1. New life for old churches
Pour yourself a hot beverage, sit back, and enjoy Suzanne Rent’s new feature, “New life for old churches.”
When my kids were little, they were fascinated by the idea of living in a church. There are several old churches on our road, including one almost next door to us. Many parishes simply can’t afford to hang onto their churches. So they are being repurposed. Rent writes:
Many old churches in Nova Scotia have already found a new lease on life. The Church Brewing Co. in Wolfville is a former Presbyterian church. The Avondale Sky Winery is located in the former St. Matthew’s wooden church from Walton on the Noel Shore that was slated for demolition. That church was moved from its location in Walton over road, then by ferry, over more road to its new location in Newport Landing. World-renowned organist Xaver Varnus bought the Pilgrim United Church in Brooklyn outside of Liverpool in 2020. The Kentville Library is located in a refurbished United church.
Just last month another historic church in Nova Scotia hit the market. The Zion United Church in Liverpool is now for sale after its shrinking congregation made the difficult decision they couldn’t afford to keep it running anymore. Ray Baker, chair of the church’s closure working group, told Kevin Bain with LighthouseNOW the church simply couldn’t find new, younger people to maintain the membership. And those expenses, including a $1,000 monthly heating bill, were adding up. “Quickly you’re up to $5,000 or more a month before we can do anything we would like to do in the community,” Baker told Bain.
Rent meets some really interesting people in this story, including David Hewitt, a United Church official who has created a facebook page, Church Property for Sale – Canada.* He counsels potential buyers to be respectful of the community selling the church, because it is usually a heart-wrenching decision:
By the time a congregation finds itself talking about selling a church building, they’re in what Hewitt said is a “depressed state” and they are convinced they have done everything possible to save their church building. Hewitt said the building often becomes the focus of the struggle because there are bills associated with keeping it running. Combine that with smaller congregations and the burden is left to a smaller group of people. When that group finally makes a decision to sell, the wider community is not always supportive.
“You have to keep the community informed,” Hewitt said. “You can’t keep that information to yourself.”
“All they know is they entrusted that care of the church to you. The church is a part of the community, it’s a landmark, it’s a location, it’s a place you come to have your children baptized, and where we have our weddings and funerals take place. We may not participate at all any other time, but if you don’t tell us there’s a problem, we don’t know. We just assume it will always be there.”
He advises that any buyer of an old church be “a friend to the community.”
* An earlier version reported that David Hewitt is a real estate agent who owns a church, but that’s not the case. We regret the error.
2. Dept. of Environment does its job; Northern Pulp objects
This item is written by Joan Baxter.
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change has released the final version of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Class II environmental assessment process for Northern Pulp’s “mill transformation and effluent treatment facility.”
It states that the “process does not propose or identify specific effluent and emission limits” and that it is up to Northern Pulp to fully identify and evaluate:
… the potential impacts of the project, the capacity of the environment to handle these impacts, and any mitigations that would reduce them, to determine the overall impact of the project and recommend specific limits that a particular receiving environment can support.
The final TOR explains that this is how an environmental assessment (EA) works.
An EA process, it states, is a “legislated planning, engagement, and decision-making process that allows development to occur while protecting the environment.”
The TOR describes the role of Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change this way:
The Department of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) promotes good project planning and sustainable development through the coordination and administration of EA in Nova Scotia as set out in the Environmental Assessment Regulations. ECC continually interacts with industry, various interest groups, First Nations, government departments and the general public to ensure that EA is open, transparent, accountable, and effective.
ECC also works to harmonize EA [environmental assessment] in Nova Scotia with other jurisdictions when necessary. At the initial stages of project development, the EA Branch works with proponents in identifying and addressing environmental concerns.
In other words, it is clear from the final TOR that the provincial government is doing its job, abiding by provincial laws and regulations, and apparently looking out for the interests of the majority of Nova Scotians and the environment, which is what public servants are paid to do.
Cue the outrage from the group calling itself “Friends of a New Northern Pulp,” and the disappointment from Northern Pulp itself.
In a press release, the “Friends of a New Northern Pulp” state that, “Members of Nova Scotia’s forestry industry expressed outrage at the final Northern Pulp Terms of Reference released today.” The press release contains over-the-top attacks on Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change from three members of the “Friends” founding steering committee.
Northern Pulp “disappointed”
In its response to the final TOR, Northern Pulp says it is “disappointed” that the province has “decided to ignore their own consultation.” Northern Pulp refers to “93% of the submissions” sent to NSECC during the consultation phase, which the press release says expressed “support for the re-opening of a transformed mill” and Northern Pulp’s stance that the TOR should “include national standards for both effluent and air quality.”
In its submission to the province, Northern Pulp made a lot of requests for changes in the TOR that, had the province accepted them, would have given the company a great deal of influence in the EA process, and allowed it to move ahead with the project before the EA was even finished.
Take, for example, this paragraph that Northern Pulp suggested be inserted into the TOR:
The proponent may apply for approvals to construct and operate the project during the environmental assessment. NSECC will use a one-window approach to achieve all required approvals under the Environment Act in a coordinated manner that balances environmental protection with the need for the project to proceed in a timely way.
Northern Pulp also suggested that NSECC simply delete this key sentence from the TOR, striking it out using Track Changes:
The Environmental Assessment Report must consider all the effects that are likely to arise from the project, including any not explicitly identified in the Terms of Reference.
In addition, Northern Pulp sought to weaken the range of Mi’kmaq rights that the TOR should take into consideration by asking that the word “potential” be deleted and replaced with “asserted” in this sentence:
The EA Report will also allow government reviewers, the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and members of the public to understand the project, the existing environment, and the potential environmental effects of the project. In addition, it will help with understanding of the potential impacts of the project to
potentialasserted or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights.
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change did not cave to these audacious asks from Northern Pulp.
And yet, Northern Pulp seems to be arguing in its response to the final TOR that these changes, which would have benefited only Northern Pulp and have given the company undue influence in the process, were needed to “ensure the public has confidence in the EA process and the final EA decision.”
Says Northern Pulp in its response:
We will take some time to review the Terms of Reference in detail and consider our options going forward.
It’s hard to know just what “options” Northern Pulp will be looking at.
Paper Excellence has also already held high-powered virtual shows to try to convince the media and municipal governments to support its “complete transformation” of its 55-year-old pulp mill in Pictou County.
The company is already suing the province for $450 million.
Northern Pulp – a Paper Excellence company that is part of the multi-billion-dollar corporate empire of the multi-billionaire Sino-Indonesia Widjaja family – has already sought creditor protection in the British Columbia Supreme Court.
But even while its Northern Pulp companies are in creditor protection, Paper Excellence has found about $8 billion to acquire a giant pulp company in Brazil, and Domtar in North America.
But under creditor protection, Northern Pulp has been granted a vacation from repaying the nearly $85 million that it still owes Nova Scotians, much of it for land it acquired with a 2010 loan, land it still owns and is harvesting and also leasing out for gold mines and proposed wind farms.
Northern Pulp worked very hard in 2019 to pressure the provincial government into amending the Boat Harbour Act, so it could continue to dump its effluent into Boat Harbour until it had a new effluent treatment system approved and up and running, a breathtaking affront to Pictou Landing First Nation.
In other words, Northern Pulp hasn’t exactly done much to endear itself to Nova Scotia in recent years.
But hey, it does still have those “Friends of a new Northern Pulp” who have been bombarding the province with expensive pro-mill ads on radio, social media and in newspapers.
The same “friends” who are outraged that the government of Nova Scotia is doing its job.
3. Can’t afford a house? Maybe you should stop thinking like a victim
CBC has done some great work covering the housing crisis, but this morning, CBC Nova Scotia offers up a real head-scratcher: the story of Claire Fraser, a photographer and videographer who says she wanted to buy a house, so she manifested it. She bought her place in 2019, when she was 24.
In the four-and-a-half-minute video, we see Fraser playing guitar, making a smoothie, and writing in her journal. Like so many young people she felt priced out of the housing market. She says she managed to buy a house by saving “a lot” of money — and by changing her attitude:
I realized I was often making excuses and playing victim to my circumstances. I began taking full responsibility for all of my life experiences, even those that felt fully out of my control. This meant changing my narrative about myself and the world around me.
She wrote sentences like, “I am so happy and grateful that I manifested my perfect first house,” the idea being that if you think of something you want as though it has already happened, it will be more likely to happen.
“Privilege certainly plays a role in the world of manifesting,” Fraser says in the video, after noting that her father co-signed the mortgage.
Look, this is cringey as hell, but there are lots of people who believe this stuff. If Fraser posted this as an Instagram reel, nobody would care. But surely whoever at CBC decided to run this did it knowing it was going to generate a lot of rage-clicks and shares, and it’s probably going to open up this young woman to a ton of abuse, which she doesn’t deserve. There’s a long history of young women getting hung out to dry online because of editorial decisions made by people who either should know better or don’t care because they’re going to get views.
4. Time to take down bird feeders
I’ve been enjoying the chickadees and purple finches at the bird feeder recently. But the show is over. Greg MacVicar writes for CBC that it’s time to take down bird feeders, because they risk spreading avian flu.
Wildlife biologist Elizabeth Walsh tells MacVicar:
Removing feeders will help stop the virus from spreading. I do realize people enjoy their feeders. However, as a bird lover, we also want to be making sure that … our wild populations are safe.
There is apparently little risk to humans, but the avian flu is highly transmissible, and bird feeders, where many birds congregate, can supercharge transmission.
5. Sean O’Regan has died
I was shocked to see the other day that Sean O’Regan had died at 53.
O’Regan, of course, was the CEO of the O’Regan’s Automotive Group. In a Chronicle Herald story about O’Regan, Bill Spurr writes:
Sean O’Regan, CEO of O’Regan’s Automotive Group, died of an apparent heart attack on Thursday, the same day a memorial notice appeared in The Chronicle Herald marking the tenth anniversary of his father’s death.
People who knew Sean O’Regan noted his charitable works and described him as a man who “lived large.”
“I would agree with that. Sean was large in every capacity: personality, stature, attitude,” [his brother] Patrick said.
I met O’Regan a few times in my capacity as chair of the library board. We were launching a fundraising campaign, and fundraising campaigns tend to be slow going at first. If you can get a big donor on board, that really kickstarts things. The O’Regan family, in our case, were the big donors. They came in with a $1 million donation, and that opened the door to more people kicking in so we could meet our target. I met Sean O’Regan a few times during this process, and he seemed like a genuinely decent guy who gave to a lot of causes. Fifty-three is far too young.
1. Remembering Elly Danica
Kim Pittaway remembers the moment, in 1988, when she heard Elly Danica on CBC Radio. “I can picture myself standing in the kitchen/living room of the apartment I had rented in Toronto at the time, frozen in place, listening to that interview and the power of her telling her story.”
Danica had written her story in the groundbreaking memoir, Don’t: A Woman’s Word, published in 1988. In the book, Danica describes what writer Stacey May Fowles called “her father’s relentless physical, sexual, and verbal assaults” and assaults by her father’s friends. The book became, Danica wrote on her blog, “for a few brief months, a sensation in Canada,” after she appeared on CBC Radio’s flagship show, Morningside, hosted by the legendary Peter Gzowski. He later called it the best interview he had ever done. It is perhaps all-too-telling that if you search for Elly Danica in the Canadian Encyclopedia, the only result you’ll find is a story about Peter Gzowski.
Danica died last October. She had lived in Bridgewater since moving to Nova Scotia from Saskatchewan in 1998. I only learned of Danica’s death because one of the contributors to a magazine I’m currently editing mentioned it in a feature for our next issue. I was shocked to learn she lived in Nova Scotia, and that not only had she died, but her death seemed to have gone largely unnoticed by media.
In 1988, Elly Danica published Don’t: A Woman’s Word – a searing memoir of child abuse and incest. This courageous, ground-breaking book provided a life-changing narrative for many abuse survivors, demanding that children be protected from exploitation, and that survivors get the help they need. Its publication in England, France, and the USA was followed by translations into German, Dutch, and French. For two years Elly was invited to tour and speak in Canada and Europe, at times becoming a conduit for the trauma and grief of others. Her capacity for close and deep listening was evident then, and continued throughout her life. Over the years, when asked, Elly continued to write and speak on this difficult topic, but always with care for her own, fiercely nurtured, inner well-being. The book, and the experiences which gave rise to it shaped her life, but did not stop the flow of her indomitable, loving, observant spirit. We greatly respected and appreciated Elly’s ability to balance her life so well in her adult years – as a weaver, writer, mother, painter, photographer, teacher, facilitator of women’s empowerment, engagement in social justice issues, passionate knitter, and always with curiosity and creativity in friendship.
When I mentioned on Twitter that I’d been surprised to learn of Danica’s death, Kim Pittaway replied, saying her book was “truly groundbreaking.” Pittaway is the executive director of the MFA in creative non-fiction at King’s (I am a graduate), and co-author of the bestselling Toufah: The woman who inspired an African #MeToo movement. I called her to talk about Danica, and why Don’t was so important.
“First of all, the title of it is so powerful, because the title tells a story,” Pittaway said. “There’s so much packed into those four words… And she writes it from the position of surviving. At that point, it was unusual for someone to position themselves as a survivor,” as opposed to a victim.
At the time she stood frozen, listening to that Gzowski interview, Pittaway was 24, a writer at the start of her career, and a survivor of sexual abuse who had never talked about it with anyone. The interview, she said, was “gripping and so impactful.”
Pittaway said, “She was shifting the shame of what had happened to her, from her to the people who had assaulted her. And that was also mind-blowing. To say I will speak publicly about this because this is not my shame to carry. Thirty years later, those all sound like like truisms, when at that time it was all pretty revolutionary.”
And, perhaps, most importantly, at a time when women who wrote about sexual assault almost always wrote about their experiences pseudonymously, Danica used her real name. Until Danica, Pittaway said, “Even where there was visibility of the issue, there was invisibility of the people who’d been assaulted.”
Danica’s book, and the Gzowski interview, “opened up new ways of thinking about the impact of child sexual assault and rape of children — of thinking about what it takes to survive, and to try to create a life after surviving that kind of trauma,” Pittaway said. “It opened up the opportunity for those of us who came after her to talk about those issues… She made it easier for those of us who came after to write about those things and talk about those things.”
Although she opened a door for others to tell her stories, the publication of Don’t took a personal toll. From a 2014 interview with Stacey May Fowles for The Toast:
“Until the book was published the story dominated my every waking moment,” she goes on to tell me. “The decade prior to publication I spent as a hermit, writing everyday, trying to find a way to write…in a way that would incorporate the pain of the events. I isolated myself so I could figure this out, both in terms of my personal story and then as a writer.”…
“People hurt and cried reading what I had written, which made me feel wretched. Instead of closing a chapter of my life, I was burdening others with it.” Danica goes on to detail how she would be stared at and whispered about, approached by people disclosing horrific details of their own sexual abuse, and how she took their pain on. The experience exhausted her, again made her insular and reclusive, and fostered a belief that she didn’t have an identity apart from the book, apart from her victimhood.
“In Moose Jaw, Regina or Saskatoon I was stopped in the grocery store, restaurants, public washrooms, as other child sexual abuse survivors latched on to me to share their stories,” she tells me. “How does one say no to that? These were survivors who had carried the burden of their stories for years, never having anyone believe them, and there I was, someone who knew they were telling their truths.”
This, in part, led her to move across the country.
Pittaway said she wrote three stories in the early 90s “about the impact of being sexually assaulted as a kid.” She said her pieces had “nowhere near the impact” of Danica’s book, but she was still overwhelmed with women sharing their stories with her: “The letters, the people coming up to you after speaking engagements, people coming up to you because they recognize your name, people phoning you out of the blue, because our numbers were listed in the phone book then… How do you carry those stories? There were not a lot of resources to refer people to… you’re not a therapist.”
Fowles notes that the content of Danica’s book was, of course, important, but that the content also tends to overshadow the fact that she was a really good writer:
In talking about survivor memoirs penned by women, we often use words like “therapeutic” and “courageous.” We discuss how these books have touched the lives of others, have done a great deal of good by igniting conversation, by promoting healing, or by shedding light on an issue. While all of these things are true, and are things I myself have said, in treating them this way we unfairly compartmentalize them, make them serve a specific function during a specific time for a specific group, rather than allowing them to become the iconic, permanent literature they so richly deserve to be. Danica is, of course, indisputably brave, but she’s also a skilled writer who hasn’t been able to find a traditional publisher or agent interested in her work over the last decade. It seems Don’t was paradoxically hugely popular and doomed to obscurity, downgraded to the outskirts of “self-help” or “women’s narratives,” or on an obligatory reading list for survivors and women’s studies scholars. Presently it is a difficult book to find, listed as out of stock or unavailable on many prominent book websites, my own copy sourced from a used book vendor.
In a 2001 review article published in the journal Atlantis, Danica notes she was once “described by a woman journalist, on air, as Canada’s most famous victim,” and goes on to write:
The texts written by women, most unpublished because there is a publishing chill around stories of child abuse, and memoirs by women — unless they are very famous — don’t make it to the bookstores. We can learn to give ourselves permission to create our own adult woman’s authority, but it doesn’t mean anyone will be willing to publish it or make it available to readers.
Nicole Brossard, the Governor General’s Award-winning feminist writer said of Don’t:
Elly Danica is without a doubt more a fighter than a survivor. She discovered within herself a way to find the thread and the colour of life. Day after day, she patiently wove her life together until the courage came to speak, and one day the strength to be able to write.
Tim Bousquet’s piece yesterday on people heading off to Ukraine to volunteer made me think of photographer Gerda Taro, who was killed while working as a freelance photographer during the Spanish Civil War. She was the first female war photographer killed on assignment.
Born in Germany as Gerta Pohorylle, Taro was a Jewish refugee and anti-fascist who moved to France. There, she met a photographer named Endre Friedmann, soon to be known as Robert Capa.
Taro essentially created the Capa persona. Friedmann had difficulty selling his work, and Taro had developed contacts in publishing in Paris. She posed as the agent for the fictional Capa. Editors were much more willing to buy photos from a dashing American named Robert Capa, come to make a career in Europe, than they were from a Hungarian Jew. Capa and Taro were so much a team, that archivists say for a long time it was hard to determine who took what photos — they were often mixed up together in boxes. (If you want the story of how they finally figured it out, look up “the Mexican suitcase.”
I only learned about Taro recently, while watching the documentary Searching for Gerda Taro. (I need to disclose here that I was watching it because the North American distributor, Icarus Films, was paying me to write about it. I watch and write about an awful lot of documentaries, and not many of them really capture me; this one did.)
I’ve been thinking about Taro and her enduring influence as well, while looking at pictures of women fighters in Ukraine. One of Taro’s iconic images shows a woman in high heels, one knee on the ground, aiming a revolver. She captured ordinary Spaniards heroically resisting fascism, and she did it without any attempt at objectivity. She was also the first photographer to capture images of civilians killed in aerial bombardments, visiting the morgue and photographing the bodies of victims, while their distraught families massed outside. (She photographed them too.)
Taro died in 1937, a few days shy of her 27th birthday. She was standing on the running board of a sedan racing to hospital with wounded soldiers, when it crashed into a Russian tank that unexpectedly turned onto the road.
The International Center of Photography in New York now houses many of her negatives, and mounted the first major exhibit of her work.
Confronting Historical Metadata Debt (Wednesday, 10am) — open virtual class with Itza A. Carbajal from the University of Washington, Seattle
Marriage, Separation & Divorce in England, 1500-1700 (Tuesday, 12pm) — virtual Faculty Author Series talk with Tim Stretton; hear the stories of women from the 16th-18th centuries who found themselves in broken marriages, and challenged a legal system that viewed them as subordinate to men and denied the option of divorce
In the harbour
06:00: MSC Angela, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
10:00: NYK Demeter, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
15:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
17:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from St. Croix, Virgin Islands
21:30: MSC Angela sails for sea
23:00: Franbo Lohas, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Veracruz, Mexico
No arrivals or departures.
What do you think? Should the Examiner run one of these under every story? Fits the Examiner brand, right? (I’ve never know if the “angry” one is supposed to refer to how the content of the story feels or how the story itself was written.)