‘I’m getting off the turnpike’ – shunpiking and Shunpiking

On 14 January 2000 the late David Henry of CKDU Radio ArtsSpeak and a co-proprietor of the Economy Shoe Shop spoke with Tony Seed about shunpiking and Shunpiking. Their discussion is reproduced below and is edited for publication.

Shunpiking Magazine, Upfront, May, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 33

DAVID HENRY: I’m here tonight with Tony Seed with Shunpiking magazine, a fabulous magazine and Tony’s editor, publisher and just about everything. Tony, all kinds of things seem to be happening with Shunpiking, why, for example, I was reading in your current edition and you’ve just celebrated your fourth anniversary – congratulations! – that the Ambassador of Cuba to Canada also visited Shunpiking last fall. Tell us a little about that.


MIke Vavra (left) takes Carlos Fernández De Cossío, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Canada (centre) on a tour of the "Discovering Nova Scotia's Natural History" website, during his meeting with the editorial board of Shunpiking magazine, 30 October 1999

MIke Vavra (left) takes Carlos Fernández De Cossío, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Canada (centre) on a tour of the “Discovering Nova Scotia’s Natural History” website, during his meeting with the editorial board of Shunpiking magazine, 30 October 1999

TONY SEED: … Ambassador Carlos Fernandez de Cossio came for a two-hour visit, we had an extensive exchange in terms of … he himself has a keen interest in Canadian history, and the roots of the people of the Maritimes. We presented him with a selection of independent magazines from Nova Scotia including Cape Breton’s Magazine and Am Braighe. Am Braighe is Gaelic for “the higher ground”, it originates from Mabou, and right away he asked, “what’s Gaelic?” So off we went for ten or fifteen minutes – from the clearances of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the highlands of Cape Breton. We have had several articles on the question of Cuba. I myself am a sportsman, I’m very interested in their amateur sports policy, and the principle that sport is a human right, and I was offended by the hostile, uncivilized treatment accorded their delegation at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg by the media and various government officials. Among other questions, we are very interested in the situation of artisans in Cuba, people’s culture, including folk culture, literature and journalism … what their approach is towards competing on the world market which demands standardisation, homogenisation of wares, no matter what nation you’re from or what your cultural traditions are. This is a serious problem facing artisans in Nova Scotia too: how to market internationally without losing our cultural originality. We had a quite lively and vibrant exchange for almost two hours, and we were quite honoured by the visit.

DAVID HENRY: Well that’s why I mentioned it, because I didn’t read anything about his visit in any of the other newspapers around town. However, shunpiking, a shunpiker, the noun – I’m reading now from a note I made – a person who takes the path less travelled. Tony Seed, where are you from that you would be with Shunpiking magazine, now what’s this all about? How did you get there?

TONY SEED: Well, let me answer with a small story. When we’re asked, “what does shunpiking mean?” I usually ask, do you want the short answer or the long answer?

DAVID HENRY: We want the truth here, the truth! (laughs)

TONY SEED: We only discuss the truth! Historically, during the colonial days, they’re building new roads, at that time they were called modern roads. The government of the day, to finance the roads gave contracts for the roads to their friends in the private sector. As they’re doing today.

DAVID HENRY: (laughter) History repeats itself!

TONY SEED: “First as tragedy, second as farce!” (laughs) To finance the road, they put tolls on it. These roads were either called the toll road, the national road or the turnpike. If you went from one village or town to the next to market your produce on Saturday morning, being a farmer, you had to go out and pay the toll. The villages revolted. They built a pass into their town in front of the toll booth and out the other side behind the toll booth, and they called these roads shunpikes. You can actually go and find streets in New England and Western Ontario named shunpike, Shunpike Road, hence shunpiking: “I’m not going to pay the toll, I’m going shunpiking”; “I’m getting off the main highway”; or “I’m getting off the turnpike.”

So for us it’s aim is not only to discover our real province and region, as well as the world or universe that we live in, but it is a broad metaphor for discovery; be the arts, culture, heritage, political, social and civic questions that are not dealt with in the turnpike, off the beaten path – in other words, actively investigating the real world, without preconceptions.

So how I come to this – this is a longer story! – but I originally heard the word “shunpiking” when I was sixteen in my first year at the University of Western Ontario. Friends would be going away for a picnic on the weekend. I’d ask them where they were going, and they’d say, “Well, we’re going shunpiking” – they were driving the back roads of southern Ontario. That word stuck with me. When we started this magazine, almost five years ago, we looked at some eighty different names, but in the end we wanted a name that would show that our magazine was not only about Nova Scotia and the people, but was a completely indigenous magazine. There are a lot of magazines which have started, which have been a clone of American magazines or Upper Canadian periodicals that have a generic name. We wanted to develop a completely unique, indigenous, Nova Scotian, Maritime publication while, at the same time, striving to be published on the basis of world class standards. We think we’ve done that. We think that Shunpiking is the most significant magazine ever published in the history of the province. Not to speak immodestly, but to indicate the regard that readers and we ourselves have for our work.

DAVID HENRY: Well we can talk shortly about some of those things that are in the magazine, but I’d like to read from your magazine your mandate:

“We call Shunpiking a discovery magazine, Shunpiking is about discovery of our community, our natural, social, and cultural environment and about opening new window on the mysteries and wonders of the universe. If that also involves writing about political and social relations, and it will, so be it. We’d also like to take the space and time to discover the sheer beauty that we found around us, both natural and man-made.”

I think your idea of being off the beaten path shows in your magazine. We were talking earlier about one of the issues that we both have a particular interest in, that is the fishing industry, and we both agreed, I shouldn’t say that we both agreed, I certainly agree that your magazine did it all. The business of a couple of, I shouldn’t say a couple, but I say that relative to the number of fishers in the area. The press complained about all the Mi’kmaq who were going to come and clean out the fisheries, and not a word was mentioned, except of course in your magazine – and I believe The Coast did something, a short article once – that the real difficulty with the fishery is not the poor guys with a row boat, by the shore, but it’s the big, and in fact in your magazine I’ve learnt that the … I have a little note here, that the east coast fishery is controlled by three corporations. That’s not a few Native Indians in a boat, and a few white guys down on the southwest shore doing something, this … this is big time. Your magazine – that’s what you’re all about I understand – the business of telling it like it is, and you’ve done that with the fishing industry. Do you have a particular interest in the fisheries?

TONY SEED: I’ve been writing about the fisheries since 1969, so yes, I have a personal interest. Along with a colleague, Gary Zatzman, we did a lot of writing on the fisheries in the 1970s leading up to and past when Canada declared the 200-mile limit, which was in 1978. Such a big noise! We actually wrote an article in 1998 on the 20th anniversary of the 200-mile limit and how, despite the fact of this anniversary, it was now passing without a single comment in the media.

The significant thing about the 200-mile limit was that, right at the time that Canada declared it, at the same time they had already rented out 86 per cent of the territory covered by the new limit to foreign fleets. The 200-mile limit is not just an arbitrary extension of a line into the sea. It is an area that covers one third of the land mass of Canada, the second largest country in the world. In other words it extends the country. So you have a vast amount of territory that the government looked at as economic territory, and they put it up for sale, or rent, or lease, in exchange for lucrative concessions; be it on the one hand better deals in terms of selling wheat to the Soviet Union, or on the other hand “we’ll let you fish here, but you land your fish and our processors will deal with it from there – as well as market it.” So then you are actually using the cheap labour of the foreign working men, landing the fish, and at the same time displacing, not only inshore fishermen, but also the workers on the Canadian trawlers.

…it is a national crime, a scandal, especially when we look at the consequences to whole communities of eastern Canada, as well as BC – not to neglect the Arctic coast or Labrador. They have gutted the fisheries …

Nowhere in the Canadian press is this being covered, then or now. For several years I was a feature writer with the Globe and Mail, was even nominated for a National Newspaper Award, that’s one of my backgrounds. For us it is a national crime, a scandal, especially when we look at the consequences to whole communities of eastern Canada, as well as BC – not to neglect the Arctic coast or Labrador. They have gutted the fisheries. Tens of thousands have been thrown out of their communities. In this we learn that the main media, or what I call the monopoly media, has another agenda. One can’t really say that reporters are ignorant of what actually is taking place, one just can’t say that they are sensationalistic, e.g., the so-called “confrontation” (or riot) between the lobstermen and natives. It is disinformation. And, with investigation, we find out the corporate boards of the fisheries cartel, the editorial boards of, for example, the National Post and the Globe and Mail, and the think tanks, are actually intertwined.

DAVID HENRY: What a coincidence!


DAVID HENRY: Shunpiking magazine – speaking of corporate connections – is a completely independent magazine?

TONY SEED: It is a magazine established by Nova Scotians. Only a few of us from the founding group had a professional background. It was not a magazine established on a top-down basis, and then we hire staff. It is established by Nova Scotians who came together. It is a feat, a tribute to the people of this province, and their ability to analyse their own natural and social environment, and write about it. People in the main work for Shunpiking as volunteers, as I do; I have a livelihood as a graphic designer. Some writers find this a problem as they’re writing exclusively for the market, so they have a different motivation. My point with them is that we are writing to our fellow Nova Scotians, we’re writing to communicate, to share our knowledge, information and concerns with humanity. That is our motive.

“… why should we not aspire to developing a quality publication … with world-class standards of excellence?”

Another thesis is this: why, despite being in a small province, with a small population in a medium-sized country, should we not aspire to developing a quality publication, the best we can do, one with world-class standards of excellence? Some 400 people have contributed to its development in one way or another. People write for Shunpiking and participate and come forward and take up different tasks from distribution to helping out at the office, from that motivation, from that outlook. As well to actively deal with the degeneration and Americanization of the media that we’re faced with daily – by developing an independent media.

DAVID HENRY: Well you know, you’re very bold – and very right in saying this – but it’s said somewhere in your magazine that Shunpiking is a magazine addressed to the thinking, active Nova Scotian; which is a boast that I don’t think any other newspaper or magazine around can maintain. I want to talk about some other things that you are doing, but before we do that I would to play one of Stan Rogers’ songs that is appropriate to the fisheries, it’s from the Stan Rogers’ album From Fresh Water and it’s “Tiny Fish for Japan.” Let’s listen to the words, folks, and don’t forget to read Shunpiking magazine …

* * * [Music Break] * * *

DAVID HENRY: I’m back with my guest, Tony Seed, publisher and editor at Shunpiking. Now you’ve got other people working with you. A little something that sort of slid in there, Tony, is that the east coast fishery is controlled by three corporations. That must be a misquote. Surely to God that can’t be the case here in Nova Scotia?

TONY SEED: No, this is in all of Atlantic Canada. We have Fisheries Products International, a Newfoundland monopoly, cobbled together out of several medium-sized corporations, with over a hundred million dollars of taxpayer’s money subsidizing this.

DAVID HENRY: You mean we’ve given our money to these corporations?

TONY SEED: Yes. The whole fishery and the society is paying tribute to the rich. Second and third, and not necessarily in that order, Clearwater Fisheries and National Sea Products. Those are your three corporations.

DAVID HENRY: The same may be said about the forest industry, and so on. One of the things that we’ve mentioned a little bit, but I can say it again very clearly that I really, really like about your magazine is that you do have in-depth articles. One of the features of your last issue was about the native community, the Mi’kmaq here in Nova Scotia. There was quite extensive coverage on that … is this a particular interest of yours as well?

TONY SEED: Thank you. People want to be seriously informed and enlightened, and they do not like the ignorance that’s foisted on them. They appreciate our serious approach, but we do still have a long way to go with our journalism. This was an eight-page supplement; we plan that it will be an annual supplement, during Mi’kmaq History Month following Treaty Day in October. Our approach evolves out of the response to our Black History Month supplement that we started in 1997.

DAVID HENRY: That’s ongoing is it?

TONY SEED: It’s ongoing, every February or late winter/early spring. That supplement is internationally renowned, it was reprinted in England in the international journal Race and Class, which is distributed throughout all the Anglo-American universities in the world. Individual copies also go all over the world. It is a major project.

We’ve also done a very serious feature with Albert Lee, “Growing Up Chinese in Halifax,” as well as features on Acadian heritage and history.

“… our journalism has been amongst the people but, at the same time, from that we do draw conclusions and take stands …”

We were actually working on the question of Mi’kmaq history before the Marshall Decision came down from the Supreme Court of Canada on September 17 (1999). So we weren’t caught of guard, we were fairly well prepared, due to the ongoing journalism that we have been doing, which is not written from an office, it’s done in the field. It is especially linked with the cause of the hook-and-line fishers, such as Cape Sable Island, who have been fighting against privatization of the fisheries and the elimination of the inshore fishermen and, in effect, fishing communities and a whole way of life that is unique in Canada. So our journalism has been amongst the people but, at the same time, from that we do draw conclusions and take stands. When the Marshall Decision was released, it did not catch us off guard; we knew the basic issues.

DAVID HENRY: Unlike the government, who were caught off guard, it seems.

TONY SEED: No, it was definitely not. In fact I argue that the government was not caught off guard, that this is a media defence of the Department of Fisheries. The latest evidence is that the RCMP and CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, which you would normally associate with crime and foreign espionage and so forth, as long ago as last April were preparing reports on the so-called possibility of violence in the Maritimes. Violence either amongst the Mi’kmaq or between Mi’kmaq and fishermen, what they deliberately portray as “criminal aboriginal extremism.”

The argument we’ve advanced, based on our investigation, is that together with the monopoly media they created a situation of inciting non-Native fishers against Native fishers. One objective of this is to hide the hand, while they continue to negate the rights of the First Nations by refusing to negotiate with them on an equal basis. Secondly, it is split, or “divide and rule” the fishermen who are also denied their rights. We’ve done more investigation, and now you have new regulations being implemented by DFO against lobster fishermen. If you look retroactively they were deeply concerned about these arbitrary regulations which affected lobster size. Regulations that benefited definite processors, especially the one’s offshore, as now you can only catch larger lobsters for which you need larger boats and larger capitalization; the larger lobsters are offshore. What was never reported, in the acres of coverage of the so-called “confrontations” in Yarmouth as well as Burnt Church, was that 25 per cent of the catch is now from the offshore. That’s from eight licence holders. They are on a quota that is given to them by the government and those licence holders are controlled by one corporation: Clearwater.

So if you look into the question, and this is not a personal attack on the president of Clearwater, but when the Supreme Court talks about “moderate livelihood” as a just “expectation” of the First Nations, and then you have one individual building a $10.4-million home on an island in Lunenburg County – to go along with the other two homes that he has – you have to ask, “Why is this being debated this way?”

DAVID HENRY: Yes! Where can you get Shunpiking Magazine? It seems like everyone should be reading about this stuff.

TONY SEED: Well, Shunpiking is distributed through some 800 locations throughout the province, 440 of which are in the Metro area. We’re also distributed in Toronto.

DAVID HENRY: Now I notice that it’s free, it says “free” on the cover … can you subscribe to Shunpiking?

TONY SEED: Our objective with “Shunpiking 2000” is two thousand subscriptions. It’s $24 for ten issues. People subscribe so that they don’t miss an issue – it does go fast, it’s picked up quickly – or to support the magazine, contribute to the development of an independent media and break the monopoly of the corporate media. Every little bit helps; to subscribe is very important, as that revenue also helps support editorial. Right now the advertising only pays for the printing. But we are aiming that the editorial be funded by subscription revenue.

DAVID HENRY: As well as very hard-hitting articles, you also do fantastic things such as – I have a particular interest in the flora and fauna of Nova Scotia – a “Spring Flowers of Nova Scotia” centrefold some issues ago, which is a must for anybody who’s anybody in Nova Scotia to look around and see what’s there. You also feature artists, one who was doing abandoned houses somewhere …

TONY SEED: That was in the September (1999) edition, Virginia McCoy of Inverness County, a very fine painter. Many of the info centrefolds are also available as laminated posters.

DAVID HENRY: Yes, fascinating things. So how does one subscribe to your magazine?

TONY SEED: Please phone us at 444-4922 and we’ll take the information…

DAVID HENRY: We’re practically out of time, but I want to squeeze in something here; you’ve got a kids’ baseball book out?

TONY SEED: The Kids’ Baseball Book with Curtis Coward. Curtis is the first black Nova Scotian and one of the few Canadians to play professional baseball in the United States. We have known each other since high school and have worked together as coaches. It was a best-seller when it was released. It’s the only book of its kind, a great book as well for coaches … and those who are kids at heart.

DAVID HENRY: Where can you buy this book?

TONY SEED: Just give us a call at [902] 444-4922, e-mail us at shunpike@shunpiking.com or ask at your bookstore – not all bookstores have it.


TONY SEED: … we’re not a big bookseller!

DAVID HENRY: I’ve been speaking with Tony Seed, who is the publisher and editor of Shunpiking Magazine. You have been listening to CKDU radio, 97.5 on your dial. Don’t forget to tune in each Friday for Artspeak, at 5:30pm, my name is David Henry. Thanks again Tony, and “shunpiking” – remember that folks – off the beaten path. Good night.

Source: Shunpiking Online, Volume 1, Number 5


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Filed under Media, Journalism & Disinformation, Shunpiking Magazine

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