Categories for Feature

I have something in my eye

If this does not make you cry, you can’t.

Deanna Dikeman’s parents sold her childhood home, in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1990, when they were in their early seventies. They moved to a bright-red ranch house in the same town, which they filled with all their old furniture. Dikeman, a photographer then in her thirties, spent many visits documenting the idyll of their retirement. Her father, once a traffic manager at a grain-processing corporation, tended to tomato plants in the backyard. Her mother fried chicken and baked rhubarb pie, storing fresh vegetables in the freezer to last them through the cold. Every Memorial Day, they stuffed the trunk of their blue Buick with flowers and drove to the local cemetery to decorate graves.

At the end of their daughter’s visits, like countless other mothers and fathers in the suburbs, Dikeman’s parents would stand outside the house to send her off while she got in her car and drove away. One day in 1991, she thought to photograph them in this pose, moved by a mounting awareness that the peaceful years would not last forever. Dikeman’s mother wore indigo shorts and a bright pink blouse that morning; her father, in beige slacks, lingered behind her on the lawn, in the ragged shade of a maple tree. The image shows their arms rising together in a farewell wave. For more than twenty years, during every departure thereafter, Dikeman photographed her parents at the same moment, rolling down her car window and aiming her lens toward their home. Dikeman’s mother was known to scold her daughter for her incessant photography. “Oh, Deanna, put that thing away,” she’d say. Both parents followed her outdoors anyway.

Read more here.

#JoeMentum on #SuperTuesday!

You said he couldn’t do it.

Quite a few of you, in fact. You know: Joe Biden will never win the nomination, it’s all over, he should quit, etc. Some commenters even said he had dementia or some mental illness – which got those commenters blocked (and will again in the future, I promise).

Well, he did it. Last night, Joe Biden won big. Hell, he won in states that he hadn’t even visited. States where he hadn’t run any ads.

I was glued to the results all night, and recording my reactions on Twitter and elsewhere. The night began, as it always does, with my exchange with a famous CNN news anchor:

It’s Super Tuesday!

Look who dropped by Daisy Group early this morning!

Mayor Pete’s endorsed him! Beto’s endorsed him! Amy’s endorsed him!

And he’s received more Democratic votes than anyone else!

As some of y’all know, I’ve been supporting Joe for a long time – Hell, I supported him back to 2008, when he was on the ticket with Barack Obama – and I’ve been mocked, maligned and mistreated for it. (Take that, ex.)  But last night, lots more people agreed: the only candidate who can beat Donald Trump, and return America to greatness, is Joe Biden.

Want proof? Watch this video – Joe accepting the support of Mayor Pete.  He spoke without notes and – as I tweeted at his wunderkind campaign manager, Greg Schultz – it actually made me weepy. Wasn’t expecting that.

Please, everyone: do not call, email or text after 7 p.m. tonight.  It’s Super Tuesday!

Calling all Alberta fans

As I thumb this out, I’m in Calgary to teach at the Faculty of Law. Excited to be back. All of you can call me “professor,” please.

Anyway. Around this time yesterday, I was on a plane pointed West. We all were stuck there, hour after interminable hour, waiting for our WestJet plane to get de-iced. Sitting there, I got an idea.

Alberta, my home, has been hit hard in recent years. Bankruptcies, unemployment, countless businesses going under. It’s main industry – whether you like that industry or not – has been flatlined for half a decade. People are suffering. Families are hurting.

Teck, Trans Mountain, Coastal GasLink, Keystone, Northern Gateway: they’re all just words to most people, in most of Canada. But in the landlocked provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, they’re more than mere words. They’re projects they desperately needed to simply survive. They’re not getting them.

I know, I know: the environment. But my family has lived here for thirty years – and I can tell you that most Albertans are a lot frigging closer to the natural environment than 99 per cent of Toronto residents. They live here: they want to protect and enhance the environment more than someone working on Bay Street does. Believe it.

But they want to survive, too. As citizens of what is supposed to be the greatest country, they have a legal and constitutional right to that, you know? Life, liberty and security of people. All that.

So, the adversaries of Alberta – its enemies, even – are found outside Alberta. They’re mainly in Central Canada. That’s where the fight for Alberta therefore needs to be taken – where most Canadians, and politicians, and media people are. A war room for Alberta, kind of, located behind enemy lines.

Sitting on the plane, symbolically stuck in Ontario, I put out word on social media. I want to create a group that isn’t partisan, isn’t corporate, isn’t government, but is citizen-led. Involve ex-pat Albertans like me, but also folks in Central Canada who feel Alberta is getting treated unfairly. Mission: defend and promote Alberta. Make it factual, fast and fun.

I’ve gotten a huge response already, and media interest too. So, once I get back to the Centre of the Universe, I’m going to convene a get-together at my firm – a party, for starters – to bring together folks who feel as I do, and who want to help out.

I will be back to y’all soon about when that party is going to happen. But, by God, I am going to do this.

Alberta deserves better. It deserves fairness.

Who’s in?

Age of Unreason is here!

It’s the third and final book in the X Gang series – and my tenth book in all.  Just got it from Dundurn, my publisher.

You can get Age of Unreason here.  In the meantime, here’s some of the reviews about the series.  Hope you can pick it up!

  • Quill and Quire: “Kinsella skillfully blends convincing depictions of both the punk scene and the racist underground with the hoary trope of a band of kids setting out to solve a mystery. The novel is a suspenseful page-turner that also gives considerable food for thought, anchored in realistically drawn characters and an eye for significant detail.” 

  • Publisher’s Weekly: “Adult author Kinsella (Fight the Right) sets this riveting murder mystery in Portland, Maine, in the late 1970s…Tension starts high and stays there in this unflinching page-turner, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the early punk scene and a moving testament to the power of friendship.”

  • Globe and Mail: “Portrayals of rebellious and non-conforming teens can feel reductive or contrived but Kinsella nails it without any stereotyping or embellishment. Though this authenticity will have big teen appeal, the novel is also part police procedural, part detailed history on the emergence of punk and part gritty murder mystery, all elements that skew more adult. Classification aside, it’s absorbing, jarring and raw.”

  • Toronto Star: “Warren Kinsella is known mostly as a political operative and pundit, but he also has estimable punk-rock credentials (as punk historian and as bass player in SFH, which bills itself as Canada’s best-loved geriatric punk band). This YA novel is loosely based on real-life events, and concerns the murder of two teenagers in 1979 in Portland, Ore., then the epicentre of the punk scene. It will be of interest to anyone interested in punk culture — not just the music, but the fanzines, art and writing of the period.”

  • Booklist: “Kinsella’s book explodes off the page from the start…a dark and engrossing tale of punk-rock heroes fighting for justice.” 

My latest: police, politicians and protestors

Can the politicians tell the police to take down the barricades?

If not, why not?

Those are the two questions that have been mooted for more than two weeks now. Around the nation’s water coolers, in just about every Tim Horton’s, frustrated and angry Canadians – Indigenous and otherwise – have been wondering what, if anything, can be done. What can be done to make the trains run on time again? What can end this?

There haven’t been as many questions about the legitimacy of the protests, or the efficacy of our political leaders. A majority of Canadians apparently regard the barricades as worse than illegitimate – they see them as illegal.

And our political leaders? On that, there is consensus, too. Not one of our leaders has looked like they know what to do. Not one.

Justin Trudeau spent a few days pleading for “patience,” and – when it became evident that he did not possess a clue about how to actually solve the crisis, and finally reconcile with Indigenous Canadians – he did a volte-face and said he wasn’t going to be patient anymore. No, sir. The Prime Minister wanted the barricades down “now.”

That, ironically, was Andrew Scheer’s position. The soon-to-be-former Conservative leader wanted the barricades carted away “now,” too. But he stopped short of saying the police should be, you know, ordered to do so.

And, when he said what he said, the aforementioned Trudeau petulantly refused to invite Scheer to a meeting in his office with all of the other leaders of political parties. (Seriously.)

From the Liberals, then, inertia and platitudes. From the Conservatives, lots of tough-guy talk (as leadership contender Peter MacKay was, in a tweet applauding vigilante action) – but, um, not too much of it (MacKay later deleted the tweet).

From the other political leaders, much of the same. Words and contradictions. Piffle and bafflegab. But not a single, sensible suggestion about what to actually do.

An Ipsos poll suggested Canadians themselves were similarly conflicted. Said Ipsos: “As the indigenous blockade of key transportation corridors in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation continues for another week, a majority of Canadians [61 per cent] say they disagree that the protestors are conducting justified and legitimate protests.”

But, but.

But the other hand, said Ipsos: “Most Canadians recognize room for improvement: three quarters agree that the federal government must act now to help raise the quality of life of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, which is up 12 percentage points since 2013.”

Get that? Around six in ten Canadians say the protests are illegitimate. But around seven in ten also say Indigenous people have legitimate grievances, and deserve better.

Out of all this confusion, out of all the maddening political double-talk, one question persisted: can the police be ordered in?

Well, no. Not by the politicians, anyway.

For much of the country, the RCMP is the police force that would be called upon to shut down the barricades and arrest the protestors. And the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, section five, acknowledges that the commissioner of the force is indeed appointed by the relevant cabinet minister.

But then section five goes on: only the RCMP commissioner “has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected with the Force.” Not, it should be emphasized, the politicians.

Last year, during LavScam, the Conservatives seemed to understand this distinction. They seemed to accept that no politician should ever, ever order police or prosecutors to do (or not do) something. This year, they have forgotten all that, because it is politically expedient to do so.

The Liberals, meanwhile, spent much of 2018 and 2019 attempting to bend the law to suit their political purposes. In 2020, not so much. With a straight face, they now insist they cannot tell the police what to do. Which is why nothing was done for weeks.

They’re right about that much, at least. If the standoff between police and Indigenous people during the 1995 Ipperwash crisis taught us anything, it is this: permitting politicians to order around the cops can have fatal consequences. In that conflict, former Ontario Premier Mike Harris was alleged to have said to the OPP: “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

So, an Ontario Provincial Police sniper team was dispatched to Ipperwash. Ojibwa protestor Dudley George was then summarily shot. The OPP thereafter stopped George’s family from taking him to the hospital, and he died.

If you think Canadian police officers didn’t learn a valuable lesson from the killing of Dudley George, you’d be wrong. They carefully studied the voluminous Ipperwash Inquiry report, and have heeded what it had to say.

Twenty-five years later, as more Indigenous protests (literally) grip the nation, Canada’s police forces are the only ones in authority who have conducted themselves with anything approaching caution and consistency. They, more than anyone else, know that someone could be killed. And that, frankly, should matter more than anything else.

As the 2020 barricade crisis drags on, the cops look like adults. The politicians look like idiots.

Trust the cops.