" We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril risk and hazard"
Michael Johansen is an excellent journalist. An award winning journalist. A published novelist. A columnist that is now without a column.
Johansen lives in Labrador, and loves it. He took three years to build his own cabin near the Churchill River in the rough backwoods of Labrador. It is his place to live and his place to love. The place is sacred to him. Michael Johansen is also an opponent of the Muskrat Falls hydro dam project, located ten miles from his cabin, and that made him dangerous.
What most people in Canada, and the world, do not understand about this province is its dark side. The side that is not the "friendly Newfoundlander and Labradorian". The side of the Merchants. In this province it is alive and well. Michael's story is the most recent of many similar stories.
Michael, up until this week, was a weekly contributing columnist to the Aurora and Labradorian newspapers in Labrador, and a frequent contributor to The Telegram in St. John's. All three papers, and all the papers in this province, are owned by Quebec based Transcontinental Media Inc.
Michael's columns varied, but often focused on the provincial government here, and its child Nalcor Energy - a provincial crown corporation. His columns were often not favourable to the two and in particularly the Muskrat Falls project. They also focused on the costs of the project like the hyper inflationary effect on the local rental market, which left people homeless and hopeless. In other words, he focused on the societal costs versus the fanatical march of Nalcor and the government to build the Muskrat Falls dam. In doing so, Michael reflected the concerns and feelings of many in our province. That was, apparently, his great sin.
In June of this year a new Editor was put in charge of the Aurora and Labradorian newspapers - one Bonnie Learning. Not a name really known among the province's people, but one certainly known in provincial government circles. Learning was the constituency assistant for John Hickey, the now retired Progressive Conservative Cabinet Minister from Labrador - Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. Hickey was, and remains a vocal proponent of the Muskrat Falls dam project.
Given that constituency assistants to Ministers must be aligned with their employers political beliefs, and given that Learning filled that role for Hickey, Learning is in a potential conflict of interest in adjudicating her editorial functions when it comes to issues that involve the Muskrat Falls project. She took the position of Editor in the summer of 2013. Barely 5 months later, and after an ongoing war with Johansen over content regarding Muskrat Falls, Nalcor and the government, he finds himself without a column.
This is how it works in Newfoundland and Labrador. The politics of feudalism. Do as the master says or bury thyself. Michael is the latest victim of that cancerous mentality. A mentality that has left the province as the worst democratically functioning governments in Canada - if not North America. What surprises me is that Transcontinental Media, a Quebec based company would hire a person, so directly linked to the current government, for a position that requires neutrality. The position of Editor is critical in our democracy as it dictates what the public will see, learn, and know.
The censorship surrounding Michael has been dutifully ignored in the media by and large. The Independent gave a great story on the issue. VOCM ran a news article on it, and all three of its daily province-wide radio shows covered the issue. In particularly, Paddy Daley gave an inspirational talk on the issue, and lambasted the apparent censorship. However, stations like the CBC did not even give it a mention - as if somehow the firing of an award winning journalist and columnist over his stories on the government and Nalcor was a non-event. Something rotten in the State of Denmark to be sure.
Unfortunately, both the travesty delivered to Michael, and the reaction to it in the media here, illustrate an ongoing illness in Newfoundland and Labrador. An illness that keeps its people down, and without the taken for granted right to knowledge that most in the country enjoy. That illness is totalitarianism. The few dictate to the many. Newfoundland and Labrador is not a democracy. Instead, it is the playground of the small business elite in St. John's and to a lesser extent, those situate in Labrador. A marriage of financial interest that have nothing to do with the well being of our people. A ruthless, undemocratic approach to governing in modern times. An insult to our dead that rest in graves throughout Europe, and the people inside them who gave everything so that we could live in freedom. "Lest We Forget". Yes, lest we forget why they sacrificed. That sacrifice is ignored here. It is an unhelpful encumbrance to those that demand to impose their will upon us. Michael Johansen is the latest victim of this.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)