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Mark Dance

Freelance writer on politics, culture, sport, law, cognitive science and technology.

Location icon Canada,CA

Bylines with Ottawa Citizen, National Post, Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic, Maclean's, Halifax Chronicle Herald, Toronto Star and elsewhere. Editorial experience with Lapham's Quarterly in New York City. Podcasting, photography and multimedia storytelling. MSc in the cognitive sciences from University of Edinburgh, non-partisan experience working for Members of Parliament on both sides of Canadian House of Commons. Completed innovation fellowship at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, communications and community work at Samara Canada. Studying law at McGill.

Contact: [email protected]

Hill Times
The tragedy of the SNC-Lavalin affair

This apparent fight montage ought now to be just a sideshow for attentive Canadians and those who care about the future of the country. As Jody Wilson-Raybould said, we 'can and must do better.' One hopes that at least with regard to that parting wisdom, the prime minister may join the rest of us in receiving the advice of his former attorney general.

Canadian Geographic
The Puck Stops Here

You should have been there that night in Parc La Fontaine. Up on the Montreal Plateau, on the most frigid stretch of our outdoo-hockey road trip, we played hard into the bitter January night. The passes were sharp, the game fluid and ceaseless, the score utterly untallied. When the rink lights blinked out at midnight, we stood for a few moments, catching our breath and puffing steam into the blackness. Then the moon came up. The game was back on.
Courts don't have a monopoly on justice -

Looking down his microphone at a room full of journalists-turned-prosecutors, Patrick Brown's only hope last Wednesday night was a jurisdictional gambit: "I have instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in a court of law." But the bedraggled Progressive Conservative leader's manoeuvre didn't work.

Institutional Transformation Series
Why Canadian federalism is bigger than Ottawa and the provinces -

Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on institutional transformation at Canada's sesquicentennial. This piece is on local and Indigenous governments and the future of Canadian federalism. Spin your radio dial to the national broadcaster's public affairs program any given Saturday and you will get an earful of our federation in action.

The Headspace podcast
Headspace Radio: Cultural Evolution

This week, we tackle the dynamics of how culture evolves. In the process, Kenny Smith answers the questions you never thought to ask: why do Mormons have a reproductive advantage? is a rock cultural? how is a dog technology? where do gods go when they die?

Animal Learning

This week, Rachael Bailes introduces us to the strange but also familiar world of animal learning. With the help of Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy and The Lion King, we take a look at the roots of human learning and what you can do to protect yourself against the coming octopus apocalypse.

Mirror Neurons

Can a special kind of brain cell explain why we have empathy for each other and what makes us human? Mirror neurons are changing the way that we think about action and perception and today on the show Suilin Lavelle shows us how.
Headspace Radio: Free Will and Neuroscience

William Wallace meets Martin Luther in this week's episode about free will and neuroscience. Till Vierkant explains what it might mean to be free and what the science of the brain has to say about it. Dr. Tillmann Vierkant is lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.
Headspace Radio: Aristotle On The Soul

We go way back today to try to sort out what Aristotle knew about mind and life that we might have forgotten. In the process we figure out whether robots have souls and what went wrong during Brad Pitt's childhood in Ancient Macedonia. We also unveil a newly translated hip-hop commentary on Aristotle.
Headspace Radio: Kant And Hegel

Looking back at the philosophical landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries, two monolithic figures stand out against the sun. Dr. Dave Ward introduces us to the way that these two thinkers redefined the mind in a revolution on par with that of Copernicus.

History and culture

National Post
Mark Dance: Among the migrant workers in Canada

I was doing my best to cajole my Mexican migrant worker colleagues into joining me at the local Canada Day parade when my friend Guadalupe shot back with a demoralizing question: "Canada doesn't care about us, why would we care about Canada?"

Canadian Running Magazine
Run Wild

Running with a pack of dogs in norther Ontario can have unexpected results.
What would Sir John A. say?

It is not easy to find John A. Macdonald's childhood home in Glasgow. No statue stands to celebrate Canada's first prime minister in his native Scottish city, and it was only with some sleuthing that we arrived at a boarded-up, derelict pub, above which the nation maker is thought to have been born on Jan.

Outdoor Rink Project

Canadian Geographic
On Thin Ice

You should have been there that night at Parc La Fontaine

The Chronicle Herald
Open Ice

Original print versions of eight outdoor hockey project columns; our outdoor hockey trip took us from Sault Ste. Marie to Halifax, visiting more than 20 communities and over 50 rinks.

Halifax Herald
Lucky Torontonians get to skate in the rain

Our outdoor hockey road trip seemed to be taking a turn for the worse as we drove through the pouring rain into Toronto. The temperature was well above freezing and conditions looked more favourable for a swim than for a skate.

More politics and democracy
Why the electoral reform sham will breed cynicism -

By killing electoral reform, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has damaged more than just Canada's prospects for releasing itself from the clutches of moribund first-past-the-post elections. He has cut down the democratic aspirations of hundreds of thousands of young Canadians, tacitly teaching them to expect less from government and dream smaller political dreams. Let's give the Liberals the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

Democracy's crisis of imagination

A day after Donald Trump's election to the world's highest elected office, American far-right polemicist Ann Coulter adjusted her long blond hair, stared into a CBC camera and articulated her support for a ban on Muslim immigration. Peter Mansbridge asked a few polite questions, smiled and thanked her for her time.

Ottawa Citizen
Matyas and Dance: Hunger strike shows the ugly underbelly of how Canada treats refugees

It was a public relations spectacle for the ages, the photo-op to end all photo-ops. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Pearson International Airport, parkas in hand, welcoming the first family of Syrian refugees to Canada after months of waiting. A bold statement to Canadians and the World: This is how...

Montreal Gazette
Opinion: Cindy Blackstock's victory shows the value of our institutions

Sometimes in the public life of this country, the hand that inflicts the wound can also be a force for healing. The historic decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal calling for the end of discriminatory underfunding of child and family services for First Nations is assuredly a story of grassroots activism and non-governmental action - but it's also a textbook example of how even a depleted government can help undo its most egregious mistakes.

The post-Brexit order: Will the world need more Canada?

Published Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 It's basic metabolic arithmetic: how much energy one has to expend on outward action is contingent on how tied up one is on maintaining internal order. By this measure, the result of last week's Brexit referendum bodes ill for Britain, Europe and a wider world casting about for leadership.

National Post
Dance & Middleton: Groping in the dark

These past weeks have seen headlines that read like a bitter lament for journalism departed, with tales of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking sternly to Leonardo DiCaprio in Davos and the Sun's parliamentary bureau chief enlightening us all with his provocatively titled "Trudeau versus Nenshi, Obhrai versus O'Leary and other headbutts on the Hill this week."

Halifax Herald
The last thing progressives should do now is sit on their hands

As Canada's 42nd Parliament is summoned this week and the first non-Conservative speech from the throne in 11 years is delivered, progressives across the country will be breathing a sigh of relief. They do so at their own peril.

National Post
Mark Dance: The state of Canadian oratory is grim

The state of Canadian political speeches is so bland that, when Justin Trudeau found a way to talk about "a uniquely Canadian idea of freedom" in Toronto this past March, onlookers would have been forgiven for toppling from their chairs in surprise.

National Newswatch
Will a hunger for real democracy be key outcome of 2015 Election?

When Justin Trudeau announced this week that "there are no circumstances in which I would support Stephen Harper to continue being prime minister of this country," he confirmed that the democratic drama in which we've all been cast mightn't end on October 19.

Ottawa Citizen
This is what non-partisan looks like

The Conservative federal government recently demonstrated its discomfort with non-partisan public servants in its approach to Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand and his criticisms of the Fair Elections Act. Mayrand dismantled...

A lot of people don't vote. Maybe they have a point.

Let's face up to it. Making voting mandatory under the electoral system we have now would be like demanding that a student learn music on a keyboard that produces the intended note less than half the time - and requires them to wait four years between keystrokes.

The Ottawa Citizen
How to prevent the partisan zombie apocalypse

When the Huffington Post reported in June that an assembled crowd of “protesters” at a Justin Trudeau speech on Parliament Hill were paid Conservative party interns sent to the scene by the prime minister’s office, it was tough not to shake one’s head.

National Newswatch
Parliament's pearl or more shell games?

In the final frigid stretch of January, this past Wednesday may have seen hints of a great democratic thaw on Parliament Hill. The day began with Justin Trudeau's bolt from the blue: "There are no more Liberal senators," he proclaimed.

The Globe and Mail
Welcome to the Digital House

A year spent on Parliament Hill brings with it two conflicting realizations. One is that our Parliament is a fine political institution with a rich history and a solid logic. But the other is that the democratic machinery at a citizen's disposal is profoundly inadequate, falling short of the democratic ideal in crucial respects.

Halifax Herald
Fighting for the future in Ottawa

Last March, I sat in the gallery of the House of Commons, watching the farewell speeches of parliamentarians who would not be running for re-election. The speeches were some of the finest that I had seen in my brief tenure as a parliamentary intern and, among them, Stockwell Day's shone brightest.
Damage done: How Harper has hobbled and maimed future governments

The speech from the throne came down campaign-style last week, packed with candy and nuts to delight Canadian consumers. It left both opposition leaders and pundits criticizing the Harper government for its lack of vision. These critics may well be right in the short term, but surely by now we should know to look at Harper's actions with a wider lens.

Globe and Mail
Why the NDP needs a provincial Quebec party

When Thomas Mulcair cast his advance ballot in last month's Quebec election in favour of Liberal MNA Geoffrey Kelley, onlookers were reminded of a curious gap in Quebec's political spectrum.

The Toronto Star
Liberal party needs to return to the tradition of Mackenzie King

Michael Ignatieff walked into the ballroom and was greeted like the charismatic rock star he never was. He then delivered a campaign-style speech, claiming that "no political party in Canada worked harder in 2010, and that is why, my dear friends, 2011 will belong to the Liberal Party of Canada."

Rights Watch monitoring at CCLA

Aboriginal Customary Adoptions Injected into Quebec Civil Code

Quebec's National Assembly has legislated to recognize customary adoptions, acknowledging Aboriginal authority over certain aspect of family law and injecting a hint of legal pluralism into the Civil Code of Quebec. Bill 113 was adopted unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly last Friday, amending both the Civil Code and the Youth Protection Act.

Government Bill Would Include Gender Identity in Canada's Human Rights Act

A government bill sponsored by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is on the cusp of amending the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) to include gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs reported back to the Senate last week with no amendments to C-16, bringing it just one Senate vote away from Royal Assent.

Hairstylist Gets his Cut in Human Rights Decision

With the help of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, a Montreal man has prevailed over his former employer at the Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec. Richard Zilberg worked for six months as a hairstylist at Spa Orazen in Montreal before he was fired in August 2012 for refusing to observe Jewish sabbath.

Government Inaction Reboots Charter Challenge on Solitary Confinement

A constitutional challenge to the use of solitary confinement in Canadian federal prisons is moving forward after a five-month adjournment. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the John Howard Society of Canada (JHSC) began the action against the federal government in 2015.

The New C-51: Charter-proofing, Witchcraft and Sexual Assault Updates

Last week federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced Bill C-51 in the House of Commons. The Act is the government's next step to modernize Canada's Criminal Code, render future legislation compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and update criminal provisions around sexual assault.

Quebec Government Legislates Construction Industry Back to Work

The National Assembly passed loi 142 in the early morning Tuesday, legislating 175,000 Quebecers back to work and ending the province's week-old construction strike. The bill establishes a 1.8 per cent wage increase, short of what construction workers had hoped to settle on through the negotiation process.

Collaborative Work at Samara Canada

Samara Canada
Much more to Canadian political culture than voter suppression

As word of former political staffer Michael Sona's conviction in the robocalls scandal rolled across the news last week, the instinct of many commentators was to speculate on how many others might be working to undermine Canada's democracy: "How many bad apples can a single tree bear, before it begins to look rotten in the trunk?"

Samara Canada
Legislative lowdown, 2015

As Parliament boots back up and the election clock ticks down, it's a good time to take a look at the House of Commons as a legislative assembly, as a place where bills and motions are passed and laws are made. What will Parliament be considering-and not considering-in the coming months?

Redemption for Parliament: Why the Reform Act Needs to Pass

This is a blog post written by Samara's Executive Director Jane Hilderman and Community Animator Mark Dance on why MP Michael Chong's Reform Act needs to pass the Senate. Four years ago, at the close of Canada's 40 th Parliament, the two of us looked on from the Commons' galleries as retiring MPs stood in the House of Commons to bid farewell to the institution they had called home.

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