War, religion, politics and the death of a legend

What Just Happened? | Stephen Whitworth

There’s no overt mention of the climate crisis this time but it’s still the planet’s — and yes, Saskatchewan’s — biggest issue. But even the What Just Happened Desk can’t prattle on about it all the time, can it? That’s why we’re not even gonna bring up the terrifying June 6 news that humanity has broken the Arctic, which will soon no longer fully freeze in summer and worse, researchers say, has shrunk by about 13 per cent every decade since the ’80s. Yup our doom-saying lips are zipped.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24: GOODBYE TINA TURNER The rock superstar behind ’80s hits like “Private Dancer”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It” died today at age 83 after battling health problems for several years. The What Just Happened Desk does, in fact, need another hero. Rest in power, Queen of the Thunderdome.

THURSDAY 25: DE-TENTION News broke today that Tom Hickey, superintendent of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, sent an e-mail to the division’s elementary school principals asking they make sure teachers taking their students on field trips to the Nutrien Children’s Festival avoid its Rainbow Tent. The tent, a new feature at the festival, features drag queen storytime and colourful performances.

Hickey’s e-mail ignited outrage, protests and a conflagration of condemnation from a spectrum of groups and individuals. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation slammed non-inclusive and discriminatory policies, while the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing Catholic school support workers, accused GSCS of creating a “hostile environment”. OUT Saskatoon called Hickey’s e-mail “regrettable”, pointing out that LGBTQ+ students attend Catholic schools and the division has many LGBTQ+ alumni. Others defended the Rainbow Tent, praising its message of tolerance and inclusivity in a time of rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes and homophobic legislation in backwards nations from Russia to the United States.

Education Minister Dustin Duncan, on the other hand, defended the Catholic school board in comments Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk described as “bizarre”.

This tempest in a rainbow tent isn’t surprising given the Catholic Church’s struggle with LGBTQ+ issues. Some examples: in an Associated Press interview earlier this year, Pope Francis confirmed the church’s (bigoted) position that homosexuality is a sin, though he did get credit for strongly condemning anti-LGBTQ+ laws and demanding an end to discrimination. Also, on May 31 the U.S.’ conservative Catholic League accused LGBTQ+ “activists and sympathizers” of having a “sick agenda” to “sexually engineer children”. Here in Canada, Niagara Catholic District School Board trustee and PR disaster Natalia Benoit even compared Pride flags to Nazi banners. The What Just Happened Desk could find more examples but space is short and patience, thin.

Anyhoo, all this happens at a time Saskatchewan Christian schools are under fire over accounts of abuse, malpractice and loony-tunes curricula. And of course, there’s that whole residential schools genocide thing. Religious education has a serious credibility problem in this province.

It was nice to see GSCS superintendent Hickey apologize on June 1 for the hurt his e-mail caused. Also, Niagara Catholic schools will fly Pride flags this month. And in the U.S., Disney — Disney!!! — might even help sink presidential nomination hopeful Ron DeSantis’ campaign, in a fight that started when the company criticized the Florida governor’s execrable anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

That said, the Pope is still Catholic. But still, after another culture-wars storm it’s looking like rainbows are on the horizon.

TUESDAY 30: POILIEVRE VS KELOWNA Bipedal ferret and Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre made friends and influenced people today with a Tweet comparing Kelowna, BC to a “faraway third world country”. Poilievre’s tweet — which efficiently insults Kelowna, homeless and unemployed people, and impoverished countries in just 94 characters — featured video of a Kelowna tent encampment and blamed the Trudeau Liberals and federal NDP for Canada’s ongoing poverty, homelessness and inflation crises. Poilievre, meanwhile, continues to advocate for cuts to public spending, lower taxes and an end to harm reduction addictions policies, all of which will for sure totally fix things.

WEDNESDAY 31: MAXIME PENALTY The People’s Party of Canada’s immigrant-bashing, science-denying leader Maxime Bernier was fined $4,200 today for violating a public health order at a May 8, 2021 rally in Regina’s Victoria Park. The Leader-Post reported Bernier was previously fined $9,800 in a Saskatoon court. Bernier was also recently fined $2,000 for violating Manitoba public health orders. You do you, Max.

THURSDAY, JUNE 1: RAINBOW CONNECTION How perfect was it that Saskatchewan’s glitteriest, most glamourous month kicked off with a massive, full-arc rainbow in the sky above the Legislature at the same time the Pride flag was raised? The What Just Happened Desk proclaims this refracted miracle a divine edict — clear proof God Her-/Him-/They-/Itself thinks 2SLGBTQQIAP+ people are awesome.

FRIDAY 2: WET CITY Saskatchewan’s second-largest municipality experienced significant sogginess after unusually potent storms dumped nearly five centimetres of rain on it. Major underpasses were hilariously flooded — storm infrastructure, anyone? — and disruption and general mayhem prevailed for drivers, pedestrians, and cruelly, many basement owners.

MONDAY JUNE 5 (SASK. TIME): DAM DETONATION As the What Just Happened Desk beat yet another looming deadline into submission, WJH Bangkok Bureau chief Gary alerted us to breaking news that Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro river had been breached. The dam’s destruction, reports Gary, could devastate agriculture, power generation, water supplies and potentially the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which relies on the reservoir for cooling. Ukraine blamed Russia for the dam’s destruction, and vice-versa. You future readers know more than we do — our correspondent is in the wrong dam country. ■

What Just Happened is Prairie Dog’s non-comprehensive aggregation of Regina, Saskatchewan and world events ranging from earth-shaking news to absurd digressions. This edition’s column covers May 24 – June 5, 2023.