that these are human beings.”

Organisations plan to educate police on response to special needs persons

“I think you would find most individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs are fearful of the police,” said Cindy Carruthers of Peoples First Nova Scotia

Brenda Hardiman wants to prevent more special needs individuals from being unfairly criminalized.  She is the Chairperson and co-founder of Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia (APNS), a non-profit organization that aides and support parents who have children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities.

“We decided that Nova Scotia needed something like Advocating Parents with families that were having problems navigating community services and health,” she said. “They could contact us and we could help them with that because both of us have already been through it.”

Hardiman founded the organization with another parent in 2014 after her daughter, Nichele Benn, was charged with assault by a staff member at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre where she was a resident. Benn has since been moved to a small options home, but Hardiman says it’s a lack of compassion and understanding that causes people to criminalize persons with special needs.

“In today’s world, people with intellectual disabilities are quite often segregated and isolated from the general public,” she said. “People are not exposed enough to various abilities and disabilities, so when they do see somebody or have contact with somebody who has an intellectual disability, it frightens them.”

To resolve this, Hardiman is partnering with Peoples First Nova Scotia (PFNS), an advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities, and Archie Kaiser, a Dalhousie law professor who specializes in mental disability law. They plan to create educational literature for local police, lawyers, judges and others who regularly interact with special needs individuals.

The idea was inspired by Dave Kent, President of the Board at PFNS, and his experience with the local Truro police two months ago. He was stopped on the street by police officers who accused him of drinking and refused to believe Kent when he explained it was his medication for bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia that affected his walking.

“They gave me a breathalyzer and nothing showed up. Then they followed me home,” said Kent. “What they put me through that night made me nervous. I thought they were taking me to jail.”

Cindy Carruthers, the executive director of PFNS, says Kent’s story is one of many that happen daily and it’s not just with law enforcement.

“Many lawyers struggle with these cases when they have people with intellectual disabilities coming to them, needing support,” said Carruthers. “Through lack of knowledge, they often suggest ‘just plead guilty’ because they don’t know how to support them. Whether they’re innocent or guilty, it’s often just the recommendation to plead guilty.”

Though Halifax Regional Police train officers on how to respond to calls that involve individuals with special needs, Hardiman believes there’s still a lack of knowledge in the policing community.

The training program was made with the assistance of Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team (MHMCT).

According to the Department of Community Services, in 2015 there were 1,153 clients in small option homes and 189 clients in regional rehabilitation centres. Individuals with complex needs can cost upwards of $250K-$1M every year for each case. These cases has increased by an average of 17% every year in the last 4 years.

Individuals with complex needs can cost upwards of $250K-$1M every year for each case. These cases has increased by an average of 17% every year in the last 4 years.

Hardiman said although people with intellectual disabilities can commit crimes, incidences involving special needs individuals should be viewed as a health issue and not a criminal issue.

“The legal system is meant to be punitive for people, but for the people that can’t learn a lesson there’s no point in making it punitive,” Hardiman said. “If people could just stop and think how they would treat their own family member if they had an intellectual disability, they would be a little bit different.”

Though the educational package is still in the beginning stages, Hardiman and PFNS are confident it would be a success. They plan on launching the package next spring.

“I think you would find most individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs are fearful of the police,” said Carruthers. “We would like to try to change that a little bit so that they can see them as someone who can help them and not someone to be feared.”

First Nations’ schools drop French to preserve Indigenous languages

French language is dying in some First Nations communities because schools refuse to teach it.
Micmac Native Friendship Centre on Gottingen St.

French language is dying in some First Nations communities because schools refuse to teach it.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey results, three native reserves in the Nova Scotian counties of Inverness, Richmond and Victoria had the lowest number of residents who speak English and French, Canada’s official languages. The data shows that the communities of Whycocomagh, Wagmatcook and Chapel Island have only five people each who know both languages.

Joe Marshall, the Executive Director of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, said English is the most spoken language on these reserves, but that is causing concern for the community.

“A lot of them [students] want to learn to speak English because they feel it’s the language that will improve their education and help them find jobs,” he said. “And in some cases, they refuse to learn their own language, which is Mi’kmaw.”

Eleanor Bernard is the Executive Director of Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, a Mi’kmaw education resource centre, in Sydney. She said French isn’t a priority for students on the reserves.

“Why would we want to learn French?” Bernard said. “Our Mi’kmaw language is dying, so we have a very huge concern of that and we’re trying to retain what we have and revive it.”

Since the arrival of Europeans and other settlers in 1534 and the establishment of residential schools in the 1880s, First Nations languages have been at a rapid decline. Children at residential schools were forbidden from speaking First Nations languages and those who disobeyed faced physical and emotional punishment.

Nova Scotia has Canada’s largest population of Mi’kmaw people at 60 per cent, with the second largest population in B.C. at 28 per cent. However, a 2014 report by the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council revealed that only four per cent of the First Nations population in B.C. could fluently speak the language. 59 per cent of these fluent speakers are 65 years old or older.

According to the Mi’kmaq Education Act, originally drafted in 1988, a reserve has the power to create laws and programs in relation to the primary, elementary and secondary education in its community. However, the educational programs must be comparable to other schools in Canada so that students can transfer to different institutions without difficulty.

Bernard said Mi’kmaw language immersion programs have been introduced to schools in Mi’kmaw communities as well as provincial schools to help revive the language. She stated that French would never be an option at the schools and even if it was, they refuse to teach students the language.

“If a student(s) [are] adamant about taking French, they can do it through the provincial program or through virtual schools,” Bernard explained further. “But there hasn’t been anyone who has been concerned about it. No one has come forward and said they want to take French.”

Pride before the fall

Trinity Western University won their court battle against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and must have its proposed law degree accredited by the Soceity.
Trinity Western University won their court battle against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and must have its proposed law degree accredited by the Society.

Pride Week ended but we are far from celebrating. Some students say they still face the same old discrimination in their schools because of their sexual orientation.

Abbey Einarson said she would never forget her experience during a sociology class at St. Mary’s University a few months ago. She identifies as pansexual, an attraction towards anyone regardless of sex, gender or gender identity.

“We were talking about LGBTQ+ communities and we were put into groups to discuss them,” she said. “When I was talking about my experiences… they were just kind of sniggering and glancing at me and they discluded me from the work.”

Brittany Gillis also recounts comments directed at her last December, from students on Yik Yak – an anonymous social media app.

“We once tried to organize a party for gay people and people were like, ‘if straight people can’t come, then that’s discrimination’,” said Gillis, “but straight people have never been discriminated against to the point where their rights were not accepted.”

Brittany Gillis (right) and Abbey Einarson at Halifax's Pride Parade.
Brittany Gillis (left) and Abbey Einarson at Halifax’s Pride Parade.

Earlier this week, Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Christian university, won their court battle against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) to have its proposed law degree accredited. The proposed degree was approved by the Federal Canadian Law Societies, but the NSBS refused to grant the B.C. university accreditation because of the university’s ‘Community Covenant Agreement’, which “discriminates” against LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Agreement encourages students to live by Christian teachings and prohibits, “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”. TWU argued that the Society’s decision is an infringement upon their religious freedom, under the Charter of Rights and Freedom.

John Carpay, who acted as counsel on the case, said people have the freedom to create any organization they want to and establish their own rules.

“In a free country, if people disagree with your association, they’re free not to join but they don’t have a right to force changes on your group,” he said. “So the decision is a good one for freedom of association.”

Jude Ashburen, a South House representative, disagrees and says freedom of association is “a thinly veiled” expression. South House is a sexual and gender justice centre run by Dalhousie University students. Ashburen says religious freedom should not be prioritized over LGBTQ+ issues.

“We’re talking about human rights and charter rights. These are actual rights that we have and you cannot openly discriminate on the basis of their sexuality,” said Ashburen. “They [TWU] can’t do that.”

Carpay further explains that discrimination is expected in a “free society” and feeling welcome isn’t an entitlement.

“People talk about discrimination as if it’s very obvious what that means, but if you think about it every group discriminates against people who disagree with the group or dislike the group,” he said. “It’s a normal part of life that you’re not going to feel welcome joining every single group.”

TWU has LGBTQ+ students and graduates who publicly stated that they’ve had positive experiences at the school. Yet, Ashburen says a few LGBTQ+ students praising TWU doesn’t represent the whole queer community there.

“If one or two of them had a good experience, that’s fabulous but that’s not going to fix the problem,” Ashburen said. “Coming out of Pride Week and thinking about the fact that this is still happening is another example about silence around homophobia and institutionalized violence against LGBTQ folks…”

Ashuren points out that she isn’t surprised at the court’s decision, but demands that the province do better.

“It was a good opportunity for Nova Scotia to set a standard and they missed it,” she said. “Stop letting this slide and stop sending a message to queer and LGBTQ+ people that our lives don’t matter.”

[Infographic] When age is more than a number


Robert Wilson, 64, feels misplaced in the city of Halifax because of the varying age number required to receive services exclusively for older adults and seniors.

“I don’t know where they want to put us,” he said. “Sometimes it’s 65, 64, 58, 55. I just don’t know.”

In Nova Scotia to qualify for Old Age Security (OAS), a person needs to be 65 years of age. For a low-income senior whose partner has deceased, the person has to be between the age of 60 or 65 to qualify for Allowance for the Survivor. While a senior needs to be 58 years of age or older to qualify for public housing.

Wilson expressed that he has financial difficulty because he does not qualify for OAS yet. He is also partially disabled after he was attacked by four men six months ago but needs to be 65 or older to qualify for a seniors bus pass. So he walks from his home in Spryfield to Downtown Halifax to save money.

“I force myself… I try to keep going but its getting worse,” said Wilson. “I have to walk back and forth and it takes me about 4 or 5 hours to walk back home.

Sometimes Wilson sleeps on benches when he can’t make it all the way home because of the pain.

Reinhold Endres, 70, on the other hand doesn’t think being older should be used as a crutch to get assistance from the province.

“People should just carry on with their life as best as they can,” he said. “I don’t see any particular point in having an age barrier where the government should suddenly step in to help people and assist people or to do special things for people.”

Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of seniors in the country with 1,000 people turning 65 every month. The Nova Scotia Department of Seniors has an estimated budget of $149,600 for program expenses and services this year.

Tom Bell, 73, expressed that seniors may feel frustrated because of the rapid changes in their environment and the attitude of the younger generation.

“There’s the question about whether the heath care system and nursing care system will be able to take care of the [aging] population without being too much of a burden on young people,” he said. “The way it’s presented, it tends to almost be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Endres pointed out that being a senior citizen is different compared to 30 years ago. He says expectations aren’t the same anymore.

“Today people live so much longer. People do so much more; they’re so much more gregarious, so much more open-minded. They’re active, they engage which wasn’t always the case.”

Bell says he would like to see the approach towards the aging population change.

“I’d like to hear more about the positive actions that they’re taking to assure that there would be a good quality of life that integrates the older population and the younger population so we can move forward together.”

Rogers cable strikes out


Despite the Blue Jays’ 10-4 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, Rogers Communications Inc. may not be in the clear.

The telecommunications company bought control of the Toronto-based baseball team for $160 million in 2000. With their success on Wednesday, the company said its revenue increased by 6% from $3.245 billion in the last quarter ended March 31, to $3.455 billion in the three months ended June 30.

Rogers Commnucations Inc. Stock by SarahP on

However, their cable revenue suffered losses with a 7% decrease in television revenue and 15% decrease in phone revenue. They also lost 53% of television subscribers from 49,000 to 23,000 within the two quarters. While their Internet revenue rose by 15% this quarter mostly due to more subscribers to their broadband Internet services.

Though the media revenue increased by 6%, Rogers attribute some of their losses to lower advertising revenue with traditional media like television, radio and print.

Dr. Ramon Baltazar, a professor at Dalhousie’s Rowe School of Business said the numbers does not surprise him.

“The landscape in advertising has changed from the traditional media like cable television to the Internet,” said Baltazar. “A lot of the advertising is being done on the Internet as well as mobile.”

Jun Zhou, another professor at Dalhousie’s Rowe School of Business says mass advertising does not work any more.

“When you watch TV, it’s the same advertisement for thousands and millions of people,” said Zhou. “Facebook, for example, will give you types of advertisements by checking your personal data and try to figure out your interests. Then they put together very calculated advertisements so these adverts would be more effective than traditional television.”

Baltazar also points out that advertising setbacks is not the only reason why Rogers’ cable revenue is suffering. He emphasized that many people watch a small number of channels relative to the amount available in their cable package.

“A lot of people will watch two or three channels out of the 100 they’re given. I think the problem may be related less to advertising and more to the fact that there are changing cost benefits and preferences in the market that they are targeting,” he said. “There’s a changing landscape of entertainment from the traditional sources of media to streaming.”

Zhou adds to this and says, “People now have alternative ways to watch TV, like Netflix, instead of subscribing to a cable service. There are alternative ways of entertainment and this would naturally challenge cable providers because it gives people more flexibility to enjoy the same stuff they want to see instead of following traditional cable.”

Baltazar further explains that streaming and Internet service is where Rogers should focus on expanding but he admitted it would be hard for the company.

“For example, Google can’t just go out and compete in the cable business because they don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s the same thing with Rogers and other companies that started in the cable business; they are really good at it but relatively don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to the Internet. So if they continue to invest in that [streaming and internet], eventually they will develop that capability. But it’s not as if these streaming companies are standing still. They’re innovating everyday, so everyday Rogers has to try and catch up to what they’re doing.”

To blame or not to blame: hate crimes and the media

Father Mark Cherry points out that it is usually a general lack of respect that motivates these hate crimes against religious properties.
Father Mark Cherry points out that it is usually a general lack of respect that motivates these crimes against religious properties.

In the wake of recent tragedies like the Orlando nightclub shooting on June 12th and last week’s Bastille Day attack in France many turn to the media for answers. However, some religious leaders in Halifax point out that there’s a fine line between answers and stereotypes.

“That’s unfortunately the case,” says Dr. Srinivasa Swaminathan, a Hindu Priest at Vedanta Ashram Society Hindu Temple.

“Even with what’s happening in France now no one had proved or categorically stated that ISIS was at fault [before they claimed responsibility]- there was only feelings and that was all in the TV news.”

Rev. Tesshin James Smith of the Atlantic Soto Zen Centre points out it also common for people to make their own assumptions.

“There’s a tendency that there would be a little snippet of a story, often second or third hand, and people will be way too quick to jump on that and cast judgement,” said Smith.

Hate crimes and role of the media

Father Mark Cherry of St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs Parish recalls an incident last year where graffiti was spray-painted onto the walls and door of the church.

“It was just terrible to see that on our front door,” says Cherry. “It was a very big deal to remove it. We had to buy special cleaning materials – we found what would take paint off stone. It was an awful lot of labour and hard work to remove that.”

In 2010, a total of 132 incidences of vandalism and hate crimes against religious property was reported in Canada with the most occurrences in Ontario. So far these crimes have dropped by 28% with 95 incidences reported in 2014.


Though the media doesn’t directly cause these crimes Stephen Puddicombe, a National Reporter at CBC, says some media organisations do add to the problem.

“I don’t think it’s intentional, I think it’s just based on ignorance,” says Puddicombe. “The same is true with religious stories; we paint certain religious groups as perhaps abortion hating people and make it seem like that’s all they are without mentioning the good works that they do. So I do think we aggravate the situation but not purposefully.”

Family influence and intolerance

The Reverend Pyung Choi of the Halifax Korean Church mentioned although the media influences the way people think and behave, they aren’t entirely to blame.

“I think the most important factor is the family condition,” says Choi. “Parents need to discuss with their children about others in our community. They have to teach them to have a social view and a worldview. We need to be aware of other cultures and their way of life. The more the family talks about this, the easier it is for them to be a productive part of society.”

Cherry points out that it is usually a general lack of respect that motivates these crimes against religious properties.

“When people destroy religious objects and do things like graffiti on religious buildings, I think it shows some disrespect for what that religious organization stands for and what their beliefs are… I see it as an intolerance of [their] beliefs to do that sort of thing.”

Education is key

Swaminathan says media outlets should be careful with the way they report these stories.

“They should not give importance to conflicts. When they report about conflicts, they should present the facts and keep quiet,” he says. They should not have commentary on it, they should not write editorials about it.”

Puddicombe acknowledges that those in the media need a better understanding of the communities they report on.

“I don’t think  we do enough,” said Puddicombe. “We need to get to know all our communities… The different people, the ethnic backgrounds and languages. Only in that way would we really understand them and be able to report properly.”

Smith explains that regardless of crime, people lash out at things that makes them uncomfortable but compromise is the way forward.

“All living beings experience this discomfort of change,” says Smith. “People are hardwired to think ‘well, it not me who should sacrifice [something], it’s someone else’ but we all need to chip in and swallow our ‘discomfort pie’ so to say.”