In the harbour


1. Trotsky

The Canadian Car and Foundry Co. plant in Amherst was converted to an internment camp around the outbreak of the First World War and held hundreds of prisoners, mostly Germans, but Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was detained there for a month in 1917. (PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF CANADA)
The prisoner of war camp in Amherst. Leon Trotsky was detained there for a month in 1917. Photo: Public Archives of Canada

The Chronicle Herald’s Aaron Beswick revisits Leon Trotsky’s arrest in Halifax in 1917, and his subsequent stay in a prisoner of war camp in Amherst:

[Trotsky’s] first order of business was to berate the prisoners of the camp for not being productive during their imprisonment—a peculiar way to make new friends. 

He organized them to clean up the camp, lectured on international politics and encouraged them to learn English while stuck in an English-speaking country. He organized a prisoner strike over conditions in the camp and became a thorn in the side of camp commander Col. Arthur Henry Morris.

His efforts to organize the German prisoners resulted in Trotsky being placed in solitary confinement in a furnace room, and the other prisoners responding with a petition demanding that he be released from solitary. After the tsar was deposed, the revolutionary government in Russia asked that Trotsky be released, and he was shipped back to Russia.

2. Winter tires

The union for transit drivers wants winter tires put on the buses, but the city is resisting the idea.

3. ATV

Ainsley Duffy, back when she rolled with the toughest of them.
Ainsley Duffy, back when she rolled with the toughest of them.

Four-year-olds drive ATVs now. Ainsley Duffy’s was stolen, probably by some six-year-old thug.

4. Winter storm

YouTube video

Snow followed by rain and a big slushy mess tomorrow. “Order your Pizzas and Chinese Food and Buy Cases of Pepsi and Coke and Do your Grocery Shopping Don’t Wait until the Last Minute Do it Right Now and have your iPads, iPods, Cell Phones, Laptops and Tablets Charged and have your 3G and 4G Internet Ready,” says Frankie.

Who will be the first reporter of the new year sent to stand in the snow on the boardwalk, so we know it’s really snowing? This year, surprise contender Brett Ruskin may replace perennial favourite Anjuli Patil.

Brett Ruskin
Brett Ruskin

 5. Wild Kingdom

Chinstrap penguin rookery at Bailey Head, Deception Island. Photo: Lee Narraway / Students on Ice
Chinstrap penguin rookery at Bailey Head, Deception Island. Photo: Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

Dalhousie students Patrick Soprovich and Jasveen Brar are in Australia, looking at penguins.


1. Road carnage

Make Halifax pedestrian-friendly, says Lezlie Lowe.

As I was walking home from the Bridge Terminal last night, I got up to the corner of Thistle and Victoria just nanoseconds after the light had changed, but dutifully pressed the pedestrian button and waited the entire light cycle for the next walking man light to come up. Good little pedestrian that I am, I then looked both ways, behind me, etc, before crossing in a southernly direction, towards Bicentennial School. I got halfway through the lane when a car zoomed north up Victoria and, trying to to beat the oncoming southbound traffic on Victoria, whipped left onto Thistle, oblivious to the pedestrian in the crosswalk. I’m relatively spry, and could jump out of the way, but the car still came within three inches of hitting me—an elderly person or someone with a bum knee or whatever would now likely be dead. I never did see the driver of the car that nearly hit me, but I saw the look of horror on the face of the driver of the car on Thistle, waiting for the light, as he hit the horn thinking I was about to killed. I gave him a look of thanks, he shook his head in disbelief, and I stumbled home shaken, not a statistic.

Yesterday, I discussed my plans to more thoroughly report on road carnage, and Parker Donham responded by calling me the “city-dwelling publisher of the lively Halifax Examiner,” accusing me of “city-centric moralizing,” and stating that I don’t drive and am embarking on a “war on cars.” These are the sorts of ad hominem attacks laid against people who raise road safety issues: we’re effete urbanites who don’t how the real world (read: rural communities) work; we can “admirably” take the bus, that option just isn’t practical elsewhere, etc.

But none of that is true. I do have a car, and I do drive. Moreover, I’ve spent most of my adult life living in rural areas and small towns, utterly dependant upon cars to get around. I’ve owned a pickup truck, for dog’s sake. While I now live in the city, I’ve criticized the anti-rural or anti-suburban sentiments sometimes expressed by city dwellers as “urban fetishism.”

In fact, rural people are much more likely to die in car crashes than are urbanites, so a concern for road safety is foremost a concern for people living in rural areas.

Anyway, Donham points out that the number of road deaths has decreased in recent decades, and he trots out this chart to make his case:


He doesn’t differentiate the numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by vehicles (it fluctuates, but while total vehicle-related deaths have come down, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths remain stubbornly stable—around 300 pedestrians and 60 bicyclists are killed annually in Canada), and the chart shows a more downward direction because it shows “deaths per ten thousand vehicles” and not simply “deaths,” but I take his point: road deaths have come down.

So what are we to make of this? Forget about the issue? Go to the tavern and have a few drinks in celebration of the our safe roads and drive home? Deride city slickers?

The fact is, the decrease shown in the chart is the low-hanging fruit: we’ve designed vehicles better so that people are less likely to die in crashes, medical responses have improved, and we’ve made a good stab at getting people to stop drinking and driving. These are good things! I’d guess that some of the decrease also reflects the higher number of SUVs on the road, which may be safer but have adverse environmental effects. But still 2,000 people a year are dying in Canada, mostly needlessly. And still I nearly died last night because some asshole wanted to save 30 seconds on the light.

If we’re to further reduce the number of fatalities we need to change driver behaviour. That’s a much tougher task than installing air bags or switching over to SUVs.

2. Mitchell house

Photo: Stephen Archibald
Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald posts his photos of houses that no longer exist in Halifax. Above is the Mitchell House, which sat on Tower Road north of Inglis Street. Archibald thinks he took the photo in 1975. Looking at the details of a dormer and the tower windows, he notes that there was “some lost Halloween potential.”

Anne West wrote about the house in the Heritage Trust magazine in 2004:

In 1870, William Longley Dodge, contractor, architect and founder of the Acadian Moulding Factory, built an elegant Italianate villa on Tower Road in Halifax. It stood on a 1.9 acre parcel of land stretching from Tower Road to Wellington Street and 100 yards north from Inglis Street.

The house was undoubtedly a showcase for the ornate mouldings manufactured by Dodge’s firm. In its heyday, the estate was renowned for its gardens, which included terraces, shrubberies, rose beds and lawns. Legend has it that the gardener was sacked every Friday for drunkenness, but always re-hired on Mondays for his irreplaceable skills.

The Honourable Joseph Norman Ritchie was the first owner of the estate.


Three more generations of Mitchells, Charles Campbell, Charles Gorham and Charles William, lived on the estate, and two houses were added to accom- modate family members, one on the corner of Tower and Inglis and the other on Wellington Street at the north-west corner of the property.

Unfortunately, the Mitchells did not believe in maintenance and the original house was allowed to deteriorate.A would-be purchaser who visit- ed it in 1987 described it as a time warp, completely unchanged since the 1930s.Because of its gloomy appearance local residents referred to it as the Ghost House and children hurried anxiously past it.

In 1987, Charles C. Mitchell died, and his grandson, architect Charles W. Mitchell, obtained a demolition permit for the main house in order to develop the site. A citizens group fought hard to save it. When their suggestion that the house be incorporated into a condominium development was rejected,they offered to purchase it for a museum of Victorian Halifax. But in spite of wide public interest, considerable media support and a petition with over 1,000 names on it, the house was knocked down in a surprise early morning move on April 30, 1988. In 1988, Mitchell built a row of condominiums on the Inglis Street end of the property.He included the house on the corner of Tower and Inglis streets by turning it 90 degrees

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 6.31.21 AM

3. Optimism

Jim Meek approvingly cites plagiarist extraordinaire Margaret Wente. To be fair, he also uses the word “naff,” in the British sense of “Unstylish, clichéd, or outmoded,” to describe Wente.


Ku Klux Klan members in Kingston, Ont., 31 July 1927. John Boyd / Library and Archives Canada / PA-087848
Ku Klux Klan members in Kingston, Ont., 31 July 1927. John Boyd / Library and Archives Canada / PA-087848

Yesterday I spoke briefly of the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Pictou County in the 1920s, and of my frustration at not being able to find more information about it. Soon after I published, I received an email from Timothy Jacques, editor of the Tribune newspaper in Campbellton, New Brunswick, detailing his own investigations into the operation of the Klan in that province. He has kindly given me permission to reprint his email, but asks that I make clear that it is a letter to the editor of the Examiner written in his personal capacity:

You mention the KKK in Nova Scotia in today’s Morning File and wonder if there is anything written on it.

As far as I am aware, no. The KKK was once active in New Brunswick too. I was unable to find any scholarly work that had much mention of the KKK in New Brunswick (although there were a few interesting writings scattered online) but I did find copies of KKK documents at the PANB [Public Archives of New Brunswick] that had been found in a wall of a house. These included their bylaws, and for some klaverns (as they called their chapters) a membership list. It turned out that two colleagues of mine had grandfathers in the KKK in southern NB.

I found the subject difficult to research locally, even though there had been at least two klaverns here, possibly three—unfortunately, the documents only mentioned one in passing, and the second arose after the date of the documents found in the wall. However I do have the list of the charter members of the Dalhousie NB klavern—also found during a demolition—and again, some people I know had no idea their relatives were involved.

Even though the Klan had a rally in Dalhousie, NB and drove through the streets in cars in the early 1930s as part of a membership drive, I could find no photos, and no elderly people who would admit to seeing the event although a news report said that it was witnessed by hundreds. Also, even though people took endless photos in those days of men dressed in their various club regalia and costumes, a call I put out resulted in exactly zero Klan photos. I found only one article about the Klan in local newspapers of the time—the membership drive—and even that was a reprint of an article which had appeared in the Fredericton Gleaner.

The Klan did burn crosses here, and I found an elderly witness to that. (My late father had also told me of this, although he had not witnessed it as it was before he moved to the area.) In New Brunswick, the Klan seems to have been mainly an anti-French, anti-Catholic organization. Although the bylaws and documents refer to white supremacist views and a belief that Anglo-Saxons were the “true Jews,” the letters among the documents deal mainly with anti-Catholic sentiments.

I know of at least two cross burnings in Dalhousie, NB in the 1930s, and I was told that the Campbellton, NB klavern used to burn their crosses on the current site of the WalMart in Atholville.

I gather from the documents, and from other reading, that the main adherents of the New Brunswick Klan were the more extreme elements of the Orange Lodge. The Klan seems to have been most active in the province at a time when Acadians were pushing for some education rights (which I don’t think they got at that time). One cross burning in Dalhousie, NB seems to have been related to a Protestant pastor—whose congregation met in the same building where the Klan met—being assaulted by some Roman Catholics.

The PANB store of documents also includes details of an internal feud amongst Klansmen which led to a kind of breakaway Klan or new Klan. An American pastor named Fowler had apparently brought the Klan to Canada, but it was always viewed with suspicion as unBritish. A copy of Fowler’s racist book is in the PANB documents. Anyway, it seems Fowler was found out to be or at least strongly suspected to be running the Klan for his personal profit, so a new Klan was set up free of his influence and more patriotically British.

As best as I can tell from my reading, there were two main Klans in Canada—one in the west, and one in Eastern Canada from about Ontario eastward and the Maritime Klansmen were part of the Ontario-centred Klan. These two apparently got along well and recognized each other, but I’m not sure why they never merged. While the Klan in eastern Canada were not part of the American Klan, there are references to Canadian Klansmen from New Brunswick going to Maine to take part in American KKK gatherings.

As best as I can tell, the early KKK in Canada died out for two reasons. One, it was associated in the minds of most people with the American KKK. The Canadian Klan, while certainly very racist, was not anywhere near as violent as the American version, but people and government made the association. Even racists and bigots hesitated to join, and they feared it was unpatriotic. Second, as I say it was largely made up of the extremist elements of the Orange Lodge in this country, and and it is my suspicion that many of them did not see the point of having to pay to belong to two separate organizations when they could espouse much the same views and engage in the same actions as Orangemen. The Orange Lodge was seen as mainstream and patriotic amongst Protestants in those days, so there was no stigma in joining.

I refer to the original version of the KKK in the 20s and 30s—I believe there may have been attempts to reestablish klaverns on the American model decades later, but my investigations related to the 20s and 30s. 

The reel I think is this one, although PANB also has some other documents, I have since found out: MC2604 Ku Klux Klan Of Kanada In New Brunswick Records, 1925-1930 & n.d., 6 cm. (one microfilm). Primarily correspondence of G.E. Davies, King Kleagle, Carleton County, but also includes Klan Constitution, list of Officers, 1930 and list of Klaverns etc.

The photo above was published last month with Chris Bateman’s article in Spacing Magazine “The grim history of the Ku Klux Klan in Toronto.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Saturday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Saturday. Map:

Maersk Penang, container ship, Quebec to HalTerm
Faust, car carrier, to AutoPort


Now it’s winter.

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

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  1. It seems like you and Mr. Donham are talking about different things, and possibly wasting energy and bandwidth arguing about different things. As you point out, his graph is not about pedestrian safety in crosswalks in the Halifax area, which I believe is the focus of your reporting. His comment that you hate cars and are declaring war upon them (he must have been reading something other than the Examiner to come up with that), is just as off-the-mark as the comment you have made more than once that some people think it’s “okay” to hit pedestrians with vehicles. You have made this presumably flippant comment when your readers have raised questions about pedestrian responsibility and about the need for clear crosswalk rules.

    I’m glad you have clarified the breadth of your life experience, urban and rural. I hope that deep down you know that no one thinks it’s “okay” to hit pedestrians with vehicles. I believe it’s justifiable for drivers to want clear information about things like unmarked crosswalks. Where information is ambiguous or absent, safety becomes a concern. I am looking forward to your ongoing in-depth coverage of this issue and look forward to it reflecting the full spectrum of experience of all of us who have lived in both urban and rural settings, all of us who own and drive cars while also being regular pedestrians. (Maybe even cyclists.)

    (I keep thinking about the ‘unmarked crosswalks’ because there are so many examples of how this is a dangerous piece of misinformation. Look up the intersection of Massachusetts Ave and Columbus Street in north end Halifax. If pedestrians treated this as an “unmarked crosswalk” as per the apparently common interpretation of that wording, someone would die there every week.)

  2. Tim,
    Perhaps i am misunderstanding the journalistic protocol here, but should there not have been some reference to Silver Donald Cameron’s work that revealed the material that Beswick used for the article about Trotsky. Cameron has been a real treasure for us in the Maritimes.

    Love your work!
    Steve Hart

    1. As a reader of both Contrarian and the Halifax Examiner it is wonderful to have two reliable journalistic sources in Nova Scotia that actually work to keep each other honest. More please.

      Cliff White

  3. RE the «distraught» parents who stupidly BOUGHT a STUPID TOY for their Yahoo Princess and then had it stolen: GOOD ENOUGH! I, and the 90% of SANE citizens suffering the head-banging noise pollution and ILLEGAL and DANGEROUS operation of these WEAPONS by TODDLERS and psychopathic death-wish teenagers, applaud the «thief».

    Had I found that piece of «more-money-than-brains» junk I’d have burned it and felt I had done society a favour! It’s such an intrenched insanity that the RCMP REFUSE to stop and charge the brain-dead miscreants who torture the rest of us with their illegal ripping, tearing, and infernal noise.

    The annual death toll and medical-heroics cost of this ridiculous behaviour is carefully side-stepped by politicians.
    Here’s hoping many more of these annoying wastes of money disappear and never resurface.


  4. RE: Snow Tires on Busses, the question is WHY do we need Snow Tires on busses when the evidence is that ANY rubber tire on huge commercial vehicles «snow» or otherwise simply cannot improve performance in ice, slush, and deep snow which we «enjoy» for almost 50% of every year. The ANSWER is to LIMIT our dependence on rubber tired vehicles, AND, especially the insane nightmare of ridiculously expensive DOUBLED-UP busses which circulate (when they’re not sideways in intersections!) 90% EMPTY.
    Double Busses work fine on flat, straight, snow-free, and heavily-travelled LIMITED routes. The Broadway busses in Vancouver are an example of PROPER application. Watching these behemoths trying to navigate Halifax’s narrow, winding, hilly streets would be COMICAL if not for the thought of the WASTE involved, and SCARY all winter as they careen out of control all over the city. SNOW TIRES will do NOTHING to improve the situation. Patience during inclement weather and the RESTORATION of our destroyed COMMUTER RAIL lines would be a good start.

  5. An an EXCLUSIVE for the Halifax Examiner here is a graphic of the intersection in which I’ve nearly been struck 3 times, marked with the places I’ve nearly been hit.

    For Mr. Donham’s edification, this is about 30 minutes from downtown Halifax by car-machine and in an area that is suburban/exurban in design and culture. As the graphic explains, there is an entire kilometre of straight, flat road leading up to the crosswalk coming from the north, and a good 500 metres going slightly uphill with a clear and undeniable view of the crosswalk lights from the south.

    Each time I’ve nearly been struck I first looked both ways, saw oncoming vehicles from the north, gauged that they were slowing down, then proceeded to cross (left to right in this graphic). Each time they didn’t slow down and I had to jump backwards to avoid being hit. Jumping forward would mean death, because people coming from the south don’t even stop until I’m halfway through the intersection.

    Today, after I press the light, I stand at the corner without entering the intersection to make my intent to cross known. Lights are flashing, I’m looking at the driver side of the oncoming vehicle, one of my feet are up ready to enter the road… and they fly pass. Sometimes it takes two or three cars ignoring me for one to actually recognize what flashing lights at a crosswalk mean.

    I’ve walked sidewalks and crossed intersections in Etobicoke, the beating heart of Ford Nation, where everyone has an SUV and drives them like a tactical guided missile. I felt safer *there* as a pedestrian than in Halifax.

    Fines are not the answer here. Money into the city coffers is not going to help the injured relearn how to walk or bring the dead back to life. The removal of a driver’s licence for a year is the only way to send the message that driving is a privilege and being a pedestrian is a right.

    tl;dr: fuck your cars

  6. When I think of motor vehicle and pedestrian collisions I wonder why no one reports on life changing injuries. I suspect that information is not tracked.

  7. Glad you survived the inattentive driver, and thanks for your continuing focus on traffic safety. Good points that the reductions in death rates are low hanging fruit and no excuse to accept the status quo. This video helps demonstrate why drivers sometimes simply don’t see pedestrians (or other cars):

  8. Tim, you almost died for your art! I’m thankful you survived. Apparently in Nova Scotia the cost of our safety is too expensive or just too low a priority. Having to fight to put snow tires on public transit! What on earth does the rest of the world think of us fools. Someone needs to save us from our spineless selves.

    1. The last time I checked,, about a year ago, snow tires got a low rating for hydroplaning as well as reduced performance on dry pavement. Rain, slush and snow are the most likely driving conditions in Halifax. Not exactly the best conditions for snow tires.

      Cliff White