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This Magazine

Radical zine is a 'quiet triumph' over hypocrisy

By Drew Halfnight

This Magazine
Edited by Graham F. Scott
(Published by the Red Maple Foundation) $5.95 

In a recent phone interview, author and This Magazine contributor Mark Kingwell said the journal was “a kind of hoary veteran of the magazine wars in this country.” This is a fair assessment. This Magazine has been around, and it deserves your respect.

Since its launch by Toronto activists in 1966 as This Magazine Is About Schools, a radical education quarterly, it has hosted and nurtured generations of emerging talent. Margaret Atwood, Rick Salutin, Michael Ondaatje, John Ralston Saul, Naomi Klein and Doug Saunders all graced its pages in decades past, and some of these writers continue to contribute.

As Kingwell hinted, the magazine bears scars from the decline of print circulation and the marginalization of the activist left in Canada. Over the years, it has traded a degree of principle for sex appeal, and like most publications, it is increasingly guilty of pandering to a narrowing base. One article in the July/August issue, for example, tried unfairly and with limited success to put Canwest in bed with big oil.

But today’s flashier, glossier This is still packed with scrappy writing on important topics, and it still succeeds at presenting the Canadian left at its best: independent, unaligned, committed to exposing hypocrisy and advocating for progress. Articles in this year’s issues revealed Canada’s role as an international pusher of asbestos; parsed the impact of the Olympics on children, First Nations and the homeless in British Columbia; plumbed the depths of the racist mind; and proposed making indigenous lands the 11th province.

This Magazine is one of the few Canadian publications still doing quality long-form journalism. In the September/October issue, freelancer Augusta Dwyer detailed the tribulations of Mexican asylum seekers turned away by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. In the same issue, Keith Norbury unearthed a little-known subculture in his oddball exposé on trans-humanists and singularitarians, groups that believe in the imminent ascension of a cyborg race.

In a time when mainstream media often treat readers as if they have the attention spans of goldfish, This Magazine is a quiet triumph. It’s likely the best Canadian magazine you’ve never read.

Drew Halfnight is a reporter for the Guelph Mercury.

Author's photo
Drew Halfnight is a father, journalist and high school teacher in Toronto.
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