On campus
In the harbour


1. Macdonald Bridge

Photo: Tim Krochak / Local Xpress
Photo: Tim Krochak / Local Xpress

Local Xpress columnist Paul Schneidereit and photojournalist Tim Krochak have produced an explainer for the Macdonald Bridge rebuild.

I’ve never liked “The Big Lift” moniker — it doesn’t adequately describe what is being done. As I understand it, the bridge is being almost entirely rebuilt: with the exception of the two giant towers, the two big orange cables stretching across the harbour, the “cable bents” and the concrete piers on either end, every other bit of the bridge is being replaced. Although the new deck will be about a metre higher than the old deck, it’s not just a “lift.” And “redecking” implies a much smaller project than what’s being done. What’s wrong with just calling it the Macdonald Bridge rebuild?

Anyway, Schneidereit gets into many details in a degree that’s been lacking heretofore. He explains the cable crawlers, answers the question about whether the new deck sections are already eroding, and — to my read anyway — tells us the potentially alarming reason for the long delays in the initial work:

After work to replace the old bridge span had begun last fall, what happened next surprised [chief bridge engineer Jon] Eppell and his team. That’s because the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge structure reacted slightly differently than expected.

They knew the extra weight of the lifting gantry (LG) and temporary deck connections (TDCs), as well as the reinforcing for the old stiffening trusses, would pull down on the main cable above the Dartmouth side span. They also knew that would pull the main cable up slightly on the main span.

But, said Eppell, “our prediction of how much it would dip was off a bit. It dipped a little bit more, but the interesting thing was it rose up on the other end more than we had anticipated.”

That caused the deck itself to pull away from the expansion joint at the Halifax-side bridge tower.

“It wasn’t a problem until we (would have) got into the cold of winter, because with temperature (dropping) the bridge also shrinks.

“If you take into account the deck was lighter than we anticipated, and it went down more here (on the Dartmouth side) and up more over here (on the Halifax side), combined with the cold temperatures, then it became a concern.”

The worry was that if the deck pulled away from the Halifax tower more than the expansion joint was designed to handle, an uncomfortable dip — though not dangerous, says Eppell — could have been created in the roadway there.


Thanks to the extra load from all the equipment — the LG and TDC alone weigh about 90 tonnes — the Halifax tower expansion joint had opened up by about 50 millimetres, close to two inches, more than normal.

I’ll just trust Eppell on the “not dangerous” part, but evidently workers had to scurry to prepare for the worst:

A solution — additional supports under the expansion joint — was designed last fall and installed at the end of December, said Eppell.

That would explain why there were agonizing delays after the installation of the first few new bridge segments.

2. Grassy Narrows

My friend and former colleague Hilary Beaumont moved to Toronto last year to join the Vice team, and she has been producing good work ever since. Yesterday, she published a piece about the deaths of two indigenous girls from the Grassy Narrows Reserve in Ontario:

Azraya Kokopenace writhes on the grass, trying to free herself from the grip of a male police officer. The cop struggles to subdue the slight 14-year-old, grabbing her hands and holding them together as she cries out.

The man recording the incident on his phone calls out repeatedly for the cop to get a female officer. According to family members, someone called police because the girl appeared intoxicated.

The video viewed by VICE News shows the officer pin the girl down with his knee, before a female colleague appears to help him. Then another male officer moves between them and the camera. That’s when the video ends.

Three weeks after the video was recorded, Azraya’s body was found directly across the road from the hospital where police had, according to family members, checked her in two days earlier.

She had hung herself from the branches of a tree. The roof of the hospital is visible from the foot of the tree where she died.

Following the death of the teenager in mid-April, the video is now making the rounds on the Ontario reserve of Grassy Narrows.


1. Cranky letter of the day

To the Pictou Advocate:

May 9, 1992 was vivid for those who gathered at the Westray monument on Monday to mark the day when 26 miners died in a local coal mine explosion.

Nearly 30 people observed the 24th anniversary at the informal gathering, although people can express their sentiments without travelling to the monument site.

Glen Matheson, the retired minister who was among clergy assisting those affected by the explosion, has noted how people are considerate about keeping the event respectful and low-key in non-milestone years.

That was evident in remarks shared on Monday by Colleen Bell, whose brother-in-law Larry Bell was among the fatalities.

Past fatalities have made people mindful of the hazards of underground coal mining before the Westray mine opened in 1991 in Plymouth.

Fewer of those people who experienced the disaster and its aftermath on that Saturday morning in 1992 are either thinking about it today, or are no longer with us. The following for the observance rises and subsides with the calendar.

The 25th anniversary observance in 2017 will likely be a more significant event, as the 20th anniversary one was.

Much discussion about the monument site and its location has taken place over the years. It is located in a park at the junction of Park Street and Walkerville Road in New Glasgow and features lush green grass with trees and shrubs that have been maturing at the memorial site.

It is located where it is for a reason, directly above the underground workings where the explosion killed most of the miners.

Efforts to keep the place tidy have been challenging. It’s in the way for some people who live or frequent the area, but it belongs there.

Students and staff attending North Nova Education Centre that is located nearby have had the best opportunity to take solace and ownership of the site, alongside those who stop by on May 9 and other days to pay tribute to the 26 miners whose names adorn the monument.

Remembering Westray matters. Every time there is a mine disaster elsewhere, there is a connection with Westray.

Real change leading to safer mining practices remains elusive. An inquiry following the disaster found that the owner and managers were responsible for dangerous conditions at the mine, but the Crown’s attempt to prosecute any of the employers did not go well.

Legislation designed to direct blame where it belongs has been of relatively little consequence.

Until those days come, the least we can do is apply the remembrance that leads to resolve to make things right.

Steve Goodwin



I haven’t had much to say about the Cornwallis issue because I find the whole thing so god damned dispiriting.

Before moving to Halifax, I lived in northern California. In the 1860s and 1870s, along the western flank of the Sierra in Tehama County, white settlers completely eradicated the local Yahi people. Because every detail was recorded in the half-dozen competing newspapers published in the Sacramento Valley towns, it is very likely the best documented instance of genocide in North American history. I would sit in the library at Chico State, pull up the microfilm for the Red Bluff News or the Chico Record, and read first-hand accounts of the posses, often led by a maniacally murderous madman from Ohio named Hi Good, who would head up into the hills in search of blood. These were not battles, but simple slaughter — 70 or 80 people killed at one village, 25 gunned down while hiding in a cave, like that. And there were dozens and dozens of such “raids.”

The men would justify the murder of children with the oft-repeated phrase “nits will become lice,” and so I spent a couple of weeks tracking that particular line down. I learned that it had originated at least 300 years before, used to justify killing indigenous children on the east coast, and that it had been carried across the continent, generation after generation for three centuries, a moving linguistic line of perversity.

When I was reading about the genocide of the Yahi, I found advertisements in the Sacramento Valley papers for scalp bounties. The ads promised $10 for the scalps of “braves,” $5 for the scalps of “squaws,” and $2 for the scalps of “papooses.” In my mind, I envisioned another horrific line moving across the continent, a 300-year advance of scalp collection. I mentioned this to an older friend, and was told that as late as the 1960s there was an American Legion hall in Quincy that displayed scalps behind the bar. I never verified that, but it didn’t strike me as implausible.

The conquering of a continent is one ugly business. Which brings me to Edward Cornwallis.

As elsewhere, in Nova Scotia the indigenous population was used as a proxy in the wars of two colonial powers jockeying for position. Whatever ill fates happened upon the English or French paled in comparison to the horrors inflicted on the locals — by 1749 the science and mechanics of genocide, having been honed for centuries, were well understood. There was nothing new about Cornwallis’s scalp bounty; it was a normal part of the conquerers’ tool box.

I went over the other day and looked at the statue of Cornwallis, and read the plaque:


It reads:

After an active career in the British army, Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, was appointed governor and captain general of Nova Scotia in 1749. Ordered in that year to establish a fortified settlement as a buffer between New England and New France and as a counterpoise to the Fortress of Louisbourg, he arrived in Chebucto Bay with a large body of settlers and proceeded to clear land and lay out the town of Halifax. He returned to England in 1752 leaving behind the beginnings of a thriving town. He later resumed his army career and in 1762 was appointed Governor of Gibraltar.

There’s so much missing from that plaque. First of all, is that all it takes to be considered a “founder” of a place? The Board of Trade may as well be called the founder. To my way of thinking, the rightful founders of the city were the men and women — many of them slaves — who actually built the place with their sweat, muscle, know-how, and determination.

But more importantly, the plaque misses the people who already lived here. We white people play these absurd word games to explain how the settler population was justified in taking the land: The indigenous people didn’t really live here, we’re told, but only “camped” here part of the year (you can use that argument to say they lived nowhere at all, so never truly existed in the first place). They didn’t make the best use of the land by cultivating it (an odd argument for a primarily seafaring people to make). They did horrible things to white people, too! (a particularly interesting morally relativistic point of view that could be used to show how the Nazis and Canadian armies were exactly the same, as each did horrible things to the other).

But here we are, and indigenous people are still living here, still part of the community, still alienated, still dispossessed. Is simply acknowledging the conquest too much to ask? Is it beyond our understanding that the man who offered the scalp bounty locally is an affront to people who might want to use the playground next to his statue? Is our self-worth so fragile that framing our historical myths is more important than looking our indigenous neighbours in the eye?

My fellow white people sure can be ugly, cruel, and, in the end, pathetic creatures.

(direct link to this section)



No public meetings.


Legislature sits (9am-1pm, Province House)

On Campus

No campus events today.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Friday. Map:

1:30am: ZIM Texas, container ship, sails from Pier 41 to sea
3am: Halifax Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
6am: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
6:45am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
7:20am: Dinkeldiep, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint-Pierre
11:30am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
11:30am: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
4:30pm: Dinkeldiep, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Saint-Pierre


Supposed to be nice today.

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

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  1. Public and global awareness of historical activities is not treated justly when when politically correct biases in the future are used to hide away or subvert the realities of the past. If a historical event or era is not being told accurately or fully, then the appropriate response should be to correct the deficiencies and do a better job of presenting accurate recollections of the past in an unbiased manner. Past events can be educational, but only if these histories are accurately presented for public consumption.

  2. My soul, where to start.

    We have ministers of health and finance who should probably be procesuted under Bill C-45, also known as the Westray Law, for allowing a pulp company to run a mill with failed emissions controls and poison the town of Pictou (unlike what was allowed to happen in Torrance California). Ironically/tragically, Westray and Northern Pulp are located in the same county, of all possible locations in this country. The same mill which has been running it’s effluent into Boat Harbour – nothing at all like Dryden/Grassy Narrows First Nation though. All this happening in the present in our own province. And what are we directing our limited time and energy on? A 250 year old crime. The people of this province sure knows how to pick their battles. I could go on a really vicious rant, but I’m on a tablet. Additionally, who the fuck cares?

  3. The Cornwallis “debate” is at the heart of what a progressive socity should be.

    It is not developing an app that whitewashes history, it is not how many shiny condos we put up downtown. It IS how we choose to deal with the injustices of our history. Surely Canada’s original sin is how we’ve constantly diminished our aboriginal communities.

    Some or our more ignorant city councillors showed their ignorance at council and in the media.

    Everyone should read or listen to Rebecca Thomas’ poem of reconciliation.

    History continues to happen to our First Nations people and if People like David Hensdbee think it is ridiculous to try to rewrite history well……

  4. Tim I’m going to have to take into consideration your assumption that many of the people who built the city in 1749/1750 were slaves.. I have never come across any documentary evidence that there were slaves on the original six-8 ships that came from England with Cornwallis or for that matter in any of the Victualling lists which exist from that period between 1749-1750.

    I could be wrong but I don’t think its fair to assume there were slaves because slavery was part of the economic policy of the British Empire at the time.

    Indentured workers – maybe – but there is a significant difference between someone coming in an indentured state who works off their indenture and a slave.

    Might be worth checking into that but in the last 20 years of doing genealogical research in that period, particularly, I haven’t noticed anyone referenced to or acknowledged to as slaves – not even in church baptismal records. A lot of aboriginal people are referenced but never anyone identified as negro, mullato or any other term indicating slavery.

    I don’t think we see that until the 1760s when Americans start to emigrate to Nova Scotia. But again I could be wrong.

    1. I’m on my phone at the gym right now so can’t give links or a full response, but there was a slave auction in Halfax in 1750, as I recall. I’ll say more in a couple of hours.

      1. I think that’s different though from what you said… Halifax facilitated the slave trade by hosting auctions and placing ads in teh newspapers… fine. The first newspaper was published in 1752. The town was established by then…by 1752 Cornwallis wasn’t even Governor anymore.

        But I honestly don’t have any evidence that they were with the original group of Cornwallis group and definitely not with the Foreign Protestants who arrived between 1750-1753.

        1. I never said the first ships had slaves. I said the town was founded by a population that included slaves. You don’t just “found” a city in one day. The success of the new town was iffy from the start, and it took many years before it could be said to have been successfully established as a permanent place.

      2. I’m not saying there weren’t slaves in Halifax – I just don’t think you can make such a wide assumption that the majority of the town was built on the back of slave labour… when I don’t think that’s factually true… There were no slaves, to my knowledge, listed in the victualling lists from 1749 through to 1752 before the Foreign Protestants were relocated to Lunenburg.

        I don’t think the slave auctions were established in Halifax that early either, for that matter.

        1. Where did I say the “majority” of the town was town was built by slaves?

          1. Sorry wrong word.

            “To my way of thinking, the rightful founders of the city were the men and women — many of them slaves — who actually built the place with their sweat, muscle, know-how, and determination.”

            This is what I’m taking issue with. I don’t think you can factually say that “many of them were slaves.” That’s all.

          2. So we’re fighting over the definition of “many”? Is 8 many? 12? Or does it have to be 3,000 or whatever?

          3. I think your statement would have been more factually true if you had merely left it at men and women… I don’t think you can qualify the statement “many of them slaves.” Sure there were likely slaves but to assume that many of them were slaves is not factually correct.

            I’m making this point because I think, unfortunately, we sometimes fall into the trap of painting things with a wide brush. Yes slavery existed in halifax, yes there were likely slaves here in the 1750s – but I think the documentary evidence suggests it was negliable in terms of the overall population of those original settlers, and especially of the 2500 Foreign Protestants who arrived a year later.

            That’s all i’m saying.

          4. But already you’ve moved from:

            I haven’t noticed anyone referenced to or acknowledged to as slaves – not even in church baptismal records. A lot of aboriginal people are referenced but never anyone identified as negro, mullato or any other term indicating slavery.

            I don’t think we see that until the 1760s when Americans start to emigrate to Nova Scotia. But again I could be wrong.


            Yes slavery existed in halifax, yes there were likely slaves here in the 1750s..

      3. From Blacks on the Border: the Black Refugees in British North America, 1815- 1860, pp 15-16:

        For example, in 1750, Thomas Bloss of the Royal Navy brought sixteen black slaves who had been working on his ship into the emerging colony [of Nova Scotia]. Governor Edward Cornwallis commented that Bloss had purchased land outside Halifax where presumably his slaves would work as farmers and domestics. But the use of African slaves by local merchants is most clearly illustrated through the business dealings of respectable smuggler Joshua Mauger. Mauger’s interest in selling African slaves had its roots in his early years as a merchant in the French and British West Indies. He because one of the most important merchants in early Halifax. Although he travelled in the most elite circles in the growing town, Mauger also did everything in his power to maximize profits, while avoiding duties. After the founding of Halifax, Mauger saw the opportunity to trade fish, molasses, and slaves between Halifax, Boston, and the West Indies. He accomplished this in the cheapest manner possible: black slaves even operated some of his vessels.

        In 1752, after a successful trip to the West Indies, Mauger returned to Halifax and placed an advertisement in the local newspaper.

        Just imported, and to be sold by Joshua Mauger, at Major Lockman’s store in Halifax, several negro slaves, viz. A very likely Negro Wench, of about thirty-five years of Age, a Creole born, has been brought up in a Gentleman’s family, and capable of doing all Sorts of Work belonging thereto… [such as] Washing, Ironing, Cookery, and every other Thing that can be expected from Such a Slave. Also, 2 Negro boys of about 12 or 13 Years of Age, likely, healthy… likewise 2 healthy Negro slaves of about 18 Years of Age, of agreeable tempers, and fit for any kind of business; and also a healthy Negro mMn of about 30 Years of Age.

        Other merchants also attempted to sell black slaves at public auctions, alongside various items such as brandy.


        Quite often Africans or African-Americans were brought into Nova Scotia to serve as domestics for a particular family. Well-to-do families had been bringing in black slaves to perform household throughout the colony before the New England planter influx. In 11752 Thomas Thomas, a New Yorker turned Halifaxian, arranged in a will for his “goods” and “negroes” to be disposed of properly, specifying in particular that “my negro servant Orange, that now lives with me in Halifax,” be left to his son. In 1759, Malachy Salter encouraged his wife to purchase a young “Negro” in Boston to be brought back to Halifax to help around the house because one of their domestic slaves had supposedly been nothing but trouble.

        I think the above shows that slavery was a regular part of the Halifax landscape as early as 1750.

  5. Your thoughts on the Cornwallis debate sum up pretty much exactly my thoughts. Simple acknowledgement is so important. Thank you.

  6. Seems that Council, by voting down the motion to start a conversation on Cornwallis, have instead increased the amount of conversation on Cornwallis. Good.

  7. I think you’ll find that the settlers who built communities by their “sweat” often left a lot to be desired. The first Scots who settled my part of New Brunswick after the defeat of the French and before the Highland Clearances were rapacious creatures indeed. The leading fellow not only cheated the Mi’gmaq and Acadians, but embezzled the inheritance of his brother’s children. Yet they are honoured as Great Founders.

    1. Well, I guess my point is “leading fellows” rarely do the real work.