1. DFO offered tidal developer one-year lease for Minas Basin site

Floating tidal generator in a body of water. IN the background, there is a small island and houses along the shoreline of another landmass.
Sustainable Marine Energy Canada tidal generator Credit: Sustainable Marine Energy Canada

“More information is surfacing concerning the departure of a tidal power developer Sustainable Marine Energy from the province,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

Last month, Sustainable Marine, a subsidiary of a company headquartered in Scotland, announced it was leaving the province after five years of experimenting with its tidal project in the Bay of Fundy near Digby. The company got a $30 million federal subsidy for the work.

As Henderson writes, the company’s CEO Jason Hayman described DFO’s regulatory process as “opaque.” 

In order to satisfy German and other private investors who had invested tens of millions of dollars in the Nova Scotia project, Hayman needed a multi-year commitment from DFO to trial the technology in the Minas Passage. 

Instead, DFO offered a one-year trial with renewal of that lease conditional upon the company strengthening its environmental monitoring. DFO was concerned about harmful interactions with a commercial herring fishery and two species-at-risk — white shark and inner Bay of Fundy salmon.

That new information is contained in a three-page letter from federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray to Sustainable Marine Energy Canada. The letter is dated May 11, 2023 — almost three weeks after Jason Hayman announced the company was leaving town. 

Click here to read “DFO offered tidal developer one-year lease for Minas Basin site.”

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2. New long-term care homes

A woman in a beige tweed jacket, white blouse and double strand of pearls stands in front of a podium and speaks into a microphone while two men in suits stand on each side behind her.
Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care Barbara Adams during Wednesday’s long-term care announcement in Lower Sackville. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

“The locations of six new long-term care homes set to be built in the Halifax area were unveiled by the province on Wednesday,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

In January, the provincial government announced that Gem Healthcare, Shannex Inc, Northwoodcare, and Rosecrest Communities were building facilities at undisclosed locations in Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Sackville.

During a media conference at The Sagewood in Lower Sackville Wednesday morning, Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care Barbara Adams announced the locations of the six new facilities. One will be a 144-room building on land immediately adjacent to the Sagewood on Cobequid Road.

“Things are happening. We are ready to build,” Adams said of the six facilities. 

Scheduled to open in 2025, the new long-term care homes will provide 720 new living spaces for seniors in the Central Zone (HRM). Negotiations for a seventh long-term care home in the Halifax area are still underway. That facility will add another 90 long-term care spaces. 

Click here to read “Six new long-term care homes scheduled to open in Halifax area in 2025.”

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3. Health Canada warns about abortion drugs sold on ‘Dr. Pooja’ websites

A white box with black, blue and orange lettering that contains pills for the medical termination of pregnancy.
Credit: Federation of Medical Women in Canada

d’Entremont also has this article about an advisory from Health Canada about abortion and morning-after pills being sold online. She writes:

“They may be ineffective, expired, mislabeled, subject to recalls, or counterfeit versions of authorized products,” the advisory notes. 

“Unauthorized drugs may have no active ingredients, the wrong ingredients, or dangerous additives such as prescription drugs not listed on the label.”

The advisory was posted Tuesday on Health Canada’s online ‘Recalls and safety alerts’ page. It urges Canadians not to buy or use any unauthorized health products from “Dr. Pooja” websites. The agency said prescription drugs should only be purchased from licensed pharmacies.

Click here to read “Health Canada issues warning about abortion, morning-after pills sold on ‘Dr. Pooja’ websites.”

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4. Keshen Goodman Library reno

An architectural rendering shows people in a library. Some are on laptops or phones while others browse the shelves.
A rendering showing the planned renovations to the inside of the Keshen Goodman Library. Credit: Halifax Public Libraries/Fathom

“Halifax councillors are recommending in favour of another budget increase for the renovation of the Keshen Goodman Library in Clayton Park,” writes Zane Woodford.

The library originally opened in 2001, and it now sees 400,000 visitors annually. The library “provides critical social infrastructure in the rapidly expanding Clayton Park area,” according to project manager Maribeth McCarvill.

“The branch is 20% of the size of the Halifax Central Library but circulates 85% of its material volume,” McCarvill wrote in a report to council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee.

The municipality is renovating the library to enhance the services provided there, improve accessibility, and increase the efficiency of the building. The work is already underway.

Council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee met Wednesday. It voted to recommend council approve about $1.2 million in extra budget for the project.

The money for this project will come from the budget of a planned reno at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library.

Click here to read “Halifax Public Libraries’ Keshen Goodman renovation goes further over budget.”

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5. Bike mayor

A group of people on bicycles drive down a tree-lined city street on a nice day. The man on the bike in front is wearing a helmet, sunglasses, and a t-shirt with a raccoon on it.
Stephen MacKay, centre, is the new bike mayor of Halifax. Credit: BYCS

Halifax has a new bike mayor. Stephen MacKay will be taking over the job as bike mayor from Jillian Banfield who’s served in the role for the past three years.

MacKay, who goes by Raccoon at Home over at Twitter, will be taking over the Bike Mayor Halifax Twitter account to promote biking in the city.

BYCS, an Amsterdam-based global NGO that supports community-led change in cities, started the bicycle mayors project as one its campaigns to promote cycling. It had an introduction to MacKay on its website this week. Here’s what MacKay said about his plans as bike mayor:

I hope to make cycling in Halifax more accessible to everybody. I want children, like my own, to be able to explore the city. I want seniors to feel safe and able to get out and about, to enable them to stay active and engaged in our community. I want to change the idea of who a cyclist is by seeking out and amplifying diverse voices. I want everyone to see Halifax as a cycling city. I’m going to work towards this by advocating for safe and connected cycling infrastructure throughout the city, by collaborating with those that want to make improvements and those who have the means to make them and by celebrating the diversity of riders in our community.

Banfield started cycling in grad school, and continued because cycling was easier for her than walking because she has arthritis. Banfield’s done a great job sharing stories about cycling in HRM, including her own. She’s also been a great promotor of accessibility in cycling. You can read about Banfield’s introduction as bike mayor when she took on the role here.

You may remember MacKay from a couple of stories in the Examiner, including this article from November 2021. That month, MacKay set up a protest in his North End neighbourhood to get drivers to slow down. On his Twitter account, MacKay had been documenting the crashes in the area, including one that killed a woman.

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Random acts of kindness won’t address social issues

An old bandsaw in a wooden barn. It looks like it has not been used in many years. A row of mounted speakers is visible in the background.
It’s a bandsaw at the Full Circle music festival in 2013, not an orphan-crushing machine, but it will do. Credit: Philip Moscovitch

Earlier this week, Adam Sawatsky at CTV had this story about a woman who works at an A&W in British Columbia whose colleagues donated their paycheques so she could take more time off for maternity leave.

Lisa Armstrong recently gave birth to a son, Declan, a few weeks early. He weighed just four pounds 11 ounces when he was born, but is now a healthy seven pounds.

But Armstrong told Sawatsky she was struggling because she could only take two weeks off work to stay at home:

“[Employment Insurance] only gives you 55% of your income and I can’t go without my full income,” Lisa admits. “So I’m going to use my two weeks paid vacation and then come back to work after that.”

So, Armstrong’s colleagues, a group of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17, got together and donated their wages to Armstrong, who they call their “work mom.” They presented an envelope with the money to Armstrong at a baby shower they hosted at the restaurant.

“It was $1,011.50 in there. It was almost my full paycheque in there,” Lisa starts crying. “They didn’t want me to worry. They wanted me take more time off.”

“You can’t say thank you enough,” Lisa cries. “I was blown away by the love I got from them.”

This is a lovely story. It was incredibly kind and generous for the teenagers to do this. They are examples for all of us. But as many have pointed out, this really isn’t a heartwarming story at all.

A lot of commenters asked why Armstrong wasn’t taking more maternity leave. We get that in Canada, right? As Armstrong said, parents gets 55% of their gross salary while on maternity/parental leave. Fifty-five percent of a minimum wage isn’t much.

And you only get the 55% if you’re eligible for maternity leave in the first place. One of those requirements is you have to have worked at least 600 hours in the 52 weeks previous to applying for benefits. So, if you’re self employed or were in school and didn’t pay into EI, you don’t qualify (I wrote about this a year ago in a discussion on breastfeeding. I got $200 in maternity leave because I was in school the year I got pregnant).

And many minimum wage workers don’t work full-time hours, so their take home of 55% is even less. Sure, when you’re home you don’t have the expenses associated with going to work, but you now have a child and that requires money.

Far too many people asked, “Why is she having a baby when she only makes minimum wage?” The question really should be “Why don’t employers pay workers enough to raise families?”

And others asked about top-ups from employers. A lot of employers don’t top up maternity benefits. Here are some stats according to this article from Benefits Canada:

The survey, conducted among 207 Canadian employers, found 53 per cent provide income replacement of 95 per cent to 100 per cent of regular weekly earnings for employees on maternity leave. A third (31 per cent) offer maternity benefits of six to eight weeks, while 55 per cent offer nine to 18 weeks.

But stories like this one are part of a larger trend of stories that just leave us with more questions about systems where too many people are falling through the cracks. Philip Moscovitch wrote about this last month:

What I didn’t realize at the time is that there is a whole subreddit for these kinds of stories. (A subreddit is essentially a forum.) It’s called Orphan-Crushing Machine, and its slogan is “less inspiring, more dystopian.”

The term “orphan-crushing machine” comes from a 2020 tweet:

Every heartwarming human interest story in america is like “he raised $20,000 to keep 200 orphans from being crushed in the orphan-crushing machine, and then never asks why an orphan-crushing machine exists or why you’d need to pay to prevent it from being used.”

I see these orphan-crushing machine stories all the time. And yes, they are about kindness and do make us feel good about the world, but it’s possible to celebrate kindness and point out how systems are failing people at the same time. It seems a lot of people can’t do this. Think of any time the power goes out: people complain about Nova Scotia Power, but others think that means you’re criticizing the linespeople out there working to get the power back on. No one is criticizing the linespeople doing the work.

In 2012, Lynne Fernandez at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote this article called “Random Acts of Kindness Not Enough to Fight Inequality.” In it, she writes about another orphan-crushing machine story, this one about Kristian Doubledee, a Winnipeg bus driver who one day got off the bus he was driving to give his shoes to an unhoused man on the street. Doubleday and then Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz appeared on media to share the story. Fernandez writes:

Mr. Doubledee said something that should grab our attention more than that one action: he said that he hopes the anonymous homeless man will now receive as much attention as he’s been getting. And that sentiment brings us to the crux of the matter.

What kind of attention should the marginalized receive? If we accept that something needs to be done (and judging by the international attention this story is receiving, many people do) how can we actually make a difference? Random acts of kindness, nice as they are, will not begin to deal with the complex array of problems facing most marginalized people.

As we contemplate possible strategies, it is instructive to remember that Canada, Manitoba included, was a more equal place forty years ago. Food banks were unheard of – because they weren’t needed; homelessness was relatively rare; childhood poverty was less severe; the middle class was larger, with more people making decent wages. What happened? How did conditions deteriorate so?  Why do we seem so helpless in the face of worsening social conditions?

That was 11 years ago and so much has happened since then. A pandemic, a housing crisis, an affordability crisis, health care breakdowns, and more. Many people are a paycheque or two from disaster.

People like these heartwarming stories because it makes us feel like we can do even a little something to make the lives of people better. And they make us feel good about ourselves and our acts of kindness. These stories seem especially hopeful in a world where we’re bombarded with bad news all the time or we are doomscrolling on the internet. People have always been kind, though, even well before social media and the internet were a thing where people document that kindness every day.

Even thinking about changing systems is a big deal for some people. A lot of people don’t even want to talk about how to change systems because they don’t know where to start. It’s too negative to think about, they’ll say. Fernandez writes about how we can be kind, together.

We need a societal response; a collective, sustained and forceful act of kindness. Making politicians understand that we want an end to: tax cuts for the rich and corporations; lousy jobs; and, cuts to social services would constitute a collective act of effective kindness. If enough of us deliver this message, we’ll win back a more equal society.

It’s possible to live in a world without orphan-crushing machines.

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Samplers stitch together a hidden history of lives of Black girls at African School of Halifax

Needlework in a dark frame. The needlework shows a two-storey house with a red chimney in the middle of its roof and five windows and a front door. There is a sign stitched above the door that says "African School." 

The text of the needlework says "God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen, God save the queen. Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us, God save our queen. The entire work is surrounded by a small floral print.
A sampler created by 12-year-old Rachel Barrett. Credit: Nova Scotia Museum, Cultural History collection, 2018.14.1.

Last night I attended a lecture called “’Marking’ Identity and Respectability: 19th Century Samplers, Halifax’s African School, and Scholars of the Needle” that was hosted by the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society (the event was in-person and online).

The speaker was Lisa Bower, assistant curator and registrar for the Nova Scotia Museum’s Cultural History collection. Bower, who is also an embroiderer, spoke about a sampler from the Nova Scotia Museum’s collection that was made in 1845 by Rachel Barrett, a young Black girl who was a student at the African School in Halifax.

This was a fasincating and detailed talk, not only about the sampler made by Rachel Barrett, but also the long global history of samplers themselves.

The word sampler derives from the Latin word “exemplum” meaning a model for initiation, a pattern, an example. 

“That defines the sampler’s original purpose, which was to record different types of stitches and patterns for future reference and use,” Bower said. “Sampler making was a global practice that predated its usage in Europe and North America.”

“Every sampler has a story to tell. Composed of text either lone or accompanied by images or motifs, samplers can offer insights to social and cultural history on education, gender, class, and textile and craft practices.”

“As an embroiderer myself, I am fortunate that as part of my duties at the Nova Scotia Museum, I’ve been able to work closely with this remarkable textile collection, including over 100 samplers.”

Samplers are a form of textile that feature the hand stitching of different types of embroidery in the form of images, designs, motifs, and text directly onto a base of fabric. This needlework was created by cultures around the world. Bower said some of the earliest examples of samplers found date from Peru circa 200 BCE and 300 CE. 

Fragments of Coptic stitch samplers have also been found in Egyptian burial ground dating from 400 to 500 CE and again in the 15th century.

A screenshot from a Zoom presentation that shows two very old textiles with needle work. The one on the left is from Peru and dated the second century. While the other textile is an off white with blue threads and dated from 1598
Credit: Lisa Bower/Nova Scotia Museum

Samplers are an example of the larger practice of “needle wisdom,” a term coined by one author to describe the textile knowledge and artistry made by women in the U.S., but Bower said this needle wisdom applied universally.

Needle wisdom came to Nova Scotia with waves of settlers, including women of African descent and white settler girls. Many of those girls brought samplers with them when they arrived in Nova Scotia and continued the tradition, passing down the skills to the next generation.

Needlework knowledge was often taught at home, but as education expanded for girls and women, sewing and needlework was offered in the classroom, too.

Samplers were used for decorative displays, but also as a CV of sorts for young girls and women to showcase their needlework skills so they could find employment or make extra income for their families. Bower said samplers were also used as a way to chronicle difficult life experiences or as an outlet for suffering. 

“Marking” was considered the plainest and most practical of embroidery work because it involved hand stitching of letters or numbers onto a surface of a textile, usually bedding, clothing, or towels, using coloured thread. All women were expected to know the fundamentals of marking. By the 19th century, markings had become a popular method for learning needlework.

Bower said hundreds, if not thousands, of samplers, likely exist in collections across Canada, the U.S, Europe, and the U.K. 

Sampler making was often included as part of the education of young girls in North America during the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a method for “reinforcing and demonstrating students’ knowledge of the alphabet, religion, numeracy, literacy, and in some cases, mathematics and geography.”

“Needlework instruction was intended to prepare young girls for life in service or as a symbol of their gentility, gender, class, moral and religious beliefs, depending on their social circumstances,” Bower said.

A screenshot of a Zoom presentation that has photos of two samples, cloth with needlework on them. The one on the left has the name Lucy Hartshorne and the date May 18, 1837 with "age ten years." The second sampler is of three trees in yellow pots with a border around them. Above each sampler is a photo copy of handwritten notes.
Credit: Lisa Bower/Nova Scotia Museum

Bower said Barrett’s sampler provides some new insights into the curriculum at the African School, a segregated Anglican charity school that operated in Halifax between 1836 and the mid-1850s. In 1845, when Barrett attended the school, she was one of 28 girls in attendance that year.

The teachers were Daniel Gallagher, who taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and English grammar, and his wife, Jane, who taught needlework and sample making.

Many of the girls at the school made clothing, including socks, mittens, and stockings, at home using the skills they learned at school.

The Nova Scotia Museum acquired Barrett’s sampler in 2018 after an auctioneer in the U.S. approached the museum. That auctioneer was approached by the owner of the sampler, who found it among her mother’s belongings in a cottage just outside of Chester. Bower said how the mother acquired the sampler is a bit of a mystery. 

Bower said the auctioneer realized its significance and called the museum. Bower said the museum had three days to figure out how to get the sampler, but they lost in the bidding.

Bower said she left her contact information with the auctioneer to pass onto the winning bidder in the hopes it was someone she knew in the U.S. who was a historian and major collector of samplers. She eventually did get an email from that collector who offered the sampler to the museum. 

“It could have gone to a private collector and we never would have seen it again,” Bower said.

As part of her research on the sampler, Bower has worked to learn more about Rachel Barrett and her family. Through her research, Bower found that Rachel was likely the daughter of William Barrett, whose name she found in some archival records.

She also found references to a William Barrett in connection with Rev. Richard Preston. 

“The name Barrett is found in multiple records in Halifax after the arrival of Black refugees,” Bower said. 

The names Rachel Barrett and William Barrett are found in marriage records from an interracial couple. A William Barrett was found in records noting that he was baptised and ordained a deacon by Rev. Richard Preston. 

William Barrett escaped enslavement from a tobacco plantation outside Richmond, Virginia during the War of 1812. He escaped with the help of another enslaved person, an office clerk, who forged a travel pass for Barrett’s passage off the plantation.

I asked Bower if she’s been able to find descendents of Rachel and William Barrett, but so far she said she hasn’t found anyone.

Bower also explained all the details on Barrett’s sampler: how Barrett used a plain open weave linen, a common fabric used for samplers; how different threads such as silk were used; and how the design of the school included specific architectural details, making it “realistic and distinctive.” Bower said Barrett’s sampler is the only one she found that depicts a Nova Scotia building, making it a unique example.

“As a singular specimen of student work to survive from the school, it situated African Nova Scotia school girls as part of the local and global history of sampler making,” Bower said wrapping up her lecture. “It demonstrates how education and needlework work together, and in some situations, provided opportunities for the expression of self and group identity.

“Nearly two centuries later, the survival of the sampler allows for the recouping of a hidden history, one that marks her existence, her name, and her experience as a young African Nova Scotian school girl in Halifax.”

There was far more to this talk than I included here: a detailed history of samplers and needlework; the history of the African School in Halifax; and a look into the lives and work of girls and women, whose names aren’t often recorded elsewhere (ask any genealogist how challenging it can be to find records and details about their female ancestors).

I also thought Bower, as an embroiderer herself, brought lots of expertise on needlework and needle wisdom that she shared in the lecture. I will look at that work differently now.

The lecture should be on the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society’s YouTube channel soon, if you want to check it out. Bower also wrote a piece on Barrett’s sampler here as part of Historic Nova Scotia’s website.

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Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm,  City Hall and online) — agenda

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre) — agenda


No meetings

On campus


Allosteric modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels: opportunities for neuropathic pain drug discoveries (Thursday, 11am, Room 170 CHEB) — Rajesh Khanna, from New York University will talk

In the harbour

07:00: Santanda, bulker, arrives at Pier 28 from Porto Trombeta, Brazil
07:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
08:00: ITS Viginio Fasan, Italian naval frigate, arrives at Dockyard 
11:30: Morning Charlotte, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
12:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:30: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Autoport
16:00: Santanda sails for sea
16:00: MSC Melissa, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Baltimore

Cape Breton
12:00: NSU Challenger, bulker, sails from Chedabucto Bay anchorage for sea
12:00: CSL Metis, bulker, sails from Chedabucto Bay anchorage for sea


I bought a bag of Allsorts yesterday. They were on sale and didn’t taste great. I ate them anyway.

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Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. Researching & publishing ” answers to these questions would be most enlightening … “it is instructive to remember that Canada, Manitoba included, was a more equal place forty years ago. Food banks were unheard of – because they weren’t needed; homelessness was relatively rare; childhood poverty was less severe; the middle class was larger, with more people making decent wages. What happened? How did conditions deteriorate so? “