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Friday, November 17, 2017

Crown drops charges against cannabis club owner

Christopher Enns’ Farm Assists operation was raided three times by police between 2013 and 2015.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 3:45 PM

“This is a clear indication from the Crown that they believe there is merit to what we are doing,” says Christopher Enns. - FROM FACEBOOK
  • “This is a clear indication from the Crown that they believe there is merit to what we are doing,” says Christopher Enns.

Crown prosecutors have dropped all charges against Christopher Enns that resulted from several police raids on his Farm Assists cannabis centre.

Enns announced the news at a press conference Friday afternoon, at what was supposed to be day one of a constitutional challenge against the legal charges.

“We were looking forward to having the courts make a final decision on this matter, but unfortunately as we approached our hour in court the Crown has decided to withdraw all charges,” Enns told a crowd outside the Spring Garden Road courthouse.

In 2013, police raided the Compassionate Use Club in Porters Lake and charged business owner Enns with trafficking. A year later, he opened Farm Assists on Gottingen Street, where licensed users could purchase and vape medical marijuana.

Halifax’s Integrated Drug Unit raided that business as well—along with Enns’ home and production site—and charged him with several counts of trafficking and possession of controlled substances. Then in 2015, Farm Assists was raided once more by police and Enns was once again taken into custody.

But the charges from all three of those incidents are no longer worth pursuing for federal Crown prosecutors. Nathalie Houle, spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, confirms they were withdrawn this week.

“This is a clear indication from the Crown that they believe there is merit to what we are doing, and there is a lack of merit to the charges before the court,” Enns said Friday.

Enns tells The Coast he’s “euphoric” about the news.

“I’m really looking forward to buckling down and working with the dispensary and hopefully opening some new locations,” he says, noting Farm Assists recently re-started its Porters Lake operation.

“If it wasn’t for the fresh charges I got when I got pulled over last week, it would be a big weight off my shoulders.”

Police arrested Enns during a traffic stop earlier this month, where they seized 2.7 kilograms of cannabis, 148 grams of shatter and 500 capsules of hash oil from his vehicle. He’ll be back in court December 11 to enter a plea on those charges.

In the meantime, Enns says he’s not worried about the police raiding his business again, calling it a “fruitless effort” at this point.

“Both in terms of public perception and the actual court process.”

Farm Assists treats roughly 1,000 individual customers annually, according to Enns.

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Here we go again with this stadium business

“Very credible” proposal for new Halifax CFL team dredges up old ideas.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 11:40 AM

A similar scene might someday happen in Halifax. - JASON HALSTEAD, FROM CFL.CA
  • A similar scene might someday happen in Halifax.

Besides mystery tunnels under the harbour and basically anything donair, no regurgitated news story piques the interest of this municipality quite like the perpetual discussion of putting a football stadium in Halifax.

Well strap in and hold on, because shit's about to get (vaguely and informally) real.

The Sports Network is reporting that the Canadian Football League’s board of governors has received a “very credible” proposal to put a new team in Halifax.

The familiar effort is being organized this time by a group of patrons including Anthony LeBlanc, former president and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes. According to TSN, meetings took place this week between organizers, the CFL and HRM council during an in-camera session held Tuesday.

But any chance of the new franchise calling Halifax home will depend on building a new stadium.

Mayor Mike Savage, who’s been bullish on his stadium dreams since being elected, was more cautionary this week in a media statement about the CFL pitch.

“Any proposal would need to be private sector led and make economic sense for the municipality,” states Savage. “While this is early stages, we are aware of a serious proposal from serious, experienced people. They have worked together to develop a real proposal.”

Halifax has previously explored building a stadium several times over the past few decades—always without success.

In 2006, council spent $2.4 million on a feasibility report for a 25,000-seat stadium as part of its failed Commonwealth Games bid. Five years later, HRM spent close to half a million dollars on another failed attempt in anticipation of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. A staff report brought to council two years ago likewise advised against putting a stadium on the undeveloped lands at Shannon Park.

Meanwhile, the closest Halifax ever came to the CFL was 1982, when the league granted a conditional franchise to create the Atlantic Schooners.

Despite purchasing a scoreboard from the New England Patriots, financing for the stadium never materialized and the team's owners' plans crumbled. Here’s how the Canadian Press described it at the time:

“Team officials kept hoping for an 11th-hour bailout from the federal government in the form of a $6-million loan guarantee, but when it became obvious Ottawa had left the Schooners on their own, the organizers faced the facts and called it quits.

“‘We have not been scuttled,’ team president John Donovan, a trucking executive from Mississauga, Ontario told a news conference. ‘We will be in a better position to crystallize in the near future. All is not lost.’”

A process and timetable for awarding this new expansion in the nine-team Canadian Football League haven't yet been established.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Halifax council to undergo cultural sensitivity training

Motion approved unanimously after over a dozen complaints about councillor conduct flood city hall.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 1:53 AM

Council chambers, pictured during one of its brief quiet moments. - VIA HRM
  • Council chambers, pictured during one of its brief quiet moments.
  • via HRM

In the fallout from several racially charged statements made by elected officials and more than a dozen conduct complaints submitted to city hall, Halifax Regional Council has agreed to collectively take part in cultural sensitivity training.

The idea was unanimously approved Tuesday night after three hours of in-camera discussion. 

“We could all use a better awareness,” said mayor Mike Savage. “There’re a lot of things that are changing in this municipality and I think we need to be aware of everybody’s culture and background.”

The municipality received 13 separate complaints about councillor conduct over the past two weeks. Who those grievances were filed against isn’t released by HRM, but several applicants have openly named councillor Matt Whitman as their target.

The Hammonds Plains—St. Margarets representative spent several days last month engaged in a Twitter fight with fellow councillor Shawn Cleary, arguing that it was impossible to be racist towards Mexicans. Appearing on the CTV evening news, Whitman stated one could only be racist towards “caucasians, negroes or some other race.”

He was subsequently scolded for his use of the outdated pejorative to describe Black people by council’s sole African-Nova Scotian member, Lindell Smith. Whitman—who donned a poncho and comical moustache last fall to portray a “Mexican Trump supporter”—initially defended his language choice before issuing a terse apology at council's last meeting.

“My posts lost sight of the issue, and I became engulfed in inappropriate dialogue,” he said. “For that, I apologize. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”

The racial remarks by Whitman came the same week emails released under a Freedom of Information request showed councillor David Hendsbee joking about smoking a “peace pipe” after calling Indigenous protesters “hotheads on the warpath.”

“Just team building,” Hendsbee said about the sensitivity training on his way out of council chambers Tuesday night. “That’s all it is—team building.”

Municipal employees are subject to in-house cultural sensitivity training, but not elected officials. The cost and number of sessions for the training will be determined by the mayor and CAO Jacques Dubé.

In a separate agenda item on Tuesday, Tony Mancini’s plan to beef up council’s code of conduct was ripped apart by his colleagues.

The Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East representative was looking to create an integrity commissioner at city hall and require councillors to review and sign off on the code of conduct every year. Dartmouth South–Eastern Passage councillor Bill Karsten was “appalled” at the idea.

“I personally find it insulting,” said Karsten. “It’s my good name and my reputation I will stand on—not signing a piece of paper once a year.”

Councillor Richard Zurawski also objected to what he called “creeping” social justice, post-modernist thinking and a dangerous precedent for limiting free speech.

“This has kind of a punishment attitude towards it,” Zurawski said about the motion, “and I don’t think councillors should be sitting in fear of punishment for things they do and say on a regular basis.”

The municipality's code of conduct for elected officials was created in 2013, in part due to an incident two year prior when former councillor Reg Rankin harassed a woman at a Halifax Police function.

Since then, it’s mostly been used to force Whitman to publicly apologize. Several councillors on Tuesday argued it’s a particularly flimsy piece of legislation for holding HRM’s elected leaders accountable.

“There are no meaningful consequences if somebody doesn’t want to accept other people’s views of their behaviour, pure and simple,” said Steve Craig, who stressed that even insignificant comments from councillors about race and gender can have an enormous impact on the community.

“Over the last number of years, there has been much conversation—in council, in camera and in public—enough for me to believe that we really, seriously have to take a look at this.”

According to Hendsbee, the real problem is council no longer recites its non-denominational prayer before meetings. The municipality scrapped the practice in 2015 due to a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada. Hendsbee claims the invocation’s loss was a blow to council’s morality.

“We became godless, almost,” said the councillor.

Mancini’s motion was ultimately split into five parts and voted on separately. Council approved a regular four-year review of the code of conduct, along with having staff clarify the language around community representation and asking the province for the power to withhold pay from councillors found in violation of HRM’s ethics.

The requirement for an annual signing of the document by councillors and the creation of an integrity commissioner were both defeated.

Whitman did not speak on the matter.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Q&A: Jagmeet Singh on the NDP's future and busting stereotypes

The federal leader of the NDP says he's going to be “the first prime minister that’s ever been carded."

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 2:28 PM

click image Eat your heart out, JT. - VIA FLICKR
  • Eat your heart out, JT.
  • via Flickr

Jagmeet Singh has been the federal leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) since the beginning of October. He may be giving Justin Trudeau a run for his money—the “Jagmeet and Greet” event at Lion & Bright on Sunday was jam-packed with people, and tons more were lined up outside to shake Singh’s hand or snap a selfie. Both upon arrival and as he left his interview with The Coast, no shortage of people stopped him for hellos and photos. Obviously, being prime minister is about more than being the prince charming of Canada, so we sat down with Singh to discuss leadership, racism and style.

The Coast: The NDP has obviously gone through a lot of changes recently—change in leadership—and I know, provincially, it’s trying to reinvent itself as well. As a party, how do you continue to stay relevant while still staying true to your core values?

Jagmeet Singh: That’s the million dollar question. It’s not that hard, actually, because the values are values that actually matter to people. People want someone—a party or a person or a leader—that’s gonna stand up your them. That concept stands the test of time, it’s always true. And issues of justice are always relevant: making sure we have a more inclusive society, a more just society. Those things are always issues that matter. It’s just the way we communicate about them and the way we frame them. There’s ways to do it to keep the message engaging and exciting and inspirational, and I think that’s really the key—is to tap into the sentiment of fairness but in an inspirational, positive way.

Electoral reform, for example. It sounds like maybe a really dense, political topic: What does this mean, electoral reform? If you frame it like, hey, people should have their voice reflected in Ottawa, and in the Atlantic provinces 50 percent of people voted for a party other than the Liberals, but they got zero seats. One hundred percent of the seats went to one party. That seems to be a pretty unfair system. So we talk about, hey, how do we give people a chance to have their voice reflected more justly, more fairly in Parliament? And people are like, “Yeah, I’d like to have my voice reflected in Parliament. That makes sense.” So instead of just talking about it in a very academic sense, you have to take the message and make it something that people can connect with.

You talk about electoral reform and I heard you talk about it [Sunday] night as well. One thing that’s interesting about it to me, is you talked about how Trudeau broke his initial promise on that. When I think about it, the system we have now is what put him in power. So I think about, why would a politician want to change a system that put him in power? How can people trust you that if you’re elected prime minister, you will do that?

So, the interesting difference is, if you look at the parties, particularly like the Liberal party, it’s a party that only pursues power. Like, that’s their goal. Their goal is to be in power. Whereas, New Democrats, our goal is—we seek to be in a position of power to implement change. Our goal is always to implement change. And so for me, the goal isn’t just to get into power. My goal is leave a progressive legacy that actually makes people’s lives better.

Speaking of power, I’m as sick of talking about Donald Trump as I’m sure most people are. But I have to ask, because Thomas Mulcair, not too long ago—he sort of called out Trudeau for not denouncing Trump. If you were prime minister during a time when the leader of the United States was someone who—his way of leading and his beliefs were totally against your own, how would you navigate that?

Well, I can actually give you a great example on this matter. I was deputy leader of the [Ontario] provincial party at the time, and I made a statement in Parliament and I called out the type of campaign and the type of messages Trump put out. So I said, he ran on a campaign which was divisive, misogynistic, xenophobic and Islamophobic and I called it out. And I think we need to call out the types of policies that are divisive, that are demeaning—language that is hurtful, that is targeting particular communities in a disparaging way that is unjust or unfair. It has to be called out. So, that’s what I’ve done and I’ll continue to do that.

I think there is a moral responsibility for leaders to call out injustice and we have to name it. We’re in a time where violence against women is a real thing. It exists and it’s a horrible thing. And it’s incumbent on all of us, particularly men, to name and call out misogyny and violence against women. When you have a leader of a country that openly brags about essentially assaulting women, that’s something that’s gotta be called out. You can’t accept that—that is horrible, deplorable and it needs to be denounced.

From my perspective, the expectations of politicians are changing a bit—here, anyway. Trudeau’s been in Vogue and Rolling Stone, you’ve been in GQ. There’s this appeal of having a leader you like personally as opposed to just agreeing with their policies. Do you feel pressure to be likeable on a personal level, outside of presenting your beliefs?

Well, it’s just coincidental that I happen to be really likeable so it just works out really well for me [laughs]. So that’s not a big problem. I think that it’s OK. The reality is that people want to have a sense of trust in their leaders and trust can come from “I like that person.” Trust can also come from “hey, that person gets me.” And I hope more than people just liking me, I hope that people feel that I get people.

I can say with sometimes a bit of pride, maybe also a bit of sadness, that I’m the only federal leader in Canada that’s been carded—that’s been street checked, and I can tell people how that makes you feel when you’re targeting just because of your identity. Having done nothing wrong, but being approached by the police or approached by people just because of the colour of your skin makes me a stronger ally, I think, on issues of injustice that affect other people that are experiencing discrimination based on their identity. I can get that and I want to tackle it from this very authentic place.

And you’ve been really open about the fact that you’ve been carded and the discrimination you faced even before you were in the political spotlight. Now the public is kind of seeing it on display, from a reporter mixing you up with [Navdeep Bains] the minister of Economic Development to a woman at a campaign stop straight-up yelling at you and waving her finger in your face. How do you deal with that on a day-to-day basis?

I mean this seriously, but it might sound not-so-serious. Love and courage isn’t just a slogan for me, it’s like the way I live my life. So adversity, struggles, challenges—I look at them and I think, “How can I tackle this with love and courage?” Trying to see the connection that we all share and the courage to make it better. And so that’s what gave me the motivation to deal with the event that had being interrupted by someone. I wanted to say, there’s still a shared humanity we have. I wanted to see that and celebrate that shared humanity and then have the courage to try to lead by example and build a better world where we deescalate conflicts and not try to escalate them.

I listened to an interview that you did with Vice and talked a little bit about fashion and your personal style. You said it’s not just for fun, it’s kind of a necessity for you because you want to debunk stereotypes.

For the longest time, if you heard “beard and turban” or see a beard and turban, there’s a certain stereotype that flashes in your mind. And my goal is I have to disarm people of that stereotype or disrupt that picture that’s created in your mind when you think “beard and turban.” Or maybe even someone with brown skin, there’s a certain stereotype that exists. And so, part of the reason why I care about the way I present myself is it is actually a way to disarm people.

I wear bright, colourful turbans, and then someone who sees a turban, thinks of me negatively, thinks “I like that pink colour” or “I like that bright orange, it’s so beautiful” and then it creates an opportunity for conversation. For me, I look at clothing as, I guess, social armour to insulate me from some of the negative stereotypes that exist.

What do you admire about your political opponents? Your fellow party leaders?

Well, I mean, Trudeau does have a good—people call it “retail politics.” In a crowd, the way he walks around the crowd and meets people and shakes hands. There is something that is definitely just likeable about the way he walks around and meets people. I think Elizabeth May is someone very, very principled. She takes positions from a position of deep principles. [Andrew] Scheer’s got great dimples [laughs]. No—I think all politicians, Scheer included, are trying to do the best they can do to serve their communities. I think there’s a massive element of sacrifice in their work, so I respect the sacrifice that goes into this line of work. All leaders are giving a lot of themselves to be in this line of work so I respect that.

This Q&A has been edited for length, clarity and style.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Tony Mancini wants stronger sanctions for disrespectful HRM councillors

Gee, I wonder who this totally unprompted request to bolster the code of conduct could be about?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 6:20 PM

Tony Mancini, pictured in happier times. - RILEY SMITH
  • Tony Mancini, pictured in happier times.

As Drake would say, Halifax council is coming back on its worst behaviour.

Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East representative Tony Mancini is asking for a staff report at Tuesday’s meeting of HRM Regional Council on updates to the municipality’s code of conduct for elected officials.

Part of that report will look at creating a new integrity commissioner at city hall to conduct investigations every time a breach of conduct is reported. Other Canadian cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton all have integrity commissioners who provide similar reports to their municipal governments.

“If a breach has been confirmed to have occurred, some cities have strengthened the repercussions to include suspension or reduction of remuneration for up to 90 days as part of the possible reprimands,” suggests Mancini.

Halifax’s current code of conduct for municipal officials—otherwise known as Administrative Order 52—says the public expects “the highest standards of professional conduct from members elected to local government.”

To that end, those officials are expected, at all times, to behave with integrity, honesty, objectivity, accountability and leadership while “enhancing the credibility and integrity of council in the broader community.”

The code’s subsections on interpersonal behaviour and community representation likewise implore elected officials to treat everyone “with dignity, understanding and respect” and “observe a high standard of professionalism.”

Mancini’s motion asks that councillors be required to review and personally sign off on those sections every year.

So far over the course of 2017 HRM has endured multiple public apologies from its city councillors because of comments made online or in the media.

Preston–Chezzetcook–Eastern Shore representative David Hendsbee expressed regret back in June after calling Indigenous protesters “hotheads on the warpath.” Privately, Hendsbee later joked about smoking a peace pipe and feigned surprise that the black sheet used to cover the statue of Halifax founder/scalping advocate Edward Cornwallis wasn’t red.

Then there’s Matt Whitman. The Hammonds Plains–St. Margaret’s councillor has issued three public apologies in his young political career—two in the last eight months.

Over a year ago, council ordered Whitman to publicly apologize after he published a series of disparaging tweets about an RCMP officer. Whitman subsequently went on a semi-sarcastic “apology tour,” telling CBC that he would be more careful with his social media use in the future.

In March, Whitman again said he was sorry after uploading a video of himself running around a car shouting “Chinese fire drill.” Then last month, the former deputy mayor and failed MLA candidate got into a Twitter fight with fellow councillor Shawn Cleary about whether it was possible to be racist towards Mexicans. Whitman says no. He rationalized his argument on the CTV suppertime news by suggesting it was possible to be racist towards caucasians “or negroes” but not Mexicans.

Despite later defending his use of the outdated pejorative for Black people as a “word in the dictionary,” Whitman apologized the following Tuesday before the commencement of Regional Council’s meeting.

At least four complaints about councillor behaviour were filed at the end of October; two of which have been confirmed to be about Whitman. An in-camera item at council’s November 14 meeting will seemingly address those complaints.

The code of conduct currently states that any reported violation by an elected official is subject to an investigation by council, which at its discretion can retain an external consultant or panel to take over.

If someone is found to be in breach of the code, council can censure the accused by ordering an apology, for them to attend counselling or by withdrawing the councillor in question from any committee appointments.

Mancini’s staff report wants to see those powers expanded—pending already asked for changes to the municipality’s Charter—to allow for the withholding of pay.

“The code of conduct should reflect the work of the HRM Council while defining more clearly the behaviour, manners, and courtesies that are suitable for various occasions,” Mancini writes. “The constant and consistent theme through all the conduct guidelines should be ‘respect.’”

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Ellen Page details abuse, harassment from director Brett Ratner and others

Halifax-born actor pens powerful Facebook post about the “epidemic of violence against women in our society.”

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 4:38 PM

Ellen Page speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con for X-Men: Days of Future Past. - GAGE SKIDMORE, VIA WIKICOMMONS
  • Ellen Page speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con for X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Ellen Page has become the latest in a perpetually expanding list of female actors to describe the harassment, sexual abuse and horrific experience of being a woman in Hollywood.

The Halifax-born Page begins a lengthy Facebook post published Friday afternoon with an anecdote about working with alleged serial harasser of women Brett Ratner during 2006's X-men: The Last Stand.

Ratner—who's currently suing one of the women who accused him of rape—apparently outed the 18-year-old actor during a cast and crew event by pointing to a woman 10 years Page's senior and saying, “You should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay.”

“This man, who had cast me in the film, started our months of filming at a work event with this horrific, unchallenged plea,” writes Page. “He ‘outed’ me with no regard for my well-being, an act we all recognize as homophobic.”

Anna Paquin, who co-starred in the film with Page, has corroborated the incident in a tweet supporting her fellow actor.

Page, who has been a professional actor since the age of 10, details several other altercations she’s had with men in Hollywood as a 16-year-old, including being sexually assaulted by a crew member.

“When I was 16 a director took me to dinner (a professional obligation and a very common one). He fondled my leg under the table and said, ‘You have to make the move, I can’t.’ I did not make the move and I was fortunate to get away from that situation. It was a painful realization: my safety was not guaranteed at work. An adult authority figure for whom I worked intended to exploit me, physically. I was sexually assaulted by a grip months later. I was asked by a director to sleep with a man in his late twenties and to tell them about it. I did not. This is just what happened during my sixteenth year, a teenager in the entertainment industry.”

The entire post is a gut-wrenching read, with Page detailing her regrets for participating in the 2012 Woody Allen film To Rome With Love, along with recognizing that it's her own privilege as a white, cis celebrity that grants her some security to speak about these events. Women of colour, trans, queer and Indigenous victims have been leading this fight for decades, Page writes, and even today their voices are the first to be pressured, bullied and threatened into silence.

“How many men in the media—titans of industry—need to be exposed for us to understand the gravity of the situation and to demand the fundamental safety and respect that is our right?”

The full post is embedded below.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Families want answers on loved ones, MMIWG commission hears

National inquiry wraps its third and final day of hearings in Membertou.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 6:43 PM

Family members of Virginia Sue Pictou-Noyes at the MMIWG inquiry in Membertou. - STEPHEN BRAKE
  • Family members of Virginia Sue Pictou-Noyes at the MMIWG inquiry in Membertou.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held community hearings in Membertou First Nation this week. Journalist Maureen Googoo live-blogged the hearings each day on Twitter and shared coverage from her crowd-funded news site,, with The Coast.


The families of Virginia Sue Pictou-Noyes and Tanya Jean Brooks told the MMIWG inquiry hearing in Membertou on Wednesday that they need answers about their missing and murdered loved ones.

For the family of Virginia Pictou-Noyes, they want to know where she is. For Tanya Brooks’ sister, she wants to know why her killer hasn’t been arrested.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, or MMIWG, wrapped its final day of hearings in Membertou First Nation, Wednesday.

Since Monday, the national inquiry heard from approximately 50 families and survivors who registered to participate in the Membertou hearings. Ten of those who registered gave their testimonies in public.


Father says Virginia is in the “spirit world”
Virginia Pictou-Noyes was last seen at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine on April 24, 1993. Police took her there after she was severely beaten by two men outside of a bar in Bangor. The 26-year-old woman left the medical centre while staff tended to a shooting victim.

“I know she’s been called to the spirit world,” Robert Pictou, Sr., Virginia’s father, told MMIWG Inquiry commissioners Michèle Audette and Qajaq Robinson.

Virginia’s siblings said their sister, who had five children, was a victim of domestic violence and allege her husband and brother-in-law, the two men who beat her that night, are responsible for her disappearance and death.

“No woman should be hit, slapped, cursed or hurt in any way,” Francis Pictou, Virginia’s older brother, told the inquiry.

Francis, 52, said his family has used cadaver dogs to search through woods in Maine looking for their sister’s body. He also tried to reach out to one of the men he believes is responsible for Virginia’s disappearance to find out where they took her.

“To us, she’s missing. To the guy who killed her, she’s not missing. He put her someplace,” Francis said.

Robert Pictou, Jr., explained to the commissioners about his family’s difficulty in getting information from officials in Maine about his sister’s disappearance.

“We have absolutely nothing to prove to you that my sister is gone,” Robert, Jr. said.

Virginia’s sister, Agnes Gould, said the family also wasn’t notified when her sister’s five children were placed foster care because they live in Canada. She recommended to the commission that a dialogue about border issues needs to happen.

“That border was put in not by us but by others. In our [Mi’kmaq] nation, we deal with our family all the way down to Boston because our ancestral lands go all the way down there,” Gould said.

She also recommended that families should be offered education for the prevention of violence against women, children, two-spirited, transgender people and men.

Vanessa Brooks, centre, speaks with MMIWG inquiry Commissioner Qajaq Robinson about her sister, Tanya Brooks. - STEPHEN BRAKE
  • Vanessa Brooks, centre, speaks with MMIWG inquiry Commissioner Qajaq Robinson about her sister, Tanya Brooks.

“They set her up to fail” —Vanessa Brooks
Vanessa Brooks, the sister of Tanya Brooks, was the final person to give public testimony at the MMIWG inquiry hearings in Membertou. She spent Wednesday afternoon telling Tanya’s story from childhood up until she was found dead on May 11, 2009.

Vanessa said she and her siblings grew up in a home where there was domestic violence and alcoholism and at one point, they were placed in foster homes. She said that was the start of the breakdown of her family.

When Tanya, 36, was killed, Vanessa said she was struggling with addictions and had her five children taken away. She said Tanya had difficulty trying to meet the conditions placed by Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s services in order to regain custody of her children.

“They set her up to fail,” Vanessa said.

A few months before Tanya death, Vanessa said a drug dealer in Halifax used a steel pipe to severely beat her. She said paramedics had to revive Tanya while she was being transported to the hospital.

“He beat so bad that the pipe broke,” Vanessa told commissioner Qajaq Robinson.

Vanessa said the individual was charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. The man was sentenced to five years in prison in February 2009, three months before Tanya was found dead.

Later on, she said her family heard that a $2,000 bounty was placed on her sister’s head.

“Geez, I wonder who would have done that?” Vanessa said.

The National Inquiry into MMIWG released an interim report on Wednesday. One of the interim recommendations includes establishing a national police task force to review cold cases.

Chief commissioner Marion Buller said she will be asking the federal government for more money and an extension to continue their work. The inquiry’s final report is due on November 1, 2018.

Click here to help support Ku'ku'kwes report on Indigenous news in Atlantic Canada.

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Upcoming rally will tackle key issues faced by women in Nova Scotia

With the Women's March on Washington several months behind us, local women "will continue to rally and be a force to be reckoned with.”

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 3:24 PM

El Jones is one of four women slated to speak at Monday's rally. - RILEY SMITH
  • El Jones is one of four women slated to speak at Monday's rally.
  • Riley Smith
“We’re not going anywhere,” says Jackie Barkhouse.

In January of this year, the Women’s March on Washington garnered support around the world—including a sister protest in Halifax. Barkhouse was one of the organizers and, since then, she’s helped continue the movement. The local protest was followed up in May by Nova Scotia Women Vote, an event ahead of the provincial election which encouraged women to cast their ballots. Now, Barkhouse is teaming up with fellow organizers Dawn Ferris and Rhonda Doyle LeBlanc as well as the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) for a rally outside the Legislature on Monday.

Jackie Barkhouse
  • Jackie Barkhouse

“There was so much momentum that was created with the Women’s March and I think it’s an important time for women, so we really need to keep the conversation going,” says Barkhouse.

Speakers will hone in on four of the “issues that have been identified as important in Nova Scotia right now” through the NSFL Women’s Committee: Poverty elimination (El Jones), intimate partner violence leave (Jenna Brookfield), minimum wage (Masuma Khan) and Bill 148—Public Services Sustainability Act (Lenore Zann).

“We have some amazing female activists in our own community that are really always there to move issues forward,” says Barkhouse. “We work really hard when we organize these events in Halifax to be as inclusive as we can so that—you know, we’re really trying to reach out to the voices of all women.”

This rally is starting and noon and is expected to take 45 minutes, with the hope people will be able to attend on their lunch hour. More events are in the works for the near future.

“We need to show our political leaders that we have a voice and that we will use it, and that we will continue to rally and be a force to be reckoned with.”

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Jamie Baillie is stepping down as Progressive Conservative leader

Vision. Action. Baillie.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Jamie Baillie, the former leader of Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative party. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Jamie Baillie, the former leader of Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative party.
  • via Facebook

After seven years and two general elections, Jamie Baillie is stepping down as leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

Baillie submitted his official notice to Tara Miller, the PC Party president on Wednesday morning.

“I want to thank my family, my caucus colleagues and the dedicated members of the PC Party for their support over the last seven years,” said Baillie in a press release. “It is the right time for my family and I to start our next chapter. I also believe it’s an opportunity for the Party to elect a fresh face for leader.”

According to the news release, Baillie will remain on as leader of the official opposition until a replacement has been selected, and will continue to serve as MLA for Cumberland South.

Although this is the first official word about his departure, speculation has dogged Baillie since last May’s general election.

The face of the Party’s “Vision. Action. Baillie.” campaign, the leader told The Coast back in May that he had given no thought to his future should the Tories fail once again to form Nova Scotia’s next government.

The PCs ended election night picking up seven seats, including a huge win upsetting longtime Liberal MLA Michel Samson in Cape Breton–Richmond. It was a “great night,” according to Baillie, but it wasn’t enough. The next day he announced he would be considering his future.

The chartered accountant, who also served as chief of staff to former premier John Hamm, left politics in 2005 to become the CEO of Credit Union Atlantic. He came back five years later to win a seat at Province House in the Cumberland South by-election.

Under his tenure, the Tories climbed their way back from third-place to regain official opposition. Baillie's leadership has largely been a war of attrition against Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government and its austerity practices. Putting the “progressive” in Progressive Conservative, he was front-and-centre at protests against rape culture and even argued at Province House on behalf of the labour unions furiously protesting outside. But it never seemed to make much of an impact on the Liberals in the polls.

“We have made great strides and I am tremendously proud of our collective efforts and results. I am truly grateful for the thousands of people I’ve met along this journey and the wonderful memories we’ve made,” said Baillie in today's press release. “People welcomed me into their homes, their places of work and their community centres with open arms and I am so humbled by all the love and support I have received.”

Miller states the PC Party owes a tremendous debt to its outgoing leader.

“We have been so lucky to have someone of Jamie Baillie’s calibre as our leader over the last seven years. He has been a tremendous steward, navigating our Party through many challenging times,” Miller writes. “Jamie is a wonderful man. He is smart, dedicated and caring. I want to thank him, on behalf of our entire PC family, for his years of service and commitment to our province.”

The PC Party executive will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the process for selecting a new leader.

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Council choo-choo-chooses not to fund downtown “road train”

Dartmouth Centre’s Sam Austin rails against off-track idea to transfer public money to a for-profit business.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 12:20 PM

The closest thing we have to commuter rail. - VIA INSTAGRAM
  • The closest thing we have to commuter rail.

The Halifax “road train” will have to conduct its business without any funding from city hall.

A vote at council to provide $50,000 in municipal money for the downtown people-mover was defeated by an 8–8 tie on Tuesday. Councillor Waye Mason, a member of the Halifax Community Road Train Society, recused himself from the vote.

Ambassatours originally set up the faux-train experience (it drives on wheels over city streets) back in June as a way to counter the tourism-poison of Queen’s Marque construction.

Owner Dennis Campbell approached the city for $120,000 in municipal funding for operations over the next three years. Staff advised against it, but council conditionally approved the idea provided a not-for-profit be set up as the recipient of the funds instead of a private business.

Halifax’s charter explicitly forbids the municipality from funding a for-profit corporation.

The aforementioned Road Train Society—which counts Mason and personnel from Waterfront Development and the Downtown Halifax Business Association amongst its members—was created in response.

That was just the ticket for HRM’s finance committee to offer its rubber stamp on the funding, but councillor Sam Austin railed against the “arms-length” shell society at Tuesday’s meeting.

“What does the society actually do?” asked Austin. “As far as I can see, the entire reason for this society to exist is to take money from us and others and transfer it through to Ambassatours.”

Ambassatours bought the contraption not knowing if it would receive public funding, said Austin, so presumably, the company has some working business model in mind without the need of a smokescreen non-profit.

“All they are is a body to move funds from point A to point B and I just don’t think that’s good enough,” Austin said about the road train society. “We have a non-profit that owns and does nothing, and has come into existence for the sole reason of collecting money for a for-profit business.”

The red-and-white “road train” runs a loop along Lower and Upper Water and Hollis Streets. The apparently female vehicle is paid for by advertisements and suggested passenger donations of $2 to $5.

The project raised just over $77,000 from rider donations and an additional $90,000 from selling advertisements on stops and train signs over the past summer and fall season. Gross profits for the year are expected to equal $4,500, even without the requested $50,000 from HRM.

A motion from Austin to defer any funding decision pending a new staff report on the road train society was shot down, leading to the tie vote and the original funding request’s defeat.

Ambassatours will have to wait until next year to apply again for any city money.

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Family seeking justice in Mi’kmaw woman’s death testify in Day 2 of MMIWG hearings

Family members of Victoria Paul and Nora Bernard share their stories with national inquiry.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 10:18 AM

Darlene Gilbert, right, testified as a survivor during day two of MMIWG inquiry hearings in Membertou, on Tuesday. - STEPHEN BRAKE
  • Darlene Gilbert, right, testified as a survivor during day two of MMIWG inquiry hearings in Membertou, on Tuesday.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding community hearings in Membertou First Nation this week. Journalist Maureen Googoo is live-blogging the hearings each day on Twitter and sharing coverage from her crowd-funded news site,, with The Coast.

More stories of pain, survival and seeking justice were heard on day two of public hearings with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Membertou.

Family members and a childhood friend of Victoria Paul of Indian Brook First Nation, told commissioners Tuesday how her sudden death in 2009 affected their lives.

“My son is going to grow up with no grandmother now,” Deveron Paul, Victoria’s son, told the public inquiry on Tuesday.

“I just want answers on what happened to my mother. It still hurts me, ” he said.

Paul, 44, was arrested for public intoxication outside of a bar in Truro, on August 28, 2009. She suffered a massive stroke while she was in police custody but she wasn’t transported to a hospital until 10 hours after she arrived at the jail cell.

She was transferred to the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. Paul died on September 5, 2009 after her family decided to take her off life support.

An initial investigation conducted by Halifax Regional Police into the conduct of Truro Police in Paul’s case found no wrongdoing. However, a report by the Nova Scotia Justice Department found that Truro Police didn’t properly monitor Paul while she was in police custody nor did it provide her with timely access to medical help.

“It just feels like my Auntie Victoria’s life meant nothing,” Victoria’s niece, Candice Syliboy told the inquiry.

Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, has advocated for justice for her childhood friend since she first became president of the organization in November 2009. She told the inquiry she wants a public inquiry into Paul’s treatment while she was in police custody.

“The inquiry here, it’s our last resort in Canada. I’ve taken this as far as I could,” Maloney told inquiry commissioner Michèle Audette.

Darlene Gilbert, centre, testifies at MMIWG inquiry hearings in Membertou. - STEPHEN BRAKE
  • Darlene Gilbert, centre, testifies at MMIWG inquiry hearings in Membertou.

Darlene Gilbert’s story

Darlene Gilbert, a Mi’kmaw woman with the Annapolis Valley First Nation, shared her survivor story on how the legacy of the residential school system and being placed in foster care affected her upbringing in Halifax.

Gilbert told commissioners her mother was raped by a priest while she attended the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. She said her mother, who became an alcoholic, died of complications from alcoholism at the age of 39.

“From the trauma of the residential school,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said she grew up with two alcoholic parents while living in Dartmouth. She said she was raped by one of her parent’s drinking friends when she was nine years old.

“I grew very insecure,” she said.

“My mother and father (were) always fighting about that she wanted to be home with her family and take me home to my people,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said she acted out after she was raped and as a result, she was removed from her home and was placed in the children’s ward of the Nova Scotia Hospital because child services didn’t know where to place her.

Gilbert said she became a ward of the province after her mother died when she was 12 years old. She didn’t attend her mother’s funeral but one of her uncles from the Annapolis Valley First Nation eventually took her to her mother’s grave.

Gilbert said she started drinking when she was 16 years old and for a brief two weeks, she was sent to the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children even though she was half Mi’kmaq and half white.

When she arrived at the home, she was jumped and groped by two boys. She also said a male counsellor also raped her while she was at the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children.

As a young adult, Gilbert said she began abusing drugs and became addicted. She said her addiction led to hustling on the street, violence and abuse. She later lost her son and daughter because of her drug addiction.

Gilbert said she decided to quit drugs when she moved from British Columbia to Nova Scotia in 2000. She said she has only relapsed one since she decided to become sober.

Natalie Gloade testifies at the MMIWG hearing on Tuesday. - STEPHEN BRAKE
  • Natalie Gloade testifies at the MMIWG hearing on Tuesday.

Natalie Gloade’s story
Natalie Gloade from the Millbrook First Nation told the inquiry about her mother, the late Nora Bernard and the pain she carries over the way her mother died in December 2007.

Nora Bernard was the president of the Survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, a group that filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Halifax in the mid-1990s. The group was seeking compensation for the abuse they suffered while they attended the school.

Bernard’s class-action lawsuit eventually led to the Indian Residential School settlement agreement and an apology by the Government of Canada in 2008.

Bernard was found dead in her home next to the Millbrook First Nation, on December 27, 2007. Bernard’s grandson and Gloade’s son, James Gloade, was charged in her death. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving a 15-year sentence.

During the sentencing hearing, the court heard that James Gloade had smoked crack cocaine and took prescription medication the day he killed his grandmother. When she refused to give him money, he hit her head several times before he slit her throat.

Gloade recalled the last time she saw her mother alive on Christmas Day.

“She hugged me so tight and she said, ‘I’m going to put all my strength in you, t’us,’ she said. And she rubbed my back and she just held me,” Gloade said.

“And then I went to the door and I said, “I love you, too, Mom.’ And that was the last time I saw my Momma alive,” she said through tears.

Gloade said she has had people have come up to her to say that she is the mother of a murderer.

“I apologized to the Nation as a whole for what my son did,” she said.

According to a spokeswoman with the MMIWG inquiry, more than 900 families and survivors have registered with the inquiry to give statements. In Atlantic Canada, 120 of those who have registered are from Atlantic Canada.

The national inquiry is considering requests from families to hold community hearings in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The MMIWG inquiry holds its final day of hearings on Wed. November 1 at 8:30 am in Membertou.

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Matt Whitman is sorry if he offended anyone by using the word “negro”

The councillor yet again issues a public apology for his comments about race.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 8:02 AM

Councillor Matt Whitman at City Hall. - RILEY SMITH
  • Councillor Matt Whitman at City Hall.

For the third time in his political career, Matt Whitman has issued a public apology.

The councillor stood at the start of Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting to address his Twitter fight last week with fellow elected official Shawn Cleary and his use of the word “negro” on TV.

“I apologize to my colleague and all members of council for any embarrassment I may have caused. My comments never meant to insult, hurt, demean or otherwise disparage anyone,” Whitman said.

During a televised interview with CTV Atlantic, Whitman used the word “negro” to describe Black people while defending his assertion that it’s impossible to be racist towards Mexicans. The outdated, offensive terminology prompted councillor Lindell Smith to publicly scold his colleague.

“Please don’t use the word ‘negroes,’” Smith tweeted at Whitman. “It’s not appropriate and we are not in 1950.”

Whitman later defended his choice of language to CTV as a legitimate “word in the dictionary,” but was more repentant on Tuesday.

“My posts lost sight of the issue, and I became engulfed in inappropriate dialogue. For that, I apologize. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That never was, nor has ever been, my intent. In future, I commit to, as mayor Savage has said, read twice, send once.”

It was an appropriate apology for a “poor choice of words,” according to the mayor.

“He did the right thing,” said Mike Savage. “He came to council today and apologized. That doesn’t nullify the issues we have to deal with. It helps.”

But absolution is not being offered from Shawn Cleary.

“I think he should be apologizing to all residents of Halifax, especially our racialized communities, for using the words that he used,” said the councillor.

Cleary says he and Whitman have yet to speak to each other privately about the issue. But the councillor defends the appropriateness of two elected officials debating racism on social media.

“Would you be covering this story right now if it wasn’t on Twitter? Would I have done three stories—and nationally—if it wasn’t on Twitter? Just because something’s controversial, just because we don’t like something, doesn’t mean it didn’t start in the right place, or at the right time. We are where we are now and we have to deal with these things.”

The mayor had a different view on the matter.

“Twitter is not a place to resolve conflicts,” Savage told reporters. “It’s a place to perpetuate conflicts.”

A smiling Whitman brushed past media for the rest of the day without making any additional comment other than that his “apology stands.” He was largely silent for the remainder of Tuesday's council meeting save for obligatory community announcements and voicing a short disapproval of Cleary’s motion for a staff report on setting up a lobbyist registry.

This is the third time Whitman has issued a public apology for his actions. In 2016, council passed a motion ordering him to apologize for social media posts directed at an RCMP officer. Earlier this year, while running for the Progressive Conservatives provincially, Whitman expressed his regret for uploaded a video of himself yelling “Chinese fire drill” and running around a car.

“I apologize for my lapse in judgment and my unintentional use of what I now understand to be an insensitive term,” he said at the time.

Four complaints about councillor conduct last week have been submitted to city hall—at least one of which is about Whitman’s comments in the media. Despite his apology, those items will still formally need to be addressed in-camera by council at a future meeting. Depending on the outcome, Whitman could be ordered to attend sensitivity counselling or issue another public apology.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry: Day One

The family of Loretta Saunders and Ecology Action Centre coordinator Rebecca Moore offer testimony at first day of national inquiry.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 30, 2017 at 10:09 PM

Members of Loretta Saunders' family speak at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry Monday in Membertou First Nation. - STEPHEN BRAKE
  • Members of Loretta Saunders' family speak at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry Monday in Membertou First Nation.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding community hearings in Membertou First Nation this week, from October 30 to November 1.  Approximately 40 families have registered to make statements. Journalist Maureen Googoo is live-blogging the hearings each day on Twitter and her crowdfunded news site, Googoo is sharing her coverage over the next three days with The Coast. Here's what happened on Monday, when Monique Fong-Howe, Rebecca Moore and the family of Loretta Saunders shared their stories.

The family of slain university student Loretta Saunders and two survivors of violence and harassment gave emotional testimony during the first day of hearings into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on Monday in Membertou First Nation, N.S.

Loretta Saunders’ parents, Miriam and Clayton Saunders, along with her sisters, Delilah and Audrey, told inquiry commissioners Qajaq Robinson and Michèle Audette how her death affected them and how they were treated by police, the media and victims’ services.

Loretta Saunders, an Inuk from Labrador, went missing from her Halifax apartment on February 13, 2015. Her body was found two weeks later stuffed in a hockey bag located in the medium of the Trans Canada highway near Salisbury, N.B.

Saunders’ two roommates are currently serving life sentences for murdering her.

Miriam Saunders said investigators with Halifax Regional Police spoke directly to her on the phone about her daughter’s case until they learned Saunders was Inuk.

“When they started calling her Inuk, I had to start swearing and everything at them in order to get answers. I didn’t get to talk to the investigators after that,” Miriam Saunders explained.

Delilah Saunders testified that she learned that her sister was killed was from a text message from a television news producer in Toronto.

“The way they knew so early is because they were there filming Loretta being dug out of the snow,” Delilah Saunders told the commissioners.

“I think the media were very insensitive, how they handled our sister’s case even though we were fortunate to have the media coverage that we did,” she explained.

Delilah Saunders also explained how a counsellor referred through the Nova Scotia Department of Justice’s victims services acted inappropriately towards her. She said the male counsellor kept commenting on Loretta’s looks and at one point, placed his hand on her leg.

Monique Fong-Howe travelled from Halifax, to Membertou to tell her life story as a survivor of violence and abuse.

Fong-Howe, who works with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, said the pre-inquiry hearings held in Halifax in January 2016 inspired her to share her story with the inquiry commissioners.

“I’ve been living here in the Maritimes for about 30 years now and many people see me in my role now as an advocate and a worker but they don’t know my history,” Fong-Howe explained.

Through tears, she recounted her childhood and teen years being sexually abused while growing up in Saskatchewan. She left home when she was 13 years old and was homeless for a period of time.

“I grew up living on the streets, being involved with drugs, being involved with drinking and partying,” Fong-Howe said.

“I was always in violent relationships. It seems I was attracted to violent men,” she recalled.

Fong-Howe said she got pregnant and had a son when she was 17 years old. She said lost her son for a while because of her alcohol and drug use.

While Fong-Howe was living in a women’s shelter in Saskatoon, her mother and step-father came to visit. They informed her they were moving to Nova Scotia and wanted her to join them.

At first, Fong-Howe said resisted the idea of moving but then decided to sell all of her belongings to a pawn shop owner in exchange for a ticket to Halifax.

“I would see more and more people go, from being murdered and killed and drug overdoses. I wanted a different life,” Fong-Howe said.

“I had all of the intentions of staying here for six months and here I am, 30 years later still here,” she said.

Rebecca Moore, a Mi’kmaq with the Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia, was born and raised in Halifax.

Moore told the inquiry commissioners about the sexual harassment and threats of violence she has experienced as an Indigenous woman living in Halifax.

“Halifax is a very creepy city,” Moore said.

“We have a lot of johns driving around all the time. We have a lot of sexual harassment on the street happening all the time,” she said.

Moore recalled a time when she was walking to her apartment around midnight when a car pulled up beside her with the trunk open.

“There were three guys in it. The driver got out and he cut me off on the sidewalk. The passenger had his door open and his legs out like he was going to jump out,” she recalled.

“I saw the setup. I caught the play. I didn’t let them get close enough to actually grab me or anything,” she said.

The Mi’kmaw woman explained she walked backward and went to her sister’s home nearby and “freaked out.”

Moore also told commissioners she has also been threatened with violence ever since she became active in the Cornwallis statue and Alton Gas protests. She explained that she and other Indigenous activists are more of a target by white supremacist groups as a result of their activism.

Day Two of the national inquiry’s public hearings in Membertou begin on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

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Africentric Learning Institute project invites African Nova Scotians to share stories from their communities

Originally a Canada 150 project, ALI will continue to share African Nova Scotian "legacy stories" beyond this year.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 30, 2017 at 3:01 PM

Project coordinator Nzingha Millar speaks at last week's screening. - SUBMITTED
  • Project coordinator Nzingha Millar speaks at last week's screening.
  • submitted

What started as a Canada 150 project focusing on the stories of African Nova Scotians will continue beyond its original December deadline. “The project has received immense support,” says Harvi Millar.

Millar is a professor at Saint Mary’s University, and he runs the YouTube channel for the Africentric Learning Institute. In October, ALI applied for funding from the Canada 150 program for “African Nova Scotian Experiences in Canada: 150 Legacy Stories” in October. Since they didn’t get approval until May, Millar realized it would be next to impossible to create 150 videos in the planned timeframe. Now, they’re just putting together as many as they can.

“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a group of people who can use their mobile devices?’” explains Millar. “Instead of consuming, why don’t we use the technology to produce something—to make a contribution?”

Sarah Poko and Nzingha Millar (Harvi’s daughter and a former Coast intern) teamed up as project coordinators. As Poko and Nzingha have both studied journalism at King’s, they held three workshops to teach people to be “citizen journalists” with the tools that they had. Last Wednesday, a screening of stories that have been produced so far took place at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.

“We give them the tools. That is, how to interview people, how to edit, how to frame an interview shot and all of that,” says Poko. “But it’s up to them to decide, OK—which story do you want to tell about your community and about your day-to-day life as an African Nova Scotian?”

The official Canada 150 project will end in December, but ALI wants to continue helping people record and share legacy stories. The hope is that this will help tell African Nova Scotian stories more widely, and maybe encourage more African Nova Scotians to pursue journalism in their studies.

“Yes, we need to put some pressure for these [media] institutions to be more responsive, to be more inclusive,” says Millar. “At the same time, we have a whole bunch of people who are on their cell phones, who have a piece of technology that is readily available to them—that they could actually help to change the landscape or the image of their own communities.”

Additional project screenings will take place in Yarmouth, New Glasgow and Sydney. 

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Halifax councillors keep fighting about racism on Twitter

Lindell Smith has to ask Matt Whitman to please stop using “negroes” when referring to Black people.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Whitman, pictured here not tweeting. - RILEY SMITH
  • Whitman, pictured here not tweeting.

A city councillor’s use of the word “negroes” while stating that it's impossible to be racist against Mexicans has prompted the latest public tweet storm between Halifax’s elected leaders.

The back-and-forth between city councillors devolved out of Halifax West Armdale representative Shawn Cleary’s statement Tuesday that he would personally no longer use the term “marijuana” when speaking about cannabis products.

The Anglicized spelling of the Spanish word for Canada’s soon-to-be legal pastime was purposefully used in the early 1900s by American authorities hoping to tie their criminalization efforts to already ostracized Mexican communities and immigrants. A dialogue about whether the term still carries those hateful connotations has recently increased with the Trudeau government’s legalization efforts.

So Cleary’s not going to say it.

“Let’s do what we can to not perpetuate racism,” the councillor tweeted Tuesday.

But Hammonds Plains–St. Margarets councillor Matt Whitman feels it’s impossible to be racist against Mexicans because it’s a nationality, not a race.

It’s the sort of nit-picking counter-argument one usually finds in online comment sections, and entirely irrelevant to Cleary’s larger point that Latin Americans and those of Mexican descent have faced—and continue to face—discrimination, prejudice and hatred based on their ethnicity. (For more info on the subject consult The News, Every Day.)

“Race is a social construct, not a biological characteristic,” Cleary tweets in response to his colleague.

The two dug in from there. A sustained debate about civic issues can be, as it is often described by the councillors themselves at public meetings, a “good discussion.” This was not that.

“Italian is a nationality but is now a race according to the newest definition of #SocialConstruct,” mockingly replies Whitman.



“It would be awesome if, when you spoke, you knew what you were actually talking about,” tweets Cleary. “Even just once would be good.”

“Please educate us, oh wise one!!” trolls Whitman.

Declining Cleary’s suggestion of getting a coffee to explain the concept of social constructs further, Whitman tells his coworker he’s already wasted enough time.

“Fuck! Don’t I know it,” says Cleary.

But it didn’t stop there.

The next day Cleary suggested one of his council colleagues belonged on a list of “hopeful Trump interns and Ford nation wannabes.” Whitman then stated the use of “fuck” by a “genius public official” didn’t offend him, so marijuana shouldn’t offend anyone else.

“Ya but at least I didn’t call a Chinese fire drill or wear a Mexican Halloween costume,” Cleary says, referencing two of Whitman’s social media blunders.



Last Halloween the very-white Matt Whitman donned a poncho and overly large moustache to portray a “Mexican Trump supporter” for Halloween.

The former deputy mayor also publicly apologized earlier this year after publishing a video of himself performing a “Chinese fire drill” while in traffic.

“If someone dresses as a nurse or firefighter for Halloween does that make them racist too?” Whitman rhetorically asks of Cleary.

The flame war ended up being covered by CTV Atlantic on Thursday evening, where Whitman again defended his argument.

“The word marijuana may be racist because of caucasians, negroes or some other race, but not because of a nationality,” he said on television.

Leaving aside the geographic origins of the term caucasians, the councillor’s use of the outdated descriptor “negroes” motivated Lindell Smith—the only non-white elected representative on Regional Council—to tweet at Whitman.

“Please don’t use the word ‘Negroes.’ It’s not appropriate and we are not in 1950,” Smith writes, before stating he would not be commenting on the matter further to the media.

The online discussion about race comes the same week it was revealed councillor David Hendsbee joked about smoking a “peace pipe” after making racially loaded comments about Indigenous protesters and then later expressed concerns to a resident that reconciliation efforts will lead to white Canadians giving the “keys to our homes” to First Nations.

Earlier this same month, Halifax South Downtown councillor Waye Mason seemingly agreed with a tweet calling Hendsbee, Whitman and councillor Stephen Adams “shitheads” that needed to be “publicly shamed” for their comments about Indigenous people. Mason later clarified he only meant to agree with the public-shaming half of the tweet.

All of these people make $85,443 a year.

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Vol 25, No 29
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