1. PCs have no answer for people dealing with poverty

A woman wearing a burgundy blazer, a white and pink scarf and glasses speaks into a microphone at a podium. In the background are three Nova Scotia flags, coloured blue, yellow and red.
Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane speaks to reporters in Halifax on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Credit: Zane Woodford

“PC cabinet ministers aren’t planning any immediate changes in the wake of the latest living wage report, which found more than half of Nova Scotia workers are making less than they need to get by,” reports Zane Woodford:

[Finance Minister Allan’ MacMaster said his government has been focused on “targeted” help, like increasing the Nova Scotia Child Benefit.

But the PCs have frozen income assistance rates during record inflation. At a committee meeting in April, lawyer Vince Calderhead told MLAs that income assistance recipients in the province are in “deep income poverty.”

“By choosing to not increase income assistance by a single penny, the province is choosing to increase food insecurity, choosing to increase the inadequacy of families’ ability to put food on the table,” Calderhead told the legislature’s Law Amendments Committee. “Under international human rights law, when you make families worse off, that’s a clear human rights violation.”

Click or tap here to read “PCs offer no quick fixes in light of Nova Scotia living wage report.”

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2. Glyphosate spraying

A sign warning of upcoming glyphosate spraying in Cumberland County. Credit: Submitted

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

Residents of Cumberland County who are concerned about the impact of the ongoing aerial spraying of herbicides will gather tomorrow morning at Lions Park in Springhill to raise awareness and sound the alarm. 

The demonstration hosted by a group called Don’t Spray Cumberland County will take place from 11am-1pm and include remarks from Nature Nova Scotia president Bob Bancroft. 

Throughout August and September, 50 sites across Cumberland County are being sprayed with the herbicides Timberline and Vision Max. These herbicides are used to kill leafy undergrowth and promote the growth of softwood trees valued by forestry companies. 

The herbicides contain glyphosate and other toxic chemicals that can be harmful to human health and wildlife. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, has declared glyphosate a “probable carcinogen” and there have been successful lawsuits brought by cancer patients against herbicide manufacturers for not making public their risks.

Three companies that are landowners in Cumberland County have been licensed by the province to carry out the spraying. They are JD Irving, Wagner Forest NS, and ARF Enterprises of Tatamagouche. 

“The aerial spraying of glyphosates on forests is a vicious assault on nature, as leafy vegetation is destroyed in favour of conifer trees like pines and spruces,” says Larry Duchesne, a resident of River Philip and a member of Don’t Spray Cumberland County. “The biodiversity of the spray region is destroyed. There is no food for animals and insects. In effect, aerial spraying of a forest results in a mini-ecological disaster.”

“In Cumberland County, about 2,500 acres are being sprayed by helicopter this year — far more than in all the other counties combined,” continues Duchesne. “The loss of nature and the threat to human health is far more than we can sanely accept. Forests can be managed without glyphosate sprays, but the big forest companies and the politicians who turn a blind eye will only change if pushed by an aware and concerned public. Opposition groups like Don’t Spray Cumberland County can help make that happen.”

This link takes you to a  map of the spray sites.

Glyphosate forestry spray sites approved by NS Dept of the Environment.

The herbicide spraying underway now in Cumberland County takes place using helicopters. Some of the sites are in the riding held by Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton (Cumberland South) while others are located in Cumberland North represented by Independent Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin. 

Suzanna Danielle is an organic and biodynamic farmer who lives in Oxford.

“Glyphosate spraying is harmful to the health of our farm’s soil, plants, and animals,” says Danielle. “These toxins do not just disappear after application, they are moved and deposited in other areas by wind, waterways, and wildlife that eat the vegetation. I believe these known probable carcinogens are making their way onto farms such as mine, where we are trying to create an organic, thriving ecosystem…the spraying of glyphosate on Cumberland County forests will negatively affect the health of our farms, ecosystem, animals and plants; the purity of our products sold to the local community; and it could potentially ruin our ability to become certified in the future.”

Saturday’s rally in Springhill will also be an opportunity to gather signatures on a petition aimed at convincing the municipality to ask the province for a moratorium on aerial spraying. 

A similar request to county council was narrowly rejected by a 5-4 vote last spring. 

Although forestry is a major industry in this part of the province, the Don’t Spray Cumberland County is gaining traction on Facebook and the group has drafted another petition it hopes will have a different outcome this fall. 

Here is the wording of the petition that will be presented to the mayor and councillors for Cumberland County to consider:

WHEREAS the NS provincial Government currently permits the aerial application of glyphosate-based herbicides on forests in our province,to the detriment of public health and the health of ecosystems we all depend on, and

WHEREAS this year 85% of all approvals for aerial spraying of glyphosate-based herbicides on forests in Nova Scotia are in Cumberland County, and

WHEREAS the Mayor and Council turned down a request made last year by a group of concerned citizens of Cumberland County to request the adoption of a moratorium on aerial spraying of glyphosate based herbicides on our forests, 

THEREFORE we, the undersigned residents of Cumberland County, call upon the Mayor and Council to reconsider, and to request that the provincial government adopt a moratorium on the aerial spraying of glyphosate based herbicides on our forests, effective immediately.

While this action by citizens comes too late to stop aerial spraying in 2023, the group effort is focussed on convincing local and provincial politicians that it should not be permitted to happen again.  

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3. Fleet Week and Cutlass Fury

A line of politicians and dignitaries stand on a ship, smiling.
The first line of defence against a Chinese invasion of Halifax. Credit: Fleet Week

Fleet Week and Cutlass Fury are in process, which means lots of foreign sailors are in town, and increased security is in place on the harbour. Drones are not permitted within a half a kilometre of both the Dockyard and Shearwater.

The Fleet Week schedule is here. I note that Fleet Week is sponsored by Lockheed Martin, Amazon Web Services, and… Labatt Brewery? among others.

DND has issued the following schedule of events:

  • From September 7 to 10 there will be increased harbour movements as visiting military ships arrive in Halifax.
  • On September 10 there will be increased harbour movements as the naval fleet conducts a sail past from the Bedford Basin and along the Halifax waterfront. Simultaneously, there will be a fly past conducted by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
  • From September 13 to 17 there may be an amphibious landing exercise conducted by the RCN and Canadian Army as part of Exercise Cutlass Fury 2023. Members of the public and watercraft transiting the harbour may observe increased small boat movements and land-based activity in that area.
  • On September 22 there will be increased harbour movements as multiple RCN ships transit back to HMC Dockyard upon conclusion of Exercise Cutlass Fury 2023.

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What it was like being in jail during the Halifax Explosion

Halifax County Jail, 1967. Photo courtesy Halifax municipal archives

Yesterday, I was working at the Halifax Municipal Archives and found a firsthand account of the Halifax Explosion that neither I nor the archivist was aware of. This is possibly the first time this account has been published (if it’s not, I’m sure someone will let me know).

As I’ve explained before, my work at the archives involves looking at the old Halifax County Jail, which was behind the courthouse on Spring Garden Road. My interest in the jail is a tangent off of a larger project I’m working on, and the Explosion account is a tangent from that tangent.

The jail was built in the 1860s and remained more or less in the same condition for the next century.

The photo above is the jail in 1967, just as it was (finally) being de-commissioned and replaced by a new facility in Sackville. The chain link fence topped with barbed wire wasn’t installed until the 1940s; before that, the jail was surrounded by a 12-foot wooden fence that, given its height, was repeatedly knocked down by winds in storms.

The jail was a cold, dark, dank place, with four corridors, two on each floor. One of the upper corridors was reserved for women. During the day, prisoners could congregate together in the corridors, but at night they were locked in their cells, with only a straw-filled sack as a mattress. (Even that was taken away as a disciplinary measure for disruptive prisoners.)

At some point in the late 19th century a toilet was installed on each corridor, but the toilet wasn’t accessible through the night, so each cell was equipped with a night pan.

Electricity wasn’t brought to the building until 1911, and a water heater was installed the following year.

Officials acknowledged that the building was a fire trap. The chimney was often cracked and the wooden floors provided the perfect fuel for a stray ember. There was no turnkey in the prison through the night, although very occasionally, a cop would keep watch overnight on someone charged with murder. The jailor was in the cottage next door, but each cell required a separate key to be unlocked, a laborious procedure should the building need to be quickly evacuated. Until 1945, there wasn’t a fire escape from the second storey.

Prisoners were a cross-section of debtors (debtors were jailed in Nova Scotia well into the 1960s), drunks, petty criminals, sex workers and gamblers, people awaiting trial, mentally ill people and those jailed for being unable to care for themselves, and hardened criminals like murderers. Many came into the jail diseased, stricken with venereal disease, or covered with lice. In 1925, a fumigator was installed in the jail yard, such that when a particularly dirty prisoner arrived he was stripped of his clothes, which were tossed in the fumigator, and he was washed down with soap and water and rubbed with an antiseptic. But before then, lice and other vermin were regularly brought into the building and spread throughout.

Any given night might find a few drunks screaming and carrying on into the wee hours, a mentally ill person rambling to himself, a person suffering from DTs, a sex worker chatting up the men in the corridor below, and a couple of debtors cowering in their cells, wishing they weren’t experiencing the horrors.

So that was the state of the jail when the Explosion occurred.

In 1917, the jailor was a man named Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell lived with his wife Margaret and their three children in a cottage that shared a wall with the jail. On Dec. 6, 1917, there were 18 prisoners in the jail — 17 men and one woman.

Mitchell kept a daily log of his work in the jail. (I’ve lightly edited the below as the original was obviously written hurriedly and Mitchell didn’t use much in the way of punctuation.)

That day, Mitchell wrote:

Visited prisoners at 8:00am find all correct. At 9:50am a tremendous explosion occurred. A ship loaded with explosive cargo collided with another ship at the Dockyard. The whole cargo exploded with terrible force killing about two thousand persons and rendering thousands homeless and not one house north of North Street was left standing. Every public building filled with dead and dying, every pane of glass in the city smashed, doors broken in or smashed to kindling wood. Heavily armed soldiers and sailors patrol the streets. Teams with dead and dying were to be seen everywhere. Persons picked up in the streets dead from fallen glass. Tidal wave swept the water front carrying everything with it, water covering Water Street. People were driven by soldiers to the south end of city and to the country districts fearing another explosion from the magazines in the Dockyard. Prisoners in the gaol were knocked down by fallen window frames. Those who were not knocked down became frantic and panic-stricken, tearing at the iron gates like mad men. I was upstairs in my room shaving, was knocked to the floor, regained my feet and grabbed my revolver, rushed down stairs ordered wife and children in the yard. After a desperate struggle with the prisoners got control of the situation. Tried to phone [but the ] wires broke. Went to the street to get some information. The soldiers driving people to south end of city said another explosion was expected. [I] was going to release prisoners into the yard, after taking second thought, decided not to, came to the conclusion that nothing in the city could not be any worse. Got canvas and covered all the broken sashes.

The next day, Dec. 7, he wrote:

Visited prisoners at 8:00am find all correct except Thomas Downey suffering from cut in the head, being knocked unconscious by falling window sash. tried to get Gaol Physician was very busy did not come. Gaol  perfectly warm and comfortable… Reports heavy fall of snow making conditions much worse.

And on Dec. 8, Mitchell wrote:

Visited prisoners at 8:00 am, find all correct and as comfortable as ever. Thomas Downey hit by felled window frame recovering rapidly. Had ten prisoners working boarding up courthouse windows and clearing out the broken doors. No men can be got any where to do the work. No teams were to be had. Whatever we wanted we had to go out and get, bread from the bakers, tar-paper, boards, nails, everyone brought by man-power and in my opinion it was a good thing they were available. 

The repair of the jail was never a high priority, and especially not in the immediate post-Explosion days when half the city had to be rebuilt. Minor repairs to the jail were ongoing for the next couple of decades, as finances allowed, but the building was never truly liveable or sanitary.

My go-to person for all things Halifax history is Stephen Archibald, but alas, Stephen tells me he never spent a night in the jail and doesn’t even have any photos of it. Maybe some other reader ended up in the place or has some other direct memory of it; if so, I’d love to hear from you.

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:30: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Valencia, Spain
08:30: Norwegian Escape, cruise ship with up to 5,218 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
08:30: USS James E. Williams, destroyer, arrives at Dockyard
09:00: USNS William McLean, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from Norfolk, Virginia
09:00: Undesignated US navy ship (probably a submarine) arrives at Shearwater
09:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
12:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
16:30: ZIM Monaco sails for New York
17:00: CMA CGM Panama, container ship (149,314 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
17:00: Lagrafoss sails for Reykjavik, Iceland
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for St. John’s
19:30: Norwegian Escape sails for New York
Cruise ships this weekend
Saturday: Viking Star (930 passengers); Amera (835 passengers)
Sunday: Jewel of the Seas (2,573 passengers); Silver Shadow (466 passengers); Seaborne Quest (540 passengers)

Cape Breton
07:00: Norwegian Joy, cruise ships with up to 4,622 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Halifax, on a nine-day cruise from New York to Quebec City
12:30: Amera, cruise ship with up to 835 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier (Sydney) from Baie Comeau, on 42-day roundtrip cruise out of Bremerhaven, Germany
16:30: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
17:00: Pearl Mist, cruise ship, transits through the causeway, en route from Pictou to Halifax
17:30: Runner, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Djeno offshore platform, Republic of the Congo
18:00: Norwegian Joy sails for Charlottetown
18:00: Amera sails for Halifax
Cruise ship Saturday: Aurora (2,258 passengers)


My project is much larger and more interesting than the jail. It’s drawing too much of my attention but it’s my way of keeping my sanity in a world that’s gone astray. One needs distractions.

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

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Aerial spraying of herbicides has to stop. It sterilizes vast areas of forest, destroying biodiversity and any value as habitat. Those who spray and allow that to happen are committing crimes against nature and should be held accountable. It is driven by greed. Pure and simple.