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Halifax Regional Police have announced a thorough review of all pedestrian/vehicle investigations through 2013 and into the future, and will release that information to the public. This is a very welcome move on the police department's part.
The police release is below:
In response to the spike in vehicle/pedestrian collisions this month, HRM Partners in Policing are closely examining each incident from 2013 to provide police and citizens with more contextual information about these collisions.
Crime analysts have been assigned to examine all vehicle/pedestrian collisions for 2013, as well as incidents that occur on a go-forward basis. The analysts will look for various factors: time of day; whether the driver was turning right or left or going straight; the age and gender of the driver and pedestrian; weather conditions; ticket information; etc. This information will then be released to citizens.
Going forward, police will release all incidents involving a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle. This will include those incidents that occur in marked and unmarked crosswalks, in the roadway but not in a crosswalk and in parking lots. Currently, only those collisions that involve injuries are released to the public. Police have since conducted a thorough review of all motor vehicle collisions for the month of December and have determined that the below seven collisions involving pedestrians have not been released by police. This brings the total number of vehicle/pedestrian collisions to 18 for the month of December.
1. Dec 2, 2013, 6:20 a.m. – A 44-year-old woman contacted police after hitting a man in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Old Sambro Road and Herring Cove Road in Spryfield. The pedestrian did not wait for police to arrive and he could not be located. (13-174460)
2. Dec 2, 2013, 10:45 a.m. - A 25-year-old woman crossing Locke Street in Bedford in a crosswalk was hit by a vehicle driven by an 84-year-old man turning from Locke Street onto the Bedford Highway. The pedestrian suffered minor injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS. The driver was issued a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian. (13-174488)
3. Dec 3, 2013, 4:32 p.m. - A 46-year-old man was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Titus Street and Main Avenue in Fairview. The pedestrian suffered minor injuries and was issued a ticket for failing to obey a traffic signal. (13-175196)
4. Dec 4, 2013, 1:06 p.m. - A 63-year-old man was hit by a vehicle at low speed in a private parking lot on Ramsgate Lane in Spryfield. The pedestrian suffered minor injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS. Police determined there was no offence, therefore no ticket was issued. (13-175582)
5. Dec 4, 2013, 3:26 p.m. - A 50-year-old man reported that he had his foot run over by a vehicle while he was crossing Chebucto Road at Connolly Street in Halifax. The vehicle did not stop and the investigation is ongoing. (13-175650)
6. Dec 5, 2013, 8:26 p.m. - A 17-year-old female reported that she was hit by a black vehicle while crossing Charles Street at Agricola Street in Halifax in a crosswalk. She suffered minor injuries. The vehicle stopped and the driver spoke with the pedestrian, however no information was exchanged. The investigation is ongoing. (13-176632)
7. Dec 7, 2013, 1:17 p.m. – A 57-year-old woman was hit by a reversing vehicle in the parking lot of the Bloomfield Centre on Agricola Street in Halifax. The victim made her way to hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Police determined there was no offence, therefore no ticket was issued. (13-177086)
HRM Partners in Policing will also be trying a new awareness approach in the coming weeks targeted at changing the behaviour of both drivers and pedestrians. “We want our citizens to know that we recognize this is a problem in HRM and that we’re serious about tackling the issue,” says HRP Deputy Chief Bill Moore. “We’ve reached the point where we need to look beyond our typical approach and be open to trying something new.”
"It's time to think outside the box," says Chief Superintendent Roland Wells of Halifax District RCMP. "All I can say about the new awareness approach at this point is keep your eyes peeled at crosswalks while out and about in HRM over the next couple of weeks.”
Eyelevel Gallery is moving. Again. For the last year the non-profit artist-run centre flirted with staying in its small Gottingen Street storefront space, or moving to as far away as Dartmouth. Now a small office space on Cornwallis Street across from Dee Dee’s is crammed with the gallery’s filing cabinets and new director Katie Belcher’s desk.
“[The move] was precipitated by a financial decision,” Belcher explains. “The rent was going up by about 30 percent.”
Landlord Ezra Edelstein gave Eyelevel a year to decide whether to stay or go. When his company bought the building last fall, rent was cheap, and wasn’t covering the cost of heating, electricity and rising property taxes. When Gottingen Street became part of a business district, property taxes increased on top of already rising property assessments, Edelstein explains.
He gave the gallery two options: pay the same rent in addition to heat, electricity and property tax, or move back into the space after renovations are complete and pay higher rent.
It’s Eyelevel’s tenth move in 40 years. Most moves have been in recent history. Space on the peninsula, especially downtown, has become increasingly pricey, causing the gallery to jump from place to place, and change programming to be less reliant on gallery space.
Belcher says she’s excited about the new space, which allows for more programming in temporary spaces. She’s eyeing small businesses, shipping containers and even a boat for future projects.
Eyelevel is sharing its new space with the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative, which moved out of the CBC building on Sackville Street in 2011. Eyelevel isn’t the only arts groups in the north end with space concerns. As The Coast previously reported, the Roberts Street Social Centre moved to Creighton Street earlier this year, and a new landlord gave the group until February to find a new space.
The Halifax Rainmen have hired former NBA star Craig Hodges as coach. Hodges replaces Chris Terrell, who was unceremoniously fired last week, after the Rainmen opened the season with six straight losses. Terrell was the seventh Rainmen coach in as many seasons.
Hodges played in the NBA from 1983 through 1992, most notably alongside Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls from 1988 through 1992, as the team won championship rings in ’91 and ’92. Three times through his pro career, Hodges led the league in three-point shot percentages.
In his last season with the Bulls, Hodges became a high-profile political activist, joining with the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and showing up at a Bulls’ meeting in the White House with president George H.W. Bush wearing a dashiki, the traditional garb of West Africans. He also criticized teammate Michael Jordan for not using his fame to help the black community. He was let go from the Bulls that season.
After his pro career, Hodges worked as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers under head coach Phil Jackson, who Hodges calls a mentor. Over the past three years Hodges has been running a series of camps and writing a book about his career.
Rainmen owner Andre Levingston announced Hodges’ hiring Wednesday at a press conference in Scotia Square. Hodges thanked god for his new job and expressed optimism for the Rainmen. “I’m looking forward to jamming with the brothers and seeing what’s going on,” he said.
“Winning doesn’t just happen,” said Hodges. “Top to bottom, from management to the twelfth person on the team, we have to be on the same team.
Levingston noted that Hodges’s hiring was so abrupt that Hodges had no time to consult with his family. “He’s hired as interim coach,” said Levingston.
Asked if he was worried about the high turnover of Rainmen coaches, Hodges said he’s “not worried about the future. I’m worried about right now.”
Craig Hodges on the politics of the NBA:
The photo above was tweeted approvingly last night by Halifax Chebucto MLA Joachim Stroink. "Giving some love to Zwarte Piet and Sinterklass thank you to the Dutch Community for putting this event on," wrote Stroink.
Stroink himself has offered the following explanation:
Yesterday, my family and I participated in a Dutch cultural event that marks the unofficial start of our Christmas season - this event has been taking place in Halifax for a number of years now. Families from all over Nova Scotia and New Brunswick attend each year.In 2011, blogger Flavia Dzodan, who describes herself as "half Hispanic, half Eastern European," and who lives in Amsterdam, wrote a long piece detailing the racist origins of Zwarte Piet, and its continued racist connotations. Here's part of it:
Christmas in my culture is a tradition focused on Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pete has always been his side kick, much like Santa's elves. While the history of Zwarte Pete and the blackface have contributed to perpetuating negative stereotypes, to ignore or to disavow Zwarte Pete would be to ignore that history within the Dutch community. In recent years issues have been raised in some communities, but to my knowledge never in Halifax or NS, with this cultural celebration.
As a child growing up and celebrating the Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pete tradition, the blackface did not lead me to think less of my African NS neighbours and friends, and as such I was not sensitive to the potential to offend through my participation, with my family, at Sunday's 2013 Sinterklaas event held in Halifax.
While it is certainly uncomfortable to be in the lime light for what was intended to be a fun community event for the family kicking off the Christmas season, the resulting conversation, highlighting the underlying issues with black face and how it has played a role in suppressing people of African heritage, is a worthy and necessary one. It is important we embrace discussions like this as a broader community.
Given the controversial nature of my tweet, I will be removing the image from my profile.
Thank you for your collective passion and opinions.
The above, for those not familiar with our local “traditions”, are popularly known as “Black Pete”, or “Zwarte Piet” in Dutch. These “colorful” characters are the helpers of Sinterklaas, or more formally Sint Nicolaas/ Sint Nikolaas or Saint Nicolas in French. Sinterklaas is a children’s Winter holiday celebrated every year in The Netherlands, Belgium and some cities in the North of France. According to tradition, the Saint arrives to The Netherlands a few weeks prior to the celebration, in a boat, carrying the gifts he will deliver to children. The “Black Petes” are his helpers and they carry candy and control children’s behavior (children who misbehave supposedly get no presents from the Saint). Again, according to “tradition”, these helpers are Moors, or North African slaves. This “tradition” has evolved throughout the years, partially due to increasing protests from groups that find these depictions offensive. Nowadays, it is claimed that the Black face is due to the fact that the helpers have gone through chimneys and as a result, their faces are covered in soot. What again, nobody can clearly explain, is what kind of soot leaves such a uniform and evenly spread residue. Or worse, why these “chimney dwellers” speak in a fake accent that parodies the Black population of the Dutch former colony of Suriname.I know Stroink, and have interviewed him. He's a good guy. Helps kids, donates to charities. On a personal level, I haven't witnessed any overt racism on Stroink's part, and I doubt I ever will. Stroink himself assures us that he his not racist, by re-tweeting his former roommate's defence of Stroink:
But the issue is not how Stroink treats this or that black person, or what's in his heart and head. That's almost immaterial to this discussion. Racism is much, much deeper than a black guy and a white guy being good friends, and so that's the end of it. No, racism is NOT about how this or that white person treats this or that black person, or vice-versa. Rather, racism is a societal disease, a pervasive beast that pops up again and again, in governmental policies, in how companies do or do not police their workforce, in segregated schools, in housing discrimination and more.
I was born and raised in the American south. Just five years before I was born, the powers-that-be in my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia shut down the schools rather than desegregate them. As I was growing up, segregated water fountains were still being removed.
I won't bore you with the overt racism I saw growing up. Frankly, it embarrasses me, and doubly so because I benefitted from it.
But I was a first-hand observer of southern racism until I moved to California (where I found a different kind of racism) when I was 23, and then again when I took a one-year stint as a daily newspaper reporter in Arkansas, before moving to Halifax in 2004. I can tell you this: a unifying theme of it is the Confederate flag.
There are a lot of, well, straight-up racist assholes flying the Confederate flag, but I've met plenty of southerners who are nice people, refined, educated, contribute to charity, etc, who also fly the Confederate flag. This latter group assure us they're not racist, and it's just part of their "heritage" and "tradition."
Like these nice southerners flying the Confederate flag, Stroink doesn't intend to cause offense with the Zwarte Piet. It's just tradition, something he grew up with and un-thinkingly reenacts each year. But it's precisely this cluelessness, this unexamined playing out of "tradition" and "heritage" that is the problem. It lays out there in the world, part of the day-to-day symbolism that black people in our society have to put up with: "Hey, it's just tradition! You know, that tradition where we enslaved people that looked like you. Don't take it personally!"
Undoubtedly, many black people would be perfectly fine with Zwarte Piet if in return they got equal employment opportunities, the end of profiling while in stores and driving and so forth. Alas, that deal won't be in the works. That's because one is connected to the other: the symbolism and cultural representation of black faces is inexorably linked to the societal racism against black people.
All of which is to say, I don't think Stroink is a bad guy, but I urge him to think this through. He's right to say the discussion his tweet has generated is worthy. I just hope he listens to it.
At last week’s council meeting, as council was setting its “priority” items for next year, police chief Jean-Michel Blais told council he had initiated discussions with the province in hopes of changing bar closing time.
“Ideally,” Blais told The Coast in an interview, “I’d like to see everyone close at the same time, at two o’clock, but I also realize that there’s a difference with the various licences that are out there, so I’d be very happy with just one hour back.”
Most bars must close by 2am, but those with cabaret licences can serve until 3:30am. There are three active cabaret licences in downtown Halifax: Reflections, the Toothy Moose and The Dome.
Mike Schmid, of Reflections, says he and the Nova Scotia Restaurant Association recently met with Blais. “The police department brought statistics they said were typical for a weekend night, and a very small percentage of the incidents happened after four o’clock. It seems like most of the incidents are happening before the cabarets are closing down, not after.
“People tend to go home when they get out at four o’clock,” continues Schmid. “People that leave at two o’clock tend not to go home. So if you’re going to have trouble, it’s with the people who leave at two o’clock. At four o’clock it’s time to go home, at two o’clock it’s time to go get a pizza.”
Schmid additionally objects that there aren’t enough cabs to handle both the regular bar patrons and the cabaret patrons at the same time.
At this point, Blais’ suggestion has not been officially considered by the province. Were a change to come, it would have to be studied by Service Nova Scotia, which oversees municipal affairs, and be adopted by the legislature
Last week, the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia published its annual report card on homeless, timed to come out during the now annual Housing and Homelessness Conference. The report notes that in HRM in 2012, there were 1,880 people who stayed in a shelter, and staying a total of 66,154 shelter nights. About 10 percent of the total, about 1,88 people, are classified as “chronically homeless,” meaning they have been relying on shelters for many years, often for decades.
A newly announced homeless initiative coordinated by the United Way and including AHANS, all three levels of government, some private firms like Killam properties and a collection of non-profit and government agencies aims to “solve” the chronic homelessness problem in Halifax within five years.
In the report, AHANS notes that homelessness is merely the bottom of a housing continuum, that ranges from shelter and rooming houses on the low end, through social housing and apartments, all the way up to high end condos. “As rental housing becomes more expensive, the entire continuum becomes more expensive,” explains AHANS’ Grant Wanzel. “We see it with increased homelessness, but people are suffering at all levels, paying more than they should be for their housing.”
Wanzell in particular points at the new shipbuilding contract, which has pushed up rents throughout the north end. This has in turn seen apartment building repurposed as condos, and at the entry level rental market, rooming houses sold and renovated as apartments. In 2007, there were 153 rooming houses in HRM; last year there were just 25, and five of those are for sale. At the conference, the manager of Turning Point shelter noted that every time a rooming house closes, the shelter sees an increase in business.
A video shows a group of students slumped in their chairs on a stage as if in a deep sleep. The video cuts to hypnotist Tony Lee prompting them, both women and men, to imagine simulating oral sex to a man. The students abide as they gesture, half unconscious, and move in ways miming actions one would expect to see in a pornographic film. The audience roars with laughter and cheers. “Lean forward! Use your hands! Grab that cock” Tony Lee shouts and the students on stage obey.
This scene is only a small part of the 20-minute Youtube video of Tony Lee’s show at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. in 2012, and there are others like it. Lee travels across the country with his hypnotist routine performing at various universities’ orientation week events. He’s performed close to 7000 shows at universities, including Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, Mount A and Acadia.. Lee is a self-described “XXX-rated hypnotist,” but also offers a less racy “PG-rated” show to orientation week leaders. But many want the full XXX, he says.
Even with the controversial nature of his show, Lee says he would estimate about three or four students out of 1000 might not enjoy the show, usually due to religious or moral beliefs. The show, he says, is completely optional and no one if forced to attend. “At the end of the day the kids are grown up, if they really don’t like what they see, they’re young adults, they’ll leave the building.” He says he’s careful at universities never to demean women and to prevent nudity. “There’s a certain line that you can’t cross,” he says.
“Damien the XXX hypnotist,” AKA Damian Dougherty, also tours Canadian universities with a similar act. Lee says he mentored Damien and the two have an agreement in which Lee allows Damien to use some of his unique and original acts, “sort of like lending a comedian a joke,” Lee says.
The acts people who are hypnotized perform, Damien says, “could be anything from pretending they’re Britney Spears or Justin Bieber to falling in love with their chair.”
Lee employs a similar trick, suggesting that the students imagine themselves as their favourite pet, and their chair as a member of the same animal species and a love interest. “They think they’re a dog humping another dog,” he says “but visually to the audience it’s a person screwing a chair, you know what I mean.”
“The kids love it,” Dougherty says, referring to his own performance at orientation weeks. “I am still the highest attended event. You can speak to all the programmers on campus, my show is very fun, very safe, very clean.”
But not everyone agrees. The Dalhousie Student Union discontinued the use of a hypnotist a few years ago.
Danny Shanahan has been involved in orientation week at the university from his The XXX hypnotist set a bad tone for the type of orientation week that they want to offer at Dalhousie, says Danny Shanahan, as chair of the orientation week committee. “I can tell you from a personal standpoint that there were definitely things that I was uncomfortable with as a first year student, but also I think many students probably were,” Shanahan says referring to his experience watching Tony Lee perform in 2009.
“I think there were some very homophobic undertones and we didn’t appreciate as a student union and it was something that we were not interested in promoting in any way,” he continues.
Many universities still hire an XXX-hypnotist for orientation week. In September Damien performed at Saint Mary’s University, Acadia, Mount St. Vincent and UPEI, and Tony Lee celebrated his 20th year performing at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
People involved in agencies that help and advocate for the homeless are good people, trying to make the world a better place, but they can get caught up in the inside baseball of the non-profit and social service agency world, employing buzzwords and acronyms at a head-spinning rate, sometimes losing the forest for the trees. And Sam Tsemberis is something of a rock star in the homeless activist world, so I wasn't sure what to expect from him, as the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Nova Scotia Housing & Homelessness Conference in Halifax this week.
Thankfully, Tsemberis is remarkably plain spoken, unafraid to take strong political stands and, well, sensible. And the attitudes expressed at the conference largely demonstrate that Halifax's homeless advocates get it: they're cutting through the partisan divides and agency defending that can define the social service world, and instead are concentrating on the concrete goal of ending chronic homelessness.
Tsemberis is founder and CEO of Pathways to Housing, an agency that started in New York City but now also operates in Washington DC, Philadelphia and Vermont. He coined the phrase "housing first" to describe Pathways' approach to housing, which is simple and straight-forward: Give homeless people a place to live. There's a bunch of stuff that can, and should, come after that, including help with addictions and mental health issues, if needed, but the initial providing housing part of the equation is unconditioned. If you're homeless, you get a place to live.
During his speech, Tsemberis talked about the history of anti-poverty programs in the United States. In the 1950s and '60s, "the war on poverty" was concerned with three groups, said Tsemberis: the poor of the rural south and Appalachia, and the migrant poor in the southwest. Whatever the initial intention of the programs, they quickly took the view that these poor were a kind of "other"—other than the eastern urban architects of the programs—and that the quality of "being poor" was a character flaw. If only they could be taught how to read, or to dress properly, etc, then they could raise up out of poverty. That approach is all wrong, said Tsemberis.
"If we were just a group of normal people, gathered here, and we were asked to address unemployment, what would be your response?" he asked the crowd. "Jobs!" came the response. "And so, what should be the answer to homelessness?" he asked. "Housing," came the response.
"There’s a kind of tacit, or underlying belief system," Tsemberis told me later in the day, "that people have to earn housing, and housing is often, in the existing system, used as a carrot—if you get your act together, then we’ll give you this, which is in some very misguided way intended to incentivize people to go into treatment [for addictions or mental health issues]."
In his speech, Tsemberis used the example of a highly educated woman who ended up homeless, being required to go to classes in bizarre subjects like dressing for a job interview, before she could move from a cot in the homeless shelter to a larger, more private area in the same shelter.
"She could've taught the classes," he said. "She didn't need to go to classes. She needed a place to live."
I asked Tsemberis if addictions or mental health issues on the one hand, and homelessness on the other is a chicken-and-egg proposition: are you homeless because you have an addiction, or do you become addicted because you're homeless and have no other way to deal? But Tsemberis completely rejected the question. "Addictions have been around for thousands of years," he said. "Homelessness has only been around for 20. So it’s not the addiction that’s making people homeless. It’s poverty that’s making people homeless. And the fact that the meager housing, supported social housing resources are very restrictive in who they allow to go into housing.
"If you know anything about psychological treatment," he continued, "unless the person really wants the treatment, they’re not going to benefit from it, if they’re just doing it because what they really want is something else, like housing, so they’re just going through the motions. You’re wasting your time in that system—people are just paying lip service, not really changing as a function of the treatment, unable to actually maintain sobriety, successfully engage in psychiatric treatment because they’re doing it to actually get housing, so that’s just a constant waste of resources on everybody’s part. When people actually want housing, why bother them with treatment? How could someone possibly be interested in treatment which requires, you know, at least you know you’re going to go home to sleep tonight. Without that knowledge, there’s no way you can pay attention to the issues of treatment."
It's now understood that a better use of resources is to get people housing, and then bring services to them, as needed. Tsemberis' model is simple: "work with the private market to provide housing, have off-site services that do home visits."
What's at issue is simply a lack of housing, said Tsemberis. "The federal government has not really stepped up to build the kinds of affordable housing people need. People are in the shelter system; it’s not a long drop to drug use. People who get homeless due to drug use are not the majority of people. It happens sometimes, but that’s no different than it was 50 or 60 years ago. People crash, and they get back in. The homelessness is about housing policy, not addiction policy."
I'll get into some of the local numbers in a future article, but the Housing First approach saves money, in that the money spent of addiction and mental health services has a higher success rate for housed people than for people on the streets.
"There’s tons of studies, very well documented, on the savings," said Tsemberis. "The only caution with making that the central argument is that it’s true for a significant group of people, you save lots of money—we’re talking about millions of dollars. But there’s also a group of chronically homeless who have gone nowhere near a service, has been in the woods or by the waterfront, and avoided all services. So are you going to reach out and engage that person? It’s going to cost you more."
The Halifax conference was used to announce a new strategy for addressing homelessness in Halifax. I'll give details of that soon. I asked Tsemberis what he thought of the local effort, and he didn't hesitate to respond: "I think they know what they're doing, have a good focus, and a determination."
In 1996, three years after its launch, The Coast was a bi-weekly paper without a staff. Most of the founders had departed Halifax for jobs that paid a salary, leaving just myself and Christine Oreskovich from the original group of six. Figuring it would be good to get advice from our alternative publishing peers, we invited people from every alt-weekly in Canada to a meeting in Halifax, and the only person who came was the Montreal Mirror's publisher and co-founder Catherine Salisbury. But she was the best one. The three of us hit it off so well that Cathy invested in The Coast to become our business partner.
Now The Coast is 20 years old, and Cathy's 17-year guidance has transformed the paper (and thus, some say, the city). But after 28 years in alternative publishing between Montreal and Halifax, Cathy wanted to get out from behind the spreadsheets and into the ocean to focus on her other passion as an underwater photographer. It was time to make a switch. As of last Friday The Coast changed hands, Cathy leaving the business and Christine and I taking sole ownership. Not much else has changed---Cathy is even staying on as a consultant---but still we wanted to share this news with you. We're sure this is the start of a great future together.
Recent cuts to Dalhousie University's library acquisitions budget have been stopped, but the battle isn't over yet. “The shortfall's covered for this year,” says student representative John Hutton, from Dalhousie's board of governors. “The crisis hasn't disappeared. It's just sort of been put off.”
Last winter, facing 3.5 percent cuts to all departments, Dalhousie's budget advisory committee recommended a one percent cut to library acquisitions, totalling $64,000. The library's funds, which normally last until February, ran out by October.
The result would have been the loss of over 400 academic journals in the sciences and humanities, were it not for a vocal student response. Over the last month, numerous groups and petitions have protested the cuts and pressured the university to reverse their decision.
It seems to have worked. As of November 8, Dal will be using its “strategic initiative fund” to cover the budget gap. But according to Hutton, the one time use of a “vague slush fund” still leaves the library at risk. “They're saying it's a protected budget item now, but (vice-president academic and provost Carolyn) Watters is saying there's certain things in the budget that shouldn't be there in the first place. It means they're going to cut it. It's a weaselly way around it, in my opinion.”
Hutton, who's been one of the main organizers of the petitions against these cuts, says the administration underestimated the student body's response. “They aren't your usual suspect activists,” he says. “It's like, the Science Society; academically focused keener groups, not the campus activists. I think that caught them off guard.”
A petition currently collecting signatures in room 314 of the Student Union Building will be handed to Dal's board of governors at its Nov. 26 meeting, and to the Provincial Legislature on Nov. 28
Saint Mary’s University orientation week, the backdrop for the infamous SMU rape chant, is home to even more sexual controversy. The university’s orientation week also introduced new students to their campus by having them act out sexual positions in front of their peers.
Elizabeth MacKay, a third-year student studying psychology at the university, says one of the orientation week events offered at Saint Mary’s during the event Turf Burn, involved students acting out inappropriate sexual positions which each other in front of a group, as an icebreaker activity.
MacKay attended the event during her orientation week two years ago and says, she was paired up with a young man she had never met before.
The students were put into two lines and while orientation week leaders shouted out sexual positions, including “sixty-nine” and “doggy-style,” the students were told to run into the middle of the group with their partner and act it out, she says.
MacKay says the leaders didn’t explain to the students what they were expected to do when she first agreed to play the game. When she was told to act out “doggy-style” on her first turn, she refused.
The group made fun of her when she didn’t want to participate. “Everyone was jeering when I walked off,” MacKay says. Fellow students and frosh leaders told her “oh come on don’t be lame.”
MacKay wasn’t the only one.
Sarah MacLeod, a third-year NSCAD University student who lived in Saint Mary’s residence during her first year, attended SMU’s orientation week that year and recalls the same “sexual positions” event. MacLeod says people who didn’t want to play or who left because they were uncomfortable, were called “no fun” by the frosh leaders.
MacLeod says one of the reasons that she didn’t want to participate was because the male leaders running the activity were making inappropriate comments about the bodies of the young women who were playing.
“It was really awful,” MacLeod says.
“That is shocking and inappropriate that it would be happening,” says Wayne MacKay, a professor at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law who is leading a task force, which is addressing sexist behaviour on Saint Mary’s campus. MacKay says he hadn’t heard of these specific allegations but that the task force would be interested in hearing about them.
Turf Burn, an orientation week event made up of a variety of icebreaker games, was the backdrop for the infamous Saint Mary’s rape chant at this year’s orientation week.
The chant, lead by orientation week leaders at the university, gained notoriety around the country for its inappropriate and sexually explicit nature, and it was not an isolated event.
“It was the same when I was there, everything was sexual,” Elizabeth MacKay says. “They try to draw people into frosh week with the college and partying lifestyle,” she says.
“I don’t have a problem with partying but they’re not taught to do it safely. And in the case of our frosh week, they weren’t taught respect towards women,” she continues.
MacKay says she would like to see orientation week provide opportunities where students can truly get to know each other. “That’s what orientation week is supposed to be about and I didn’t get to know anybody. I was expected to pretend to do doggy-style with some guy I didn’t know,” she says.
MacKay says she didn’t formally complain about the event when it happened because she didn’t feel entitled to as a first year student.
Asked to comment on their orientation week programming Gorba Bhandari, the student union president, says the union is focusing on moving forward and changing the culture around safety, respect and sexual assault prevention. He will not comment on MacKay’s and MacLeod’s specific allegations, or on the event Turf Burn.
The first is CAO Richard Butts’ determination to reduce the number of “politically sensitive” items coming to regional council. As The Coast reported in February 2012, Butts secretly created an “agenda forecasting” process, in which staff vets all issues, as far as a year in advance, and Butts himself must approve what ultimately goes to council. This has reduced the number of staff reports coming to council to a trickle.
The second process involves council’s decision to more heavily rely on committees. There is now a division of labour. At the top is regional council, which is comprised of all elected councillors in HRM. Below are three community councils, comprised of councillors representing each of three geographic areas. There are also six standing committees.
The problem with relying heavily on the community councils and standing committees, say councillors opposed to that devolution of power, is that important decisions are being made without full knowledge or approval of all councillors. Moreover, it is nearly impossible for the public to track all issues, as community council and standing committee meetings are not televised, and the press can’t cover them all.
On the plus side, the public can address councillors directly at the lower committees, which it can’t do at regional council. But councillor Tim Outhit says limiting the number of regional council meetings is “ass backwards.”
“We’re treating the symptom, rather than the problem,” Outhit tells The Coast. “Is the problem coming once a week to regional council, or too many committee meetings, boards or internal meetings?
“If we’re looking to fill agendas, which I can’t imagine we need to do, but let’s do a question period. Let’s have people present to us, so that not only do all of us hear it, but the 30- or 40,000 watching on TV hear it as well.”
Pannozzo began studying the seal issue in 2009, as the provincial NDP government was proposing to change the Wilderness Protection Act to allow hunting of grey seals on Hay Island.
Pannozzo watched testimony before the Law Amendments Committee, and her book includes an absurd exchange between Harold Theriault, then the Liberal MLA for Digby-Annapolis, and Hal Whitehead, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University. Theriault told Whitehead that the Australian government had instituted a cull of kangaroos, because the roos were interfering with golf course and were a road hazard.
“If there were eight million seals here on our land in Nova Scotia to Labrador,” asked Theriault, “eight million, and they were disturbing our golfing and driving up and down the roads, do you believe they would have a cull of the seal herd?” In response, Whitehead said he didn’t think seals would ever interfere our highways. The committee voted against the change, but was overruled by the NDP caucus.
The following year, Pannozzo discovered a federal plan to kill nearly a quarter of a million seals on Sable Island, using incinerators to dispose of the carcasses. She published her discovery in The Coast in May of 2010 (“How to kill 220,000 seals on Sable Island: the DFO plan"), garnering international attention. A month later, Pannozzo and Coast contributing editor Bruce Wark published a detailed examination of the issue ("Sable Island’s cod killer?"), for which they won an Atlantic Journalism Award. The book follows two more years of research by Pannozzo.
“The real reasons why the cod haven’t recovered would require an awful lot of change on our part, and a seal cull doesn’t require any,” says Pannozzo. “Killing the grey seal doesn’t require us to change our fishing practices or to deal with climate change.”
It’s round two for three non-profits given a second chance. Tuesday was the deadline for the groups to submit a proposal for the former St. Pat’s-Alexandra school property.
About 30 people attended a meeting last week to hear about the bid. If council votes in favour of the proposal, the building would become a hub for community programs, the non-profits said at the meeting. The groups, now calling themselves the North Central Community Council, have a five-year business plan, and want to build a low-income and market-rate housing development on the property.
Mi’kmaq elder Tom Christmas said at the meeting he didn’t agree with the proposal the first time because the three groups weren’t working together, but now that there was collaboration, he had changed his mind.
Two years ago, the city ranked the groups’ separate bids for the property against for-profit proponents on a scale that gave points according to financial offer. The non-profits lost. But a Supreme Court judge ruled the city didn’t follow its own rules and ordered HRM to re-offer the property to any interested non-profits.
Their second chance is different, for a few reasons. This time the groups held community consultations and organized the bid together. And this time MLA Maureen MacDonald arranged for the previous NDP government to give the groups $50,000 to hire a consultant.
Last time, pastor Rhonda Britton of the Richard Preston Centre for Excellence did not find out about the RFP until after the deadline had passed, so she asked for the deadline to be extended. The North End Community Health Centre meanwhile did not submit a bid, and instead asked the city to subdivide the property and have the winning proponent sell them the school building for $1. At the time the NECHC wrote in their proposal that they had “no fiscally responsible option for submitting a proposal for the site.”
This time it appears they do. “We’re not about to do something we can’t afford,” Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre director Pam Glode-Desrochers said at the meeting.
However, the groups were deliberately vague about their business plan. Britton said the NCCC would not release the plan until HRM sees it. Nothing in HRM’s call for submissions prevents the groups from speaking publicly about any aspect of their proposal.
“We don’t want to transgress in any way in case we are disqualified,” NECHC director Margaret Casey said. Grounds for disqualification include attempting to contact any member of council, staff or the evaluation team in relation to the application.
Another concern is how the proposal will be evaluated. Last time, city staff used the wrong scoring system. This time the NCCC is worried the scoring is too subjective. "It is almost purely subjective,” Britton says. “This has been a concern since the beginning.”
The criteria are content compliance, viability, compensation and benefit to the municipality. “The evaluation will be qualitative in nature and there will be no scores or weighting assigned,” the call for submissions states.
To be successful, two-thirds of council must vote in favour of the proposal.
The proposal could also be derailed by JONO Developments’ appeal of the Supreme Court decision that gave the groups another shot. The appeal goes to court in May.
Joe Metlege of JONO Developments says he offered the groups an acre of land on the nearly four-acre property, including part of the school and the community garden, but they declined. Casey couldn’t recall the details, but said the deal didn’t meet NCCC’s needs.
It would be a shame if the diverse, historic population were to move out due to encroaching development in the neighbourhood, Casey said after the meeting. “This proposal will hopefully prevent that.”
Devin Way wants white lines to mark every crosswalk. The man who calls himself “the Crosswalk Avenger” has been protesting at intersections across the peninsula with a sign that reads: “Mark the crosswalks so there are no more fatalities or wrongdoings by anyone. We can make a difference.”
He’s gathered nearly 400 signatures in the past month, and he plans to present the petition to HRM.
In 2006, a motorist struck the Avenger in an unmarked crosswalk at Kempt Road and Stairs Street. The driver slowed down as she neared the stop sign. Way made eye contact with her and stuck out an arm to cross. As he stepped into the street, she hit him in the leg and he flew onto her hood, hitting the windshield with his wrists. “There’s no such thing as a rolling stop,” he says.
His injuries still cause him pain, making him unable to work, he says. Recently the Avenger has read similar stories in the news of cars striking pedestrians, so he decided to start protesting for better safety conditions.
But his petition probably won’t make a difference. An HRM official says the city won’t consider painting white lines on every crosswalk. Doing so can actually make crosswalks less safe, says manager of traffic and right away Taso Koutroulakis. Connectivity, traffic volumes and pedestrian frequency determine whether a crosswalk is marked, he says.
“We want to highlight the crossings where motorists should expect crossings, because otherwise, if you were to paint crosswalks in theory at every intersection, then the importance of a marked crosswalk would be diminished.”
That’s also true of signage. If placed everywhere, signs lose their emphasis to some degree. Cost also plays into the equation somewhat. It would likely be too costly to paint every crosswalk in HRM, Koutroulakis says.
If a residents want a crosswalk at a certain location, they can call 311 to request one. Staff will then consider painting lines on the pavement.
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