News

1. The Routes of Enslaved Peoples Project

Dr. Afua Cooper is a board member for the the UNESCO “Routes of Enslaved Peoples: Resistance, Liberty and Heritage” Project. Photo: afuacooper.com

“An international scientific committee from the United Nations will meet in Halifax this week to discuss the world’s largest forced migration in history: the African slave trade,” reports Matthew Byard. 

The Routes of Enslaved Peoples Project, formerly known as The Slave Route Project, was founded in 1994 as an initiative by UNESCO.

The project is made up of 20 committee members from around the world who meet every two years to discuss the causes, consequences, and impacts of the transatlantic slave trade.

The conference, which takes place from Thursday to Saturday, will be the first time the group meets in North America.

“Nova Scotia was chosen as the place to have the meeting because of the long and deep Black history of this province,” said Dr. Afua Cooper who teaches Black Studies at Dalhousie University and who became a board member for the Routes of Enslaved Peoples Project in 2020.

The event, which starts on Thursday, features panel discussions and tours of Black communities, including Beechville, Upper Hammonds Plains, and the Prestons. That tour also includes a visit to Africville, which could get designation as a site of African memory. That designation would come from the Routes of Enslaved Peoples Project via UNESCO. Byard learned from Cooper that the Africville Museum is now in the process of submitting a proposal to have the former community land of Africville as a designated site of memory.

Click here to read Byard’s story.

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2. UARB cuts payday loan interest rates

A payday lender on Wyse Road in Dartmouth on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“Payday lenders will get a smaller cut of Nova Scotians’ cheques later this year,” writes Zane Woodford. “In a decision released Tuesday, the provincial Utility and Review Board (UARB) has lowered the maximum interest those lenders can charge from $19 on a $100 loan to $17, as of Sept. 1. Starting Jan. 1, 2024, that figure will drop again, to $15.”

Nova Scotia’s maximum of $19 per $100 is is the second highest in Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador caps interest at $21 on a $100 loan, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba allow $17 per $100. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick all have maximums of $15 per $100.

But as Woodford points out, the lower rate is still a lot.

The change to $15 per $100 will bring the annual interest rate down to about 390% (assuming a two-week term). If that rate sounds criminal, that’s because it is, but payday lenders in Canada are exempt from the Criminal Code provision capping interest at 60% annually.

Click here to read Woodford’s whole story. 

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3. Feed Nova Scotia to stop food box program

On Tuesday Feed Nova Scotia shared this announcement on Twitter that it was ending its COVID-19 Food Box Program:

Nick Jennery, executive director of Feed Nova Scotia, spoke with Anjuli Patil at CBC about the program, which started in May 2020. Jennery told Patil, “you cannot solve the food insecurity business through food charities. It just can’t be done.” Patil writes:

Jennery said the program was set up to be a short-term pandemic response for people who were stuck at home and couldn’t get to a food bank. He said it cost $2.1 million a year — a figure he said isn’t sustainable for Feed Nova Scotia.

“But it’s not about the money. We could throw another $2.1 million at it and delay the decision for another year, and we’d still be in this spot,” Jennery said

Over the past two years, it has supplied 52,000 boxes to 21,000 Nova Scotians in 7,700 households through 17,000 deliveries.

Jennery said Feed Nova Scotia is working on a transition plan that will include Feed Nova Scotia giving food and money to other food banks in its networks to help with home deliveries.

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4. Titanic museum proposed for Halifax

The proposed Titanic Experience. Photo: Contributed

SaltWire has this story about a business development firm, Clark Squires and Associates, that is looking at a site at the Port of Halifax for a museum about the Titanic. The proposal includes a museum that looks like a replica of the ship with a restaurant and aquarium inside. There’s more:

A replica of the Titanic will have 150 first- and second-class cabins to allow guests to stay the night and a giant banquet room to mirror the one found on the iconic British passenger liner that sank on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg.

The release said the restaurant will serve the best of food and wines from Nova Scotia and around the world. The facility will have escape hatches, and virtual reality rooms throughout that will offer a fully immersive experience, and an aquarium similar to one in Dubai.

There will also be a 4D holographic stage for movies and shows about the Titanic, as well as local and Las Vegas shows.

The firm pitching the idea for the project says the museum will cost $300 million and will employ 400 people.

There currently is a Titanic Museum in Belfast where the Titanic was built.

And, of course, there Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has a permanent exhibit on the Titanic, including stories and artefacts on Halifax’s role after the sinking of the ship.

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Views

Ditching the “culture of blame”

Photo: Emil Kalibradov/Unsplash

I started listening to the podcast Going for Broke hosted by broadcaster Ray Suarez that is part of the The Economic Hardship Reporting Project and The Nation. Over several episodes, Suarez features stories of Americans and how their lives were affected by job loss, ageism, the housing crisis, low-wage jobs, and more. These are all themes we’ve been reading about ⁠— and experiencing ourselves ⁠— over the last couple of years, and likely long before.

One of the episodes features Suarez himself, who lost his job at PBS NewsHour where he worked for 14 years, and realized during his job search that finding work in his 60s wasn’t going to be so easy:

But then came the reality of too many unaccepted phone calls, too many slammed doors, too much disingenuousness from too many people who said, “Ah, don’t worry. You’ll find something. What do you have to worry about?” Then wouldn’t talk to me. It was a tough year after that. In a funny way, I just thought, having covered workforce issues, having covered unemployment, one of the rules of thumb was the higher your salary, the longer it takes to find a new job. I was completely aware it was unlikely I would get a job at my old pay. I had lived below my means for a long time in order to prepare for retirement and get my kids through college, so it was second nature. The warning said it was going to take a long time, and that was OK. You’re not going to make the money you did before, and that’s OK too.

And then he was diagnosed with cancer, so he takes us through that health crisis, too.

In addition to Suarez’s story, there were two episodes that stood out for me, so far. First, there’s the episode about Ann Larson, the “Cashier Philosopher” who trained to be a college professor, but when she was out of academic work, went to work at a grocery store. The episode follows her through a day at her job, through what she calls is the stressful and exhausting repetition of the work, through chasing down shoplifters, and, of course, dealing with rude and nasty customers.

During the podcast, Larson wonders what would happen if she traded places with a customer, particularly a customer who makes a lot of money and who’s privileged. Would working in a grocery store for a day make that person want to help create policies like living wages, health insurance, and student debt relief? Here’s Larson:

What would it look like for that man in the business suit who comes in his SUV and loads up with groceries or who orders them online and has somebody deliver them? What if he had to work in the grocery store in order for us to have a grocery store during the pandemic? What if we actually had a system where, look, everybody needs to shop and we are not going to consign one class of people to that work; we’re going to make sure it’s more broadly shared. I just wonder what kinds of new policies, new changes would be possible if more people saw what this was really like.

Even if we implemented those things, we would still have a society in which some people worked in a grocery store and some people didn’t. Even during a pandemic where grocery store are essential to everyone. So, what would it look like? What would actually be required to give people the experience of working in a place like this, so that we can make sure that if something is essential in society, if something that we all need, we should all participate in producing it and making sure it functions. It shouldn’t just be one group of people.

And then there’s this episode featuring John Koopman, who was a Marine in his younger days, went on to work as a war correspondent, including stints in Iraq, but found himself looking for new work when he lost his newspaper gig. Where did he end up finding work? Managing a strip club.

“I’m the biggest failure in the history of the world,” Koopman says in the show about his new gig that he found through a posting on Craiglist. But that gig turned out to be an interesting one for Koopman:

I saw more and I understood more about human nature working for two years in a strip club than I got as a journalist.

I always said this during my time as a bartender. You learn a lot about people, and a lot of it isn’t good. I heard someone once say that putting booze into an asshole doesn’t make it smell any better. It seems Koopman had the same experiences trying to prevent customers from touching the dancers, “There were just some people who were bad people.”

After two years at the club, he quit and started driving an Uber. He wrote about the experiences he had with terrible customers in this article, Zen and the Art of Uber Driving. 

In 2016, Koopman moved back to Nebraska to spend time with his mother, who was dying. He said the time with her felt like he made up for the decades when he was away reporting overseas. Koopman ended up bartending at a bar in Omaha that his childhood best friend opened up upon his own return to Nebraska.

While he was there, Koopman started researching if he could get any benefits from his time in the Marines. And he did qualify for benefits, including health care. As a vet, he also qualified for a mortgage on a house with no down payment.

A year ago yesterday, I wrote this Morning File about what shouldn’t go back to ‘normal’ in this pandemic (that we’re still in, by the way.) I was hopeful that we had learned so much over the previous year, about how we treat people and what people need to survive and thrive. People sent me suggestions on what should be considered normal now —  living wages, affordable housing, sick days, and a focus on addressing gender equality. These are many of the issues Suarez focused on in his podcast.

But here we are a year later; the “hero pay” for essential workers is gone, people seem to be shittier to each other than ever before, costs for housing are through the roof, and a lot of people think the pandemic is completely over.

Suarez includes interviews with Alissa Quart, the executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and author of Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, in the Going for Broke episodes and she talked about this, too. She called it the “culture of blame.” It’s where the “no one wants to work anymore” attitude comes from: Here’s Quart: 

This is part of the culture of blame and if we’re trying to find a solution, Ray, that’s not just policy, but is around messaging, and the ways that people think about themselves and narratives they tell about themselves in this country. I think one of the most toxic ones, the one that we need to [make] PSAs and whole campaigns about is against bootstrapping, against this idea that everybody’s to blame for their own economic condition. This is towns and cities in this country don’t have garbage pickup unless you hire a company. The infrastructure is so tattered and yet there’s this narrative that we’re also supposed to be doing very well.

Financially is how we’re measuring that on our own, without any assistance from our government. I think, to me, one of the biggest solutions would be serious campaign against that to open people’s eyes to the way that we’ve been conditioned. To not think of our quality of life, to blame each other, to blame ourselves, and to not really help each other. What I’m hoping is the legacy of the pandemic will be more mutual aids and more workers cooperatives, and more assistance, that when people are in trouble medically in their communities or need help, their neighbors will show up. At least they’ll be that, but that starts with people stopping blaming each other.

Now, how do we do this?

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Noticed

Josey and Maddie, owners of the Tennecape Cafe. Photo: Contributed

On Sunday afternoon I took a drive along Highway 215 from Maitland to Walton, through Centre Burlington, and eventually home. It’s always a good drive. In Tennecape, I drove past a former community hall and noticed a sandwich board outside advertising scoops of ice cream for sale. Of course I had to go in.

I passed this community hall during drives along this route before, but it was never open. It was set up as a café — the Tennecape Café and Ice Cream Shop, to be exact. A young woman was behind the counter waiting to take my order. I asked her about the café and her work. Her name is Maddie Laffin, she’s from nearby Moose Brook, a former mining community, and she owns the café with her friend, Josey Hughes.

I always like a story about young people these days, who often get a bad rap for always being on their phones on social media, not wanting to work or get outside, and so much more. So I wanted to learn more about Laffin, Hughes, and their business at the café because I think you should know about them, too.

I caught up with them on Tuesday during a phone chat. Laffin, 18, grew up in Moose Brook and just wrapped up her first year studies at University of Prince Edward Island. She’s majoring in biology with a specialty in life sciences, and says she’s interested in being a vet tech one day. Hughes, 19, is from Moose Brook, too, and also attends UPEI, studying kinesiology. The two have been friends “forever”.

They took over the café this spring when its former owner, Diane Burden, who opened the café in 2019, decided to hand the reins over to someone else. Burden wanted to move to Halifax, but wanted to see the café continue. She asked Laffin and Hughes if they wanted to take it on, and the two jumped at the opportunity. Their grand opening was on May 20.

“Owning your own business is a whole different mindset and opportunity than working for someone else,” Hughes said. “Just being able to experience that.”

“Especially at such a young age,” Laffin added.

Laffin and Hughes spent a lot of time getting the café ready to open, painting, cleaning, organizing, and shopping.  Once opened, they split the workday with one of them working the morning to early afternoon shift, and the other working the afternoon to early evening closing. They made a few tweaks to the menu, which includes sweets, sandwiches, and lots of ice cream treats. (I should have got a slice of the chocolate cake). A space in the front of the store displays locally-made items that are for sale.

The Tennecape Cafe and Ice Cream Shop. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The building that houses the café was once the community’s one-room schoolhouse. Laffin and Hughes said there still are some of the old school records dating back to the early 1900s in the building. And they host events at the café, too. On the afternoon I spoke with them, a group of women from the community were using the space for their CrossFit class. Laffin and Hughes told me since they opened, they’ve had a lot of tourists, including from across Canada, Nova Scotia, and Europe. Locals residents frequent the café, too; some are there for coffee when the doors open at 10am.

“It’s a rural community but I’m actually quite surprised at how busy it has been so far,” Laffin said.

But Laffin and Hughes don’t work all the time. During her spare time, Laffin has a horse and other animals she takes care of at home, or she will go to the camp she owns with her boyfriend. Hughes loves road trips, hiking, and exploring in nature.

While their classmates headed to the city for work and school, Laffin and Hughes said they’re happy to be able to work close to home. Laffin said it’s “ideal.”

“You don’t have to travel into the city every day,” she said. “You just travel a few minutes down the road to your work.”

They also say they’d like to see more young people stay in the community along the shore.

“I feel like it would bring more life to the community,” Laffin said. But to keep those young people there, they said there needs to be more “stuff.”

“It’s slow paced and it just started to be up-and-coming,” Laffin said, adding there have been new residents moving into the area during the pandemic (back in March, I spoke with Anthony Kawalski who, along with his husband, Jonathan Twinley, bought an old church in Selma, about 20 minutes from Tennecape, and converted it to a house).

“In a couple of years, hopefully it will be different,” Laffin continued. “People will want to stay because there are more things to stay for and you don’t have to travel far to go somewhere.”

Kennetcook, which is about a 20-minute drive from Tennecape, is getting busier, Laffin said. There’s a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, and restaurant there. She thinks it’ll soon be a “small Windsor or a small Elmsdale.”

Laffin said once she and Hughes graduate from university, they’d love to pass the business along to other young people.

“Personally, I think you should just go for it,” Hughes said about getting an opportunity to own or start a business. “You should do your research. The more research you do, the more you’re prepared. And you should also talk with people because there are a lot of people you can talk with to expand your knowledge.

“If you have the opportunity, try to take it,” Laffin added.

Laffin and Hughes will close up the café at the end of August, just before they both head back to UPEI for their second year of studies. If you’re taking a drive along Highway 215, stop for an ice cream. I’m certain I’ll be back before then, too. These kids are all right, indeed.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting

Grants Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Impact of a Low Wage Economy on Government Revenue and Expenses; with representatives from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternates-NS; Department of Community Services; Department of Labour, Skills, and Immigration; and Minimum Wage Review Committee


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: One Helsinki, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
07:30: MSC Lucy, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
11:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Charlottetown
16:00: One Helsinki sails for New York
17:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from St. John’s
17:30: MSC Lucy sails for sea

Cape Breton
06:00: Atina, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Jubilee, Ghana
06:30: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Marine Terminal (Sydney) from Charlottetown, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
10:00: Nunavut Spirit, barge, sails from Sydport for sea
13:00: SLNC Severn, bulker, sails from Pirate Harbour for sea
16:30: Zaandam sails for Halifax


Footnotes

When I was writing the bit about the Tennecape Café and Ice Cream Shop, I was looking up the various spellings of Tennecape — Tennycape, Tenecape. I found this article from 2019 by meteorologist Cindy Day, who was sent a photo of a rock formation near Tennecape that looks like a lion head. Anyway, Day did some digging on the spellings of the community name, too, and found a story about the first documented murder in Hants County in 1902. Day wrote:

The very first documented murder in Hants County, N.S., took place in Tennycape. On Oct. 22, 1902, a 16-year-old peddler by the name of “Lion” (I kid you not) Lundore was bludgeoned to death for his watch by fellow peddler Syan Azabulley.

Both men were peddlers passing through the village. Tenecape resident Edward Church was pursuing Syan Azabulley after he had swindled Mr. Church out of a revolver for a fake watch. Church heard the screams of the victim and went to the scene.

The men of the village tracked down Azabulley and a citizen’s arrest was made. Azabulley was sentenced to death for his crime and was hanged on March 18, 1903. His victim, Lion Lundore, better known as “the Little Peddler,” was buried in the Moose Brook cemetery.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Hmmm – there are giant apples, oxen and lobsters around various towns as points of interest. That Halifax should have a sinking ship in the harbour(!) seems not such a sterling idea. Perhaps the hubris of the unsinkable idea is a warning. People are quite amazing in many aspects as you demonstrate.

  2. Reading the LinkedIn post about the Titanic “replica” reveals gems like this:

    “We will have a distillery with beer and coolers and branded merchandise with Nova Scotia Titanic Experience logos on them.” Well, that will bring in 500,000 visitors a year for sure.

    And the bios of the folks at Clark Squires sound like just the team to launch a major museum project. From their web site:

    * “Al was able to skip his Master’s Degree and go directly into a PhD program in Renal Physiology”
    * Richard is “involved in everything from sports drinks, alternative energy, cannabis, bike sharing and carbon credit endeavors.”

    And of course, there’s a chiropractor. The Titanic was heavy, and folks building a replica are likely to need their spines adjusted.

    There are only a few museum design firms in the world capable of taking on a project this size – and none of them appear to be involved.

  3. That proposed Titanic museum looks even more tasteless than the Titanic bouncy castle. Take a tragic disaster – 1,500 people died, FFS – and turn it into a money-grabbing sideshow. There is no end to the venality.

    1. I had to read it closely to see if it wasn’t a bad joke. In any case it will never happen.

  4. I too listened to Suarez’ podcast and I too thought Ann Larson’s account of being a cashier was excellent and devastating — At $15 an hour which is more than $1 an hour more than most cashiers here receive. Suarez’ own account of his career tumbling and linking it to the unconscionable added costs (actual and emotional) of having cancer was also very good. But it was only in his account that we hear about the role trade unions can play in mitigating disaster. Clearly, the union didn’t come into Koopman’s story of dismissal at the newspaper, nor did it in Larson’s account of her difficult job. Well done, and thanks for reporting on Going for Broke.

    1. Really nice piece on the Tennecape Cafe. It is great to have reporting on young entrepreneurs.