News

1. Extinction Rebellion

High school students across Nova Scotia are demanding action on climate change, and will be walking out of classes today for mass demonstrations. In Halifax, students will march on MP Andy Filmore’s office, City Hall, and Province House. They are meeting at the gazebo in the Public Gardens at 12:30pm. Details here.

Richard Starr has a good essay on Extinction Rebellion and all things climate change. A short excerpt (read the whole thing):

As we edge into a six-month federal election campaign there are examples, large and small, of the media’s unwillingness to change its approach. Consider how the national media are covering the carbon tax debate. There are two main sides to the story, dutifully reported by the mainstream media. One side (the Liberals) favours a token carbon tax while increasing pollution from the oil sands and flouting watered-down international emission reduction commitments. The other side (the Conservatives) promises to kill the token carbon tax (in favour of some other undefined plan) while further increasing pollution from the oil sands and flouting watered-down international emission reduction targets. And they both support a pipeline, differing only on whether one’s enough.

This Hobson’s choice is being presented in the media as the likely and legitimate ballot question in the fall election even as the latest warnings from the international climate change watchdog say drastic cuts are needed between now and 2030 to have any chance of preventing global temperatures from increasing to even more dangerous levels.

The high-schoolers need all the support they can get, and older folks need to take the action the high-schoolers are demanding.

Instead, the students are getting resistance. As Margot Aldrich wrote in a public Facebook post:

As you all know, at the time of the global school strike for climate change, my daughter Willa was told by her principal that marches accomplished nothing. I wrote a strong letter which many of you circulated, and you all gave a lot of support for which I thank you! A Canada wide school strike is happening in a couple of days and my daughter and her friends have been putting up posters for it in their school, which have been taken down by their principal, Joe Morrison. Today my daughter and her friend were brought into the office and told that if they continue to put up posters for the strike, they will be suspended from school and that if her friend continues with school strikes, he will no longer be permitted to be co president of the student union. Just to be clear, this is Citadel High School in Halifax NS whose principal is Joe Morrison and whose vice principal for grade 11 is Leslie MacIntyre. As I’m on the other side of the planet, I can’t get directly involved. I’m just putting it out to the community.

Young people are quite rightly concerned about their future. The petty complaints such as those of school bureaucrats are immaterial to the issue at hand.

2. Rugby

“High school rugby is being shut down in Nova Scotia,” reports CTV:

Citing insurance costs and safety concerns, the Nova Scotia Schools Athletic Federation sent notices to high school principals today saying the program is cancelled effective immediately.

Officials with Rugby Nova Scotia say thousands of students, parents, coaches and match officials will be affected by the shutdown.

Meanwhile, Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre For Education confirms an international student who attends Sydney Academy was injured during a rugby match yesterday. There’s no confirmation there’s any link between the injury and today’s decision to cancel high school rugby.

Ashley Morton, a former rugby coach, points out in a Twitter thread that the cancellation will affect girls more than boys.

Today’s cancellation of high school rugby in Nova Scotia is way more gendered than it may appear. There were far more schools that had girls’ rugby than boys’, so way more girls lost their sport today than boys. It was also the only full-contact team sport available for girls…

— Ashley Morton (@ashleyjmorton) May 3, 2019

Morton writes (I’ve reformatted and lightly edited this):

Today’s cancellation of high school rugby in Nova Scotia is way more gendered than it may appear. There were far more schools that had girls’ rugby than boys’ rugby, so way more girls lost their sport today than boys.

It was also the only full-contact team sport available for girls. (Boys have football and hockey — girls have no football, and girls’ hockey is non-contact.) It is also the only contact team sport that offers university scholarships to girls (but not to boys — it’s a national-championship sport for women, but not for men, to balance football).

So today, the NSSAF stopped some athletic young women — and only women — from being able to afford to go to university. That is intensely frustrating.

They also killed the only sport that fundamentally values such a different set of body types. I’ve coached high school girls’ rugby, and I remember walking down the halls of a high school thinking “there isn’t a girl here I wouldn’t be happy to see at try-outs.”

Teenagers — especially teenage girls — are starving for a place where their diverse physical strengths are all valued.

The NSSAF today made a decision based on an insurance company’s report, that gave no weight or importance to the values of the sport, and in doing so preferentially trashed women’s sport. What a horrible choice.

Many young rugby players gathered at the Sunnyside Mall to protest the cancellation, and most were girls:

This about sums up how highschool rugby players are feeling about the #NSSAF decision to cancel the season. The NSSAF hasn’t provided an interview, yet. pic.twitter.com/66RLwXwwIx

— Alexa MacLean 🏳️‍🌈 (@AlexaMacLean902) May 2, 2019

The concern seems to be around concussions. I’m the first to admit that I know nothing about this, but I suspect that there’s a big difference between concussions in rugby and concussions in the padded sports like football and hockey — with the latter being far worse.

When I was a kid, I ran cross country and track. I was never a star — mostly I placed fifth or sixth for my team at cross country meets, with the occasional exceptional third or fourth) — but the sport provided a sense of community and belonging, taught me to test and listen to my own body, and provided a much-needed avenue for desired solitude at the same time. Running stayed with me most of the rest of my life (until a few years ago, when my knees gave out, but I’m still struggling to get back into it), and I’m not sure I would have quite survived had I not had it to fall back on.

Which is to say, sport is important. I hope cooler and more reasoned heads prevail on the rugby issue.

3. Herald

The Herald made two fundamental bone-headed mistakes with its obituary page on its website today: it built a template using inappropriate Lorem Ipsum (dummy text to be replaced with the correct text later) and then failed to copyedit the finished product before hitting “publish.” The result is regrettable, to put it mildly:

This is a lesson to journalists everywhere. Readers might ridicule dummy text slipping through — it shouldn’t, but mistakes happen — but they’ll skip right over ridicule and go to anger if that dummy text is inappropriate. “Insert obituary here” gets one reaction; “Neil died, boo” another. Always assume your dummy text will slip through, and write it with the expectation that the public will read it.

Beyond that, everything should be copyedited. Obituaries, however, are especially sensitive and a big money maker besides; extra copyediting attention should be given to them.

Ah, I saw this at 6am, and by the time we publish at 9am, the page has been removed.

4. Addiction danger

Also in the Herald is “Contributed” content, presumably contributed by the John Volken Academy:

Four years ago Mathew Fee Jr. texted his mother at 4 a.m. saying he doesn’t know how to live. Now the recovering addict is living by riding a single-gear BMX bike across Canada to raise awareness for addiction recovery.

“Ultimately I want to be able to show people that there is hope,” said Fee Jr. “That you can find your way out of addictions and get out of that dark place. There is a little bit of light.”

Fee Jr. is riding from Halifax to Victoria, B.C. He started on Monday with a police escort from Province House. He expects to arrive in Victoria in mid-October, riding 50 to 100 kilometres a day depending on hills and tailwinds. He has had this dream since he was a kid and thought it would be a good way to raise awareness for addiction recovery.

Halifax police got in on the action too:

@HfxRegPolice Traffic Unit had the privledge of escorting 33 Y/O Mat Fee of Terrace, BC from Province House out of town this afternoon. Fee is biking from Hfx to the Victoria Legislature in BC on a BMX bike in support of John Volken Addictions Academy. Safe biking, Mat & crew!! pic.twitter.com/B1vJvJBdzV

— HRP Traffic Cop (@HRPTrafficCop) May 1, 2019

I drove to Truro yesterday and came upon the van and bike rider on the 102, just past the Stewiacke exit. The truck was following the cyclist, who was going regular cycling speed, maybe 20 or 25 kilometres/hour. The truck was half on the shoulder and half in the right lane, but kind of shifted more into the lane as it crossed bridges and such. The cyclist was entirely in the lane.

This was quite dangerous. I was at the rear of a group of vehicles as the group crested a hill and came upon the truck/cyclist combo. The cars in the right lane had to swerve suddenly into the left lane, and all the drivers came frightening close to each other. I slowed way down to give everyone room, but feared getting rear-ended by some other vehicle coming over the hill behind me.

I don’t know if this is a restricted highway, but I’m guessing it is — Highway 2 runs parallel and is a better route for bikes. In any event, even if bikes are allowed on the 102, they should be on the shoulder and not creating this hazard. What is the John Volken Academy thinking? Such a sense of entitlement.

And can we revisit that “crossing Canada for charity” thing? As I’ve written before:

Not a week goes by when some young person, usually a college student, sends me an email about hiking/bicycling/pogo sticking/whatever across Canada/around Nova Scotia/whatever “to raise money” for some charitable cause. It never makes sense to me. If they’ve got the time to pogo stick across Canada, why not just work some stupid minimum wage job and contribute all the proceeds to the cause — you’d make more money. The emphasis seems to be on the ego-gratification, and only secondly on the cause.

Terry Fox was inspiring but everything since has been, well, under-whelming. I mean, ride your bike across Canada if you want, but don’t claim some higher purpose for it, and don’t risk causing a multi-vehicle pileup on the 102.

5. Point Pleasant Park forest thinning

This morning, the city issued a Request for Quotations for forest thinning within Point Pleasant Park. The particulars:

Area to be treated in 2019 is 10.63 ha. and comprises 5 separate blocks. See maps [above]. Work to be completed prior to July 31, 2019.
Specifications for Spacing/Thinning in Point Pleasant Park:

1) To uniformly thin by means of clearing/thinning saws, leaving the trees listed in item (7) at a target spacing of 2.5m x 2.5m (8′ x 8′) approximately 1600 stems/ha., varying slightly to leave the best tree.

2) All stem cuts are to be left with a horizontal finish cut completely through, and stumps shall be 7.5 cm (3″) or less in height.

3) Trees/brush to be cut and dispersed with most of their surface area in contact with the ground.

4) Brush shall be pulled back from wet areas (streams, vernal pools, ponds, etc…).

5) Brush is not to be left within 10 Metres of a park roadway, and not within 5 meters of foot paths. Brush shall be pulled further back into the woods and dispersed or may be chipped and blown back into the forested area.

6) The following trees shall be cut regardless of spacing;
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)
Scots/ Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra)
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) English Oak (Quercus robur)
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) Locust (Robinia spp.)

7) Acadian Forest Species shall be left using the following species hierarchy;
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
Aspen (Populus spp.)
*** All other Acadian species shall have equal priority and shall be spaced, accommodating for diversity of species within a given area.

8) When stump sprouts are the tree of choice, the 2-3 sprouts with best form and dominance will be left.

9) Inferior quality stems are to be removed even if a less desirable species is left in its place.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Mount Saint Vincent

Saturday

Family Day (Saturday, 1pm, MSVU Art Gallery) – info here: msvuart.ca.


In the harbour

06:30: Lomur, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41
10:00: YM Movement, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:30: Lomur sails for sea
17:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
21:45: YM Movementsails for New York


Footnotes

My trip to Truro involves a story that will take some time to get into, so while I worked all day yesterday, I have nothing to show for it this morning. On top of that, I found myself fighting off some weird throat infection last night, and this morning there’s really nothing I particularly want to write about. So, sorry this Morning File kind of sucks. I’ll work on doing better.


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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I recall a news interview a couple of years ago where the interviewees were a pair of guys doing a mega canoe trip (maybe the lenth of Mississippi?).

    The interviewer asked, “so what cause is this trip for?”

    The interviewees’ response was, “Oh, we’re just doing this for fun. It seemed like a cool thing to do.”

    The interviewer was really bewildered.

  2. News this a.m. is that Ed. Minister Zach Churchill has called for the re-instatement of rugby for the current season. This is a reasoned decision and one that had to be made promptly, but not without due consideration. This’scare’ for the players , coaches and devotees of high school rugby may serve to underscore the responsibility that goes with playing this game. The spring rugby season is not a long one; hopefully the recent higher profile for the game will translate in more people turning out to watch the efforts of the female and male ruggers.

  3. Decision to cancel rugby for girls and boys is knee-jerk. In this game, more than most games, there is a feeling of camaraderie and not just among team members, but between the members of opposing teams. The game , when well officiated, and it almost always is, focuses on fair, responsible play and responsibility taking (i.e. there are consequences that are immediate if rules are broken- especially rules designed to protect the athletes on the pitch.)
    Playing rugby helps each student to develop attributes that we hope to see reflected in the future leaders of our province and the future leaders in all fields- medicine, education, the trades,…. Playing this game helps one to confront the challenges and suffering in life that everyone will experience. We also want the youth to compete under the coaching and supervision of knowledgeable and safety-conscious people; we have that now.
    Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath-water; this is precisely what this NSSAF decision does.

    If the SIP number crunchers were to study the detrimental effects of chrome book use; notebook use and cell phone use and it revealed repetitive strain injuries in the extreme, would these tools of technology be banned? The NSSAF ought to put away the cannon that it used to kill a mouse. It also ought to publish the data from the SIP program over the last ten years to allow each of us to see what all of the significant factors are with regard to student injuries while playing various high school and middle school sports.

  4. Odd that schools take action to ban rugby because of health risks but would deny students the right to fight climate change which will destroy everyone’s health. Something is terribly wrong in our neo-liberal system.

  5. If Joe Morrison carries out any of the threats he has made to students like suspensions etc., I will support any action necessary to have him removed or demoted from a position of authority in the education system. Sure many of the students may just use this as an excuse to goof off, but at the heart of it is the very real concern that lack or action on the part of our generation will leave there generation to potentially witness the collapse of life as we currently know it on this planet. A true educator would find a way to support that while not violating overtly the rules of the school. We don’t need educators who suppress free thinking. If they are doing that, get them out.

  6. I wonder whether the planned thinning of Pt. Pleasant Park has or will be reviewed by the Park Advisory Committee, members of the scientific public or Friends of Pt Pleasant Park?

    I wonder because the history of the forest and land management of the park has been subject to much criticism in the past. Remember the dreaded long horned beetle panic of the early 2000’s when after many millions of dollars spent, no scientific evidence was ever brought forward to prove that the species was anything other than a beetle which fed off dead and dying trees, that it had been present for decades and was in any case virtually impossible to eradicate? Clearance of thousands of trees left gaping holes in the forest canopy which Hurricane Juan a few years later used to destroy even more mature trees in the Park.

    Since then, the fashion has swung to eliminating all non-native trees despite their longevity in the Park’s overall mix and the protection afforded wildlife and growing small trees by the dreaded ‘brush’ now marked for clearance.

    Has anyone seen the operational or scientific basis for these expensive management proposals? If so is it publicly available?

    (Dr) Iain Taylor, President, Friends of PPP.

    1. Just wanted to commend Iain for chiming in on this – one of the reasons civil society groups like the Friends of PPP are so important – community memory. I lived in Halifax when Juan (and his colder twin brother) came through, and I marvelled at the decimation of the peninsula’s tree cover, Point Pleasant Park in particular. I remember the many controversies over the past few decades also on the matter of its management, and the infamous beetle debacle.

    2. Thanks for commenting… I put that out this morning with the hope that someone with more knowledge would comment.

    3. I avoid the park because of all the dogs but the brush they’re clearing used to have a ridiculous amount of blackberries.

  7. A couple of points about the rugby story:

    The NSAAF Board of Governors is made up of school staff members( looks to be primarily school administrators) selected by regional committees of school staff. The current Board of Governors can be found here: https://sites.google.com/gnspes.ca/nssaf/resources/handbook

    Interestingly, the same Principal Joe Morrison who is squashing the student environmental protest is one of the two capital district representatives on the NSAAF BoG.

    The rationale behind the decision to cancel school rugby seems to be concussion/injury data provided by the NS School Insurance Program (SIP) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/58289498134/permalink/10158437291603135/

    It would be interesting to see the risk management assessment that this decision was based on.
    SIP in not a private insurance company – it is “a not-for-profit organization that is owned and operated by the Regional Centres for Education of Nova Scotia, CSAP, and the Nova Scotia Community College and manages all aspects of property and casualty-related insurance.” Until last year, it was the governing school boards, not the centres for education who largely owned and operated SIP and who had elected representatives on its Board. SIP does not now list their current board on their website. (http://sip.ca/) In the past, there would have been a mechanism for the public to voice a concern about SIP to an elected representative who would have had a mechanism to have it investigated. Nonetheless, SIP is still a publicly owned organization and their reports should be available to the public.

  8. I think it could be argued that these ‘awareness raising’ things are different than charity, and they are successful when they get any media headline or even attention on the road.

    But I agree there’s something going on with our understanding of charity.

    Is A inducing B to support C charity at all? Is that what we’ve come to agree that word means? I know this A induces B to support C is a very common thing in our society. It’s perfectly acceptable. But is that what Charity is?

    My view is that charity is an attitude, closely related to hospitality, sympathy and empathy. A way of viewing others that inspires you to cheerfully give what you can. To have a charitable attitude means giving of yourself to understand others who might differ from you profoundly in mind and manner.

    Charity has to be defined as a giving from the heart. An insistent feeling within us. I think charity should have this special meaning and be held up very highly. A lofty goal for our soul.

    We should have other words for A inducing B to support C, especially when it’s simply transactional and just involves money and no other part of the person.

    1. I thought it was because the guy on the airplane across the aisle from me was hacking up something terrible.