Halifax prepares for the snow to melt

The Halifax Regional Municipality continues to clean up the piles of snow that surround the streets and are now preparing for a risk of excess water once temperatures start to rise.

Halifax has been hit with 111.3cm of snow and 121.7cm of precipitation in the month of March alone, according to Environment Canada. The question now is what will happen when all that snow melts.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last week especially to open up catch basins, those are the drains, in the areas that we know always have [flooding] problems,” Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for HRM, said Wednesday.

catch basin
Cleared catch basin on the corner of Walnut street and Shirley street. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

Although the amount of snow is not a record breaking amount, the impact has been overwhelming and a lot of people have been comparing it to White Juan that happened February 2004.

Snow lines the streets in heaps reaching heights of two metres or higher and once temperatures start to rise, and rain begins to fall, all that snow will turn to water, possibly swamping our streets.

“We have essentially a list of about 200 hot spots around the city where, particularly last month, we saw issues, so we wanted to make sure that those were opened up before we got any rain,” Stairs said.

According to Environment Canada, Halifax Metro and Halifax County West is expecting another 20-40 millimetres of rain over the next two days, and rising temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

Homeowner Gail tries to shovel snow onto the road before the rain hits. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)
Gail, a homeowner tries to shovel snow onto the road before heavy rain hits. (Photo by: Erin McIntosh)

“Knock on wood I haven’t [experienced flooding] this winter, however I expect a big rain tonight so I’m trying to get the snow on the roads so it’ll go that way down to the drain,” said Gail, a homeowner on Walnut Street in the south-end, Halifax, who didn’t want her last name published.

“We often see water on the roads at Bedford Highway. Waverley Road has some problems spots, but I mean every community has its known area,” Stairs said.

“I hesitate to use the word flooding because we’ve had issues where we’ve had deep water on some of the roads. We saw that on several occasions last month in particular and it’s happened every year. It’s not something uncommon or unusual.”

The city has been enforcing overnight parking bans on declared snow and ice days, that started Dec. 15 and will run until March 31. During the day time, police are closing off sections of roads for snow removal. Residents are being asked to help out the city with shoveling and clearing drains when possible.

The HRM has also been asking residents who know where their catch basins are located in their neighbourhood to help clear them out. It will help residents and surrounding neighbours both with the melting snow and with any rain Halifax is expecting in the next couple of days, but it’s not a task some residents are prepared to take on.

“I’m barely keeping up now with the shovelling. I would be willing to [clear catch basins] if I could get ahold of my own shovelling first,” said Gail.

In the meantime, the city continues to clear snow from the roads and sidewalks. Stairs said the city is dumping truckloads of snow in big open fields, but wouldn’t say where. Contrary to rumours, snow is not being dumped in the harbour.


Womb Boom’s drums beat on International Women’s Day

Womb Boom, a group of female hip-hop drummers, performed at the Bus Stop Theatre to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Driven by the steady beat of a drum, women of all ages and backgrounds danced, tapped, sang and jammed at the Bus Stop Theatre on Sunday to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Womb Boom, a group of female hip-hop drummers, showed off what they had learned in the past months as they led the jam.

The group is a pilot project of the Music Liberatory School which is “aimed at dramatically increasing the number of female instrumentalists by providing free music education, with emphasis on developing and maintaining the cultural leadership of women of colour,” according to the online Kijiji ad for the drumming group.

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Tamar Dina, founder of the school, began the afternoon leading a kitchen table discussion about women and their experiences in music.

Shari Clarke played the violin and flute during Womb Boom’s jam session.

“It’s about the focus on women and creativity,” said Clarke. “It’s a fabulous gathering place for us to meet and share our creativity and celebrate who we are.”

Dina talked about her inspiration for the project and the school, and why women’s presence in music is so important.

“When I was thinking about what could change the world,” said Dina, “I settled on the idea that I want to do the thing now that I wish will still be happening in a transformed society.

“That’s true about music.”

Dina’s vision

Dina’s experience working in crisis centres dealing with issues of violence against women shaped her vision for the Music Liberatory School.

“A lot of women don’t have a means to deal with violence immediately,” said Dina. “So the way they usually deal with it is self destruction.”

The steady beat of the drum, and the easy, accessible way to be a part of that sound, became the foundation of the pilot project.

They began with percussion and drums “because that’s your fundamentals in music,” said Dina.

“When women are first coming together on the drum, we’re not using words yet,” she said. “We’re just expressing our experiences through rhythm.

“Then, as we get more comfortable and we’re willing to trust each other more … Then those stories can start turning into songs.”

The core group of five to eight people, with more than 20 women loosely connected, meet weekly at the George Dixon Centre.

Childcare provided on-site

Childcare is provided, which enables women, especially single mothers, who would have usually stayed home to come out and drum. This is one thing that separates them from other music programs, along with Womb Boom’s emphasis on a high standard of music.

“With a lot of music programs the emphasis is on progress,” said Dina.

“This is a feminist art project,” she said. “We are constantly trying to improve our music intellectually and musically so that it can be effective.”

The International Women’s Day event at The Bus Stop Theatre showed off that high standard of music, while the simple beat of the drum kept the music accessible to all women in the room.

Alexis Smith is a talented bass player and musician. She brought that fusion of quality and effectiveness with passion and meaning to Womb Boom’s jam.

“For me, it’s all creative for the mind,” said Smith. “And it’s just good for the spirit.”

The fur flies at Argyle Fine Art opening

An age-old dispute about what pets are best goes on display at Halifax art gallery.

Cat and dog lovers were invited to an exclusive BYOP (bring your own pets) event Saturday to celebrate the launch of Argyle Fine Art’s latest exhibit, Cat Person Dog Person, a multimedia tribute to furry foes.

“We know people love their pets, so we wanted to host a family-friendly opening event where people could come bring their dogs and cats by appointment,” said Adriana Afford, the gallery’s owner.

But when the felines failed to show, the party went to the dogs.

The canines and their owners wandered freely through the gallery, which showcased the creative works of local artists bringing beloved felines and pups to life through painting, sculpture, print and more.

Following a call for general submissions, 20 artists were chosen to feature their creations of the age-old rivals. Among them was six year old Hunter Keefe — a committed cat person, prolific painter and animal advocate.

“I have two at my house. Shamrock and Murdoch,” said Keefe.

His favourite piece from his collection is a painting of a rainbow-coloured feline with the phrase “I love cats!” scrawled in the top left corner of the canvas.

“The cat in a boat is probably my second best,” said Keefe, pointing to a frame featuring a pink kitten floating on a body of blue water.

The artist sold two works within an hour of the exhibit’s opening. They went for $35 a piece, but instead of pocketing the profits, Keefe is donating the proceeds directly to the Halifax Cat Rescue Society.

Keefe started supporting the charity last summer. Keefe raised $300 selling baked goods and his first paintings around his community

Since then, Keefe has had three paintings specifically commissioned and he is still accepting custom orders upon request.

“I really just want to help out lost cats,” Keefe said. “I love them so so much.”

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The six-year old makes a convincing case for cat people caring more deeply for their preferred pets than their counterparts, but the debate isn’t so easy to settle.

The exhibit only featured felines when it began three years ago. The gallery put together that first show in response to a growing internet obsession with cats.

Pooches were included the following year at the insistence of dog lovers and given the animals’ equal representation in this year’s show, it seems like puppy love is here to stay.

“People are really passionate about it,” said Afford. “That’s what makes it so fun.”

The reception included 10-minute custom pet portraits by Halifax-based artist Lindsay Hicks and complimentary “pupcakes” from Three Dog Bakery for guests.

Afford said people are especially in need of events like the one she planned around this time of year.

“In February, people have had enough of ice, snow and winter,” said Afford. “This is a great excuse to get your dog out for a walk, come in and see some great artwork.”

The exhibit runs until March 11. Photographs of the works in the collection can also be viewed online.

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 ismchalifax.ca.