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The year Prince George got its swag on

August 21 2015 |

Maybe it was the winter games. Maybe it’s the centennial. Maybe it’s the fact that the Cougars have a new set of owners. I don’t know what it is exactly, but somehow it feels like the city of Prince George has changed this year.

I’ve suspected it for a while, but now I’m calling it: 2015 is the year Prince George got its swag on. #cityofPG

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) August 21, 2015

For whatever reason, there seems to be a general sense of “yeah, we got this” going on. Last night I went to an art opening that was devoted to exploring Prince George’s visual identity. And it was packed! People were interested in the city’s culture. Then after that I went to Nancy-O’s and it was packed, too! And it was a Thursday!

I think that’s a big part of it. Just a few years ago, event organizers were always lamenting how Prince George was a “last-minute town”, meaning that you could never tell if something was going to be successful until the day of because people were so unwilling to commit to actually going to anything.

That is no longer the case. When the Kiwanis Club decided to hold an AleFest, tickets sold out months in advance. Judy Russell’s production of “The Sound of Music” was so popular they added extra shows, and they sold out, too. I got the last two tickets to a Saturday matinee of a musical in the middle of the summer – and I bought them a week early. It’s a hard thing to get your head around, if you’re from here – people are enthusiastically going out and supporting things to the point that “sold out” and “packed” seems to be more of a norm than an exception. The idea that you could hold two successful artistic endeavours in a single night was basically unheard of. Now it’s just another Thursday.

And it’s not just that. I’ve been working downtown for about five years now. Used to be I would go for a walk on a break and see virtually nobody. Now it doesn’t matter where I head, there are people there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we’re in Toronto or something, but the city streets aren’t lifeless. People are eating on patios. The revamped Canada Games Plaza more often than not has kids playing there, or someone sitting on a bench reading a book or sketching. There’s public space, downtown, and it’s being used.

If I had to put a word to it, I’d say there’s a sense of maturity. In various things – the name change of the park being the most prominent – it seems like a critical mass of the city’s populace has moved to a certain level of thoughtfulness about what kind of place we want to be and what it will take to get there. It’s an acknowledgement of flaws while still agreeing that there is good reason to be here and the solution is not to complain or abandon the city, but adapt it.

This image from last night’s Hometown Project captures what I’m trying to say:


For better or worse, the defining characteristic of Prince George to the outside world remains the smell associated with the local industry. There has been a long and at times heated battle between people who’ve wanted to improve the air quality and the people who are more concerned with the jobs that might cost. “That’s the smell of money” was a shorthand way of dismissing the debate – to the people saying it, a sense of “what ya gonna do?” To the people hearing it, a roadblock thrown in front of their hoped-for improvements. And to the outside world, the smell is a shorthand way of dismissing the city as a whole.


This image captures all that. It acknowledges the smell and the associated problems, but also embraces it as something that makes here here. It’s not against getting rid of the smell, but it’s not against the smell, either, if that makes any sense (there’s a reason why I’m not an art critic). The point is: this image showcases a love of the city by exploring one of its major flaws. And it’s fun, too.

*  * *

I mean, I’m sure this has always been here, to an extent. Probably the critical mass that I’m feeling has been felt before. And, no doubt, there are people who think I’m completely out to lunch and this place is terrible.

But I don’t know. I’ve always liked it here. But this year, for whatever reason, I like it better than ever.

Filed under: Prince George | Discussion

Stereogum’s Review of Carly Rae Jepsen’s New Album is Pretty Much Perfect → 

August 21 2015 |

I’ve been riding the Carly Rae Jepsen bandwagon pretty hard, and this review by Tom Breihan on Stereogum is the best explanation of why:

“There’s this new narrative in which would-be pop stars find their voices by venturing outside the studio system, working with indie auteurs and finding themselves whole new audiences on the festival circuit. And that setup has produced some truly great music, like Solange’s True and Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time. But E•MO•TION isn’t that. From a distance, it seems like it should be that. Jepsen worked with Dev Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid on the shimmery, quick-dissolve ballad “All That” and with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij on the burbling “Warm Blood.” But E•MO•TION doesn’t play like critic-bait — or, for that matter, like festival-bait. Instead, it plays like gleaming mall-pop turned way up past 11.”

I’ve listened to the Japanese leak of this album pretty consistently since it came out and unless something dramatic happens (like Kanye West) this is going to be my album of the year. Highly recommend.

Bike lanes

August 20 2015 |

A comment from a story about the city of Prince George considering making it illegal to park in bike lanes:

“I personally do not see a big need for bike lanes to begin with. I see very few bike riders utilizing these bike lanes.”

People aren’t using bike lanes that often have cars parked in them, are often poorly marked, and at times are disconnected from any other bike lanes in the city (meaning getting to/from them requires you to ride in areas without any form of bike lane).

“I personally do not see a big need to fix the potholes on that road. I see very few drivers utilizing that street.”

“I personally do not see a big need to pave that highway. I see very few people utilizing  high speeds along that road.”

“I personally do not see a big need to build a bridge. I see very few commuters utilizing the river.”

Filed under: bikes, Prince George

I’d be more interested in reading pieces about Canada in the New York Times if they weren’t written by Canadians

August 20 2015 |

I write this in the context of Stephen Marche’s recent treatise against Harper in The New York Times, but this certainly isn’t new. Every once in a while the Times or the Guardian or some other international paper will publish a piece about Canada and then I see it all over Facebook and Twitter with people going “Wow! The [[major paper name]]’s take on Canada!”

Except it isn’t the Times‘ (or the Guardian‘s or the Economist‘s or whomever’s) take. It’s a Canadian writer’s take, written in an international publication.

It’s not that I don’t think there’s any value in reading what intelligent Canadians have to say about the state of Canada. It’s just that there’s nothing unique about it. You can do it literally every day in any number of Canadian magazines, newspapers, blogs or even Tweets.

But those don’t get attention the way an op-ed in the Times will because, I don’t know, this is still Canada and we apparently still crave the attention of Americans. As another Canadian writing in an American publication puts it, “The New York Times is likely more influential in Canada than it is in New York.

Filed under: Canada, media

“Not everything in life is ‘like’able” → 

August 19 2015 |

Zeynep Tufekci on the problem with Facebook likes:

“We cannot like refugee kids wading among dead bodies. And we cannot directly tell Facebook’s algorithm that we still care about this, or find it important.”

Bang on.

Teen apologizes to CBC reporter Megan Batchelor for unwanted kiss → 

August 19 2015 |

“At the moment I thought it was kind of a joke, then I stepped in your shoes, that’s when I kind of realized that it all was not a joke at all. That’s your career — obviously it’s also your body and you have complete control of that and without anyone else’s consent, they do not have the right to do anything to anyone.”

Good for him. He recognizes what many other don’t, based on the comments, Tweets, and calls calling Batchelor any number of things.

For people who think female journalists should just let it slide if a strange dude comes up and kisses them– transpose that onto other professions. Like, a woman working retail. Would we be OK with customers running up and kissing her? Or a patient kissing a doctor unannounced? Just because a woman is on TV doesn’t mean she isn’t doing a job. If it isn’t appropriate in other contexts, it isn’t appropriate.1

  1. Also: when a female journalist is talking to you, she isn’t hitting on you. No, really. She isn’t. No, this isn’t an exception. 

Conflict isn’t boring → 

August 14 2015 |

A few weeks ago, I took part in a night of short talks on the subject of the city of Prince George’s identity – what it was, is, and might be.

It gave me the chance to explore an idea I’ve been playing with lately about the stereotype of Canadian history as boring, and how in reality that’s a convenient way to ignore the more troubling parts of our past. Some of the darker parts of who we are are erased from our collective memory in order to present a more pleasant, bland narrative.

The full talk (just over five minutes) is below. You can find all the talks from the night (there are some good’uns) on the PechaKucha Prince George website.

Quick Travel Tips: Drumheller

July 27 2015 |

Every year I take a trip somewhere new, and every year I plan to post about it but never do. So I’ve decided to do something different, which is just write a few things I saw/did that I would recommend. This is by no means comprehensive, it’s just things I will personally say I enjoyed. You can also save the list in Foursquare, if you desire.


1. The Royal Tyrell Museum

Obviously (I assume this is why you’re going?). But here’s a couple of pointers:

2. World’s Largest Dinosaur

This is one of those things that seems dumb, is dumb, but is just so dumb it’s awesome. Basically, it’s a giant T-Rex and you pay $3 to climb up it. That’s it. But it’s got that  kitschy roadside appeal, and the views are great. Akso, there’s a free waterpark right beside it, so, again if you have a kid, yeah, worth it.

3. Hoodoos

Yes, just go to them, they are awesome, bring a good camera and plan to explore.

4. The Fossil Shop

I wouldn’t call it essential, but it’s on the way to/from the museum so worth a quick stop just to take a look. Some interesting things – we picked up a couple of souvenirs.

5. Bernie & The Boys Bistro

Lots of options, friendly, home-style food. Bonus points, again for with the kid: it’s across the street from a playground.

If you want something else, I enjoyed the Vietnamese Noodle House. Again, non-essential, but worthwhile if you’re in the mood.

6. The Star-Mine Suspension Bridge

I like suspension bridges. This one was nice, and it also goes to a cool viewing area and has the remains of an old coal mine on the other side. So again, probably non-essential, but not much of a timesuck, either.


Again, there’s quite a few things we didn’t get to such as historic sites, the Passion Play, some of the hikes and restaurants. Maybe they are better than the things I did! I don’t know! But I did these things, liked them, and maybe you will, too.

Save the full-list in Foursquare.


10 Ways Not To Start A Radio Story → 

July 27 2015 |

Erika Lantz:

“Here are 10 openers I’ve heard again and again from public radio producers and podcasters. They’re easy. They’re appealing. They’re overused.”

Oh, God, I’m guilty of all of these. And yes, they are all clichés.

In defense of a loaded word → 

July 5 2015 |

If you aren’t regularly reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, you are missing out on the opportunity to read one of the great thinkers of our time. He tweeted out this older piece today, and it is a brilliant take on the “if black people can say n*****, why can’t I?” argument:

“I have never called my father Billy. I understand, like most people, that words take on meaning within a context. It might be true that you refer to your spouse as Baby. But were I to take this as license to do the same, you would most likely protest. Right names depend on right relationships, a fact so basic to human speech that without it, human language might well collapse. But as with so much of what we take as human, we seem to be in need of an African-American exception.”

Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time → 

July 5 2015 |

I don’t know about “worst advice of all time” but Chelsea Fagan certainly hits some points about travel and privilege that are well made:

“It’s a way for the upper classes to pat themselves on the back for being able to do something that, quite literally, anyone with money can buy. Traveling for the sake of travel is not an achievement, nor is it guaranteed to make anyone a more cultured, nuanced person. (Some of the most dreadful, entitled tourists are the same people who can afford to visit three new countries each year.) But someone who has had the extreme privilege (yes, privilege) of getting out there and traveling extensively while young is not any better, wiser, or more worthy than the person who has stayed home to work multiple jobs to get the hope of one day landing a job that the traveler will assume is a given. It is entirely a game of money and access, and acting as though ‘worrying about money’ on the part of the person with less is some sort of trivial hangup only adds profound insult to injury.”

White Supremacy is Not a Black Problem → 

July 5 2015 |

Andray Domise on racism in North American generally, and Canada specifically:

“Despite the appalling lack of diverse representation in our politics and business, and overrepresentation of people of colour in our penal system, Canada is especially susceptible to the myth that we have outgrown racism. Many will be quick to tell you that here, racism claims a much lower body count than it does down south. That myth has permitted white Canadians to look the other way while we’ve had to deal with the worst of them. A couple of years back, in Georgina, Ontario, a black teenager was beaten by his white classmates while others crowded around shouting, “Pound the nigger!” The assault happened in the same school where the Confederate flag waved so freely that complaints from black parents forced the local school board to ban it. It happened in the same city where Asian Canadians were being swarmed by white mobs and thrown off fishing docks with such regularity that the practice was given a name: nipper-tipping. But to hear white residents tell the story, all of this can be excused by the feeling that they are now minorities in their own country. I spoke about this story often with white friends at the time, and I can’t remember one conversation I had where someone didn’t pitch the refrain, ‘Well, at least we’re not as bad as the States.'”

Claiming moral superiority to a different country is not an acceptable response to racism in our own backyards, and yet it’s a route Canadians often take when hearing uncomfortable things about both our past and our present. Just the other day I was going through the #YouMightBeARacist hashtag on Twitter, and saw a (white) Canadian proudly proclaiming our country didn’t need it because we don’t have racism. That’s a dangerous attitude.

Highly, highly recommended read.

Yeah, um, Apple Music is way too complicated. I’m sticking with Rdio

July 1 2015 |

I’ve been a happy Rdio user for years now, and it has been the primary way I listen to music, old and new. But danged if I didn’t get excited for Apple Music, which promised to offer all the streaming convenience of Rdio, only with a wider catalogue, exclusives, Beats 1 Radio, and the ability to merge your personal collections with the cloud. I fully expected to make the switch.

One day in and I’ve completely changed my mind.

While Rdio feels like a seamless merger between the collection and the cloud, Apple Music is a confusing mix of streaming, store, online and offline, different playlists, radio, Match and I don’t even know what else. I mean, full disclosure, I haven’t used iTunes much for years, but this thing is a mess.

Let me use just one example: favouriting songs.

OK, so here’s Rdio. I log in.

rdio open screen

There’s all my stuff. The music I’ve most recently been listening to is front and center. Over on the left-hand side I can navigate through a few things, including my personal playlists and friends’ profiles. Today I’m going to check out the new releases.


I like Miguel. I’m going to listen to that. Click on it, it starts playling.

rdio hover


I like this song. Click on it, and a list of options come up, including adding it to one of my playlists, sharing (on Facebook, Twitter, Rdio, links, or embeds), and favouriting. I’m going to favourite it.

rdio favourite

I know I succeeded because there’s a red heart beside it.

rdio fav'd

OK, now I want to go back and hear some songs that I know I liked. No matter where I am on rdio.com, that “Favourites” tab is there. Here’s what happens when I click on it.

rdio favourited


All the songs and albums I’ve favourited, in reverse chronological order! I can access this from any computer, as well as from the app on my phone.

OK, so now let’s do the same thing with Apple Music. I open iTunes, and go to the “New” tab. Hey, look, it’s Miguel again!

itunes new


Alright, so so far it’s about the same. Click, it starts playing, hover on the song I like and I get some options.
add to


Here’s where it starts to fall apart. I hover over “add to” and nothing happens. I have playlists, but they are for my personal iTunes so maybe I can’t add streaming songs? OK, I’ll favourite it instead.

itunes loved

I clicked on the heart, so I think I succeeded? But for some reason Apple’s decided that different shades of grey are the best way to indicate whether a song has been favourited or not.

Let’s find out. I’ll head over to “my music” to find my favourite songs.

itunes my music

It’s not here. Maybe there’s a favourites tab in my playlists?



And here’s where I have to spend ten minutes trying to Google an answer, and eventually piece together that I have to make a new “smart playlist”. How do I do this? Way over in the bottom left hand corner.

new smart playlist

Now I need to manually make a playlist that will add any song or album that I “love” to it. Make sure it matches “any”, not “all”!

new smart playlist 2


Here’s my new playlist of “loved” tracks. That Miguel song will be here, right?


itunes loved playlist

Nope, just a classic Weezer tune that I guess I loved a while ago. Incidentally, I tried to remove it from my “loved” tracks for the purposes of this demonstration, but had no success. I love it forever.

Alright, so back to Google. It turns out that before you can have a track you “love” in Apple Music streaming appear in your Apple Music collection, you need to first add it “My Music”. So go back to the artist tab.

apple add to my music

This is insane. Why would you give people the ability to “love” tracks without those tracks automatically being added to the “my music”? What is the point? I guess something to do with the algorithm, but now I spent time listening to new music and hitting “heart” only to have it disappear into the ether. I have no idea if there’s anywhere I can see those tracks. I also can’t figure out if I have the ability to share playlists, browse other people’s playlists, or even share this information between iTunes on my Mac and the phone apps. Yesterday when I tried to add tracks to my collection from a phone, I kept winding up on a purchase screen.

This is, I think, the problem with Apple Music: it’s a streaming service built on top of a store with radio stations on the side. Or a radio station in a store with streaming options. I don’t know. Regardless, it’s confusing as heck. While listening to Zane Lowe yesterday I tried multiple times to favourite or collect or whatever a song he was playing, only to give up and add it to my playlist on Rdio.


Here’s how it works on Rdio’s $9.99/month plan:

Here’s how it works on Apple Music’s $9.99/month plan:

There’s all these weird tiers and getting between them is not at all intuitive. On top of that, I can use Rdio on any computer with a web browser, because it’s entirely browser based. So if I’m working on the road, my collection is completely accessible to me from remote computers, and I’ve done this.

Apple Music, on the other hand, lives in iTunes. So you need iTunes. And once you have it, you need to authorize the computer or whatever junk that is to get into your stuff. And you can only authorize so many computers. And if you want to access your collection from someone else’s device, well, that’s a problem because you can only authorize a new account every 90 days or whatever. I don’t know. Just like the music itself, it’s this weird hybrid of something that lives online and something that actually takes up space on your computer that really feels archaic at this point.

And that’s just the start of it. I enjoy being able to browse other people’s collections and playlists on Rdio. Like this one. Rdio even lets you add your own cover art and descriptions, making it a lot more like sharing mixtapes. I mean, maybe that’s not a killer feature for everyone, but it is for me and I really thought Apple, with it’s history of iPods and playlists and this new focus on “curation” would have that baked in but as best I can tell you get the “recommended playlists” made by various Apple folks, and that’s it. And those playlists are pretty good, actually, but I can’t even seem to explore them, instead being limited to the few they choose to show me.

I mean, hey, it’s like day two of this thing, so it’s bound to be rough. Apple is a big company and has the resources to change. But I really hope Rdio manages to hang in there, because it has a far better product and I’d hate to be forced into switching for this.

Filed under: music, reviews | Discussion

My name is only real enough to work at Facebook, not to use on the site → 

June 29 2015 |

@zip on Medium:

“I always knew this day would come. The day that Facebook decided my name was not real enough and summarily cut me off from my friends, family and peers and left me with the stark choice between using my legal name or using a name people would know me by.”

The reason? Zip is a a pseudonym, adopted during a gender transition, and Facebook wants real names only. In the wake of all those rainbow profiles, this does feel hypocritical:

“I chose my Facebook name six years ago, as I began my transition. Every person I’ve met since then has generally known me by that name, and in part this is precisely because I use it on Facebook. I so strongly identify with and am identified by that name that when I took a job at Facebook I put it on my badge.

“Worse still, they allow people to report each other for using “fake” names. People know this, and they use it as a mechanism to kick each other off the site. If you’re a marginalised person, such as a trans person, you may be left with no way to get back on. Facebook have handed an enormous hammer to those who would like to silence us, and time after time I see that hammer coming down on trans women who have just stepped out of line by suggesting that perhaps we’re being mistreated. In fact, it happened to me shortly after commenting on a Facebooker’s post that Facebook needs to step up on this issue.

By forcing us to change our names on the site, Facebook changes the names we are known by in real life — whether we like it or not.

Carly Rae Sremmurd – I Really Got No Type (Almost Mainstream Really Terrible Mix)

June 24 2015 |

i really got no type cover


My two favourite artists so far this year have been a couple of Rae’s – British Columbia’s very own pop chanteuse Carly Rae Jepsen, and Mississippi hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd. Given the shared letters in their names, and the fact they have a couple of massive hits, I figured it would only be a matter of time before someone made a mashup- and I wasn’t alone.




But as weeks and months went by it became increasingly apparent it wasn’t happening, at least not as quickly as I’d like. So I decided to do something I’ve been wanting to try for a while: I made my own mashup.

This is a first go, so it’s not great and there’s a few things that I’d like to do better (for example, find an acapella of “No Type” or do a better job of removing the bass), but hey, it works, and maybe someone will take my idea and do a better job of it, which would make me extremely happy. Meanwhile, here’s my own version. Enjoy, or don’t, it’s your life.

download | alt download | buy Sremm Life | pre-orderer E•MO•TION

Filed under: music

Ranking the songs from the Space Jam soundtrack based entirely on memory

June 23 2015 |

Space Jam, the 1996 team-up between Michael Jordan and the Loony Tunes came out when I was eleven years old, so of course I loved it, as I loved the movie’s soundtrack, one of the first CDs I remember owning, possibly the first. Apropos of nothing, here are those ranked based on the opinions I formed of them when I was eleven.

14. “The Winner” by Coolio

13.  “I Found My Smile Again” by D’angelo

12. “Givin’ U All That I’ve Got” by Robin S.

11. “All of My Days” by R. Kelly feat. Changing Faces and Jay-Z

Despite listening to this album countless times, I cannot for the life of me remember what these songs sound like. They get ranked by the order they appear on the album, because presumably I would have heard the earlier songs more, so forgetting them is even worse. “The Winner” is the second track and I could not tell you a thing about it.

10. “I Turn To You” by All-4-One

9. “For You I Will” by Monica

I do remember these songs. But I was also eleven years old and they were slow jams, so… eh. One of the advantages of CD players over records and cassettes was the skip track button, and I made use of them here.

8. “Upside Down (Round-N-Round)” by Salt-N-Pepa

I vaguely remember this being funky. Probably not a skip.

7. “That’s the Way (I Like It)” by Spin Doctors feat. Biz Markie (KC and the Sunshine Band cover/remix)

6. “Fly Like An Eagle” by Seal (Steve Miller Band cover)

5.  “Basketball Jones” by Barry White and Chris Rock (Cheech and Chong cover)

I didn’t know at the time any of these were covers. They were just cool new songs I’d never heard before. I distinctly remember buying a Steve Miller Band compilation from a gas station on a road trip, and being blown away that “Fly Like An Eagle” was on there.

4. “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly

A simpler time when I knew nothing of R. Kelly except he believed he could fly.

3. “Buggin'” by Bugs Bunny

I’m super curious about this one, because I loved it, but then I also loved a movie about the Loony Tunes kidnapping Michael Jordan to play in a game of basketball against aliens. So was it good? Or was my taste just that bad?

2. “Hit ‘Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem) by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man

OK, I’ve heard this song since and it still holds up, so I am entirely confident with its high ranking here.

1. “Space Jam” by Quad City DJ’s

Today, I’d probably put this in the number two or even lower slot but as a kid this was my jaaaaaaam. This was track three, but track one in my heart. It acted as a self-commentary on the album itself: “Y’all ready for this? You know it! And you wanna know why? Cause this is the Space Jam!

Why all those headlines about Aboriginal women knowing their killer are a little misleading

June 20 2015 |

Aboriginal women and girls are more likely to be killed, but spouses or family members are less likely to be involved than in the homicides of other Canadian females. But that’s not in the headlines.


(Note: I’ve updated and clarified the rate of family involvement in the section labelled “asterisk two”)

On Friday afternoon, the RCMP delivered an update on their work on missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Afterwards, here’s what the headlines said.




(CTV, CBC, and the Globe and Mail)

I want to talk about why these headlines can be misleading.



The context


There are a number of Canadians calling for a national inquiry into the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada (#MMIW is the hashtag on Twitter), and the Harper government isn’t interested, preferring to treat these cases the same as as any other crimes. Last year, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told the Ottawa Citizen that Aboriginal communities have to take a greater responsibility for MMIW:

“Obviously, there’s a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves,” he said. “So, you know, if the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that’s how they are treated.”

So there’s a backdrop to this – a debate over whether MMIW are a national issue to be tackled by a federal initiative, or something more domestic. The media plays a role in shaping the public understanding and conversation around these issues.



Asterisk one: this only applies to cases that have been solved


I’m going to start with the headline from the Globe and Mail proclaiming that “All native women killed in past 2 years knew their killer” because that one is unknowable, and very possibly out-and-out false. The exact statistic is that Aboriginal women knew their killer in 100% of the cases that have been solved in the last two years. With 32 new homicides in 2013-14, there are still 6 unsolved cases where the victims may or may not have known their killer. To say “all native women knew their killer” misrepresents the information. Update: the Globe has now changed their headline to read “Native violence starts at home“).



Asterisk two: Aboriginal women homicides are less likely to involve spouses or family than non-Aboriginal homicides


While other headlines didn’t focus on the “knew their killer” angle, there is a focus on the “family violence” and “someone they knew” angle. While these angles are true, they are still worth examining.

Of the 26 solved homicides involving Aboriginal women in 2013-14, family members or past or current spouses were involved in 73 per cent of the cases.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the numbers for non-Aboriginal women for the same years, but the report does outline the rates from 1980-2012, which you can see in the graph below:

Offender-to-victim relationship, female homicides, 1980-2012


In that time period, past/present spouses, family members, or “other intimates” were involved in 62 percent of the homicides of Aboriginal women so, yes, it is fair to say there is a link. But those numbers are even higher for non-Aboriginal women, where spouses/family/intimates are involved in a full 74 percent of the cases.

So while it is accurate to say there is a link between the deaths of Aboriginal women and their families/home life, it is inaccurate to imply that that linkage is higher amongst Aboriginals than it is in mainstream society, or that the higher homicide rate among Aboriginal women is entirely attributable to family violence.

Note: In an earlier version of this, the language I used in this section was Aboriginal women and girls are less likely to be killed by spouses/family. However, given that Aboriginal females are homicide victims at 4x the rate of other females in Canada, it means that even though a lower percentage of those homicides involve spouse/family/intimate, there are still more Aboriginal women who are victims of those forms of death than other women – basically, Aboriginal women are more likely to be homicide victims by any means, simply because they are more likely to be homicide victims. However, the likelihood that spouse/family/intimates are involved in any given homicide increases if the victim isn’t Aboriginal.


Asterisk three: “acquaintance”


The category where Aboriginal women are represented at levels of more than one percent higher than non-Aboriginal women is in deaths associated with “acquaintances”. And once again, let’s read the fine-print, in this case a literal footnote from the report:

“The acquaintance category can be broken down further to include close friends, neighbours, authority figures, business relationships, criminal relationships and casual acquaintances. (i.e. a person known to the victim that does not fit in the other acquaintance categories).”

That’s a pretty broad category that includes people that you see taking out the trash, a grocery store clerk you see on a semi-regular basis and, as was pointed out in the news conferences, sex workers who “know” their johns:

Reporter: Is a john considered an acquaintance? RCMP: Yes. I’m paraphrasing here.

— Connie Walker (@connie_walker) June 19, 2015

Under that definition, here’s a few examples of Aboriginal women who knew their killer:

When Loretta Saunders went to collect rent from her subletters, she knew her killers:

“When Saunders, who had moved in with her boyfriend, arrived at the apartment to collect the rent on Feb. 13, 2014, Leggette decided to kill her, according to his journal.

Leggette wrote that Saunders, a 26-year-old student at Saint Mary’s University, was “getting annoyed” and asking whether the rent money was available. As Saunders sat on the couch, Leggette said he went into the room he shared with Henneberry and asked, “Should I do it?”

Henneberry told him he didn’t “have the balls,” which made him angry, Leggette wrote. He walked over to the couch, grabbed Saunders by the throat and began choking her. He wrote that he tried to suffocate her with plastic bags, but Saunders tore through them.

He then hit Saunders’ head on the floor twice and she stopped moving.”

When Natasha Montgomery and Cynthia Maas, respectively, encountered Cody Legebokoff for the last time, they knew their killer:

“Cynthia Maas, 35, was last seen September 10, 2010 and her body was found in a Prince George park the following month. Maas, died of blunt-force trauma to the head and penetrating wounds. She had a hole in her shoulder blade, a broken jaw and cheekbone, and injuries to her neck consistent with someone stomping on it.

“Natasha Montgomery, 23, was last seen August 31 or early September 1, 2010. Her body has never been found but her DNA was later found in samples taken in Legebokoff’s apartment.

“The Crown has said Stuchenko, Maas, and Montgomery had worked in the sex trade and that Legebokoff was addicted to cocaine and used sex workers to get him the drug.”

And when sex worker Cindy Gladue met Bradley Barton a second time, she knew him:

“Gladue, a 36-year-old mother of two, bled to death from an 11-centimetre wound in her vaginal wall. Arguing that the wound was caused by a sharp object, the prosecutors made a controversial decision to submit Gladue’s preserved vagina as evidence in the courtroom.

The defence argued that Gladue’s wound was caused by rough, consensual sex and that Barton had no intention to harm her. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder.”

So when the headline says “Aboriginal women most frequently killed by someone they knew”, it’s true, but it’s also important to understand just how broad that definition is.



Why this matters


Many people get their news from headlines, even if they don’t read the articles. Want proof this happens? Last year, NPR posted an article asking “why don’t people read anymore?” only to have many, many people on Facebook and Twitter tell them that this isn’t true, they read all the time. The trick? The article itself was actually an April Fool’s prank testing to find out how many people would respond to the headline without reading the text.

I myself have had the experience (many times) of writing or posting a piece online only to have people respond or ask questions in a way that makes it abundantly clear they didn’t actually read the article, they were making assumptions about the world based on the headlines.

And even in cases where people read the articles, headlines shape the way those articles are read. Studies have found that even when the information in an article contradicts the articles headline, the headline plays a major role in what people remember after reading the article.

As I said at the outset, these stories are being written against the backdrop of a very public debate about Canada’s relationship with indigenous communities. We just had the Truth and Reconciliation report that, among other things, called on media to more accurately reflect the experience of Aboriginal people. We have calls for an inquiry into MMIW in Canada. And we have these statistics:

fig04-eng fig05-eng

Using the most recent statistics, Aboriginal women and girls are more than four times more likely to be killed than non-Aboriginals. As a proportion of female homicides overall, the number is climbing. When Aboriginal women are killed, it is less likely to be by a spouse, family member, or other intimate than it is for non-Aboriginal women.

Ask yourself: is that story being told in the headlines?

Filed under: Aboriginal, media | Discussion

The night a park was renamed → 

June 16 2015 |


So, it happened. I put together a timeline of how it all went down.

Filed under: Aboriginal, Prince George

Hello, let’s talk about a park → 

June 14 2015 |

Why giving civic space its indigenous name is everything and nothing

Over on Medium, I wrote a about 2500 words on the possible renaming of Fort George Park to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park. I hope you’ll read it.

Filed under: Best Of, Prince George

13 Times the Canadian Version of Buzzfeed Was *SO* the Canadian Version of Buzzfeed → 

June 11 2015 |

So Buzzfeed just launched a Canadian version of its website. I think Buzzfeed is an interesting model, and have high expectations for the site to cover serious Canadian topics in unique and interesting ways.

But I also expect it to come up with a lot of lists, quizzes, and clickbait that is pretty much what you would expect if you heard someone was making a Canadian version of a site with a reputation for lists, quizzes, and clickbait. And so far I’m right! So without further ado, I present:

13 Times the Canadian Version of Buzzfeed Was *SO* the Canadian Version of Buzzfeed


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Prince George RCMP are asking the public for help finding "FAKS", a prolific tagger who has hit over 100 properties and cost over $100,000 damagebrbuploadFirst time at Medina before opening. Thought there might not be a line...Good morning, YVRBig interest in this show. People are interested in the #cityofPG this year. @tworiversart @hellohometownAnd this is line is from a piece I wrote for CBC on the #cityofPG's 100th birthday! This is awesome.