1. Research on older women and intimate partner violence
“A new Maritimes-wide research project is aiming to find the best way to support the unique needs of women in midlife and older who are experiencing intimate partner violence,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.
Co-led by researchers at Dalhousie University and the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research at the University of New Brunswick, the project recently received close to $600,000 in federal funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“It just seems like when you say domestic violence, your thoughts don’t immediately go to someone who’s an older woman. You think of a younger woman, you think of someone maybe with children,” Dr. Lori Weeks, study co-lead and a professor at Dalhousie University’s School of Nursing, said in an interview.
“Obviously that’s a very important population as well. But we have an aging population, our demographics are shifting in our society. And I think that somehow we don’t always think about the needs of older women when we think about these kinds of services.”
Weeks said while there are organizations like Atira in Vancouver, B.C. that do a great job meeting the specific needs of older women, it’s “quite rare in Canada.”
“We are an aging population and we have a lot more people who are going to be seniors in the future,” she said. “We often have been very youth-focussed in the past. But we need to pay more attention to meeting the needs of older adults in the future.”
2. Walls at Little Dutch Church being restored
On Wednesday, I met with Jacqueline de Mestral, property chair at Saint George Church, whose parish also includes the Little Dutch Church at the corner of Brunswick and Gerrish streets, which is a National Historic Site.
De Mestral told me about a project to restore the walls between Gerrish Street and the church’s graveyard. The work started last summer and a portion of the old wall was replaced. A team of archeologists, architects, masons, and restoration experts worked on the project. Restoration of the remainder of the wall will start this spring.
De Mestral said they’re not sure how old the walls are, but they were likely built not long after the church itself (I got to see inside yesterday, the first time I had been there). De Mestral told me why the site is so important:
“The fact that people have been worshipping here for 250 years. Where people worship, God is. On one level, it’s as simple as that,” said de Mestral about why she loves the church and site. “It’s something about the simplicity of the place, the lines of it. There’s nothing ornate, there’s nothing ostentatious. It’s very real.”
“Obviously, it meant a great deal to original German Protestants who came here. Within a few years, they decided they needed a church. They’re our spiritual ancestors. It’s because of their efforts that we now have Saint George’s down the road. But that wouldn’t have happened if this hadn’t started here. I have been a parishioner there since 2010 but I am very attached to the round church, but this is where it all started.”
“A worker and advocate who took part in a rally in December in support of Black Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) workers joined a public discussion on inclusion and equity in the workplace where they said they are ‘going through hell’ with workplace racism,” reports Matthew Byard.
Raymond Sheppard and the worker, who the Halifax Examiner is not naming as they fear repercussions, were among more than 50 attendees at a Black History Month panel discussion Tuesday at Dalhousie University titled ‘Experiencing Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace: Challenges and Solutions.’
Sheppard and the worker took part in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
“They seem to think that these are the buzzwords of the year, equity, diversity, inclusion, and so on, and that is supposed to satisfy and appease us as a people,” Sheppard said at the discussion. “Quite often people of European descent and some other folk tend to use these as if they’re the calling from heaven.”
“It’s good if the words ‘equity, diversity, inclusion, tolerance,’ and the whole nine yards is put into practice not just said to be a word. Because the [Black HRM] workers that I work with … they’re going through hell and back with racism in the workplace.”
Sheppard also announced the date for a second rally to support the HRM workers. That will take place on Feb. 24 at noon in front of City Hall.
“Halifax councillors are looking at adding more staff to support their ambitious climate action plan,” reports Zane Woodford.
HalifACT, adopted in 2020, aims to make HRM’s operations climate neutral by 2030. It’s a set of actions, including retrofitting municipal buildings, electrifying the vehicle fleet, and decarbonizing the electric grid.
In November, municipal staff told council’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee the plan was just 30% on track at the end of fiscal 2021-2022. That’s an improvement over 20% the year before.
In order to get back on track, Environment and Climate Change director Shannon Miedema proposed at the end of 2021 to hire eight more staff in 2022-2023, another eight in 2023-2024, and then nine in 2024-2025.
5. Port Wallace development gets approval
“The provincial government has approved the fast-tracked Port Wallace development in Dartmouth,” reports Zane Woodford.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr approved planning document amendments on Jan. 26, and a development agreement between Clayton Developments and Halifax Regional Municipality on Jan. 31, according to HRM. The municipality placed an ad in the Chronicle Herald last Friday, Feb. 3.
The project will see up to 4,900 new homes built on a 220-hectare site in Port Wallace, off Waverley Road in Dartmouth. It’s one of the province’s special planning areas, along with the already-approved the Eisner Cove development and the Penhorn Mall redevelopment.
Gentrification and how we can all have our say in how communities change
Leslie Kern is an associate professor of geography and environment and women’s and gender studies at Mount Allison University. She also writes books about cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World, and her latest, Gentrification is Inevitable and Other Lies.
The Examiner has been reporting on the housing crisis through our series PRICED OUT (you can read our articles here), so that got me thinking about gentrification and the ways our communities are changing, for the good and the bad.
On Wednesday, Kern and I spoke about gentrification, how its meaning has changed over the years, and what we can all do when our communities start to gentrify.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Halifax Examiner: How do you define gentrification and how does your definition differ from what others might think of gentrification?
Leslie Kern: For me, I think of gentrification in terms of power. So, I think of it as the takeover of a space, such as a neighbourhood, by more powerful, usually wealthier groups of residents, businesses, and/or investors who makeover that space in their own image, for their own interests, or who try to extract some sort of profit from that space.
How I think that might be a little different from how people think of it? I think we, in day-to-day life, associate certain symbols to gentrification such as a fancy coffee shop opening in the neighbourhood or the kind of renovation and upscaling of the housing. And those can all be signs of gentrification, for sure, but it’s important, especially now well into the 20th century, to look at the forces behind gentrification and the policies that enable these kinds of takeovers of space.
HE: I read in one of your articles that people behind those coffee shops, craft breweries, and whatnot get the blame for gentrifying a neighbourhood, but it’s really about forces bigger than those folks.
LK: Absolutely. Those people can seem like easy targets. They’re the visual representation. But often, the person that’s opened a coffee shop is often not the billion-dollar pension investment fund that’s buying up swathes of rental properties across a region or an entire city, for example. I think we have to pull back our gaze from those individual symbols or signs of gentrification to look more widely at what are really the more powerful agents, corporations, and even city policies, and so on that are propelling the process.
HE: What are some city policies you think are behind gentrification? And do you have any Maritime examples you can speak to?
LK: A very common one is tax incentives for developers to encourage the building of new properties, for example luxury apartment buildings or condominiums. That just means developers don’t have to pay taxes on the land and they can pass that on to residents for a period of time. So essentially, there is no property tax coming in from that development. This can encourage this kind of rapid redevelopment of neighbourhoods through things like high rise apartment buildings. I think this is the case in many areas in the Maritimes where there is very little rent stabilization or rent control, this makes it very easy for the prices to increase with very little limitation on that. In a lot of provinces, the tenant legislation is generally skewed toward the landlord in terms of who has the power in these situations. So, that creates a framework where people are quite vulnerable to evictions and rapid price increases.
HE: I like the title of your book, Gentrification is Inevitable and Other Lies, but some people would argue that cities, and even suburbs, have to evolve. Is that gentrification or something else?
LK: It depends on what we mean by evolve. It is a natural occurrence in cities and suburbs that they change over time. That’s often what people like about city living. For example, that there is a kind of vibrancy, energy, and a life to the city. It’s not stagnant or stuck in the past or a more traditional time.
But the question is why gentrification, the increasing wealth and exclusivity of an area, the only direction of evolution that we can see? Why does that seem inevitable when, in fact, there could be multiple other ways for neighbourhoods to change and improve that don’t require gentrification as the means of getting there?
HE: Do you have an example, even outside of the Maritimes, of a neighbourhood or a city that has done this well?
LK: One of the things we’re seeing used more frequently is community land trusts where in order to kind of protect neighbourhoods or areas of cities from rampant speculation and redevelopment, gentrification, and so on, usually in partnership with the city, community organizations will be given the control, essentially, of a parcel of land and the properties that are on it to collectively decide what should be done with those, whether they should be sold or not, and who they should be sold to. And this is a mechanism for slowing things down a little bit and putting more control into the hands of the community. A well known historical example would be in Montreal in the area known as the McGill Ghetto, but it’s the Milton Parc neighbourhood where a community land trust was set up in the 1970s and it’s still going to this day to protect homes from redevelopment in what would be a prime area for that to happen in Montreal.
HE: How has the term gentrification and the process of it changed over the years?
LK: When the process was first described back in the 1960s in London, what was being observed was maybe a kind of household by household gentrification, in particular neighbourhoods where middle class or aspiring middle class homeowners would come in and very slowly over time, usually through their own labour, they would gradually renovate properties that had fallen into disrepair over time and restore those properties to their former glory, if you will. And this would tiptoe along until a whole neighbourhood might eventually be transformed. And it was a pretty slow process for the most part. The term gentrification, what it was at that time, was to signal the class transformation that was happening. So, the term gentry; the gentry coming in and taking over.
Fast forward, 40 or 60 years until today, we can still, in some cases, see that household to household change, but often it’s much more rapid and it’s not just individual homeowners deciding to move into the city, but it’s these range of pro-development policies that are facilitated by cities and highly desired by powerful investors and development corporations to not just transform a house here and there, but to takeover whole swathes of the city.
My hometown is Toronto and it’s had this ongoing condominium boom for like 25 years and we’re starting to see that in the Maritimes, too. I look around at Moncton, which is the closest city to where I live, and when I got here 15 years ago, there were a couple of condo buildings, but now there’s more popping up. Halifax, as well, has changed a lot, even in 10 or 15 years. That’s not a tiptoeing process; that’s a very sudden transformation that’s going to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of higher income homeowners into neighbourhoods that gradually start to change the entire character of those communities.
HE: What do neighbours lose when they’re gentrified?
LK: On a large scale, again if I think about cities that have been rapidly transformed by things like condo development and so on, there’s a homogeneity to it. Everything looks the same. The buildings are very similar. There’s no character or landmark, very little historical reference remaining in the landscape. All of the stores are global corporate brands that you can find in any city. There’s almost a placelessness that goes along with it.
On a more day-to-day level what that means for people is that the places where they could encounter their neighbours or the places where seniors would gather for a very lengthy cup of coffee or a game of dominoes or something, those spaces aren’t there anymore. So, there’s a loss of connection and interaction. That kind of support network is very important for people who are economically or socially vulnerable; seniors, working class folks, single parents, groups that need a safety net, if you will, a community around to help them make their way on a day-to-day basis.
HE: So, how do we design better communities that are more inclusive, have more character, and are still affordable?
LK: This is not a radical approach, but if we’re being pragmatic when we think about some of those new developments happening, new towers being built, new housing, we really need to ensure that governments insist that a portion of that housing is truly affordable, and affordable for lower-income people, not just affordable for dual-income middle-class families, but truly affordable. And ensuring that those developments have a variety of unit types. We see so many of these buildings, it’s one bedroom, maybe two-bedroom units. It’s very hard for families to live there or to stay there for long periods of time. So, you get a lot of turnover of young, single folks coming through and a lack of availability for families or larger households that want to live together. A variety of housing options is very critical for that.
And I think as part of that we also have to renew what might seem like an old-fashioned idea these days, but true social and public housing needs to be part of the mix. There will always be some people who will be left out of the private market for a variety of reasons, because they’re on income assistance, they have disabilities, they’re seniors on fixed incomes. True affordable public housing is necessary to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to have a home.
HE: If a community notices the first signs of gentrification, is there any way to stop that or at least be part of the process of how your neighbourhood might change?
LK: It’s challenging because often the first signs that you see mean that it’s already been underway for a while behind the scenes. I would say mustering community participation like when there are those consultation meetings for new developments to have the community show up, reaching out to pre-existing community organizations, whatever their work is, whether they work with homeless folks or in food security, domestic violence. All of these things are related issues.
So, getting community organizations to show up and to actually speak to what they need and want. Supporting organizations that are already doing housing-related work in the neighbourhood, that are helping unhoused people, that are fighting for affordable housing, or even seeking to build their own non-profit housing projects, whether that’s supporting them by throwing some money in their direction or volunteering your time or expertise. Any ways communities can come together to show that they care, that they have a vision for the neighbourhood can at least slow these things and give them maybe a little bit more of a say.
Reading some of the worst books of the past 50 years so you don’t have to
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to episodes of If Books Could Kill, a podcast hosted by Michael Hobbes and Peter Shamshiri who “discuss the airport bestsellers that captured our hearts and ruined our minds.”
Now, you don’t have to have read these books to have heard about the titles. Some of the books they talk about are self-help books like The Secret (which Hobbes and Shamshiri describe as “The Oprah-approved bestseller with three simple tenets: Science is fake, attitude causes everything and poor people don’t want to be rich”) and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The episodes on both of those books are the ones I’ve listened to so far.
Hobbes and Shamshiri dissect the ridiculous passages in each of the books, and it’s quite fun. Both The Secret and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, were huge bestsellers.
The episode on Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which was written by John Gray in 1992, was hilarious and infuriating all at the same time. As the hosts mention, the book was on bestseller lists for 200 weeks after Gray appeared on The Phil Donahue Show. The book inspired a syndicated TV talk show hosted by Gray and Cybil Shepherd, a Las Vegas show, a board game, and according to Gray, family court judges made couples read his book before they were allowed to get divorced. But Gray’s book, as the hosts mention, was just one of many, many books in the 1990s that were all about the ways in which men and women are different.
The hosts walk you through what they were thinking and feeling as they read the book. Gray writes about some issues he was having with his wife, including after she had their child, and how he got frustrated with her one day when she didn’t call and he didn’t understand how she was in pain. Basically, Gray spends a lot of time giving women advice on how to communicate with their men without emasculating them while making them feel appreciated.
Gray also recommends in the book that couples organize their relationships on a points system, listing actions with a number of points to award for each action (“That’s healthy, for sure,” Hobbes and Shamshir say).
Hobbes and Shamshiri also get into some of the scientific research about the differences between men and women’s brains and how there really isn’t that much of a difference at all. Gender is a spectrum, of course, plus, there are other factors connected to how people communicate with each other.
You don’t need to hold onto this binary that there are differences between men and women or that there are none, it’s all fake … just try to be nice. Treat people like people.
Anyway, this podcast is great stuff and an appropriate takedown of self-help nonsense.
Land Lease Community Project (Thursday, 6:30pm, Chocolate Lake Rec Centre) — snow date for Feb. 6 meeting
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Fitting African Centred Perspectives into Social Work Practice (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — panel discussion with Querida Quarshie, Talisa Boland, Chidiebere Maduakolam, Ayeshah Ali, and moderator Terrence Lewis; info and registration here
A Human Rights-based Approach to the New Treaty on Plastic Pollution (Thursday, 7pm, online) — Marcos A Orellana, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights, will talk
Not Now, Not Yet. Build Your Own Lockdown (Thursday, 7:30pm, David Mac Murray Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — a Devised Theatre Production until Feb. 11
Abortion Rights after the Fall of Roe vs Wade (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building, and online) — Joanna Erdman will talk
Thinking Outside the Career Box: The Journey to your Unique Creative Voice (Friday, 2:30pm, Studio 2, Dal Arts Centre) — theatre masterclass with Annie Valentina
Cuba, Africa, and Apartheid’s End: Africa’s Children Return! (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building, and online) — Isaac Saney will talk
Not Now, Not Yet. Build Your Own Lockdown (Thursday, 7:30pm, David Mac Murray Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — a Devised Theatre Production until Feb. 11
Portia White: A Vibrant Presence (Thursday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — video screening and panel discussion with George Elliott Clarke, Afua Cooper, Sylvia Hamilton, Sheila White, Abena Beloved Green, and Dawn Harwood Jones; refreshments provided
In the harbour
07:00: Kamarina, tug, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Pier 27
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 42 to Autoport
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
21:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
08:00: dead ship Atlantic Pursuit is being moved around in Sydney Harbour by the tug Lois M, in preparation for scrapping
11:00: Marguerita, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea
12:00: Algoma Vision, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry
Leslie Kern also has a Substack called Perfectly Cromulent, which are her essays about the self-help industry and advice. Take my advice and read it.