1. “Conquered people” files to be released

Alton Gas protest.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has ordered the provincial government to release the “conquered people” files.

The case centres on an infamous brief written by Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron in the Alton Gas case. Stephen Kimber recapped the story for the Examiner about six weeks ago:

The government had approved a plan by Alton Gas to store natural gas in salt caverns near the Shubenacadie River. The Sipekne’katik First Nation appealed, claimed it should have been consulted before any decision. Cameron countered, arguing on behalf of the government that it wasn’t required to consult with the First Nation over plans for the project because it was a “conquered people”.

Unsurprisingly, that contentious contention created a hornet’s nest of consternation — followed immediately by much government butt-covering and buck-passing.

McNeil himself offered his best “Who me?” He claimed — still claims — he had no idea his justice department planned to make such an argument. He told reporters at the time he would be “looking for an explanation” from the justice department.

Cameron, who has since retired (or been pushed out), is suing the government for damaging his reputation. Kimber again:

The government claimed Cameron couldn’t talk about the instructions that were at the centre of his legal arguments because doing so would violate his solicitor-client relationship with the government. In other words, he couldn’t make the case that the government had impugned his reputation because doing so might disclose the fact the government told him to make the arguments it had since publicly disavowed and used to impugn his reputation.

Got that?

Andrew Rankin writes in the Chronicle Herald:

In May, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling in Cameron’s favour that waived the government’s right to invoke solicitor-client privilege and ordered the documents be unsealed.

The province is now pursuing its final appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Last month the province asked the Court of Appeal for a stay in the unsealing order until the Supreme Court of Canada decides whether to hear the case.

The onus was on the province to prove it would be irreparably harmed by the documents being made public. [Justice Duncan] Beveridge stated in his decision he’s not convinced.

“I have considerable doubt that the applicants have articulated an arguable issue of national or public importance,” stated Beveridge. “Even if such an issue exists, there is no evidence that they will suffer irreparable harm if a stay is not granted, and the balance of convenience favours the respondent. The application for a stay of execution is dismissed.”

2. Zach Churchill doesn’t want to politicize things

Zach Churchill

Aly Thomson reports for CBC that education minister Zach Churchill won’t meet with a girl who was berated by her gym teacher at the Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay:

Nova Scotia’s education minister has called an incident in which a teacher berated a teenage girl with an auditory processing disorder “egregious” and “an embarrassment to the system.”

Zach Churchill was reacting to the incident involving 13-year-old Amy Bennett, who was yelled at by her gym teacher for more than three minutes in the main hallway of Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay, N.S., on June 4, 2018.

A nine-month investigation concluded there was an “abuse of power” by the teacher and a “lack of appropriate response” by other adults who watched what happened and did nothing. But the Bennett family has been told they have no right to know any of the report’s recommendations.

The student’s mother, Lisa Bennett, has said that means neither the school nor the teacher can be held accountable.

This took nine months to investigate?

Churchill won’t meet with Bennett and her family, saying that could amount to political interference. Opposition politicians say Churchill could find a way to meet with them without interfering in the case.

3. Surveying the Arctic

Belugas are changing their habits in Hudson Bay. Photo courtesy of Meighan Makarch

Still at CBC, Paul Withers continues his excellent reporting on marine life and climate change research. Today, he looks at a mission from leaving Halifax for Southampton Island, in Hudson Bay:

Southampton Island is one of Canada’s largest gathering places for Arctic marine mammals and a place where people have lived for millennia.

“The communities up north, there’s marine mammals and fish that they depend on and we want to know if the food web is going to be able to continue to support those specific species,” said Andrea Niemi, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans research scientist based in Winnipeg…

Unlike Canada’s Atlantic Ocean, where scientists have measured marine environmental conditions for decades, there is little or no baseline information in the Arctic…

“I’d really like to be able to say what’s changed or has not changed, but the issue we have is that we just don’t have the old information to compare it to,” she said.

4. RCMP vet gets 10 years for dealing cocaine

Don’t steal and traffic cocaine.

Julia Simone-Rutgers has a story on the sentencing of former RCMP officer Craig Burnett, a 20-year veteran of the force. Burnett was convicted of stealing 10 kgs of cocaine from an evidence locker. He made $100,000 from its sale.

In the sentencing decision from Justice James Chipman, Burnett’s charges were divided into three activities: theft of cocaine, trafficking cocaine and obstruction of justice. Chipman handed down a sentence of four years total for theft, six years total for trafficking and another four years total for obstruction of justice. [I assume two of those four-year sentence are concurrent.]…

The courtroom was packed with Burnett’s family and friends during the sentencing hearing. Many left the room in tears and embraced in the courthouse following the decision.

“I have done good all my life,” Burnett said when given the chance to address the court. “This is a bump in the road.”

As part of the sentence, Burnett was ordered to forfeit a $17,000 BMW motorcycle purchased with proceeds from the cocaine sales, but Chipman denied a request from the Crown that Burnett pay a fine for the remaining amount he made.

5. What’s at the bottom of the story? (Literally)

This post has been updated. See below.

All right, this isn’t news, but it relates to news stories. The Chronicle Herald has been running a badly-designed survey at the bottom of stories, asking readers to rate various local news sources (including the Examiner) in terms of the likelihood of their recommending those sources to others.

The bad design? The survey uses a scale of 0-10 where 0 is no opinion/does not apply. Usually, this is not a numeric category, to avoid confusion.

Now I see that the survey has changed, asking simply how likely you are to recommend the Chronicle Herald, on a scale of 1-10.

Meanwhile, Halifax Today runs this at the bottom of each story:

Better than reading comments, I suppose, although I always wonder whether I’m supposed to react to the content of the story, or how it was written, or maybe something else. (Yes, I’m overthinking.)  Also — and I mean no disrespect at all to the journalists writing for Halifax Today when I say this — if every story I click on shows it has been shared 0 times, maybe it’s time to remove the sharing information, because it’s not doing the site much good.


It seems the zero shares have to do with my browser settings. Someone sent me screenshots showing stories shared hundreds of times. When I look at the same stories, I see zero. I switched browsers, and, sure enough, numbers larger than zero appear:

This is at the bottom of Meghan Groff’s story on bridge closures.

I apologize for the mistake. And again, no disrespect at all to the people writing the stories.


1. Library offers a slightly better response

The Central Library. Photo: Wikipedia.

I was forwarded an email from library CEO Åsa Kachan in response to a complaint about the cancellation of the Radical Imagination film series. The email repeats this tone-deaf explanation:

When our program manager at Central recommended that Radical Imagination include local police in a conversation, the intention was to explore the challenges outlined in the films, bring them closer to home and engage our community in finding solutions that would lead to a safer community for all. It was with the intention that the police could listen, and be present to understand their responsibilities to everyone, particularly those who feel at risk in their relationship with the police.

But I was also interested to see this, at the end of the email:

All that aside, I have also reflected on the feedback provided by you and others, particularly as it relates to members of our community feeling safe to speak. I agree that the library should continue to be a safe and welcoming space for everyone – with particular care to include those from marginalized groups and communities. I have reached out to Dr Khasnabish and we are planning to meet to explore and discuss possible options. I hope we can find a solution.

We will see if there is more to come with this story.


Cover of an issue of Pandora.

On June 27, Tim wrote, “While pursuing something else entirely yesterday, I was reading through back copies of the 4th Estate, the lefty Halifax newspaper of the 1970s, and stumbled upon repeated references to the Shelburne School for Boys.”

A few days ago, I had a similar experience. I write a regular feature for Saltscapes called First Person, which features first-person as-told-to interviews with people from around Atlantic Canada. Usually part of the stories revolves around personal, social, or community change. While I was doing my interviews for the next issue, Barbara Jannasch’s name came up. (More about her in a minute.) I asked how to spell her last name, but my interview subject didn’t know. So I looked up Akala Point — the retreat centre she used to run — in the Registry of Joint Stocks. Akala Point is long defunct, but sure enough Barbara’s name was still listed on the records. So I Googled it.

That’s when I found the complete Pandora Archive online, hosted at Rise Up! A digital archive of feminist activism.

Pandora was a Halifax-based feminist publication that ran for nine years, from 1985 to 1994. Bethan Lloyd, the paper’s first coordinating editor, writes at Rise Up:

Pandora… focussed on the lives of everyday women, encouraging and supporting women to tell their first-person stories. Our collective was a volunteer-run non-profit that included up to 35 women in any single issue… Our eagerness and energy allowed us to begin with four issues each year but, over the years, slowly, and then more quickly, as the ten-year mark appeared on the horizon, it was not possible for those who were left to share the time, skills, and energies necessary. A man whose writing was not accepted because of the paper’s policies filed a Human Rights Complaint. Pandora and all her supporters “won” the right to publish “a newspaper produced by, for and about women”. But the process sapped women’s energy.

In the 2011 book Beyond Bylines: Media Workers and Women’s Rights in Canada, author Barbara M Freeman writes:

Pandora was distributed free of charge, with the exception of mailing costs, relying mainly on advertising, fundraising and donations to keep going. Because the collective members wanted to avoid political interference, they did not apply for or receive government funds as a rule, with the exception of a short-term employment grant to hire summer help. At the 1986 feminist periodicals conference, held near Orangeville, Ontario, the delegates pledged themselves to increasing lesbian visibility in their publications. Pandora‘s run-in with SecState came after it asked for a grant to help it host the next feminist periodical meeting in Halifax in 1987. Because the collective refused to leave abortion and lesbianism off their conference agenda, or even pretend to do so, they did not get the grant and cancelled the conference. For Lloyd, it was “an ethical issue… I mean this was the whole point of having a feminist periodical, a women’s paper, it was about not being silenced.”

Pandora folded a few years before I moved to Halifax, and I had not heard of it before. I suspect that many of you reading this had, or were maybe even involved. Looking through the Pandora archives, the first thing that struck me was how many names I recognized from among the collective members, including two women who used to do my partner’s and my bookkeeping. (Halifax is small.)

More importantly, though, was how forward-looking and radical much of the publication was.

The first issue has a story by Karen Hudson on Black women redefining the peace movement. Anne Derrick, now a judge, writes about the challenges of studying law while being committed to change:

In preparing us to be lawyers, we are disabled men and women, forced to operate within and uphold a tradition of rules and unquestioned values. Learning to be a lawyer does not equip us for social activism. It is not intended that it should. Quite the contrary, lawyering involves a process of professional assimilation both subtle and insidious. Often I feel locked in a deadly and deadening struggle with the very process, that of learning and professional development, that I believed would educate and strengthen me.

It’s a little depressing to see how little progress there has been on many issues that Pandora raises: rural childcare, a crisis in housing in Halifax, lack of access to midwifery services, sexual harassment and assault.

The March 1993 issue includes a letter from Cheryl Tatjaoa Nicol of Glace Bay, under the headline “Harassment in workplace big problem for women in media”:

Harassment does happen in the media, that’s for sure, especially when you are young and have little experience. I also feel men who are editors tend to reject stories about women. I have experienced it! I feel women should learn better how to confront the harasser without feeling her job is threatened. I would like to attend a workshop, if there is such a thing, regarding women’s rights in the workplace.

As for Barbara Jannasch, who unwittingly led me to Pandora, she taught yoga and founded and ran the Akala Point retreat centre in Indian Harbour for years. Eventually she sold it, in the early 2000s, I believe, and it is now the Oceanstone Resort — a popular spot for weddings. The Akala vibe sounds quite different from Oceanstone’s. There is a story about the centre in the September-December 1987 issue of Pandora.

If you asked Barbara Jannasch, the woman who founded the centre, for her motto, you would be told it was to “Live with awareness”. The seminars offered at Akala Point are focused on increasing our awareness of what is going on in us and around us, in our bodies and in our minds, in the environment, in society, in waking and in sleep … every moment, every instant…

Body Work, Breathing Therapy, different aspects of Yoga, Gestalt Groups, Dance and Music, Visual Arts, Vegetarian Cooking are just a sample of the ways in which dreams and possibilities can be explored…

“Phallic Power is about to destroy the earth and unless women emerge in great power in the next few years we may all be lost. Here and there are hope structures rising; women gathering together, learning to love one another; sharing our concerns and banding together to heal the planet.”

In the October 1989 issue of Pandora, a writer named Yvonne expresses concern about collective member Debbie Mathers. “I worry about Debbie because right now she has a lot of the responsibility and is always working. I think we should take up a collection to send her to Akala Point for a year.”

There’s a lot of fascinating history in the archive, and the issues are all searchable pdfs. I encourage you to take a look.


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

06:00: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:30: ZIM Constanza sails for New York


Going to watch Grease at the Public Gardens tonight.

Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. About a year ago, The Coast did an episode of their 25th anniversary podcast about the end of Pandora. I was interviewed by Jacob Boon and Tara Thorne and you can hear it right here:

    For a number of years in the early ’90s, I wrote a feminist column in The Daily News. When I look back at them, many of those columns could have been written last week. It is often disheartening that we have to fight the same battles over and over. The reason is not that complicated: Every time we make even a small advance, we have to stop and fight the backlash. It slows us down but we keep going.

    In 1994, I wrote a piece for The Canadian Forum about Pandora’s demise. I’ve just reproduced it on my blog. It still makes good reading. Here it is:

  2. Unless you are a health care worker or my husband, don’t ask me how I feel! It is getting really stupid. I have more to say but I should really stop now.

  3. Re: Zach Churchill doesn’t want to politicize things

    Let’s see, Minister removes all political layers between him and the parents of students. Minster refuses to meet with parents because it might politicize things. Oh the irony!