Category Archives: Uncategorized

What is it about Halifax–  How Come Developers Always Come Out On Top??

 

A few months ago, APL Properties Ltd announced that rather than building 209 apartment units, APL was going to shoe-horn 295 apartments at their Willow Tree site. That’s nearly a 30% increase—in the developer’s profits.  As many know, the Willow Tree is a hotly contested hi-rise development in a older neighbourhood of  two and three-storey family homes.  Hundreds of Haligonians wrote letters, appeared and spoke at council meetings — all in a bid to stop APL  from building it’s gargantuan 29 storey building – now reduced to 25 storeys — at the corner of Quinpool Rd and Robie St. APL’s design that started out with two hulking towers is now one colossal vertical slab which is supposed to have 10 affordable family-sized apartments.willow-tree-e1521635410860

If HRM (Halifax Regional Municipal) Council had not been in such a hurry to prove they are cosy-friends of developers and builders, it should have waited for a few months to give its approval.  Then the Centre Plan would (likely) kick in and mandate 36 affordable units for a building of that height – rather than the paltry 10 we may end up with. I say ‘may end up with’ because with a 30% increase in the number of apartments,  each apartment will have to be ever so tiny – perhaps 600 plus square feet.  At that size, family apartments and affordability are likely off the agenda.

Of course there is also the case of Westwood Developments Ltd building across from Halifax’s new Central Library.  Westwood decided to build a new hotel-apartment-retail complex which blocks a complete view of Citadel Hill from the Library.  The Central Library, a signature building and one of the few public buildings built in Halifax in decades, boasts a “Living Room” on the top floor.  The Living Room, which is a reading room with comfy chairs and glass walls on three sides, was designed to have panoramic views of Citadel Hill and the Halifax Harbour. 

Below:  on right is the view from the Living Room at the Library before Chedrawe built;  on the left is today’s reality. Note: you can no longer see Citadel Hill 

However neither HRM’s Planning department nor Regional Council decided to protect the view through legislation or negotiation.  Instead, in a huge war of words – and deeds – Danny Chedrawe, Westwood’s President, insisted his new concrete and glass bunker would not destroy the view of the Hill. However Dalhousie University architecture professor Steve Parcell demonstrated how the height and massing of Chedrawe’s bulding would indeed block the Library’s view. Hundreds of people signed postcards and letters to the city demanding Chedrawe’s building not obscure the public’s view of Citadel Hill.  Today the concrete and glass bunker is built, with high end retail shops at street level (what else is new?) – and we, the public, no longer see Citadel Hill from our library’s  “living room”.  Chedrawe’s comments have proved false. Nevertheless, it’s Chedrawe who has the last word – after all his building is built and we don’t have the view.

Now we come to the new downtown Halifax YMCA.  Buried in the hoopla around the forecasted opening of a new Y for late 2019, is the fact that once again the city has been duped.   Nearly seven years ago, HRM council agreed to more than double the allowable height limit from 23 to 49 metres because the Y provided a “public benefit.”  The height variance was sought to create hundreds of high-end condos or apartments, on top of the Y.  At the time, Parks Canada objected to the height variance because the two new buildings would “negatively impact the physical and symbolic values of Citadel Hill” as the new Y would tend to dwarf the national historic site.  Even the city’s own Design Review Committee disagreed with giving the height variance to the developer, citing its impact on Citadel Hill – not to mention creating huge shadows as it also looms over the city’s Public Gardens. 

southwestBut the kicker these seven years later is this:  part of the “public benefit” of the Y was supposed to be its new state-of-the-art daycare centre.  The old Y had a very respectable non-profit childcare centre; when the old Y closed in 2014, the centre was moved to an old church on Robie St.  Now that centre has closed yet more and more families still require licensed quality childcare on the Halifax peninsula. 

Recently, the advertising and promotion for the new Y has changed.  Now the Y promotes its Family Development Centre –basically a big open space where parents can play with their kids. The new Halifax Y boasts a huge gym, swimming pools, four wellness studios, one spinning room — but no childcare centre. child-care-professional-building-blocks-with-children

Again the city has been caught with its pants down – just last week the Y asked council to contribute $1 million to building the Y because of cost over-runs. They’re not kidding – building costs have increased nearly 20%  to $37 million since 2011. Both the province and the feds each gave $5 million to the project. And while the family of the late John Lindsay donated $3 million – the public through our taxes donated three times more.  Yet the Y will be named after Lindsay.

Getting back to the childcare centre, as Tim Bousquet points out in the Halifax Examiner, the developer, Southwest Properties, and the Y decided to forego the daycare centre.  One reason is that regulations stipulate that childcare centers should be located on the main floor to facilitate easy exit in the event of fire. But the new building’s main floor is ear-marked for retail stores, not childcare.  Secondly, the provincial government has now rolled out its free pre-primary school program available to most families with four-year-olds.  So childcare centres are now catering mainly to younger children.  Because there is a higher staff to child ratio in the care for younger children, it is more expensive to provide childcare to them. Since the pre-primary program is available and free of charge, families will not typically utilize daycare for their four year olds.  So families of older pre-schoolers will no longer offset the costs of care for toddlers and babies. So the Y decided to ditch the idea of childcare altogether.

Yet childcare was part of the public benefit which allowed for the original height to be doubled.

Here we have three developers who’ve managed to get more than what they wanted from the city – and give almost nothing back.

Two things to do this weekend:

Read Brown by Kamal Al- Solaylee. brownThis is a riveting read.  The first 3 words of this book by  Yemeni-born Canadian professor Solaylee are “Brown. Like Me.”  The book is a fascinating account of accepting having brown skin and a trip almost around the world to discover what being Brown means to people.  This is not a folksy account. It’s a political account.  It begins with his 9 year old self watching the film Oliver! in his Saana living room.  He loves Oliver Twist and even identifies with him — but Solaylee’s race gets in the way.  Decades later, he goes to the UK to try to understand “British values”, then to France to look at the real Paris.  He interviews undocumented Mexicans in Arizona, USA and the terror they live under — threats of deportation, losing their homes and children, and even death.

He journeys to the Philippines to investigate brown people who are literally “at the world’s service” — working as maids, nannies or (if male) construction workers worldwide.  He attends  a college program  in Manila which boasts hours of classroom instruction in  proper bed-making, and smiling through 18 hour-days of domestic drudgery.  For me, the most interesting chapter is about being Brown in Canada — post 9-11.  He writes about the case of Algerian born Mohammed Harkat — who is in his 18th year of house arrest in Ottawa– for a crime no one can name, and which he never did.  This is all the old school official secrets act turned upside down by anti-terrorist claptrap.  He examines what happens to Muslims, and how people even in Toronto arguably Canada’s most “multiracial” city turned on a dime against Muslims — in the wake of every pronouncement from the US.  He talks about former PM Harper’s legacy, and Trudeau’s timidity.  This book is a must-read.

I just watched the  film The Snows of Kilimanjaro — and it’s nothing like Hemingway’s book.  This film is about a laid off union activist in a town on the French “Riviera” — it’s a breath of fresh air and even made me feel hopeful.  After a robbery gone wrong, four victims took very different paths to settle their fears and satisfy their consciences.

Both the book (I read it as an e-book) and the dvd are available at the Hfx library.

220px-The_Snows_of_Kilimanjaro_poster

 

 

Something to Read, Somethings to Watch

Her father was a very angry man. Yet, he was a school principal, and eventually a university professor. Her mother was an artist with a great eye and  a good sense of adventure.  Once — during hockey star Wayne Gretzky’s heyday — the book’s author Elizabeth Hay said Gretzky had more jewellery  than she did —  her father replied he also had more talent.  Elizabeth Hay’s biography of her parents, All Things Consoled: a daughter’s memoir,  is really an autobiography.  Hay is a witty and remarkable author. She observes well and tells the naked truth in a disarming and non-hedging way.  I was prepared to ho-hum thru the book, but I was hooked.

She loves her parents and does not want to hurt them, but she refuses to merely let their faulty memories or opinions stand merely for the sake of peace or goodwill. She spends a lot of time with each of them through their taciturn days before they each go not-so-gently into the night.  I got a chuckle out of Hay’s love for the classic novel Jane Eyre, because Heathcliff, the hero in  Wuthering Heights was “too cruel, too weird to be romantic,”  while Jane Eyre  “gave me someone to love and admire.”  This Canadian book is a delightful yet shocking study of ageing parents, and an ageing daughter.  Read it. 

moneyMoney Monster is a film about Wall Street, money, capitalism and most of all a vehicle for George Clooney.  Having said that, the plot has a bit of a twist and no one (we like) dies.  The  premise is that TV shows about money and trading actually owe the public honest advice about investing.    That vanishes pretty quickly and what’s left is mainly a car chase without a car, a nasty capitalist who steals money from millions of well-meaning investors, and a love story that never happens.  It’s worth 90 minutes of your time.  

Case Histories is a British series  spun from a novel by Kate Atkinson.  Jason is a down-on-his-luck private investigator who needs help from the police (his former employer) to solve a string of missing persons’ cases.  But in Edinburgh, where the series takes place,  the supervising policewoman finds him an utter pain — she’s especially resentful about a failed affair she had with him.  The acting is fresh and quick. The script is crisp and believable. Never maudlin.  And nothing is resolved in the way of typical Hollywood-style who dunnits.  Jason’s 10-year-old daughter, whom he co-parents with his ex, is a delight.  And the second season is better than the first, in my view. The landscapes of Edinburgh and the Lothian region, the city and the countryside are breathtaking.  The two series of DVDs  (1st and 2nd seasons) are at the Halifax Public Library, as is Money Monster (above).   case-histories

The Drum Roll Please– the best book I’ve read in 2018

The best book I’ve read so far this year is  winner of the  2017 Toronto Book Award.  

In the Black: My Life is by B Denham Jolly.  At nearly 80 years of age, it is his first book and what a fantastic book it is.  Jolly came to Canada from a rural town in Jamaica in the mid-1950s.  He came to study agriculture and science, first in Toronto, then in Guelph, then in Truro, NS, and finally at McGill.   Still, he considered Toronto, where he now lives, his home.  

in-the-blackRacist reaction toward him grew with the growth of the Black population in the country, and frankly with his increased success and wealth in his life.  

The book begins with this paragraph: “When you are Black in Canada, the arrival of the police on the scene is not always, or even often, reassuring.”  After 5 decades in Canada, this was how he prefaced a cop’s response to him having had a minor car accident in Toronto’s Cabbagetown in 2013.  It had been a mere fender-bender; but a cop came to the scene and  ordered  Jolly to call a tow truck and get his car towed. Jolly “very politely”  assured the policeman it was a minor dent and he could drive it to a garage.  The cop then “escalated” in his response. “What do I have to do to make sure you do, put a gun in your face?” 

Terrified and angered by the cop’s viciousness  — Jolly called a tow truck, and then launched a complaint with Toronto Police.  At first the department excused the officer, saying he was already in trouble for losing  his cool. Jolly found out this was untrue, just said to deter him.   Jolly complained all the way up to the chief of police, (now Liberal Cabinet minister) Bill Blair.  The police said they could not ‘substantiate’ the facts of  Jolly’s complaint– meaning he lied. Then Jolly saw the police report which began with “The complainant, a seventy-seven-year-old Jamaican immigrant…”.  Jolly had lived in Canada for 55 years, but he understood, in his words, “Who would believe a Jamaican immigrant?”  

The book soars. He writes about the Black Action Defence Committee, The Coalition of Visible Minority Women, Dudley Laws, Charlie Roach and the murders of dozens of young blacks by the police — and how the police managed to be exonerated every time. He writes about the nearly 8 year battle Dudley Laws had to fight as he was entrapped by the Toronto Police, the RCMP and the US border police who laid charges that he was smuggling immigrants.  The fight to have the charges dropped and clear his name, cost Laws between half a million and one million dollars (in 1998). In one whole chapter he names the names of the young black men killed, what happened to them and the policemen who had the charges against them dropped.  That was the most staggering chapter.   

I think I passed by  Mr Jolly a few times.  He used to teach at the posh Forest Hill Collegiate in Toronto, where I went to high school (I was expelled in Gr XIII but that’s another story).  I was not in the science stream, everyone was ‘streamed’ in those days, but some of my friends who wanted to go into medicine or dentistry had him for biology, I  remember.  I wish I could have known him — maybe I still can.  Weary of the racism of education bureaucrats,  he became an entrepreneur and, for more than a decade in the 1990s, owned the first  Black music station in Toronto, the Flow 93.5.  It featured hip-hop, R&B and even helped give Drake a start.  When he and some investors went for help to his local MP, the MP put his feet up on his desk and the Black businessmen were forced to talk to the soles of his white man’s shoes. 

Read this spell-binding, racially-infused account of the last 55 years of Canada forms an autobiography that resists and does not mince words.   It’s in the Halifax Public Library, or you can buy it.

More about Jolly:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denham_Jolly

 

Bedtime reading…short and disturbing….

Two dazzling short stories, by 2 American masters.  For  Joyce Carol Oates this was her first or second published short story. Region of Ice  is an amazing and luminous story — read it tonite. OatesJoyceCarol15-258 Joyce Carol Oates

One day I heard John Cheever’s

cheeverthe late John Cheever

The Five-Forty-Eight read on a New Yorker Magazine broadcast.  It was brilliant, even feminist, and you can read it here.

Of course my current favourite is our very own Canadian Margaret Atwood.  Her short stories soar in every way. This one, the title story in this book,  stonemattressThe Stone Mattress is outstanding, macabre and oh NOT so gentle.  Read it here

What to read, what to watch….

I’m a fan of Ken Loach. If you want to understand working class family life, how single mothers were treated in the 60s, and the ever present forms of authority and policing of women, and see London before the swinging 60s, you must watch Loach’s first film, Cathy Come Home.  You can watch it on Youtube, anytime. cathyWhile I’m talking about what to watch, the public library lends The State I’m In.  This is a must-see for anyone who lived on the serious left thru the 70s and 80s. Christian Petzold is one of my favourite filmmakers, and his film will leave you shaken —  state-im-inThe library also has a another film about runaways — with lofty ideals. It’s called Workers for the Good Lord, and I recommend it.workers-lordWhat I would not rush to read are two books written by local writers.  Pauline Dakin, a former CBC health reporter, has had a lot of media interviews about her first book, Run, Hide, Repeat.  dakin  Not to give too much away, but in a breezy style, Dakin tells the very surreal story of her own early years fanning out to   adulthood.  Dakin’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend told Dakin and her younger brother that the mafia or some organized criminals were after them. As a result,  they had to move across the Canada, living day to day in different towns and provinces  more or less in hiding –to escape.  Turns out Dakin believed her mother and step-father’s story  long after growing up, going to university and even marrying.  Dakin’s life was one of fear and anger but also deep devotion to her mother.  Ultimately her mother (like her step-father) became a United Church Minister near Halifax and (spoiler alert) still believed  the family’s past was for real.  I found it a bit hard to believe that Dakin, who does investigative journalism, could believe the story and live the life created for her for more than 20 years…

Another book I would not rush  to read is journalist first-degreeKayla Hounsell’s new book First Degree.  This book is about the trial of Dalhousie medical student Will Sandeson, who was convicted of murdering Taylor Samson, also a Dal student.  Clearly, the murder had a lot to do with selling drugs, and tens of thousands of dollars.   The crown theorized that Sandeson  needed money to pay off about $80,000 in debts from university plus a term at the Saba medical school in the West Indies.  He went to the Saba medical school in a bid to up his game and gain acceptance into to medical school at Dal.  He was accepted at Dal, but two weeks before classes were to begin in 2015, he killed and possibly dismembered Samson, whose body has never been found.  While the book is competent in that it reports much from the trial transcripts, it asks and attempts to answer no questions.  For instance Halifax police took Sandeson in for questioning for more than 12 hours — before charging him and they never suggested he get a lawyer.  Sandeson did not ask for one either — but after all the crime shows we  watch on Netflix, isn’t that the first thing anyone does when facing a charge of murder or any serious charge?  Hounsell never looked at that issue or injustice at all.  At the start of the book she dedicates it to victim’s family.  She fundamentally believed the crown’s case from the get-go.  Hounsell  never looked into psychopaths, or psychopathic behaviour.  I would recommend this book psychoif you’d like to know more about psychopaths.  Yet who –on the verge of having a wonderful and lucrative career for life –would ditch it all suddenly without a second thought?  The book is pedestrian and straight forward — in the wrong kind of way.  No   questions are answered — such as why did Sandeson from a good, loving family do this? Did he in fact do it? Did he have a connection to organised crime and that is why Sandeson never took the stand in his own defence? And his defence seemed tepid in that I gather only his (ex) girlfriend testified on his behalf.  I wonder. Sandeson got life in prison by the way — Murder One. 

 

 

Launch of Racism Free Transit Group in Halifax — this is great.

By Robert Devet, also photo credit to Devet.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A newly formed group wants police and Halifax Transit to take verbal and physical incidents of racist violence on buses and in public spaces everywhere much more seriously.

At a press conference at the Glitter Bean coffee shop in downtown Halifax the group, Racism-free Transit in Halifax, said that such attacks on racialized people are becoming more prevalent, and that HRM institutions must give it the attention that it requires.

TransitPres from left, Isaac Saney and baby daughter Asha, Tonya Paris, and Rosa Poirier-McKiggan

The group was formed after Dr. Isaac Saney, a Dalhousie University professor who specializes in Black Nova Scotian history, suffered verbal abuse and was threatened by a racist couple while he was travelling on the bus with his baby daughter.

I was extremely alarmed, worried about the safety of my young child

After Saney boarded a bus on Spring Garden Road, with his daughter in a stroller, a middle aged white woman and a younger large white male started yelling racist insults at Saney.

“They began to make all kinds of racist comments, about people being let into the country, about their manners, about priorities of people in Canada, and I told him that I did not find this acceptable,” Saney said.

“Then the woman shouted at me, you really want me to be f***ing racist? I can be f***ing racist. i was told to shut the f**k up. They pointed at me and at the baby, and said, wait til we get you guys off the bus,” said Saney.

Other people on the bus came to Saney’s defense, and once on Barrington Street the bus driver pulled the bus over and told the racist couple to get off. Then the driver called in a report of the incident to Halifax Transit.

But Saney’s ordeal wasn’t over yet.

“As I was about to get off at Scotia Square, a woman warned me that the couple were laying in wait for me. The woman got off the bus as well, because she was concerned about my security,” Saney said.

“They shouted threats at me from the other side of the street, at this point. I was extremely alarmed, worried about the safety of my young child,” said Saney.

Both the woman who had joined him, and Saney called the police. The police officer on the scene was fairly nonchalant about the entire incident, Saney says, but when Saney later on expressed his dissatisfaction with how police treated the incident, he was assigned a second and more attentive officer. At this time the Crown is considering whether to lay charges.

Saney recognized that in a sense he is privileged.

“I have a public profile, and I have contacts, and that is why I was taken seriously. Think of all the people who suffered such racist incidents and who have remained silent. If you can’t feel safe on public transit, then what kind of society are we living in,” Saney asked.

I am here to ask other white people to confront racism wherever and whenever they witness it

As we saw in the incident affecting Dr. Saney, white fellow passengers such as the woman who joined him when he got off the bus at Scotia Square, have a crucial role to play to stop racists from perpetrating their vile verbal and physical attacks.      

Rosa Poirier-McKiggan related how she played that role when she spoke up in another such incident, once again on Spring Garden Road, this time in April 2017.

A white male in his forties or fifties took offence at a woman with a baby stroller of apparently South-East Asian descent, and told her. “You f***ing Phillipino, go home,” Poirier-McKiggan said.

When she interfered and told him that there was zero tolerance for harassment and racism on this bus, the man became threatening and abusive towards her and she feared for her safety.

The woman with the stroller, who was very distressed, got off the bus at the Central Library.

When Poirier-McKiggan contacted police, she was told that since there was no verbal threat of violence there was no ground for charges.  

“As a white person I had for too long taken the feeling of safety on public transit for granted. I will never be made to feel unsafe on Halifax Transit because of the colour of my skin.

This is not a privilege all can enjoy. I am here to ask other white people to confront racism wherever and whenever they witness it, in Halifax Transit and in the community at large.

“Racism victimizes People of Colour, but white people must play a central role in dismantling white supremacy, white privilege and racism,” Poirier-McKiggan said.

Working for Halifax Transit while Black

Tonya Paris drove a Metro Transit bus for years. Like so many African Nova Scotian Transit employees she experienced racism from her white colleagues in the garage before and after shifts.

And during her shift she would frequently be subjected to racist slurs from passengers, at least three or four times a week, she said.

“I am putting out a plea to the drivers to make the people on your bus feel safe, I don’t expect anybody to act as a police officer and do things that make them feel unsafe, but there is a phone on the bus, you can call dispatch, and have police officers meet up with you at the next stop,” Paris said.

It’s getting worse

All participants in the press conference felt that in Halifax racist incidents and attacks are on the rise.

There has always been structural racism in Nova Scotia, Saney said, pointing to a United Nations task force report that looked at racism in Nova Scotia and did not like at all what it found.

“But increasingly license has been given, and we are waging battles that we thought we had won,” Saney said,

People now feel more comfortable saying these things,” said Paris, but racism has always been with us.

“We always came forward, but we were never heard,” she said. “I have lived in Mobile (Alabama), I have lived in Mississippi, but I have never experienced more racism than in Nova Scotia.”

racism-transit

Anti-racist promotion poster in Toronto’s Transit buses, above

What the group is asking for

Spokesperson Connor Smithers-Mapp said the group is asking that the Halifax Auditor General conduct an inquiry into the occurrence of such racist incidents, and that Halifax Transit articulate specific strategies on how to deal with racism.

As well, the group wants the police and Halifax Transit to collect statistics on racist incidents, and make those public. They also want assurances that all such incidents are thoroughly investigated.

Finally, the group wants very much to collect stories of people encountering racism on the bus and in other public spaces, whether they be white or Black, Smithers-Mapp said. “ We want to create a registry of stories.”

Contact Racism-free Transit at racismfreetransit@gmail.com

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A newly formed group wants police and Halifax Transit to take verbal and physical incidents of racist violence on buses and in public spaces everywhere much more seriously.

At a press conference at the Glitter Bean coffee shop in downtown Halifax the group, Racism-free Transit in Halifax, said that such attacks on racialized people are becoming more prevalent, and that HRM institutions must give it the attention that it requires.

The group was formed after Dr. Isaac Saney, a Dalhousie University professor who specializes in Black Nova Scotian history, suffered verbal abuse and was threatened by a racist couple while he was travelling on the bus with his baby daughter.

I was extremely alarmed, worried about the safety of my young child

After Saney boarded a bus on Spring Garden Road, with his daughter in a stroller, a middle aged white woman and a younger large white male started yelling racist insults at Saney.

“They began to make all kinds of racist comments, about people being let into the country, about their manners, about priorities of people in Canada, and I told him that I did not find this acceptable,” Saney said.

“Then the woman shouted at me, you really want me to be f***ing racist? I can be f***ing racist. i was told to shut the f**k up. They pointed at me and at the baby, and said, wait til we get you guys off the bus,” said Saney.

Other people on the bus came to Saney’s defense, and once on Barrington Street the bus driver pulled the bus over and told the racist couple to get off. Then the driver called in a report of the incident to Halifax Transit.

But Saney’s ordeal wasn’t over yet.

“As I was about to get off at Scotia Square, a woman warned me that the couple were laying in wait for me. The woman got off the bus as well, because she was concerned about my security,” Saney said.

“They shouted threats at me from the other side of the street, at this point. I was extremely alarmed, worried about the safety of my young child,” said Saney.

Both the woman who had joined him, and Saney called the police. The police officer on the scene was fairly nonchalant about the entire incident, Saney says, but when Saney later on expressed his dissatisfaction with how police treated the incident, he was assigned a second and more attentive officer. At this time the Crown is considering whether to lay charges.

Saney recognized that in a sense he is privileged.

“I have a public profile, and I have contacts, and that is why I was taken seriously. Think of all the people who suffered such racist incidents and who have remained silent. If you can’t feel safe on public transit, then what kind of society are we living in,” Saney asked.

I am here to ask other white people to confront racism wherever and whenever they witness it

As we saw in the incident affecting Dr. Saney, white fellow passengers such as the woman who joined him when he got off the bus at Scotia Square, have a crucial role to play to stop racists from perpetrating their vile verbal and physical attacks.

Rosa Poirier-McKiggan related how she played that role when she spoke up in another such incident, once again on Spring Garden Road, this time in April 2017.

A white male in his forties or fifties took offence at a woman with a baby stroller of apparently South-East Asian descent, and told her. “You f***ing Phillipino, go home,” Poirier-McKiggan said.

When she interfered and told him that there was zero tolerance for harassment and racism on this bus, the man became threatening and abusive towards her and she feared for her safety.

The woman with the stroller, who was very distressed, got off the bus at the Central Library.

When Poirier-McKiggan contacted police, she was told that since there was no verbal threat of violence there was no ground for charges.

“As a white person I had for too long taken the feeling of safety on public transit for granted. I will never be made to feel unsafe on Halifax Transit because of the colour of my skin.

This is not a privilege all can enjoy. I am here to ask other white people to confront racism wherever and whenever they witness it, in Halifax Transit and in the community at large.

“Racism victimizes People of Colour, but white people must play a central role in dismantling white supremacy, white privilege and racism,” Poirier-McKiggan said.

Working for Halifax Transit while Black

Tonya Paris drove a Metro Transit bus for years. Like so many African Nova Scotian Transit employees she experienced racism from her white colleagues in the garage before and after shifts.

And during her shift she would frequently be subjected to racist slurs from passengers, at least three or four times a week, she said.

“I am putting out a plea to the drivers to make the people on your bus feel safe, I don’t expect anybody to act as a police officer and do things that make them feel unsafe, but there is a phone on the bus, you can call dispatch, and have police officers meet up with you at the next stop,” Paris said.

It’s getting worse

All participants in the press conference felt that in Halifax racist incidents and attacks are on the rise.

There has always been structural racism in Nova Scotia, Saney said, pointing to a United Nations task force report that looked at racism in Nova Scotia and did not like at all what it found.

“But increasingly license has been given, and we are waging battles that we thought we had won,” Saney said,

People now feel more comfortable saying these things,” said Paris, but racism has always been with us.

“We always came forward, but we were never heard,” she said. “I have lived in Mobile (Alabama), I have lived in Mississippi, but I have never experienced more racism than in Nova Scotia.”

What the group is asking for

Spokesperson Connor Smithers-Mapp said the group is asking that the Halifax Auditor General conduct an inquiry into the occurrence of such racist incidents, and that Halifax Transit articulate specific strategies on how to deal with racism.

As well, the group wants the police and Halifax Transit to collect statistics on racist incidents, and make those public. They also want assurances that all such incidents are thoroughly investigated.

Finally, the group wants very much to collect stories of people encountering racism on the bus and in other public spaces, whether they be white or Black, Smithers-Mapp said. “ We want to create a registry of stories.”

Contact Racism-free Transit at racismfreetransit@gmail.com

 


Larry Haiven helped organize the committee, and helped make the media conference a success.