1. Disability groups applaud ‘historic agreement’

Two women sit in front of a microphone
Vicky Levack (left) and Kariellen Graham, members of the Disability Rights Coalition. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“Advocacy groups are applauding a “historic” interim agreement reached with the province of Nova Scotia to end the discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

The province has agreed to recommendations from an independent expert report, endorsed by the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia (DRC). That report calls for an end to the forcible confinement of people with disabilities in institutions as well as a total system transformation.

“This historic agreement sends a powerful message across the country that the practices of institutionalization and denying individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families supports, while they are left by the tens of thousands on waiting lists, will no longer be tolerated,” Krista Carr, executive vice president of Inclusion Canada, said in a media release on Wednesday.

“Families and individuals with intellectual disabilities have been seeking an end to these discriminatory practices for decades and we celebrate their success as they move forward to a more promising and inclusive future.”

Click here to read “Disabilty rights groups say historic agreement with Nova Scotia sends ‘powerful message’.”

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2. Robie Street heritage property

An old olive green home with symmetrical dormers on either side of a peak is seen on a street corner. The home has a storm porch with a curved staircase extending left from the doorway.
1206 Robie St. in February 2023. Credit: HRM

“Halifax’s heritage committee is recommending council register a property at the corner of Robie and South streets,” reports Zane Woodford.

The Heritage Advisory Committee considered 1206 Robie St. during a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

Municipal heritage planner Elizabeth Cushing told the committee John R. Richardson, the first resident, built the house in 1875. Cushing said the home is a localized version of a vernacular gothic cottage design advertised in the Canada Farmer newspaper in 1864.

“The combination of a centre-pitched roof, typically found in gothic revival style homes, combined with five-sided Scottish dormers and a storm porch is an example of vernacular architecture that is unique to Halifax,” Cushing said.

There are similar buildings elsewhere in peninsular Halifax and in downtown Dartmouth.

Click here to read “Heritage committee recommends registration for Robie Street property.”

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3. Water system surveillance

A scientist stares into a beaker of water. He's wearing a lab coat with a pink shirt underneath.
Graham Gagnon, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in water quality and treatment at Dalhousie University, poses for a photo in the school’s water lab in Halifax on Aug. 13, 2019. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“Community wastewater surveillance to determine COVID-19 viral loads made a splash during the pandemic as awareness of its usefulness spread,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

Now, Halifax-based researchers are using tools and approaches gleaned from the pandemic to monitor other water systems and water-related health threats in Nova Scotia. 

“When we worked in tracking SARS-CoV-2, it was a very exciting time for us,” Dr. Graham Gagnon said in an interview. “There are few projects that I’ve worked on that have engaged the public so quickly and so profoundly with so many questions.” 

Gagnon is director of the Centre for Water Resources Studies (CWRS) and a Dalhousie University researcher. While looking for SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater at the onset of the pandemic, he and his team developed a method for measuring the virus. That tool is now commercially sold.

Although highly effective, Gagnon said the tool’s drawback is that it’s specific to SARS-CoV-2. Throughout the pandemic, he and his team have frequently found themselves fielding questions from media and members of the public about the ability to measure other pathogens, like norovirus or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

“Our answer was normally, ‘Yes, we’re aware there’s other viruses that humans have. We can’t track them in wastewater at this time.’ And, of course, we’re in the middle of a pandemic so the urgency wasn’t as acute,” Gagnon said. 

Click here to read “Halifax researchers using new skills, tools to monitor water systems for pathogens.”

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4. Shelley Fashan

A Black woman with grey hair pulled back in a ponytail and wearing glasses and a red blouse smiles while sitting in a chair. Behind her are two large green panels. The panel in the front has a design of a quilt on it in black, orange, red, and green. Text at the top of the screen says "Many rivers crossed."
Shelley Fashan at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Shelley Fashan is the latest profile in my series on women over 50 who are doing important work outside of the corporate world. Fashan and I met up a couple of weeks ago. I met Fashan for the first time a few years ago at a meeting about domestic violence projects we were each working on; she talks about that work in this profile.

Fashan is so connected to many historic events for the Black community in Nova Scotia, including the occupation of the Canada Employment Office on Gottingen Street back in March 1996. Fashan was one member of a group that included Rocky Jones, Joan Jones, Carolann Wright, Lynn Jones, and many others, who planned to protest the closure of the employment office. Here’s a bit of what Fashan told me about that occupation:

Fashan was assigned the role of being the first of the group to knock on the door to get in. Fashan remembers Joan Jones telling her that Tony Jackson, the manager at the employment centre, would be welcoming to her.

“I’m kind of friendly and sweet,” Fashan laughed. “I’m not really that, but people see me as warm and really non-threatening.”

Fashan’s entrance worked and the group ended up taking over the office for 133 days making it the longest running occupation of a federal government office in Canadian history.

Fashan still remembers those days well. The group sent out a press release every day and hosted strategy sessions. They slept on the office’s floor in sleeping bags. Supporters came by with meals and organized entertainment with puppet shows, reading circles, music, and parades. 

“It was fabulous when I think about it, how it brought the community together,” Fashan said.

Every woman I’ve interviewed so far has a list of other women I should interview. With the list I have now, I could go on with this series for a while. I’m working on another profile today, so watch for that one soon.

In the meantime, click here to read “Shelley Fashan: Connecting with and fighting for her Black Nova Scotian community.”

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5. E-balloting system for upcoming byelection

A white hand approaches a tablet with a list of names on it.
An Elections Nova Scotia worker demonstrates the e-balloting system that will be used in the upcoming Preston byelection. Credit: Tim Bousquet

“Elections Nova Scotia has unveiled a “e-balloting” system to be used in early voting for the upcoming Preston riding byelection,” reports Tim Bousquet.

In January, Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds announced she was stepping down from her position effective April 1. By law, the legislature must call an election within six months of that date (that is, by October 1), and the election must be held between 30 and 46 days after the writ is dropped, on a Tuesday. That means Election Day can be no later than November 14.

Early voting will start 20 days before Election Day, which is also the day candidate nominations close. At that point, people can go into polling places and use the e-balloting machines to cast a vote. On Election Day itself, traditional paper ballots will be used.

The e-balloting system was developed in-house by Elections Nova Scotia. The system is simple for the voter.

Click here to read “E-balloting system to be used for early voting in Preston byelection.”

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6. Tidal energy

A red and white boat in the water.
Sustainable Marine’s in-stream tidal generator. Credit: Sustainable Marine

“A pioneer in tidal energy that has received tens of millions of dollars from the federal and provincial government is pulling out of Nova Scotia,” Jennifer Henderson reports.

In a news release issued this morning, Sustainable Marine Energy blamed ongoing delays by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for failing to provide the necessary permits to deploy its technology in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro this summer. 

Last May, after several years work at another site near Digby, the company became the first in Canada to successfully connect its two tidal turbines to the provincial grid operated by Nova Scotia Power.

Sustainable Marine Energy, a company headquartered in Scotland, where the in-stream tidal technology mounted on a platform was first developed, was using the calmer water of Grand Passage near Digby to prove up the technology and conduct environmental monitoring in preparation for moving the platform to the harsher environment in the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro this summer. 

There are five berths at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) site empty and waiting for a demonstration project. 

Click here to read “Tidal generation company gives up on Nova Scotia.”

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7. CFIB: Not everyone should earn a living wage

A pile of Canadian bills and coins, including loonies, twoonies, nickels, dimes, quarters, plus bills of 100, 50, 10, and 20 dollars.
Credit: PiggyBank/Unsplash

“A group representing small businesses is pushing the Nova Scotia government to look beyond minimum wage hikes to address poverty,” writes Kathleen McKenna in this story for CBC.

Louis-Philippe Gauthier of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses was at the legislature’s committee on human resources on Wednesday where he said more can be done to help poor people besides raising the minimum wage. Nova Scotia’s minimum wage went up to $14.50 on April 1 and it will take another hike to $15 on Oct. 1.

McKenna writes:

Gauthier said not everyone working a minimum wage job requires a living wage, which is defined as the minimum hourly wage earned in a 35-hour work week needed to afford shelter, food and necessities. A 2022 report calculated it would be $23.50 for Halifax workers

He said many people who earn minimum wage aren’t supporting a family. 

“[A] substantial amount are students that are still in school,” Gauthier said. 

According to the Nova Scotia Minimum Wage Review Report, 74 per cent of minimum wage employees in the province are non-students, and 53 per cent already have post-secondary education. The report also states that 34 per cent of minimum wage employees in Nova Scotia are over the age of 35.

Collette Robert, who is the employee representative on the Minimum Wage Review Committee, spoke at Wednesday’s committee meeting, too, saying “everybody deserves to earn a living wage.” Robert said she has a master’s degree in science and has two jobs, one that pays minimum wage and the other just above minimum wage. This is the reality for a lot of Nova Scotians.

I bet Louis-Philippe Gauthier earns more than a living wage.

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Taking a Jane’s Walk through what you can’t see in Halifax’s District 8

A white woman with long dark hair tied back and wearing a teal green jacket and black jeans stands on a sidewalk holding a black labrador dog in a harness. On the grassy area next to the sidewalk is an orange sign that says detour. It's a sunny day on the street that is lined with houses and trees.
Milena Khazanavicius and her guide dog Hope will be giving a tour through Halifax’s District 8 for Jane’s Walk on May 6 and 7. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Milena Khazanavicius wants to take you on a walk through her neighbourhood. Khazanavicius, who lives in Halifax’s District 8-Peninsula North, is hosting two Jane’s Walks on May 6 and 7. 

“I find them really fascinating,” Khazanavicius said in an interview when I met up with her on Tuesday. “One, they’re free. Two, they’re led by people who know their community and their topic. There’ve been numerous and really fascinating areas I’ve walked through that I had no idea about and they’re within my own district. This year’s lineup looks even more exciting.”

Jane’s Walk is a volunteer-led movement of free walks, inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, and offered in cities across the world. The Halifax Jane’s Walks have been taking place each spring since 2015.

Khazanavicius, who is blind and uses a guide dog, wants people to learn a little bit about what it’s like to be a pedestrian in the city, and especially a pedestrian who is blind or partially sighted. There can be plenty of barriers to get around. So, she decided to lead a Jane’s Walk to teach people about them.

“Through the years, I’ve been thinking, ‘I can do one of these,'” Khazanavicius said. “I know my neighbourhood. I’ve lived here over 22 years and watched things change, but I was always late to submit. This year I was on the ball, so it’s going to happen. I’m busting with energy.”

You may remember Khazanavicius from when I wrote about her in a three-part series last year. At that time, we talked about accessibility and the health care system, accessibility navigating the city, and even accessibilty and entertainment and fun (Khazanavicius spent some time training with a local circus).

I also spoke with Khazanavicius in September for this story about how some businesses are refusing entry to people who use guide dogs.

The title of Khazanavicius’ Jane’s Walk is “What you cannot SEE in District 8.” She said while she hopes guests get the play on words in that title, what she really hopes they get is the message.

“I think I am most excited about getting more information stuffed down people’s brains,” Khazanavicius said. “Sadly, and I am not going to name names, but a physician of mine to this day, still thinks I crawl around my house to get to the bathroom. If I can get more people outside informed, that’s what I am excited about.”

Guests for Khazanavicius’ walk can meet with her in front of the CNIB building on Almon Street. Khazanavicius also has a new guide dog, a three-year-old black Labrador named Hope, who will be on the walk with her. You may remember Khazanavicius’ last guide dog, a German Shepherd named Louis. He’s now living the “life of Riley” in retirement at Khazanavicius’ parents’ home outside the city.

Hope will be on duty during the walk, so that means guests can’t pet, touch, or disturb Hope while she works. Khazanavicius said other dogs are permitted to join the walk, but she said they have to be well behaved and not jumpers, barkers, or overly reactive. Khazanavicius said a friend of hers may come along as well to assist as a sighted guide.

From the CNIB on Almon, the group will head east or west, depending on Khazanavicius’ mood that Saturday and Sunday. Each walk will take about an hour and a half and Khazanavicius has the route in her head.

“I can either take this walk in one of two directions,” she said. “Either jovial and happy. Well, the whole walk will be jovial or happy. Or I can take it in another direction where there’s a heck of a lot of barriers, particularly for people who are blind and partially sighted and pedestrians.”

For Khazanavicius, the barriers to getting anywhere safely are everywhere in the city. Just outside the apartment building where she lives there are those orange street signs warning drivers of detours. Right now, there’s a lot of construction happening in District 8. Just in Khazanavicius’ neighbourhood, some streets are closed while others have several of those detour signs. On Tuesday when I met up with her, those signs were on the grassy median in between the sidewalk and street, so they were out of the way. 

But Khazanavicius said many times those signs are in the middle of the sidewalk, posing a danger to pedestrians like herself.

During her Jane’s Walk, Khazanavicius said she will point out those signs, plus other obstacles, including bike lane structures that are confusing or hazardous for blind and partially sighted pedestrians. She’ll take guests past new buildings in the neighbourhood whose entryways don’t have any tactile markings or voice-activated systems, just a flat screen, making it impossible for a blind or partially sighted person to ring up a person in that building.

Or maybe she’ll take her guests on her favouite street, Dublin Street, a quiet walk she said is nice for a person who may have recently lost their sight to practice navigating with a white cane. Dublin Street, she said, is a friendly family neighbourhood with not much traffic and lots of trees.

“I just love Dublin, despite that there is traffic happening,” Khazanavicius said.

Either route, she has lots of favourite spots she will point out. 

Guests also have the option of going through the walk blindfolded to help understand the experiences of blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Khazanavicius said using a blindfold is optional, of course, and guests who do choose to use blindfolds will be partnered with someone without a blindfold to help guide them along the route.

Khazanavicius made sure to stress that neither she nor Jane’s Walk are liable if a guest gets hurt if they’re walking while wearing a blindfold. Khazanavicius said she will also be teaching the partners how to best guide the person who is blindfolded through the walk. Halfway through the walk, people can hand off the blindfold so their partner can try the experience.

Emily Miller is the Halifax city lead for Jane’s Walk. Miller said there are 20 walks this year, plus one bike ride, a new addition to the event.

Miller and Khazanavicius haven’t met in person, but they talked on the phone and via Zoom to discuss Khazanavicius’ walk. 

“I thought it was a fantastic idea and she was super enthusiastic about it,” Miller said. “She’s attended a lot of Jane’s Walks in the past. It seems like it’s something she’s wanted to do the past couple of years, so I was excited to make that happen. It sounds like she’s held similar walks and engagements before. I think she will be a pro at it.”

Miller said she’s not sure if there has been a walk like Khazanavicius’ before. She knows there are walks globally that centre around accessibility issues.

“They may not have centred around the same style, but [accessibility] is often a topic of conversation in walks,” Miller said.

Miller said all the Jane’s Walks offer people an “opportunity to see your city through a new lens.”

“There’s been so many people who have moved to Halifax recently and this may be an opportunity to learn about the space they’re living in,” Miller said. “And the people who have lived here for decades may not know certain things, certain histories. It’s an opportunity for people to get out and to experience their city in a new way, to meet their neighbours. It’s a great way to connect with other community members as you’re strolling along, conversations naturally come up.”

Khazanavicius said she will end each walk with a question-and-answer segment where guests can ask her anything they want. And she doesn’t mean just about how people who are blind and partially sighted get around Halifax’s streets. 

“I encourage people to bring all the questions they want to ask, all the misconceptions they think they know, but have no idea, because I will answer them all, to the best of my ability,” she said.

Khazanavicius recalls giving a talk to a classroom of children, including one girl who asked how blind people have children. While Khazanavicius doesn’t have children herself, she said she has many friends who are blind and partially sighted who do have children, so she had an answer for the young girl.

“How do blind people have children? The same way sighted people have children, and that includes the whole process of making the child,” Khazanavicius laughed.

She said what might slow the group down during the walks will be going across the district’s crosswalks. So she has a group of friends she calls the Milena Mafia attending who will help get guests across the street safely. Khazanavicius said while she knows the routes well, over the next few days, she will likely take a walk with a friend to time out the route.

“I already know how long it takes me to walk it, so we will probably have to double that because it will be a larger crowd, people will be chatty, and I hope there will be a lot of questions,” she said. “The rest will be improvised and me flying by the seat of my pants.”

Khazanavicius said if the numbers on the Jane’s Walk Facebook page are any indication, her walks will be popular. She said she loves living in District 8 and, for the most, part it’s accessible for her. She can walk to the grocery stores and bus routes are close by, too. And she knows many of her neighbours, and they know her and Hope.

“This is what Jane’s Walks are about. To know your neighbourhood, to be a tourist in our own place that we probably don’t know a lot about,” Khazanavicius said. “Especially for our newcomers from across the country and around the world, I really encourage you to take in some of these walks.”

I’ve known Khazanavicius for a few years now, and she’s taught me quite a bit about accessibility. She also has a great sense of humour, so if you attend, I’m sure you’ll have lots of laughs and learn at the same time.

What you can not SEE in District 8 will start at 2:30pm on Saturday, May 6 and 2:30pm Sunday, May 7. Meet in front of the CNIB building at 6136 Almon St. For more information on Jane’s Walk and the schedule for the Halifax walks, click here.

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Babies on planes and some people’s rage

A white woman with long dark blonde hair and with sunglasses on her head and wearing a black shawl over her shoulders sits in an airplane sit holding a baby.
Some people need to learn how to deal with babies on planes. Credit: Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash

I’ve been thinking a lot about that man on the plane who went into a rage recently after a baby on the same plane cried for about 40 minutes.

If you haven’t heard about it, the entire incident was captured on phone video and, as the way of the world now, posted on social media. The video, which you can watch here, if you dare, went viral.

Now, I admit some of what this man said is comedy gold: “Did that motherf%$#er pay extra to yell?” he said about the baby to the flight attendants who tried to calm him down. “You’re yelling,” one of the attendants said. “So is the baby!” the man yelled back.

I watched, too, the reactions of the other people on the plane, including the man’s partner who was clearly mortified and trying to calm him down. I wondered what their life was like at home. Does he have meltdowns on the regular?

Another passenger a few rows back sat there almost expressionless. The man filming the video, who I’ve not seen interviewed anywhere yet, had a grand ol’ time laughing at the whole spectacle.

I have been in places where babies were crying. I’ve had a crying baby. It’s not great! Babies cry because it’s their only way to communicate what they need. And airplanes are uncomfortable places, even for babies. The people who likely wanted the baby to stop crying the most were its parents.

But having a meltdown that causes the pilot of the plane to divert the flight is an extreme overreaction to the situation.

I often say never read the comments, but this incident had some folks saying babies should just stay home. Unless you want a infant-size version of Home Alone, babies staying home usually mean their parents, particularly their mothers, should stay home, too. Children and their parents have a right to be in public spaces. (Lots of people love fetuses, but don’t like them much when they’re born, but that’s a conversation for another time).

This man’s rage doesn’t really have anything to do with children being on planes, though. I want to talk about people’s rage because while some of these incidents go viral on social media there does seem to be a lot more rage out there.

I’ve written about this before after seeing signs posted in restaurants and even my own doctor’s office that warn people that verbal and physical abuse to staff won’t be tolerated.

There’s one of these signs at a coffee shop I visit each Sunday morning. I learned the sign was put up after a customer threw a sandwich at an employee. Who does this? Apparently, too many people lately.

After watching that baby-on-the-plane video, I tweeted out that a lot of people don’t seem to have any healthy coping skills. You know, like taking deep breaths, going for a walk, napping, trying to find some humour in a situation, or even venting in private to a friend.

Furthermore, people don’t seem to want to learn any healthy coping skills either. So while people have meltdowns over the most trivial of situations, the rest of us walk around on eggshells so as not to trigger them. This is no way to live.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, a columnist with the New York Times, had this to say about the whole baby-on-a-plane story:

My position on babies is on the record. I won’t be covering it here. Agree etc. I only want to add that I wonder whatever happened to just being…mildly annoyed. You know, my default state? You can be annoyed and just…sit with that.

You roll your eyes a little. Maybe you suck your teeth. But you just sort of suck it up. There is a whole emotional range between “happily accept” and “rage out” that we lost over the last 20 years. I think about this a lot.

I would go so far as to argue that if you’re doing plural society right, you’re mildly annoyed more often than you’re not.

It’s true the COVID pandemic triggered much of this anger. It’s been a long and stressful few years. And some of the systems that cause these meltdowns definitely are worse. Air travel isn’t what it used to be. But some of it’s our own fault, too. For example, if you’re sitting in traffic complaining about the traffic, you’re actually part of the problem.

And there are people out there who know well how to harness people’s rage to their own benefit. Sometimes we elect them. They know people are angry, so while they have no actual leadership skills or ways to get work done, they know how to craft the lines that will make people angrier and point fingers to someone who doesn’t look like them, blaming them for what they don’t have.

Then those people will cry freedom and demand a return to days when things were supposedly better. We’re seeing this all now, of course, and it happened well before we knew about COVID.

This rage affects all of us in many terrible ways. We’re seeing that now too.

I don’t know how to calm people down, but we all need to try because the rage isn’t getting us anywhere good.

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


No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 42 to Autoport
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
11:30: One Stork, container ship (145,251 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for New York
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
14:00: Cable Vigilance, cable layer, arrives at anchorage from Calais, France
16:00: Zim China, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:00: MSC Roshney V, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Boston 
18:00: Cable Vigilance sails for sea

Cape Breton
07:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Nova Scotia Power (Point Tupper) from Pozos Colorados, Colombia


As I was reading stories about parking in downtown Halifax, I wondered if people who say “there’s nowhere to park” really mean they can’t parallel park. There’s a big difference between the number of parking spaces available and the number of spaces you don’t want to park in or can’t park in.

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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. Rage – not sure whatever happened to respect.
    Talking to the traffic control person (flagger) in front of our home recently. Part of a crew of 6 or 8 as there are two 4 way intersections on route 4 within 200 yards or so.
    A driver had just thrown a coffee on a flagger. Not a great start to anyone’s work day.

  2. Thank you for the article about babies/young children on flights. As a single man I flew home from Singapore stopping at Kuala Lumpur,Colombo,Delhi,Rome and London. A family from Sydney,Australia were on the flight and taking baby to meet UK grandparents.
    Several years later my wife and I took our two boys, both under the age of 3, from Halifax to Glasgow to see family. I don’t understand people, predominantly men, complaining about small children on a flight. Just celebrate the energy and curiosity of the next generation.