100 Days to Peace: Final days of First World War remembered

Tourists mingled with men and women dressed as soldiers and medics at Citadel Hill in Halifax Saturday afternoon to kick off 100 Days to Peace, an event commemorating the final 100 days of the First World War.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice. Achievements of the Canadian Corps are marked throughout the national historic site, including a full-scale trench installation. There are also activities and presentations to learn more about 1918 battle tactics.

“It would have been actually after the war they came up with the term 100 days when they realized it had been 100 days,” explained Hal Thompson, who works with Parks Canada.

“It typically starts at the Battle of Amiens in France which is Aug. 8, 1918. But we sometimes use Aug. 4 as the first day because that is exactly 100 days until Nov. 11, the armistice, which of course became Remembrance Day.”

A trench recreation is part of 100 Days to Peace exhibit. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Gun firing display at Citadel Hill. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Thompson said it’s sometimes called Canada’s 100 Days because the Canadian Corps was the spearhead for breaking the German defence lines.

“When they attacked the Germans at Amiens, the didn’t expect the victory there to be so decisive. So they just kept going for 100 days until the war ended. It’s not well known,” Thompson said.

“People know about Vimy Ridge, but really most military historians consider the 100 days the greatest achievement of the Canadian Corps.”

Re-enactors are part of the First World War 100 Days to Peace exhibit at Citadel Hill. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Commemorative panels set up at Citadel Hill. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

At the time, Canada was part of the British army. When Britain went to war, the Dominion of Canada — as it was known then — automatically did too.

“By the end of the 100 days, the Canadian Corps had done so well and proven itself so many times and given so many lives that at the treaty negotiations in Paris later we got our own seat at the table, we weren’t just under Britain anymore,” Thompson said.

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Slow-motion showdown continues on banks of Shubenacadie River

On the muddy banks of Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River, Dorene Bernard is listening for sounds that will let her know the historic waterway is about to change direction.

“The wind will pick up, and you’ll start hearing the water and waves coming,” the Mi’kmaq activist says as she walks through the tall grass, carrying a large fan made from an eagle’s wing.

The Shubenacadie is a 72-kilometre tidal river that cuts through the middle of Nova Scotia and flows into the Bay of Fundy. But when the world’s highest tides rise in the bay, salt water flows up the river for almost half its length, creating a wave — or tidal bore — that pushes against the river’s current.

Protesters at the Shubenacadie River say despite what AltaGas said in their release on Friday, very little work on the project has taken place in the last month. (Shawn Maloney)

It’s an unusual natural phenomenon that draws tourists from around the world. It has also helped support the Mi’kmaq for more than 13,000 years.

“This is a major highway, a major artery for our people,” says Bernard, a social worker, academic and member of the Sipekne’katik First Nation in nearby Indian Brook, N.S.

“Our ancestors are buried along here … It has a very significant historical, spiritual and cultural relevance to who we are.”

Plan to pump brine into river

Before the bore arrives, the river is like glass on this humid, windless day.

However, Bernard is mindful that another change is coming for the river and her people.

For the past 12 years, a Calgary-based company has been planning to pump water from the river to an underground site 12 kilometres away, where it will be used to flush out salt deposits, creating huge caverns that will eventually store natural gas.

A sign marks the entrance to Mi’kmaq encampment near the Shubenacadie River, a 72-kilometre tidal river that cuts through the middle of Nova Scotia and flows into the Bay of Fundy, in Fort Ellis, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

AltaGas says the leftover brine solution will be pumped into the river, twice a day at high tide, over a two- to three-year period.

The initial plan is to create two caverns about a kilometre underground. But the company has said it may need as many as 15 caverns, which would be linked to the nearby Maritimes and Northeast natural gas pipeline, about 60 kilometres north of Halifax.

The storage is needed by an AltaGas subsidiary, Heritage Gas, which sells natural gas in the Halifax area and a few other Nova Scotia communities. It says it wants to stockpile its product during the colder months to protect its customers from price shocks when demand spikes.

Drilling for the first two caverns has been completed.

$130M project largely on hold

After years of consultations, legal wrangling and scientific monitoring, the company’s Nova Scotia-based subsidiary, Alton Natural Gas Storage LP, has said it plans to start the brining process some time later this year.

Bernard says her people are not going to let that happen.

The $130-million project has been largely on hold since 2014 when Mi’kmaq activists started a series of protests that culminated two years later in the creation of a year-round protest camp at the work site northwest of Stewiacke.

Felix Bernard walks near a Mi’kmaq encampment along the Shubenacadie River. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

“We’re not going to let anyone destroy our water,” Bernard said in a recent interview, declining to elaborate on what will happen if police or security guards try to reclaim the site.

“The impacts will be huge. You can’t just put something in your vein and think it’s not going to affect your whole body.”

She says the company has consulted with Indigenous leaders, but she insists it has done a poor job of reaching out to the Mi’kmaq people, particularly those who are members of her First Nation.

“There was never a public hearing with Alton Gas in our community. Never.”

Permits secured, consultations 

For its part, the company has insisted it has consulted with local Indigenous people, and the provincial government has agreed.

More importantly, the company says it has already secured the permits it needs to start pumping water from the river.

At the entrance to the protest camp off Riverside Road, a steel gate is covered in placards and a canvas lean-to. A sign that warns against trespassing — installed by the company with the help of the RCMP — has been covered with a blanket.

Protesters maintain a Mi’kmaq encampment near the Shubenacadie River. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In May of last year, protesters built a tiny, two-storey house out of straw bales and lime plaster. It has a dirt floor, wood stove, bunks and plenty of provisions inside.

There’s also a garden. Chickens and geese roam the makeshift squatters camp.

On this day, there are only three protesters — they call themselves water protectors — at the site. But some supporters from Halifax later drop by for a visit.

“We have a lot of allies, settlers who are supporting this camp — it’s not just the Mi’kmaq,” says Ducie Howe, Bernard’s cousin and a resident of what she calls Shubenacadie Reserve No. 14, the original name for the nearby First Nation.

“There’s people from all over who will come. And they’ll keep coming.”

‘Giving out permits? Those are illegal’

Howe says Nova Scotians need to be reminded that the company is operating on unceded Mi’kmaq territory.

“We signed peace and friendship treaties,” she says. “We never signed treaties that gave up any part of our lands … Giving out permits? Those are illegal. They didn’t have the right to do that.”

Closer to the river, there’s a smaller, flat-topped wooden building that Bernard describes as a truckhouse. The reference is to the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty, which states that the Mi’kmaq are free to build “truckhouses” along the river to facilitate trade.

In the distance, a small hut for security guards sits empty.

Mi’kmaq activists Dorene Bernard, right, and Ducie Howe stand on the shores of the Shubenacadie River. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Company spokeswoman Lori Maclean says some protesters have been served with trespassing notices.

“The company is aware of the activity of protesters at the site and continues to engage with law enforcement and the community,” she said in a recent email. “Alton sites are work areas that are open only to Alton staff or approved contractors.”

Alton has received the environmental and industrial approvals it needs to proceed, including two environmental assessments and an independent third-party science review. However, provincial Environment Minister Margaret Miller has yet to make a decision about an appeal of the industrial approval filed by the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

Mi’kmaq activist Ducie Howe carries a sign at an encampment near the Shubenacadie River. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

As for the brine that will be pumped into the river, the company says the peak release on each tidal cycle will be approximately 5,000 cubic metres, which will be mixed in with four million cubic metres of brackish tidal flow.

The company says the brine flowing into the Minas Basin “would not be detectable and would be insignificant in terms of the natural fluctuation of salinity the ecosystem is subject to during each tidal cycle.”

‘Brine will not impact the ecosystem’

Alton Gas also says the intake pipe will not suck in fish or small organisms because the water will be filtered through a rock wall, and the intake flow will be low enough to allow all fish to swim away.

“The requirements of our monitoring program with provincial and federal regulators will ensure that the brine will not impact the ecosystem,” the company’s website says.

Before Bernard and Howe leave the river, the pair stand at the edge of the bank to make an offering through song.

The lyrics are sung in the original Ojibwa and then in Mi’kmaq: “Water, I love you. I thank you. I respect you. Water is life.”

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

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NSP continues cleanup after 5,000 litres of oil spilled into Halifax harbour

It could be weeks before Nova Scotia Power finishes cleaning up some 5,000 litres of oil that spilled on shore and into the Halifax harbour from a leaky pipe at the utility’s Tufts Cove generating plant.

The leak was discovered during a routine check Thursday.

On Sunday, David Rhodenizer, a spokesperson for the utility, said 60 people have been working on the cleanup through the weekend.  .

He said an environmental contractor estimated “less than 5,000 litres would have made it to the harbour” and the company expected to have a better assessment of how long the cleanup will take by Tuesday or Wednesday.

“For us the bottom line is we’re going to work until it’s all cleaned up. It’s an environmental cleanup of oil contamination so those can last a number of weeks.”

Oil from the leak coated rocks on the shoreline near Tufts Cove on Halifax harbour (Robert Short/CBC)

About 95 per cent of the spill was contained by the first boom placed in the water Thursday upon discovery of the leak, according to the contractor, Rhodenizer said. 

“Subsequent to that, Thursday and Friday we added additional booms out into the harbour to contain the remaining oil.”

The first priority is to deal with the on-water contamination, Rhodenizer said.

“We’ve have vacuum trucks working on that and oil absorbent materials that they deploy. They’re called pom poms and socks and the oil that’s on the surface of the water adheres to them and then when we remove those materials, it takes the oil out of the water.”

Soil also contaminated

But he said there is also contamination of the soil at the site.

“The oil came from the pipe and leaked through the soil on the property to the water. So we have the on-land contaminated soil to clean as well.”

Rocky areas near the shoreline have also been affected.

Cause of leak still not known

The utility is still investigating how the leak occurred. Rhodenizer said the pipeline is about 11 centimetres in diameter. 

“It’s a pipeline that goes from the on-site oil tank to the plant itself. There was a hole the size of the tip of your thumb that developed in the pipeline.” 

He said NSP is working with some consultants to find out what caused the hole.

“Was there something metallurgical​ly wrong with the pipe? Exactly how did that happen, we don’t know at this point.”

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Top Canadian mountain bikers pedal through Kentville, N.S.

Canada’s top mountain bikers are in Kentville, N.S., this weekend for the Canada Cup race and some are competing to qualify for the Olympics and world championships.

About 200 people registered for the event, which started Saturday and will conclude with an elite race Sunday. It’s the first time Kentville is hosting the event.

“It’s super exciting, people that are watching are having a great time,” said Lindsay Young, community and economic development coordinator for the Town of Kentville.

“You don’t have to be interested in mountain biking or be a mountain biker in order to enjoy this. The athleticism that these folks have and that they’re demonstrating is really amazing and really, really, cool to watch.”

The Town of Kentville hosted the national mountain bike Canada Cup for the first time. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The race is held on The Gorge, part of the parks and trails in Kentville. It’s 26 hectares of natural woodland and the route the bikers are taking is about five kilometres.

Brody Sanderson of AWI Racing from Barrie, Ont., took a practice ride through The Gorge Saturday in preparation for the elite race Sunday. He said there were a couple of drops in the trail he wasn’t expecting, but he enjoyed it.

“It’s a cool mix of flow and technical. So you’re able to carry a lot of speed but you have to be cautious of where you are at the same time,” said Sanderson, who was the Canadian U19 champion in 2017.

Sanderson said he is hoping to qualify for the world championships being held in Switzerland this year.

Cyclists, like Andrew L’Esperance, riding through the trails Saturday endured some very hot, humid weather and intense rain. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Andrew L’Esperance​, a cyclist from Halifax with Olympic aspirations, said he’s happy the Canada Cup is being held close to home.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s the first time in about 10 years that we’ve had a Canada Cup here in the Atlantic provinces so I’m really excited to have it here,” he said

Cyclists riding through the trails Saturday endured some very hot, humid weather and intense rain.

“I think everyone enjoyed the little bit of rain,” said L’Esperance. “And I don’t think it will effect the course too much, so we’ll be good to go.”

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Syrian chocolate company in Antigonish set to double in size

An Antigonish, N.S., chocolate company founded by former Syrian refugees is set to double in size, again.

When the Hadhad family arrived in Canada two years ago, they were determined to rebuild their chocolate business that was bombed in their home country.

Just weeks after their arrival, they started making chocolate in their kitchen and selling it at the local farmer’s market. 

Their story has evolved into a sort of fairy tale.

“We started with 200 pieces of chocolate a week. Now we are producing hundreds of thousands of pieces and chocolate bars a month,” said Tareq Hadhad, the eldest son and spokesperson for the family.

Peace By Chocolate started in a farmers market and is now in grocery stores. It will soon be sold across the country. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Their company, Peace By Chocolate, now employs 25 people, and is in the process of hiring 25 more. Demand is so high, the chocolate makers now work either day or evening shifts to keep production going.

“Our major responsibility as immigrants to this country is not to take, but to contribute. It’s always about that. We didn’t come here to take anyone’s job. We came here to create jobs,” said Hadhad. 

Giving back

CBC chronicled the family’s first year in Canada as part of a special series on the arrival of Syrian refugees.

On the day they landed at the Halifax airport, they vowed to give back to Antigonish after the community raised thousands of dollars to move them from their refugee camp.

“They sponsored my family without even knowing us,” said Hadhad. “They didn’t care about our religion, our background, our ethnicity.” 

The family saw employment as a way to help their adopted home.

“We know that so many people leave the town to either Halifax or to Ontario or to the West to find jobs. One of the first employees that we hired, he was in Alberta and we brought him back to town to work.”

The Hadhad family spent Saturday mornings selling chocolate at the local farmers market when they first moved to Antigonish. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Their story went viral when they donated some of their profits to Fort McMurray after it was devastated by wildfire. They’ve been profiled internationally, and have been featured in speeches by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This year, the company became even more popular when it released a series of chocolate bars that celebrated pride. Some were packaged in the colours of the rainbow flag, others featured the colours of the trans, lesbian and bisexual flags. Hadhad said demand for those products sparked responses from around the world.

“That’s the first time, I see on the website, people are contacting me from all over the world. Spain, Nigeria, from Germany, New Zealand.”

Sharing the story

Hadhad is now a public speaker, travelling the country to talk about their new beginning.

“When I hear all the negative stories that are being told across the world, I feel we have to share the story of Peace By Chocolate,” he said. 

Hadhad, who fled Syria during his last year of medical school, wanted to become a doctor when he arrived in Canada. Now politics could be in his future. 

“It’s really important to always think how we can always make a difference.”

It took nearly a year before all members of the Hadhad family were reunited in Canada. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

As for the family business, Hadhad is hoping these new jobs are just the beginning of an ongoing expansion.

The sweets are going to be sold in grocery stores across the country in the coming months. They’ll be available on Amazon and Hadhad has his sights set on the American market next year.

“There is nothing that is impossible in this country.”

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

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