We are into the home stretch of the Halifax Examiner annual subscription drive. If you are already a subscriber, thank you. If you are not yet a subscriber, please subscribe.
A few weeks ago, Jeremy Klaszus of the Calgary digital news site The Sprawl tweeted that he had been thinking a lot about a quote from LA-based journalist and editor Ariel Zirulnick:
“I think we need to take a step beyond ‘local journalism is good for democracy’ as the value proposition for local news into ‘what is the vision your community has for itself…’
It struck me that this is something the Examiner does. The publication has distinct points of view and makes an effort to listen to readers and reach out to the community. See Suzanne Rent’s series of community engagement sessions on housing, for instance. This is journalism worth supporting.
1. Residents near Robie Street have had enough
For years, Steve MacKay has watched cars crashing near his home at the corner of Robie and Stanley streets. Sometimes they crash into each other. Sometimes drivers plow into houses or power poles. In some of these crashes, like the ones pictured above, the occupants of the car walk away unharmed. Other times, people are killed.
MacKay has been chronicling the alarming frequency of crashes in the area for years — tweeting about it, taking and saving photos of the collisions, and trying, he says, to get action from the city through his councillor, Lindell Smith.
After a crash on Friday, MacKay felt he could no longer sit by and watch. Suzanne Rent reports that he got together with his neighbours set out to take concrete action to slow down traffic. She writes:
“First I knocked on the doors of the neighbours where it happened,” MacKay said. “I said, ‘Here’s what I want to do. Are you guys down for this?’ Then I just started knocking on neighbours’ doors. Some people were quite enthusiastic about it. Other people were, ‘Oh, don’t you think we should contact the city first about this?’ I’ve been contacting the city for five years about this.”
MacKay and several neighbours staged a protest on Robie Street Friday afternoon. They even gathered together five green bins and placed them in the middle of the intersection where the collision took place as an ad-hoc calming measure for the street. Cars and buses could easily manoeuver around the bins, and MacKay said drivers did slow down. MacKay also documented the protest on his Twitter account. …
“We’ve all been bugging the councillor about this and getting nowhere. It’s time to come together as a community and organize.”
I had two thoughts on reading this story. First, think about the enormous cost to the city that springs from the simple fact that so many drivers do not follow rules of the road, like the speed limit, or stopping at stop signs.
Second, these tweets from Halifax resident Sunil Sarwal, also written on Friday:
I think the real reason council has gone so hard against HMA [Halifax Mutual Aid] has nothing to do with their politics, the homeless or the shelters themselves — they don’t want the IDEA of direct citizen action to spread in HRM.
If people are allowed to build shelters, next they’ll be organizing to redirect traffic, or reclaim parks. The control the govt has only exists as long as we all agree it does. Through their actions, HMA has said “No” and Dubé recognized it as a challenge to his authority.
2. More turmoil at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
The resignations continue at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, with one former member of the organization’s governing council calling it “a shit show,” Stephen Kimber writes.
The latest resignations come from Josie McKinney, an Indigenous lawyer and full-time human trafficking prosecutor, and Dr. Rod Wilson, former president of the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Kimber quotes Wilson’s resignation letter, which says, in part:
… my experience at NSBS has been one shit show after another for the last two years. Having sat on many governing boards over the last 25 years, NSBS has been by far the most dysfunctional organization and least rewarding. This is not what I expected and [is] disappointing.
Kimber suggests the Lyle Howe case may be “ground zero” for the current problems. But the issues are broader. He writes:
Though details are sketchy, racialized members of the society allege they have often faced racist behaviour from their white counterparts. McKinney, in her letter of resignation, notes that when equity-promoting committees like hers attempted to bring under-represented voices to the society’s table…
“… this work has almost always been met with resistance at council, and at times, dismissiveness and hostility. [We] have been told we are slowing things down, pushing an inappropriate agenda, and detracting from the real work of council. It has been my experience that this often occurs outside of council meetings and is not visible to all of council… Publicly, council has said it is committed to the work of diversity and inclusion, to cultural competency, and to equity. It is in our policies, our strategic plan, and in public statements. [But] council’s words are meaningless if we are not prepared to take the time to listen to voices from equity-deserving communities and to truly commit to the hard work of equity, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.”
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3. Auburn Drive’s championship marks a milestone for officials and coaches
On November 13, Auburn Drive won the provincial high school football championship. But the game was also a victory for the coaching staff and game officials, Matthew Byard reports.
Dion Thomas-Hodges became the first Black head coach to win a Nova Scotia high school provincial championship, while Vince Williams, along with twins Andre and Anthony Williams, became the first Black officials to officiate a high school championship game in the province.
[Head official Vince] Williams has gone on to break numerous colour barriers by being the first Black football official in Atlantic University Sport (AUS); the first Black official to officiate the two national university semi-pro bowl games — the Uteck Bowl in 2013 and the Mitchell Bowl in 2017. And, in 2014, Williams was the first Black official to officiate the university national championship, Vanier Cup.
“I wanted to get back to football as it’s been part of my life for a very long time. Since I was seven-years-old I been playing football; minor football, then high school football, then university football, and then professional football in the arena football league in the United States.”
Locally, Williams said he played minor football for the Halifax Argos, high school football for St. Pat’s, and for Saint Mary’s at the university level.
““He’s probably the most experienced Black referee that we have,” said Cecil Wright, an African Nova Scotian sports commentator, ahead of calling the action that day for Eastlink TV. “The other two Williams brothers don’t have as much experience, but they’re very good. Very good referees, they both know the game of football inside and out having both played here at Saint Mary’s and won a national. So you can never question their football knowledge.”
4. Provincial weekly COVID-19 recap
Tim Bousquet recaps last week’s pandemic news in Nova Scotia. Another resident of the province has died, and 27 new cases were announced on Friday.
The province releases vaccination status figures on Fridays. Here they are for last week:
From Nov. 10 to Nov. 18, there were 239 new cases of COVID. Of those:
• 101 were fully vaccinated (a rate of 13.1 per 100K fully vaccinated)
• 0 were partially vaccinated
• 138 were unvaccinated (a rate of 87.6 per 100K unvaccinated)
From Nov. 10 to Nov. 18, 11 people were newly hospitalized. Of those:
• 1 was fully vaccinated (a rate of 0.1 per 100K fully vaccinated)
• 0 were partially vaccinated
• 10 were unvaccinated (a rate of 6.3 per 100K unvaccinated)
5. 532-year-old hemlock identified in Nova Scotia
This morning, CBC reporter Jean Laroche brings us the story of the oldest tree identified in the Maritimes. It’s an eastern hemlock in the South Panuke Wilderness area, near Hubbards.
To be certain about the tree’s age, the province shipped the sample to Mount Allison University’s Ben Phillips. Phillips is a dendrochronologist, or an expert in tree rings.
“This tree has 532 measurable tree rings,” Phillips said during a recent video chat. “I measured every single one of them under a microscope to a thousandth of a millimetre.
“Some of those rings only had two to three cells in width.”…
Peter Bush, manager of research at the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said the tree likely spent most of its life in the shade of larger trees, leading to the slow growth and resilience. It is sometimes why old trees are not the largest in any stand.
The oldest known tree in the Maritimes before this was a 465-year-old red spruce in Fundy National Park, Laroche reports.
1. Podcast on quilling hits the sweet spot
Over the last few days I’ve been binge-listening the Epekwitk Quill Sisters podcast, co-hosted by Cheryl Simon and Kay Sark. The two Mi’kmaw women were featured in October on CBC’s radio documentary show Atlantic Voice and then last week on the network’s excellent Unreserved, which is a “radio space for Indigenous community, culture, and conversation.”
Simon is from the Scotchfort Reserve on PEI and now lives in Dartmouth while Sark lives on the Lennox Island First Nation. The two met five years ago, when Simon taught an apprenticeship program in quilling at Lennox Island. Simon didn’t grow up quilling, but came to the art in her 20s. She told the CBC:
“This was the first thing that I did that really just flowed through me”…
“It was such an expression of who I am. And it ties together my connection with the land. I absolutely love it because it keeps me out harvesting. I’m out exercising my rights … it’s the epitome of being Mi’kmaq when I’m doing my quillwork.”
Sark, for her part, said:
“I’ve found my identity through quilling. I was not connected to my culture — to really anything — until I started to quill,” she said.
“I got out into the woods and I was connecting with nature and with animals. Then it was there.”
The weekly (with the occasional skipped week) podcast launched on May 17, 2021, with an episode called “How we became Mi’kmaq Porcupine Quillers,” in which Sark and Simon talk about how they came to quilling and explain the basics for listeners not familiar with the art.
The podcast hits that sweet spot of educational, interesting, and fun to listen to. As co-hosts, Sark and Simon have a lovely casual rapport. And they’re funny too, with Simon referring to herself at one point as a “natural born quiller.”
The podcast delves into issues specific to quilling (picking up and dequilling roadkill porcupines; sustainably harvesting birchbark; quill dyeing tricks and tips), practicalities many artists have to deal with (how do you price your work?) and broader issues, like the an exploration of the treaties between the Mi’kmaq and the British crown.
I was interested to learn that the McCord Museum in Montreal has an excellent collection of quill art, obtained by purchasing it directly from Mi’kmaw artists, and that some people believed that Catholic nuns had taught quilling to Indigenous people, rather than the opposite.
In discussing designs, inspiration, and originality, Simon says in one episode that designs are:
more about being a conduit with the ancestors. It’s not a design that I’m intrinsically coming up with. It’s a message, it’s a picture in my head, it’s almost like a request from the ancestors. So for me designing is more about being that conduit between the ancestors and the type of designs that Mi’kmaw people do, and being the one to put it on the bark.
Several years ago, I was visiting the Royal Ontario Museum, and a docent asked me if I was interested in the geology exhibits. I said, “not really.” She told me that’s what I thought, but if I saw them I would be interested.
Off we went, and after a half hour with her, I was utterly fascinated. If you think you are not interested in quill art, the Epekwitk Quill Sisters may do for you what that docent did for me.
2. More fondness for typewriters
Since then, I’ve heard from several people about typewriters. Scott Smith of SSP Publications sent me the photo above of his old Underwood. Describing it as “beautiful,” Smith wrote, “This machine taught me not to make mistakes.”
An old friend I haven’t seen in far too long sent me a picture of this manual Royal typewriter, saying he found it in a trunk in an old house he bought in the 1990s. He asked if I wanted it.
I jumped at the offer for purely nostalgic reasons. My dad had one of these — either this model or one that was very similar — in his office when I was growing up. Even at the time, it was something of a relic, because my dad was an early adopter of many office technologies. (I hate to think what he paid for that first fax machine.)
On Facebook, one friend, now retired, said that despite his master’s in sociology and long career, he realized that his Grade 9 typing class provided “perhaps the only vocational skill I ever truly had.”
I love everything about typewriters, but especially the sound of the key smacking the ribbon and paper, the bell at the end of a line and the rolling Crack of the carriage return!…
I miss my old typewriter.
I find it interesting that some technologies engender such fond memories, while others are discarded without anyone really missing them. There probably are not a lot of people fondly remembering their laser disc players (although surely there are some). Typewriters do seem to have a persistent appeal.
I was at an event called Expozine this weekend — a small press book and zine fair — and there was a typewriter with a sheet of paper in it on one of the tables. I should have stuck around long enough to see if it was going to be put to use.
The Star Halifax zombie Twitter feed reminds of Facebook notifications encouraging me to wish a happy birthday to long-dead friends. It’s an unfriendly dystopian reminder of something (or someone) that is no longer.
Let me back up for a minute.
Once upon a time, there was a newspaper chain called Metro. Metro published free dailies in many cities, including Halifax.
The English Canadian Metro papers were bought by Torstar, publishers of the Toronto Star, and then, in 2018, those papers became StarMetro. Here in Halifax we had StarMetro Halifax, or The Star Halifax. (Confusingly, the print paper and the online edition had different names.)
The following year, Torstar shut down the StarMetro papers, leaving a skeleton digital “bureau” in their place.
The Toronto Star is closing down all of the StarMetro newspapers across the country, including the The Star Halifax. Other papers affected include those in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. Seventy-three people, including journalists and those working in advertising and distribution, will lose their jobs. In Halifax, Star Metro staff are bureau chief Philip Croucher and reporters Yvette d’Entremont, Haley Ryan, Zane Woodford, and Taryn Grant.
(Woodford and d’Entremont are now staffers here at the Examiner; Grant and Ryan are reporters for CBC, and Croucher is at Global).
This is a huge loss for news in Halifax and beyond. Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) president Karyn Pugliese said in a release that each city “will now each lose a daily newspaper, and nothing will immediately replace that reporting.”
“Journalists know their newsrooms are likely to become smaller, and they know their jobs are rarely safe. The StarMetro expansion offered a lot of hope. Reporters who’d lost their jobs found new homes, and young reporters became voices for their cities. And they were only just getting started.”
Today, the Star Halifax is a website that describes itself in the summary you see on search results as follows:
Your home for Halifax news. More local reporters. More local stories. More investigative journalism.
The website itself says “Toronto Star” at the top of the page. As I write this, the homepage has a few Canadian Press stories related to Nova Scotia, a piece reprinted from Lighthouse Now by Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Kevin McBain, and a couple of pieces about climate change and the Arctic written by the outfit’s Atlantic Canada correspondent Steve McKinley.
This brings me to that zombie Star Halifax Twitter feed. I assume it is simply on auto-pilot, tweeting out stories written for an array of papers in the Star network. The thing is, most of the time there is no indication where these stories are from. And sure, some stories from elsewhere are of national import. But what is The Star Halifax doing tweeting oodles of local stories from tiny papers? Or sharing stories referring to “the province” when the province is not Nova Scotia?
A few examples:
“Supply chain crunch a ‘nightmare’ for local businesses.” Since this is tweeted by The Star Halifax, you might naively think “local” here refers to businesses in Halifax. But no:
Already scrambling to adjust to current supply chain woes prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses are now concerned with the potential effects record-breaking rainfall and flooding in B.C. — which have closed highways and cut off rail access to Canada’s biggest port — will have here at home.
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Barry Cooper said the biggest question coming out of the flooding and the ongoing struggles with the global health crisis is how these factors will impact the timing and distribution of supplies across the country…
The impacts of the closures can already be seen in Brandon.
Then there is the tweet from The Star Halifax that says, “Province pouring $2M into project to build tiny houses for homeless veterans.” Well, that’s great, except the province is Ontario.
And we have a piece on labour relations: “Province says teachers’ unions need to be more flexible as return to school looms.” Again, the province referred to by The Star Halifax is Ontario — something that was clearly not obvious to the several people from Halifax who commented, in the mistaken belief that the article was about Nova Scotia.
Some of the choices of what to share are truly baffling. The Star Halifax twitter feed has got you covered if you want to learn about a drama program for middle schoolers in Winnipeg, the winners of the Bill Thake Award (Cathy Sheppard from North Grenville, and Ken Watson, from Rideau Lakes — that would be near Smiths Falls, Ontario), or which Muskoka bakery had an employee test positive for COVID-19.
This all falls, depending on your temperament, somewhere between amusing and irritating. But there are also some heart-stopping stories that it would be nice to know were not local. You know, stories like: “QEII moves patients, postpones elective surgeries to set up COVID unit.” That’s alarming. what are the details?
From the story:
Queen Elizabeth (QEII) Hospital in Grande Prairie is transferring patients and postponing elective surgeries due to increasing pressures and rising numbers of COVID-19 patients.
QEII transferred seven patients to neighbouring healthcare centres on Saturday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) stated in a media release Sunday night.
“The announcement from AHS is absolutely concerning and disappointing to see,” said Jackie Clayton, mayor of Grande Prairie.
“This decision was not taken lightly; however, it is important to ensure the QEII has capacity available for COVID-19 patients who require care,” said AHS.
I realize nobody is deliberately pumping stories about the Regional District of Nanaimo board, or the opening of Tile Giant in Burlington, or how a public washroom in Prince Rupert is not yet available. It’s presumably an automated feed sharing stories to all of the accounts in the Star network. But — like the Facebook reminders to wish friends who have died a happy birthday — it’s a creepy reminder of loss, with the added twist of sometimes being dangerously misleading.
While writing this, I went to check the Star Halifax Facebook page for the first time. It says “Local stories covered by the journalists who live here…”— a bit of “doth protest too much” energy, I’d say. The Facebook page points you to what is supposedly the StarMetro Twitter account, but is in fact an account that has been suspended, and to a non-existent Instagram page.
Executive Standing Committee (Monday, 10am, City Hall) — also livestreamed
Waves of Change Training: Alcohol and Sex (Tuesday, 3pm, Seminar 7, Arts and Administration Building) — training module hosted by Jordan Roberts
In the harbour
06:00: Molly Schulte, container ship, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Fairview Cove
11:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, moves from Pier 42 to Pier 36
11:00: Dee4 Dogwood, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
13:00: Molly Schulte sails for sea
A couple of weeks ago in the Morning File, I said I was hoping the French tacos trend will eventually hit Halifax. I had not tried one of these concoctions, but was looking forward to having one while here in Montreal.
French Tacos originated in France. Here’s a description from an article published in April in The New Yorker:
Technically, the French tacos is a sandwich: a flour tortilla, slathered with condiments, piled with meat (usually halal) and other things (usually French fries), doused in cheese sauce, folded into a rectangular packet, and then toasted on a grill. “In short, a rather successful marriage between panini, kebab, and burrito,” according to the municipal newsletter of Vaulx-en-Velin, a suburb of Lyon in which the French tacos may or may not have been born.
I am in Montreal right now, and I’ve had French tacos twice in the last week. You can either pick from a set combination, or design your own, choosing sauce, meat (or falafel), cheese, and veggies. The melted cheese sauce is de rigueur. The first time I walked into the French tacos joint, the guy behind the counter asked if I had ever had them before, and when I said no he cautioned me that they came with fries inside the tacos.
That first time I went for a pre-set combo with Philly steak and barbecue sauce. The next time I was a little more adventurous, putting together a taco that included chicken nuggets, marinated chicken, fried onions, raclette, mushrooms, and more. It sounds like a disgusting mess, but I’ve got to say it was one satisfying and extremely enjoyable snack.
When I asked Arthur Gaudreau (aka Halifax ReTales) on Twitter when he thought the French tacos trend would hit Halifax, he said, “I don’t think it will.” I am hoping he is wrong.