When writing today, I really noticed the loss of The Star Halifax. There’s not much news happening over the holidays, but certainly The Star would have been out and reporting on something. The city now has one less newsroom of reporters digging up stories. We will all notice this heading into 2020.

1. Puppy mill owner to appeal decision

One of the 35 dogs seized from a puppy mill outside of Wolfville on December 10. Photo: NSSPCA/Facebook

The owner of a puppy mill near Wolfville is appealing the seizure of 35 dogs and the Nova Scotia SPCA is asking supporters public to attend the hearing on Monday, Global News reports.

Thirty-five dogs, including six puppies, were seized from the property on December 10. The SPCA started investigating the case in September. The SPCA called the seizure one of the largest in the province’s history.

Criminal charges are still being considered.

The public hearing will take place December 30 at 9:30 a.m. at Future Inns on Fairfax Drive in Halifax.

2. Forestry workers may not get last of wood piles to Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill will stop accepting wood deliveries after today. Photo: Halifax Examiner Credit: Halifax Examiner

Northern Pulp stops accepting deliveries today and some forestry workers say they worked over the holidays to get their last loads of wood ready to send, reports Jack Julian with CBC.

David Meister who works on his family woodlot in New Ross tells Julian this is the “end of the line” for most of his forestry business.

The majority of our revenue, about 80 per cent, was pulpwood sales and log sales.

Meister says while he worked on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to cut wood, there aren’t enough trucks to make the deliveries to Northern Pulp.

Chris Hughes, who runs two companies in New Ross, says there’s still some hope the mill will reopen until the environmental cleanup can begin.

If the average person out there that’s sitting down with their family … gives two thoughts of where 90 per cent of these families will be in this industry … I’m sure that their hearts are a lot bigger than what’s being shown. I’m sure of it.

3. St. FX prof gets his claws into research on making frozen lobster taste better

Sprinkle some cryoprotectant on this little fella and he’ll taste nice and fresh after a year of being frozen.
Sprinkle some cryoprotectant on this little fella and he’ll taste nice and fresh after a year of being frozen.

Dr. Shah Razul, an associate professor of chemistry of St. FX is working on technology that will help frozen lobster taste better. Well, lobster is the first food the technology is being used on. It’s one of Razul’s favourite foods.

Aly Thomson at CBC spoke with Razul about his work, which focuses on the preserving tissues when food is frozen. In simulations and lab experiments, Razul used a liquid or a cryoprotectant on the lobster, with a computer telling him how many biomolecules should be added to the liquid. The experiments include tastes tests performed six months and one year after the lobster meat was frozen. And it he says still tasted pretty good.

It’s one thing to think that it’s working well and maybe you think it’s working well, but it’s another thing for other people to independently test it and say, “Hey, it is superior, it is better, it tastes like the lobster was practically cooked yesterday.”

Razul says the technology could be used on other seafood, but also in healthcare to protect organs and human cells.

I know of one formula that makes lobster taste better. It’s called butter.

4. Talking barriers to employment

DeRico Symonds. Photo: Twitter

DeRico Symonds writes in The Coast about the barriers young people face when looking for jobs in Halifax, particularly the stigma of having a criminal record.

I believe the majority of people engage in crime and criminal activity out of necessity. Rob and steal? “My rent is due, and I have no other option.” Sell drugs? “I need to feed my family, and nobody is hiring me.” I strongly believe that we could solve a lot of crime and criminal activity by hiring youth into meaningful jobs at a reasonable wage.

The young people I’ve spoken with who are currently engaging in illegal activity or have in the past have said, “I have no problem working a nine-to-five but nobody will hire me,” or “It’s urgent for me out here and I just need an opportunity.” Someone’s circumstance is not an excuse for engaging in criminal activity, but it is one of many ways to explain their behaviour.

Symonds says the powers that be, including the leaders with six-figure salaries, don’t want to make change, and that much of the work is being done by teachers who help kids read and other community heroes who provide food and shelter for young people.


The hidden hungry and homeless in Lower Sackville

On Monday night, several people got a haircut in a room in the Sackville Public Library. Maxine’s Mobile Barber set up shop here at the request of Rainie Murphy from Freedom Kitchen, which operates a food truck in the parking lot of the library. The haircuts were a request from Snake, one of the clients of the Freedom Kitchen, who said it would be nice to have a new haircut for Christmas. Everyone quickly mobilized. Murphy contacted Ken Williment, branch manager at the Sackville Public Library, who gave permission to use the space, and a several people took advantage of the opportunity.

Barbers with Maxine’s Mobile Barber gave free haircuts to folks in Sackville on December 23.
Barbers with Maxine’s Mobile Barber gave free haircuts to folks in Sackville on December 23.

But the free pre-holiday hairstyles are just one way in which the community is helping its neighbours. Places like Beacon House have been serving the community since 1985, growing out of small one-room spaces to its current location at Cobequid Road where it’s been since 2003. The Sackville Public Library, under the leadership of Williment, has a number of extraordinary programs for the community’s youth, including those in food literacy, which started after the staff here started talking to the youth who were panhandling outside. On Christmas Day, Eldon Turner, who operates a cafe in the basement of the Knox United Church, hosted No One Dines Alone, an annual Christmas dinner for people in the community.

Over the past few years, that network has expanded as other organizations see the need and start doing something about it.

Later on Monday night, after the haircuts, the volunteers at Freedom Kitchen fed dozens of clients from its truck in the library parking lot. Freedom Kitchen got its start in October as a pilot project. Rainie Murphy is the coordinator. She worked with Caroline Gallop at the community outreach meal program at Knox United Church on Sackville Drive. When they started that program about two years ago, they fed 16 visitors for its first meal. There were 224 at the most recent dinner. Murphy says the Freedom Kitchen started when they started realizing there were many young people in Sackville who were struggling with food insecurity. She says one night they dropped off a truckload of snacks to The Den, a drop-in centre for youth housed in the basement of the Sackville Public Library. MLA Steve Craig started working on the concept for that space almost six years ago, when he was the councillor in the area. It’s now a space where several organizations, including Laing House and the IWK, host programs. Murphy was handing out snacks and gave a pack of rice cakes and Cheez Whiz to one young man who said that would fill his belly after a week of hardly eating. She says many younger people who are food insecure don’t want to go to a church to eat.

If you can’t come to the church, we will come to you. That’s how it all started.

This is Sackville helping Sackville. It started in the church but Sackville is now supporting it.

The kitchen serves meals every Monday night. This upcoming Monday is a New Year’s Eve celebration. King of Donair donated 20 pizzas and there will be homemade donairs and pop.

Clients are served at the Freedom Kitchen in Lower Sackville. The food truck started operating in October and plans on running until April. Photo: Freedom Kitchen

Murphy says at first, about 90 per cent of the clients were youth, including many from the LGBTQ community who were kicked out of their homes by their parents. When The Den is open, they’ll feed about 164 to 194 young people. That number is anywhere from 90 to 124 when The Den is closed.

But after the Freedom Kitchen volunteers made an appearance on a local morning television show to talk about its work, the numbers of older clients increased. Murphy says their client base now is about 60 per cent youth and 40 per cent older adults. Some clients, she says, are veterans who can’t get by on social assistance. One vet who visits has two dogs and spends a lot of money on dog food. Murphy says they got donations of dog food, which they gave to him. Now that client can afford medications.

Murphy says the owners of Bowlin Farms in Sackville have donated enough to the kitchen that she hasn’t had to purchase any protein since they opened. Local businesses like the Royal Diaperer have collected donations on days when the kitchen isn’t opened. They get food donations from Sobeys and Tim Hortons and other support from the local Rotary and Lions clubs. They get cash donations from others. The kitchen has evolved into a closet, too, handing out coats and other clothing to those in need, including a family in Shubenacadie that lost their home in a fire.

For 2020, Murphy says they’re working on getting a larger trailer and would like to offer services into June.

We need more low-income housing for these people. We need something in Sackville. People need to know [homelessness] is here. I think people are still in denial.

In Sackville, hunger and homelessness are often invisible issues. This is a bedroom community developed in the late 60s and early 70s as cooperative housing sprouted up on newly developed streets here. My parents built their first home here through one of those co-ops. I went to high school here. I don’t remember homelessness being on anyone’s radar — it was an urban issue. But a number of community leaders started to see the problem and are working on ways to address it.

Getting the numbers on how many homeless people there are in Sackville is tricky. The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS) actually tried to gather data using a methodology they used to find figures on the number of homeless in Dartmouth. There, three volunteers from other service organizations spent five days in August 2018 surveying people in several areas around Dartmouth, including Shubie Park, Alderney Landing, and the Dartmouth bridge terminal. They spoke with 152 people, asking them a series of questions. Out of that 152, the volunteers found seven people who were homeless. Five of those were living rough — that is, in a tent or out of their car. Interestingly, the survey results matched the anecdotal evidence provided by the local libraries and food centres that were also questioned. Libraries and food centres are often closest to the issue of homelessness in their communities. The entire report on the Dartmouth research is here.

Claudia Jahn, director of Community Housing Development with the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS), says volunteers starting looking for data in Sackville between January and August 2019, but the volunteers didn’t find anyone who was homeless, although they know anecdotally, through interviews with community stakeholders, that there are people who are homeless here. She says there are several factors at play for the numbers, including the team simply couldn’t find the people (many people live deep in wooded areas around Sackville), they don’t want to be found, and many are couch surfing with friends or family. That’s especially the case for women and their children.

I think we know rural homelessness presents itself differently. It requires a different approach. We need to be more mobile.

In general, it is believed that the population of rough sleepers in the community is much higher in the summer than in the winter, with wooded areas and parks being the location of encampments. One stakeholder reported to have purchased sleeping bags and distributed them to rough sleepers. Specific locations identified included: the woods behind Knox Church, on the trail along the Sackville River that runs into Bedford, the woods behind Downsview Mall, and Acadia Park beside the Library.

The estimated size of this population is thought to be fluid and constantly changing. Estimates ranged from 1 to 15 individuals over the course of a year, with most stakeholders indicating that there were currently five to 10 homeless individuals in the community at the time of interview. One stakeholder reported delivering direct services to five people experiencing housing insecurity at the time of interview. In addition, it was reported by multiple stakeholders that approximately six to 10 individuals known to be homeless from Sackville, were staying in shelter in Halifax.

Jahn says the stakeholders in the community like police, councillors, churches, and the public library have a pulse on the community, but they don’t always know what services are available. AHANS got funding to hire a rural outreach worker who will help those in the larger area off the peninsula, including Lower Sackville, who are homeless. That worker will start sometime in January. Jahn says more affordable housing is needed, but that’s more of a challenge in rural areas because of the lack of rental housing.

Mike Poworoznyk is the director at the Sackville Area Warming Centre, which opened in March 2019. Photo: Amy Holloway

The Sackville Area Warming Centre opened for the season about four weeks ago. Mike Poworoznyk, the centre’s director, says they have had four people, including one couple, who have used the centre so far. Out of those people, one has been directed to permanent housing. But this is not just a place to get out of the cold.

We will refer people to other services. Our main objective is to welcome people and building that trust and relationship.

This centre opened in March this year. It operates out of the Gateway Church on Beaver Bank Road, which once housed a fire station, after a network of local churches got together to find a way to bring the homeless they knew out of the cold. When it first opened, the centre was opened for two nights a week. Poworoznyk says they’re now opened four nights a week. In February 2018, the city added $90,000 to its budget to help fund a navigator program that would help the homeless in Sackville and Dartmouth connect to other services.

Poworoznky says the people who use the centre face many barriers to getting off the street. Some have addictions while others have come from homes where there was domestic violence. As for that one person who now has housing, Poworoznyk says he’s experienced a lot of trama and hadn’t been employed for years. In the warmer months, many live in the wooded areas around Sackville. These are the people who are harder to find or don’t want to be found. But he says it’s the lack of affordable housing that’s keeping them on the streets and finding shelter in the warming centre.

Poworoznyk says while people in the community are still shocked homelessness is an issue here, he’s enjoyed seeing Sackville come together to support the warming centre and other projects addressing hunger and homelessness here. Earlier this year, a group of residents and a local café, Apartment 3, organized a fundraiser for the centre. Kids from local schools collected items to donate. Groups like the Sackville Business Association and local churches all worked together to support the centre and its work. Poworoznky says he calls all this help “I love Sackville moments.”

People in this community want to have a place that helps their neighbours, so they don’t have to go to the peninsula for help. People need a place, a person, and a purpose. We start with the place and with that they can work on the other two.

The centre does have a challenge finding more volunteers. Poworoznyk says he’d like to see the centre open seven days a week but asking volunteers to work overnight shifts is a lot of commitment for many people.

The warming centre will stay open until about mid-May. Poworoznyk says it all depends on the weather. Then, he expects they will gather more information on who in the community needs help. But ultimately, Poworoznyk says the it would be better if the centre didn’t exist because everyone in the community would have stable housing.

We want to contribute to that bigger picture of people being stably housed. We want to move them from a street life to a community-involved life.


Parents should think before they post about their children online. Photo: Unsplash

MediaSmarts, a media literacy organization in Ottawa, now has a digital contract for families, CBC reports. The contract outlines the rules parents want their kids to follow when they get a new phone or other device. Matthew Johnson, director of education at MediaSmarts says one of the most important rules kids should follow is going to their parents when they are facing issues online.

It can be anything, ranging from when kids are younger they may have technical problems that you don’t want them to fix on their own because they might make things worse. But as kids get older, they’re interacting with more people so they might get involved in online conflict.

I think this is a great idea. A lot of kids probably got a new phone or iPad this Christmas and that opens a whole new world for them online. But I’d suggest a similar contract parents would sign for their kids agreeing on what content they’d share about them and their lives through their social media feeds. I am often horrified at the amount of information parents share about their children. I’m not just talking photos, including many taken without the child’s consent, but personal details like a crisis a child might be having at school or their health or friendship issues. Honestly, I have muted the feeds of many of these parents.

Consent is a two-way street in families. When parents share too much information about their children online (it’s called “sharenting“), they are eroding the trust of the parent-child relationship. I realize some parents find networks of support online, but they forget, too, that much of what they share is seen by others who have no personal connection to their child or family. Children are not an extension of their parents; they are people deserving of privacy just as adults are. Eventually, these children will grow up, have relationships of their own, and find jobs. And a digital presence their parents crafted — often from birth — will follow them forever. This is far more concerning than sharing embarrassing photos at your kid’s wedding.

Parents, just like their kids, should think first before they post.

Now, where’s that contract?


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Pier 31
11:30: Titania, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
12:15: Federal Churchill, bulker, moves from anchorage to Pier 28
16:00: MOL Marvel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:30: Hansa Meersburg, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
21:00: Brighton, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka


Now, it’s back to my regularly scheduled holiday napping and snacking.

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

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  1. The owners of the property where 35 dogs were seized have not been charged, let alone convicted, of any offense. They have appealed the seizure as unlawful. Shouldn’t we hold off using the pejorative term “puppy mill” (“a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits”) until some independent authority adjudicates the matter? We don’t call someone a thief simply because police label him as a suspect.

    You have to wonder how strong the SPCA’s evidence is if they have to encourage supporters to show up en masse at the appeal hearing. How would we feel about police urging supporters to show up at the trial of a suspected robber, to put pressure on the judge and jury?

    Let’s let the law and the evidence determine the matter in an impartial hearing before the Animal Welfare Appeal Board, and let’s avoid language that attributes guilt until and unless that happens.

  2. Thanks so much for the info on the programs in Lower Sackville. I believe It is important for people to know what is being done in our communities to help people who are struggling, and for many of us more privileged people, it is usually off of our radar. It is also so nice to see those people recognised for giving so much help to others.