News

1. Public importance of private woodlots

On his woodlot Greg Watson practices ecological forestry to restore Acadian forest (Photo: Greg Watson)

This item was written by Ethan Lycan-Lang.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how we manage our forests in this province; forests that are both disappearing and deteriorating in health. Ask most biologists, environmentalists, and non-industry foresters and they’ll tell you “discussion” is all there’s been when it comes to managing them in an ecologically sustainable way.

A lot of that discussion in recent years has swirled around Nova Scotia’s Crown forests. That’s what William Lahey’s 2018 independent review focused on. That review looked at how we should regulate the management of our publicly owned forests, recommending we divide them into three forest management areas: high production zones; fully protected zones; and, most importantly (depending on your viewpoint), forests to be harvested with the environment, biodiversity, and sustainability as top priorities.

But what about private woodlots? How do we ensure ecological forestry is practiced on privately owned forests?

The province’s Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development met Tuesday to discuss just that.

Plots ranging from 20ha to 2,000ha in size, managed by what the province estimates to be between 10,000 and 30,000 private owners, make up about two-thirds of Nova Scotia’s forests. But the province has no plans to regulate how they’re harvested. Lahey only recommended regulation on lands the province already owns, fearing the pushback that might come from landowners if the government tried to tell them how to run their plots. (In his first progress report on the recommended forestry practices in his review, Lahey would find action was hard enough to enforce when the province was the landowner).

“Ecological forestry is voluntary on private lands,” Karen Gatien, deputy minister of Natural Resources and Renewables, told the committee when asked how ecological forestry could be mandated on non-Crown forests.

“But our hope is that more and more [private woodlot owners] will embrace it and really use it on their land. And my sense from speaking with many of them recently at conferences was that they’re really interested in doing so.”

Gatien also emphasized that private woodlot owners must still adhere to regulations protecting Nova Scotia’s species at risk.

Two individuals representing private woodlot owners were present at the meeting: Andy Kekacs of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners Association (NSWOOA) and Patricia Amero of the Western Woodlot Services Cooperative. Both were optimistic about the future management of private woodlots, saying private woodlot owners are, for the most part, interested in practicing ecological forestry. Many, they said, are already doing so. But Amero, who represents a 283-member co-op, told the committee that woodlot owners are a diverse group and people will need unique guidance to manage their lands sustainably.

“Part of our membership are more on the economic side because they basically have their livelihood from their woodland, perhaps their farm too.  And then on the other side, you have owners and their high priority is biodiversity and conservation. And then you have the majority of the lot owners in the middle. They want a little bit of everything: all the benefits that the forest provides.”

That’s where government can step in, she said, sending contractors to survey land and providing educational resources so owners can continue to operate independently, while making forest health and the environment a priority:

For us, it’s really important to go out to woodlot owners in the woods, talk with them to really understand what their goals and objectives are with their woodland.

I do find, especially for woodlot owners that have had woodland for quite some time through the generations, they’re really tied to their to the woodlot… it’s personal. Right? They have a lot of pride and value in their particular woodlot.

They want to have some income, but also have the multi-age forest, wildlife biodiversity, carbon storage, all that.

You can still harvest wood, still maintain all the ecological functions, if done properly…so that they have the economic benefit, but also they still have a nice standing forest that has a lot of health and diversity and an improved value over time.

The province recently gave NSWOOA — the group Andy Kekacs represents — $500,000 for just this purpose: to “explore the barriers and benefits of ecological forestry for private woodlot owners.” The majority of that money, Kekacs said, will go to contractors to complete silvicultural treatments, biodiversity assessments, and analysis of forest lots. The province also gave the Family Forest Network, a collective of organizations that serve small-woodland owners and contractors in Nova Scotia, $9.8 million last October for a similar purpose. Deputy minister Gatien also noted the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables provides free educational materials to anyone who wants to learn about ecological woodland management.

Still, without mandated ecological forestry practices on these lands, private woodlot owners will have to adopt them voluntarily, meaning education and resources will only be successful if there is a large shift in the mindset surrounding forestry in Nova Scotia.

Kekacs told the committee he believes this ecological paradigm shift is growing among private woodlot owners, as the public becomes more concerned about the degrading health of the province’s forests and the growing threat of global warming.

Considering the current state of Nova Scotia’s forests, the increasing climate crisis, and the amount of forest owned by private citizens who aren’t mandated to follow Lahey’s recommendations, it’s of the utmost importance that he’s right.

In his closing remarks, Kekacs responded to concerns that the closures of pulp mills in the province has made it harder for private woodlot owners and industry alike to sell their products.

“My first assumption is that Nova Scotia is going to be here forever,” he told the committee. “It’s not unlike the Mi’kmaw perspective of looking forward into the future, not just seven generations, but forever doing the right thing. And if that’s the case, that tells us that a short-term focus on immediate wood values for current wood buyers is not the right approach.”

“I don’t think we’re smart enough to know which of our wood buyers are going to actually survive; it’s a very competitive global market. I hope they all survive and this is nothing against those wood buyers. But if we believe in the market, for example, growing the best forest we can — the most valuable, the most diverse, the most natural — protects more of the values, both economic and ecological, and gives us options right? We’ve created a system with Northern Pulp. You’ve heard it again and again and again. With with all of the folks in on the on the buyer side, who said we can’t survive without Northern Pulp.”

“We’re not smart enough to pick the winners, really. So we just have to invest in our asset, improve the value of our asset, and let the market determine what the best way is to use that… if we’re going to be here forever, it’s not to extract today all the value we can, and heck with the future. That’s not a recipe for success over the long term for rural Nova Scotia.”

The committee also discussed progress on implementing Lahey’s recommendations on Crown land Tuesday.

Gatien told MLA Claudia Chender the province was still working out the details of the “high production” facet of Lahey’s triad model, but the ecological component of the triad would be in full effect as of June 1. Currently, she said, foresters are being trained to implement the new model, and existing harvests will be reassessed under the new regulations come that date. Since February, new harvest applications have had to adhere to the practices outlined in the province’s Silvicultural Guide for the Ecological Matrix (the ecological forestry guide).

Chender also asked Gatien about the province’s 2019 plan for 100 public buildings to adopt biomass boilers, that would use wood chips to heat buildings instead of oil. So far, only six buildings, which were part of a 2020 pilot project, have been converted. The project would provide a place to sell lower-grade residual wood, a market that took a serious hit with the closure of Northern Pulp.

Gatien said there is no clear answer or excuse for the project’s delay, or its completion.

Biomass boilers, like biomass energy, are a questionable alternative to fossil fuels depending on how they’re sourced.

Raymond Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, spoke with my former classmate Michael Trombetta for the King’s College Signal back in 2020 when the pilot project was announced. At the time, he said the biomass boilers were more efficient, but the EAC had concerns.

“We do not support use of biomass for anything, including heating, if it is sourced from purpose specific clear cutting,” Plourde told the Signal. “In other words, if somebody is cutting a forest down and putting it in a chipper to feed any form of biomass burner, whether its electricity or space heating.”

“Science has shown clearly that the best thing to do in terms of carbon sequestration is to simply let forests grow old and store carbon in their bodies,” he said. “It’s the smartest thing we can do in terms of using forests to offset climate change, not burning them.”

(Copy link for this item)

2. Pilot project to “explore and solve” vaccine hesitancy

Photo: Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

This item was written by Yvette d’Entremont.

A recently launched pilot project being dubbed the first of its kind in Canada is hoping to increase COVID-19 vaccine knowledge and to “explore and solve” vaccine hesitancy across the country.

Trained and informed professionals will offer free one-on-one video calls with unvaccinated or under-vaccinated adult Canadians who have questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccines. 

Researchers also want  to hear from those who are hesitant about getting the vaccine for themselves or for their child.

“If necessary, counsellors will be able to consult all Canadian scientists working on COVID-19 at any time via the CoVaRR-Net network,” notes the MIICOVAC study website. “The goal is to help participants make their own decision about their own or their child’s vaccination.”

Over the course of the next five months, researchers will use motivational interviewing (an approach based on empathy “and the respect of autonomy”) to explore and solve vaccine hesitancy. 

In a CoVaRR-Net media release on Tuesday, researchers said the pilot project builds on the “exceptional success” of Quebec’s PromoVac strategy. 

That initiative found the use of motivational interviewing in maternity wards can “significantly” decrease vaccine hesitancy and uptake among new parents. 

The pilot project is a partnership between the Centre de Recherche CHUS (Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke), the Canadian Vaccination Evidence Resource and Exchange Centre (CANVax), and the Canadian Public Health Association.

Open to Canadian residents 18 years or older who can communicate in English or French, participants are required to fill out a questionnaire and book an appointment with a virtual immunization counselor. Each interview lasts 15 to 30 minutes, offering what researchers described as “a safe, empathetic, and non-judgmental venue” for people who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated (have only had one or two doses) to ask questions and increase their understanding of COVID-19 vaccines. 

(Copy link for this item)

3. Crown refuses Randy Riley’s request for trial by judge alone, delaying court case beyond “reasonable time”

“The Crown is refusing Randy Riley’s request for a trial by judge alone, pushing ahead with a jury trial in September 2023,” reports Zane Woodford. It’s the latest chapter in an epic novel of a trial, one that seeks justice for a crime committed over a decade ago.

Riley is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Chad Smith, who was shot dead in 2010 while delivering a pizza in North Dartmouth.

Riley was convicted of that charge in 2018 by an all-white jury, but two years later, as El Jones reported for the Examiner at the time, the Supreme Court overturned that decision unanimously.

The reason for that successful appeal involved something called a Vetrovac warning, which the judge in Riley’s initial trial had issued to the jury. Tim Bousquet summed it up shortly after Jones’s 2020 report.

It’s worth reading the full reports from Jones and Bousquet that followed the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision before heading to Zane Woodford’s latest on the slow, winding trudge to justice in this murder case.

(Copy link for this item)

4. Emera’s AGM

Ad for Nova Scotia Power, a subsidiary of Emera. (Facebook)

“Despite the uncertainty and many unknowns, our team very effectively navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to safely deliver the cleaner, affordable and reliable energy our customers count on while continuing to create value for shareholders.” reads the notice for Emera’s Annual General Meeting of shareholders. “As essential service providers, we adapted quickly to deliver for our customers and communities in 2020. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss Emera’s performance.”

An “opportunity to discuss” any of the following:

Maybe you have questions of your own.

You can ask them at the AGM on Thursday, 2pm, at Pier 21.

(Copy link for this item)


Views

Residential school graves, one year later

An ‘Every Child Matters’ display at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford in July 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

This week marks one year since the remains of 215 children were found near a former residential school in Kamloops.

What’s followed?

More graves were found near other residential schools around the country. The country’s national myth took a much-needed sober look in the mirror. Canada Day celebrations were cancelled. A new day of remembrance was created. The Pope has made plans to travel here, most likely to apologize for the church’s role in residential schools. A few more calls to action were acted upon.

More than anything, I think most Canadians, even those with an abstract idea of reconciliation and the sins of our past, gained a clearer understanding of our history and its actual impact on actual people, living and dead.

I have no new insight on reconciliation. There’s already a multi-volume report on that and I can add nothing to it.

But I’m reminded today of an article I read leading up to the 2017 celebration marking 150 years since Confederation. One in which Moira MacDonald spoke with six Indigenous scholars about the then-upcoming event for University Affairs.

One of those scholars was Karla Jessen Williamson, an Inuk woman who was teaching at the University of Saskatchewan.

She spoke about her feelings leading up to the 150 celebration, and how we should work toward reconciliation:

Education is key. We must start with young people, sharing the true history of the legacy of colonial policies and practices, and how they impact Indigenous people. If children grew up knowing this, they would at least have an opportunity to understand Indigenous people in Canada differently and would not have to “unbecome” or confront their Canadian identity later in life — a painful process.

That painful process is something a lot of Canadians went through last Canada Day, I believe.

But what stuck with me from that piece wasn’t her vision for the future and reconciliation, or what she said about the past. It was what she said about the country at the time:

Atrocities continue to happen that are related to residential schools: the murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people; and the alarming rate of Indigenous children who are apprehended and placed in strangers’ care. Upwards of 50 percent of the children in care in Canada are Indigenous, even though we make up four to five percent of the population. Some of the families of murdered and missing Indigenous women say they feel left out of the federal inquiry process, so whose views are we aligning? The federal government has been taken to the Federal Court and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over discrimination against Indigenous children in child welfare; we win that case yet nothing really changes. We will never have a reconciled Canada if this level of violence continues — our children continue to go missing through the child welfare system and our mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers go missing on our streets and in our communities.

That was five years ago. Two years after the Truth and Reconciliation Report was issued.

This month, the Globe and Mail — Canada’s paper of record, if such a thing still exists — published a series of front-page articles about the disproportionate number of Indigenous inmates in Canada’s federal prisons for women. Half of all inmates, despite only one in 20 Canadian women being Indigenous.

While the one-year anniversary of the Kamloops discovery is an important reminder of a past we need to reconcile for, stories like those that appeared in the Globe, or about unsafe drinking water in a modern affluent state, are a different set of reminders. Reminders that one of the most tangible ways to reconcile the past is to rectify the present.


Noticed: Not Just Bikes

Photo: reddit u:silveryspoons

I was on Reddit the other day and came across a picture of this sign, supposedly stapled to a telephone pole in Halifax.

Since I was already wasting my time on Reddit, I thought I’d look up some of the links advertised on the makeshift sign. I started with Not Just Bikes on YouTube. It’s a channel I’m slightly familiar with. One that looks at urban design and how we can create community through good planning. Often with better bike lanes and fewer cars — half of readers are rolling their eyes reading this, I’m sure — but, as the channel name suggests, it’s not just about bikes.

Usually the channel looks at European cities like Amsterdam as models for designing communities around anything other than cars, but I was surprised to see one of the latest videos looked at Toronto. Specifically, the Toronto Islands, which the site called Canada’s only car-free neighbourhood.

What I expected to be a 10-minute video about autoluwe — the Dutch term for city design that limits transportation by car — turned out to be a wacky history lesson about a bizarre neighbourhood in the middle of Canada’s largest city.

It has plenty about the advantages of car-free (or nearly car-free neighbourhoods): no noise, better air quality, better roads with fewer potholes since fewer vehicles drive on them — you hear that, Nova Scotian motorists? But it’s also just a wild story of urban design.

For those who don’t know, the islands in Toronto are accessible only by ferry from the city’s downtown core. It’s home to 250 residences and a school. The only cars are an ambulance and fire truck. There aren’t really any services, but it has a park, disc golf, a nude beach, multiple marinas, and miles of glorious bike paths that almost make you forget you’re next to the heart of the Big Smoke.

It’s a great video for anyone wondering about the benefits of a car-free community. But it’s also a wild ride through the history of one of Canada’s strangest neighbourhoods. One that involves forced evictions, a real estate market with a buyers waitlist capped at 500, and a transportation system that’s the stuff of liberal, granola, bleeding-heart dreams.

Plus, it used to have a tent village where you could rent a camp for $10 a summer. I don’t know if you can afford anything for under $10 in that city now. Certainly not a rental. Maybe the past really was a golden age?

(Copy link for this item)


Government

City

Wednesday

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — virtual meeting

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — 2022 Report of the Auditor General – Oversight and Management of Individuals Serving Community-Based Sentences: Department of Justice, with Candace Thomas


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

No events

Thursday

PhD Defence, Law (Thursday, 10am) — Akinwumi Olawuyi Ogunranti of the Schulich School of Law will defend “Voices from Below—Africa’s Contribution to the Development of the Norm of Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights”

Book launch (Thursday, 1pm, Tupper Medical Building Lobby) — Allan Marble will present “The History of Medicine in Nova Scotia from Confederation to Medicare: the Transition from Allopathic to Scientific Medicine.”

The book spans 1867-1967 and covers topics including the prevention, treatment, and control of infectious diseases, Nova Scotia’s first general hospital, the establishment of hospitals in rural Nova Scotia, the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, and the impact of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic on Nova Scotia.

Author remarks and reception with refreshments afterwards. Details and registration here.

Open Dialogue Live: The Space Race of the Twentieth Century (Thursday, 6:30pm, McInnes Room, SUB and online) — a conversation with Tony Pellerin from Canadian space Agency, and Arad Gharagozli from GALAXIA. They’ll discuss satellites and nano satellites, the science and research behind them, and the societal impacts of the space race of the twentieth century.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Womens’ Empowerment Conference: Women in STEM (Wednesday, 5:30pm) — the second event in a week-long virtual conference. More details and registration here.

Thursday

Womens’ Empowerment Conference: Women in Finance (Thursday, 5:30pm) — the third event in a week-long virtual conference. More details and registration here.

King’s

Wednesday

No events

Thursday

Encaenia 2022 (Thursday, 2:30pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — King’s graduation ceremony


In the harbour

Halifax
10:30: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
12:00: USCGC Morro Bay, U.S. coast guard cutter, sails from Tall Ships Quay for sea
12:00: Ferbec, bulker, arrives at Pier 9 from Tuzla, Turkey

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

  • News out of the United States yesterday is as shocking and appalling as it is familiar. Let us never be numb to these tragedies.
  • It’s almost impossible to transition from that, but in the interest of ending today’s Morning File on a lighter local note… after two years off, it’s officially Apple Blossom time in the Annapolis Valley again. The festival kicks off today and runs until Hantsport runs out of rum. Or on Sunday. Whatever comes first. To help shake off the dust, here’s a taste from one of the best Apple Blossom events I ever attended.


Subscribe to the Halifax Examiner

We have many other subscription options available, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Ethan Lycan-Lang

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

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. I know y’all don’t mean any harm, but I know many in the community have asked you repeatedly to avoid using ableist terms like “crazy” for no good reason. And honestly, it’s really not descriptive or interesting writing to use such a tired, ableist word. Something like “wild” would do just as well whenever you’re tempted to trot out that overused ableist word.

  2. Imagine if we turned the golf courses in Dartmouth and near Dutch Village Road into affordable housing with zero parking + a bus terminal and car share. Those two golf courses could hold thousands of units each.