June subscription drive
Last week, a subscriber shared this comment on Wednesday’s Morning File:
I came here to comment how the Examiner’s coverage of women’s issues makes it stand out, but then I realized that its coverage of women’s issues is because the Examiner stands out in *everything* it covers, and that tracks directly to an editorial attitude of following reporters’ judgement. This editorial attitude serves readers well.
We do cover a lot of women’s issues at the Examiner and that’s partly because Yvette d’Entremont, Iris the Amazing, and myself chat about such issues in our Slack channels. Sure, some of the women’s issues we write about affect us, but they also affect women we know. One of us may mention something and then we started digging to learn more. d’Entremont has covered issues such as heart disease, older women and intimate partner violence, and menopause.
Of course, d’Entremont reports on many other health-related issues, including mental health and COVID. You can read her work here.
If you appreciate this kind of coverage, please consider subscribing. d’Entremont is always digging up health stories, including those on women’s health, that are important to get out there because these issues affect many people we know.
1. German business magazine says green hydrogen project ‘looks more grey’
The article, written by Karin Finkenzeller after a month-long trip to Canada that took her from Montreal to Cape Breton, including to Point Tupper to see for herself the status of the project, appeared in the June 18 edition of Wirtschafts Woche (meaning “Business Week”).
As the Halifax Examiner did last September, Finkenzeller found the green hydrogen claims confusing and overblown, to put it kindly.
In September last year, the Examiner partnered with The Energy Mix and published two articles about EverWind’s green hydrogen proposal and the “hydrogen hyperbole epidemic” in Nova Scotia:
The Energy Mix and the Examiner tried very hard, and mostly in vain, to pin down EverWind on where it would get all the “green” energy it would need to produce all the “green hydrogen and ammonia” it claimed it would be producing and exporting to Europe in the first and second phase of the project.
As Baxter writes, like the Examiner, Finkenzeller didn’t have any more luck finding details of when the first phase of the project would be begin, although EverWind said it will be selling 200,000 tonnes of ammonia a year by 2025.
“Green hydrogen from Canada looks more grey,” states the headline on the Wirtschafts Woche article.
2. Province approves land for new housing
On Monday, Michael Gorman at CBC spoke with Colleen Cameron, the interim chair of the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society, about the 0.59 hectares of land the group received from the province to expand upon an affordable housing project with 12 units they opened a year ago. Gorman writes:
[Cameron] says a group that monitors the number of people in Antigonish and Guysborough counties who are homeless or in vulnerable living situations has a list with 280 people on it.
“That’s unheard of,” she said in an interview. “It used to be, when they started, you’d have eight, maybe 10 people.”
These days the community needs all the help it can get, said Cameron. With St. FX University, a regional hospital and general market demand all pushing the cost of housing beyond some people’s reach and limiting supply to a trickle, there needs to be other options.
The new housing will have 14 units for rent at 75% of the area’s market rate, including four units that are barrier free.
The group in Antigonish was just one group to receive land as announced on Monday. The other three groups are building housing in Halifax Regional Municipality:
- Affirmative Ventures – six detached homes on 1.25 hectares on Karen Drive, Westphal (PID 40204133 in the Province’s land registry)
- One World Building Association – 32 townhouses on up to eight hectares on Hammonds Plains Road (a portion of PID 40090367), plus future development potential
- Spryfield Social Enterprise and Affordable Housing Society – 48 residential units and commercial space in a mixed-use building on up to four hectares on Herring Cove Road (a portion of PID 00649012), plus future development potential.
“With the fires long extinguished and the rebuilding process slowly starting, some residents from the Hammonds Plains fire zone say partially burned up trees should be disposed of because they pose a continued fire risk,” reports Bruce Frisko with CTV Atlantic.
“Everybody would like to see it cleaned up,” said long time resident Frank Smith, whose family has owned land in the area for generations.
“Everyone I talk to is in the same boat.”
Normally lined by the deep green hues of summer, entering the fire zone on the Hammonds Plains Road is a bit like visiting a dead planet at the moment, with lengthy sections of charred timber and blackened earth.
Smith told Frisko after Hurricane Fiona, he and his son-in-law cleaned up a lot of the fallen trees around his home. Still, he thinks there’s enough left to start more fires.
CTV contacted the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables and in an email spokesperson Patricia Jreige said those burnt trees aren’t a risk.
“NRR develops reclamation plans for all fires on Crown land, including for the restoration of trails and roads. The department typically doesn’t have a role on municipal or private land. That role would fall to the municipality or property owner,” the email said.
“On Crown land, we typically allow nature to take its course in burnt areas and let forests regrow naturally,” said Jreige.
Frisko also spoke with Stuart Knockwood, the director of administration with Sipekne’katik First Nation, which operates the Sipekne’katik Entertainment Centre. That building was spared by the fires. Knockwood said they did a cleanup of fallen trees after Fiona, too. Knockwood told Frisko they were looking at plans to reforest the area.
CBC interviewed Colin Taylor who took a trip inside the OceanGate Expedition’s Titan submersible vehicle last year. The Titan was reported missing on Sunday after it headed out from St. John’s on its latest expedition last week:
“I will have nightmares about it, I’m sure,” said Colin Taylor, a former passenger onboard OceanGate Expedition’s Titan submersible last summer. “It’s not for the faint hearted to begin with, and it’s certainly not without risk.”
Taylor, originally from Toronto, went in the Titan last year with his son. The two made a successful trip to the Titanic, but he said it crossed his mind on multiple occasions that things could have gone differently.
“It’s shocking, and obviously very, very concerning,” he said of this week’s incident.
The Titan is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of the Titanic wreckage, about 370 nautical miles southeast of Newfoundland. OceanGate says the Titan has life support capacity for five people on board for 96 hours, or four days.
Kjipuktuk Shipping News tweeted about the search on Monday along with this photo of the sub.
Taylor told CBC that the sub dives for about two and a half hours and then will spend four or five hours exploring the wreck of the Titanic.
The depth level of the Titanic also means there is very little — if any — communication with the surface.
“The communications are almost nil and they don’t really know where you are on the bottom. It’s very, very difficult to triangulate where the sub is from the ship on the surface. And so you really don’t know where you are,” he said.
“You’re kind of at, you know, the mercy of the gods.”
Michael Haynes: How urban development, climate change have shaped Halifax’s hiking trails
A lot has changed in the hiking world and for hikers since Michael Haynes published his book Trails of Halifax Regional Municipality in 1995. Haynes now has a third edition of Trails of Halifax Regional Municipality, which was published by Goose Lane Editions of New Brunswick. This edition has 50 new and revamped routes that he said are fun, easy hikes for people interested in hiking and don’t know where to start. He considers this book a family-friendly hiking guide.
Haynes has written 14 books on hiking and cycling, and he’s now working on a revamp of his previous books about trails on mainland Nova Scotia and in Cape Breton.
But two factors — urban development and climate change — have changed some of those well known and not-so well known hiking routes the past couple of decades.
While the latest edition is now available at local bookstores, Haynes is hosting a launch event at the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall on Tuesday, July 4. I spoke with Haynes on Monday afternoon about his book, his favourite hikes, and how climate change and urban development have changed HRM’s and Nova Scotia’s trails since his first book was published.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Halifax Examiner: Why did you want to do a revamp of the book?
Michael Haynes: A couple of reasons, I guess. One, the last edition of the book was in 2010 and there have been quite a few changes in trails since 2010. One of the nice things that’s going on, particularly in the HRM area, is that there are so many new trails. So much has changed. When I wrote the first book way back in the 90s, I had to make stuff up. I had to go on old abandoned roads. I had to pore over topographic maps and find abandoned villages and things. In parts of the province, I had to invent things almost; routes people walked but that certainly weren’t maintained or well known. Even in the last 10 years, there’s been significant additions.
HE: Out of the new trails, what are your favourites?
MH: It’s funny, I always get asked that. It’s so difficult because one trail could be a thousand different experiences. Time of day, time of year, the company you’re with or whether you’re alone. The weather. All of those can really change things. Given my choice, I like mountains near the ocean. We don’t have too many of those here. And, of course, I deliberately didn’t do this book in a way that would satisfy me. My original title, which Goose Lane didn’t want to use, was Family-Friendly Hikes. I originally intended this for all people with young children who maybe would just like to get started and need some suggestions. Half the routes in the book are under five kilometres in length. Typically in the past, when I wrote my original Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia book, I didn’t look at any trail that was under four kilometres or at least an hour of walking. With this, I deliberately went the other direction.
HE: Is that because more people are getting into hiking or discovering hiking?
MH: A little of both. My ex-wife was from Azerbaijan, a big city Muslim girl and when she came to Canada, I had to learn a lot about introducing, in a way that would be fun, interesting, and non-threatening, Canada’s outdoors to someone who had never been in a canoe, virtually never seen snow. I learned quite a bit about making things fun, easy, and comfortable. I just know that for people to get started, there’s the old-fashioned tradition of people hiking too much and then they come back and don’t want to do it again because they’re sweaty, they’re dirty, they’re hot, they’re tired. I wanted to do something people could have fun with. Maybe you’ve got an hour before work and you just want to take a stroll. If you live in the Bedford area, I profiled the walk along DeWolf Park.
HE: Let’s talk about the urban development and climate change piece because certainly since the first book came out there’s a lot of changes around those two issues. What are some of the big changes you’ve seen hiking around HRM?
MH: Oh, just how much has been lost in the natural environment, the natural world. I often tell people to go to these places before they’re gone because of the pace of development. I’m afraid HRM’s pattern of development is, in many respects, very old-fashioned. I think people were talking about some of the perhaps mistaken development models, decisions being made long before fires ravaged through those areas. When I was in Ottawa, I worked for a non-profit and promoted active living in environmentally sensitive ways and I used to travel across the country doing these workshops on making communities walkable and bikeable. And we would talk about urban development and also liveable in the sense that it didn’t disturb the actual environment. And then I was part of the consulting team originally for the Open Space plan for HRM. Again, this development we’re doing that’s shutting down wildlife corridors is fragmenting the last few natural spaces we have around Halifax so that there’s no easy connection for plants and animals to get from one place to another. It’s very sad to see.
On a larger level when we talk about differences, the forest is a much more quiet place for songbirds and things from what I remember from 25, 30 years ago. The loss of warblers, loss of a lot of those migratory birds.
HE: Can you give me an example of a trail in HRM and how you’ve noticed it’s changed?
MH: I can speak to one that’s going to see a lot of change soon is the Shearwater Flyer Trail. You look at one of the areas slated for rapid development suddenly for supposedly affordable housing is basically going to crowd right up to the edge of that trail. That will be in the next few years.
When you look at the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness protected area, not too many years ago you could be in there and not see any of Halifax. I can think of one shocking thing I saw. There’s something called Castle Rock, not far from East River, just beyond Hubbards, just outside HRM. When you’re at the top of Castle Rock – and the Municipality of the District of Chester has built a trail there – you can actually see tall buildings of Halifax on a clear day. When I was up there and saw that, I had difficulty comprehending that at first.
HE: And what about climate change? How have you seen that change trails?
MH: You see it in a number of ways. That’s part of the challenge because none of them are terribly dramatic, unless you want to account for the storms. Things like Fiona and Juan. This came up when I was on the CBC phone-in in May, and Bob Murphy asked me that question, “What does this mean?” It didn’t seem quite as dramatic in the first 20, 30 years, but now it seems we’re one bad day away from any one of these trails being completely lost.
There are still some [trails] I know, not in HRM, but in areas that depend on volunteers, for example, up in Antigonish County. There’s a beautiful trail out there that still, the back third of it, they haven’t recovered from Fiona yet. They have to reroute it because the damage to the old hemlocks is so great. You see it in both little things and then sudden, dramatic things. Memory always makes us feel as if maybe it didn’t happen before or as frequently.
HE: How does this make you feel as someone who’s explored the forests and trails around the province?
MH: It makes me feel very sad. How could it make you feel otherwise? But it’s the path that we’re on. I was a climate change activist in the sense that back when Al Gore was doing his Climate Reality Project Canada, I took the presentation from Al Gore and David Suzuki in Montreal back in 2007 and 2008, and I even gave that presentation in Azerbaijan, here in Nova Scotia, Alberta, and other places. But I’m afraid I have become less optimistic and, of course, I’m older now myself, so I realized in my lifetime I’m not going to see improvements. I’m going to see the downward spiral. My determination is to see it and enjoy it as much as I can and try to encourage others to see it. It’s only by understanding what we’re losing that we will want to save it.
HE: Do you think this book will be a call to action for others?
MH: No, I don’t think so. I haven’t written it that way. I’ve done my share of travelling around and encouraging action in others. I will give an example of how it will encourage action. While I was researching the book and the Nova Scotia book, I was somewhere back in the McIntosh watershed area of Halifax. I come up over a hill and I have my GPS in one hand, and my digital tape machine in the other, my camera around my neck, and there are three young mountain bikers and they sort of look at me and ask what I was doing. One of the guys said, “You know what? When I was a teenager, I heard you on the CBC radio — and remember I stopped speaking on CBC radio regularly in 2003 when I moved to Ottawa — he said I heard you on the radio and he said I asked my parents to get me your book, which they did. And I said I would look through your Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia and I would find something that was interesting and on the weekend, I would ask them to take me out there.” He said, “That’s what got me outdoors.” Stories like that make it all worthwhile because that’s kind of how it came to me. I was in my 30s before I happened to start [hiking]. I was out in the Rockies and a friend wanted to go hiking and I was the pack mule sort of thing. When I came out, I didn’t understand at the time or realize that it would be something that would change my life because I was 31 and I hadn’t really hiked before. I thought this was incredible. Why had I not known about this? When I came back to Nova Scotia and there was no book, it was difficult to find information pre-internet days. I figured there were tonnes of people like me who would love to try it, just don’t know quite how to get started in a safe and easy way.
HE: So, how do people get started? If they read this interview or pick up your book, what are the first steps?
MH: You take it easy. You pick something fun. Hopefully the book will explain the type of experience you’ll enjoy when you’re out there and you try it. Or you contact Hike Nova Scotia. That exists, which didn’t exist before. Do what is fun, safe, and easy. You don’t try to do the mountain at first. You don’t go into the back mountain where there’s no cell phone reception. You do what makes you feel comfortable, you do what seems fun, and you see what you like.
HE: Do you have any hikes that you still want to do in Nova Scotia or haven’t done as often as you’d like?
MH: Yes, there’s one I always love doing and I’m looking forward to doing in Nova Scotia. I like to get into the remote areas. There’s one that I absolutely love just the two times I’ve done it. There’s a place in Cape Breton near Gabarus called Winging Point. If you steeple your fingers and hook your thumbs together at the bottom, on the outside of your fingers is the ocean, on the inside is Barachois Lake, and your fingers are this long, thin beach, not very wide, several kilometres in each direction. At the very tip of it, you’re sitting there pointed out toward the Atlantic Ocean and you can see this little island off with a little lighthouse. I’ve never seen a person there. I’ve seen birds there; some of the bird species that migrate through that I’ve never seen anywhere else but in that remote area. That’s the kind of thing I enjoy.
HE: Is there anyone else in Nova Scotia who’s been a great promoter of hiking in the province?
MH: Benoit Lalonde with the waterfall books. This is unfair to Benoit for me to say that he reminds me of me when I was 30 years younger, 40 years younger. Benoit is super enthusiastic. He goes all over the place. He just obviously throws his body into it and has fun doing it. His enthusiasm really shows up in everything he posts.
HE: What do you really want readers to get from this book, and not just this one, but the others you’re redoing?
MH: Just that there are places in Nova Scotia that they can see and they can discover all sorts of things. That you don’t have to travel. Back when I wrote the first book, part of the reason there wasn’t much of a hiking culture here is because people thought you travelled to the Rockies to hike or you travelled to Europe to hike. You can have a great week or more of travelling around Nova Scotia. You can be a tourist in your own backyard and find fantastic places to see here. Nova Scotia has elements of Africa and Europe in our topography right along the Cobequid-Chignecto fault. You can be in one province and three different continents in terms of the actual geology. Nova Scotia is really a fascinating place and there’s probably a lot more here than most of us recognize. And the other thing is we have no idea how lucky we are. There are not many places you can go like in Halifax and in 20 minutes you might not see another person the entire day. We just grow up with it and we don’t realize how lucky we are.
UPEI: ‘A childish, toxic place’
Last week, I was reading stories about a report about harassment, bullying, and the toxic workplace at University of Prince Edward Island. Kerry Campbell and Carolyn Ryan at CBC P.E.I. had this story on the report by Rubin Thomlinson, which was released last Wednesday:
The firm was hired after former UPEI president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz resigned in December of 2021, citing health reasons. Abd-El-Aziz’s resignation came after fresh allegations of misconduct were brought forward against him; he had been the subject of two previous complaints years earlier.
But Rubin Thomlinson’s investigation into those allegations is not included in the report UPEI made public Wednesday. A separate report on that investigation was finalized on April 28 and provided to the university, but has not been made public.
Insofar as the public report speaks to the allegations against Abd-El Aziz, the authors said that because of the university’s use of non-disclosure agreements with complainants who came forward, “we are unable to answer a key question that arises as part of our mandate: Did the former president engage in repeated sexual misconduct?”
Two complainants who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Abd-El-Aziz in 2013 were unable to be released from their NDAs despite extensive negotiations among the parties involved.
Thus, Rubin Thomlinson said it could not “provide the university with a clear picture of the former president’s behaviour or [UPEI’s] response to it.”
Campbell and Ryan write that Abd-El-Aziz’s contract was renewed in 2015, and again in 2018 and 2021. Abd-El-Aziz resigned in December of 2021 for health reasons, and after there were new allegations of misconduct against him. There were two other allegations from 2020. None of those allegations are mentioned in this report, but rather in another report that was given to the university, but was not made public.
Rubin Thomlinson learned that 29 people had signed NDAs over a 10-year period. They were able to speak with 13 of those people,
Here’s some of what the report’s authors heard via a survey it sent out to current students, current and former staff, and others.
A staff participant said, “It is a toxic work environment, where distrust is fostered and where managers point out the shortcomings of staff to their peers.”
A faculty participant said, “I have had students disclose to me that they feel or have felt unsafe because of actions by faculty or other students in the classroom setting with them. I have observed the impact of this lack of psychological safety in one of the classes I taught.”
A staff participant remarked that, “I was overworked, I didn’t feel supported, I was uncomfortable challenging decisions that I believed were deceitful.”
Another staff participant noted that, “Sometimes it is not a positive environment. It’s hard to explain but I often feel like I am walking on eggshells. Most times I always hear negative feedback and not positive feedback or no feedback at all.”
One staff member said that, “UPEI is the most miserable, soul sucking place of work I have ever experienced. Managers talk about other employees behind their backs to other staff members, harassment and bullying is acceptable.
A former staff noted that, “I have never worked anywhere that was less welcoming, or more intimidating, then [sic] UPEI. All the department [sic] seemed to be fighting with each other. It was hard to get anything done. Endless unanswered phone calls and emails to other departments. Lots of historical ego battles that seem to have been fought between everyone before I arrived that everyone was still licking their wounds from.”
A faculty member stated that, “There is an institutional acceptance of bullying at UPEI — some awful things got ignored — the University is a childish, toxic place.”
This is one of the most toxic working environments I have encountered, and I was in one of the ‘better’ departments.”
Then there are entire sections on issues around racism on campus that include use of the n-word on campus. Campbell and Ryan note this entry from the report in their story:
Given the relatively few racialized women on campus, we cannot provide even anonymized examples of what they have experienced because they will be identifiable. Suffice it to say, they described a state of affairs in which they were profoundly disrespected, ‘othered,’ and subjected to unwelcome conduct.
And the report details sexual and gender-based harassment and sexual and gender-based violence. You can read the report here, although chunks of it are redacted.
UPEI had this statement on its website about the report and had this in its response:
UPEI has zero tolerance for any behaviours or actions that are inconsistent with our values. We deeply regret that, as an institution, we have not always lived up to our values, and failed to create a safe, respectful, and positive environment for all members of the UPEI community.
A message from the university’s board of governors had this message as well that said it will create a plan to respond to the report’s recommendations as well as create a new position of “Vice-President, People and Culture, as a first step in developing a new organizational structure for the University.”
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place and online) — update on Seamless Canada Agreement; with representatives from the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs, Canadian Forces Moral and Welfare Services, and Strategic Canadian Armed Forces
Indigenous Plant Medicine Walk & Talk (Wednesday, 12pm, Indigenous Student Centre) — Herbalist Michele Graveline leads a walk around Studley Campus, with conversation and tea at the Centre afterwards; registration and info here
Of Cattle and (Wo)men: Animal Domestication and Gender Disparities in Sub-Saharan Africa(Wednesday, 3:30pm, McCain Building and online) — Lucienne Talba will talk; more info here
Mount Saint Vincent
Exhibitions (Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 3pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — from the listings:
Portals: until September 1
This exhibition of new work by Kayza DeGraff-Ford showcases their recent digital experimentation in virtual reality programming. Part of an ongoing story within DeGraff-Ford’s practice, this immersive installation features a cosmic aqua-portal via the humble entry point of bathroom plumbing. Channelling the literary genre of Magical Realism and exploring African diasporic and trans experiences, Portals takes the viewer through a healing wormhole in time.
Everything We Have Done Is Weather Now: until August 19
Lisa Hirmer’s gorgeous photographs of weather data bridge the divide between everyday conversations about weather and the enormity of the climate crisis, thereby helping to open up possibilities for imagining different futures for our planet. The exhibition is organized and circulated by the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and is part of The Weather Collection, a network of digital and in-person exhibitions, hands-on art making, research, and artist projects that use visual art to encourage creative perspectives on the environment and build new relationships with the future of the planet.
In the harbour
13:00: Don Pasquale, car carrier, moves from Pier 9 to Autoport
15:30: One Blue Jay, container ship (145,251 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for Dubai
16:00: Vive le Vie, yacht, sails from Foundation Quay for sea
16:30: Don Pasquale sails for sea
17:00: Alkea, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
17:00: East Coast, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
18:00: Atlantic Sealion, barge, and Atlantic Beech, tug, sail from Dartmouth Cove for sea
18:00: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from New York
This morning, I read this story by Frances Willick at CBC about how this season’s crop of strawberries are a bit late because of the dry spring. I bought a pint of local berries last night and ate half of them already.