Palmes académiques

2017-10-02 12:06:14 A.J.B. Johnston

It is coming up on the eighth anniversary of my admission as a chevalier to France’s Ordre des Palmes académiques. It was — and still is — a great honour that continues to motivate me to write as best I can about whatever interests me at the moment.

The odd thing is that although my admission took place in 2008, I didn’t find out about it until 2011, when a letter arrived from Rideau Hall. It clearly takes quite a while for Canada to approve honours given to its citizens by another country.

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Canada's Senate

2017-09-09 16:15:29 A.J.B. Johnston

The transformation taking place in Canada’s Senate is nothing short of remarkable. Where before — for nearly 150 years — the Senate had always been a place of partisan appointments made by the party in power, it has under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau become an imaginative experiment in gender balance and non-partisanship. Both aspects are, in my opinion, well worth celebrating.

It is the recent appointment of New Brunswick writer David Adams Richards to the upper house that prompts me to write this note. That appointment, plus a host of others preceding it — including those made about one year ago to place Wanda Thomas Bernard and Dan Christmas in the Senate to represent Nova Scotia — have the potential to create a quite different kind of politics in Canada, in the Senate at least. Independent-minded and thoughtful Canadians from their regions are starting to outnumber the earlier partisan appointments. Though journalists don’t pay much attention to Senate debates, maybe they should.

It is not only a matter of time for the Senate to achieve gender parity. The process is well under way. Moreover, since it has become a condition of eligibility to be non-partisan, the Senate has the potential to avoid the kind of petty squabbling that surfaces all too often in the House of Commons. Issues can be debated on their merits, and only their merits, in a chamber of independent Senators. I’m sure a cynic will call that naive, and maybe it is. But I like to think of it as more of an ideal to work toward.

Another potential virtue of the upper house as it is coming to be, is that it could evolve into a chamber of long-range thinking on behalf of Canada and its regions. Senators do not face elections, so they should be able to look beyond the pressing short-term issues that are the primary focus of the House of Commons and its MPs. Canada is facing many long-term issues — from climate change and rising seas to income inequality to demographic shifts. Having an institution of our Parliament looking at long-term trends and consequences could bring enormous benefits.

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Vanguard Interview No. 2

2017-07-11 18:26:28 A.J.B. Johnston

Here is a link to the broadcast version of my conversation with the engaging CBC journalist Felicia Latour. Our chat about the new Vanguard exhibit at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History was broadcast on CBC Mainstreet (Halifax) on July 5, 2017.

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Article in Upcoming Book

2017-07-10 20:15:02 A.J.B. Johnston

This book is to be released in September 2017. Vernon Oickle sought and found a solid collection of writers to contribute. It should be fun to read. My piece is straight history, not a word of fiction. It’s about the horrific side of 18th-century Louisbourg — i.e. its criminal justice system and its sieges.

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Vanguard Interview

2017-07-10 20:11:41 A.J.B. Johnston

The link below leads to my recent conversation with Steve Sutherland of CBC Information Morning (Cape Breton). We spoke about the opening of the new exhibit at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax of “Vanguard: 150 years of Remarkable Nova Scotians.”

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Vanguard Exhibit Opens

2017-07-04 19:53:27 A.J.B. Johnston

The exhibit entitled “Vanguard: 150 Years of Remarkable Nova Scotians” opened at the Nova Scotia Museum (1740 Summer Street in Halifax, NS) on June 28. Its last day will be October 15, 2017. The exhibit is, in my view, an antidote to some of what is going on in the world. It shows that remarkable things can be achieved by women and men who have good values and ideas who are willing to persevere to see them through, regardless of any barriers. Maybe, just maybe, there is greatness in all of us. That is the power of the examples set by these remarkable Nova Scotians during the past century and a half.

I am delighted with the look of the exhibit I researched and wrote, and I am totally impressed by the installation Artist-in-Residence Miro Davis created to go along with the exhibit.
Here are a few photos of the installation that was underway early in the day on June 28.

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