News

1. Deal with the devil

Writes Joan Baxter:

Through its subsidiary Paper Excellence, the giant Asia Pulp & Paper conglomerate already controls much of Canada’s pulp industry. The company is now suing Nova Scotia for $450 million, and the new deal will expose Canadians to even more corporate litigation before judges who are not appointed by elected governments. It’s the latest “bilateral trade agreement” that threatens labour and environmental protections.

Click here to read “A quietly negotiated trade agreement with Indonesia is a bad deal for Canada.”

2. Counterpoint: the Mass Casualty Report matters

The Mass Casualty Commission, with (left to right) commissioners Leanne Fitch, Michael MacDonald, and Kim Stanton, in February 2022. Pool photo by Andrew Vaughan/ Canadian Press

Last week, I asked of the Mass Casualty Commission, “What’s the point?”

In November, the three commissioners will release their final report, including a long list of recommendations. I have no doubt the recommendations will be thoughtful, and also that they will mostly be ignored.

Today, Stephen Kimber takes the opposite view:

Many people, including some critics of the current commission, consider the 1990 Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution to be the “gold standard” for such inquiries.

No one will pretend the Marshall report ended racism in the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia, or that all its recommendations were implemented.

As Michelle Williams, the then-chair of the Dal Law School’s Indigenous Blacks and Mi’kmaq program — itself a result of the report — told a 2018 panel on the report’s impact: “Many of the Marshall Commission’s recommendations have yet to be implemented… There are no specific restorative justice programs. Black and Indigenous peoples are still overrepresented in the criminal justice system.”

Still… I think it’s fair to say the Marshall commission not only led to some significant positive changes but also changed the conversation around race in Nova Scotia.

Can the Mass Casualty Commission do the same for issues around gun violence and gender-based violence?

I don’t know.

It will depend.

On the report that the commissioners write.

On the willingness of governments to address the recommendations.

And on our own individual and collective commitment as citizens to push for change.

I live in hope.

Click here to read “Will the mass casualty commission report even matter?”

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3. Irving Shipbuilding wants to fill in the harbour

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Irving Shipyard wants to fill in a 13-acre chunk of the Halifax Harbour.

As detailed in a filing with the Impact Assessment Registry:

Irving Shipbuilding (ISI) is proposing to expand and modify the site and facilities at the Halifax Shipyard. The Halifax Shipyard site expansion will include dredging, marine structures and rock infill behind the structure creating approximately 13 acres of additional yard space.

The newly expanded area will not extend farther into the channel than the limits of the floating dry dock that was previously located at Halifax Shipyard.

This project will increase the capacity of the shipyard and support the fabrication, launching, and maintenance of the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) vessels, which are being developed under the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS).

Back in the day, a lot of thought was put into designing the Explosion memorial atop Needham Park. The Bell Tower, which remains the site of annual commemoration, provided a solemn backdrop, which was accentuated by the construction of a long stairway through a break in the trees providing a sightline directly to the site where the Mont-Blanc exploded, killing thousands and blinding and injuring thousands more.

For too long, the memorial was left in a state of semi-disrepair — some of the bells didn’t ring, blocks of concrete fell from the structure, the garbage wasn’t picked up often enough — but I found even in neglect, it was a good place to reflect on the senseless loss of life caused by the madness of the rush to war. I could look down towards the harbour and imagine the moment, feeling the sadness of it all.

But then all of Halifax became manically obsessed with the “Ships Start Here” campaign — which at heart was a decision to profit off preparing for yet more senseless was — and in the throes we missed the part where the giant new shipyard building would block the view from the memorial down to the harbour. The memorial was refurbished in time for the 2019 centennial, but fixing the bells, patching the concrete, and picking up the garbage doesn’t counter the reality that there’s just a dumb stairway to nowhere that has no meaning at all.

And now Irving proposes to fill in the site of the Mont-Blanc explosion itself, achieving total erasure of the physical reminder of the Explosion.

After the Department of Defence filled in a giant chunk of the harbour under the Macdonald Bridge, I joked that the harbour will soon be so narrow that we’ll be able to jump across it. There is, indeed, some concern that the further narrowing of the Narrows will present navigational issues:

Latest update

June 30, 2022 – The Halifax Port Authority must determine whether the proposed Halifax Shipyard Land Level Expansion, located in Halifax, NS is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. To help inform this determination, Irving Shipbuliding is inviting comments from the public respecting that determination. All comments received will be shared with the Halifax Port Authority and considered public. For more information, individuals should consult the Privacy Notice on the Registry website.

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4. How disasters compound

When I saw on Twitter that 31 people have drowned in Quebec so far this summer, my first thought was that the majority of drownings were probably alcohol-related, as through my decades of reporting, I’ve found that to be sadly the case.

However, in this instance, there is something even more disturbing: most of the victims have been young children. As the CBC reports, the current heat wave is sending families to beaches, lakes, and pools in record numbers, but many of the children don’t know how to swim:

Raynald Hawkins, executive director of the Quebec branch of the Lifesaving Society, said the increase can be attributed to the hot weather and the pandemic restrictions that limit international travel.

Hawkins said that it’s a shame that many children have not had access to swimming lessons due to the pandemic.

“This is 15 months where we have no swimming lessons,” said Hawkins.

Pandemic + climate change = dead children.

Relatedly, one of the Examiner crew asks where the public water fountains are in Halifax. I raised this issue way back in 2006:

On any given day several hundred people use Point Pleasant Park, and most of them are carrying a plastic bottle of water. That’s because there isn’t a working drinking fountain in the park.

An ancient fountain sits near Black Rock Beach, but it’s been capped off so long it’s more rust than metal. Nowadays, it’s fend-for-yourself, water-wise.

It’s the same in nearly every public space I’ve surveyed, including the Halifax Common, the waterfront, downtown, Shubie Park and dozens of area playing fields.

No one I talked to this week knew how many drinking fountains there are in Halifax, but I could find exactly one: the fountain next to the duck pond in the Public Gardens. Its simple elegance suggests it’s a throwback to an earlier age and has somehow survived the neglect of public officials, who seem to shrug off the recent disappearance of fountains.

I also wonder what the abandonment of the public drinking fountain says about our social environment. When we don’t plan for, build or maintain drinking fountains, what are we telling those citizens who can’t plop down a toonie for a bottle of water every time they go to the park? But this seems to be an outdated concern. Nowadays, a drinking fountain gets vandalized or breaks, and it’s simply “taken out.” A park gets rebuilt, and no one really addresses the need for fountains. The people who manage our public spaces evidently assume that everyone can and should bring their own bottled water — it’s one less hassle for the bureaucrats.

The city’s reconstruction of Argyle Street omitted water fountains and washrooms. Graphic: halifax.ca

And because I write the same story over and over again, I wrote about the fountain issue again in 2018:

[T]he summer heat is reminding me that not only didn’t we get washrooms on Argyle Street, we didn’t even get a simple water fountain. It doesn’t surprise me: the redesigned street is supposedly pedestrian-friendly, but truly it’s just friendly to those sorts of pedestrians who can afford to buy bottled water or patronize a restaurant or bar on the street.

How is it we’re building (supposedly) modern streets that serve pedestrians and we’re not getting facilities that serve basic human needs, like water fountains and washrooms?

That opportunity may have been lost on Argyle Street (Is it? Can they be added in after-the-fact?), but into the future, water fountains and washrooms should be installed wherever there’s major street reconstruction. And two such projects are in the works now: the Spring Garden Road and Quinpool Road “streetscaping” projects. I’ll be watching to see if planners incorporate water fountains and washrooms into the designs.

It’s no surprise that water fountains and washrooms were not incorporated into the newly rebuilt Spring Garden Road.

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Government

City

Executive Standing Committee (Monday, 10am, City Hall) — also via video

Province

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 2pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

PhD defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Monday, 9:30am) — Justin Dubé will defend “Emotion Regulation and Sexual Well-being Among Long-term Couples”

Tuesday

PhD defence, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology (Tuesday, 9am) — Souvik Mitra will defend “Prophylactic Cyclo-Oxygenase Inhibitor Drugs for the Prevention of Morbidity and Mortality in Extremely Preterm Infants: A Clinical Practice Guideline Incorporating Family Values and Preferences”

Thesis defence, Physiology & Biophysics (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 3H1, Tupper Building and online) — Erica Seelemann will defend “Mechanisms of Sex Differences in Right (-Sided) Heart Failure: Role of Angiogenesis”

Past/Future: African Canadian History, Arts and Culture in STEM Education (Tuesday, 5:30pm, the IDEA Building) — until July 28, a three-day “symposium of action and possibilities that explores Black Canadian history, and further investigates how it can be integrated into STEM education.” More info here. $100/$50


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
06:30: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
06:45: MSC Tamara, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
10:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
10:30: NYK Remus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
10:30: Contship Leo, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
11:00: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland
23:00: NYK Romulus sails for sea

Cape Breton

No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

Too much news, too little time.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Rome has about 3,000 public water fountains, with water quality carefully monitored via hundreds of thousands of tests per year. The municipality has an app showing all the locations. No public health downside that I have ever heard of.

    1. Growing up in the southern US, I saw that soon after water fountains were no longer restricted by race, “hygienic” concerns were raised, and the city stopped installing new fountains.

  2. There is much to contemplate in today’s issue. More harbour infill by our most feudal corporation? History and sentiment aside, our harbour environment is already far too delicate and constantly endangered by even less drastic human activities to permit this to happen. Parker Donham is spot on is his comment.

    The shortage of fountains and washrooms – especially the bottle filling varieties – is lamentable. Finally, airports are catching on with bottle fillers inside security – probably after conquering the bottled water vendors’ lobby. I recall being a featherless biped trying to find animal comforts in New York and Boston (psst! – 7th floor – Filene’s). Fodor’s has a post of best places to pee in New York. There was a humourous book published on the topic some years back. Any city aspiring to be “World Class” should meet basic human needs before adding frills – like the poor bewildered palm tree planted at Sullivan’s Pond which failed to thrive. I mourned this optimistic experiment. It was probably a few years before its time – but not by much.

    Not all our denizens are digitally or visually literate. More graphic signage is needed. Meanwhile HRM could create an APP. And, how about we petition Google maps to add a “nearest loo” Tag to its search function?

  3. Are public drinking fountains an unsanitary public health risk, though? Or am I just expressing an uptight, bourgeois hangup?

    1. They may, at times, be unsanitary. If we cannot have public drinking fountains, can we at least have free outside access to places where we can refill a reusable bottle? Right now, any branch of the public library (when open) is both my public washroom and my water bottle refill station. If outside their hours, there is always a transit terminal. And, even with those, I’m pretty sure I’m dehydrated. It is just too hot outside for this fall and winter loving girl, so I’m singing “Let it Snow” in my head. 🙂

  4. Irving should be prevented from infilling Halifax harbor, not because it will degrade the view from a little used memorial, but because infilling tidal water insults the environment, destroying habitat used by fish, birds, invertebrates, and humans. You recognized this when Peter Kelly tried to infill a tidal pond for his oceanside villa. It is no less destructive for Irving to do so in Halifax harbor. Likely more so.