November 2015

Welcome to the November issue of the LRC.

With the arrival of winter, there is the consolation that this fall’s marathon federal campaign is finally over. Its result is a new majority government keen to make its policy mark, not least in interactions with the provinces on social programs. So the recommendations made by social policy expert James Hughes in his book Early Intervention are especially timely. Our reviewer John Richards is not convinced by all of the book’s arguments, but he concurs on several of Hughes’ key priorities – in particular, better programming to deal with mental health needs and housing for the homeless. “All that we can say for certain, however,” says Richards, “is that the competition over specific priorities will be fierce.”

Several articles in this issue touch on feminist concerns. This month’s essay deals with sexual bias in Canadian book reviewing. As many LRC readers are aware, the organization known as Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) conducts a count each year to gauge the representation of women in Canadian book reviews. What most readers will not know is that this topic was first studied over forty years when, in 1971, Margaret Atwood and students in her York University course on Canadian women writers sought to explore two questions. Does sexual bias in Canadian book reviewing exist? If so, how can it be measured? Their results, published here for the first time, were tentative, but cast a revealing light on the gender-related values underpinning a long lost era in Canadian publishing – values which may still not be completely expunged today.

Police work is never easy. For women police officers there is the added strain of functioning in a heavily male-dominated environment. Our reviewer, Frances Lankin, has direct experience of trailblazing in a male-dominated field when, early in her career, she was employed as a correctional officer. This month she examines the stories of two women police officers as related in recently published memoirs. Though the two books are very different in substance and tone, Lankin confides that both went against her initial expectations. “I hoped to read about their challenges, their resolve, their victories and their lessons learned,” she confesses, after noting each author’s lack of emphasis on issues related directly to gender. “I now feel a bit chastened. My assumption was an example of the type of stereotyping that I have fought against for years.”

Women have long played notable roles in First Nations cultures, not least in the legal traditions of the Cree, as outlined in Nationhood Interrupted by Sylvia McAdam. Our reviewer Catherine Murton Stoehr shows how this once muzzled legacy of feminine authority is gradually being re-established. Nor are the notable roles of First Nations women limited by tradition. Charlie Angus’s book Children of the Broken Treaty deals with the successful social media campaign spearheaded by a young Cree, Shannen Koostachin, to have a new school built on her reserve. Koostachin’s achievement is hard to ignore, says our reviewer Christopher Moore, especially because the life of this extraordinary young woman ended so abruptly: “In 2010, making one of those long drives that are central to life in the near north, she was killed in a highway traffic accident, not quite 16.”

Canadians might not give much thought to the operations of Canadian mining companies in Africa, but that does not mean these operations go unnoticed. In summarizing the account of Canadian academic Paula Butler in her book Colonial Extractions, our reviewer Erin Riley-Oettl provides a less than rosy view. “A damning report commissioned by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada . . . found that Canadian mining companies were implicated in four times as many international mining violations of corporate social responsibility as mining companies from other countries,” says Reilly-Oettl. She goes on to itemize why this might be the case, also giving a sense of how much Canadian mining company executives’ perceptions seem to differ from what appears to be the depressing reality.

In addition, Ian Weir delves into some of the eccentricities of North American gun culture; Stephen Henighan explores the growing dominance of English; Jeffrey Collins highlights the strains of Newfoundland’s early years in Confederation; Mark Freiman assesses a half century of Canadian civil liberties; Kenton Smith details the merits of old-style chemical photobooths and Naoko Asano looks at Canada’s participation in the 1936 Olympic Games. Diane Guichon and J. C. Sutcliffe review new novels by Don Gillmor and Nino Ricci, while our poetry pages feature the works of George Elliott Clarke, Richard Kelly Kemick, Ashley-Elizabeth Best and Len Gasparini.

In this month’s letters section there are responses to essays in the October issue by Paul Heinbecker and Antanas Sileika from Myrna Kostash, Janice Kulyk Keefer, Erna Paris and Ian Brodie, and a response to a review by Marc Lewis in the October issue from Norman Doidge.

All in all, a monthly line-up that I trust provides thought-provoking reading on more than one long winter’s night.

Mark Lovewell

Interim Editor