News

1. Owls Head Provincial Park has been deleted from the province’s map of parks and protected areas

Owls Head Provincial Park as it was depicted on the Nova Scotia Department of Environment’s map yesterday.

Tim writes on the disappearance of Owls Head Provincial Park from the map of main protected areas on the province’s website.

CBC’s Michael Gorman reported that the province removed Owls Head from a pending protected status list. The province wants to negotiate with Lighthouse Links Development Co., which wants to build a golf course in the area.

Environment minister Gordon Wilson tells Gorman even if the land is sold, there will be an environmental assessment process, including time for public comment, before development goes ahead.

But then the department deleted Owls Head from the map.

2. Tenants at Tawaak Housing talk deplorable living conditions

Tenants living in housing run by the Tawaak Housing Association are describing the conditions they live in. One tenant, Chantal Chassé, tells Shaina Luck with CBC it’s the “worse place she could be.” Chassé says she was assaulted by an intruder and had some of her belongings stolen.

Nobody wants to live like this. At the end of the day, I had to pick and choose. I chose to live here, paying $570 a month. That way, I could afford above and beyond, extra things.

Another tenant, Melissa Prosper, lives with her family in one of the association’s duplexes in Dartmouth. She says the roof above her daughter’s bedroom collapsed and was left unfixed for about a year.

My daughter still does not have a bedroom. We basically just use the room now for toy storage, and even that’s iffy because you don’t know if the ceiling is going to go again. We’ve lost all trust with Tawaak and their staff.

The Tawaak Housing Association manages 142 units across the province for Indigenous people who are having difficulty finding a place to live.

Brian Dezagiacomo, Tawaak’s executive director, says the units are deteriorating because of a lack of funding from the province and feds.

Our subsidies were frozen in 2009. We haven’t received an increase in subsidies, while all [our] costs have increased.

Last week, Housing Nova Scotia deputy minister Nancy MacLellan said Tawaak will receive $7.3 million in federal funding over the next three years. Dezagiacomo says most of that will go to immediate repairs, not its long-term funding model.

3. Income assistance rate increases not enough

At the Nova Scotia Advocate, anti-poverty activist Jodi Brown writes about the (mostly small) changes to livable income for those Nova Scotians on income assistance, which she says aren’t making a real difference.

Our Nova Scotia Government has spent over $10 million on the implementation of the welfare transformation since 2014, but the results are pretty depressing for most people on assistance. I sure would like to see the breakdown of that money spent.

Here is a look at the increases.

Brown also gives some examples of how those changes have changed for some people on income assistance (everyone she mentions has a disability).

There’s Aron who got an increase of $40 per month and Tim, who boards with his mother and is her caregiver, gets an extra $10. The one person who received the largest increase is Joy, a mother of two who lives in public housing. Under the rate increases, she gets $409, for a total of $913 per month.

Brown says those amounts are still not enough and she’d like to see Nova Scotians get a monthly minimum of $1,500 per adult.

Our basic rights are being violated every day, food and shelter is a human right. This isn’t rocket science, we are talking about something very simple, we are talking about not letting a person go without.

Nova Scotia can do better, I know we can! I have one word for our government and that is criminalNo person should go without the basics, no matter who you are.

4. Austin looking for heritage designation for old post office

Councillor Sam Austin wants to start the heritage designation process for the old post office building in Dartmouth. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Today, councillor Sam Austin will introduce a motion to council to get the heritage designation process underway for the old post office building in downtown Dartmouth.

Austin talked with Pam Berman at CBC about the building, which is 100 years old. Canada Post is moving out into a smaller space. Austin says he wants the designation in place before the building is sold.

By doing that, we encourage the people who are interested in the building to do something creative with it, not just levelling the site. It’s been just a prominent landmark in the community.

Tim Rissesco with the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission says part of building could house a municipal museum (I’d like to work there).

On Friday, we shared a post by Stephen Archibald from Halifax Bloggers about how details from Halifax’s and Dartmouth’s historic buildings were disappearing from the top down. Archibald included old photos of the post office, which used to have a tower.


Views

Domestic violence and accessibility in Nova Scotia

Since May I have been working on a project called Not Without Us, which is a partnership between Easter Seals Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities. I travelled the province meeting with women with disabilities who’ve experienced domestic violence and the staff at the organizations, like transition houses and women’s centres, who work with those women. This has been an eye-opening look at domestic violence and accessibility in the province, so I thought I’d share some of what we’ve heard and learned so far.

Originally, I had only planned on hosting five sessions around the province. But when I sent out an invitation to one community about a meeting in a community a two-hour drive away, I was told I “might as well be on the moon.” From then on, I worked with people in any community that wanted to host a meeting. To date, I am at 12 meetings.

In the sessions, we talked about accessing transition houses, second-stage housing, transit and transportation, policing, stigma around domestic violence, financial barriers, and more.

The situation for women with disabilities in situations of domestic violence is especially troubling in rural communities across Nova Scotia. These communities are already geographically cut off from other parts of the province and so women with disabilities who live here don’t have enough access to supports. In Sheet Harbour, for example, women have access to an excellent resource centre, but are quite a distance away from other resources in Halifax, New Glasgow, or Truro. In Cape Breton, most of the resources for women are located in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Women elsewhere on the island have to travel and, if you’re disabled, it’s unlikely you could make the trip. Some staff travel for outreach, but resources are stretched thin already.

Accessible transit and transportation in rural communities is almost non-existent.  I called cab companies in the rural communities where I hosted sessions and most don’t have accessible vehicles. Some said they could fit a wheelchair in the trunk of their car. Fortunately, groups in some communities have organized shuttles, including those with accessible vehicles. But even those services have their limits since they are expensive, run by volunteers, and not necessarily available if a woman is in a crisis, since they need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance.

In HRM, there 14 active accessible taxi owner licences out of a total of 875 active owners licenses.

In the HRM, there are only 14 active accessible taxi owner licences out of a total of 875 active owners licenses (those are totals, not the number of cars on the road on a given day). As for the Access-A-Bus service, there are 47 vehicles, 33 of which are available to be on the road on any given day. Booking an Access-A-Bus often means a considerable wait. Passengers who use this service also have to apply to use it. I’ve heard the complaints about Halifax Transit and the taxi system from able-bodied passengers, but imagine your life relying on applying for transit and waiting for one of a handful of accessible cabs in the city. Imagine again you were a woman in a crisis and needed to leave a situation immediately.

Housing is an issue around the province, but there are almost no accessible housing units in Nova Scotia, especially in smaller communities.

The women I met talked about internet and cellphone service, which, let me tell you, is lacking in many parts of the province. I couldn’t get a signal in several places I visited. Women who connect with transition houses are often given a cellphone for emergencies. But what if they live in a part of the province where cellphone service is lacking?

We also talked about policing and so far it seems while police have training to deal with situations of domestic violence, they don’t have training to work with people with disabilities. Women told me about police denying them access to an ASL interpreter or being handcuffed to a wheelchair.

There were a couple of themes that came up at every meeting. The first was homecare. When a woman calls a transition home, during the intake process, she’s asked if she can live independently, including if she can cook, clean for herself, and so on. Some women with disabilities require homecare, which transition houses can’t provide.

Another issue involved those women with intellectual disabilities. While they can physically access a transition house, some of these women have challenges navigating other parts of the system, including the medical and legal systems. These women require navigators who can guide them through these systems.

The stigma around domestic violence is still great around Nova Scotia. Some communities talked about not feeling comfortable going to police. To them, domestic violence is an issue to be solved within families. Another woman said people with disabilities often talk about becoming invisible in high school. Pair that invisibility with the stigma around domestic violence and you have a combination that means many women with disabilities become vulnerable from a very young age.

Some of the women I met became disabled because of the abuse they suffered. While they could access transition houses, they found it challenging to navigate systems and find work.

I remember driving home from one of the meetings in a rural community. I was thinking about those women we couldn’t reach and what those women could do without a car or access to transportation, no cellphone, and no way to get into a safe space at a transition house.

There were good outcomes at these meetings, too, which became informal support networks for a couple of hours. Women were able to connect directly with women who worked at various organizations. They asked them questions and got advice. I’d like to see communities somehow do this more often, although I know this happens at women’s centres and transition houses.

I think all of the women were glad to have a place at the table and to have someone listen to their stories. It was incredibly brave for all of them to share their stories with me, a stranger.

The staff I met with were invaluable to these conversations. They work directly with these women every day and do everything they can to get women into transition houses and other services.

I’m working on the final report now and going through recordings of all those meetings again (no one’s names will be used). We are crafting some recommendations we hope will help inform standards around access for these women. Many of these recommendations are inspired by ideas shared by the women and the staff who attended the meetings. The recommendations include everything from accessibility audits of transition houses to awareness campaigns on women with disabilities who’ve experienced domestic violence. We are also looking at the idea of accessibility-informed care. That is, care, including medical, policing, and legal, which understands how women with disabilities leaving situations of domestic violence navigate their lives and the world. In other words, asking these women what they need.

I’ll be presenting the report at the Canadian Domestic Violence Conference in March and again at a symposium we are planning during Access Awareness Week in May. I’m sure I’ll have more to report on then.

I’m still interested in hearing stories. If you have one or know someone who may want to talk, send me an email to suzannerentwu at gmail dot com.


Noticed

Joel Jacobson, the Atlantic correspondent at the Canadian Jewish News, writes about the kindness extending to the passengers of El Al Flight LY26 that made an emergency landing in Halifax on Thursday when smoke was detected in the cockpit.

The plane couldn’t leave the next day because Shabbat would have begun before the plane landed in Tel Aviv. So, the 150 passengers spent a couple of days in Halifax and were welcomed by the city’s Jewish community. Bassie Feldman got a call from staff at El Al, asking about accommodations and food for the passengers. She and her husband, Chabad Rabbi Mendy Feldman, helped cook Shabbat dinner for 40 passengers.

Everyone pitched in later to help clean up. It was very hamish, like everyone was family. It was warm, welcoming, beautiful and inspiring. There was singing and dancing, a feeling of great camaraderie.…

One woman was moved to tears, telling me how grateful she was for the effort we put in for them.

Montrealers gathered food to ship to Halifax for Shabbat after passengers were stranded here after an emergency landing. Photo: Chaskel Bennett/Twitter
Photo: Chaskel Bennett/Twitter

A mother and daughter, Lili and Nicole, who were on the plane talked about the hospitality they received in the city. Says Nicole:

They gave us three hotel options, two near the airport, and the Lord Nelson downtown, which was convenient for those wanting to celebrate Shabbat at shul and Chabad. The Halifax Jewish community who helped us was very inspiring, working hard to make us comfortable.

Lili called it a “a mother-daughter story we will never forget.”

Another passenger, Varda Avram, shared his experience, too.

We saw the city. Some of us even went to Peggy’s Cove (a standard tourist highlight of the area.) The Shabbat dinner at Chabad was wonderful. They even brought food from Montreal for us.

Passenger Barry Schechter wrote a thank-you note to the Feldmans saying they “could not have made it through Shabbat without you.”

This is a lovely story. I will start my Tuesday hoping such kindness is our default.


Government

City

Tuesday

City Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — see Zane Woodford’s council preview.

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — see the agenda here.

Heritage Advisory Committee – Public Information Meeting Case H00448 (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — Stefan Frent wants to demolish the Municipal Registered Heritage Property known as Victorian Streetscape at 1029 Tower Road. More info here.

Province

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — Children’s Oral Health, with the College of Dental Hygienists of Nova Scotia, and the Department of Health and Wellness.

Wednesday

No public meetings scheduled for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Datadriven insights into cancer: from machine learning methods to biological discoveries (Tuesday, 11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Kiley Graim from Flatiron Institute and Princeton University will talk.

DalhousieHorrocks National Leadership Lecture (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Room 1101, Rowe Management Building) — Leslie Weir, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, will talk about “After 50 years of Information Management at Dal – what’s to come in the next 50?” Registration closed, more info here.

Architecture Lecture (Tuesday, 6pm, Halifax Central Library) — Carol Phillips, from Moriyama and Teshima Architects, will talk.

Wednesday

PEGaSUS (Wednesday, 3pm, Human Rights and Equity Services, 4th Floor, MacDonald Building) — the first of 10 workshops for the Psycho-Educational Group for Survivors of Adult Sexual Assault. More info here.

Focus on Communication: Canadian Culture and Languages (Wednesday, 4:35pm, Room 2110, Mona Campbell Building) — a workshop to discuss the elements of Canadian culture and history and their contribution to “the rich repertoire of languages in Canada, in addition to English language.”​ More info here.

Betsy Williamson. Photo: williamsonwilliamson.com

Architecture Lecture (Wednesday, 6pm, Room B224, B Building, Sexton Campus) — Betsy Williams from Williamson and Williamson will talk.

Michelle Sylliboy. Photo by the artist.

Artist Talk with Michelle Sylliboy (Wednesday, 6:30pm, MacMechan Auditorium, Killam Memorial Library) — Michelle Sylliboy will read from her new book Kiskajeyi—I Am Ready.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Meagan Dean. Photo: hamilton.edu

Why it matters how we eat: Food ethics and eating as a self-shaping activity (Wednesday, 7pm, Archibald Roomn, New Academic Building) — Megan Dean from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, will discuss

ethical issues relating to eating, such as how eating shapes the self and the ethical implications of these self-shaping effects for clinical ethics, diet research, food policy, and personal food choice. She draws from a wide range of philosophical traditions, including phenomenology, bioethics, philosophy of science, and feminist philosophy, as well as interdisciplinary work on food and eating.


In the harbour

10:30: Columbia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
12:30: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
15:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
16:30: Ef Ava sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
20:30: Columbia Highway sails for sea


Footnotes

My tree is still up. I am just going to put Valentine’s Day decorations on it.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. I really hope the preservation of the Dartmouth post office goes somewhere. My daughter’s first trip out in to the world without riding in the stroller or as a babe in arms was to that post office. Walking out in the world on her own two feet. Albeit we live almost across the street, but I have an attachment to that fine old building.
    There is something folksy and wonderfully “real” about walking in to a 100-year old stone honest to goodness post office to buy stamps or mail a package to our family on the prairies. It is a tangible experience in our neighbourhood that makes it a better place to live, and it will be real loss to the community if it is torn down for its now-valuable parcel of land.
    Downtown Dartmouth has become quite trendy, and I have already started socking away for our Renoviction Fund. The luxury apartments/noisy fitness studio in our backyard do not bode well for us little people still paying $750 a month for a one bedroom apartment and a sense of dignity in our housing situation.

  2. it would be a shame to lose the post office. If it’s too big, Canada Post could hopefully rent out the extra space. Great building in a great location.

    1. Great location for all the downtown businesses and all the seniors who live within a few minutes
      of the present location. KW is a lousy location but the rent is probably cheap. And crossing Alderney Drive is not the safest experience.
      Canada Post wins the Platinum award for ‘Dumb decision making’.

  3. Just a comment for context, but re: asking where $10 million for DCS transformation would go. For context: $10 million divided theoretically among 25,000 clients (what the advocate cited) is just $400 each. Divide by 12 and that would be $33.33 each per month in a calendar year. Divide this by six years (2014-2019) would mean only about an extra $5.55 per client per month over the entire time. So asking where the $10 million went is actually a pretty naive question.

  4. As much as I enjoy Bousquet’s brand of journalism and his regular Morning File, I must say that I’m always impressed when he assigns the file to other journalists. Different perspectives and new takes on current stories add up to keep this platform fresh and informative – and important. Today I learned a great deal about women with disabilities dealing with domestic violence and it was truly an eye opener. To me, creating awareness of issues the public might not otherwise encounter is one thing that makes the Examiner’s brand of journalism so worthwhile. Thanks, Suzanne and thanks to Tim for putting her on The File.