Saint Mary’s students fight racial discrimination with peace

Students with Peaceful Schools International hold conflict-resolution workshops for elementary schools in Halifax and Northern Ireland.

Saint Mary’s University recognized International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Thursday by talking about conflict-resolution strategies used for Northern Ireland schools.

Students from the Conflict Resolution Society hosted the event. The students talked about their experience with two programs they collaborate with, Peaceful Schools International and the Northern Ireland Program.

“One of the things we do is go to local schools to facilitate peace programs here in Halifax first before going to Ireland, so it’s both a local and international program,” said Bridget Brownlow, the conflict resolution adviser at Saint Mary’s University.

The Northern Ireland Program was started at Saint Mary’s in 2004. The program allows students to go to Belfast and gain a better understanding of the conflict and peace process that has happened in Northern Ireland.

“We are passing on the message of what is happening in Northern Ireland because not many people know that there is still conflict,” said Victoria Bell, the student program co-ordinator for Peaceful Schools International.

The conflict in Northern Ireland involves the debate of nationality. The Protestant community believes they should remain a part of the United Kingdom, while the Catholic minority believes they should be a part of Ireland.

There has been a rise in immigration in Northern Ireland, but that has fallen over the last few years due to the violence from the conflict.

“According to the police service in Northern Ireland, in the 12 months between June 2013 to June 2014 the racist incidents have risen by 36 per cent and racist crimes have risen 51 per cent,” said Bell.

During the February break from classes, Saint Mary’s students will go into Northern Ireland elementary schools and hold workshops to help with conflict-resolution problems.

“The workshops that we teach with peaceful schools try to teach lessons to children so they don’t have issues with ignorance, try to teach the importance of global citizenship, caring for one another and accepting one another,” said Bell.

A popular workshop that is used both in Ireland and Halifax is called No Two Alike.

“We ask simple questions like what is similar about us and what is different to bring out built-in stereotypes to discourage it and show them that it is wrong,” said Odane Finnegan, the group leader for Peaceful Schools International.

“We want to show not just the effects of their words but how they say it and the background that is driving the thought process,” said Finnegan.

Saint Mary’s students who get involved with the program go through some training with a professor in the Irish studies department. The co-ordinators and leaders also share their experiences so students have a better understanding of what to expect.

“The best skill we teach is communication and empathy — the ability to effectively communicate and understand how someone is feeling,” said Finnegan.

Coping with seasonal affective disorder this winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a less severe depression, when the change of season and light exposure influence people’s moods and energy.

This winter in Halifax has been one of the worst the city has seen in years. Winter has been tougher this year with the multiple severe storms that have been called worse than White Juan in 2004.

More people have been stuck inside and have had to deal with snow and ice making it harder to move around the city.

It is understandable that Haligonians would be feeling a little under the weather due to the circumstances that they have been facing.

But what is the difference between being under the weather and having seasonal affective disorder?

What is seasonal affective disorder?

 Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens during a season, usually winter, and lasts until the end of that particular season.

Approximately two to six per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their life, according to Mood Disorders Association of Ontario.


The sidewalk conditions in Halifax (Photo: Samantha Calio)
The sidewalk conditions in Halifax (Photo: Samantha Calio)

“Seasonal affective disorder is related to light levels. In winter the days are shorter, people are more confined inside and they suffer from lack of light,” says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, a professor at Dalhousie University in the psychiatry department.

It can be seen as a type of hibernation response where people are more likely to sleep in longer and be less active, but they also have signs of depression, says Morehouse.

Seasonal affective disorder is not as severe as depression and it rarely becomes a pathological depression.

What are some signs and symptoms?

 Seasonal affective disorder deals with people’s moods. Most people will start feeling sad or grumpy and have a lack of interest in doing their usual activities.

“Most people get impatient when normally they are not like that, and they are not wanting to get out of bed or do activities, you just have to know yourself and identify a change,” says Morehouse.

It has been shown that women are more affected by this disorder than men, but anyone can become vulnerable to the disorder.

“Starting around October when days start to get shorter is when people can start feeling the affects of the disorder,” says Morehouse.

In most cases people will start feeling better in March when days are longer and there are signs of spring.

“This year it might be delayed because people will still be stuck inside with the snow, but I have not seen more cases because of the bad weather,” says Morehouse.

What are treatment options?

 “Treating it involves giving people more light or they can be given antidepressants,” says Morehouse.

There are two options for getting enough light; people can either go outside or be exposed to a light fixture that is around 5,000 to 10,000 lux for around 30 minutes per day in order to receive enough light.

“The best advice is to get out, get active and get light,” says Morehouse.

News Digest: March 16-19

What happened this week on the peninsula, as reported by other news outlets.

Residential streets should see plows by nightfall, mayor says state of emergency not needed

Darrin Natolino, Halifax’s winter operations superintendent, informs media that by Thursday evening all residential streets should be plowed. The city is also saying that they want to have the buses up and running between the hours of 3 and 8 p.m. on Thursday. Halifax Transit is providing free bus and ferry services starting Thursday until Sunday. Mayor Mike Savage says that the extra power from voicing a state of emergency is not necessary. Street parking is currently closed to allow for snow removal to take place, but CFB Halifax is allowing residents to park for free on two of their lots.

Sackville man charged with sexually assaulting girl at March break camp for people with disabilities

Anthony Leo Gough from Middle Sackville has been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl who was attending a March break camp for people with disabilities. Social Opportunities and Rec Society (SOARS), a non-profit organization for young adults ages 16-35 with intellectual or physical disabilities, was running the camp. Gough is the executive director of SOARS. On Wednesday Gough was expected to be arraigned at the Dartmouth provincial court. Police are asking for people to come forward if they have any information on the alleged incident.

Fire service: Roof collapse threatens hospital food supply

Sysco Food Services had their warehouse roof collapse, which may be a threat to Nova Scotia hospitals. Firefighters were called to the warehouse on Wednesday afternoon around 4 p.m. Employees evacuated the building after hearing creaking sounds and the beams started to bend. The fire department encouraged Sysco to remove the snow and have an engineer look at the building before permitting workers to re-enter the building.

N.S health minister promises review after boy dies following years in hospital

Dominick Benoit, an 11-year-old boy died on Sunday from the flu. Benoit was suffering from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He was living in a Kentville hospital for two years and was about to finally move into a specialized long-term care room when he died. His mother Renee Benoit is advocating for the provincial government to speed up the process for people who are in need of long-term care, like her son. Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine is currently reviewing the case.

First responders, TV reporters help pregnant Halifax neighbours get to hospital

Brett Ruskin, a Global Halifax television reporter, helped a woman in labour during Wednesday’s snowstorm while covering a story about another pregnant woman who was experiencing complications. When the first woman left in an ambulance Ruskin was leaving the scene and heard a woman cry for help. He rushed into the snow bank to find the woman in labour and called 911, explaining that there was a second woman in the same location who needed an ambulance. He then started tweeting about his experience, which caught the eyes of many Canadians.

A buckling and box stepping welcome for international students

International Student Ministries of Halifax held a line-dancing event to help foreign student adjust to life in Halifax.

International Student Ministries of Halifax held a line-dancing event last Saturday at the First Baptist Church. This event was one of a series of Saturday events to support the international student community in Halifax.

The organization relies on volunteer support to help run events such as line-dancing.

“We know a couple people who can teach line-dancing and it was of some interest to the group. We have done line-dancing before and the students seemed to enjoy it,” said Chi Perrie, a co-ordinator of the International Student Ministries of Halifax.

Some of the international students had tried line-dancing before when the group introduced it last year. Others had never done it before but were willing to try something new.

One of the volunteers, Susan Page, helped lead the group by demonstrating the steps to the students and staff. Once all the individual steps were taught, the music was played and they put the whole dance together.


line dancing
Susan Page, a volunteer, writes out the line-dancing steps. (Photo Credit: Samantha Calio)

“We like to introduce something fun. We’ve done board games, cooking and a variety of other activities, it varies every week,” said Chi Perrie.

International Student Ministries of Canada are a faith-based organization that partner with local churches to allow international students to explore beliefs. They also put emphasis on wanting a loving, supportive environment for international students to feel welcome in their new home.

“My wife and I both experienced what it was like to be international students in another country, so we have empathy towards people who come from far away and don’t have a support group,” said Will Perrie, a co-ordinator of the International Student Ministries of Halifax.

They provide a potluck meal for the students as well as hold discussion groups to help the students with communication skills and discuss faith.

“We have had students from all different faith backgrounds such as Muslim or Buddhist, we accept everyone,” said Chi Perrie.

Every week Will Perrie prepares a discussion topic that is led by a volunteer in small groups. They use the Bible to reference topics and engage the students in exploring different topics through faith.

“I can meet new people and get involved through these events. They have also been helping me get a new job,” said Ada Hika, an Ethiopian refugee from Hong Kong.

The organization has recently turned to Kijiji as a form of social media and to advertise the line-dancing event.

The popularity of the events fluctuate depending on the time of year and the event. They find that during exam periods fewer people will come. They also find that they are competing with university held events.

Will and Chi Perrie are also looking for Canadian students to come to events to teach international students about Canadian culture.

Events are held every Saturday at 6 p.m. at the First Baptist Church. Event information can be found at