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.


Mental health cuts spark concern

The IWK Health Centre announcements about the changes to the mental health care programs, have been met with objections from patients, families and staff.

Teens gather at a rally on March 22 to reverse cuts that the IWK is making to the mental health program. (Emma Davie photo)

By Emma Davie

The IWK Health Centre‘s announcements about changes to its mental health care programs have been met with objections from patients, families and staff.

The IWK plans to reassess the residential care offered in their mental health programs. This includes the Adolescent Centre for Treatment (ACT), aimed at young people with behavioural issues and difficulties in school; Compass, which is a similar program for younger children; and the CHOICES program for teens with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

These three programs include residential components, which will be moving from 24/7 to 24/5 to help reduce costs and better allocate resources. However, it also means that 22 youth mental health workers will lose their jobs.

A rally against these changes, supported by NSGEU Local 42 on March 29, was held outside the Nova Scotia Legislature.

Mary Jane Hovey, whose 15-year-old daughter is in the ACT program, was among the protestors.

“She’s absolutely devastated. She feels like she’s been let down. She’s spoken up quite a bit, and she feels like no one’s listening because she’s a kid. And to me, that is just, it’s disgusting,” Hovey said.

Mary Jane Hovey holds a sign that reads, "Mental health happens on weekends." (Emma Davie photo)

“The program is basically going from 24/7 to 24/5 … And what do you do for the kids who are suicidal on the weekends? Where do you go?”

Hovey explained there are several alternate resources for parents when situations arise over the weekend–none of which are ideal. There is the mobile crisis unit, which is staffed by volunteers, who try to talk through the situation over the phone, the hospital emergency room, or constant supervision by parents to keep their child away from self-inflicted harm.

“You rely on the social workers to go to the psychiatrist who’s on duty to make the assessment … and they determine whether your child is suicidal enough to be admitted. And I’ve been down that road, and I don’t want to go there again. I find it a much more positive experience with my daughter being in ACT” said Hovey.

“These youth care workers have become our family … and I rely on them. When I’m having issues with my daughter, I will call them, and we just, we figure out what’s best for my daughter, for the family, everything. It’s very much a group effort. And I don’t want to lose that,” Hovey said.

Yet Hovey and others are concerned about the effects these changes will have on the patients in programs like ACT.

“My concern is that this whole issue is going to take away from her treatment. And that’s what I don’t want to happen,” said Hovey.

Mary Sampson, one of the 22 youth care workers losing her job, also has concerns about the patients.

Mary Sampson, one of the 22 youth care workers losing her job, holds a sign at the rally on March 22. (Emma Davie photo)

“It’s going to greatly impact their treatment. A lot of the clients that we deal with have anxiety attachment disorders. They have walls built up that it takes months on end, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week to break those walls down,” Sampson said.

“Now, all of a sudden, we’re ripping those away from them. So I think that they’re going to build higher walls, and I think it’s going to be harder to treat them,” said Sampson.

Jocelyn Vine, vice president of patient care at the IWK, says the hospital recognizes the patients involved are vulnerable young people, and they hope to manage the transition in the best way possible for each individual.

“Each young person’s situation will be evaluated, and we’ll work out a plan that’s going to be suitable to that young person,” Vine said.

She explained that while the plans may not be ideal for the patient, they will be looking at reasonable solutions and compromises. For patients who are on the verge of being discharged, their treatment may be able to continue for a few more weeks.

Vine added that while the changes are upsetting to the patients currently in ACT and other programs, the next group of patients will be able to experience the positive changes that the IWK hopes to make.

“Right now there’s a cohort of young people within ACT, but in the next number of weeks that cohort of young people will be then moving to a different part of their care, and they will be discharged from that aspect of it. So the next group of young people that come in are not going to have this same issue,” Vine said.

Related Links:
IWK improves wait times
Poster: Reverse the Cuts
Video: Rally outside the IWK

But those in the program currently aren’t any less devastated to see their youth care workers being cut.

Hovey said, “It’s amazing what these youth care workers do, and we can’t afford to lose one. The importance of maintaining the program is because these youth care workers are often the first people the kids get to see, before they can get in to see the clinicians, and they build relationships with these kids. These kids are out future, and we need to protect them … If anything, we need to add more youth care workers.”


Related audio
Mary Jane FINALMary Jane Hovey discusses the positive changes ACT has had on her daughter, and why the IWK should be keeping their youth care workers.

Dalhousie support staff accept new contract: Avoid strike

Dalhousie support staff have struck a deal with administration. Among their gains are wage increases, time off and relieved uncertainty over pensions.

By Ariane Hanlon

Nearly two weeks after a faculty strike was averted, Dalhousie has avoided yet another work stoppage.

The university’s support staff voted on Wednesday to accept the deal reached by their union representatives and the Dalhousie administration.

The 850 employees, who work in everything from the registrar’s office to IT, are members of Local 77 of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), would have gone on strike Thursday had the deal been rejected.

“We gave some, the university gave some, but it still might be close,” said union member Cindy Slaunwhite on her way out of the crowded auditorium where voting was held.

After the ballots were counted late Wednesday night, 92 per cent had voted in favour of the deal.

If union members had decided to strike, Local 77 president Darryl Warren believes that the university would have been greatly incapacitated, regardless of Dalhousie’s e-mails to students saying that classes, registration and exams would continue as normal.

“Our point of view is that 850 people work here. Things wouldn’t get done properly or on time,” he said.

“In the registrar’s office alone the ratio of members to administration is so high, I can’t imagine how the registration would have gone on as planned,” said Warren, “They say they can handle it, we say they can’t. I hope the question is never answered.”

Though the problems surrounding this have been averted, Warren believes that this is only temporary.

“The contract is good until July 2014, then there will be another evaluation done on the pension plan,” said Warren.

Warren doesn’t believe the future of the pension plan is stable.

The rest of the deal includes a 2 per cet wage increase, a raised shift premium, and additional time off for family matters. Members will also receive a $300 bonus, which as Warren says was “not an incentive, but it was thrown in”.

He says that although a deal has been reached, union members are frustrated that negotiations took so long. In fact, a committee had been formed in 2009 to prepare for new contract negotiations.

“Negotiations should not go on that long. It should have been a few months…it has been frustrating for all of us,” he said.

“What we originally tabled was a one-year deal because we understood that they were in a financial bind with lots of unknowns. A year and a half later, that’s what they tabled,” said Warren. “To say that they didn’t pay attention is an understatement.”




Dalhousie professor wants policy change

Two months have passed since Mohammed Ehsan and his family were kicked off a Metro Halifax bus.

Ehsan, a PhD candidate who also teaches political science at Dalhousie University, is now seeking a policy change for parents with strollers on Metro Transit buses.

Mohammed Ehsan
Professor Mohammed Ehsan (Clark Jang photo)

By Clark Jang

Dalhousie professor Mohammed Ehsan wants Metro Halifax to change its stroller policy.

Two months have passed since he and his family were kicked off a number 10 bus to Westphal because their stroller was too big.

He also alleges the driver called him an ‘idiot’ and treated him rudely.

“It’s not about me anymore. Change the rules. That’s my issue,” says Ehsan.

Ehsan filed a formal complaint with Metro Transit. He still hasn’t received an apology or response, however, supervisors have said they regret the incident.

Listen in as Ehsan describes what he is pursing from Metro Transit.

Ehsan audio

“The current policy they have doesn’t restrict any stroller. There is a recommended measurement.” says Ehsan.

Metro Transit’s current stroller policy can be found here.

Under the guidelines, Metro recommends strollers should not be larger than 42″ x 22.5″. Ehsan’s stroller measured four inches too long.

“The incident wasn’t about size, there was plenty of room. The bus was empty…Public utility services are supposed to change rules to meet peoples needs,” says Ehsan. “They should have a policy to let parents on buses regardless of strollers.”

Mohammed Ehsan and his family were kicked off a No. 10 bus in January (Photo by Clark Jang)
Mohammed Ehsan and his family were kicked off a No. 10 bus in January (Clark Jang photo)

A Metro spokesperson says it is up to the driver’s discretion whether or not a passenger can board the bus.

Several Dalhousie professors declined to comment due to the controversial nature of the issue. But that hasn’t stopped Ehsan’s students or the general public from weighing in.

“I don’t think [Ehsan] should have been kicked off,” says Jake McCloskey, one of Ehsan’s students. “It’s a courtesy thing. His situation is different than other parents.”

Ehsan has a larger stroller to accommodate his eight-month-old twin boys.

Betty Bourne, who has ridden the bus for more than 20 years, says sometimes strollers can get in the way.

“They can make it hard for people to get by,” says Bourne.

Andrea Wilson rides the bus from Dartmouth to Halifax three times a week. She says she’s never seen a stroller pose a risk.

“I see strollers almost everyday. I’ve never seen a bus driver tell someone to get off because of it,” says Wilson.

Liam Russell, a bus patron, can see both sides of the argument.

“I can see how it can be a hazard on a busy bus, but if it’s his only way of getting around that should be taken into consideration too,” says Russell.

Metro says the stroller guidelines are implemented as a public safety measure.

“Our drivers reserve the right to determine when a situation becomes a public safety concern,” says a Metro spokesperson.

The incident has led the Ehsan’s to buy a family car. That cost them $7,500, not including gas, insurance and maintenance. They have ridden the bus with the stroller once since the incident.

“My wife doesn’t want to take the bus anymore with the stroller. We walk most places now,” says Ehsan.

Metro would not comment on whether they were considering a policy change.

“98 per cent of bus drivers are good,” says Ehsan. “It’s that two per cent that make a big deal of it.”

Garbage changes on hold for a year

The Halifax Regional Council voted last Tuesday to cancel a public hearing regarding proposed new garbage legislation.

The hearing would have been required in order to adopt the bylaw, which would lower the allowable number of garbage bags per household from six to four, and require that all but one of the bags be clear.

By Theresa Ketterling

Improperly sorted compost gets a rejection slip (Photo: Theresa Ketterling).

The Halifax regional council voted last Tuesday to cancel a public hearing regarding  proposed garbage bylaw.

The bylaw would lower the number of garbage bags per household from six to four, and require that all but one of the bags be clear.

Council will instead proceed with education and public consultations.

Coun. Reg Rankin, who moved the motion to discontinue consideration of the bylaw, says he was troubled by the lack of consultation leading up to the hearing.

“I’d say there were probably a hundred letters, most of them saying ‘no.’ What I was hearing constantly was, ‘why haven’t you consulted with us?'”

Rankin says it was unclear who would be responsible for improperly sorted garbage under the new bylaw, “Will there be policemen out? If there’s going to be garbage that is mixed with organics and recyclables, whose fault is that going to be?”

Rankin says Halifax already diverts 60 per cent of its waste away from landfills, more than any other municipality in Nova Scotia. He says part of this success is due to the infrastructure Halifax has already built.

Maggy Burns, Internal Director of the Ecology Action Center, says the Center was “particularly disappointed” with the council’s decision.

“The statistic I’ve heard is that 30 per cent of what goes into people’s garbage bags could be either recycled or composted,” says Burns.

She says the council missed an opportunity to save money and to reduce the waste going to landfills.

Rankin says that he supports efforts to improve recycling rates, but he is not convinced of the need for tougher bylaws.



Coun. Reg Rankin talks about what HRM is doing better than other municipalities:

[audio:|titles=Rankin Clip 2]




Success for local fashion designers without leaving Halifax

Halifax has established itself as a thriving niche for designers who once felt they did not have a market to sell in.

By Jessamyn Griffin

Pamela McInnis poses in front of her logo Cranky hidden amongst the trinkets in her boutique Put Me On (Jessamyn Griffin).

Halifax has established itself as a thriving niche for designers who once felt they did not have a market to sell in.

“When I first graduated from (the Costume Studies program at Dalhousie), I wanted to start my own label (but) it wasn’t feasible locally,” said Director of City Models, Angela Campagnoni.  Campagnoni started Atlantic Fashion Week in 2008 in response to the lack of opportunities available for local designers.

“There wasn’t a lot of support for unknown labels…so I wanted to beef up the local fashion industry.”

Designers wanting to partake in Atlantic Fashion Week don’t have to pay to be in the show. City Models relies on the community for sponsorship and ticket sales to keep down the cost for designers.

“In Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver it’s $5000 for a designer to be in a show and that doesn’t include models and (other production components such as hair and makeup),” said Campagnoni.

Pamela McInnis, owner of vintage and consignment store, Put Me On, doesn’t think that designers have to leave Halifax to be recognized. She designs her own clothing line, Cranky, which she produces in the store. She believes the pieces produced in the Halifax region are unique enough to sell alongside established international brands.

“In my shop all of our jewelry is locally made and when people come in they lose their mind when they see the local stuff! So I think keeping it local and contained is good,” said McInnis.

McInnis keeps her pieces original by only using one fabric pattern per garment.

She recycles material from old clothes to form her own creations.

“I make all off my clothing by hand in the store during open hours. I think the fact that it’s made and sold in the same store makes it different,” said McInnis.

Designer Adrien Labrecque thinks that consumers prefer big brand labels because people trust places that are more established. Labreque also runs the Brunswick Street vintage emporium, Spree. He is aware of the type of things that Haligonian customers are looking for.

“You see it everywhere, different mentality drives different consumers at different stores. We have our clientele and they have theirs,” he said.

Sweet Pea boutique owner, Johanna Galipeau says she doesn’t always have to seek out of province designers for well made clothing. Galipeau looks for well made, affordable and local designs to stock in her shop. However, she thinks that some of the price points for Canadian would be to high for her customers to afford.

“I originally wanted just Canadian designers. A lot of it is expensive so it kind of broke my affordable fashion rule so I had to make some compromises,” said Ms. Galipeau.

Though she does carry non-Canadian brands, Galipeau stresses the importance of nurturing Canadian designers.

“I support local because it is just good for our economy and so we can develop as a more fashionable country.”

Check out this video of Adrien Labrecque discussing his design plans for his June 2011 collection.

ViewFinders film festival celebrates 10th anniversary

The 10th annual ViewFinders: International Film Festival for Youth kicks off next month, with many new events being added to the lineup.

By Ben Harrison

ViewFinders director Jason Beaudry talks about the festival (Ben Harrison photo).

The 10th annual ViewFinders: International Film Festival for Youth kicks off next month, with many new events being added to the lineup.

Jason Beaudry, director of ViewFinders, is excited for a new event taking place at the Discovery Centre.

“We’re going to preview the festival on April 10 with the ViewFinders Expo at the Discovery Centre,” says Beaudry.

“We want to reach out into the community and bring in some hands-on activities that young people can participate in.”

ViewFinders is the only youth film festival in Atlantic Canada. The festival gives young filmmakers the opportunity to produce and screen films for an international audience.

Other new events include daily screenings of previous award-winning ViewFinders films made by Canadian youth, a day of programming in French and a panel focusing on two international films about Asperger’s syndrome.

Beaudry says that the festival wants to acknowledge its roots while looking ahead on an international scale.

“It’s not so much about what ViewFinders as a festival has accomplished, but the ‘ViewFinders’ in our name. They’re the people who participate. We want to highlight what they’ve accomplished and where they are going,” says Beaudry.

“ViewFinders has built a reputation with our audience in a unique way, in the way we speak to our audience. We speak with young people, rather than at them. We’ve gone around the world looking for films to speak with audiences, to build this engagement.”

Will Kellerman, 2010 ViewFinders Movie Challenge winner, shoots his next film (Ben Harrison photo).

One way ViewFinders looks ahead to the future of youth filmmaking is through the Film Challenge contests.

Filmmakers under 18 years-old can enter one of three categories: Animation Challenge, Movie Challenge or Green Screen Challenge. Winners of the Film Challenge contest receive a full scholarship to the One Minute Film program, part of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative.

Last year’s winner of the Movie Challenge, Will Kellerman, is already working on his next short film. Kellerman says Viewfinders gave him the support he needed to make movies, thanks to the scholarship program.

“ViewFinders gave me the scholarship to work with the Cooperative. Next thing you know, I’m making a silent noir film on a 16 mm camera,” says Kellerman. “They gave me this incredible opportunity and supported me all the way.”

Kellerman’s film, The Right Thing to Say, will be playing at ViewFinders this year as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.

Kellerman hopes to make feature films that will reach out to an audience, and says he is inspired by human connections through dialogue and image when he makes movies.

“I really like studying and seeing how people act around different people, that inspires ideas…If I hear about something in the news, or through word of mouth, that inspires me,” says Kellerman.

Here’s Will Kellerman at work on his new film. He also talks about his experience in the 1-Minute Film program: