Campus Master Plan Public Forum [Update]

[This had been set for Monday but now it’s been moved to Tuesday]

Every five years the University of Regina undertakes a planning process to chart the future of institution. A strategic plan for 2015-20 is already in place. It identified three priorities: Student Success, Research Impact and Commitment to our Communities.

As a companion process, the university has been doing some planning around the future development of the campus which includes the main and College Ave. campuses and lands east of the main campus that are also owned by the university.

You can find out more about this process on the University of Regina website, but Tuesday between 2:30-4:30 p.m. the university is hosting an open house at the multi-purpose room at Riddell Centre where the public will be able to review the plan and ask questions before it is sent on to the university’s board of governors.

Universities are a huge asset to communities, but judging by recent news reports the U of R campus, which includes both historic buildings dating back a century on College Ave, and newer buildings that were constructed in the mid-1960s, is definitely showing its age. So we’ll see what plans the university administration has for moving forward.

JSGS Public Lecture

During the recent federal election, and for a good number of years before that, there was a lot of talk about the importance of evidence-based policy development. I don’t want to rehash all the sins that the previous government was perceived to have committed in this area as it sought to advance its ideology, but Friday afternoon the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is presenting a lecture on the topic by Munir Sheikh who is an executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

Sheikh is the former chief of Statistics Canada, and his talk will focus on the benefits of evidence-based policy development. You can read more on the JSGS website, but the talk will be held at Rm. 210, 2 Research Drive, University of Regina at 12:30 p.m. You’re encouraged to register in advance, and that can be done through the weblink or by calling 306-585-5512.

The Great Pumpkin

Earth_Eastern_HemisphereWhile many people will be busy getting their costumes together to go trick-or-treating or partying tomorrow, astronomers at observatories around the world, including NASA’s Deep Space Network in Goldstone, CA, will be busy studying an asteroid called TB145 which will pass within 490,000 km of Earth on Saturday.

While hundreds of near-Earth objects have been discovered and their orbits plotted to determine if they might one day pose a threat to Earth, TB145 wasn’t detected until Oct. 10. Egg-shaped, roughly 400 km in diameter, and travelling at 35 km a second, the “Great Pumpkin” as astronomers have dubbed it, would’ve exacted an unimaginable toll on Earth had it been on a collision course.

Fortunately, while the asteroid will pass near us (slightly further than the distance of the Moon, actually) we won’t have to cope with any armageddon scenario — at least, not tomorrow. As for what the future might hold, who’s to say? Over its roughly 4.5 billion year existence, Earth has been impacted countless times by rogue asteroids and comets from space.

Many early impacts were beneficial, delivering water, minerals, and possibly even life, to the planet. But later impacts, most notably at the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago which triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs, caused widespread devastation, and the consequences now would be equally dire.

Efforts are underway, such as the Spacewatch program at the University of Arizona, to search for unknown near-Earth objects and track their orbits into the future to determine if they might one day threaten Earth. If you check out this CBC report, you’ll also learn that scientists and engineers are brainstorming different strategies for one day being able to intercept and alter the path of potential planet-killers so they don’t strike Earth.

We’re still decades away from being able to do anything like that. But the more data we can collect on asteroids and comets, the better able we’ll be to develop technologies to counter the threat they pose to our survival.

Magna Carta & The Making Of The Modern World

SCS_HARRIS_Carolyn_2583_WU_headshotJune 15 marked the 8ooth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. It arose out a dispute between English barons and the reigning monarch King John. The first draft of the charter was done by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the document contained provisions related to church rights, access to justice for the barons and protection from illegal imprisonment, and limitations on payments demanded by the Crown.

The Magna Carta didn’t do a ton for commoners, but the document is generally regarded as one of the first steps on the road to the expansion of civil rights in Western society and the whittling away of the absolutist powers traditionally exercised by monarchs.

Tonight, University of Toronto historian and author Carolyn Harris (pictured) is giving a talk at the University of Regina on the topic Magna Carta & the Making of the Modern World. The talk is being held at room 610 of the university’s main library at 7 p.m.

For more information visit the U of R website.

Planning For The Future

On Wednesday, Sept. 16 the University of Regina is holding a town hall to discuss the future of the College Ave. Campus and Darke Hall. In early July, the university announced that it had contracted the Regina-based architectural firm P3 Architecture Partners along with heritage experts Donald Luxton and Associates to lead the renewal project.

In the last year or so, several different organizations such as the Regina Folk Festival and Curtain Razors theatre company have held events at Darke Hall. That’s after a number of years where the hall was used sparingly because of questions about its structural integrity.

One goal the university has is to restore Darke Hall to its former glory as a performance venue. The College Ave. Campus is home to the Conservatory of Performing Arts too. So work to stabilize and upgrade the College Building would be another boost for Regina’s arts community. The Centre for Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning Centre are located in the building as well, so adult education would a third winner.

According to the U of R it’s halfway to its $10 million fundraising goal to tackle the multi-year restoration project. The forum on Wednesday will be held at Darke Hall from 4 to 6 p.m.

Not Who, But Watt

George-WattOn Sunday, Regina storyteller Vincent Murphy will be presenting a performance of this mini-play based on the journals of George Watt (pictured), the Scottish-born groundskeeper at Government House who in 1910 created the Edwardian garden that endures on the site to this day.

You can find out more about Watt, and the garden he created, on the Government of Saskatchewan website. Still beautiful today, the garden would have been even more remarkable back in 1910 when Regina was still pretty much a treeless dot on the vast prairies.

Not Who, But Watt will be held at Government House on Aug. 29 from 2-3 p.m. Admission is free.

Spirits Of The Trail

Spirit of TrailFor the next month, Burning Sun Productions will be presenting an historical reenactment of the first meeting between North West Mounted Police Major James Walsh and Sitting Bull, War Chief of the Lakota Sioux, following the latter’s arrival in Canada after the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The meeting took place in the southwest corner of what is now Saskatchewan in 1877, after Sitting Bull had led around 5000 Sioux across the U.S./Canada border following the defeat of U.S. Army troops led by General George Custer.

Spirits of the Trail is based on a 2007 production called The Medicine Line that was presented by the Moose Jaw Cultural Heritage Centre. It’s approximately 40 minutes long, and will be held every Saturday and Sunday at the RCMP Heritage Centre from Aug. 8-30. The performances are at 1 and 3 p.m. each day, and are included with admission to the centre.

For more information, you can visit the RCMP Heritage Centre website.

The Riot Club

Directed by Lone Sherfig, this British film was adapted from a play by Laura Wade called Posh.

No, it’s not a biopic about Victoria Beckham (a.k.a. Posh Spice). Although the subject does relate to the notion of aristocratic privilege and luxe wealth that Beckham was channeling through her character.

Instead, Wade’s inspiration was the notorious Bullington Club at Oxford University where the scions of Britain’s upper crust congregated to essentially run amok for a few years before taking their rightful place (in their minds, anyway) as the future political and economic leaders of their class-riddled country.

The Riot Club screens tonight at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer:

Latest Regina Survival Guide Available

Click on the map to download a pdf of the Regina Survival Guide.
Click on the map to download a pdf of the Regina Survival Guide.

Got word from Marc Spooner (who was a guest on the Queen City Catch Up podcast recently) that the new edition of the Regina Survival Guide is ready to download. And he asked us if we’d host a copy of the pdf here. So we are. Click on the image at left to download yours.

The Regina Survival Guide is an invaluable resource for low income people and people-at-risk. It lists places where you can get a free meal, find shelter and clothing, and access healthcare and needle exchanges. And it’s all laid out on a map for easy reference.

Now, maybe this is information you don’t need. But if that’s the case, there’s nothing stopping you from printing out a bunch of copies and distributing them where there might be people who’d find the Survival Guide helpful.

Queen City Catch Up: The Special Two-Part Finale!

This is it! The eighth and final instalment of Queen City Catch Up! And it’s a special double episode. I ended up with two interviews recorded so instead of using one and tossing the other I mashed them together.

In the first half, I interview Dr Sharon Acoose from First Nations University. We talk about the Truth And Reconciliation Commission and about her book, An Arrow In My Heart: A First Nation Woman’s Account of Survival from the Streets to the Height of Academia.

Then, in the second half, I talk to Adam Martin, the director of the Sakewewak Artists’ Collective. We talk about the Storyteller’s Festival and some of the other projects they have on the go.

And with that, I’m done. I’m totally caught on absolutely everything of substance that happened in Regina over the last nine or ten months or so. I can now get back to the business of whatever it is I do in this city. Many thanks to everyone who took part in the podcast. I enjoyed all these conversations.

You can find all the earlier episodes on the Queen City Catch Up archive page.

Music for this podcast is from the album Malta’s Lost Voices — which I love! — and it’s all used with permission. Many thanks to Filfla Records for letting us use these tracks. You can get your own copy of the album and check out their other projects at their website.

Pop Up Downtown

Heather Benning (Cow)Above is a shot of a recently installed art work by Heather Benning in Hill Tower II that is part of a summer-long public art display called Pop Up Downtown that is running in underused downtown spaces. If you click the above link, you’ll see that 10 artists are involved, and work has been installed at nine different locations.

I posted on Heather Benning on June 1 in relation to a show she has opening at Slate Gallery Thursday June 11. In Our June 11 issue, in fact, I’ll have an interview with Benning about her show.

As far as her contribution to Pop Up Downtown goes, the theme the artists are working with is Absence/Presence. Born and raised on a Saskatchewan farm, Benning has long been interested in examining the changing nature of rural life. The ghost-like quality of the cow could be seen as a lament for the declining vibrancy of rural communities as family farms are swallowed up by larger-scale agribusinesses.

The cow’s emaciated state, meanwhile, especially in comparison with the bronze Joe Fafard cow located across the pedestrian mall in Hill Tower I, suggests a certain impoverishment that comes with the loss of family and communal bonds when economic pressures force people from their homes and livelihoods.

As well, the cow sits on piece of artificial turf which could be seen as a comment on large-scale farming practices which don’t always provide the best outcomes for the environment, the animals that farmers raise and the crops they produce, and ultimately, the food we eat.

Tonight there’s a reception for the artists involved in Pop Up Downtown at the Capitol Jazz Club at 1843 Hamilton. It’s at 5 p.m., and there will be a walking tour of the nine installations at 6 p.m. The art will be up in the downtown until late August.    

Treaty Talks

Not actual treaty talks, as those were held 140 years or so when the Canadian government under Conservative Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, was looking to open up western Canada to settlement. In order to do that, indigenous groups who had inhabited the region for millennia had to be persuaded to give up their lands and settle on reserves.

As James Daschuk outlined in his 2013 book Clearing the Plains, the federal government and its agents in the West used all sorts of dirty tricks to enforce compliance among resident First Nations. The track record of governments since then in honouring the terms of the treaties hasn’t been great either, and all sorts of misconceptions have sprung up over the years, furthering the divide between indigenous people and settlers.

On Saturday June 6 Central Library is hosting a presentation by a speaker from the Office of Treaty Commissioner, who will offer some background about the treaties and the terms they contain. The presentation will run from 2-4 p.m. Refreshments will be provided, and you’re asked to register in advance on the RPL website.

Queen City Catch Up: Marc Spooner On The New Deputy Education Minister, Regina’s Homelessness Count And Model Trains (Podcast)

Episode five of Queen City Catch Up is my interview with University of Regina professor, Marc Spooner. And it’s the one that’s the most packed with news items that I had to put in the “Holy crap, you’re kidding me” folder. You’ll have to listen to the episode to find out what those items are.

Music for this podcast is from Malta’s Lost Voices, a collection of Maltese recordings from the early 1930s. You can get your own copy at

In the next episode of Queen City Catch Up, I’ll be speaking with lawyer, regular Leader Post contributor and Accidental Deliberations blogger, Greg Fingas. That will go up on Monday.

Queen City Catch Up: Florence Stratton On Military Education And Pipelines In Harbour Landing (Podcast)

So I get back from Malta and I’m thinking, I was gone the better part of a year, how the hell am I going to get back up to speed on Regina? And it hits me that the easiest thing would be to just ask people what I missed.

And then I thought, hey, I could record the conversations and get a podcast series out of them. It’d be like multi-tasking.

Here’s the first of those conversations: I talk with peace and justice activist, Florence Stratton, about housing, military education in high schools and an oil pipeline for Harbour Landing.

Incidentally, I got the music for this podcast from Malta’s Lost Voices, a compilation of Maltese music from the 1930s. Thanks to Filfla Records for giving me permission to use the tracks. (You can check them out at

The next episode of Queen City Catch Up will be available on Thursday. In it, I chat with cycling and alternative-transportation aficionado, John Klein.

In total, I’ll be posting eight interviews over the next several days — one for each month I was away.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that you don’t have to stream the podcast. There’s a download link in the Soundcloud window in the top right corner. It’s the little down arrow.

Harper Jumps The Shark On Pro-Israel Stance

Last summer, we had some coverage of the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement in connection with an ill-advised partnership the University of Regina’s Faculty of Business Administration was contemplating with the Policing and Homeland Security Studies department of Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law to provide an MBA in Public Safety to Regina students.

Patterned after efforts in the 1980s to put economic, political and socio-cultural pressure on South Africa to end apartheid, the BDS movement is non-violent and seeks through moral suasion to pressure Israel to halt the ongoing expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and to enter into constructive negotiations with the Palestinian people to find a way out of the current quagmire in the region. Supporters of BDS in Canada include the United Church of Canada, Canadian Quakers, labour unions, student groups and more.

More recently, we’ve written on Bill C-51, a piece of federal legislation passed last week by the Harper government that would greatly expand the investigative powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and related agencies to ferret out terrorist activity at home and abroad.

Critics of Bill C-51 accuse the Harper Conservatives of gross overeach in the bill, which would broaden the concept of “terrorism” to include pretty much any thought, word or action that the government deems harmful to Canada’s political or economic interests.

Now, CBC journalist Neil Macdonald is reporting that the Harper Conservatives are indicating that they are willing to use provisions in Bill C-51 to charge advocates of BDS with hate crimes against Israel. Any move to do so would be contrary to the constitutional rights of Canadians related to free speech, conscience, assembly and more, but that’s unlikely to deter the prime minister and his followers who have made no secret of their fervent loyalty to the State of Israel.

They may have political and economic reasons for doing so, but as evangelical Christians Harper and his cronies also regard the current conflict in the Middle East as a step toward fulfilling Biblical prophecy tied to armageddon and the second coming of Christ. In essence, they’re totally cool with the idea of the world ending so they can go to their eternal reward, while non-believers, including Jews who fail to convert once Jesus returns to lay a smackdown on everyone, will be dispatched to Hell.

What a joke.

Jane’s Walk

If you feel like slipping on your walking shoes this weekend, the seventh annual Jane’s Walk Regina is happening on Saturday May 2 and Sunday May 3. As with the previous six, Regina Urban Ecology is the organizer.

You can find out more about the eight walks that are on the 2015 program on the Jane’s Walk website. The walks include one tied to the history of Wascana Creek/Lake and its impact on the local environment, another looking at Canterbury Park which is an infill development on the old Archdiocese lands on the southeast corner of Broad and College, and a third hosted by a new urban planning group that’s sprung up in town called Urbanity 101 that will discuss urban design and planning principles in Regina’s core neighbourhoods.

Other walks will look at the power of community, the path of the 1912 tornado, spots associated with peace and war in Regina, Regina’s early beginnings, and the new Heritage neighbourhood that is emerging east of Broad between College Ave. and Sask. Drive.  The last walk will be led by Ward 3 councilor Shawn Fraser.

There’s six walks on Saturday, with the first starting at 10 a.m. and the last at 4 p.m. There’s three more walks on Sunday starting at 10:30 a.m. with the last one at 1:30 p.m. The walks go rain or shine, so be sure to check the forecast and dress appropriately.

Memo To Premier Wall: It’s The Marble Palace, Not Marble Church

Following a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling on April 15 that Saguenay city council’s practice of opening meetings with a Roman Catholic-themed prayer was unconstitutional, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay both expressed support for the continued use of Christian prayer in the Legislature and House of Commons.

We have an article in the April 16-29 Prairie Dog that argues that, in light of the Supreme Court ruling, this is not a tenable legal position.

The ruling dealt specifically with a municipal council. But in its judgment the court refers repeatedly to the “state” in discussing the duty of neutrality that is owed to all citizens when it comes to constitutional freedoms of religion, conscience, assembly and whatnot. If anything, University of Ottawa law professor Carissima Mathen notes in Prairie Dog, the duty owed by higher (and more powerful) levels of government is even greater than at the municipal level.

Provincial legislatures and the House of Commons do enjoy a degree of autonomy through parliamentary privilege. This privilege is tied to rights such as free speech, freedom from coercion and the ability to launch inquiries that MLAs and MPs need to make decisions as our representatives in government.

This privilege is not absolute, however, and it’s a huge stretch to suggest that prayer is integral to the proper functioning of the Legislature/House of Commons and thus protected by parliamentary privilege. If individual politicians want to pray on their own, that is their right. But prayer should not be part of state deliberations at any level.

Also, simply because God is mentioned in the preamble to The Constitution Act (1982) does not mean the Constitution is interpreted through a Christian filter. In fact, the Supreme Court specifically said in the judgment that nothing in the preamble justifies limiting the constitutional rights of Canadians.

Were someone to launch a human rights complaint against prayer in the Saskatchewan legislature and/or House of Commons, defending the practice would be “far from a slam dunk”, says Mathen.

Both the Wall and Harper governments have a history of throwing good money after bad in defending indefensible legislation in court. Were they to adopt the same legal strategy here, not only would a lot of scarce government resources be wasted, they would also be flaunting their opposition to a Supreme Court ruling that is perfectly in keeping with contemporary Canadian society where a multitude of religions exist, and many Canadians subscribe to no religious belief at all.

Stapleford Lecture

osullivaThis lecture, which is hosted by the University of Regina’s Faculty of Arts through the Ernest William Stapleford and Maude Bunting Stapleford Lecture Fund, is being held on Thursday March 26.  Guest-speaker is Brock University associate education professor Michael O’Sullivan (pictured).

O’Sullivan’s talk is titled “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Global Education as a Gateway to Creating Critically Informed, Motivated and Globally Competent Citizens.”

I don’t have a precis of the talk handy, but it seems likely based on the title that O’Sullivan will be championing the idea of education as pretty much the only way we can overcome all the challenges we face in a world that, because of factors such as globalization, advanced technology, ongoing environmental degradation and scientific innovation grows more complicated every day.

The Stapleford Lecture goes Thursday at 7 p.m. in RIC119 at the University of Regina. For more information call 306-585-4226.

A Night At The Civic Museum

The odds of Ben Stiller, who’s starred as security guard Larry Daley in three Night at the Museum movies, showing up at this event, and subsequently having various artifacts and historical personages come to life to torment him, are likely pretty long.

Although now that I think about it, it could be kind of fun to have something like that happen at the Civic Museum of Regina. It would probably take a lot of organizing, not to mention some visual trickery, but it would be neat to see some of the city’s history come to life in that way.

Which isn’t to say that this event, which goes at the museum on Wednesday, March 25 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., won’t be fun either. It’s a joint production between the museum and Regina Public Library. The free event is geared to all ages, and will explore how Regina has changed over the 135 years or so that it’s been around.

The Civic Museum of Regina is located at 1375 Broad St., and more information can be obtained by visiting the museum website or calling 306-780-9435.

Norval Morrisseau

Ruffo_BookLaunch_Feb2015In early February there was a symposium and book launch at First Nations University of Canada tied to the career of First Nations artist Norval Morrisseau. Of Anishinaabe descent, Morrisseau was born on the Sand Point Ojibway reserve near Beardmore, ON in 1931. As a child, he attended a Catholic-run residential school, but through his maternal grandfather, who was a shaman, he learned the traditions and legends of his people.

When Morrisseau was 19, he experienced a life-threatening illness, and through contact with a medicine woman was given the name Copper Thunderbird. When he began making art, he used the signature Copper Thunderbird to identify his work.

Morrisseau was one of the founders of the Woodland School of Art, and was also a member of the Indian Group of Seven. In the fall of 2013 the MacKenzie Art Gallery had an exhibition of work by those artists curated by Michelle LaVallee.

Nicknamed “the Picasso of the North”, Morrisseau’s art celebrated indigenous spiritality and mysticism, along with exploring the divide between First Nations and Canadian culture. At First Nations University in February a book launch was held for Armand Garnet Ruffo’s biography of Morrisseau, who died in Toronto in 2007 at age 76.

In addition to the book (cover image above) an exhibition of Morrisseau’s paintings is on display at the university’s Plain Red Art Gallery until April 10. You can find out more information here.