News

1. More Nova Scotians are leaning on food banks to get by

A Sobeys grocery store in December, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

As grocery bills keep climbing, more Nova Scotians than ever are going to food banks, reports Yvette d’Entremont.

Speaking before the provincial public accounts committee Wednesday, Feed Nova Scotia’s executive director, Nick Jennery, said inflated food prices aren’t causing the spike.

“The problem isn’t just that food has gone up,” he said yesterday. “It’s that income hasn’t kept pace. Almost twice as many people visited a food bank for the first time in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period last year.”

Small incomes are being stretched too thin, Jennery argued. In a survey of clients, Feed Nova Scotia found 85% were paying for housing that was unaffordable for their means (more than 30% of their income). He urged the province to make minimum wage resemble a living wage and create policy that reflects the belief that housing is a human right, not just a financial asset. Otherwise, more and more Nova Scotians will be expected to get help from food banks: a “band-aid solution,” said Jennery.

Food costs are having other impacts too. School food programs are burning through their budgets, people are having to choose between paying for medicine and paying for food, and farmers are feeling the pinch as it becomes more expensive to produce food.

Nova Scotia had some of the worst food insecurity in the country before prices started to rise. Now, as the problem grows, it’s going to get worse.

Read the full article here. 

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2. Good as gold? Here are 14 metals that are better

There are 14 metals, or  critical minerals, that are essential for the province’s transition from carbon-based energy to cleaner, mineral-based energy. That’s according to a draft list created by the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables.

They are: cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, graphite, indium, lithium, manganese, niobium, rare earth elements (REE), tantalum, tin, tungsten, and zinc.

Missing from that list: gold.

And that’s strange, since gold is the only metal we currently mine in Nova Scotia. In fact, the province is in the middle of a fourth gold rush.

Actually, maybe it’s not strange that gold’s not on the list. The metals listed above are meant to aid humanity in the fight against the climate crisis (though mining alone won’t help) and clean up our environment. Considering that Atlantic Gold — the company that owns Nova Scotia’s one and only operating gold mine — has a checkered legal past when it comes to the environment.

So why has the province been doubling down on gold in recent years? Handing out grants and exploration licenses for gold miners, as four new open pit gold mines are being planned for Eastern Shore?

Joan Baxter continues her mining coverage today with a look at why gold won’t be a part of the transition to clean energy, and what metals could be mined here instead, as we race to fight global warming.

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3. Class action: the armed forces and systemic racism

Rubin “Rocky” Coward is a former member of the Canadian Air Force and is one of four plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Armed Forces for for systemic racism and institutional discrimination. Photo: Rocky Coward

A class action lawsuit has one plaintiff “extremely optimistic” that systemic, institutional changes are coming to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) that will root out racism in the military.

Rubin “Rocky” Coward is one of three plaintiffs suing the CAF for systemic racism and institutional discrimination they say they faced within the Canadian military.

“We’re not asking them to do this, we’re demanding this,” Coward told the Examiner’s Matthew Byard in an interview.

Coward, who is Black, is retired from the air force. He said his time there was full of bouts of racism.

“When I finished serving in Germany back in 1990,” Coward said in an interview, “I went to Greenwood and I faced systemic racism there for three years, and I ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder.” One of the other plaintiffs, Wallace Fowler, also got PTSD from his experiences with racism.

Now — among other things — Coward wants to create an external review authority that will function “like an oversight for the Canadian Armed Forces as it relates to systemic racism and institutional discrimination.”

Matthew Byard has the full story here of  what the plaintiffs are arguing, and what they’re seeking from this class action suit.

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4. Mass Casualty Commission: what Norway can teach us about preparing for the unthinkable

Bjorn Ivar Kruke (right), a prof at Norway’s University of Stavanger, speaks with Mass Casualty Commission staffer Krista Smith on June, 1, 2022.

“On July 22, 2011 a right-wing terrorist set off a bomb in a government district of Oslo that killed eight people and severely injured nine others. Within two hours he had driven to a summer camp hosted by the Norwegian Labour Party on the island of Utoya, where he gunned down 69 children before being arrested by the police. The massacre was a shock for Norwegians on the scale of what Nova Scotians experienced with the mass murder at Portapique.”

Jennifer Henderson writes this morning about a roundtable discussion hosted by the Mass Casualty Commission, wherein Norwegian professor Bjorn Ivar Kruke spoke about how to prepare for critical situations like the Oslo bomb attack and Portapique.

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5. Tideline

Hello City. Photo: Contributed
Five years ago, an idea was born and named after a Barenaked Ladies song about how Halifax sucks. Hello City has been delighting Halifax audiences with its open, supportive, good-natured humour—heck, last summer they were the only pandemic entertainment in town—and friendly, charismatic cast. Liam, Stevey, Gil, Peter, Colin, and Henri—with regrets from Beth and Shahin—stop by for their fourth Tideline appearance (and sole improv-free visit) ahead of this weekend’s sold-out anniversary show at the Bus Stop. Find out how they all met, got started, and keep going.

Listen to the latest episode of Tideline here.

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6. Parking fines and local shopping

A parking pay station in Dartmouth in September 2020. — Photo: Twitter/@hfxgov

Hate paying for parking in Halifax? But hate paying parking tickets even more? Then has the municipality got a deal for you.

In a news release, HRM announced a new “ticket forgiveness program” that’s meant to support local businesses.

“In support of business recovery, the Halifax Regional Municipality is advising residents of a parking change that will be in effect from June 1 to September 30. During this time, residents that make a $35 purchase at a business and receive a parking ticket for a pay station violation at a municipal parking location may be eligible to waive their parking ticket.”

There are caveats.

You can only make this local shopping claim once a week. It only applies to street parking spots, not private lots or spots where it’s illegal to park. Receipts from delivery services don’t qualify. And you have five days to submit your receipts online.

So I guess once a week you can park for free so long as you pick up an artisanal blanket or a quick lunch downtown.

The program went into effect Tuesday and runs until September 30.

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Views

Losing their religion

Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Newfoundland. Photo: Facebook/Robert and Lynn Young

In March, Suzanne Rent reported on a growing trend in this province of repurposing churches.

“As congregations in churches in Nova Scotia get smaller, people are buying up the buildings and transforming them into homes, businesses, or community spaces,” she wrote. “But renovating a former place of worship comes with its rewards and challenges, for the owner and the community.”

In another province, a whole slew of churches could be repurposed soon. At the very least, they’ll be sold. It will come with very little reward, only challenges. And shrinking congregations aren’t to blame.

At noon today, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s will stop taking tenders for the sale of 18 parish churches in eastern Newfoundland. That doesn’t include a number of other properties Whether some or all of those properties will be repurposed, redeveloped, or repurchased by parishioners is uncertain. The only certainty is that money generated from the sale will go directly to the compensation of victims who suffered abuse as children at Mount Cashel Orphanage; that’s likely over a hundred people. Abuse that went on for decades, stretching as far back as the 1940s.

Some compensation has already been paid to victims since the orphanage closed in 1990. (It was demolished two years later). The province, which helped cover up allegations in the 1970s and 1980s, paid $11 million to 40 survivors out of court, and the Christian Brothers, who ran the orphanage and saw nine of its brothers convicted after 87 charges were laid in 1991, were forced to pay $16 million to 83 survivors in 2003. The payment bankrupted the organization.

Now, the Archdiocese of St. John’s is finally being held to account, and will pay out the rest of the compensation to victims. It could cost upwards of $50 million to do so.

The Church has now emptied the coffers of its congregations (community money) and is liquidating its assets (community churches) to pay that bill. Food banks that run out of these churches are now uncertain about their future, community-raised funds have been lost, and buildings like the St. John’s Basillica – the defining feature of the St. John’s skyline – will be sold off. Many churches, which acted as town hubs, could become apartment buildings or businesses. It’ll be up to new owners.

In an effort to keep these churches, the Archdiocese has had the audacity to encourage parishes to fundraise to buy them back. Some are trying to do just that. Others are giving up. 

The Vatican won’t pay one penny. The St. John’s flock is on its own.

A lack of self-imposed accountability on the Church’s part is harming the community in a whole new way, three decades after Mount Cashel rocked it to its core. No doubt, the Church itself is being harmed too. To paraphrase that institution’s favourite book, it is about to reap what it has sown.

Younger generations will have even less incentive to become involved in a Church that already feels irrelevant. Older generations – which make up the majority of these congregations, let’s be honest – may finally move on. And the Catholic community’s days in Newfoundland might be numbered. Forget the financial hit.

In today’s world — where reconciliation, reparation, and atonement for the past are a constant part of public discussion — the Church’s refusal to be open, transparent, and responsible for the deplorable acts of those under their authority shows how complicated and damaging that process can be. The Church is now alienating its staunchest supporters, and will potentially become a thing of the past in the St. John’s region because of it.

Writing about the 30 year anniversary of the scandal for the Cape Breton Spectator in 2019, Dolores Campbell (herself a Catholic) saw this happening.

I recently met a fellow Catholic — a woman who attends mass not weekly but daily, is very involved in church activities, has served as a Eucharistic Minister for years and is a loyal member of the Catholic Women’s League — who, with no prompting from me, told me she was seriously considering whether she will continue to attend church.

What prompted this possible decision was an interview she’d heard with a Mount Cashel survivor, part of a CBC Atlantic Voice documentary marking the 30th anniversary of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s decision to re-open an investigation into allegations of child abuse at the Mount Cashel Boys’ Home, an orphanage operated by the Irish Christian Brothers in St. John’s. The investigation was re-started on 15 February 1989.

You may have heard a number of Newfoundlanders emotionally echo this sentiment when speaking with the CBC on yesterday’s edition of the Current.

I wonder if Pope Francis or any of the organizers of last week’s conference of bishops on sexual abuse recognized the significance of the date? It’s possible it was lost in what one writer called the “hurricane of abuse” that has hit the church over the past 30 years — a hurricane that does not seem to have blown itself out in any discernible way so far.

All the Pope’s progressive (at least for the Church) leanings on sexuality, income inequality, and the environment will be rightfully overshadowed by the cascade of scandals he and his institution have refused to make amends for — he is only this year planning to visit Canada to apologize for residential schools — or actively tried to cover up. And the Church should deservedly suffer for it.

The Church is sadly abandoning the communities that rely on churches as town centres, and it will likely be abandoned in return.

The larger tragedy, of course, is the systemic abuse that forced so many children to “put away childish things” and face the darkest realities of the adult world with no protection from those who were supposed to care for them. The abuse, horrendous in itself, caused personal trauma that robbed too many of both their childhood and a healthy adulthood. No amount of money can change that.

The community collateral of lost churches pales in comparison.

The brutality of the brothers was “like something you’d see in a concentration camp,” one man who’d survived Mount Cashel told Patrick Butler in a heart-wrenching CBC article published Wednesday.

“I don’t like hurting people,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do that. But the church is responsible for this, so the church has to pay. You know, if it means taking the churches and schools to pay for that, so be it,” he said. “It’s necessary for me. I think it’s necessary for the other boys.”

A 1994 documentary from the CBC Archives shows the heartbreaking toll Mount Cashel took on the children who went through the horrors there better than any article I’ve read. Watch even five minutes, and the sad story of selling off community churches becomes a drop in the bucket.

For an institution whose key tenet is forgiveness, the Church never made meaningful steps toward attaining it until it was forced to. For years it actively tried to keep its transgressions hidden, as it’s done in other places around the world — Mount Cashel being one of the first to be exposed. But what was done in the dark continues to be brought to the light.

Catholics can keep their faith in God while losing their faith in the Church, and losing their churches. Maybe it’s best they let that happen.

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Noticed

The province is fast-tracking developments around Halifax, removing public consultation and bureaucratic approval processes in nine areas around the municipalities. The Examiner has reported on some of the environmental concerns, like those in Eisner Cove and Port Wallace.

Last week, PLANifax released a video on the “special planning area” in Sandy Lake.

It includes some beautiful images of the area that could soon be lost to developments, none of which are guaranteed to be affordable, and none of which the public has any say in.

The province needs new housing stock, there’s no question. A recent virtual news conference discussing the point-in-time count in Halifax highlighted this dire need. As Zane Woodford reported this week, opening hundreds of apartment units tomorrow wouldn’t even immediately deal with the record number of homeless in HRM:

“Homelessness is not a one to one, kind of zero sum game,” [street navigator Eric] Jonsson said, noting that when new shelter beds or modular units become available, people flock to them.

“If you want to go from 586 people who are homeless to zero, you need a lot more than 586 new apartments. You need probably three or four times that.”

But is that an excuse to destroy pristine land in the name of new housing? Right now only Minister John Lohr can decide. Watching PLANifax’s video, and taking in the natural beauty of Sandy Lake, it seems like we should have a little more debate before we steamroll an irreplaceable parcel of greenery so close to Halifax’s metro area.

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Government

City

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:30: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York, on a four-day roundtrip cruise
10:00: NYK Remus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
11:30: Oceanex Avalon, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
19:00: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York
21:30: NYK Remus sails for sea

Cape Breton
15:30: Seven Seas Navigator, cruise ship with up to 550 passengers, sails from Sydney Marine Terminals for Halifax, on a 10-day cruise from Montreal to New York
18:00: CSL Argosy, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
18:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, sail through the causeway en route from Charlottetown to Aulds Cove quarry


Footnotes

  • America’s legal system is now on the hunt for its next big primetime hit. If you’re taking a trip to the States this summer, bring your dirty laundry and become a star.
  • Two days into June and I’ve yet to see a June bug. Let’s make it three.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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