Our annual subscription drive is almost up! We now have gift cards that make great gifts for anyone over the holidays (or any time of year, really). It’s very easy to sign up, too. You can choose the delivery date by clicking the “send as gift” button, and the gift card will arrive in their email on that day.
Also, if you’re already a Halifax Examiner subscriber, we’ll refund you 20% of the price of the gift card.
Sign up here and give the gift of the Examiner.
1. Nova Scotia’s climate risk assessment
A press release from Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change informs Nova Scotians that “Nova Scotia is getting warmer, precipitation patterns are changing, Nova Scotians are experiencing more frequent and intense storms, sea levels are rising and the oceans are changing.”
Well … duh.
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change minister Timothy Halman is quoted:
We need to take a holistic view and recognize that climate change will affect the province and Nova Scotians in many ways — our economy, the environment, and our well-being. Together, we have an opportunity to make positive change and work to protect each other and all that we value.
But perhaps the report itself offers some substance with fewer platitudes and less understatement, and the sense of urgency that countless thousands of scientists have been trying to impart to governments and people about the immense risks that the climate crisis poses to the very survival of human populations?
2. Overnight shelter in Lower Sackville
On Monday, I met with Jim Gunn, one of the volunteer leaders with the Beacon House Interfaith Society. That group operates a warming centre and overnight shelter that opened last night:
Like in Halifax and Dartmouth, Lower Sackville has seen an increase of people living rough or in tents. Right now, there are a few cots set up for the overnight shelter, but Gunn said the Red Cross will be providing beds that will be set up in the former sanctuary of the building.
“The tents are up here and everywhere,” Gunn said. “The need kept growing.”
The warming centre served clients last year and this fall when Hurriane Fiona hit the province. Gunn said how many people show up at the centre really depends on the weather.
“We anticipate when the real heavy winter weather is here for sure, we’ll likely get guests coming out from the city,” Gunn said. “We’re not expecting a great large number using the overnight shelter from the Sackville area, but we understand there will be an overload from the city who may get transported out.”
Gunn also told me that four micro shelters are almost ready and will be set up in the parking lot of the shelter in about a week or so.
“The president and chair of the African Nova Scotian Music Association (ASMNA) is retiring from his role after 21 years, but says there’s still work to do to get local Black artists noticed on bigger stages,” reports Matthew Byard.
Gannon told Byard a bit about how he became part of ANSMA:
“Being a Black artist, we didn’t have all the opportunities,” Gannon said. “I mean right now Music Nova Scotia, they have an African Nova Scotian Award that we were involved in, the Bucky Adams Award, but those awards weren’t there.”
Gannon said ANSMA has an ongoing working relationship with Music Nova Scotia, but many Black artists continue to face barriers.
“The music industry is just like any other. It’s like education or employment. People are being passed over because of who they are, because of who they know, that kind of situation. It’s got nothing to do with quality and skill level,” Gannon said.
Nicola Seguin at CBC has this story on public housing units that sit empty while Nova Scotians in need of housing sit on a waitlist. Seguin writes:
According to numbers from the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, there are 307 vacant public housing units across the province. While some of these are vacant because tenants recently moved on, almost half of them have been unoccupied for longer than the standard two-month turnover period.
This is while the number of households waiting for a unit has reached 6,596, with the average wait time for a placement sitting at around two years.
Out of the 11,202 public housing units in the province, the 142 chronically vacant units make up less than two per cent. But advocates say the existing public housing stock must be repaired and tens of thousands more units need to be built to meet the rising demand.
“I think that we all know we’re at a crisis situation, with market rentals difficult to come by and public housing just can’t keep up with the demand,” said Catherine Leviten-Reid, an associate professor of community economic development at Cape Breton University and research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Leviten-Reid tells Seguin they estimate the province needs “33,000 more deeply affordable, public and nonprofit and co-operative affordable rentals.”
So, why are all those units sitting empty? Seguin spoke with Pam Menchenton, executive director of client services for public housing, who said there are a few reasons, including some are being upgraded to include accessibility features, others were damaged by Hurricane Fiona, and still others require restoration and repairs in between tenancies. Labour shortages in construction are causing slowdowns in the work, too.
All of this waiting has real-life implications, of course. Janice Christian tells Seguin she and her elderly parents applied for emergency public housing as they prepared to be evicted from the duplex they were renting for 28 years. Seguin writes:
Christian said with her income assistance and her parent’s pensions, finding an affordable unit has been impossible so far, even with the province’s rental subsidy program. Two-bedroom units are going for $2,000 or more, she said. A three-bedroom unit, which they would prefer, could cost more than double that.
“If it’s an emergency and a person’s about to be put out, don’t make them wait one to two years…. Get them a home,” she said. “The stress is phenomenal. I don’t want to see other people go through what we’re going through now.”
The guardian of the Tufts Cove Cemetery
Gary Wright is an accidental cemetery guardian. He frequently travels from his home in Spryfield to north end Dartmouth to take care of the Tufts Cove Cemetery. It’s a postage stamp of a property fenced in and tucked behind a row of homes along Pinewood Drive at the end of a driveway most would easily mistake for a path they shouldn’t trespass. Even more people wouldn’t even know the cemetery was there at all. The nearest and most famous landmarks in the area are the three red-and-white smokestacks that loom over from Nova Scotia Power’s generation plant next door.
Wright has been taking care of this cemetery since 2005, mowing the lawn, fixing headstones, and planting flowers. He takes photos and does extensive research into who’s buried here. His uncle, Murray Wright, started taking care of the cemetery years before, so many years ago, Wright doesn’t know exactly when. A surveyor by trade, Wright got involved because Murray knew he had skills he didn’t have. Their ancestors are buried here, including the Tufts family, the cemetery’s namesake.
I heard Wright speak about Tufts Cove Cemetery and his work on Saturday at a lecture hosted by the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia (I am a member and the editor of their magazine, Nova Scotia Genealogist). I knew a bit about Tufts Cove Cemetery and Wright’s work, but on Saturday he shared more about his more than 17 years of research of not only the cemetery, but of the history of his family and the much larger plot of land they owned that stretched from Burnside to the north end of the city.
And Wright’s involvement all started with Murray.
“Once I was in that deep, the whole subject was so important and so interesting to me,” Wright said of his work at Tufts Cove. “It just took a life of its own.”
For years, the cemetery was unattended and virtually unknown. Wright told me in 1974, genealogist Terry Punch sketched out a drawing of the graves there. Wright’s uncle Murray picked up the work again. And now with Wright on board, 138 graves were identified, although Wright suspects there’s about 200 in total.
Wright’s presentation on Saturday was a PowerPoint slideshow of maps and Excel documents he’s populated with research he’s collected over the years. He not only mapped the cemetery, but has done extensive genealogical research, adding tens of thousands of connections to his family tree. That’s on top of the tens of thousands his uncle Murray found. Wright has also done extensive work researching the history and ownership of the land in this area, and who sold it when the power company came looking for land where it would build its generating stations.
It’s easy to see why his uncle chose him to do this work. There are old family photos over spots on maps connecting people with places. Excel sheets help him keep track of all the ancestors and every detail he knows about them. Some maps are colour-coded to show which ancestors are buried in Tufts Cove, and those who are buried in other cemeteries.
Wright also broke down the figures down into percentages, like 38% of the graves are for people under the age of 10. Forty-eight percent are under the age of 25. Two of the people buried at Tufts Cove Cemetery died during the 1918 influenza epidemic, and eight of the people buried here were killed in the Halifax Explosion.
“The way I look at it is our ancestors are relying on us to remember them,” Wright told me. “And that’s really what drives the project for me. They’re relying on me to do all this on their behalf. I feel they left the cemetery here as a legacy for their descendants and through the work me and Murray did we made it a pretty nice place to visit, a nice memorial to the ancestors who are buried there.”
The first generator at Tufts Cove opened in 1965. The cemetery sat untouched for several years until about 1972 and the Tufts family came back to the area and found it “totally ruined.” Wright said they went to the city for help and got no reply. They went to the power corp and got no sympathy at all. But Wright said when the family threatened to go to the media, that’s when the power corp “changed their tune.”
He said the company put a statement in the local newspaper stating that they would put a fence around the cemetery and have their own ground crews take care of the place: “As far into the future as anyone could see,” Wright said they promised.
So, headstones were cleaned, flowers were planted, and the lawn was mowed.
Over time, the power company got rid of its own ground crews and hired outside contractors and Wright said the cemetery landscaping suffered.
And then in 1992, Nova Scotia Power was privatized. The contractors continued just mowing the lawn.
In 2005 when Wright got involved, the cemetery needed a lot of work. Trees had been cut down, the headstones were knocked over, and the grass was ripped apart.
“Every time we went down there was more damage to the stones,” Wright said. He and Murray set up a meeting with the power company, which told them they wouldn’t do a thing.
Wright said Gloria McCluskey arranged a meeting for Murray and him to meet with then-Halifax mayor Peter Kelly.
“He was quite pleased we were doing what we were doing,” Wright said. “But he patted us on the head and said, ‘Nice job. Have a nice day.’ There was not much help there.”
Murray passed away in 2012 and is buried in the cemetery. When Murray died, Wright knew family would be on the way for the service, so he and his brother spent a week cleaning up the place.
From that day on, Wright locked the gate so the contractors hired by Nova Scotia Power couldn’t get in. Wright took over and every three weeks trimmed the grass.
That went on for three years until one day Wright’s mother, Margaret, was in the cemetery working on her own, and told Wright there was someone from the power corp who was in the cemetery taking photos of the good work his contractors were doing.
Wright said he told Nova Scotia Power he had been doing the work for a few years. The contractors were fired on the spot. The company asked Wright to give them a list of all the things he wanted done at the cemetery and the utility would pick one item a year to do.
That lasted for two years. Wright got a new shed to store tools and about 30 boxwood shrubs to create a hedge for privacy. He planted them himself.
“It was like dealing with a 10-year-old kid,” Wright said of his dealings with Nova Scotia Power. “The whole process of getting help from them just wasn’t worth it. I’d rather buy my own shit and you guys just make sure you don’t blow up the power plant.”
Wright still spends his own time and money on the cemetery. It’s well taken care of. There are benches for visitors, the lawn is mowed, and headstones have been restored. Every fall, volunteers join him for a cleanup. Wright shares photos of the work and the cemetery on his Facebook page, Tufts Cove Cemetery. At the cemetery, he keeps a guestbook in a mailbox hanging on a tree. Visitors can sign their names, condolences, and other notes.
While the province has a Cemeteries Protection Act, much of the work to restore and maintain cemeteries across the province is done by Nova Scotians who volunteer their time and money. Some of these people, like Wright, are accidental guardians of cemeteries, including Craig Ferguson who’s behind the Dead in Halifax Twitter account, and now the book of the same name. Or Steve Skafte, who’s found and cleaned up abandonded cemeteries across Annapolis County, mapping their locations and sharing the stories on his Facebook page. Or like Wright they have family connections to people buried in the cemetery. Think of Micha Cromwell in Annapolis Royal who’s helping find unmarked graves of Black Loyalists who are also her ancestors buried in a cemetery near Fort Anne.
Wright is now getting the cemetery ready for bed for the winter. When he’s there, he’ll leave a few peanuts for the crows that visit the yard.
“As soon as they see the truck, they swarm in,” he said. “The crows are more help to me than anybody.”
He’s also working on another project about the cemetery, mapping out a timeline that includes some significant events in the city and province and connecting them with the ancestors of Tufts Cove he’s researched over the years. Like all his other work, the map will be comprehensive and include lots of research. He already has some of the timeline mapped out.
After Wright’s chat, one guest asked him who will take over the work he and Murray have been doing for years. Wright offered a lighthearted response: “Once you’re gone, you don’t care about cemeteries.”
But when I asked him the same question after his lecture, Wright admitted he wanted someone else to carry on the work.
“I would like to have someone who falls into the passion that happened to me,” Wright said. “But so far, I haven’t met that person. I have gone through a lot of family members. Maybe I’m not as good as it as uncle Murray.”
And so, the next guardian of the Tufts Cove Cemetery has yet to be found.
This morning, the Nova Scotia Museum is sharing stories about the Halifax Explosion on its Twitter account and Facebook page. There are details about railway dispatcher Vincent Coleman, the ships, Imo and Mont-Blanc, which collided in the narrows, and then the rescue efforts that followed.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is also tweeting out stories of the people of the explosion, including Dr. Clement Ligoure, the first Black doctor in Nova Scotia who treated victims. They’re including plenty of interesting photos, too.
Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, online) — agenda
Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, online) — agenda
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Truth and Reconciliation Language Legislation and Treaty Education; with representatives from the Office of L’nu Affairs
Yard Sale 2022 (Tuesday, 9am, Dal Bookstore, Student Union Building)
Doped Metal Oxides for Carbon-free Fuel Cell Catalyst Layers (Tuesday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — E. Bradley Easton from Ontario Tech University will talk
Symphonic Favourites (Tuesday, 7:30pm, St. Andrew’s United Church) — The Fountain School of the Performing Arts presents the Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonardo Perez
Yard Sale 2022 (Wednesday, 9am, Dal Bookstore, Student Union Building)
Antiracism & Decolonization in Archival Studies: Open Classroom Series (Wednesday, 1:30pm, online) — more info here
Wellness Courts in Nova Scotia (Wednesday, 1pm, Burke Theatre Auditorium) — Chief Judge Pamela Williams will talk
Fall Alumni Book Club – Leo Strauss: An Introduction (Wednesday, 7pm, online) — more info here
In the harbour
07:30: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Reykjavik, Iceland
11:45: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
12:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
13:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Saint Croix
13:00: U.S. naval ship sails from Dockyard for sea
16:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
I’m looking forward to the days being longer again. Bring back the light.