1. Chelsie Probert, North Dartmouth poverty, and violence
A police release from last night:
The suspicious death that occurred last night in Dartmouth has been ruled a homicide.
At approximately 10 p.m. on June 6, Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of a female in medical distress on a pathway in the 0-100 block of [Albro] Lake Road. Officers located an 18-year-old female who required immediate medical assistance. EHS transported the female to hospital where she later passed away from her injuries.
Based on today’s autopsy, the Medical Examiner has ruled the death a homicide and identified the victim as 18-year-old Chelsie Probert of Halifax. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.
(I held off on reporting about Tuesday’s night suspicious death until more was known.)
Greg MacDonald, a baker, was heading to work around 10 p.m. for his night shift when he came across the scene.
“There was a gentleman in the pathway hollering to get my attention,” MacDonald said. “He had found a woman unconscious out in the grass down a ways. He was saying there wasn’t much life in her.”
The man was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, and paramedics showed up shortly afterwards, MacDonald said.
Reporting for Metro, Yvette d’Entremont has more:
Another man who didn’t give his name told Metro that at about 9:30 p.m. he was parked on that same section of Albro Lake Road when he saw a group of about 20 people come “flocking” out from behind a home near the path.
He said they all crossed the street in front of him headed in the direction of Windmill Road.
“Then shortly after that I heard about this. I was brought up here in this neighbourhood. This doesn’t happen,” he said.
“It means a lot to me, this area. There’s crime but nothing like that. Not normally.”
Alas, the unidentified man is wrong: I can point to a dozen or more murders within a few blocks of the footpath.
Here’s how I described North Dartmouth in the Dead Wrong series:
After the Macdonald Bridge opened in 1955, the North End of Dartmouth rapidly developed, with single-storey clapboard houses on postage stamp-sized lots and, especially in the area around Albro Lake Road, two- and three-storey apartment buildings. It was an affordable housing stock for young families and for workers in the nearby Burnside Industrial Park.
But the same affordability that attracted working people and young families also attracted the down-and-out and the desperate.
People in North Dartmouth have worked hard to improve their neighbourhood. The work of the North Dartmouth Community Centre, The Echo newspaper, the Dartmouth Family Centre, and untold numbers of volunteers and community activists cannot be discounted. Few neighbourhoods have so many dedicated people working to help each other out.
Moreover, there’s a sense of place in North Dartmouth. Just last week, after I dropped my car off for service at Wilson’s, I had breakfast at Nena’s, the perfect little diner in the perfect little strip mall at the corner of Wyse and Albro Lake Roads. After breakfast, I walked the footpath where young Chelsie was killed. It’s a pretty spot, a nice pedestrian shortcut. There were a few people who, like me, were just walking around. They, smiled, nodded, and said hello; it’s a friendly place.
The path continues to Farrell Street, crossing through a shallow ravine. I explored the ravine a bit, realizing it was once the bed of a now-buried creek. At Windmill Road the ravine is flattened by an industrial operation, but on the west side of the road it begins again at Yetter Park, a small patch of green with a playground. Almost as if on cue, a young mother was playing with her child. They both smiled too.
I continued down Nivens Avenue, past a row of tiny houses with spectacular views of the harbour. I was thinking the houses are probably underpriced and will one day soon be snatched up by a savvy developer and replaced with an apartment building, and then I saw the beginning of a footpath heading down to the water. I walked about 50 metres down the path, through some bushes, and came upon a woman, probably in her 30s, sitting on a blanket amidst a pile of trash. We were both startled to see each other. I realized she was stoned, and had either come into the bushes to shoot up or had found herself there after shooting up. I remember thinking that it’s not safe for a stoned woman to be alone in such a secluded place, but what was I to do? Calling the cops would bring a whole world of trouble onto her, and she wasn’t causing anyone any harm in any case. I quickly assessed, best I could, that she was at no immediate risk; I didn’t want to frighten her, so I just said hello and continued on my way.
I went on and walked along the railroad tracks, past the Tufts Cove power plant and up into Shannon Park, then back along Windmill Road to retrieve my car. Weirdly, I ran into Lil McPherson — she was also having her car serviced, and was riding her bike around while she waited.
I keep thinking about the stoned woman in the bushes. The wrong man walking down that path and she too could have been the victim of violence that day. She probably already has been, or will be yet. And she could one day face the same fate as Brenda Way or Robin Hartrick or Rachel MacQuarrie or Jason MacCullough or Christine McLean or Catie Miller or Daniel Pellerin or Chelsie Probert or any of the dozens of other girls and boys and women and men who have been killed in the area. They each had their own lives — some living in poverty, some with successful careers and potentially bright futures, some troubled and living on the edges of the law, some the epitome of respectability — but all were the victims of the stupid, mean violence of North Dartmouth.
I don’t know how to explain any of this, except to throw out that as nice as the neighbourhood is, poverty and its associated ills of addiction permeate the area, and the desperation often expresses itself as violence. I’m glad there are good people doing good work in what is basically a good neighbourhood. But until we somehow start addressing poverty in a meaningful way, I fear the violence will continue.
2. Harbour trash
“On our current trajectory,” writes Erica Butler, “by 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean will match the amount of fish, by weight.”
Butler highlights the work of the Blue Urbanism project:
A group students in Dalhousie’s Masters of Marine Management program worked with the Clean Foundation to study the source of plastic pollution in the Halifax Harbour. The group set up at five different sites around the harbour and basin, and essentially inventoried the garbage they collected from the high water mark down to the shore line.
After meticulously counting everything they picked up (including disintegrating plastic bags, copious Tim’s cups, and a Salty’s menu) the team determined 79 per cent of what they found were from common land-based items, 12 per cent from fishing gear, four per cent hygeine products (mostly plastic tampon applicators), and the remaining five per cent miscellaneous items from households and industries.
Click here to read “Blue Urbanism project shines a light on our harbour trash problem.”
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
Butler and I have an ongoing, good-spirited debate about her use of the word “our.” She likes to call it “our transit system,” “our harbour,” and the like, but that “our” grinds at my ancient journalistic sensibility, which is supposed to pretend to distant objectivity, so I usually replace the “our” with “the.” She counters that using “our” brings whatever the issue is into more immediate focus and underscores civic responsibility. I don’t know… probably I just think too much and no one notices one way or the other.
I left it in this time.
3. Cigarette trash
“Unsightly piles of cigarette butts littering city streets has prompted a Halifax councillor to do something about it,” reports Jerri Southcott for the CBC:
Coun. Tony Mancini has discovered a program adopted by Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver he thinks could work in Halifax.
“The municipality gets a lot of calls about litter. Cigarette butts are something that you see as a constant,” explained Mancini.
“A lot of people you see them flick out their cigarette as they’re driving down the road or walking. And we’re seeing them collect outside of restaurants and pubs, bus stops and anywhere that people gather,” he added.
I don’t understand how people can just toss their butts onto the ground. It’s annoying. Get a little Altoid’s box to put your dead butts in, and then properly dispose of them when you can. Jesus, people.
4. Business “vanguards”
Mary Campbell received a press release via email from Business Cape Breton with the odd subject line “BCB Launches new Entrepreneurial Portege/Vanguard Program.” This is why I love reading Campbell and the Cape Breton Spectator:
My best guess was that “Portege” was a typo and what Business Cape Breton had actually launched was an Entrepreneurial PORTAGE/Vanguard Program. This, I decided, would either involve entrepreneurs carrying canoes on their heads (in some sort of corporate team-building exercise) or would turn out to be one of those dreadful business analogies, like “Entrepreneurs never give up — they just pick up their desks and portage to the next opportunity.”
Turns out, I was both right and wrong — “Portege” was a typo, but it wasn’t a misspelling of ‘Portage,’ it was a misspelling of ‘Protégé.’
The text of the email:
To increase business development in the region, Business Cape Breton continues to deliver services that assist new and existing businesses with business plan development and advisory services. A new addition to the business development program will be the introduction of an Entrepreneur Protégé/Vanguard Pilot Program.
The BCB Entrepreneurial Vanguard Committee will provide guidance, coaching, and training along with providing information on identifying new investment opportunities to BCB clients wishing to start or expand a business. The Entrepreneur Protégé would have the opportunity to participate in one-on-one sessions with Q & A as well as opportunities for one-on-one meetings with successful and specific business sector volunteer vanguards. Parker Rudderham, Chair of Business Cape Breton says, “This is yet another tangible value we can offer aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Campbell goes on to have great fun with the notion of “business vanguards” — do these people even have a reflective “don’t look like an idiot” bone in their bodies? — before cutting to the chase:
But seriously, folks
Actually, there is no “seriously” here. This is not anything anybody needs to take seriously.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator.
Stephen Archibald uses the excuse of the sesquicentennial to dig out his photos taken during the centennial year. He writes:
In 1967 Canadians were encouraged to have a personal Centennial Project. Mine was a trip across the country for a summer job in British Columbia, to excavate prehistoric sites on islands in Prince Rupert Harbour. I felt very lucky.
I felt privileged to be in these settings and at the same time it seemed inappropriate to be intruding. That’s how I remember it 50 years later.
Fifty years later I am still in awe of the material culture of the indigenous peoples and the dramatic landscape, although the mountains were a little too theatrical for my taste. What has changed is the First Nations of the area have taken control of their narrative. No longer would an archaeological excavation of their heritage be taking place without their active participation.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda.
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) Agenda not yet available.
Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda.
No public meetings.
Marine Protected Areas — For Whom? (Thursday, 7pm, the theatre named for a fucking bank, Marion McCain Building) — a panel with Sean Brillant, Maxine Westhead, Ken Paul, Paul Barnes, and Veronika Brzeski.
Oil Spill Management (Friday, 3:15pm, MA 310) – Paul Li will speak on “An Integrated Decision Support System for Marine Oil Spill Management under Uncertain Conditions.”
In the harbour
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
7am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney. Read all about the Veendam’s fascinating history here.
7:30am: Nord Taipei, cargo ship, sails from Anchorage for Sorel, Quebec
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
We’re recording Examineradio today.
This what I appreciate about this “newspaper”. Tim’s insight ….. about most recent murder of young woman in North Dartmouth. Pinching me to look inside and care. The serial of violence there is real and in our city , not some faraway U.S. City on tv.
Then Donna Morris offering a nugget and more about the insensitivity and blindness of our silo lives and her own experience. I watched the links. Know the feeling, having been a high school teacher in Cole Harbour long ago, daily meeting kids whose lives were far removed from me ( and yet not)…marked by violence and isolation. I am grateful for this shared conversation among persons, citizens.
And yes the ‘history’ of the cruise ship was informative.
Thanks for your piece on North Dartmouth and its most recent tragedy. It’s where I grew up and then got out of as quickly as I could – only to have returned to. Some things changed but not really much. I spent more than a few Christmas eves, birthdays etc with family not 50 yards from the Farrell path. Happy times for some, I guess. Why do things not change in certain places? Poverty, education, location? Whatever the reasons its long overdue to be addressed by the governing establishments. There are and have always been many great people doing their best. I wouldn’t trade my youth here for anywhere else. But somethings got to give, back. Thanks again, Tim, et al.
The harbour is probably not offended by references to “our harbour.” The word “our” is not always so benign though.
Years ago, when I was covering the commercial fishery, I remember conversations with angry fishermen when they heard Department of Fisheries and Oceans personnel refer to “our fishermen.” It was paternalistic and insulting — and implied possession. “We’re not ‘your’ fishermen,” was the defiant response.
I’ve seen a similar reaction when people — journalists or otherwise — say “Our First Nations” or “our indigenous people.”
I would say if the use of “our” becomes a habit, it could be unfortunate if the writer is not fully focussed. It’s important to pick and choose carefully.
The debate over the usage of “our” vs “the”, as in “our transit system” vs “the transit system” is an interesting one. From my thinking, if tax dollars fund a service such as the transit system, then the use of “our” is appropriate so long as I, as the writer, am one of the affected taxpayers. Other similar analogies come to mind, but are not worth repeating; since to do so would be boringly redundant.
Re: 1. Poverty and violence
I’ve been touched and thinking about your pleure du coeur, reluctant to comment since I’ve been on a commenting roll here recently, and am aware many don’t want to see the same folks holding forth repeatedly. Frequent scribes are often painted with unflattering attention-seeking stigma which devalues anything and/or everything they say and write. And yet I’m here again.
Those you encountered and described during your walk, and your final two paragraphs, inadvertently pinpoint the stark difference in how we live and experience the same geographic space. For many, we may as well live continents apart, so indifferent and insular our lives are, one to another. And for most, it’s deliberate, a distinct unwillingness to even consider the lives of others who are far from the same social or educated class.
I’ve lived among both, growing up lower middle-class in a poverty-stricken coal-mining town, married a man who grew up poor and became very successful. We eventually lived in gated, affluent communities, both Canadian and American, and then lost it with his death with young sons to raise, even sued by my late husband’s corporation in their belief I benefited from his financial relationship with them.
I apologize. I thought I’d saved this to reflect on whether I wanted to reveal so much and whether it had any value. Clearly, I didn’t do that properly, so I’ll now continue. Telling a bit of my story is only to illustrate, from my experience, that people live in silos that are originally – and often irrevocably – dictated by their origins, the familial culture they grow up in, the values and ethics conveyed to them by parents and their youthful environment. Higher education can either expand or warp, sometimes a toxic combination of both, ditto for wealth and affluence, but wealth is most frequently used to provide comfort, which includes a varying interpretation of protection, isolation and influence.
The huge variable in our modern internet age is the volume and breadth of information to which we now have access, but which is once again determined by individual affordability, i.e. income, and even among those with access, personality and desire for knowledge are the determinants.
There was a common theme among the affluent I knew and among the poor: both knew little substantively about the other and they wanted to keep it that way for different reasons of judgment, disdain, resentment and discomfort.
Until we can break down those psychological barriers, our society will drift further. A guaranteed income will be a first step in attacking poverty, but until early education becomes better at depicting past and present society in an analytical, honest way, polarity will exist and expand. Instead of becoming more rigorous in this high tech society, our early public education is being dumbed down. I’ve seen this first hand from closely following grandchildren’s curriculum and returned, graded papers in Halifax public school.
On poverty, ignorance, its legacy and reality, Shelby Lee Adams published a photographic documentary of his home region, Appalachia, in 2003 called “The True Meaning of Pictures.” It proved to be highly controversial. People didn’t like what they saw. My middle son, now a lawyer, and I had a difference of opinion then on whether pictures conveyed truth. I struggled to understand his perspective, and I’m not sure I do yet. A man of few words, he objected to the purported truth of Adams’ pictures. I think our then-philosophical difference plays out generally and interminably.
Think of the local collective reaction to the few published photographs of the horrible, disgusting living conditions inflicted on some living in social housing in Halifax. Largely crickets except for those affected and the few agencies and limited supporting media. Not much general commentary, either.
Thank you for raising this issue again, Tim. You’ve raised it before, too. It’s not possible to make people care, but it IS possible to put images in front of them that make a powerful impact, expose them to unfamiliar people and situations, similar to what Shelby Lee Adams did, and add words, perhaps few. Authentic images have power that words often lack. It seems the best we can do, given we have government that doesn’t demonstrate concern, didn’t in the housing conditions mentioned. Reaction was cruel and authoritarian. Maybe they were/are simply reflecting a majority of us? We’d like to think not.
There has been a systemic and concerted effort to marginize, dehumanize and demonize the less affluent in society.
Our present society predicates humanity in numbers, dollars and cents. Those who have and those who don’t. Pretty simple really. Our present Liberal government is a shining example of that.
They were recently reelected. I guess a good portion of us agree.
Those cigarette butts outside of bars and restaurants used to be disposed inside the bars and restaurants in the ashtrays they provided. Maybe there is a solution hidden there…
yes. It is an asinine piece of legislation that serves no one well. For the love of all that’s holy let people smoke inside. There is no enforcement of the law anyway. What? Signs you say? That is not enforcement! There are no consequences to breaking the smoke-free places law.That way the litter is reduced and those of us who don’t smoke can have the bus shelters back.
Betcha the bars would like to have smoking rooms back.
Can’t tell if this or sarcastic or…
Nor can I.
What exactly is the asinine piece of legislation? Barring smoking in bars?