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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Nova Scotia makes changes for non-binary birth certificates

Option to have an X or no indicator now available

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 2:01 PM

Birth certificates can now have X, F, M or nothing under the sex indicator.
  • Birth certificates can now have X, F, M or nothing under the sex indicator.
Nova Scotian residents and born applicants can now obtain a new birth certificate or drivers license displaying M, F or X, as well as have the option not to have displayed at all.

As of July 9, these changes include the sex indicator X, which will be available for individuals who do not identify exclusively as male or female. Anyone can apply to have their sex indicator changed to M, F or X.

This comes after consultations with transgender community members who had their sex misidentified at birth. Krista Dewey, deputy registrar general for vital statistics with the department of health at the province, says this change is important because identity documents such as birth certificates are a space which people can see their gender identity affirmed, or where they can see their gender identity misidentified or erased.

According to Dewey, these changes have been in the works since 2015. This was shortly after regulations for transgender Nova Scotians to correct their birth certificates were eased to no longer requiring have a surgery or hormone therapy requirement.

“We had participants who shared anecdotes with us about disturbing experiences that they have had when asked to present a piece of ID, where they’ve been asked invasive questions, or had been judged or even had violence perpetrated against them,” Dewey says. “The option to have a gender marker that aligns with one’s gender identity is a way to better ensure the dignity and safety of some of our most marginalized community members.”

Dewey says this change also acknowledges gender is a spectrum and not a static binary. Both long- and short-form birth certificates plus drivers licenses will now have the option to have no sex indicator displayed, available to anyone born in Nova Scotia, whether they have changed their sex indicator or not.

In consultations, it was expressed by community members that including an X option but not an option to remove the marker could open the ID holder to discrimination. The X would act as a signifier that the owner of the certificate is a member of a marginalized community.

Community members also raised concerns with the RCMP’s current requirement for fingerprints before someone can legally change a name. Dewey says while this still exists for names, it will not be a requirement for gender markers: “That doesn’t exist today, and it will not exist as part of our new process.”

Applicants 16 and older will need to make a statutory declaration to state their preferred sex indicator change. Applicants 15 and younger will still need to provide a written statement from a physician or psychologist. Dewey says this is to show that person understands what they are declaring.

“When we established this process,” she says, “we needed to make sure the person who is making the application needs to understand what they are applying for.”
X cannot be selected for a child at the time of their birth. Non-Nova Scotia-born applicants will receive a certificate of change displaying their updated sex indicator. They must have resided in the province for at least three months to be eligible.

There is no fee to correct your sex indicator with the province.

Dewey says this change arose from consultations with the community: It was expressed that the burden to correct a birth certificate and have it accurately show a person’s sex should not be on the person seeking to correct it. It was also expressed that fees were a difficulty for a population who already faces employment discrimination.

Jessica Durling was a part of these consultations and led a petition to ease the requirements in 2015.

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Friday, June 28, 2019

This shit is bananas

Halifax Public Gardens’ June plant of the month is quite appealing

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 4:46 PM

The musa acuminate is actually a plant, not a tree. - THE COAST
  • The musa acuminate is actually a plant, not a tree.
  • The Coast

Another summer in Halifax, another stretch of months watching a plant die.  

For the first time in history there are bananas growing in the Halifax Public Gardens. The musa acuminate AKA dwarf banana plant has been growing in the gardens for eight to 10 years, and this spring began to produce fruit.

There are over thirty small, green banana fruits growing from the plant, which once it’s done fruiting, will die. As part of nature's own succession planning, there are two small shooting banana plants growing near the bigger plant’s root.

The bananas begin as flowers under the bracts of the reddish-purple male bud. - THE COAST
  • The bananas begin as flowers under the bracts of the reddish-purple male bud.
  • The Coast
Tucked under the bracts—the reddish-purple layers—of the male bud which hangs below the growing bananas, are rows of female flowers which at this point likely won’t continue to become bananas.

Eric Salem has been coming to the Public Gardens around once a week for 24 years and says the bananas are something different. He got word of their arrival on the internet and thought it unusual enough to come check out for himself.

The banana plant, along with pineapple, avocado and pomegranate plants and trees in the fruiting shrub and tree garden, is kept in the greenhouse on Sackville Street all winter, getting watered and fertilized by a team of gardeners.

There are over 1,000 varieties of banana plants in the world, and the one that’s likely browning in the bottom of your bag right now is called a cavendish banana.

Last year, the Halifamous Agave plant met a similar end after a fruitful summer in the Halifax Public Gardens. 

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Monday, June 24, 2019

What is affordable housing, anyway?

Changes in the Centre Plan aim to give HRM more time to figure it out.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:41 PM

Participants are asked "What are the most important parts of affordable housing," at the Halifax Central Library. - HFX COLLECTIVE
  • Participants are asked "What are the most important parts of affordable housing," at the Halifax Central Library.
  • HFX Collective

From public housing to transitionary housing, shelters and housing supports or just the notion that spending more than 30 percent of your income is considered unaffordable, much of the inaction on affordable housing comes from the lack of a firm definition.

At two information sessions at Halifax North Memorial Public library and Halifax Central Library last week HFX Collective set up shop to ask Haligonians their opinion with an online survey, and answer people's questions. The collective, a youth-led organization, is working to give the public more reliable information and data around affordable housing.

HFX Collective’s founder Alfred Burgesson says “people are confused right now on what the definition of affordable housing is, and people are confused on who we are building affordable housing for.”

Affordable housing is a huge umbrella term tossed about by advocates, developers, councillors and activists. And as the city’s mega-plan for zoning and development makes significant moves forward—10 years in the making—the role affordable housing will play in new guidelines set out for developers is still up in the air.

At a committee of the whole meeting last week discussing the first parts of the plan, staff recommended rescinding a previous recommendation to only accept affordable housing units on the site of development and work with Housing Nova Scotia to administer those units. 

The Centre Plan now recommends to only accept money-in-lieu for affordable housing. If ratified by Regional Council tomorrow, council will decide—among a ton of other site- and developer-specific amendments—to direct 60 percent of public benefits from the incentive or bonus zoning requirements to affordable housing initiatives, which are currently undefined.

How would cash-in-lieu work for a building like the high-rise going up on Robie and Almon Streets? - CAORA MCKENNA
  • How would cash-in-lieu work for a building like the high-rise going up on Robie and Almon Streets?
  • Caora McKenna

At the information session, HFX Collective was explaining that the 60 percent comes from fines new developers will be charged by the city for going over a certain height or zoning requirements on new developments. Heritage properties being the exception: 90 percent of the value can be directed to heritage conservation on the site of the development.

Jill MacLellan, an HRM policy planner whose main focus is affordable housing, was at the information sessions to answer questions. She says that right now the city is providing minimal funding for affordable housing—housing traditionally is a provincial responsibility—and that the definition coming from organizations like Housing Nova Scotia or CMHC of affordable housing is “still not affordable for most of the community,” says MacLellan. “There still needs to be subsidies on top of that.”

A notice hanging inside the Victoria Hall building at 2438 Gottingen Street to advise residents of possible high-rise development in the back of the historic front lists affordable housing as one of the good things the development could contribute to the area, but what it would look like and who would benefit remains unclear.

“We need to figure out what affordable housing is. As developers are starting to offer more affordable housing as part of their developments, we need to know what that means and know what we're getting” says MacLellan.

HRM spokesperson Brynn Langille says changing from mandatory units to cash-in-lieu for affordable housing in the Centre Plan can help create more long-term affordability by directing the funding to non-profit housing developments.

As a small part of the municipality’s mammoth attempt to re-write some more than 50-year-old development and land use by-laws, if council ratifies the committee of the whole’s recommendations, council will be asked to direct staff to return within a specified time frame after the adoption of the plan with an administrative order that would outline how the funds would be administered.
Burgesson says HFX Collective’s survey will be available all summer, and it’ll be sharing the results with HRM and the province.

Completion and implementation of the Centre Plan is still a ways away, but if the long list of developer-specific amendments at last week’s meeting mean anything, it’s that developers have decided it’s time to start paying attention—the plan appears to be moving forward with gusto.

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Baby, you're a firework

Five spots to ooh and ahh this Canada Day weekend.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 4:00 AM


It's that time of year again—when folks gather to celebrate the foundation of the confederation with a literal bang. If you're a firework fanatic (and let's be honest, there's a lot of you out there), then consider this your guide to seeing as many sky sparklers as possible before the Canada Day weekend wraps.

Worried about weather? We gotchu and will be updating with the forecast as the big day draws near—but remember for city-sponsored sets (like Bedford Days and the official fireworks) you can call 311 for up-to-the-minute info on cancellations—or check

Canada Day kickoff concert and fireworks
File this one under "if some is good, more must be better." Rather than limit patriotic revelry to one day in July, Dartmouth Crossing helps you stretch out your celebrations with some kickoff fireworks Fri June 28 at 10pm. Held at the Pondside Amphitheatre in Dartmouth Crossing (74 Hector Gate), these beauts have a rain date of June 29.

Sackville Patriot Days fireworks
The weekend's second light show is poppin' off over Kinsmen Park (71 First Lake Drive, Lower Sackville) as part of your long weekend fun (and as a cap to a full day of Patriot Days programming). See 'em at 10pm on Sun June 30. Rain date is July 2.

BLT Canada Day Celebrations
If going to a party downtown sounds more like a death sentence than a good time, try this showcase held at 1817 St. Margaret's Bay Road. Part of a family fun day replete with bouncy castles and midway rides, the fireworks start sailing at 10pm on July 1.

Bedford Days Canada Day celebration
While DeWolf Park is lit up all week long with Bedford Days fun, it's this do—on July 1 at 10pm—that sees things shine even brighter as fireworks zig-zag the sky.

Canada Day 2019 official fireworks
Yeah, we know, you're probably already at the Alderney Landing Outside Stage anyway, dancing your feet off to the likes of The Sorority and A-Trak. But, come 10pm on July 1, your eyes will be pried from the stage and fixed upon the stars as the city's official fireworks showcase begins. Rain date is July 2 at 10pm, and the city notes that those who want primo viewing of the 'works but aren't going to the concert should get thee to Ferry Terminal Park for front-row feels.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

There's a new trophy in town

But not the one you're thinking of: Boston Red Sox 2018 world series trophy coming to Halifax

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 at 4:44 PM


It’s not quite the Raptors’ NBA Championship trophy, but the 2018 Major League World Championship trophy won by baseball's Boston Red Sox is coming to Halifax this weekend. The Bluenose BoSox Brotherhood is bringing it all the way from Boston for a tour of the town on Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately, Bluenose Brotherhood’s Jim Prime says that the trophy will not be making its way to Halifax on the Yarmouth Ferry. “It was considered, but the logistics—time involved and other commitments in New England—made it impossible. I've wanted to do that for a long time,” he says. “Some day it'll happen.”

Bay Ferries Limited themselves announced a delay in the re-commencement of the international ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour, Maine earlier this month, citing “complexity of the construction and approvals process” of moving service from Portland to the new spot. It hopes to be up and running mid-summer. And at least Boston can still export some of its hardware, after losing the Stanley Cup finals to the St. Louis Blues in game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals this week. 

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Jurassic Park Halifax is ready for Raptors game 5

1,000 people can watch basketball history unfold at Rogers Square.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 5:49 PM

The Toronto Raptors’ incredible season could end tonight with the first-ever NBA championship for the team—and the country. And in the city where the Raps played their first-ever game, Jurassic Park Halifax will be the centre of the action.

“People are coming from Moncton, from PEI,” says Gab LeVert, one of the people making JPH happen. “One guy is coming down from Cape Breton, then driving back tonight after the game because he has to work in the morning.”

The Jurassic Park crew (Gab LeVert is second from right, in the Kyle Lowry jersey) before game one.
  • The Jurassic Park crew (Gab LeVert is second from right, in the Kyle Lowry jersey) before game one.

LeVert is co-founder of Tidal League, the local basketball-centric events company that has been bringing JPH to life every game of the NBA finals. “It’s the best Jurassic Park in Canada,” he says, trash-talking the other outdoor watching venues that have popped up around the country in emulation of the OG Jurassic Park, outside the Raptors’ arena in Toronto. The Halifax version happens at Rogers Square, the covered couryard-ish space under the Convention Centre where Grafton Street used to be; one reason LeVert says it’s a quality Jurassic Park is there are loads of double-sided screens mounted from the ceiling of the space, to allow easy viewing of the game even from the street outside the JPH gates.

“Game one was electric,” LeVert says of the Jurassic Park Halifax energy. Game two, a cold night that saw the Raptors lose their only game of the best-of-seven series, was lacklustre at JPH, too. Game three on Wednesday was busy. Then game four on Friday night was “double or triple anything we’ve seen,” with the crowd of fans that couldn’t get into Rogers Square filling Sackville Street to the point the police had to close down the road.

Tonight, with the Kawhi Leonard-powered Raps leading the series three games to one and poised to win the pro basketball title, LeVert wants JPH to be a “family friendly” environment for fans of all ages, which means there’s a bar for adults, and an awareness that things shouldn’t get too rowdy for the kids. A major part of his game plan is that only 1,000 people will be allowed into JPH (there were more on Friday), although untold numbers will be able to watch from the surrounding streets.

“This is the most historic moment in Canadian basketball ever,” says LeVert, whose role in that history includes working on prep and clean-up at JPH—along with his Tidal League partners and crew—from 7am to 4am on game days. LeVert has watched enough basketball that he drops the cliche used by every basketball player who ever did an interview anywhere: “What makes all the work worth it is seeing the crowd and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces. It’s the fans who make it so incredible."

In Toronto, Raptors fans were already lined up on Sunday to get into Jurassic Park for tonight’s game, which could see the 2017 and 2018 champion Golden State Warriors ejected from their presumptive throne. Monday afternoon, nobody was in line at Jurassic Park Halifax, but LeVert thinks people will show up before gates open at 9pm. He figures arriving by 8pm will be early enough to make it in, but as the Warriors are finding out, there are no sure things in sports.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Council approves conditional funding for The Bus Stop Theatre

The battle to save the theatre isn't over, but it just got a little bit easier.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 12:54 PM

The Bus Stop Theatre lives to see another day. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • The Bus Stop Theatre lives to see another day.
  • Caora McKenna

The Bus Stop Theatre’s last Hail Mary has paid off—for now. At regional council on Tuesday, every seat was full with members of the arts community, some of whom had to sit in overflow seating. Councillor Steve Streatch described the scene best when he said, “My god, the difference a week can make.”

Last week, the Bus Stop was facing down city staff’s rejection of its last-ditch $500,000 funding request made in February as part of a multi-level of government, multi-stage plan to save the theatre. Hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls followed, and as councillor Lisa Blackburn says, councillor Lindell Smith “pulled a rabbit out of your hat with this one” to find a halfway solution and give the theatre another chance at survival. 

Council voted against staff’s initial recommendation to reject the funding based on bad timing, lack of other committed funders, and insufficient long-term plans, and passed Smith’s new motion for a conditional give of $250,000 over two years. 

This means—pending further logistic and financial investigation and commitment from other government bodies—the theatre has the support of regional council, and can take that as it revisits funding requests from other levels of government and private organizations, something they said was missing in the initial ask process. The theatre’s current lease ends July 3, 2020, but in order to secure the building, they will need to demonstrate funding commitments by July 3, 2019, which means the hard part is just getting started.

Sébastien Labelle says it’s a big relief. “It means that we have a real shot at saving the bus stop theatre, of protecting its legacy, and then continuing forward into the future to really keep building what we’ve built over the last 15 years,” says the Bus Stop’s Co-Op’s executive director.

Though the $250,000 is less than the original ask, Labelle says it’s a commitment that “really allows us to move forward with a lot more reassurance and reassurance that we can offer other investors and partners in the project.”

When Labelle came to council in February, he was late in the budget process and asking for a lot. “I knew that it was a tough ask,” says Labelle, “And I knew that our timeline was very challenging.” He suggests that perhaps council’s outright decline of the ask acted as the catalyst that caused the uprising that has resulted in a second chance for the theatre. “When people kind came to realize that”—the theatre could be lost—“they rose up and voiced very clearly their support for what we do at The Bus Stop Theatre and the space we provide.”

Councillor Sam Austin says the absolute outpouring of support from the arts community changed the conversation. “Anytime you see something like that, it’s pretty darn clear signal that this is an important institution.”

Councillor Bill Karsten reminded the attendees that a big ask like $500,000 that hasn’t been budgeted does need to be grappled with, and pushed for a better framework to make these kinds of cultural capital spends in the future. 

Staff says phase one the cultural spaces plan has been initiated in the form of a museum strategy which should start to frame up important cultural elements over the next nine months to a year. 

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Will the Scotiabank Centre's score clock make it through the Memorial Cup final?

Tick tock on the clock but the party won't stop (hopefully).

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 4:47 PM

From catching snoozy texters to best-dressed dancers on camera, the score clock is a big part of the energy in the arena during the Memorial Cup. - CAORA MCKENNA
  • From catching snoozy texters to best-dressed dancers on camera, the score clock is a big part of the energy in the arena during the Memorial Cup.
  • Caora McKenna

Hockey fans won’t be the only people in the Scotiabank Centre holding their breath this weekend. While the Guelph Storm face off against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies tonight, and the winner moves on to take on the Halifax Moosehead on Sunday, Events East staff will be holding their breath too, in hopes that the 17-year-old end-of-its-life score clock holds out till the cup is hoisted above a champion’s head. 

The clock, purchased in 2002 for $2.2 million, is dangerously close to the end of its life. Its replacement is due before the fall and will be put in place by Prisimview LLC. The LED clock contract was awarded in April for $1.1 million. The video production and control room replacement contract was awarded to Matrix Video Communications Corp. for $1.2 million at regional council on May 14. 

At the May 14 council meeting, CAO Jacques Dubé said Events East, in charge of operations at the Scotiabank Centre, has purchased every last part available around the world to keep the clock running. The expectation is “that we should be able to get through the memorial cup without failure. Beyond that, we’re not confident,” said Dubé.   

Spokesperson for Events East, Erin Esiyok-Prime says that changes in technology mean the parts for the clock aren't made any more, and they’ve run through all the spares. She says they’ve been talking about replacing the clock for the past two years and having issues for the past five. 

The Events East team, says Esiyok-Prime, is doing “everything they can in terms of due diligence to keep it running.” 

The clock’s first big tournament was the 2003 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, where team Canada with goaltender Marc-André Fleury lost to an unknown Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin and his team in the gold medal game. This year is the third time in Mooseheads’ 25-year history have made it to Memorial Cup final tournament, its first year hosting. The top team from the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and QMJHL plus the host team get to play in the CHL’s top tournament.

The Mooseheads got a bye to the final—sport lingo for skipping a step—by finishing first in the round-robin play after three games, and second- and third- place finishers the Guelph Storm and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies play each other for the second spot in the final in the semi-final tonight. Fourth place finishers and WHL champions Prince Albert were out of the tournament after finishing last in the round robin. 

Here's hoping the clock (and the Mooseheads) make it through the weekend. If not, the greatest tragedy will be all the flossing fans who don't get their five seconds of fame on the big screen. 

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Eight plus-a-penthouse storey building plans approved for Robie, Cunard and Compton Street block

One more development squeaks in before the centre plan

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 6:41 PM

The five storey street wall on Robie Street will have commercial space on the ground floor and residential units above. The three stories and penthouse above will be slightly set back from the road. - WM FARES ARCHITECTS
  • The five storey street wall on Robie Street will have commercial space on the ground floor and residential units above. The three stories and penthouse above will be slightly set back from the road.
  • WM Fares Architects

The latest development to get approval while the Centre Plan nears crunch time will sit eight and a bit storeys high on Robie Street between Cunard and Compton Streets facing the Halifax Common. Neighbours from the area came forward at the public hearing to voice their concerns, but at this stage in the process they held little weight. 

The development proposal from WM Fares Architects was originally proposed as a 13 storey building, and has been whittled down to eight (plus a penthouse, so nine) with staggered increases in street wall height on the sides of the building facing Compton and Cunard Streets. It will house approximately 90 mixed-sized residential units and 75 underground parking spots.

Katie Campbell lives in the area and spoke to council about the negligible impact of the hearing at this stage in the process, noting she didn’t think she could say anything that could stall the process. But wanted to point out that WM Fares proved themselves capable of making many concessions with the specs of the building, so why couldn’t they go further to ensure affordable housing is included in the plans. 

A Compton Street resident, Shannon Cam raised concerns around increased traffic on the street which already sees a significantly higher number of cars than the next street over, Williams Street. 

VP of planning and design for WM Fares Cesar Saleh says that street calming and traffic concerns are beyond the scope of their project, but that they’ve done lots of work to give back to the community by creating jobs and places people can live. 

Councillor Waye Mason responded to affordable housing concerns with his stance that forcing developers to give discounted rates is not a sufficient solution for the problem.

Because of the drawn-out process of by-law amendments, the design team was working towards parameters of what the centre plan looked like in June 2017, but staff say as of right now it still fits well into today’s centre plan, too. 

Councillor Smith raised concerns about the five storey street wall height on Robie and part of Cunard Streets, moving an amendment to have them decreased which failed after a tie vote. The original motion for the plan passed granting a green light for the project.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

After a nine-month search, Dal's new president starts in eight months

Dr. Deep Saini will be coming from the University of Canberra to take command at Dalhousie.

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 5:26 PM

Let this be the first of many "Dal goes Deep" puns. - SUBMITTED
  • Let this be the first of many "Dal goes Deep" puns.

Dalhousie University’s Board of Governors announced Thursday that Dr. Deep Saini has been elected as the university’s new president and vice-chancellor. He will be only the 12th president in the history of the 200-year-old school.

Saini is not the first Dalhousie president to be born outside of North America; he follows inaugural president Thomas McCulloch (Scotland) and Howard Clark (New Zealand). But having grown up in India, a generation removed from poverty, his path to Dalhousie is unique to past presidents.

Born in India, Saini earned a PhD in plant physiology from the University of Adelaide in Australia and is fluent in English, French and three South Asian languages. He is currently  president of the Australian University of Canberra—a young university of comparable size and international ranking to Dalhousie—where he led the development and implementation of a new strategic plan that positions the school as a national leader in professional education and experiential learning.

"I am honoured and humbled," Saini says in Dal's announcement. "The university’s students, faculty and staff are proudly devoted to the synergy between world-class education and a rich tradition of outstanding research and scholarship. I am thrilled at being given the chance to be part of writing the next chapter of this compelling story.”

Saini succeeds Dalhousie’s 11th president, Richard Florizone, who served from 2013 until 2018, and Peter MacKinnon, presently serving in an interim capacity.

The search to find the new president took nine months, and Saini doesn't begin his five-year term until January 1, 2020—nearly eight months from now—making for a potential leadership gap because MacKinnon’s term is set to conclude at the end of June. As the Board of Governors considers options for getting through the remainder of the year, plans are underway for Saini's first campus visit as president-elect in June.

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Florida man comes all the way to Nova Scotia to yell at Emera

And warn that what comes after coal could still be bad.

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 2:54 PM

Coal fuels 53 percent of Nova Scotia’s energy. - JANEK LOWE
  • Coal fuels 53 percent of Nova Scotia’s energy.
  • Janek Lowe

An environmental group from Tampa Bay, Florida came to Halifax this week to protest their local energy provider’s mother company: Emera Inc.

Emera Inc. is the billion-dollar multinational corporation that owns 10 affiliate companies including our homegrown NS Power and international power companies like TECO (Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas) in Florida.

If you haven’t already guessed, Emera deals with generating, transferring and distributing electricity through its various subsidies. And it sparks a pretty profit from keeping its corporate hands deep in the pockets of non-renewable energy.

In 2018, it reported more $6.5 billion in revenue. Florida accounts for 51 percent of that and Atlantic Canada 23 percent. Its net income for the first quarter of 2019 is $312 million, a 13 percent increase from last year.

The Sierra Club is an international environmental justice non-profit organization dedicated to addressing climate change in tandem with social justice. A handful of members from the Tampa Bay chapter flew to Nova Scotia, teaming up with local Haligonians to protest outside the Halifax Convention Centre as Emera shareholders entered to attend Emera’s annual general meeting.

They want to see Emera reverse the move to invest $853 million in changing TECO’s Big Bend coal plant to a natural gas facility.

“We know that not only is Emera NOT planning to turn off coal plants in Nova Scotia, it’s asking shareholders to invest in a very expensive natural gas plant in Florida,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, director of the Atlantic Canada chapter of the Sierra Club Canada foundation.

TECO claims this natural gas is an “environmentally friendly” source of energy.

But the protesters showed up to call Emera out on its false claim and to demand a better and more meaningful plan for reducing its plants' carbon footprints. They say it could be investing that money into true renewable energy and that choosing a slightly less bad (but still bad) source of energy and continuing to use coal past the 2030 deadline set by the federal government isn’t enough.

The only renewable energy from Tampa Electric is solar-generated, but it doesn’t even account for seven percent of generated electricity.

This actually makes Nova Scotia look like our Green Saviour in return, despite the fact it still goes out at the slightest hint of humidity or wind. But watching folks from the south flock to the north to demand better action from the same corporation that owns NS Power may be the first warning sign that what comes after coal might not be what we need.

Coal still fuels 53 percent of Nova Scotia’s energy–the most coal-dependent electric grid in Canada–and it’s only expected to decrease to 38 percent by next year. Only 30 percent of power from NS Power is from renewable energy.

The reduced coal use will be replaced by importing hydroelectric power from Muskrat Falls says a NS power spokesperson. The same Muskrat Falls mega-dam that’s billions of dollars over budget, almost three years late and displacing Indigenous people from their lands. It’s been called Newfoundland’s biggest mistake. The Narwhal recently reported that hydroelectric dams aren’t actually as profitable as they’re touted to be. Muskrat Falls will flood the wetlands that are home to its namesake, the muskrat.

We are saying with a unified voice,” said Florida Sierra Club member Gonzalo Valdez at the protest, “‘come clean, Emera.’”

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Floorball's world championship rolls into Halifax this week

Teams from 16 countries are coming for a shot at the men's under-19 crown.

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 4:39 PM


Halifax has played host of to a number of major sporting events, including the  World Junior Hockey Championships in 2003, the 2015 World Men's Curling Championship and the World Figure Skating Championships way back in 1990. Now this week it's hosting the world championship for something called floorball.

The 2019 World Floorball Championships for men under 19 take place at the Dartmouth Sportsplex and the Dalplex from Wednesday, May 8 through Sunday, May 12. There will be over 400 players representing 16 countries.

Floorball resembles indoor hockey. Players use specialized lightweight sticks, and instead of a puck there's a plastic ball with holes in, very much along the lines of a wiffle ball. Unlike hockey, goalies don't use a stick to help defend the net. Putting absolutely no spin on the binary paradigm dominant in the sporting world, the winner is the team that scores the most goals.

Floorball partisans say it's one of the fastest-growing sports internationally, complete with it own day (April 12), and it has spread far enough that there's a Floorball Nova Scotia association. The sport was originally created in Gothenburg, Sweden and started out as a popular school game. Then formal rules were created as floorball leagues became more popular. The first under-19 world championship was in 2001, and it re-occurs every two years.

Canada’s opening game of the 2019 championship will be against Germany at the Dartmouth Sportsplex, May 8 at 7pm. Tickets are available for $10 for half a day or $15 dollars for a full-day pass. As well, the International Floorball Federation will be streaming games on its YouTube channels, here and here. The finals will take place on the weekend, with the champion crowned on Sunday.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre workers form union

Move comes shortly after centre pauses it's counselling waitlist.

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 4:23 PM

Avalon's logo. The sexual assault centre is open Monday to Friday, from 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 4:30pm at 1526 Dresden Row, Suite 401.
  • Avalon's logo. The sexual assault centre is open Monday to Friday, from 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 4:30pm at 1526 Dresden Row, Suite 401.
Workers at the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre are unionizing. Avalon is the only sexual assault centre in the Halifax Regional Municipality–that’s an area of over 400,000 people–and is chronically under-resourced.

Avalon employees say the decision to unionize is about forming a stronger and united front to address the systemic issues that lead to a lack of resources and continuing to better advocate for policy changes.

“Ideally we’d like to have a board of directors that looked a little bit different,” says Adrienne Buckland, a therapist at Avalon and union member. “Currently we have a board that’s set up more like a model that doesn’t quite reflect our feminist mandate and our feminist values.”

The union is looking for a more community-based approach to a board that matches the overarching goal of the centre, like including staff or previous clients, “to have a board that looks more representative of the community.”

The centre offers services like therapeutic counselling, community education and forensic nursing. Last month, it had to stop accepting clients to its waitlist for therapeutic services because of an overwhelming increase in demand for services.

“Part of what we do is working to eradicate sexual violence and all that propels that,” says Buckland. “There’s the broader goal of, ideally, working ourselves out of our work.”

Through community engagement, Avalon is trying to change the current culture of how the public, police, health professionals and the government understands and responds to sexualized violence.

In 2017 Avalon signed an agreement with the Nova Scotia Health Authority for continued funding of its therapeutic counselling program to cover salaries and operational support for five sexual assault therapist positions, but it’s not enough. Avalon served 443 clients for counselling in 2018, its highest number ever and its SANE nurses service provided 402 responses, a 68 percent increase over last year.

The union is looking for more recognition and accountability from governments and better diversification of services offered in order to support the needs of all survivors. The current funding model for many community-based sexual health and mental health centres across Canada, including Avalon’s, isn’t working. Months-long waitlists and under-funding permeate: There’s a general lack of support compared to what other healthcare services receive.

“It’s time to address the discriminatory simplification of survivors’ needs, and the ongoing reliance on insufficient models and resources in the struggle to stop sexualized violence,” says Buckland.

 In 2017 the Nova Scotia government announced its sexual violence strategy, which poured extra funding into the centre for two years but has left the responsibility for continuation of care solely on the centre.

Avalon is often the go-to for organizations and individuals across the province looking for policies, procedures and how to create similar community-based and governed centres. The centre has one community educator and professional development trainer working across the entire province. “And she is also inundated with way more requests for service that is at all reasonable for one person to provide,” says Buckland.

Many of these centres in other cities operated well enough under the resources they had, but with more and more people feeling safe in reaching out to centres like Avalon, those same resources aren’t keeping up with the increased demand, which is happening nationwide.

In Nova Scotia, police-reported sexual assaults in 2017 increased by 15 percent from the previous year. In Halifax, there are on average, 36 reports in a four-month period. On average, one sexual assault is reported per day in the HRM. Statistics Canada says 2017 saw the most police-reported sexual assaults since 1998.

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can be reached at 902-425-0122, and 211 is able to provide confidential referrals to free legal help, SANE and counselling. A map of services offered in the province is available at

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Bonfire of the vanity plates

Alberta "freedom" organization grabs onto Grabher in personalized plate campaign.

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 2:15 PM

Jay Cameron believes in the constitutional powers of licence plate cases. - JUSTIN GOLLOP
  • Jay Cameron believes in the constitutional powers of licence plate cases.
  • Justin Gollop
An Alberta advocacy group seems driven to distraction by personalized plates. Last week’s hearing in Halifax Supreme Court about Lorne Grabher’s plate is the third case the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has backed in April alone.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a right-wing law organization, represented Lorne Grabher in court last week.

The Centre sees acts of controversial speech as “minority viewpoints” that may be representative of “unpopular ideas,” as addressed in a report filed in response to Wilfrid Laurier University in 2018.

Since 2011, the Centre has published an annual report, titled the Campus Freedom Index, that critiques a university based on its constitutional freedom policies and practices—universities will receive better grades if there are no policies within the university and student union that prohibit offensive or inappropriate speech.

Almost 60 campuses were evaluated in the 2018 Campus Freedom Index, including Dalhousie University, which saw F’s in the student union policies and university criteria—the Centre critiqued the Dalhousie Student Union’s mission to “actively represent the diverse interests of Dalhousie students,” while the university itself got penalized for the 2015 suspension of dentistry students who made comments related to bullying and harassment on a private Facebook page.

The Centre also hosts an essay contest on its website, where students and professors can submit papers based on legal rulings and new law-related bills. The topic for 2018 was around Bill C-16, which states that the refusal to use preferred pronouns for transgender individuals in court can be deemed as discrimination—the Centre asked if it should be required by law to use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to those who identify outside of the gender binary. The three winners all argued that, while non-binary transgender individuals are able to freely choose to use gender-neutral pronouns, others should freely choose whether they want to accept those pronouns.

“Canadians have the right to freedom of expression and any time the government censors people's expression, it's an important issue,” said Jay Cameron, the Centre’s litigation manager, last week in a scrum outside court.

In 2016, Grabher’s personalized licence plate displaying his last name, which had been in service for 27 years at the time, was revoked by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles after an anonymous complaint, saying that the plate promoted gendered violence against women. (As in Donald "grab 'em by the pussy" Trump's bragging about assaulting women leading to more assaults.)

In 2018, the province commissioned Carrie Rentschler, a professor of feminist media studies at McGill University, to write an expert report stating reasons why the plate endorses sexual violence against women. The Centre commissioned its own expert report, written by Debra Soh, a science journalist with 11 years of experience in researching the psychology of sexual offenders, which stated why the plate does not condone gendered violence and should be allowed on the road. In the hearing last week, Rentschler and Soh testified to their qualifications to write their respective reports.

The Centre started representing Grabher after his plate was revoked, and took up not one but two other cases around personalized plate recalls since then. Cameron said in a scrum that the censoring of licence plates has become more than just issues with personalized plates and could be used for freedom of expression defences across Canada: “There are several plate cases right now before the courts or that will shortly be before the courts, but whatever decision comes out first will be a landmark decision.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which sits on the left side of the political spectrum, agrees with the Centre and believes that, although the freedom of expression is not concrete, the government has not given enough reasoning for censoring the licence plates.

“There can be reasonable limits placed on [the freedom of expression], but we have a pretty high threshold for making the state make out that case for reasonableness and demonstrating that there's some genuine harm that could come from the expression in order to justify restricting it in some way,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the CCLA.

“I don't think that case has been made here.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has seemingly put a lot of money into Grabher’s legal battle, with the Centre filing several affidavits on Grabher’s behalf, Grabher’s 2018 award of $750 being paid to settle a previous issue with Rentschler’s report, the two days of court last week, paying the lawyers for their work on the case, the investment of renting out two billboards displaying the plate—one on Main Street in Dartmouth and one on Barrington Street in Halifax—that can be about $1,200 to $1,500 each, the production costs of bumper stickers the Centre sells in support of Grabher and paying for expert consultation in the fields of sexual assault.

“I was compensated for working on this case,” said Soh in a scrum, but was unsure if she was “allowed to publicly comment” on the compensation amount.

In response to the billboards, a gofundme page was circulated around Twitter to donate to Adsum, a charity to support vulnerable women and children, along with a proposed fake billboard saying “HELPHER.” The page was set to a $500 goal, but has already exceeded that, with the gofundme sitting at over $3,000.

The Coast reached out to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms to inquire about the financial side of Grabher’s case, but the Centre exercised its freedom to not comment.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

UPDATE: Rugby gets kicked in the crotch by NS sports federation

In a surprise move, today the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation cancelled rugby in high schools across the province.

Posted By on Thu, May 2, 2019 at 6:53 PM

Rugby players are used to hard knocks, but the NSSAF's sudden rugby cancellation was a surprise.
  • Rugby players are used to hard knocks, but the NSSAF's sudden rugby cancellation was a surprise.

UPDATE TWO, TUESDAY MAY 7: So. On Thursday the NSSAF canned rugby, then Friday the education minister made his statement demanding its return, and that seemed like the last word. But despite the minister’s convincingly stern tone, the NSSAF didn’t reverse its decision; at the start of the week rugby was still sidelined. Today, however, the game really is back on. Rugby Nova Scotia has agreed to manage the remainder of the high school rugby season, including regionals and provincials, with the support of the NSSAF. A joint statement, released after a meeting on Tuesday by the Nova Scotia education department and the NSSAF, says they decided to work together to find a plan for students to continue to play. The statement also mentions future plans for rugby: “Over the summer, NSSAF will work with the government, Rugby Nova Scotia, medical experts and others on safety in sport.”

UPDATE, FRIDAY MAY 3: The day after the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation kicked rugby to the curb and it seemed like the game was lost, education minister Zach Churchill gave rugby a rousing half-time pep talk and sent it back out on the field to keep playing. In a statement, Churchill says the cancellation was done without proper consultation—and hints that it was made using bad data on injuries—therefore "I have called on NSSAF to reinstate rugby for all high schools immediately for the duration of the season." By the way, that petition is now approaching 25,000 names, with more still coming.

"All Rugby play within the NSSAF shall cease effective 12:00pm May 2, 2019." That's the thrust of a memo released today by the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation, delivering a hard tackle to players in high schools across the province.

The memo spins rugby's cancellation as deliberate and carefully considered, a move that the NSSAF's board of governors chose to make "at their regularly scheduled spring meeting" after "a thorough review of incident report data" from an insurance provider.

However it's clearly a hasty decision, coming as a surprise not just to players and Rugby Nova Scotia, but to the NSSAF itself, where as of this writing the rugby provincial championships are still listed (along with table tennis, slo pitch and track and field provincials) on the federation's homepage under "Important Dates." According to CBC, a student in Cape Breton got injured during a rugby match yesterday.

Six hours (and counting) after the NSSAF board's announcement, the NSSAF website still says rugby is on.
  • Six hours (and counting) after the NSSAF board's announcement, the NSSAF website still says rugby is on.

Rugby Nova Scotia, the sport's provincial governing body, was completely blindsided by the school sport federation. Jack Hanratty with RNS says they "were not previously aware of the announcement before its release and were shocked to find out."

Hanratty empathizes that "sports are a large and important part of growing up 
The NSSAF memo cancelling rugby in Nova Scotia high schools.
  • The NSSAF memo cancelling rugby in Nova Scotia high schools.
and living an active lifestyle." To the extent that injuries motivated the NSSAF's decision, Hanratty points out "you can get injured in any sports," and he doesn't see why rugby should be singled out. RNS has requested a meeting with the NSSAF to find out the process behind the cancellation, and see what can be done to reinstate the sport.

A petition to "Bring Rugby back to NS schools" was created shortly after 2pm. Five hours later, there were over 5,000 signatures.
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Vol 27, No 7
July 11, 2019

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