News Digest: March 21-24

Catch up on happenings on the Halifax peninsula, as reported by other news outlets.

Needs attempted robbery, gas and dash net 1 arrest (CBC News) 

Halifax Regional Police are investigating two incidents that occurred in Halifax early Tuesday morning. Police say a suspect tried to rob the Needs convenience store on Chebucto Road and Windsor Street at 3:25 a.m. Police allege the same man then stole gasoline about half an hour later from a gas station on Dutch Village Road. Police arrested a 39-year-old suspect.

 Schools closed throughout Maritimes thanks to snow clearing (Chronicle Herald) 

All schools under the jurisdiction of the Halifax Regional School Board were shut down on Monday to allow for snow clearing in order to ensure the safety of students and staff. The board said it needed another day to improve conditions at the schools following last week’s snowstorms. Some schools in northern New Brunswick and Newfoundland, along with the English Language School Board in P.E.I. were also closed.

Related: Halifax cautioning people to make more time and use transit Monday (CBC News)

Two cars collide after police chase in Cowie Hill (Chronicle Herald) 

A driver crashed into another vehicle during a police chase in Cowie Hill on Sunday night. The driver, a 22-year-old man, is charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and flight from police. Officers tried to stop a Honda Civic at Northwest Arm Drive and Cowie Hill Connector for a motor vehicle infraction. The vehicle crashed head-on into a Ford Escape on Mayo Street. The drivers of both vehicles were treated by paramedics at the scene. There were no serious injuries. The accused is due in Halifax provincial court on April 28.

Woman seriously injured after being run over by impaired driver in parking lot: Halifax police (Metro News)

A 31-year-old woman from Cole Harbour suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries after being run over by an alleged impaired driver in a Dartmouth parking lot, on Saturday evening. The driver, a 20-year-old Dartmouth man, was arrested at the scene and is charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm and having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.

 Arrest made after man stabbed in face outside Halifax Central Library (Metro News)

Halifax Regional Police arrested a 23-year-old man at 10:22 p.m. on Saturday in relation to Tuesday’s stabbing outside the Halifax Central Library. The arrest occurred three days after police say the man fled the scene after stabbing a 35-year-old man in the face. The 23-year-old faces charges of aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose and breach of probation.

 

How Halifax copes with a wild winter

Driving, walking, bus transit — a look at transportation in Halifax during the winter months

This winter has been an unpredictable one for Halifax. How do you get to where you’re going when sidewalks and streets are caked in snow and ice? Whether it’s driving your car, walking or taking a bus, Haligonians face issues with mobility every winter season; however, this year has been significantly worse.

Driving

Joel Barkhouse, a security guard at Casino Nova Scotia on Upper Water Street works night shifts from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. He says he struggles to park his car for work during the winter months because of the overnight parking bans.

Parking bans are enforced in Halifax only during declared snow and ice events from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Those who violate the ban are either ticketed or have their vehicle towed.

Meters on College St. covered with snow from Sunday's storm. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
Meters on College St. covered with snow from Sunday’s storm. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

“Since the meters stop after 6 p.m. and start at 6 a.m. I usually don’t have to pay for parking. But since the parking ban, I have to park in the parkade. It’s $3.75 but it all adds up since this winter has had so many storms,” says Barkhouse.

Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for the Halifax Regional Municipality, says so far this season, the municipality has enforced the overnight parking ban a total of 33 times, including the ban overnight on Monday.

Stairs said in an email that the city has towed 63 vehicles that were in violation of the ban. To compare, in 2013-14 the overnight parking ban was enforced a total of 14 times during the entire season and the city towed 33 vehicles.

Car buried in snow late Sunday evening. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
Car buried in snow late Sunday evening. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

Barkhouse holds out his hands with two bandages on them. Recently, he fell on an icy sidewalk as he went to work, resulting in cuts on his hands and bruises on his shins.

He says even when the ban is not in effect he finds it challenging to park in front of meters because of the road conditions and high snowbanks.

“I feel like the city should do a better job removing snow on roads, every lane is like cut in half. When you’re driving it’s almost like a one-way street you’re sharing with oncoming traffic.”

Darin Borgel, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, told Metro News the storm that hit Halifax on Sunday was one of the worst the city has experienced this winter season.

Sunday’s storm began late Saturday evening with snow then ended with ice pellets and freezing rain. The storm brought gusts of wind 90 km/h coating Atlantic Canada with as much as 59 centimetres of snow.

In 2013, HRM appointed performance-based contractors to provide sidewalk snow and ice removal for all sidewalks in the region. Residents were no longer responsible for clearing sidewalks close to their properties.

For the first time, Halifax, Spryfield and Armdale would see their sidewalks cleared like other neighbourhoods.

The change in 2013 added another 200 kilometres of sidewalks to clearing operations, bringing the total to almost 1,000 kilometres of sidewalks that the city is responsible for.

HRM set service standards stating the clearing of snow and ice should occur within 12 to 36 hours after snowfall based on street priority levels. The rapid weather changing conditions have made it challenging to remove snow and ice this year.

Salt and sand are applied to sidewalks to create a degree of traction; however, the issue lies beneath the surface of snow. Thick layers of ice have formed on city sidewalks.

According to the Halifax Regional Municipality’s website, during the month of February the municipality received more than 10,000 calls to the 311 phone number regarding snow and ice removal—a 700 per cent increase in calls over the same period last year.

Walking

Davita Harris, student at the University of King’s College, says she thinks HRM made a mistake making snow removal the responsibility of contractors rather than tenants.

“There are endless sidewalks in Halifax and with constant snowfall, it’s hard to stay on top of the problem. I’m empathetic to the people in charge of snow removal; it’s not their fault that it’s too much this winter. It’s an abnormal winter,” says Harris.

Davita Harris stands beside a snowbank on Dalhousie campus. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
Davita Harris stands beside a snowbank on Dalhousie campus. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

Harris says, with storms hitting almost every week, she feels there hasn’t been enough chances to enjoy snowy activities this year.

“With erratic temperatures there has been so much ice and slush, and that’s brought my enthusiasm about it (winter) down to record lows,” she says.

According to the Government of Canada website, the coldest month of the year in Halifax is January with an average low of -10.7 degrees Celsius.

Harris says she travels by bus transit to avoid the sidewalks and hasn’t encountered many problems with getting to school.

“I won’t be sad to see sidewalks again! I think we have all had our fill of winter this year,” she says.

Bus transit

Josh Weatherbey, a student at Mount Saint Vincent, sits on his boyfriend’s couch taking off his hat and backpack, his ears and nose a rosy pink. He took the bus, and it was late.

Weatherbey says public transit is his only way around Halifax, with the exception of his friends’ cars sometimes.

He says winter transit in Halifax only differs from other seasons because buses are frequently late. Weatherbey doesn’t like waiting for buses when it’s cold and fears for his safety as a passenger during winter months.

“I’m always a little nervous that you might end up swerving or tipping when making fast turns. Winter tires should be added to buses, especially with all these snowstorms we frequently have,” he says.

The No. 90 Metro Transit bus drives down Robie St. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
The no. 90 Metro Transit bus drives down Robie St. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

Halifax Transit uses aggressive tread all-season tires designed by Michelin. Jennifer Stairs says the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board ensures that Halifax Transit is following the regulations and legislative requirements that ensure the safety of vehicles, including tires.

Stairs says the board inspects HRM transit vehicles twice a year and follows the provincial Motor Carrier Act, which sets out the regulations around tires for transit.

“Like we saw this past weekend, on-duty supervisors implement this plan after assessing the weather and road conditions. With Sunday’s storm, we saw high winds and blowing snow, which meant poor visibility for drivers,” says Stairs.

As a result, of Sunday’s storm the buses went on a service pause for about an hour, where they pulled off the road until conditions improved. Once they were back in service, many routes operated on the snow plan to detour around icy or poorly cleared areas. This is regular practice during bad conditions.

Environment Canada issued a statement Monday warning a potential snowfall event for late Tuesday and Wednesday.

What now?

While most of the Maritimes is still recovering from Sunday’s storm, if you’re planning to travel in the peninsula area, stay alert for weather warnings and always be prepared for harsh road and sidewalk conditions.

What mode of transportation will you trust to get you where you need to go safely?

Woman says she was excluded from Halifax’s International Women’s Day rally

Amy Moonshadow says she’s upset Halifax’s International Women’s Day rally didn’t include anyone speaking on behalf of women with disabilities.

A crowd gathered in Halifax’s Grand Parade to celebrate International Women’s Day on Sunday afternoon. Drums were played, flags waved, and women spoke; however, just as the rally was ending a woman who wasn’t on the agenda stood up in front of the crowd to express her frustration.

Moonshadow, paralyzed on her left side after being hit by a drunk driver in 1975, said she’s upset the event didn’t include anyone speaking on behalf of women with disabilities.

“Before you people leave I want to say something. I am embarrassed that this group does not recognize that the highest percentage of women with disabilities live in Nova Scotia. One in five of us, it might be the person next to you, will experience some sort of mental health crisis in their lifetime. I’m sorry, but I find it very difficult to be in solidarity with these women here who do not recognize us! It’s nice the cameras are gone cause you know people with disabilities do not count in Nova Scotia,” said Amy Moonshadow.

Crowd members responded to Moonshadow’s speech agreeing with her and thanking her for bringing up the issue.

LGBTQ activist, Madison Foster, who spoke earlier during the event, responded to Moonshadow’s comments amongst the crowd.

“We need to be better at being in solidarity with you, it looks like we let you down by not bringing this up,” said Foster.

Madison Foster speaks at Halifax's International Women's Day rally. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
Madison Foster speaks at Halifax’s International Women’s Day rally. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

The Halifax Dartmouth and District Labour council sponsored the rally. A number of women including Christine Saulnier, Anika Roberts-Stahlbrand and Michaela Sam spoke at the rally with a performance by SolidariGLEE.

Moonshadow said she wanted to be included in the rally but didn’t know how to contact the planning committee. She says she went to a meeting one year ago and made posters.

Dawn Ferris, vice-president of women’s issues for the Halifax Dartmouth labour council, said Moonshadow attended last year’s event but didn’t say she wanted to be on this year’s agenda.

“Amy brings up a really good point in that I didn’t include her in the capacity of a disabled female. We were trying to get guest speakers as we always do every year from labour, from policy, from that perspective,” said Ferris.

Ferris said this year’s theme “for our bodies, our territories” came from a national effort of labour councils across Canada.

“With all the things going on with the missing and murdered sisters in the aboriginal community, and all of the misogynistic stories that are in the news lately, so it seemed like a really relevant important topic,” said Ferris.

A crowd gathers in Halifax's Grand Parade to celebrate International Women's Day. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
A crowd gathers in Halifax’s Grand Parade to celebrate International Women’s Day. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

Those who took to the steps in front of the City Hall during the event addressed the struggles of women in Nova Scotia. They proposed an end to sexism and gender-based violence and demanded action for equal pay, reproductive health care, and an inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

New children’s book asks readers to use their imagination

Author JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith say the meaning in their wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers is up to the reader’s imagination.

Award-winning poet JonArno Lawson wrote the wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers as an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures—but, more importantly, for readers to create their own interpretation of the story.

Lawson and Sydney Smith, the illustrator of Sidewalk Flowers, signed copies of their book for fans of all ages at the book launch on Saturday at the Halifax Central Library. Although the book is for ages four to seven, many adults attended the launch with or without children.

Left: Smith, Right: Lawson, sign the books of fans.
Left: Smith, Right: Lawson, sign the books of fans. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

Lawson based the book on a walk he took with his daughter Sophie in June 2008. The story follows a young girl in a red hoodie collecting wildflowers on a walk she takes with her distracted father.

Lawson said he didn’t write the book to specifically convey a lesson rather to allow children and adults to interpret the story in their own way.

“I still think adults can get something out of this…if you’re working with kids it lets the kids tell the story. If you’re showing it to them, it’s them that get to do the talking which is sort of nice,” said Lawson.

Smith said children’s books don’t need lessons or morals. He calls Sidewalk Flowers “an interpretation.”

“It was more of witnessing the beautiful nature of children and appreciating it without being told this is what you have to do,” said Smith.

A crowd gathers to support the launch of picture book Sidewalk Flowers. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)
A crowd gathers to support the launch of picture book Sidewalk Flowers. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

This is the first project Smith and Lawson have worked on together. While working on Sidewalk Flowers they collaborated without meeting in person. Smith used Lawson’s notes, storyboard, photos, sketches and manuscript in order to illustrate the book.

“I took the story he had written up in the script and did my hardest to try to live up to his beautiful words,” said Smith.

Smith said he feels it’s better for writers and illustrators to work apart. He said this separation allows for the illustrator to focus on their vision and sometimes publishers prefer that.

Lawson and Smith sign the books of fans. (Photo: Delaney MacKay)

Andrea MacNevin, a friend of Smith, came to the launch to support him. She too believes the book is important for all ages.

“I think it’s good for kids and adults to read a book with no words, because you can kind of make up your own story,” said MacNevin.

“It’s a touching book.”

Sidewalk Flowers is published by Groundwood Books and is now available at Woozles Children’s Bookstore. It can also be purchased digitally through House of Anansi Press.