1. The Halifax Pile On Club

Apparently Black Friday is just nicer and more polite in Canada.

Just like our racism!

“I think we’ve Canadian-ized it,” said Danielle Hill, an annual Black Friday shopper. “It’s very different up here, it’s very courteous. It’s very, like we’re all here for one thing and we’re helping each other find things.”

Image of polite Canadians from the Vancouver Sun.
Image of polite Canadians from the Vancouver Sun.

Like, our celebrations of genocide are so much more genteel! We’ve really Canadianized it.It’s so much more polite in Canada, just more courteous. Everybody is just quiet here, not like Americans at all.

Super polite image from
Super polite image from

2. Let Ponair calm your fears

Halifax council has approved a recommendation that will give refugees a free transit pass in their first year of settlement.

A year? They’ll still be at the stop waiting for the bus to come in that time. (Because the buses are slow and never come! Get it?).

These people were in high school when they went out to the stop…

Hopefully bus drivers can restrain themselves from yelling “uncover your face” at passengers and whatnot. Welcome to Canada, now let me slam the bus door right in your face even though I saw you running for the bus and looked right at you!

Sincerely though, it’s great that there are so many resources being brought together to support refugees. And given that we have participated in military strikes on Syria and in other military actions that have contributed to the refugee crisis, it’s only fair that we also take responsibility for the refugees as well. And beyond the refugees, this should show us that if we can find supports and resources in a crisis, we can also find them for single mothers, and impoverished people, and homeless people, and people on reserves, and people struggling to find stable housing, and racialized people, and mentally ill people, and people with disabilities. Our response to the refugee crisis should explode the austerity myth that in our incredibly wealthy countries we just don’t have the resources for social services.

Austerity cat. (image from
Austerity cat. (image from

“The staff report also recommended Halifax police reach out to help refugees overcome fear of law enforcement.”


From the report:

Halifax Regional Police (HRP), in coordination with their diversity officer and alongside the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, conduct outreach sessions for refugees with the objective of overcoming the fear of police that some refugees may carry based on their personal experience. HRP will also offer and conduct other outreach efforts, such as informational sessions showcasing HRP’s commitment to finding solutions to stigma and difficulties that refugees experience as they settle in their new home. These sessions will be related to HRP’s involvement with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, which examines the connection between gangs, child soldiers, policing, police training and the displacement of peoples.

I like this idea that fear of the police is some foreign thing, and once people hear from our nicepolite, totally friendly police force, all those irrational fears of the police will just go away. What’s going to be the content of these sessions? “Have no fear, refugees, we try to direct most of our profiling and violence towards Black people.”

Outreach to the Black community. (image from The Coast.)
Outreach to the Black community. (image from The Coast.)

3. The Chief Kopit

Halifax Transit is holding a contest to name the new ferry.

BUT CONTESTS CAN GO WRONG direly warns a subheadline:

B.C. Ferries also held a naming contest this year, eventually choosing Salish Raven, Salish Orca and Salish Eagle for three new vessels.

However, that campaign initially backfired when people took to social media to vent about service and rising fares, suggesting names such as Queen of Delays and High Fees on the High Seas.

Doesn’t it kind of seem like CBC actually wants us to troll the contest? It’s almost like they’re hinting at it or something.

Smart ass suggestions in the comments include “Ship for Brains” (in honour of city council), “Missing Third Bridge,” and “We Are Sinking.”


Halifax Transit says they’re looking for “appropriateness, originality, cultural significance and diversity” in the names, which is why all the ferries are being named after white military men.

[Brendan] Elliott said Halifax is a big military city and groups start campaigning for certain names.

“It’s a popularity contest,” he said. “People choose the one they feel is most appropriate.”

Well, yes, we all know that when you put diversity up to a popularity contest, the voices of marginalized people are never drowned out. Let’s just call the ferry THE INSERT WHITE MAN NAME.

My serious vote is that the ferry be named the Chief Kopit.

image from
image from

The name in particular recognizes the colonial roots of the original ferry system.  Wikipedia tells us about the first ferry:

The first ferry service in the region was put in place by the Founder of Halifax Edward Cornwallis, who used the ferry service to move raw materials and people from a sawmill located on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. During this time there was no official service and it was not until 1752, after a council meeting, that the first ferry charter was issued to John Connor. This began the official ferry service between Halifax and Dartmouth.

(Not that John Connor)
(Not that John Connor)

You know whenever you see Cornwallis’ name, some genocide probably went down. As Daniel Paul recounts:

When Governor Edward Cornwallis and his entourage founded Halifax in 1749, it was during a lull in the war with the Mi’kmaq. In fact, the Mi’kmaq greeted them with hospitality. One settler wrote home: “When we first came here, the Indians, in a friendly manner, brought us lobsters and other fish in plenty, being satisfied for them by a bit of bread and some meat.”

The Mi’kmaq, although Cornwallis blamed it on the French, began to leave the area when he started to display designs against their land. At a meeting held in Cape Breton in the early fall of 1749 a British emissary told the Chiefs about their settlement plans for the province, which gravely alarmed the Mi’kmaq. Professor Jeffrey Plank, University of Cincinnati, remarks on the subject:

“…if the Micmac chose to resist his expropriation of land, the governor intended to conduct a war unlike any that had been fought in Nova Scotia before. He outlined his thinking in an unambiguous letter to the Board of Trade. If there was to be a war he did not want the war to end with a peace agreement. “It would be better to “root” the Micmac out of the peninsula decisively and forever.” The war began soon after the governor made this statement.”

If instead, the English had offered to make a reasonable land deal with the Mi’kmaq at this time everything could have been settled peacefully. But, they made no move to engage them in negotiations on any issue, let alone permission to settle on their land. Therefore, the Mi’kmaq renewed their declaration of war against them on September 23, 1749.

The sawmill was part of this aggressive expansion on the part of the British. The “raw materials and people” being transported to and from the sawmill by the original ferry were troops who were pushing forward onto Mi’kmaq territory and building military outposts. The Mi’kmaq responded to this clear military aggression by taking action against the British troops, making raids on the sawmill and killing British soldiers. This self-defense response by the Mi’kmaq was used by the British to justify their race war against the Mi’kmaq and to cast themselves as victims of “savage” Mi’kmaq attacks. It was due to these raids by the Mi’kmaq that Cornwallis issued his scalping proclamation.

Don (Byrd) Awalt writes about one of the episodes in the war on the Mi’kmaq by the British:

After the deplorable Connors / Grace Affair, Major Jean Baptist Cope severed ties with the British in Halifax. A family of Mi’kmaq had saved the lives of John Connors and John Grace from drowning at Musquodoboit Harbour. In return, their guests murdered them. (John Connors, a one eyed bargeman, was the first person to operate a ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth. His pregnant wife Mary and daughter Martha were killed in what was known as the “1751 Dartmouth Massacre” and the murder of the Mi’kmaq family was likely an act of revenge.) John Connor died Dec. 16th, 1757.

Kopit signed the Treaty of 1752. In the words of Daniel Paul again:

[Historian Jeffrey] Plank comments on the situation in 1751: “…everyone involved understood the conflict to be a race war, and that the Micmac and British were single mindedly determined to drive each other from…Nova Scotia… after two years of inconclusive fighting… uncertainties and second thoughts began to disturb…the British community. By the summer of 1751, Governor Cornwallis and his advisors had begun to doubt whether it was tactically feasible, or advisable, to eliminate the Micmac altogether from the peninsula. They developed an alternate strategy, involving the construction of trading posts and forts designed to control the Micmac and exploit them economically. This…conciliatory policy gained tacit support from the Board of Trade, which had mildly reprimanded Cornwallis in 1750 for his harshness.”

Cornwallis spent the next year, ending with his resignation in the summer of 1752, trying to find a Mi’kmaq chief to negotiate a peace with, none would. What could he expect after his inhuman proclamation? After his departure, in response to the colonial government’s overtures for peace, Chief Kopit approached Governor Peregrine Hopson with a peace proposal. After agreeing on specifics, the Shubenacadie District and the colonial government signed, on November 22nd, the Treaty of 1752.

The peace was interrupted in 1753, primarily because it was breached by the failure of the English to punish two white men who had barbarously murdered and scalped 6 Mi’kmaqs — an infant, a woman, a young child, and three men — in Kopit’s District. (The Mi’kmaq had rescued the killers from a ship wreck and had nourished them back to health.) If Governor Hopson had arrested and tried these criminals in a accordance with the terms of the treaty, the war would have ended at this point.

Plank, commenting on his efforts, and the efforts of other historians to define the character of Kopit, comments: “Cope…was unclassifiable… Undefinable people cannot be stereotyped.”

Plank ends with this: “After…the Treaty of 1752, the British never returned to their old policy of driving the Micmac off the peninsula. Instead, the government searched for “friendly Indians,” alternating…between violence and negotiations…But by confusing the British, briefly upsetting their negative expectations and providing a short-lived, tantalizing offer of reconciliation…(Cope) helped change Nova Scotia’s politics forever.”

Whatever one’s views, it has to be acknowledged that Chief Kopit fought bravely, in a hostile English social environment, to preserve the dignity of his people. He is remembered today by the Mi’kmaq as the hero he was!

It seems appropriate, given that the last two ferries have been named for men fighting in Afghanistan, that the next ferry honour an anti-colonial hero who fought against occupation. Naming the ferry after Chief Kopit acknowledges that the original ferry system was used as a military transport in war against the Mi’kmaq.

4. Today our beer bottles, tomorrow our Confederate flags…

The Nova Scotia government may recognize the 125-year old Keith’s beer bottle as a historic artifact.

Interestingly, judging from the comments, the same sort of people who insist you just can’t take down the statue of Cornwallis because that would be “scrubbing away history” are outraged at the idea of the government preserving this historical object.

Old piece of garbage. History is stupid. (image from
Old piece of garbage. History is stupid. (image from



Hey, remember how Alexander Keith’s nephew was a “spy linked to international terrorism in the Civil War” and a time bomber who murdered 81 people?

From Ann Larabee:

Sandy Keith began his ruthless career early. Born in the Scottish Highlands in 1827, he immigrated to Canada when he was a boy. He went to work in the brewery of his uncle, Alexander Keith, a respected businessman and three-time mayor of Halifax. Envious of his uncle’s wealth and power, the younger Keith began forging his uncle’s name on phony bills of exchange and was probably responsible for blowing up the Halifax powder magazine in 1857 to cover up a gunpowder swindle.

At the start of the Civil War, Southern blockade runners began arriving in Halifax, eager for adventure and profit. Keith saw his chance and became their purchasing agent. He was so popular among the blockade runners that he became known as the “Confederate Consul,” offering his wealthy new friends the finest champagne in his rooms at the Halifax Hotel.

But even more devious operations were afoot in Halifax. As the war became ever more desperate for the Confederacy, Southerners hiding in Canada plotted raids and terrorist attacks across the border. Keith was in the thick of it, and, because he had earned their trust, the conspirators enlisted him in their schemes.

The most ruthless of these, at least in spirit, was organized by Dr. Luke Blackburn, who would later become governor of Kentucky. The good doctor volunteered his services to yellow-fever patients in Bermuda, collected their soiled clothes and linens and had the goods sent through Halifax to Northern cities for auction. Keith was involved in the shipment of this 19th century version of bioterrorism. Luckily, it failed; Blackburn was of the mistaken belief that yellow fever is transmitted through human contact, but mosquitoes are the real carriers.

By the end of 1864, Confederate operatives and blockade runners were eager to squeeze as much profit as they could from the war before their inevitable defeat, and they heaped money in Keith’s hands. He feigned enthusiasm for their cause while secretly plotting to destroy them. Inspired by Confederate bomb makers such as Thomas Courtenay, a St. Louis insurance salesman who invented a device with which to blow up Union steamships, Keith began to form an idea: He would use time bombs to blow up ships and collect the insurance money…

…On December 13, 1875, traveling under the name William King Thomas, Keith took his bomb, packed in a barrel, to the harbor. Leaving the barrel with the porters, he boarded the Mosel and took a first-class cabin. Outside on the busy quay, the porters loaded the barrel into a horse-drawn wagon and wheeled it toward the ship. They were attaching it to a winch when it suddenly fell, hit the dock and exploded with tremendous force.

Witnesses described the scene as a battlefield. The blast caved in the bow of the Mosel and buckled the deck of the Simson, its tug. Cabins and decks were covered with sand, broken glass and pieces of wood and twisted iron. On the cobbled loading area of the dock, the explosion produced a black, smoking hole 6 feet deep and 7 feet wide. Body parts lay everywhere, and the air was filled with the moans of the wounded and the dying. Keith had killed 81 people and seriously injured 50 more.

Just a murderous misfit! (image from Wikipedia)
Just a murderous misfit! (image from Wikipedia)


1. Cranky Letter of the Day I

From the Chronicle Herald:

Segway speed traps next?

If I understand correctly, the provincial government is looking at passing a law that would allow Segways on our already crowded downtown sidewalks, as long as they are travelling at seven km/h or less.
On the other hand, a teenager, or anyone for that matter, riding her or his bicycle at that same speed could be ticketed. Makes sense — if you’re living in another universe.

I can hardly wait to see police officers with their radar guns standing in doorways checking for Segway speeders. The not-so-funny part is that it might be necessary to ensure safety on our sidewalks. I wonder if anyone asked the police about enforcing this new speed law.

This is just a Black Friday joke, right, sort of like April Fool’s day but in November?

Clarence Guest, Dartmouth

Yeah, y'all thought this was so cute until it happens for real.
Yeah, y’all thought this was so cute until it happens for real.

2. Cranky Letter of the Day II

Also from the Chronicle Herald:

Can’t we move the moose?

Over the past number of weeks, we’ve been hearing about the moose cull in Cape Breton. Why do we have to kill the moose? Why can we not be like our forefathers and capture the surplus of 40-plus and reinstate them on the mainland? Our forefathers were able to capture and ship them all the way across the country, not just across the causeway. Maybe it’s because in today’s world, if it’s not on your handheld device, it can’t be done.

Why does our government want to do stupid things, like making a lovers’ lane from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia? That will take decades, if ever, to populate our mainland. The time is right for mainland moose. The deer herd, regardless of what they say, is way down, except for a few groups in residential areas, as we have no forest left to winter in. Remember the good old days when you leaned against a tree and counted 20 piles of deer poop? Now you count the trees.

The largest obstacle to the moose population growing on the mainland would be poaching. Maybe a $10,000 fine for a first offence would help.

Carl Hart, Halifax

(image from
(image from

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. The ferry could be named “Thursday” in recognition of our slave owing history. (But then I can imagine some asses making horrible jokes associating a run way slave and a ferry.)

    Thursday is the name of the slave owned by the ferry owner John Rock.

    “Ran away from her master, John Rock, on Monday, the 18th day of August last, a Negro girl named Thursday, about four and a half feet high, broad-set, with a lump over her right eye. Had on when she went away a red cloth petticoat, a red-baize bed-gown, and a red ribbon about her head.”
    T. Watson Smith, D. D.,
    Halifax, N. S.

    footnote pg 13
    “ John Rock seems to have been a citizen of some repute. In January, 1756, he obtained the license to run the ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth.”

  2. I wonder how many seabirds, marine mammals, tortoises, and other animals were killed an injured by the balloons Halifax Transit released to celebrate its new ferry. Unbelievable HRM officials did not know better than to do this. Or perhaps believable, which is worse.

  3. Fascinating variety of information, El Jones, thanks. But the piece about Sandy Keith (what is it about brewery families anyway?) does not make it clear the mass murder bombing took place in Bremerhaven, Germany, not Halifax. We’ve had enough sad explosion experience without inadvertently crediting this local boy with more local death and destruction! People who have read The Dynamite Fiend won’t be misled.