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Before going on, I want to say a few words about the Halifax Examiner’s coverage of the school support workers’ strike, which I think has been exemplary. Look, obviously I write for the Examiner, but if I wasn’t impressed by this coverage, I could simply go on to news items in this Morning File and not say anything more about it.

But I do want to say something. Far too often, reporting on strikes is extremely one-sided. Strikers are going to wreck the economy, inconvenience people, and so on. That reporting tends to lay all the blame at the feet of the strikers, often with calls to legislate them back to work.

There is absolutely no doubt that in this situation people have been inconvenienced and far worse. It is also true that strikes are a last resort, and one of the few tools workers have available to them. Being on strike is hard and miserable and stressful. I think the Examiner has captured this complexity in its reporting, and I tip my cap to my colleagues for really digging into these stories, presenting the complex human issues, and resisting the simplistic narratives. That’s the kind of thing I appreciated from the Examiner when I was just a reader, and I continue to appreciate it as a contributor.

I’m going to steal a line from a podcast I listen to, which recently held what the hosts call a “begathon.” If you can’t afford a subscription, we don’t want you to cause yourself financial hardship by subscribing. But if you’ve kind of been thinking that hey, maybe you should subscribe to the Examiner some day, please consider making that day today. Subscribing now will help expand the scope of what the Examiner can cover.

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1. Keeping children out of school is a human rights violation: Inclusion Nova Scotia

The back of a young boy's head is seen staring out a large picture window at his front yard and street as he waits for the school bus to drive by.
Cohen Scarff, 10, waits for the school bus that he can no longer take since EPA strike began May 10. Credit: Mike Scarff

“As the school support workers strike that has kept hundreds of students with disabilities out of Halifax-area classrooms marks four weeks, Inclusion Nova Scotia is calling it a human rights violation and demanding an immediate remedy,” Yvette d’Entremont reports.

In her story, d’Entremont speaks with Stephanie Carver, chair of the board of Inclusion Nova Scotia. Carver says:

“If the strike is going to continue, if there’s any kind of work stoppage because of a labour dispute, the burden of that cannot be borne by one sector of the students inequitably. This is what is happening.”

This is a thoughtful story that drives home the children who rely on EPAs are facing, as the strike drags on with no talks schedule. Here’s one bit that jumped out at me:

“There needs to be a creative but equitable solution to this that means that every single student in the system feels the impact of it equitably,” she said. 

“There would be families of students who are neurotypical who’d say, ‘Well that’s not fair.’ But this is not fair…

Carver said there would rightfully be an uproar if other marginalized groups of students couldn’t attend school because staff members were unable to keep them safe. When it comes to students with disabilities, she said it’s disheartening that “nobody is talking about it.” 

This gets to the heart of so much, doesn’t it? There is altogether too much general shrugging and lack of concern when those most affected by circumstances are marginalized. I see this in the euphoria over how great it is for people to be back together in person for events. Please think about who you are leaving behind.

Click here to read “Inclusion Nova Scotia: Exclusion of students with disabilities from school a human rights violation.”

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2. Support workers rally in call for talks

A group of mostly women, many wearing pink, hold signs asking for a fair deal for school support workers. One woman, Joanne Dileo, holds a sign saying 'I am proud to be an ECE! Don't undervalue me!'
Striking school support workers at the corner of Woodlawn and Main Street in Dartmouth on June 7, 2023. Joanne Dileo (second from left) holds her ECE sign. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

School support workers rallied to call on the province to come to the negotiating table, Yvette d’Entremont reports:

“We’re hearing words from the premier and the minister of education that members should go back and talk to their union. Essentially bargaining is two people at the table,” Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Nova Scotia president Nan McFadgen said in an interview Wednesday morning. 

“And if we could resolve this by talking to ourselves at the table, I promise you we would. We wouldn’t be on a picket and they’d be already making a living wage. We can’t talk to our union to bargain, we need to talk to the employer.”

Click here to read “‘Please see us’: Support workers’ union wants premier, education minister at bargaining table.”

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3. An expert explains the science of wildfires

A young white woman dressed in a red uniform shirt and wearing an orange helmet with a clear visor and a black bag that is holding a walkie-talkie across her chest. She is standing on a slope in the forest and there are small flames coming out of the grass and ground. Smoke billows around the tall trees behind her.
Dr. Ellen Whitman, forest fire research scientist and works for Natural Resources Canada in the Canadian Forests Service.

Suzanne Rent speaks with wildfire expert Dr. Ellen Whitman, who grew up in the Annapolis Valley, about how wildfires behave and what we can do to mitigate future risks.

One question we hear a lot is whether or not fires are caused by humans. As Tim Bousquet has pointed out, just about every wildfire is caused by humans. Generally, I think when people ask that question, they are trying to get at whether people were being careless, or even if they set the fire intentionally. But even those with no intention of causing harm can set off fires. Here’s what Whitman says:

Human activity, we keep it very broad as a category in terms of what causes fires. So, that can be something like arson or intentional fires that are started by a person. But it can also be something like a spark from a railway. Both of those are human-caused fires, but the actions behind them are quite different.

When we think of members of the public and things that lead to unintended fires, we are typically talking about things like campfires not being put out properly and getting away after being left alone for hours. Cigarettes and matches, they do still matter. Putting something lit on the ground, you may not see it start a fire but if you walk away it can smoulder in the ground for a little bit and take off.

There’s obviously equipment that can start fires as well. When we talk about using four-wheelers or quads in the woods, it might be surprising to people, but if you’re moving through thick, peaty mud, and that gets onto an exhaust pipe and heats up, it can fall off and start a fire. Or operating a chainsaw that goes against a rock causes a spark. There’s a broad diversity of human-caused fires and I don’t think we have a great understanding of which are the most problematic. But in all cases, it’s generally unintentional, but people need to be super careful.

Click here to read “An expert explains the science of wildfires.”

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4. Someone to go with: the importance of reducing social isolation

Poster for an event called Someone to go With. Illustration shows two people standing, with one leaning their head on the shoulder of the other. The poster also says Finding and nurturing friendships in challenging times.
Poster for Someone to Go With, hosted by the Brunswick Street Mission

On Monday, June 12, the Brunswick Street Mission is hosting “Someone to Go With,” the first in what may become a series of events designed to reduce social isolation. The event runs from 2:30pm to 4:30pm.

Kendall Worth, one of the organizers of the event, has written several posts on his blog, Journalism for What Matters, about social isolation for marginalized people, and the importance of creating programs to help overcome it. (I reached out to Worth for an interview, but had not heard back by this morning.)

Yesterday, I spoke with Cassie Sinyerd, program and outreach coordinator for the Brunswick Street Mission, the event’s host and one of its organizers. “Our community has been calling for more social inclusion events for awhile now,” Sinyerd said. Last summer, the organization surveyed their community about their needs and how they could be addressed, “And we had a lot of feedback requesting social events — things like bingo and movie afternoons and board games. Fun social events where no money is required.”

Sinyerd said when surviving is a priority, it can be difficult for people to get to social events. Plus, most events cost money. And those who do go may find themselves made to feel uncomfortable. (What I wanted to write here at first was something about there being a stigma to poverty, but I am on a mission to never write the word stigma in the context of poverty or mental illness again.)

“The ideas brought by Kendall, in particular, were knowing from experience there are lots of free events over the summertime in HRM, and going anywhere alone can kind of be intimidating. But if you have someone to go with, that could make the difference in participating and feeling comfortable to participate,” Sinyerd said.

“Across the board,” human beings want “a feeling of belonging,” she added. But, “We can’t really belong in society if we don’t have funds to participate. Places like the library really are the only social spaces left where it’s unexpected to spend money. So creating space or opportunity for folks to have a feeling of connection and belonging to their community impacts mental health. So that is definitely a priority… It seems like there’s a gap in our community right now in addressing different mental health needs. There are a lot of mental health interventions that can be appropriately and safely done in community. And social inclusion programs is is one way we can do that.”

For now, the plan is pretty loose: get people together in a structured environment, see how it goes, decide what to do next.

“Well, it’s important to go with the flow because it is the first time we’re doing this,” Sinyerd said. “So, we’ll have tables set up, we’ll have snacks, coffee, tea, bottled water, and different conversation starters. We’re hoping to do small groups. And if that is going well, we won’t break into pairs, but we’ve also got that on the table as an option.”

For now, this is the only event planned, but Sinyerd says, “We’ll see how it goes… There is definitely hope that there will be more events. Could be at Brunswick Street Mission or could be outside in the community.”

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5. Atlantic Book Awards

A young Black woman with flowing long hair stands at a microphone, speaking. She has one hand in the air, at the height of her face.
Author and Atlantic Book Awards host Lindsay Ruck, seen in a screenshot from the event’s livestream. Credit: Atlantic Book Awards

The winners of the Atlantic Book Awards were announced at a gala held last night at the Halifax Central Library. The event was hosted by Lindsay Ruck. Here’s the list of winners:

  • Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction: Elaine McCluskey, for Rafael Has Pretty Eyes (Goose Lane Editions)
  • Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature: Nicola Davison, for Decoding Dot Grey (Nimbus Publishing)
  • APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award: Goose Lane Editions with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, for Wabanaki Modern / Wabanaki Kiskukewey / Wabanaki Moderne by Emma Hassencahl-Perley & John Leroux
  • Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing: Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis, for The Solidarity Encounter: Women, Activism, and Creating Non-Colonizing Relations (UBC Press)
  • J. M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award: Nanci Lee, for Hsin (Brick Books)
  • Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award: K. R. Byggdin, for Wonder World (Enfield & Wizenty/Great Plains Publications)

At $30,000, the Raddall is one of Canada’s richest literary prizes.

I interviewed K.R. Byggdin for the Examiner about Wonder World last year, and you can read that interview here.

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6. The Iron Sheik has died

A web page banner showing the Iron Sheik, a very fit Iranian man, along with Sheik merch. In one of the images he holds a sword in his mouth by the blade.
The Iron Sheik. Credit:

The Iron Sheik has died, at age 81. The Sheik was a professional wrestler from Iran who became one of the best known heels (i.e, bad guys) of his era. He had quite the background, including being an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler and serving as a bodyguard for the last Shah of Iran, Perhaps you remember Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania. Hogan was the first person to get out of the Sheik’s deadly finisher, the Camel Clutch, and that victory launched his long run as WWF/WWE champion.

The Sheik is also one of the great characters of early Twitter, his feed full of all-caps exhortations to “GO FUCK YOURSELF” or for various other people or phenomena to do the same. “FUCK THE MONDAY,” “FUCK THE WILDFIRES,” and so on. (Who was actually tweeting on the Sheik’s behalf? I have no idea.)

If you want to know more about the Sheik’s remarkable life and career, this ESPN story is very good.

My personal favourite Sheik moment was him turning up at City Hall in Toronto a decade ago, in his wheelchair, challenging Rob Ford to arm-wrestle him:

The city hall spectacle following Mayor Rob Ford’s crack-smoking confession became an even more bizarre sideshow Wednesday, with the appearance of a 71-year-old WWE wrestler challenging the mayor to an arm wrestle, and Ford blowing kisses to media as he escorted children through the offices for Take Our Kids to Work Day…

“I want to see Mr. Ford,” The Sheik shouted during a media scrum, saying he had “no respect” for the mayor.

“I just want to know: Is he a real man, or no?”

Aided by an assistant, The Sheik said he would “absolutely” put Ford in his signature “Camel Clutch” chin-lock, given the opportunity.

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Chow Mein with green cabbage, and other stories of immigration and food

A Chinese-Canadian woman with shoulder-length dark hair , and wearing a leather jacket, looks straight into the camera. She has a sort of half smile.
Writer Ann Hui, features in Season 4 of the Countless Journeys podcast. Credit: Courtesy Ann Hui, via the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Food and immigration are inextricably tied up with each other. There are the foods you leave behind and miss, the new foods you discover, the foods you bring to your new country, and the changes to cuisine that immigration brings. As the child of an immigrant Greek mother, keenly remember leaving our mostly anglo suburban Montreal enclave and heading for the Greek grocery stores on Park Avenue. We didn’t get burgers or pizza at home. We got avgolemono and tourlou.

Food is the subject of the new season of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s podcast series. Now in its fourth year, the English version of the podcast, produced and hosted by Tina Pittaway, is called Countless Journeys, while the French version (which I produce and host) is called D’innombrables voyages.

The podcasts are independent of each other, in that neither version is a translation of the other. They each stand alone.

The first episode of the English season, released a few weeks ago (wherever you get your podcasts) features Pittaway interviewing Ann Hui, the author of Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants. It’s a great kickoff to the season, because it touches on so many issues related to immigrants and food. Several years ago Hui, newly hired as a food writer for the Globe and Mail, set off on a cross-Canada trip to visit smalltown Chinese restaurants and interview the owners. Hui grew up in Vancouver, the daughter of immigrants from China, and said she was always surprised by the “Canadian Chinese food” she was served in restaurants outside of her hometown: chicken balls, ginger beef, chop suey.

You could be snobby and dismiss these foods as not “authentic” or you could see them as a testament to the ingenuity of Chinese labourers brought to Canada, facing racism and being legally barred from most jobs, in creating a particular cuisine that would spread across the country and still be going strong more than a century later.

Hui tells Pittaway about how her quest to learn more about Chinese restaurants led her to a couple of significant personal revelations — revelations whose impacts she is still working through, several years later.

In another episode, coming soon, Pittaway speaks with a food writer and her Holocaust survivor father — and how they bonded over a simple but meaningful dish from his childhood.

In the first episode of D’innombrables voyages, I look at changing tastes in the Maritimes, featuring interviews with New Brunswick-based goat cheese maker Didier Laurent (former chief steward to the king of Belgium… he got fed up with the young nobles at the court and decided he wanted a change of pace), and Frederic Tandy, who owns Ratinaud in the North End of Halifax. Tandy told me when he applied for a job in Canada some 20 years ago and was hired to work at Keltic Lodge he had to look up Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, because the names meant absolutely nothing to him. Now, he says, he is happy to see new waves of immigrants bringing their own food cultures to Atlantic Canada.

One of the fun things about working on this podcast is diving into the museum’s oral history archives. There’s a whole section on the website on newcomers’ first taste of white bread. Some remember being fascinated by it as kids. Others remember being disgusted. One thought it was a sponge. Another wanted to get back on the boat to Italy. I usually do one episode each season built around oral history recordings, and one of my favourites this time was from Mireille Thomas, who grew up in Provence and wound up living in Newfoundland in the 1960s, where she remembers being able to buy whale meat, but very few fresh vegetables. I also sympathized with Serge Tamba, a newcomer from Cameroon who found himself living in a Best Western hotel in Winnipeg for a couple of weeks, after he first came to Canada as an international student and could not find housing. “I am a Cameroonian, an African who is not very complicated. I do not eat Western meals. I love cooking. Cooking is one of my passions.”

So, you can imagine what living off Best Western foods, even for a few weeks, would be like.

Obviously, I am biased, but I think these are good podcasts. Pittaway and I enjoy working on them, and I hope you will enjoy listening, in English or French — or both.

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Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, online) — agenda


No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Asian Empire, car carrier, moves from Pier 9 to Autoport
07:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
11:00: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, moves from Pier 28 to conduct testing near Imperial dock
12:00: AlgoBerta, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Sept-Iles, Quebec
15:30: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
15:30: Asian Empire sails for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
16:30: ZIM Virginia, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Savannah, Georgia
22:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Tim Bousquet co-hosts today’s Canadaland podcast. The subject is, no surprise here, wildfires. One of the key points Bousquet makes is that it’s important to understand fires and report on them not just in the context of the blazes themselves, but also the deeper issues.

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

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    1. Agreed. Definitely keep it up. The reporting on this issue has made me think, which is never a bad thing.

  1. I wonder when the era of standardization in small-town Chinese restaurants began – for instance, if you get chicken balls with whatever that red sauce is, it is exactly the same everywhere.