1. Deforestation Inc.

A red chainsaw cuts into a stump with the words "Deforestation Inc" on it.
Credit: Ricardo Weibezahn / ICIJ

This morning, we published the latest article in Joan Baxter’s series:

Paper Excellence is the secretive private corporate empire owned by Jackson Wijaya that has been voraciously swallowing up pulp and paper conglomerates — and the access to forest resources that go with them — in Canada.

In recent years, Paper Excellence has pushed back repeatedly against any reports that link it with the Sino-Indonesian conglomerate, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), part of the massive Sinar Mas Group conglomerate headed by Jackson Wijaya’s father, Tejuh Ganda Widjaja.

APP has been accused of deforestation, human rights violations, illegal logging and timber trade, and has been taken to court by disgruntled creditors following its US$13.9 billion default in 2001.

APP and Paper Excellence are each giants in the planetary pulp and paper pantheon. Taken together, their annual revenue surpasses any other pulp and paper company.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) scoured company documents and calculated that in 2021, the combined revenue of Paper Excellence and of Resolute Forest Products that it now owns was US$10.4 billion, and Asia Pulp & Paper’s (China and Indonesia combined) was US$14.8 billion.

Thus the combined revenue for what are now Wijaya-family-owned pulp and paper conglomerates was US$25.2 billion, the highest in the world, much higher than their nearest rivals International Paper (US$19.3 billion) and West Rock (US$18.7 billion), and nearly twice as much as fourth place Oji Holdings at US$12.8 billion.

But, as we said at the outset, Paper Excellence is categorical that Paper Excellence and APP are not connected, telling ICIJ, “Paper Excellence is owned solely by Jackson Wijaya and is completely independent from Asia Pulp & Paper.”

An investigation by the Halifax Examiner with media partners in Canada, France, and the United States — part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) “Deforestation Inc.” collaboration — paints a far, far more complex picture of the Wijaya family businesses.

Click here to read “Deforestation Inc: Are Paper Excellence and Asia Pulp & Paper linked companies? They say they aren’t. Here’s what we’ve learned.”

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2. Child poverty

A young boy wearing a navy ball cap, orange hooded sweatshirt and grey pants sits on a wooden wharf looking down at seagulls in the water.
Credit: Huy Phan/

“Although Nova Scotia’s child poverty rate decreased by a record-breaking 24.3% in 2020 due to federal pandemic transfers, one in six children were still living in poverty and immigrants, Indigenous, and racialized children were disproportionately affected,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

Those are among the findings of a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS). The 2022 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia: Kids Can’t Wait was released Thursday.

“Government transfers work. The troubling thing is that those investments in 2020 were temporary. Where we’re at now, we’re hearing from our community partners that they’re seeing a depth of poverty and this inability to meet basic needs in striking ways that they’ve never witnessed before,” CCPA-NS research associate and report co-author Dr. Lesley Frank said in an interview. 

“My worry would be a headline of, ‘Yes, we need to celebrate this reduction in 2020.’ But we can’t take our eye off the target of child poverty and family poverty and poverty for everybody’s eradication, because these investments were not sustained.”

Click here to read “Federal benefits reduced child poverty in Nova Scotia, but ‘province did very little,’ report finds.”

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3. Funding for women’s organizations

A black and white photo of a young woman chewing her nails, leaning forward with eyes downcast looking concerned.
Credit: Kat Smith/

“While expressing gratitude for new provincial funding announced for the gender-based violence sector, the provincial coordinator of Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS) said more needs to be done,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

In a media release Wednesday afternoon, Ann de Ste Croix said her organization was grateful for the $4 million it’s receiving from the province. Announced to coincide with International Women’s Day, funding for the Halifax-based non-profit was part of an $8 million funding announcement made Wednesday. 

The money is intended to help organizations that support women experiencing gender-based violence to help meet increased service demands and address rising operating costs.

“We’re very grateful for this investment into the gender-based violence sector. That said, this funding does not address our recommendation for sustainable core funding for violence-against-women organizations in our province,” de Ste Croix said in the media release. 

“Without this, community-based organizations such as transition houses are unable to provide professional services in a consistent and equitable manner across the province.”

Click here to read “Nova Scotia women’s organizations get funding, but advocates say more needs to be done.”

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4. Marie Lumsden and the Canso spaceport

A white woman with touselled hair tied up and wearing a black shirt under black coveralls sits at a kitchen table with her hands crossed. In front of her is a sign that says We Say No to the Canso Spaceport.
Marie Lumsden at her home in Canso. Credit: Suzanne Rent

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Canso to meet with Marie Lumsden, one of the town residents who founded a group called Action Against the Canso Spaceport.

I interviewed Lumsden for a profile on her as a part of the series I’m working on about Nova Scotian women over 50 who are, in their own quiet but important ways, helping their communities.

When I started making a list of who I wanted to interview, Joan Baxter suggested I interview Lumsden. And I’m so glad I did. You can read the whole story here.

Lumsden told me about the ways in which this project is dividing families and friendships in the town. Many people, she told me, are afraid to speak up or talk about the project at all:

While there’s strong opposition to the project, Lumsden says there’s also a “culture of silence.” The project is causing friction among families and friends. She said AACS has support from people who will never attach their names to it.  

“I don’t know if people here have been through so much and mistreated, and we have been mistreated terribly over the years,” Lumsden said. “People depend on each other so much in this community, and there’s so much love in this community, and people choose to be silent, and hope it will all work out.” 

The stress of it all lives in Lumsden’s home, too. She and others spend hours on the work of AACS. She doesn’t buy any of the arguments in support of the spaceport: that it will create jobs, promote tourism in the community, or that it’s safe.  

“The idea this will employ a whole bunch of people is just ridiculous. Once these things are set up, this little crew comes in, they launch the thing and leave. Would you buy a house two or three kilometres from a launch facility? Nobody would.”

Click here to read “‘Her passion is Canso’: Marie Lumsden’s fight against the spaceport.”

I have a few more stories to write this week and next, but if you know any women I should write about, send me an email at

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5. More firefighters for HRM

A firefighter drives a fire truck on a downtown city street on a sunny day, with a sandstone building in the background.
A Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency truck in downtown Halifax in February 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency will add 15 firefighters to its complement next year to boost coverage in Middle Musquodoboit and maintain coverage in other rural areas,” reports Zane Woodford.

Chief Ken Stuebing presented his proposed budget, up 8.1% over last year to $84.6 million, to council’s budget committee on Wednesday.

Stuebing brought councillors budget options over and under that number. One option under budget would see the department cut career firefighters from rural stations at a savings of between $473,800 and $947,600 in 2023-2024. And the option over budget would add five, 10, or 15 firefighters at a cost of up to $137,100 in 2023-2024, and up to $1,065,900 in the following year.

No matter how councillors voted, rural stations were the ones affected.

Click here to read “Halifax councillors vote to add 15 new firefighters to add coverage in Middle Musquodoboit.”

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A screenshot shows a homepage with JUNOS at the top, and The JUNO Awards head to Halifax in 2024 underneath next to an aerial photo of Citadel Hill.
A screenshot of the JUNOS website on Wednesday. Credit:

“Halifax will host the 2024 JUNO Awards, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) announced Wednesday,” reports Zane Woodford.

“The historical port city on Canada’s east coast boasts an eclectic and storied music scene that is primed to welcome Canada’s largest celebration of music,” CARAS said in a news release.

The bid came with $1.75 million in public money, $750,000 of which came from HRM. As the Halifax Examiner reported in August 2022, council’s Special Events Advisory Committee heard a presentation from CARAS president and CEO Allan Reid and vice president of business administration Céline Séguin.

Council voted in September in favour of the bid and the funding, with a decision expected in October.

Click here to read “Halifax chosen to host 2024 JUNO Awards after $1.75-million bid.”

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After International Women’s Day, reflecting on women’s lives the other 364 days of the year

A sign that says Internationa Women's Day March 8th Say it Flower Flowers hangs from a display just before a shelf of bouquets of flowers and plants. Behind the shelf is a fridge where more flowers are stored.
A ‘celebrate International Women’s Day with flowers’ sale at a Halifax grocery store. Credit: Suzanne Rent

I once heard it said that if your job gets a day each year in which it’s celebrated, that usually means the people working those jobs don’t make enough money. I recall that the phrase was used in reference to Administrative Professionals Day, previously known as Secretaries Day, a job done mostly by women. But I thought about that phrase again yesterday, International Women’s Day. 

I am not sure what I think about International Women’s Day anymore, the day created to recognize women and girls’ social, economic, cultural, or political achievements. And it’s also a day to recognize that there’s work still to be done to support women and girls everywhere. 

Like many other celebratory days, International Women’s Day has gone corporate. There are emails offering discounts on all number of products, hashtags on social media, lots of inspirational and girlboss quotes, and plenty of pink. My local grocery store had a floral display suggesting people celebrate with flowers.

I read one post in which a woman said her bosses invited all of their colleagues to celebrate International Women’s Day in the company’s kitchen rather than a boardroom. Still another woman recalled the time the VPs at her company shook all the women’s hands in support of their great work. Yet, when it came time to cut the sheet cake they bought to celebrate the day, no man stepped forward to cut it (eventually a woman cut and served the cake).

And every year, men will share on social media stories about all the things the women in their lives do for them like take care of the kids or clean the house. Or how they support women because they are the fathers of girls.

Just a few days ago, I saw this headline: “Gender equality still ‘300 years away’, says UN secretary general.” “Is that all?” I thought to myself, sarcastically, of course.

If it feels like we’re going backward in some ways, it’s because we are. In the US, reproductive rights are being rolled back with abortion bans. Online, women, especially women journalists and politicians and women of colour, face an increased amount of hate, harassment, and threats.

Just last week, Global laid off several of its reporters, including reporters, Teresa Wright and Rachel Gilmore, both of whom are on the receiving end of an atrocious amount of hate from men and cowards who hide behind fake names and photos. Gilmore, along with Erica Ifill and Saba Eitizaz, were recently awarded the Tara Singh Hayer Award, which recognizes Canadian journalists for promoting the principle of freedom of the press. Gilmore, Ifill, and Eitizaz were honoured for calling out misogynistic online abuse. Good for them. Yet since they were laid off, the hate abuse against Gilmore and Wright has escalated.

Trans women, too, are facing an increase in the harassment and violence against them, including from gender criticals who worry about their own safety in public spaces and that cis men will dress as women to get access to these spaces.

But it’s cis men, not trans women, who are a danger to women in private and public spaces. As Yvette d’Entremont reported this morning, according to the Status of Women, in 2022, 79% of the victims in 1,666 domestic violence assaults reported to police in Nova Scotia were women. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability lists the names and numbers of women killed in Canada in 2022. January 2022, 22 women, February, 19 women, and on and on.

I personally have been grabbed, catcalled on the street, and followed home. For several months about a dozen years ago, a man basically stalked me, waiting for me outside my work office, sending me letters and gifts, and leaving phone messages calling me a bitch for not answering. I assure you, none of these men had to dress like a woman to do this.

I did attend an event for International Women’s Day last night. It was a lecture given by Dr. Meredith Ralston, a professor of women’s studies and political science at Mount Saint Vincent (I interviewed her for this Morning File back in May 2021). The talk took place at Saint Mary’s University and was titled “Women’s Bodily Autonomy and the Right to Bare Arms.” Ralston wrote a book called Slut-Shaming, Whorephobia, and the Unfinished Sexual Revolution.

She spoke about Michelle Obama and “sleeve-gate,” which inspired the Bare Arms portion of the title of her talk. She had a chart of how women’s clothing has changed over the years and the rules and restrictions about modesty. There was discussion about the good girl-bad girl dichotomy and how it’s often older female relatives who tell younger women what to wear out of fear about how they’ll be treated by others.

There were lots of points made about issues I have written about such as the online and offline criticisms of women politicians like Sanna Marin, the prime minister of Finland, who likes to dance (I wrote about here). Ralston spoke about double standards, control of women’s reproduction and sexuality, slut shaming, rape culture, whore stigma, and more, and how all of these topics were connected.

“Women are seen as the means to someone else’s end,” Ralston said.

Ralston wrapped up her presentation with ways we can work on this issues: by challenging these outdated and sexist ideas; educating about sex and sexuality; increasing women’s confidence in their own bodies; and decriminalizing sex work. These were all topics I often think about.

After Ralston wrapped up her talk, the floor was open to questions. Now, this was a diverse group of women, so I was looking forward to hearing what they had to say. But wouldn’t you know it, the first question came from a man who sat front and centre of the theatre. Women know this kind of man well; he’s the kind to have more of a comment than a question. This man went on and on, reading from pages of notes he brought along.

Eventually, he was asked, “do you have a question?”  

But the women in the room had many great questions, like how do they talk with older female relatives who might have concerns about what they wear? With dress codes and policing what women wear, who gets to decide what’s professional in the workplace? There were discussions about women in politics, which Ralston writes about, too.

“Women need to be the the means to their own ends,” Ralston told us.

There’s another saying that came to my mind on Wednesday, too. It’s “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit.” I’ve seen it on posters during women’s marches. I still can’t believe it either.

But I also felt encouraged and inspired by that group of about a couple dozen women last night. Women can be the means to their own ends, but we need others to have our backs, too.

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Storm porches of Halifax

A poster of several storm porches on historic houses. The text on the poster says Halifax Storm Porches Photographs by Renate Deppe.
Halifax Storm Porches

We haven’t shared much from Stephen Archibald recently, so I checked his Twitter account to see what he’s been up to and noticed he reshared this 2015 post from Halifax Bloggers about the storm porches of Halifax. Archibald writes:

They are wonderfully functional in our climate creating an airlock where you stamp the snow off your boots before entering the hall. An unheated public space where you can talk to the Heart and Stroke canvasser without having to invite them into your private sanctuary. Often with large windows they are bright projections that give you a vantage point to look up and down the street.

A late uncle of mine who lived in Halifax’s north end had this exact poster of Halifax storm porches displayed, appropriately enough, in his own storm porch.

Archibald writes that the “classic period” for storm porches was from 1860 to 1890. Those porches have Italianate details like brackets and decorative mouldings. And, of course, he shared some of the photos of storm porches he’s taken over the years. There are these porches on Morris Street:

A row of colourful houses on a streetlined city street. All the houses have steps leading up to enclosed porches.
Storm porches on Morris Street. Credit: Stephen Archibald

And a storm porch on North Street:

An old two-storey house painted in a pale blue with white trim. On the front, steps lead up to an enclosed porch.
Storm porch on North Street. Credit: Stephen Archibald

I’ve been in this storm porch at Henry House (note to self: must go to Henry House again).

Two side-by-side photos of an old stone building. In the photo on the right, the house has flower boxes hanging from each window. And the steps leading up to the enclosed porch.
Henry House’s storm porches. Credit: Stephen Archibald

Click here to read more about Archibald’s stories of storm porches.

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Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Board of Police Commissioners (Thursday, 4:30pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate, and online) — agenda


Budget Contingency Date (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda


No meetings

On campus



Preservation of N isotope signals during sinking and sedimentation of organic material (Thursday, 11:30am, Milligan Room, Life Sciences Centre) — Nina Golombek will talk

Development Aid in Dangerous Places: Lessons from Afghanistan (Thursday, 2:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building) — Jason Lyall from Dartmouth College will talk

Panel Discussion on Unacknowledged Roots of Narrative Practice (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — with N Siritsky, Terrence lewis, Prasanna Kariyawansa, Stel Raven, and moderator Nancy Ross; registration and info here

A Human Rights-based Approach to the New Treaty on Plastic Pollution (Thursday, 7pm, online) — Marcos A Orellana will talk


Journalism from Below: Sub-Editors in the British Press System (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain building, and online) — Stephan Pigeon will talk 

Let’s Play Guitar (Friday, 7:30pm, Strug Concert Hall) — a Dalhousie Guitar Ensemble concert; $15/$10, more info here

Halifax Central Library

Girlfriend, Talk About It: The Graduate Work of Toni Morrison & bell hooks (Thursday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Evelyn C. White will talk about the artistry and intellectual evolution of two remarkable authors. 

A Nobel Laureate in Literature, Toni Morrison was widely heralded for guiding by example a generation of Black women writers to eschew “the white gaze” in their work. Interestingly, Morrison completed her 1955 master’s thesis on authors William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf…In 1983, Black activist/author bell hooks was among the first scholars to complete a doctoral dissertation on the early writing of Toni Morrison.

In the harbour

08:00: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Portland
10:00: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
10:00: MSC Nadriely, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
16:00: Siem Aristotle, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
16:00: Gotland, cargo ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Södertälje, Sweden
16:30: Morning Courier, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
18:30: MSC Nadriely sails for sea

Cape Breton
19:00: AlgoTitan, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax


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

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  1. If I am not mistaken, the poster for the storm porch photo exhibition was designed by David Braybrooke, long-time member of the Dalhousie Philosophy and Political Science Departments, and–a happy coincidence–supervisor of Meredith Ralston’s doctoral dissertation. Keep up the good work!