Reality Bites provides the best coverage of current affairs and political issues related to Halifax and City Council anywhere in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Oh, and we bring the snark, too. Contact jacob@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Friday, June 23, 2017

902 Man Up finds healing within

Halifax organization wants to prove transformation comes from the inside out at Family Day event this weekend.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 11:57 AM

VIA 902MANUP.CA
  • VIA 902ManUp.ca

You don’t need to be a man to “man up,” but a community touched by violence is encouraging males to step up to the plate and become “responsible men” in their neighbourhoods.

902 Man Up was created by Marcus James and Peter Campbell last May. The community-based organization was formed in response to an outbreak of homicides in the Halifax area, of which, over a third of the victims were African Nova Scotians.

“We felt that we could do something,” says James. “Let’s not wait for anybody else.”

The project aims to increase mentorship across the historically Black communities in Halifax, challenging males to take initiative to promote a positive lifestyle, education and community service. The group of nearly 100 volunteers is a cross-generational exchange made up of older and younger Black men.

“We felt the need to reach out to our younger Black men to really understand where we dropped the ball,” James explains. “That type of healing is not something that outsiders can provide, it has to come from within our community.”

Despite change over the years, James believes black youth face many of the same hurdles he did in his past: among these are a lack of employment opportunity, a failing education system, violence and crime.

“We want to relieve that pain because once it gets locked in you, it’s very hard to get rid of,” James states.

James’s family grew up in Halifax’s north end and has family from Preston. Even with a supportive household that pushed education, he says he still “fell through the cracks.”

“I was still impacted by the influences of the street,” he says. “You are subject to your environment.”

902 Man Up plans to change this environment through dialogue and action.

Campbell, who grew up in the community of Mulgrave Park, says he makes an effort to communicate with youth he’s run into through the program.

“I talk to a lot of kids,” says Campbell, “If most had someone to talk to like I did when I was growing up, it would make a difference.”

The program works to show Black males as engaged citizens, family members and leaders—an image James says is lacking in the public.

“We created 902 Man Up to showcase the good things that are happening in our community.”

The group’s participants are creating momentum through cultural events and fundraisers, including a scholarship fund for Black students at Saint Mary’s University and a back to school drive that provided 300 students with school supplies in August.

Campbell emphasizes that the program is inclusive of all genders and ethnicities, with Black males taking the lead.

“There’s a lot of women that raise kids on their own, so ‘Man Up’ can mean a lot more,” says Campbell, who thinks of his own mentor, his mother, when he hears the phrase. “We’re here for everybody. It doesn’t matter who it is, we’re going to do what we can to make things better.”

James says the organization is thankful for partnerships with the Halifax municipality and professional organizations such as the Halifax fire department and the Halifax Association of Black Firefighters in promotion of their efforts.

The upcoming 902 Man Up Family Day event will take place this Sunday, June 25 at the Oval from 2-6pm, and will include a free barbeque, face painting, African drumming, firetruck tour and a firefighters’ obstacle course.

“These are people that save lives,” says James. “We want to highlight the opportunities that exist and show our young people how to achieve their dreams.”

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Council promises new home for Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre

“We talk about reconciliation, and there’s always lots to talk about it, but this is an actual action,” says executive director Pam Glode-Desrochers.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 7:56 PM

Councillor Waye Mason hugs Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre executive director Pam Glode-Desrochers - THE COAST
  • Councillor Waye Mason hugs Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre executive director Pam Glode-Desrochers
  • THE COAST

Plans for a brand new Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre are one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to a surprise motion from Halifax Regional Council.

After an in-camera discussion that began Tuesday evening and spilled into Wednesday afternoon, council voted to once again look at selling the former Red Cross building in the north end, under the condition that any redevelopment will include should look at including a new friendship centre.

“
Excited,” “thrilled” and “overwhelmed” were all words executive director Pam Glode-Desrochers used to describe her reaction.

“We talk about reconciliation, and there’s always lots to talk about it, but this is an actual action,” she told reporters.

“This is something that's tangible and real for us. There are lots of cities across Canada that, they've done statements of reconciliation, but they have only talked about it. This is an actual action. I think this is the start of a great partnership.”
Glode-Desrochers speaking to reporters. - THE COAST
  • Glode-Desrochers speaking to reporters.
  • THE COAST

The motion rescinds council’s previous decision from last November to declare 1940 Gottingen Street surplus and sell it off to the highest bidder. The 1.2-acre piece of land, assessed at $6.1 million, sits behind Centennial Pool and across the street from the Halifax police station. It’s been vacant ever since Canadian Blood Services moved out in 2013.

Discussions began back in January to undo council’s previous motion when word came down that the federal government was interested in helping to fund a new friendship centre.

“From that point on, we’ve been talking about what sites could HRM potentially help support them on,” councillor Waye Mason said Wednesday.

Glode-Desrochers has been working with Group ATN consultants on a business plan for the site, but once it became clear that proposal wouldn’t be ready in time, council and staff worked on a “hail mary” to rescind November’s motion before the property went up for sale.

The site will still be sold at market value, but the community group will have federal funding, an eager-to-help municipality and the potential for private partnerships to make its dreams come true.

“This isn’t a dream now,” said Glode-Desrochers. “This is something we can actually build on, and that’s going to make a huge difference.”


A full build-out of the property would be over 200,000 square feet, of which the Friendship Centre only needs 70,000. The remaining space will be developed with extensive community input. A reception event held next week will be the first chance to solicit feedback on what’s needed at the site. Glode-Desrochers suggests affordable housing units, a garden and a powwow space could all be included in final designs.

The building itself will also be “iconic,” she says, in a way that will make the entire city proud.

“We want this centre to be everybody’s centre,” she adds. “This is groundbreaking for us. I believe we’ll be a leader in how we’re doing reconciliation, particularly with the city here. Council took a leap today, and we’re going to do this together.”

Council’s motion taking place on national Aboriginal Day added extra significance to the announcement, even if that wasn’t by design.

“The timing of this is more coincidental,” said mayor Mike Savage. “Although it may be a sign from the creator, I don’t know.”

Savage opened the day’s meeting with an acknowledgement that Halifax sits on unceded Mi’kmaq land. His statement was cut off by an outburst from councillor David Hendsbee, who claimed June 21 was also the date Halifax was founded by European settlers.

The momentary tantrum, however, didn't overshadow the day’s later accomplishments.

“We’re moving more and more as a city to really understanding and having a relationship with our First Nations people,” said Savage. “That is very heartening.”

Mayor Mike Savage, joined by Glode-Desrochers, Mason and councillor Lindell Smith. - THE COAST
  • Mayor Mike Savage, joined by Glode-Desrochers, Mason and councillor Lindell Smith.
  • THE COAST

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Halifax doesn't know what its contractors are paying workers

But it's probably not enough for those employees to live on.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 1:33 PM

It's a safe bet the people who clean City Hall aren't being paid $19.10 an hour. - DANIELLE CAMERON
  • It's a safe bet the people who clean City Hall aren't being paid $19.10 an hour.
  • Danielle Cameron

It’s impossible to gauge the financial impact of HRM adopting a living wage policy, in part because right now the municipality doesn’t know what its contracted employees are being paid.

On Tuesday, Halifax Regional Council voted on a verbose staff recommendation to explore including employee compensation, environmental impacts and social economic benefits when approving external contracts.

The municipality will now create a “cross-departmental working group to engage external stakeholders, conduct further investigation and recommend with respect to whether or not to adopt a policy framework for the consideration” of those ethical options.

Potentially the biggest impact out of the report will be if HRM adopts a living wage. But nowhere in the document is there an estimation of how much that policy shift might cost. Like a Nancy Meyers movie, it’s complicated.

“These are complex situations involving many factors and requiring a multitude of assumptions to be made,” writes staff.

Another major factor is we just don’t know. Halifax has no clue what its contracted employees are being paid.

Municipal spokesperson Lucas Wide says the city works with hundreds of vendors and contractors, and it’s “the responsibility of the contractor to hire the required number of employees to get that work done under the conditions of the contract.”

Wide wasn’t able to say how many of those contracted employees are being paid minimum wage or above.

“The municipality does not indicate or specify in [its] contract documents how much contractors pay their employees,” writes Wide in an email.

The ignorance hasn’t been without consequences. In 2010 it was discovered that a janitorial contractor was illegally paying his employees just $7 an hour to clean multiple HRM-owned buildings, including City Hall. The municipality said at the time it wasn’t aware of the pay practice until it was informed of an investigation by Canada Border Services.

Hundreds of municipalities across the United States and Canada have already adopted living wage ordinances to allow employees to adequately feed, clothe and shelter their families. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) argues increasing pay rates can provide a reduction in workplace stress, decreased turnover, lower absenteeism and stimulate consumer spending.

But make no mistake, it will also cost more. The question is, what value HRM is willing to put on that cost.

Only two months ago the city made poverty reduction a priority. Late in the meeting on Tuesday, while discussing the installation of surveillance cameras, several councillors spoke about how HRM needs to address wider societal issues—such as the challenges faced by low-income residents—if it hopes to reduce crime.

“This is not a left-right issue,” Halifax West Armdale councillor Shawn Cleary said about a living wage. “This is a humanity issue. We need to pay people appropriately.”

City staff seem to recognize the impact the new policies could have, but they still believe it’s important to wait before “implementing any significant changes.”

Peninsula North councillor Lindell Smith, who initiated yesterday’s report back in February, agreed it’s best to proceed with caution.

“From my understanding, this hasn’t been done before. So if we rush it, we might mess it up,” the councillor said. “I don’t want to just do it because it’s in front of us, and I know that frustrates a lot of people who have been dealing with these issues for a long time, but let’s do it so we actually make an impact on the people in our city.”

The “cross-departmental working group” will now try as hard as it can to try and get an update back before next year’s budget is finalized. It will also examine the use of social and environmental benefits, along with a preference for buying local, in the scoring option for HRM tenders.

Any implementation of new procurement policies is likely at least a year away, and will still have to fight its way through what’s bound to be a heated debate from the more conservative councillors at City Hall.

“The living wage is one of those issues that has no real true definition,” Preston–Chezzetcook–Eastern Shore councillor David Hendsbee said on Tuesday.

A living wage is the amount two working adults with two children need to cover basic expenses. The CCPA defines a living wage in HRM at $19.10 per hour, which is $8.25 above the province’s current minimum wage.

Regional councillors, like David Hendsbee, earn $85,443 per year.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tall Ships gets funding boost

Mayor Mike Savage and city council approve $540,000 contribution to international nautical festival.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 6:48 PM

The Bounty and Pride of Baltimore sail past the Halifax waterfront with a cannon salute during the parade of sail marking the end of the Tall Ships festival in 2012. - VIA ISTOCK
  • The Bounty and Pride of Baltimore sail past the Halifax waterfront with a cannon salute during the parade of sail marking the end of the Tall Ships festival in 2012.
  • VIA iSTOCK

Tall Ships will raise its sales with over half a million dollars in municipal funding.

Regional council voted Tuesday to increase Halifax’s contribution to the nautical festival—to a total of $540,000—at the request of mayor Mike Savage.

“It’s going to be spectacular for the city,” Savage told council. “This is one of the most significant events that’s going to happen to Canada this year, and it’s going to happen in Halifax.”

The municipality will play host to the final leg of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships sailing race later this summer. Some 30 ships from all over the world will pull into port from July 28 until August 1. Other events planned for the festival include a Georges Island dinner series, outdoor film screenings, Symphony Nova Scotia performances and four nights of fireworks.

“Bars will be jammed, restaurants will be jammed, people will be spending money and staying in town and we’re the one that are going to reap the benefits of it,” said councillor Lisa Blackburn.

The increased funding amount is $140,000 above staff’s recommendation, and just shy of the $600,000 originally asked for by the Waterfront Development Corporation.

The festival is already receiving $1.5 million in funding from the province and $1.5 million from the federal department of Canadian Heritage. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is also chipping in another $500,000.

At $4.7 million, this year’s Tall Ships has twice the budget of past festivals. But it’s also half the size of previous events; running for only five days with an anticipated attendance of 275,000 people.

“So we’re at the same level, or I guess more now with the $540,000, for a shorter event that’s going to have fewer people,” said Stephen Adams, who was the only councillor to vote against the motion.

Money HRM spends on the event will come out of the municipality’s hotel marketing levy. According to staff, it won’t have an impact on funding for any other festivals or events this year.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Halifax police hoping to improve use of street checks

New report recommends policy review, public education on civic rights and officer training on “fair and impartial policing.”

Posted By on Sun, Jun 18, 2017 at 11:30 PM

VIA ISTOCK
  • via iStock

A report before Monday’s meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners is recommending several new efforts to improve the police department’s continued use of street checks.

New deputy chief Robin McNeil is planning to oversee a privacy impact assessment and policy review on the controversial practice of collecting data on residents who haven’t committed any crimes, and develop new training for Halifax Regional Police officers on “fair and impartial policing.”

An investigation by CBC back in January analyzed over a decade of HRP’s street check data and found that Black residents of HRM were three times more likely to have their identities recorded by police than white residents. The findings were held up as proof of the unwarranted racial targeting members of the Black community have been subjected to, and spoken out against, for decades.

Despite this, the department has no plans to stop the practice, which HRP officers say makes up a vital part of how they investigate crimes. Internal personnel interviewed by research coordinator Chris Giacomantonio claim the street check records are used “in virtually every investigation process.”

External discussions held by the department with the African Nova Scotian community haven't been as positive. Along with tense public meetings, sociologist Robert Wright also recently visited with police brass to detail the “multigenerational trauma” of racism and how the simple presence of uniformed officers “can sometimes be interpreted as an affront or an insult by some community members who view police as occupiers.”

The new report says those community discussions will continue, and that HRP will develop new education material about citizens’ rights when interacting with police.

It's also recommending the department make changes to its retention policy because the collected street check data is kept “too long.” The quality of those non-criminal records is also “highly variable,” with many being entered into HRP's Versadex computer system with “little or no information of probative value.”

As reporter Kaila Jefferd-Moore recently wrote for The Coast, that personal information is viewable through a “Police Information Portal” that connects law enforcement agencies all across the country—a practice that has been condemned by privacy and civil rights advocates.

Giacomantonio’s research on the effectiveness of the street checks and their racial bias is now paused while the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission locates some statistical and criminal justice experts to independently review the data.

Meanwhile, Monday's meeting will also see the Board of Commissioners vote on the terms of reference and membership for HRP’s new Police Diversity Working Group. The assembled team will act in an advisory role on matters of community policing, diversity and inclusion. The proposed membership is shown below.

VIA HRM
  • VIA HRM

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Federal trans rights bill passes without amendment

Bill C-16 will make trans rights part of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 5:36 PM

VIA ISTOCK
  • via istock

Bill C-16, the federal trans rights bill, passed in the Senate today with a vote of 67-11.

This bill calls for the Canadian Human Rights Act to be amended by adding gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, which currently includes colour, sex and sexual orientation, among others.

In an interview earlier this week, bill sponsor Senator Grant Mitchell called Bill C-16 one of the most significant things he’s been a part of in his career. Senator Donald Plett, an outspoken critic of the bill, was one of the 11 who voted against it. Three senators abstained from voting.

Although provincial legislation is already in place, it doesn’t impact the Canada’s Criminal Code as this bill will.

Local trans activist Jessica Durling calls it a “huge deal.”

“It’s amazing. Now trans people will be protected by federal law,” she says. “We stood together as a community. Our allies stood together. Voices were heard.”


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Thursday, June 8, 2017

To the men who disagree with the concept of Lady Drive-Her

From a woman who's very thankful this business exists.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 1:37 PM

AZIZA ASAT
  • Aziza Asat

I avoid cabs when I’m alone. Usually, I’d rather walk. However, sometimes I’ve had a few drinks and it’s cold or I’m in uncomfortable shoes, so I’ll wave a taxi down from the sidewalk. 

When I get in the car, my eyes immediately dart around for a licence number. I’m ready to jump out if it’s not posted. Once I do locate the number, I immediately text it to my partner. It is draining to have to experience so much fear when I’m just trying to get somewhere. So, when I heard about Lady Drive-Her—an airport car service with all-female drivers—I was pretty happy.

For those who don’t know, here’s some background: CBC’s Elizabeth Chiu did a great story on it yesterday. One aspect of this story really bothered me, though.

In true entitled male fashion, two men drove up to offer their two cents on the matter. Chiu writes:

“While CBC was interviewing the female drivers in a parking lot at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, a vehicle with male airport drivers pulled up with their critique.”

A story that should have been about a women-run business was co-opted by two men whose opinions weren’t even asked for. Unfortunately, it also became the focus of the headline.

Crissy McDow, who started the company, then had to defend herself. McDow explained “she's simply expanding her business to meet a need.” And she’s right. I can only think of one instance in which I’ve had a female driver. Unfortunately, that’s also one of the only times when I wasn’t uncomfortable in a cab.

One of the choice quotes from Lady Drive-Her’s critic: “You might be sending the wrong message to the consumer saying it's OK to be afraid of male drivers.”

Counterpoint: It is OK to be afraid of male drivers. We shouldn’t have to be, but it’s also a completely rational fear. It’s true that the sexual assault is an extreme example, though we’ve seen our fair share of that in HRM. There are also smaller, more common instances that make women reluctant to get in the car with a strange man—because, yes, that’s ultimately what it means to get in a taxi. It could be anything from an inappropriate comment to using the rearview mirror to stare at your boobs (the latter happened to me when I was 14).

So, men, just let us have this. Let us have this one fucking thing. I am confident you will still dominate the cab industry, like you dominate so many others.

I only hope Lady Drive-Her is successful and expands to the city as well. Maybe I’ll go out at night more than once every few months.


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Looking at Canadian political herstory

American writer Madelyn Holmes launches book focusing on Canadian female politicians in the wake of provincial election.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Former NDP leader Alexa McDonough was in attendance at Wednesday's book launch. - THE COAST
  • Former NDP leader Alexa McDonough was in attendance at Wednesday's book launch.
  • The Coast

An American author saw a void in books about Canadian female politicians, so she decided to fill it. 

Madelyn Holmes is currently in Halifax to promote her latest book, Working for the Common Good: Canadian Women Politicians, in which she profiles eight different women from the New Democratic Party. Holmes’ interest was piqued by reading the autobiography of Thérèse Casgrain, who was a member of the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (which later became the NDP when it merged with the Canadian Labour Congress) and held office in the ‘50s.

“I was utterly thrilled to find out about this party,” says Holmes, “because in the United States there really was no such party.”

In doing more research, Holmes noticed social democratic women weren’t getting much recognition in the history books. So, she took it upon herself to write her own history book.

“This is something that I was driven to do. I mean, it should have been done a long time ago, of course. But it wasn’t.”

Alexa McDonough, the second woman to lead the NDP federally, is the last person profiled in Working for the Common Good. She was in attendance for the book launch at Mount Saint Vincent University on Wednesday.

“It’s not exceptional anymore for women to be running and getting elected,” she says. She’s not arguing there’s no longer sexism in politics— “that would be ridiculous” —but she feels women don’t face the same number of barriers anymore.

“One of the things that happened when I ran is a lot of disapproving women really made it known that they thought it was terrible that I was running when I had two small kids,” she recalls. “But overwhelmingly, women were supportive—even when I was such a rare bird.”

McDonough also points out she had female mentors to help guide her. 

“I was very blessed by women who influenced me in a big way.”

Holmes says that kind of example is crucial: “We need heroines.”

In the recent provincial election, Nova Scotia reached a record number of women in seats at the Legislature: Seventeen out of 51, or 33 percent. This is just a small jump from the last election, in which 15 women took seats.

Rafah DiCostanzo is one of the newly-elected female MLAs, replacing fellow Liberal Diana Whalen in Clayton Park West after she chose not to run for re-election. Although the Liberals fielded the smallest number of women (12 out of 51), the party saw the most women elected. The Liberal caucus now has seven women, while the NDP and PC both have five. 

For DiCostanzo, the decision to run wasn’t easy to make. Despite being the vice president of the NS Liberal Women's Commission, working to encourage other women to take part in politics, she hesitated when the opportunity arose for her.

"As an Arabic woman, to think of running, it’s just not something—we’re not brought up with it," she says. "I have nobody in the family that know anything about politics."

Eventually, she changed her mind.

“I sat down and said, ‘I’m a hypocrite.’ Here I am, I’m trying to tell every woman to run. But the opportunity is sitting here and everyone is encouraging me, telling me, ‘You can do it,’ and I’m saying I’m afraid.”

DiCostanzo was surrounded by people who bolstered her, so she wants to do the same. 

“I encourage so many other women, I hope, in the future.”

A second book launch for Working for the Common Good is taking place at the Halifax Central Library at 6:30pm. 


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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dalhousie takes another swing at replacing ceremonial mace

An open call for designs back in March only resulted in three applications, all of which were rejected.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 12:06 PM

The mace disgrace will be replaced, posthaste. - VIA DAL
  • The mace disgrace will be replaced, posthaste.
  • VIA DAL

After its first effort fell short, Dalhousie University is once again asking the public to design a replacement for its ceremonial mace.

The school is hoping to swap out its oak-carved graduation horcrux for a symbol that better reflects Dal’s diversity and values. A request for proposals issued this week is seeking submissions from the city’s artists, artisans and designers.

It’s the second time the university has put out an open call for designs. A previous attempt back in March only inspired three applications. Dalhousie spokesperson Lindsay Dowling says none of the ideas was up to snuff.

“These proposals did not meet the mace re-visioning committee’s requirement to produce a ceremonial object that is both functional for Dal’s convocation and induction ceremonies and/or that reflects the university’s values of inclusiveness and diversity,” explains Dowling in an email.

The 1.4-metre mace is derived from historical European symbols of authority and has been carried ahead of students and faculty during graduation ceremonies since 1950. It’s covered in silver and enamel, adorned with carvings of fish and flowers, and topped with a Scottish earl’s crown.

The ritualistic weapon also includes amongst its engravings a rose, thistle, shamrock and fleur-de-lis—representing England, Ireland, Scotland and France, respectively. The plants symbolize the four “major racial groups” of Canada, according to original mace designer Richard Lorraine de Chasteney Holborn Saunders.

Dal’s RFP says the new ceremonial symbol has to be “robust and durable,” portable and free of sharp edges. The university is also encouraging designers to think “beyond traditional forms.” Applicants should feel free to consider such potential items as baskets, drums and “vessels that represent the sharing of libations.”

Dalhousie has budgeted up to $60,000 to cover all costs in bringing the new ceremonial object to life. It’s hoped the mace will be replaced in time for the school’s 200th anniversary next year.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Knock knock: Doors Open Halifax returns this weekend

Over 30 venues will be opened to the public to peruse.

Posted By on Sat, Jun 3, 2017 at 3:50 PM

The clock's unlocked this weekend. - IMAGE VIA DOORS OPEN HALIFAX.
  • The clock's unlocked this weekend.
  • Image via Doors Open Halifax.

Doors Open Halifax is back again this weekend, for its fifth year celebrating the city's historical and modern architecture.

Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4, all are welcome to pop inside over 30 venues (from 10am-4pm) for a free behind-the-scenes look at some of the city’s more intriguing structures. For disclosure's sake, we should mention The Coast is a sponsorship partner of Doors Open; for interest's sake, you won't be surprised to hear Team Coast is very much into the whole public openness and transparency thing behind Door Open.

This year’s venues include such local landmarks as the Dingle Tower, Theodore Tugboat, the Old Town Clock, City Hall, Government House, the HMCS Sackville and the Provincial Courthouse on Spring Garden Road. Other locations you might like to visit on the weekend are the Sacred Heart School, Hope Blooms, the Dominion Public Building and churches St. Antonio’s, St. Patrick’s, St. Paul’s, Saint Little Dutch, and George’s (both Anglican and Greek Orthodox).

On Saturday, members of the public can also tour HRM’s two greenhouses, where the municipality grows all the flowers, vegetables and plants for use in public parks and gardens.


More info on Doors Open and a full rundown of venues can be found right here. We'll see you out on the town.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Vincent Coleman and Rita Joe win Halifax ferry naming contest

David Hendsbee can retire happy.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 3:53 PM

LENNY MULLINS
  • LENNY MULLINS

The results are in for the second most important election in the province: The harbour ferry naming contest.

As if that classic Heritage Minute weren’t enough, Halifax hero Vincent Coleman will be memorialized by having his name painted on the next ferry. Over the course of the 10-day naming contest, 11,014 votes were tallied, with Coleman receiving 5,340 of them.

The train dispatcher’s name has been in the running for each of the previous ferry naming contests, but his votes always fell short. It’s not as if he’s alive to feel bad about that, or to be happy about having a ferry now—but councillor David Hendsbee, no doubt, will be pleased.

The name of Mi’kmaw poet and residential school survivor Rita Joe will grace the next new ferry, expected to arrive in summer 2018. She received 2,202 votes.

Other names in the running included gay rights activist Raymond Taavel, Pier 21 co-founder Ruth Goldbloom and civil rights activist Burnley “Rocky” Jones. Titles such as “Yeah Buoy!” and “My mom Joan” didn’t make the cut for poll options.

Before things are totally official, Halifax Transit will have to submit the vessel names to Transport Canada for approval.



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Halifax Pride addresses pinkwashing by discontinuing community fair

A community market, focused on queer crafters and non-profits, will take place instead.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 3:52 PM

ALLIE GRAHAM
  • ALLIE GRAHAM

Halifax Pride is nixing booths from its festival grounds ahead of this year’s celebration. 

The change was announced late last month, several months after October’s tumultuous AGM, during which a “pinkwashing motion” brought forth by members of Queer Arabs of Halifax (QAH) was voted down.

According to the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project
, pinkwashing usually refers to the act of a government or corporation painting itself as queer-friendly in order to gain a place at Pride celebrations or bolster its own publicity, even if it's done nothing to help LGBTQ+ causes in the past. A politician or government may engage in pinkwashing to distract from oppressive policies or actions.

Up until now, Pride’s festival grounds included a booth space, called the “community fair.” One major point of contention for QAH and its supporters was the presence of materials from Size Doesn’t Matter at the fair. The materials championed Tel Aviv’s LGBTQ+ community, and many felt it negated “the struggle of queer Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.”

“I think we all wish it had been addressed differently,” says Halifax Pride executive director Adam Reid, who was hired two months after the AGM.  “I think all parties kind of regret the way it was addressed.”

Reid says the discourse from last year was a symptom of a larger problem. The fair “had grown in a way that was too fast and not particularly thoughtful.”

“It wasn’t created with policy in mind around it,” says Reid, noting that the fair didn’t have a clear purpose. As a result, it became a catch-all, “whether it was sponsors who wanted to promote their activities, or it was artists who wanted to sell material.”

The rest of the usual activities on the grounds—mainstage performances, food vendors and kids’ area—will stay put, but the booths are no longer part of the festival.

A community market will be part of a new Gottingen Street block party event. Unlike the fair, this market has a policy to include LGBTQ+ not-for-profits and queer-identified crafters. Reid hopes the feel will be similar to the popular North by Night markets, but with a queer theme and aesthetic.

“It’s much more focused on community,” he says.


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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Tarrah McPherson seeks judicial review of Human Rights decision

Former Mount Saint Vincent student alleges her complaint against the university and Michael Kydd was dismissed without proper investigation.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 3:57 AM

LENNY MULLINS
  • LENNY MULLINS

If you filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, you'd expect the investigator would take the time to interview you.

It even says so on the Commission's website. “A human rights officer will interview everyone involved.”

Tarrah McPherson is alleging that didn’t happen in her 2016 complaint against her former instructor, Michael Kydd, and Mount Saint Vincent University.

In an affidavit filed this week at Nova Scotia Supreme Court, McPherson states “the investigator for the respondent Human Rights Commission failed to thoroughly conduct an investigation into my complaint.” McPherson also describes her efforts “ultimately, without any success, to have the Human Rights Commission investigator interview me regarding my complaint.”

McPherson has alleged sexual harassment on the part of Kydd, an instructor at Mount Saint Vincent who publicly admitted to having a sexual relationship with McPherson, who was at the time his student. The nature of that relationship is disputed by the two parties. Kydd was later fired for breaching the university's code of conduct for “non-disclosure of a relationship with a student, which resulted in academic bias.” McPherson also claims she was discriminated against by MSVU because of her gender and disability.

McPherson claims she provided some details when meeting with an officer to first file her complaint, but not all. The Commission discourages providing too many details, especially in a complaint form.

“A complaint form needs to include just the basic, important information. Too much information means important facts may get lost in the details. This could make finding a solution more difficult. There will be opportunities to provide more information and evidence.”

Based on this, McPherson and her lawyer waited for this opportunity, but McPherson claims they didn't get it.

When contacted, McPherson declined to comment and referred questions to her lawyer, Vince Calderhead.

On April 19, 2017, the commissioners of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission dismissed her complaint.

In a letter to McPherson, Kydd and the university, HRC chair Eunice Harker wrote that “After a thorough review of the matter, the commissioners decided that based on the available information…the complaint is without merit.”

It goes on to say that “decisions by the commissioners of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission are final.”

But the Commission’s work is subject to a judicial review, says Dalhousie professor Wayne MacKay.

“That’s one of the roles that courts have, to review to make sure the process is fair,” says MacKay, who’s the Yogis & Keddy Chair in human rights law at the Schulich School of Law and was director of the NS Human Rights Commission from 1995 to ‘98.

“They’re reluctant to second-guess the Commission on the substance of its decision, but the jurisdiction and process questions are what the court is charged with reviewing.”

A judge can uphold the decision, send it back and ask for the investigation to be completed or quash the dismissal and order a new investigation by a different officer.

The latter example occurred in a 2014 case involving a female firefighter in Halifax. Justice Arthur LeBlanc ruled that because a couple of key witnesses had not been interviewed, the investigation “suffered from the limitations inherent to written submissions.”

A thorough investigation requires more than just accepting the contents of written submissions, the decision says.

“A reasonable investigator would have recognized that additional crucial information could be gathered by conducting thorough and critically-minded interviews,” wrote Justice LeBlanc. “Given the central importance of their version of events to the outcome of the investigation, such interviews were required for a thorough investigation.”

LeBlanc ruled the lack of interviews amounted to a “breach of procedural fairness.”

One way to determine if the process was fair, MacKay says, is if every party was given the same chance to respond. If some were interviewed, but not others, that's hardly fair.

Also, if it's the norm to interview complainants then it “shifts the burden a bit to the investigator and the Commission to explain why they didn’t do that in this case.”

It's unclear if Kydd or staff at Mount Saint Vincent University were interviewed by the HRC.

Kydd's lawyer, Donna Wilson, responded by e-mail saying that “Neither of us has seen the paperwork on [McPherson’s filing] yet, so we really cannot comment.”

Mount Saint Vincent University spokesperson Gillian Batten didn't clarify if Mount staff were interviewed.

“I can advise that the Mount has complied completely with the Human Rights Commission’s process,” she writes in an email.

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Pump it up at Halifax Bike Week

The Mountain Equipment Co-op's Brendan Sutcliffe chats about common bike problems.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 3:20 AM

Gearhead Brendan Sutcliffe is off-the-chain. - DYLAN CHEW
  • Gearhead Brendan Sutcliffe is off-the-chain.
  • DYLAN CHEW

Taking consistent care of your bicycle can save you from disasters down the road.

For Bike Week, Mountain Equipment Co-op is setting up a slew of “mobile bicycle maintenance stations,” doing safety checks and offering advice on basic bike fixes.

In the meantime, Brendan Sutcliffe—bike mechanic at MEC—gives a few tips for keeping your ride in top shape.

First of all, “a clean bike is a happy bike,” he says. So, clean the damn thing. There are special products for this, but diluted dish soap and water will do the job in a pinch. Cleaning the frame, wheels, chains and sprockets keeps things going smoothly. It can also help the cyclist spot any potential problems.

“Sometimes when you’re down there really close to it and you’re cleaning it, you’re paying a little more attention,” says Sutcliffe.

Keeping air pressure in the tires is one of the most basic, but most important things a cyclist can do. It may seem obvious, but Sutcliffe says it’s something people tend to neglect. When tires don’t have good air pressure, the bike takes a lot more energy to pedal. On top of that, hitting a bump in the road can cause damage to the rims or a puncture in the tire.

The MEC offers free safety checks at the shop outside of Bike Week, and Sutcliffe’s done his fair share. He’s noticed “nobody’s brakes work very well.”

Thanks to Halifax’s “salty environment,” the cables that operate the brakes get corroded more easily. They also tend to stretch over time.

“Gears and brakes—they need to be tuned on a regular basis. It’s just a given.”

Sometimes nuts and bolts get loose, causing the handle bars to turn independent of the wheel. To check for trouble, pinch the wheel between your knees and pry on the bars. They shouldn’t move.

“If they actually slip and turn, that’s a good one to catch,” says Sutcliffe.

The Bike Week festivities roll on from June 2 to 11.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Liberals win second majority in close election

Both the PC and NDP parties pick up big gains, but Stephen McNeil comes out on top.

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 1:16 AM

Liberal Party winners (and some losers). - VIA TWITTER
  • Liberal Party winners (and some losers).
  • VIA TWITTER

It was a night of twists and turns, but the Liberal Party will once again form Nova Scotia's government.

The victory was bittersweet, though. Stephen McNeil's second mandate lost several important seats, and just barely held onto the party's majority at Province House. Still, the premier-designate called the night's results “democracy at its best.”

“Nova Scotia, you have spoken,” McNeil told an assembled crowd in Bridgetown.

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, are once again the official opposition, having picked up seven ridings for a total of  17 seats in the legislature. Keith Bain took back Victoria–The Lakes in Cape Breton from Pam Eyking, who unseated the former MLA four years ago. Challenger Alana Paon also pulled off a huge win against longtime Liberal MLA Michel Samson in Cape Breton–Richmond.

In HRM, former regional councillor Brad Johns defeated Stephen Gough in Sackville–Beaver Bank, and Barbara Adams replaced Liberal incumbent Joyce Treen in Cole Harbour–Eastern Passage. Tim Halman claimed Dartmouth East for the Tories, walking away with the riding that retired independent MLA Andrew Younger left up for grabs.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said it was a “great night” for the party.

“Look how far we've come,” Baillie told a crowd of supporters in Springhill. “Look at the gap we've closed. Look at what you've done.”

Both Baillie and McNeil picked up easy wins in their respective ridings. But the most dramatic leadership race went to the NDP and Gary Burrill, who overcame Liberal incumbent Joachim Stroink and PC challenger John Wesley Chisholm to become the MLA for Halifax Chebucto.

Burrill spoke at a rally in Halifax, saying he was moved with gratitude for his campaign team. Although the New Democrats had a smaller percentage of the vote than in 2013, the party was still able to pick up a total of seven seats.

Paraphrasing Yeates, Burrill called the results a “defeat more glorious than many a victory.”

Incumbents Lisa Roberts, Dave Wilson and Lenore Zann were all re-elected to the legislature, while Claudia Chender took the vacant riding of Dartmouth South. Several former Liberal MLAs were toppled by a crop of new NDP candidates, such as Tammy Martin defeating David Wilton, and Zuppa Theatre co-artistic director Susan Leblanc unseating former community services minister Joanne Bernard in Dartmouth North.

Even with those losses, the Grits had plenty of wins. Ben Jessome defended his seat in Hammonds Plains–Lucasville against HRM councillor Matt Whitman. Nearby, Brendan Maguire picked up a strong win in Halifax Atlantic, while Hugh MacKay defeated Denise Peterson-Rafuse in Chester–St. Margaret's. Former cabinet ministers Keith Colwell, Kelly Regan, Mark Furey, Zach Churchill, Karen Casey, Randy Delorey, Lena Diab, Margaret Miller, Leo Glavine, Geoff MacLellan and Labi Kousoulis were all re-elected.

A few ridings saw extremely close results, pushing predictions of whether the Liberals would form a minority government late into the night.

The final tally of seats will force Nova Scotia's new government to work much more closely with its opposition parties. Anticipating that, McNeil seemed to reach out to opponents during his acceptance speech.

“This election was about moving our province forward,” he said. “We have a plan, and the opposition parties have a plan. We can work together to make it better.”

The olive branch was also extended by Baillie, with some conditions.

“I think the people of Nova Scotia are saying they want their political parties to work together, and we get that message,” the Tory leader told party members, while warning that Conservative MLAs would not support the Liberals' recently proposed budget.

Final results and vote tallies from Elections Nova Scotia are still being tabulated (and will be adjusted in this post when released), but at the end of the night, CBC reported the Liberals had nearly 40 percent of the popular vote, which is down from nearly 46 percent four years ago.

The Conservatives saw a jump of 10 points, pulling in 36 percent of the vote. The NDP dropped by six percent, even while picking up extra seats (only five NDP incumbents were up for re-election).

There was also a big jump for the Greens. Nova Scotia's fourth party didn't win any ridings, but it did increase its vote share from 0.85 to nearly three percent. The Atlantica Party only pulled 0.5 percent.

Winners are posted below. The full results from Elections NS can be found here.

———

ANNAPOLIS

Stephen McNeil (Liberal)

CLARE-DIGBY
Gordon Wilson (Liberal)

HANTS WEST
Chuck Porter (Liberal)

KINGS NORTH
John Lohr (PC)

KINGS SOUTH
Keith Irving (Liberal)

KINGS WEST
Leo Glavine (Liberal)

ARGYLE–BARRINGTON
Chris d’Entremont (PC)

CHESTER–ST. MARGARET’S
Hugh MacKay (Liberal)

LUNENBURG
Suzanne Lohnes-Croft (Liberal)

LUNENBURG WEST
Mark Furey (Liberal)

QUEENS–SHELBURNE
Kim Masland (PC)

YARMOUTH
Zach Churchill (Liberal)

COLCHESTER–MUSQUODOBOIT VALLEY
Larry Harrison (PC)

COLCHESTER NORTH
Karen Casey (Liberal)

CUMBERLAND NORTH
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin (PC)

CUMBERLAND SOUTH
Jamie Baillie (PC)

HANTS EAST
Margaret Miller (Liberal)

TRURO–BIBLE HILL–MILLBROOK–SALMON RIVER
Lenore Zann (NDP)

CLAYTON PARK WEST

Rafah DiCostanzo (Liberal)

FAIRVIEW–CLAYTON PARK

Patricia Arab (Liberal)

HALIFAX ARMDALE

Lena Diab (Liberal)

HALIFAX CHEBUCTO
Gary Burrill (NDP)

HALIFAX CITADEL–SABLE ISLAND
Labi Kousoulis (Liberal)

HALIFAX NEEDHAM
Lisa Roberts (NDP)

BEDFORD
Kelly Regan (Liberal)

HALIFAX ATLANTIC
Brendan Maguire (Liberal)

HAMMONDS PLAINS–LUCASVILLE
Ben Jessome (Liberal)

SACKVILLE–BEAVER BANK
Brad Johns (PC)

SACKVILLE–COBEQUID
Dave Wilson (NDP)

TIMBERLEA–PROSPECT
Iain Rankin (Liberal)

WAVERLEY–FALL RIVER–BEAVER BANK
Bill Horne (Liberal)

COLE HARBOUR–EASTERN PASSAGE
Barbara Adams (PC)

COLE HARBOUR–PORTLAND VALLEY
Tony Ince (Liberal)

DARTMOUTH EAST
Tim Halman (PC)

DARTMOUTH NORTH
Susan Leblanc (NDP)

DARTMOUTH SOUTH
Claudia Chender (NDP

EASTERN SHORE
Kevin Murphy (Liberal)

PRESTON–DARTMOUTH
Keith Colwell (Liberal)

ANTIGONISH
Randy Delorey (Liberal)

GUYSBOROUGH–EASTERN SHORE–TRACADIE
Lloyd Hines (Liberal)

PICTOU CENTRE
Pat Dunn (PC)

PICTOU EAST
Tim Houston (PC)

PICTOU WEST
Karla MacFarlane (PC)

CAPE BRETON CENTRE
Tammy Martin (NDP)

CAPE BRETON–RICHMOND
Alana Paon (PC)

GLACE BAY
Geoff MacLellan (Liberal)

INVERNESS
Allan MacMaster (PC)

NORTHSIDE–WESTMOUNT
Eddie Orrell (PC)

SYDNEY RIVER–MIRA–LOUISBOURG
Alfie MacLeod (PC)

SYDNEY–WHITNEY PIER
Derek Mombourquette (Liberal)

VICTORIA–THE LAKES
Keith Bain (PC)

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