Canada's Senate

2018-03-21 16:27:56 A.J.B. Johnston

It’s not often that I say anything on this site that could be considered political. I aim to be non-partisan, though that’s sometimes hard.

It is in that context of non-partisanship that I am posting this note. I think that the recently adopted approach for Senate appointments is excellent. It has revitalized a body that had generated much cynicism in the previous era. I believe that the aspiration to have a non-partisan Senate with gender balance, a collaborative tone, and individuals who reflect Canada’s cultural and ethnic reality is definitely the right path. I would welcome an opportunity to be part of such a body. And that is why I have put in an application, which has been supported by three distinguished individuals. There are at present two vacancies for Senators from Nova Scotia.

I like to think I think I have a skill set the Senate could use, given my: (i) years of experience working with community museums in the Maritimes; (ii) in-depth knowledge of the history of the region; and (iii) background in the creative economy.

If anyone who reads this post thinks I would be a good Senator, there is a new wrinkle in the process which allows you to express your opinion. Below is a link to that “nominating” process. All you would have to do is to copy and paste. The nominating form is short and simple. But it does require my email address, if anyone wants to nominate me. That address is:

The current deadline for applications and nominations is April 3, 2018.

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Reviews Anyone?

2018-03-13 12:42:31 A.J.B. Johnston

I was delighted to receive this note in an email today, from a reader who had just finished my YA novel, The Hat.

“It’s a great novel that should be translated into French.” Claude DeGrâce, Managing Director, Société Promotion Grand-Pré.

This is not the first rave review the book has earned from a reader, but it’s the first to mention the story being put into other languages. I too would like to see the novel translated into French — and German, Spanish, Japanese and all the other languages of the world. I wrote The Hat the way I did so that its message would be seen as universal, not specific to any time or place.

If anyone reads this posting, and you get round to reading and enjoying The Hat, please give a rating and a comment on Amazon, Goodreads and anywhere else like that. Maybe Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest? I have no budget for publicity. Potential readers will only learn of the book’s existence by word of mouth from readers who champion it.

Thanks. Merci.

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Our Contested Past

2018-02-25 17:29:14 A.J.B. Johnston

The opinion piece authored by the two Mi’kmaw Chiefs of Prince Edward Island in the Feb. 25, 2018 issue of the Chronicle Herald — follow the link copied below — expresses my view as well. I am delighted to see them express their view, which I believe is widely held by many Indigenous people across Canada.’kmaw-name-to-national-historic-site-a-source-of-pride-reconciliati

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Brandon Young

2018-02-20 17:45:04 A.J.B. Johnston

In an earlier posting, I said something about Lio Lo, who painted the wonderful scene on the cover of The Hat.

It’s time to say something about Brandon Young, who looked after the interior design of that book. I spent days trying to find someone with skills I don’t possess to look after that all-important element in making a book look great. One false step led to another until, more or less out of the blue, I learned about Brandon Young, who lives in Australia. In the age of the internet, it really doesn’t matter where anyone lives anymore. Brandon (see photo) did a terrific job on the interior design of The Hat.

Brandon is a writer as well, and today, Feb. 20, he is launching a Kickstarter for an anthology of talented, emerging writers in Australia. Check it out at

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THE HAT at a special price

2018-02-16 13:00:59 A.J.B. Johnston

Beginning Sunday, Feb. 18, the e-book version of The Hat will be discounted on, and all other Amazon platforms.

Instead of its usual $4.99 USD, or $6.20 CAD, the digital version of the novel will be on sale for $2.99 USD, or $3.74 CAD. That sale price will last seven days.

The Hat continues to be free to people with Kindle Unlimited. The paperback price remains $8.99 USD on, or equivalent prices in Australia, France and other countries where it is available.

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Edward Cornwallis ... one last time

2018-02-01 23:24:56 A.J.B. Johnston

It continues to surprise me how much emotion there is on the Edward Cornwallis issue. On both sides: those who want anything named after him to be changed and those who take umbrage at such demands.

But then, I spent a quarter century and more studying different aspects of 18th-century Nova Scotia history and after a while a researcher gets used to reading about scalps being taken and bounties being paid. What rarely gets noted in the Cornwallis debate as it has played out is that the French administration at Louisbourg was paying the Mi’kmaq for British scalps at the same time. That’s right, for those who find that surprising, the Mi’kmaq had warriors who were greatly respected (or feared, depending on the side.) They were not always victims; sometimes those warriors were taking the offensive in defense of their traditional territory.

Also relevant, to me at least, is that when Cornwallis introduced his scalp bounties he was essentially following the approach that had been introduced earlier in three other British colonies in North America.

For any historian who has gone through grad school, historical context is all-important. Trying to be succinct, I paraphrase what all historians take to be a truism: that people in the past often thought differently than we do now, just as those in the future will do so as well. We of 2018 will undoubtedly one day be faulted for something we are doing (or not doing) right now. Our warming of the planet comes to mind, as does our preference to not know what goes on in some of the factories that make our inexpensive clothes or slaughter some of our food.

Reduced to its simplest expression, the context argument is that Cornwallis did what he did because that was the approach widely used at the time. His scalp bounties were likely applauded by most if not all British colonists, some of whom may have been the ancestors of people who are today shocked that there were ever scalp bounties in NS. I am inclined to think that Cornwallis was reflecting the prevailing thinking of his era. That may depress some people to hear that, but let’s recall that the 18th century was a time when criminal justice trials ended in public punishments like whippings, branding, hangings and worse. Bodies were sometimes left hanging or put in cages as deterrents. Even more tragic, millions of Africans were regarded as property with no rights who could be enslaved and trafficked around the world. Racism, violence, prejudices, and religious fear and hatred were everywhere. Women and children and servants had few if any rights.

Based on the context argument, I suggest that if it hadn’t been Cornwallis to introduce scalp bounties, it would likely have been another British officer. As already noted, the French were paying the Mi’kmaq for the British scalps they brought to Louisbourg. Cornwallis followed suit.

All of which leads me to this: now that the Cornwallis statue is down, let’s consider talking about understanding and forgiveness. Some day, it will be us being judged by those who come later on, and our spirits will be hoping for some understanding that we also knew not what we were doing in our time.

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