In the harbour


1. Harm reduction

Louis Armstrong, smoking pot.
Louis Armstrong, smoking pot.

The debate over the use of drug-testing kits at the Evolve Festival underscores the hypocrisy of the war on drugs. People have always used drugs, and no manner of prohibition or police action will stop them doing so. And drug use has always been connected to artistic endeavours, and especially so to the music scene. From the jazz clubs of the 1920s to the hippy concerts of the 1960s to the indie festivals of today, the drug of choice may change, but the fact of drug-taking remains constant.

To be sure, some of that drug use has led to tremendous personal tragedy; there’s no denying that some small percentage of people who go to music festivals and the like fall into life problems because of drugs.

But for a hundred years we’ve tried to address the harm that comes from drug use with prohibition, and that inevitably brought with it racism, discriminatory justice systems, out of control police, and invasions of civil liberties.

It’s time to try a different approach.

2. Income assistance

“Income assistance has been frozen in the province for two years now, which demonstrators who gathered in the north-end Halifax neighbourhood argued has left many across the province struggling to pay rent, access healthy food and receive training to help find jobs,” reports Metro’s Heide Pearson.

3. Rainmen

The Rainmen. Photo: Kristen Lipscombe / Metro
The Rainmen. Photo: Kristen Lipscombe / Metro

Bankruptcy filings show that the Rainmen owe creditors nearly $700,000, reports the Chronicle Herald:

[Team owner Andre] Levingston listed assets of just $1,002, including $1 for team merchandise and clothing, which originally cost $7,000, and $1,000 for furniture such as computers, TVs, desks and chairs, which originally cost $10,000.

The “intangible asset” of the Rainmen team name is listed at $1.

4. Shark

John Emberly, a surfer, was at Martinique Beach yesterday when he saw a big shark:

“It was huge. It was almost surreal, it was like I was watching a movie. It was big, it was really big and I really wasn’t far away from it,” he said.

“This was definitely a shark. It was a very triangular fin, it was a really big fin, it was insane how big it was. I couldn’t believe how big it was.”

He estimates the dorsal fin was about the size of a large pizza box, and he thinks it belonged to possibly a three-metre long shark.

Amberley shot a video of the creature.

5. Bullshitter of the day

Acadian Affairs Minister Michel Samson
Acadian Affairs Minister Michel Samson

“Acadian Flag Licence Plates Promote Vibrant Culture” reads a press release from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. “I want to thank all of the organizers and volunteers and wish them success as they celebrate and promote Nova Scotia’s vibrant Acadian culture,” said Acadian Affairs Minister Michel Samson in the release.

The French word for “vibrant” is “connerie.”

Meanwhile, Service Nova Scotia confirms that licence plates it has issued are defective, with the paint peeling off.


1. Mother Canada™

Mother Canada™
Mother Canada™

The Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, the registered charity behind the Mother Canada™ proposal, has no money, reports Paul McLeod:

[A]ccording to filings with the Canada Revenue Agency, as of the end of last year the foundation had only $6,000 in the bank. It also had $30,000 in accounts receivable against $396,000 in accounts payable and accrued liabilities.

This raises the obvious question: “Who The Hell Is Going To Pay For The Mother Canada Statue?”:

The Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation is promising to raise the costs of Mother Canada from private donations. The group told BuzzFeed Canada it expects the project to cost $25 million. Earlier estimates range from $25 to $60 million.

One concern raised by opponents of the monstrosity is that the Never Forgotten Foundation will start construction on the complex but not have the money to continue. But because the monument is on public land, the federal government will have to step in to finance completion of it.

Meanwhile, Tina Loo, a historian at the University of British Columbia, puts the Mother Canada™ proposal in the context of economic development of Cape Breton:

If businessman Tony Trigiani, the President of the NFNMF, were proposing a monument to pacifists or a fish farm in the park, he likely would have the support of local people who need jobs.

As Loo points out, the Cape Breton economy has been reeling since the closure of the coal mines:

More than fifty years ago, another Conservative Prime Minister — John Diefenbaker — pledged what at the time were vast sums of public money to his own pet history project, also on Cape Breton; the restoration of Fortress Louisbourg. Dief had already taken an interest in the site when Ivan Rand’s Royal Commission on Coal provided him with the opportunity to frame its restoration as regional development. Concluding that there was little future for the coal industry on the island, Rand argued in 1960 that its economy had to diversify: prosperity would only come by capitalizing on its “natural and historical endowment”; specifically by building a highway and “reconstruct[ing]…the Fortress of Louisbourg.”

Ten months later, in June 1961, Diefenbaker stood up in the House and committed his government to the restoration as a way of “providing alternative employment for the persons affected by the closing of certain mines in Cape Breton.” The next year, Cabinet agreed to expend $12 million over twelve years to restore the fortress, making it the heritage mega project of its time, the largest initiative undertaken by the National Parks Branch. The partially restored fortress would become the jewel of the National Historic Sites division, what Banff was to the national park system. Like some of the national parks, unemployed men were put to work — albeit voluntarily — at the fortress. In all, some 225 coalminers were retrained as stonemasons, bricklayers, and carpenters. Others worked as labourers on the site. After the restoration was completed, many miners were able to take their new skills to other jobs.

Loo goes on to chronicle the federal government’s unapologetically interventionist strategies for dealing with the struggling Cape Breton economy, through ARDA (the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act), FRED (the Fund for Rural Economic Development), and DREE (dedicated regional economic expansion), among others.

In retrospect, some of the ideas for saving Cape Breton seem kind of silly:

As Will Langford argues, with the winding down of coal operations, in 1975 the Cape Breton Development Company (DEVCO), a crown corporation charged with improving employment opportunities on the island, imported sheep — and not just any sheep, but sheep from Scotland. As lamb, they would be marketed to affluent urban foodies; but before they were mobilized as meat, the immigrant animals were meant to serve as visual reminders of the idyllic, rural, and folkloric Nova Scotia, part of the continuing tartanization of the province.

But the point, continues Loo, was that the federal government, and Canadians generally, were committed to reducing poverty by directly investing in regional development. She concludes:

With the rise of neo-liberalism, that commitment to region and place has shrunk along with the state. In 2012, the Conservative government made deep cuts to Parks Canada, ones that hit the Atlantic region hardest, including the Fortress Louisbourg site and Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Those cuts eliminated important jobs in the broader tourism sector…

Given this, we should be outraged about the $100,000 the feds gave to the NFNMF through Parks Canada – not just because it compromised the government consultation process, but because it represents the extent of our retreat from a vision of Canada as a particular kind of political community, a more generous one in which our commitment to social and spatial justice – to meeting the needs of strangers – is achieved through an interventionist state.

As important, entertaining, and fun as the debates over the “giga-kitsch” of “Mommy Canada” are, we can’t let them divert us completely from thinking and talking seriously about our collective commitment to region.

2. Garlic

Photo and original by Stephen Archibald
Photo and original by Stephen Archibald

“A few years ago we realized that the garlic in grocery stores at that moment was grown in China,” writes Stephen Archibald. “This was also the time when we were seeing  amazing photos by Edward Burtynsky of Chinese industrial sites. We purchased things made in China but the idea of eating food that grew in Chinese soil felt really dodgy. At that time it was hard to find local garlic growers  so we started growing our own. And discovered scapes.”

3. Boonamoogwaddy

Lezlie Lowe addresses the Dartmouth separatists.

4. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

In reference to Tuesday’s letter about poor local berries, I have to say that in Shelburne our strawberries, which are grown locally by Jackson Lore and sold in local stores including Sobeys, are absolutely delicious. Excellent taste and flavour; I am on my 4th box. Will keep buying them until they are gone.

Kathy Spencer, Shelburne


No public meetings.

Happy birthday MacKay Bridge! Photo: wikipedia
Happy birthday MacKay Bridge! Photo: wikipedia

On this date in 1970 the MacKay Bridge opened. Forty-five years later, we’re still calling it the “new bridge,” and I doubt that will change even after the Macdonald Bridge is completely rebuilt over the next year and a half.


This week, I’ve been chronicling Timothy Gillespie’s reporting on the proposed “Redneck competition” at the Founders’ Days celebration in Shelburne.

Shelburne was created at Port Roseway in 1783 and1784, when Loyalists fleeing the newly formed United States arrived. By 1784 it had a population of 17,000 and was the fourth largest city in North America.

From the start, the Loyalist migration was segregated: Shelburne for white Loyalists and next-door Birchtown for Black Loyalists. Those who wished to break through the colour barrier were attacked, explains the Canadian Encyclopedia:

[I]t didn’t take long for racial animosity to arise. Tensions reached a breaking point in Shelburne on 26 July 1784 when a group of about 40 white Loyalists demolished the home of Baptist preacher David George. George had chosen to establish his church in Shelburne rather than Birchtown, and had challenged the established racial hierarchy by baptizing white Loyalists. The mob also tore down the houses of about 20 other free Blacks living on George’s property.

Despite threats, George continued to preach from his church in Shelburne. The mob returned, beating the pastor with sticks and chasing him into a swamp. The riot spread. Disgruntled white settlers seized the opportunity to lash out. There are few firsthand accounts of the ensuing days, but a merchant in nearby Liverpool recorded hearing that “Some thousands of people assembled with clubs and drove the Negroes out of town.”

While Black Loyalists were the primary targets, rioters also attacked white settlers that were believed to be colluding with the incompetent British authorities. Surveyor Benjamin Marston fled to the army barracks, where his remaining friends convinced him to slip away on a boat to Halifax.

Shelburne County’s Black Loyalists had no such refuge. Rioting continued for at least 10 days, and incursions into Birchtown were reported for up to one month. Four companies of the 17th Regiment were dispatched to maintain order in the weeks following the riot. Governor John Parr visited Shelburne on 23 August. Marston, despised by Shelburne’s white Loyalists, provided a convenient scapegoat and was subsequently fired. Evidently concerned that violence might reemerge, Parr also dispatched a naval frigate to support the 17th Regiment. Only one individual was charged in connection with the riot.

The Shelburne riots are considered the first race riots in North America. And here we are 231 years later, when race issues are still exploding on front pages across North America, and Shelburne is thinking about having a redneck competition for Founders Day — the very same founders of Shelburne who attacked the Blacks among them. That’s either a staggering lack of self-awareness, or purposeful racist provocation. As the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown was opened just last month with much fanfare, I’m putting my money on the “purposeful racist provocation” explanation.

“Deputy mayor [Elizabeth] Rhuland said she had not been aware of the event last year, but that the ‘redneck’ identity was merely a matter of lifestyle. ‘We need to be careful about not being prejudiced against a lifestyle, she told the [Town Council’s Anti-discrimination and Racism Committee],” reported Gillespie.

The old “lifestyle” or “tradition” dodge.

We see the same lame arguments trotted out in defence of the Confederate flag. Take, for example, this photo, taken yesterday by reader Lynn Jones, of a truck with a Nova Scotia licence plate driving around Truro:

Photo: Lynn Jones
Photo: Lynn Jones

The owner of the truck makes explicit connection between “redneck” and the Confederate flag: “Jack it up, tear it up, live it loud, redneck proud,” it reads. Which is correct — “redneck” identity is intertwined with the Confederate flag and southern “tradition.”

But the “Heritage not Hate” thing is utter bullshit. The Confederate flag is all about hate. Always has been, always will be.

While Shelburnites should know the history of their own town, it’s perhaps understandable that Canadians generally don’t know the history of the American south. So let’s quickly run through exactly what “tradition” the Confederate flag represents.

First of course is slavery. And anyone who tells you the US Civil War was about something other than slavery is obfuscating. Sure, economic issues, inflation, whatever, but at the very heart of the southern economy was slavery. Take away slavery, you have no southern economy, and the economy was the foundation of the culture.

There were a couple of years after the Civil War when the victorious north imposed “reconstruction” — a short period when Black people could and did vote and elect Black men to state legislatures and the federal Congress. The southern white response to this was terrorism — the Ku Klux Klan was created specifically to terrorize Black people from being full citizens.  At the same time, southern governments instituted Jim Crow, a series of racist laws that effectively made it impossible for Black people to vote, created a two-tier system of public facilities — white and Black schools, white and Black hospitals, etc — with the Black facilities woefully inadequate and underfunded, and complete segregation of all businesses, restaurants, trains, etc. Once the north lost interest in the cause, Jim Crow worked; although Black people would continue to challenge the system and assert their rights at great personal risk, no Black politicians were elected in the south for a hundred years.

Alongside Jim Crow was the continued terrorism of the KKK and lynching. The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 3,959 lynchings in 12 southern states between 1877 and 1950 —  and presents the data in this graphic:

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 6.04.18 PM

The Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s, and was resisted by many white southerners at every turn. The state of Virginia where I grew up (among other states) closed its schools rather than allow Black children sit next to white children in the classroom.

Violence against Black people was a staple throughout the Civil Rights era — church bombings, activists murdered, firehoses turned on protesters.

In the wake of the Civil Rights movement, “redneck” culture reflected the culture of resentment, a rebellion against modernity and the recognition of Black people as full and equal citizens.

I grew up in the American south in the 1960s and 1970s. Let me tell you: southerners know exactly what the Confederate flag stands for: the “heritage” of hating Black people. The kids in my childhood neighbourhood spoke about it honestly and directly, as kids do before they learn to speak in code in public. The parents who flew Confederate flags were the same parents who used the n-word, said “Blacks were better off under slavery,” and otherwise found any excuse to belittle Black people.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a rebranding of redneckism, the introduction of code words and the absurd argument that the Confederate flag represented a “tradition” completely disconnected from the defining element of the south: that racism was and is at the core of its very being.

There is perhaps no better example of the rebranding of southern racism and the use of code words than Ronald Reagan’s 1980 “states rights” speech at Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where the KKK murdered three civil rights workers in 1964. Reagan’s speech was a direct appeal to racism — the “states rights” doctrine had long justified the federal government’s inaction and non-interference during Jim Crow.

The Dukes of Hazzard TV show ran from 1979 to 1985. In the show, two ol’ boys were seen as just a couple of fun loving guys doofusly making their way in the world. Their car was named the General Lee, but so far as I can remember, never was the racism of the actual General Lee ever discussed. By 1985, “redneck chic” was a thing.

The rebranding of southern racism as goofy, innocent fun worked. Around 1990 I was living in California and had a girlfriend, an otherwise intelligent woman from Indiana, who gave me a bandana with a Confederate flag on it, “because you’re such a rebel.” I had a long conversation with my girlfriend, explaining how the Confederate flag had been transformed into meaningless rebellion without a cause and treason without context, utterly disassociated from the violence against Black people at its essence.

The rebranding of redneck culture and code words aside, southerners know perfectly well what’s going on. Dylann Roof, the man arrested and charged with the cold-blooded murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, used the very same symbolism — the Confederate flag, a church shooting — that had long characterized white violence towards Black people.

Moreover, the language of Roof’s manifesto is to this day the everyday language of many white people in the south, and especially the language of those who call themselves “rednecks.”

The Confederate flag is beyond offensive. It is a symbol of slavery, of lynching, of race hatred — period. And “redneck” culture embraces it, fully and consciously.

The good people of Shelburne, the people who reject the racism of some of its founders, need to intervene and put a stop to this display of ugly race hatred. Why not embrace the other side of the history of Shelburne, those whites and Blacks who tried to live and worship together, but were attacked for it?

(direct link to this section)


The internet at my undisclosed location in the woods is moving at a snail’s pace this morning, making it impossible to get the ship info in in a timely manner.

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

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  1. Word is, it was a sunfish, a big ol floppy one-eye-to-a-sided fishy thing(in my defence I take pictures, not oceanography or biology).
    Which is great, because I want to go back there to surf Martinique again, and with my lack of grace out of my wheelchair and in my wetsuit, I would be easy lunch for old Chompy, out there.

  2. ‘direct link to this section’ – thanks! This makes me much more likely to share (and I did) because I think it’s too hard to explain to people how to find the part I’m telling them about, and I think people won’t make all that effort.

    1. Each main section– News, commentary, government, Noticed, On the harbour, and footnotes — is linkable with the navigation at the top of the post. I’m working on getting each subhead to be a link as well, but that’s taking some time.

  3. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us.” This is a speech given by CSA VP Stephens of the CSA about 90 days after the CSA was set up. There can be NO doubt as to what the primary cause of the Civil War was about, and what the flag stood for, and stands for.