December debrief

What happened in Halifax over the holiday break

Lord Dalhousie panel holds public discussion 

The Scholarly Panel to Examine Lord Dalhousie’s History on Slavery and Race has publicly shared its findings for the first time. On Dec. 10, the panel hosted a public engagement session to discuss its initial findings.  

The Lord Dalhousie panel was commissioned by Dalhousie University President Richard Florizone and Senate Chair Kevin Hewitt back in 2016; since forming, Dal’s own Dr. Afua Cooper has been at the project’s helm.  

The panel was tasked with examining George Ramsay’s (the ninth Earl of Dalhousie) relationship to issues of race and slavery.  

As reported by William Coney during the public engagement session, Cooper outlined five of Lord Dalhousie’s key “entanglements” with race, such as his participation in the British invasion of Martinique in 1794 as well as his support for the Confederacy during the United States Civil War.  

Cooper shared a series of recommendations for the university, including a formal apology and support for Black studies. Although a full report was initially expected from the panel by the end of 2018, it’s now expected to be published in six months 

 New performing arts centre 

Halifax is saying goodbye to the old World Trade and Convention Centre – and a $13-million arts centre has been proposed to stand in its stead.  

Plans for the Link Performing Arts Centre project include a “flexible theatre space” (which could hold up to 17,000 concertgoers), a cinema, media production facilities and a dance studio.  

As reported by The Canadian Press on Dec. 10, Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez announced $4.5-million in funding for the centre, while Nova Scotia Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine said the provincial government will contribute $2.79 million, with another $2.9 million coming from the Invest Nova Scotia Fund.  

On Dec. 11, Halifax Regional Council voted in favour of contributing $1 million. The Link is expected to open in 2020.  

 Students meet with officials from the province 

Members of StudentsNS (an alliance between student groups from six Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions) met with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, MLAs and other stakeholders on Dec. 12.  

The goal of the meeting was to provide recommendations for a new memorandum of understanding (MOU). 

The current MOU, which is an agreement between the provincial government and the universities of Nova Scotia, is set to expire at the end of March. According to a release from StudentsNS, students are asking for regulations on tuition increases and increased public funding for universities to be included in the next MOU.  

In addition, they are pushing to prioritize sexual violence prevention and campus mental health. A full report is available on the StudentsNS website. 

 Report on “street checks” forthcoming 

A report on the use of “street checks” by Halifax Regional Police is expected to be released this month. 

Street checking in Halifax is similar to carding in Ontario, but unlike carding, a street check may or may not involve an interaction between an officer and a civilian. Sometimes, it could simply be an observation of what an officer deems “suspicious activity.” 

Data on street checks by Halifax Regional Police was released as the direct result of a CBC investigation in 2017. The 11 years’ worth of data showed Black people in Halifax were three times more likely to be subjected to street check than white people.  

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission since hired Scot Wortley to conduct an independent review of HRP’s use of street checks. Halifax’s board of police commissioners received an update on the review during its meeting on Dec. 13, but the discussion was in-camera, so neither the public nor the media could sit in. 

 Dal psychiatry prof appointed to the Senate 

Dr. Stan Kutcher – noted mental health expert and psychiatry professor at Dalhousie – was appointed to the Senate of Canada (along with three other people) on Dec. 12.  

“I have much to learn in this new role in order to represent my province and my country in this capacity. I look forward to taking on this challenge,” Kutcher tweeted at the time. 

Kutcher has expertise in the mental health of children and teens in particular. He’s been lauded for his work and has been named to the Order of Nova Scotia.  

Amid the Senate announcement, however, some journalists and other locals brought up the fact that Kutcher is no stranger to controversy: back in 2011, while Kutcher was running as a candidate for the Liberals in Halifax during the federal election, The Coast ran an 800-word story in which sources were critical of a 1992 drug study conducted (in part) by Kutcher.  

Among accusations of defamation, the article was taken down, but Justin Ling’s follow-up piece “Retraction Reaction” is still available on the Halifax Media Co-op website. 

 Winter parking ban 

As of Dec. 15, Halifax’s winter parking ban is on.  

Those who have already lived here through the winter are familiar with the inconvenience, but here’s the rundown for new Halifax-dwellers (or new car-owners): “the ban will be enforced between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., during declared weather events and extended clearing operations only,” reads a press release from the municipality.  

In other words, don’t park on the street overnight during snowstorms so the snow plows can do their job. Residents may visit halifax.ca/snowsign up for automated notifications online or call 311 to confirm when the parking pan is being enforced. The ban will remain in effect until Mar. 31.  

Emera Oval opens 

Halifax’s much-loved outdoor skating rink has opened for the ice-skating season. As per usual, skate and helmet rentals are free with a valid government-issued photo ID.  

Public skate times are online at halifax.ca/skateHRM. 

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Rebecca Dingwell

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