News

1. AGNS

A rendering of the winning design concept for the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, by KPMB Architects with Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work and Transsolar.

Construction on the new art gallery is set to start this year, but as Zane Woodford reports, Halifax council is now considering contributing a smaller amount of cash to the project than the original request. The winning design for the new gallery was chosen in November 2020. The province is contributing $70 million, the feds agreed to add $30 million, and The Sobey Foundation donated $10 million.

Last year, Woodford reported that AGNS requested $7 million from HRM, with the money spread out over five years. But that amount is not on the table now. Woodford writes:

The committee agreed at the time to consider the request, but the money wasn’t added to the 2021-2022 budget. A new staff report on the request came to the Audit and Finance Standing Committee on Wednesday with a recommendation that council consider contributing $3 million to the new gallery — $600,000 per year for the next five years.

“Due to municipal fiscal constraints, it is recommended that the municipality not provide the full amount requested,” community developer Jamie MacLellan wrote in the report.

“To align more closely to previous contributions to capital projects, a contribution of $3 million is recommended.”

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2. Cops get a pay raise

A Halifax Regional Police bicycle officer with his name tag covered forms part of a chain to allow a wagon full of arrested protesters to leave on Aug. 18, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

In his second story from Wednesday, Woodford looks at the 10% pay bump awarded to Halifax police officers for over four years. Woodford writes:

The last contract between Halifax Regional Municipality and the Halifax Regional Police Association, the union representing constables, sergeants, staff sergeants, and some civilian police employees, expired in March 2020. After negotiations for a new contract started in September 2020, the municipality and the union had some disagreements and agreed to arbitration.

That arbitration, before a three-member board chaired by Toronto arbitration lawyer William Kaplan, happened in December 2021, and the board released its decision on December 22.

In September, Woodford reported that 56% of of police employees make more than $100,000, and HRP employees make up more than 40% of the city’s sunshine list.

Click here to read Woodford’s story.

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3. COVID update: 3 new deaths, 83 in hospital, 527 new cases, and a befuddling briefing

Premier Tim Houston (in the media room) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang (remotely) at the COVID briefing on Jan. 29, 2022. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Three more Nova Scotians have died from COVID-19. They all lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone:

• a man in his 60s
• a man in his 80s
• a woman in her 80s

In total, 125 Nova Scotians have died from COVID. Tim Bousquet had all the numbers in his update. There are 83 people in hospital who were admitted because of COVID symptoms and are still in COVID units, 12 of whom are in ICU. And 527 new cases were announced on Wednesday, although that number is much higher.

As always, Bousquet attended and live tweeted from the COVID briefing on Wednesday and this one was, as Bousquet puts it, “more disjointed than informative, more befuddling than calming.” Bousquet writes:

I don’t say that lightly. Nearly two years into the pandemic, Strang must be exhausted. And the Omicron wave is particularly vexing, upturning Public Health’s messaging while overrunning the health care and hospital systems. I understand that these are trying times, and that no matter what Strang and Houston say, they’ll upset a lot of people. I sympathize.

Still, there’s great anxiety over the start of in-person school. It called for clarity from the provincial leadership — exactly what was lacking today

For the past week, my inbox has been filled with hundreds of parents expressing some variety of this: “my school says parents and teachers are not allowed to notify other parents about COVID cases… WTAF?” One parent told me today that her school contacted her to demand that a notification about a school case she had posted on social media be taken down.

Premier Tim Houston and Dr. Robert Strang both talked about contact tracing at schools. I was watching some of the reaction from parents online during the briefing and there was a lot of anger and confusion over the answers to reporters’ questions. Bousquet included this exchange between reporter Ed Halverson and Strang:

Havlerson: Dr. Strang, you mentioned that teachers are not required to notify if a student or their parent lets them know that there’s a positive test. That’s different than the teacher or the principal not being allowed to share that information… Why are teachers and principals not allowed to share that information?

Strang: Well, in fact, that is misinformation that’s been put out there by various groups that there’s somehow a ban or a gag order. That’s not true.

However, the school system and individual teachers need to be aware that there’s there’s legislation that governs how somebody else’s personal health information is actually disclosed. It’s fine if you, as a parent, choose to disclose your or your child’s personal health information. It’s fine if a teacher chooses to disclose that. But there’s all sorts of issues when people start disclosing other people’s health information. Those are things that the school system needs to take very seriously, and we take it extremely seriously in the health system. I would warn people who are out there potentially using social media, disclosing other people’s health information, that they need to be very careful about how they do that.

Halverson: I have to contradict what you’re saying there because we have a letter from the principal in which I can quote the principal saying ‘I am also not permitted to communicate with classes or with staff when positive cases occur.’

Strang: We’ve had discussions in the last couple of days with my colleagues in education and that has been clarified and that is not actually the appropriate phrasing and language that has been most recently shared with school administration.

Click here to read Bousquet’s entire update.

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4. How the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is dealing with “a challenging time”

Photo: Avalon/Facebook

Evelyn C. White writes about how she’s supported the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax, which its board chair told White is facing “a challenging time.” White chronicles how she came to support Avalon. She writes:

My professional alliance with an administrator at one of the first sexual assault crisis groups in North America also influenced my decision to support Avalon. Founded in 1972, Seattle Rape Relief helped to educate the public about the personal and political consequences of sexualized violence. This, during an era when women were routinely blamed, shamed, and silenced for their plight as rape survivors.

See the movie The Accused — starring Jodie Foster in an Oscar-winning performance — for a portrait of the hell women endured. In Carnal Crimes: Sexual Assault Law in Canada, 1900-1975, University of Ottawa legal historian Constance Backhouse recounts the experiences of several women who were subject to sexual victimization, including a Halifax woman allegedly raped by a Dalhousie Medical School student, in 1925.

After the incident, the future physician reportedly begged the woman “not to cry because she was making him ‘feel bad,’” Backhouse writes, adding that rape charges laid against him were ultimately dismissed.

As White writes, Avalon reported an alleged misappropriation of funds to the Halifax Regional Police last August.

A news release further noted that in early 2021, following an audit, the agency contracted a chartered professional accountant who reviewed its finances and “identified discrepancies related to the expense reimbursements of an Avalon employee.” Another external investigator reported, in June 2021, that it appeared as if funds had been misappropriated “over the course of four years.”

Click here to read the full story.

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5. The Tideline, Episode 63: Josh MacDonald

Josh MacDonald.

Josh MacDonald joins Tara Thorne on this week’s episode of The Tideline:

Josh MacDonald is a veteran of stage and screen, familiar to Halifax audiences through films and shows like Diggstown, Spinster, Little Grey Bubbles, and Sex & Violence. As a screenwriter his works include the horror film The Corridor and the coming-of-age story Faith, Fraud and Minimum Wage, which was based on his play Halo. He’s got his playwright’s hat on when he visits the show this week to discuss #IAmTheCheese, his adaptation of Robert Cormier’s 1977 bestseller. On January 30, he’ll discuss its evolution along with the show’s director, Ann-Marie Kerr, as part of Eastern Front Theatre’s Early Stages Festival.

Listen here for free.

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Views

Filling a need with the Fairview Community Food Cupboard

A couple of backyard sheds served as pantries for the Fairview Community Cupboard project. Recently, those sheds were destroyed by storms and high winds. Photo: Facebook

Recently in my local community Facebook group, I noticed a project that had a couple of pantries set up where donations of food could be dropped off for those that needed them. But with the recent storms and high winds, those pantries took a beating and are now broken and bare. On Wednesday, I talked with David Aalders, who was born and raised in Fairview, and who got the Fairview Community Food Cupboard project started just about a year ago now.

“We tried to put it back together [Tuesday] evening,” Aalders said. “Now, we don’t have any pantries.”

The pantries were put in place in March 2021 after Aalders read an article on community pantries in Cape Breton. He said he’d always been interested in those community library projects and thought something similar — but for food — would work in Fairview. He shared that article on a few community Facebook groups and other residents jumped on board to help get the pantries together.

Together, the group got a microgrant from the YMCA to buy two backyard garden sheds for a couple hundred bucks each. They put one at the Fairview Family Resource Centre on Titus Street and another at the local mosque.

David Aalders with one of the Fairview Community Food Cupboards. Photo contributed

A week and a half ago, during one of the storms, the doors blew off the shed at the Fairview Family Resource Centre. So, they moved the pantry from the mosque location, just temporarily, until they could find a new pantry for the resource centre location. And then the high winds on this past Monday night destroyed that pantry, too.

Aalders said while both pantries were busy, about 80% of the demand was at the Fairview Family Resource Centre, and the other 20% at the mosque pantry.

Both pantries were filled with donations from across the community. Aalders said whatever was in the pantries would be gone within a couple of hours.

Donations came from around the community. At Christmas, they did a food drive with local churches and other organizations, including the Canada Games Centre and Square Roots. Aalders said they accept food donations, as well as toiletries and other personal care items. Aalders said in December other residents donated wrapped gifts of books for children. “They were gone fast,” he said.

Aalders said there’s a definitely a need for the food in Fairview and neighbourhoods just beyond.

I know the statistics of the child poverty rates … but there is a lot you don’t see. Often it’s a lot of single people … and a lot of people with health issues. You can really tell they are living close to the edge.

Aalders said they’ve been looking at other options for new pantries, although a lot of the more durable sheds are more expensive. He said he has a lead on a metal locker they can use, at least for now.

But in the long run, we’d like to see if we can get much better pantries. It worked great up until now, but we need something better, more durable, maybe a different shape, so it can catch the wind and be more accessible. In an ideal world, we’d work with a local business, organization, or a handyperson to create some pantries to replace these ones and maybe additional ones, because we’d like to add more pantries.

He said they’d like to have more accessible sites, too, so residents who use walkers or have mobility issues can access them as well. He said they’d also eventually like to set up a bank account where people can make donations to help keep the pantries filled with food.

I’m really pleased to see how the community has taken an interest. I grew up in Fairview and I never used to think it’s quite as supportive as it is. I know it still has struggles as a community and it’s one of the reasons we created the pantries. We’re creating a platform to help create community.

Fairview, like a lot of communities in the HRM, are feeling the affects of high costs of living, including rent and food. It wasn’t that long ago that this neighbourhood was a lot more affordable. Aalders and residents like him are the best of humanity and I love seeing a community come together to help. I hope they get new pantries, but that communities have to do this at all is a sign so much is not working as it should.

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Noticed

The Halifax Women’s History Society has unveiled a bronze monument, The Volunteers, paying tribute to women volunteers during the Second World War.

I’ve been following the Halifax Women’s History Society Twitter account for some time, and only this week did I realize the volunteer-run history society got a name change. It’s now the Nova Scotia Women’s History Society. You may know the society from the bronze monument honouring the work of women volunteers during the Second World War.

On Wednesday, I spoke with Kirby Ross, who is the society’s chair and a trained historian, about its name change, but also about its upcoming online sessions called Dialogues.

Ross told me the society changed its name in November.

We really wanted to be more inclusive of the province. So many of our stories come from outside the city or the county of Halifax. We know there are so many untold stories of women who really spearheaded major changes in the province and who deserve recognition whether it’s through plaques, interpretative panels, research, events, lectures. It’s really important to capture those untold stories because they’re all pieces of Nova Scotia history.

As for Dialogues, Ross said they had an idea in the works for a while to offer a place where not only academics and historians could take part, but also anyone with an interest in history could join in dialogues on stories. Ross said the format is new, too, and rather than a lecture series there will be a panel with a few guest speakers.

The first Dialogue is called Black Canadian Women’s Care Work During the Great War: The Challenges of the Archives, which will be hosted by Dr. Hyacinthe Simpson on January 25.

She will talk to the contributions of those women during the war, and also how difficult it is to find those sources in archives. Traditionally or historically, a lot of minorities haven’t been prioritized for their preservation of their records or protection of their histories, so it can be a really hard struggle to write about and research those histories. So, that will be something Dr. Simpson will touch on as well.

Ross said they’re working on the speakers for the next Dialogues. There will be talks three times a year: spring, winter, and fall.

I hope people have an opportunity to engage more with history. I know sometimes there’s a bit of a stereotype that history is a little bit exclusive or the sense of going to an archive and not being sure how to approach things. I hope when people attend this event they realize that history is something historians and other history professionals want people to engage with. We want it to be accessible, and it’s really for everyone.

You can register for Dialogues here.

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Government

City

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Friday

Committee of the Whole (Friday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Delineating spinal interneurons involved in task-dependent control of locomotor behaviors (Thursday, 11am) — Ying Zhang will talk via Teams

Conversations on HIV RESEARCH: Social Work and Our Work for Justice (Thursday, 5:30pm) — Eli Manning, Michael Parsons, and Andre Watkis will talk via Collaborate Webinars. With CART Transcription.

ESS lecture: A Conversation with Elizabeth Kolbert (Thursday, 7pm) — Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and journalist, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021) and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014), will talk via Zoom. Email here for the link.

Friday

“’Corruption of the Air:’ Disease and Climate Change in the Rise of English Caribbean Slavery” (Friday, 3:30pm) — Justin Roberts will talk via Teams.

King’s

Thursday

No events

Friday

10th Annual Conference of the Early Modern (Friday and Saturday) — online conference of students’ work, with keynote lecture by Roberta Barker. More info here.


In the harbour

Halifax
11:00: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Pier 41 for sea
12:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
17:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, arrives at Berth TBD (the super large ship J. Adams will still be at Pier 41 after 20 hours) from St. John’s
17:30: CMA CGM J. Adams, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
19:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
20:00: Tropic Lissette moves to Pier 31
21:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Baltimore
02:00 (Friday): Yasa Swan, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures


Footnotes

I still have my pink Christmas tree up and I decorated it with red and pink hearts. It’s in the background of my Zoom meetings and I don’t care if anyone hates it.


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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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7 Comments

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  1. I agree with the other commentators: The proposed location of this beautiful, expensive, and needed art gallery is simply bonkers. Utterly bonkers. It’s not just an issue of absolute sea level rise, but also of storm intensity and tidal/storm surges. The waste of money, design talent, and effort entirely aside, housing irreplaceable art in a building that will – inevitably – be overcome by the North Atlantic … is foolish hubris.

    Kudos to Kathryn Morse, who appears to be the only member of Council who has common sense.

  2. It is interesting that HRM Council is being frugal when contributing to an art gallery that is accessible to everyone and for the community but had no trouble giving a developer $56M to build a conference centre that will be under-used and will be an annual financial burden on HRM (and NS) citizens forever. Priorities! But, as beautiful as it appears, as worthwhile as it is, it definitely should not be built in the location chosen. Build it up by the central library and in 50 years it will be close to the waterfront.

  3. Thank you Councillor Morse for speaking out against the new Art Gallery location! It is yet another in a long list of irresponsible builds in Halifax. It amazes me you were the only one to speak against it. Wow. How deeply the others have buried their heads in the sand. And soon the new Art Gallery will join them, buried in water.

    I am amongst those who love art and visiting museums, but it does seem the height of folly to place
    a new museum exactly at the ocean’s edge … particularly at a time when rising tides are already evident in Nova Scotia along with a lot of coastal erosion. We regularly walk the Dingle Park by the Tower where the shoreline was enforced with four feet of new stone wall. Already full moon tides are challenging that new height, and will soon lap over it onto the walkway.

    The are other much more important projects the city/province should be undertaking, whose importance has been made indisputably underlined due to Covid and climate change….. Hospitals, higher salaries to attract doctors and nurses, low income housing, food security, state of the art ventilation systems to protect our kids and teachers.

    I realize it’s hard to stop a charging bull, but c’mon Council – “man up” and do the right thing !

  4. Things that are publicly funded and are named “Building McBuildingFace of Nova Scotia” should perhaps not be in the bland metal (more often than not, aluminum-clad plastic) and glass international style. At least the rendering is less unrealistic than typical architecture renderings.

    But really, how about we build some housing there instead of participating in these cargo-cult activities meant to make Halifax more World Cl/\a$$. I get it that a lot of the suit-wearers in our province own homes that might be worth well over a million if Halifax becomes more like Toronto or Vancouver, but for the rest of us, we’ll just get stuck with high prices.

  5. Halifax has the opportunity to use its financial commitment to the new AGNS as leverage to have this frankly stupid decision to build in a climate change red zone changed. Both Halifax and the Province have announced aggressive programs to deal with climate change impacts, particularly gardening infrastructure against sea level rise and extreme weather. A massive public investment in infrastructure at or below the current tide line is the opposite of leading by example and is the height of arrogance. Potentially half of the budget will likely go into futile attempts to protect the building and its contents from the inevitable onslaught of extreme weather and sea level rise. Halifax can and should say “not a dime from us until you find a site well away from the ocean”.

  6. The proposed Art Gallery, in that location and if built, is an albatross that will be hanging around our collective necks until it very soon sinks beneath the rising seas. Please can we NOT spend millions of tax money on building it there on the waterfront.

    1. I would really like to know who made this decision and why they ignored all current scientific advice and public policy on mitigation against climate change. Number one strategy is don’t build in a spot guaranteed to be hit with sea level rise and severe weather. Somewhere there is a name to attach to this – no other word for it – stupid decision.