There’s weather today, with associated closures and delays.
2. The Cornwallis statue and our missing history museum
“Halifax regional council will debate taking down the Cornwallis statue and putting it in storage after a last-minute addition to Tuesday’s agenda,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:
HRM staff is recommending the statue be taken down immediately, and put in storage while council attempts to revive a stalled committee, approved in October, to assess the use of the city’s controversial founder’s name on municipal property.
The staff report headed to council on Tuesday cites a protest planned for Sunday at Cornwallis Park as the catalyst for the recommendation.
“The most immediate concern around the statue is one of public safety,” the report says, warning that “the protests may be less peaceful” than those in July 2017.
There’s a “significant risk” of damage to the statue, and of conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters, the report says.
The “kid-friendly” rally is planned for Sunday from noon to 3pm at the Park.
The statue has been there for 87 years and has suffered no harm beyond side-eye and the occasional splash of red paint. People have been calling for the removal of the statue for decades, with the issue increasingly in the media for the past two years; the whole time anyone with an F-150 and a bit of chain could’ve pulled the thing down in five minutes or less, so it’s unlikely that they’d do it Sunday and announce it publicly via press release.
But even if they did pull down the statue at Sunday’s planned protest, that hardly constitutes violence. It’s not like that’s actually Cornwallis, a living person, up on the pedestal. It’s just a chunk of badly carved stone — “Cornwallis” isn’t going to feel pain or the embarrassment he so richly deserves. Pulling down the statue would no more constitute “violence” than does blasting through granite to build a highway.
The feared violence isn’t from Indigenous people against the statue, but rather from Proud Boys and associated racists against the protesters. But hey, that’s why we have police. The cops at the scene at the last rally against the statue behaved professionally, standing at a respectful distance and keeping a watchful eye on the scene, but otherwise not inserting themselves into the protest. They were there to protect people, and beyond a few shouting matches between Proud Boys and demonstrators, nothing untoward happened. I’m sure the police are up to the task this weekend as well, and if they need to have a larger presence and separate protestors and counter-protestors, no doubt they can.
Or maybe the “we fear violence” thing is just an excuse to take the thing down without dealing with the issue directly. It also turns the issue around in disturbing ways, suggesting that people decrying the statue for the violence it represents are themselves the feared source of violence. It flips the conversation from “Cornwallis was a murderous imperialist” to “those Mik’maq might do something violent.” Which should probably give us pause.
It matters how councillors discuss the issue today, which is also why that discussion needs to happen in public.
An argument that repeatedly comes up is that the statue should be placed in context — that is, there should be better signage and maybe some other statues that tell a fuller story of the founding of Halifax and the war against the Mi’kmaq. History By Statue, if you will. This gets statuary all wrong — the point of statues is unthinking praise, not critical reflection.
The place for critical reflection and discussion of historical context is a museum, and that’s where the Cornwallis statue should go — not hidden away in a warehouse or disappeared forever, but put in a place where people can learn about the history of the Mi’kmaq, the Acadien and Mi’kmaq resistance to English colonization, the various battles and attacks around the the Halifax area, the context and outcome of the scalp bounty, and the subsequent history of the these peoples.
We have a lot of good history exhibits in local museums. The Explosion exhibit at the Maritime Museum has always been good, and recently was improved to include the effects on the Mi’kmaq village at Turtle Grove. I’m told the naval museum at Stadacona is excellent. The Natural History Museum sometimes also has history exhibits. And there are niche museums like the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, the Quaker House, and the Black Cultural Centre, and good historical tours like that in the Legislative Library at Province House. Additionally, the provincial archives is a storehouse of information, albeit without museum-like displays. (The municipal archive is hidden away in Burnside, open to the public if you can figure out how to get there and when it’s open.)
But we don’t have a Nova Scotia History Museum — a single place where visitors can learn about the long and broad sweep of local history from pre-history through the Mi’kmaq centuries and on to the establishment of Halifax, the decades of military rule, Joe Howe and responsible government, Confederation, the wars, the Explosion, the VE Day riots, and so forth. A place where that history — including the social history, poll taxes and suffrage, the story of Gottingen Street and Africville, etc. — can be told in context by professional historians and archivists.
When I visit other countries, I try to make it a point to visit local history museums, but a visitor to Halifax would have a hard time putting together a string of stops that would bring a cursory understanding of the history of the place. Likewise, we don’t have a one-stop for locals, who are badly in need of such a place.
A Nova Scotia History Museum could be a destination on the harbour — put it in Dartmouth, if that makes it politically viable.
Regardless, if council does decide today to put the Cornwallis statue in storage, it should also start work on building a proper history museum, where the statue can be placed.
3. Let’s talk about Bell profiting off mentally ill people
It’s that time of year again — the time when the telephone company claims it owns mental health.
Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign has a lot wrong with it. It’s a cynical manipulation of mental health advocacy for advertising purposes, made by a corporation that has its own issues of denying benefits to workers with mental health concerns.
Examiner contributor El Jones has been pointing out for many years that Bell’s campaign is hypocritical:
… because whenever I get a call from a Federal prison it shows up as “Bell Payphone.” I’ve written before about predatory phone charges in jail/prison. Prisoners of course can’t use a hashtag, because they aren’t allowed smartphones or internet access, but they also often struggle to call their families because of the costs of collect calls on the phone system…
At the same time as Bell is promoting “conversation” about mental illness, they don’t want to talk publicly about how they make money from the same prisons that warehouse huge numbers of mentally ill people. They don’t want to talk about how the cost of phone calls prevents inmates, including the mentally ill, from talking to their families, and how this isolation prevents healing and rehabilitation. At the same time as we’re celebrating how much money Bell raised for mental illness awareness and treatment, we’re not talking about the millions they make from the fact that so many mentally ill people who can’t get treatment or intervention — especially those from racialized, impoverished, and marginalized communities — end up incarcerated and, as one of the articles on prison phone contracts phrased it, a “captive” market for Bell.
4. Stupid sports teams names
We take the past and make it our future. The Halifax Explosions team concept is the manifestation of our history and our powerful culture. A sign to our opponents that danger is on its way. And history will be made. #CFLinHalifax #CFL #Halifax pic.twitter.com/MyvhUDlnJ2
— CFL in Halifax (@CFLinHalifax) January 29, 2018
“A group that supports a bid for a CFL team in Halifax touched off a fiery debate online when it proposed naming the team after one of the country’s greatest Maritime disasters,” reports the Canadian Press:
On Twitter, CFL in Halifax pitched the idea of calling the football team the Halifax Explosions — a reference to the devastating explosion in the Halifax harbour in 1917 that killed about 2,000 people.
CFL in Halifax is a creative group that makes fan art to generate discussion. It has no affiliation to either the group looking to land an expansion franchise to the region or the league itself.
CFL in Halifax enthusiastically promoted the Explosion moniker, saying that 100 years ago “a force was unleashed that made this city stronger, bigger, and more united than ever before. Now we channel that force onto the football field as we flatten all that stands in our way.”
It didn’t take long for people to register their rebukes.
“You want to profit off the deaths of 2,000 people? It’s in really poor taste,” said one person, while another tweeted, “I grew up in Dartmouth and this is an absolutely asinine idea.”
I dunno, I’m having a hard time getting worked up about this. I mean, sure, it’s a stupid name with an even stupider justification, but we already have the Halifax Pop Explosion and the Halifax Xplosion women’s football team. And the basketball team is named the Hurricane; hurricanes kill a lot of people, too. No one objects to those names.
Sports teams are often named for animals and people who are (quite often wrongly or simplistically) associated with fierceness. So we get the beasts — Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my — and people like Cowboys or the opposing “Indians,” or Vikings and Pirates and such. It’d be great if the team name in these cases led to a community discussion about natural history or human history that brought wide understanding of the animals and people represented by the moniker, but who are we kidding? We’re talking about football fans who just wanna get drunk in the parking lot and then watch their local team kick the visiting team’s ass. It ain’t exactly a university seminar.
I prefer team names that twist the tradition. So we get the Dolphins, named for what is likely the most intelligent creature on the planet, and whose use of force seems judicious and expressed with regret. Or the Senators, who may or may not be successful at moving the puck down the ice, but who are almost certainly submitting bogus expense claims while doing so. Or the Banana Slugs, who are, well, perfectly reflective of the UC Santa Cruz campus culture.
Likewise, in Halifax, a team name should pay homage to our local culture. The “Schooners” is a good double entendre, but the beer is now part of that Belgium-headquartered international industrial beer machine, so no “Schooners” unless InBev pays for the whole thing. If, on the other hand, the team is going to be fielded thanks to a public subsidy for a stadium, which seems inevitable, then the name should reflect our long and glorious history of government subsidized economic development fiascos — The Claritones, or Westrays, or Heavy Water, or … maybe we could collectivize them as the Halifax Clusterfucks.
I might be able to get behind this CFL thing yet.
5. Wray Hart
The man killed Saturday morning, allegedly by a drunk driver, while walking down a Queen Street sidewalk was Wray Hart, reports Elizabeth McMillan for the CBC:
The 62-year-old is being remembered as a fixture of downtown Halifax, one who often had a greeting and kind words for friends who passed his perch outside the old library, or encountered him as he collected bottles and cans around the city.
In his final hours, he was out trying to help a friend who lived in the same building, said Natasha Pyke. According to Pyke, Hart went out early Saturday morning hoping to find some bottles so he could bring that friend some cigarettes.
“He looked out for everybody, regardless of his own situation,” she said. “He helped everybody. He never said no to anybody. He had a really hard life and he struggled a lot but he remained positive, through every bit of it.”
There’s a Wray Hart Memorial Page on Facebook.
City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — Cornwallis, Kyber, and other issues on tap.
Halifax Common Master Plan Public Consultation Number 2 (Wednesday, 7pm, Spatz Theatre, Citadel High School) — if you can’t make it, there’s an online survey.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — the committee will look at employment trends since the financial collapse.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — looking at Income Assistance.
Flat Category-Valued Pseudo-Functors (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Michael Lambert will speak. His abstract:
This talk will be a continuation of my talk from the end of last term. I will recall the notion of a flat set-valued functor on a small category. I will then show how a straightforward generalization of this definition for category-valued pseudo-functors recovers many of the expected properties of ordinary flatness.
CANCELLED Raising Young Patriots — Soviet Children’s Literature and the Great Patriotic War! (Tuesday, 2:30pm, in the theatre named after a bank in the McCain building) — Megan Swift from the University of Victoria will speak.
Health Advocacy, Inc. (Tuesday, 6pm, Halifax Central Public Library) — Sharon Batt launches her book which examines how pharmaceutical industry funding has come to shape the activities of breast cancer patients’ advocacy groups.
Christopher Strong (Tuesday, 7pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — a screening of Dorothy Arzner’s 1934 film.
Voice Recital (Wednesday, 11:45, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Students of Marcia Swanston will perform.
Linking Protein Conformational Dynamics with “Real World” Drug Development in Neurodegenerative Disease and Cancer (Wednesday, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Derek Wilson from York University will speak.
One Man’s Quest to Bring Change to North Korea (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 1002, Rowe Management Building) — North Korean defector activist Jung Gwang-Il will speak on how he challenges the Kim regime.
Dragon Inn (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — King Hu’s 1967 film, in Chinese with English subtitles.
In the harbour
7am: Macao Strait, container ship, moves from anchorage to Pier 41
8pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint-Pierre
9:30pm: Macao Strait, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Mariel, Cuba
As of 9:30am, that city council meeting is still on. Gotta shovel out first, but will live-blog at @hfxExaminer.