Support after theft from workshop restores owner's 'faith in humanity'

Support has been pouring in after about $1,000 worth of tools were stolen from a community workshop in Halifax on Saturday.

Hands-On Halifax is a woodworking shop run by volunteers in the city’s north end.

Dave Clearwater, who runs the social enterprise, said they had been suspecting something was awry for a week leading up to the theft. Some small items had going missing.

“Saturday was the kind of straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Clearwater. “We noticed a whole bunch of new tools that were in boxes in lockers had disappeared.”

He told the CBC’s Information Morning the breach of trust is more difficult for him to get over than the loss of the tools.

He added police were not involved in an investigation because the workshop had no security cameras. They also had no serial numbers for the tools at the time.

Clearwater said it was disheartening, especially because he believes it was an inside job — the door wasn’t damaged and he had given the code to a few trusted individuals.

By the time the dust had settled he did an inventory and discovered it was approximately $1,000 of new equipment that was taken.

Among the stolen tools are an electric planer, a wood lathe and an electric belt sander.

“Some of our tools are legacy tools in the fact that their family member passed away and they brought them to us because they knew that they would be used,” he said.

Saturday was a rough day for Clearwater, who said the two options he contemplated were to close down permanently or appeal to the community for help.

“I was very angry and [my wife] reminded me that there are a lot of good people in Halifax,” he said. “That was echoed in our social media post. There’s been a lot of support.”

Hands-On Halifax Community Workshop was established in 2016. The aim is to allow everyone access to woodworking tools no matter the skill level. (Hands-On Halifax Facebook page)

People have offered to donate tools. Money has also been donated, including a ‘substantial amount’ from a veterans’ advocacy group.

“It just rebuilds your faith in humanity,” Clearwater said. “There are 99 per cent good people out there who are willing to step up and assist when you’ve been cut off at the knees.”

They will get their keys for the new location they’re moving into on Wednesday and they’re hoping to be up and running again by the first of September.

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Is seeking refugee status a good option for Saudi students?

A Saudi Arabian student living in Canada says he will consider applying for refugee status if an order from his country to leave gets enforced.

He’s among 8,300 Saudi post-secondary students in Canada who have been told by the Saudi government to withdraw from their studies and leave. This comes following a foreign policy spat between Ottawa and Riyadh.

The man told the CBC’s As it Happens if things don’t cool down between the countries before his early September deadline, he will consider applying for refugee status.

The CBC is withholding the student’s name and specific location because he says he has spoken out about his government in the past and is worried about the consequences if he returns.

‘Not an unreasonable step’

Constance MacIntosh, an associate professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law who teaches about immigration, said she thinks applying for refugee status isn’t an unreasonable step for the student, and possibly others, to take.

“I’m certain that student and many others want to stay in Canada where they’ve been working hard to pursue their education for years — and they’re suddenly being pulled back on very arbitrary grounds.”

In order to obtain refugee status, MacIntosh said the student must prove that it is reasonable to believe his home state will persecute him. She said the history of Saudi Arabian refugee claims in Canada makes it likely an application could be successful.

“There were about 300 claims last year, and the success rate was between about 80 and 90 per cent, which is extremely high,” said MacIntosh.

Refugee status risks

But Halifax immigration lawyer Elizabeth Wozniak said despite the odds being in their favour, students who are considering applying for refugee status should take time to educate themselves on potential risks involved with the process.

“If you are here on a study permit, the first thing that happens when you make a refugee claim is you give up that study permit and you also give up your passport.”

In exchange for handing over these items, Wozniak said the student would then be given a conditional removal order which would be triggered if the claim was refused — and the applicant would be forced to leave Canada.

She said while waiting for their claims, students can apply for interim student permits, but even that process can take a few weeks to a couple months.

Immigration lawyer Elizabeth Wozniak says applying for refugee status might be a risky option for students. (Sherri Borden-Colley/CBC)

Students who graduate from Canadian universities are generally eligible for post-graduation work permits, and they could potentially be able to apply for permanent residence in time, said Wozniak.

“So there’s potentially an easier or less stressful way to do it than to put all of your eggs in the refugee basket.”

‘It’s not sunshine and roses’

Wozniak said the choice is up to the individual, but if they have a study permit issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada that is still valid, they would be able to continue studying.

Anybody who has a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of citizenship should make a refugee claim, said Wozniak.

“I would just make sure they’re aware of the risks involved in claiming refugee status. It’s not sunshine and roses. It’s not easy. It’s a rigorous, lengthy and stressful process.”

Roughly 835 Saudi Arabian students were registered in Nova Scotian universities last winter, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website. Their government has told them to leave Canada.

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Huge mosque yard sale helps Saudi students scrambling to sell belongings

Nahed Mohammad just bought a car in the parking lot of a mosque, in a unique yard sale that has dozens rushing to get rid of almost all of their belongings.

Carloads of people gathered in the parking lot of the Ummah Mosque on Saturday afternoon as Saudi students sold their belongings in preparation to leave Canada indefinitely.

“It’s a shame they have to leave on such short notice, they have to quit their jobs, their studies, some of them are doing their PhDs. Imagine what a crisis it is for them,” said Mohammad.

Everything must go

This comes after a diplomatic spat between Ottawa and Riyadh that has the 835 Saudi students enrolled in Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions packing their bags.

They are among 8,300 Saudi students in Canada who have been ordered by their government to leave their studies and the country behind.

On Sunday, the Saudi students opened the trunks of their cars to sell everything from dart boards to immaculate gold vases. Some were even selling the cars themselves.

Saudi students sold household items and other personal belongings at the mosque yard sale. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

“Our hearts go to them and we hope they’re going to do better in the future. But we’re doing our best here to help out,” said Mohammad.

She doesn’t personally know the young man who sold her his Nissan for only $1,500 — but she feels connected to the students.

“I don’t know them,” said Mohammad. “But in humanity, we are one.”

Behind Mohammad, a man is crouched down spreading out plush toys separated into clear plastic bags. The man is not from Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad said he is a local resident who is selling the toys and giving all the profits to the students who are preparing to uproot their lives.

‘This is the best way to help’

Imam Abdallah Yousri, worship leader at the Ummah Mosque, said this partnership between the mosque and the students came after he saw how many students were selling their belongings online.

“They’re selling their cars, their homes,  their furniture — everything. So we thought this is the best way to help them to do so.”

He doesn’t know what the best option for these students is in terms of finding ways to stay in Canada, because he said their situation is so complicated.

Imam Abdallah Yousri, worship leader at the Ummah Mosque, said he felt badly for the students who are being forced to leave Canada. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

“I have no idea what is the best solution for this but I am hoping we get out from all this nonsense and we can solve the problem,” said Yousri.

Yoursi said some of the students just arrived in Halifax for the upcoming school year, and are selling brand new belongings that they only bought in the last couple weeks.

“They don’t have many choices so they started selling their products and their belongings. We all hope we can find a solution as soon as possible. But I’m not sure if it will happen or not.”

This is the second yard sale, the first happened last Friday after prayer.

The students were told to leave by early September.

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Huge mosque yard sale helps Saudi students scrambling to sell belongings

Nahed Mohammad just bought a car in the parking lot of a mosque, in a unique yard sale that has dozens rushing to get rid of almost all of their belongings.

Carloads of people gathered in the parking lot of the Ummah Mosque on Saturday afternoon as Saudi students sold their belongings in preparation to leave Canada indefinitely.

“It’s a shame they have to leave on such short notice, they have to quit their jobs, their studies, some of them are doing their PhDs. Imagine what a crisis it is for them,” said Mohammad.

Everything must go

This comes after a diplomatic spat between Ottawa and Riyadh that has the 835 Saudi students enrolled in Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions packing their bags.

They are among 8,300 Saudi students in Canada who have been ordered by their government to leave their studies and the country behind.

On Sunday, the Saudi students opened the trunks of their cars to sell everything from dart boards to immaculate gold vases. Some were even selling the cars themselves.

Saudi students sold household items and other personal belongings at the mosque yard sale. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

“Our hearts go to them and we hope they’re going to do better in the future. But we’re doing our best here to help out,” said Mohammad.

She doesn’t personally know the young man who sold her his Nissan for only $1,500 — but she feels connected to the students.

“I don’t know them,” said Mohammad. “But in humanity, we are one.”

Behind Mohammad, a man is crouched down spreading out plush toys separated into clear plastic bags. The man is not from Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad said he is a local resident who is selling the toys and giving all the profits to the students who are preparing to uproot their lives.

‘This is the best way to help’

Imam Abdallah Yousri, worship leader at the Ummah Mosque, said this partnership between the mosque and the students came after he saw how many students were selling their belongings online.

“They’re selling their cars, their homes,  their furniture — everything. So we thought this is the best way to help them to do so.”

He doesn’t know what the best option for these students is in terms of finding ways to stay in Canada, because he said their situation is so complicated.

Imam Abdallah Yousri, worship leader at the Ummah Mosque, said he felt badly for the students who are being forced to leave Canada. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

“I have no idea what is the best solution for this but I am hoping we get out from all this nonsense and we can solve the problem,” said Yousri.

Yoursi said some of the students just arrived in Halifax for the upcoming school year, and are selling brand new belongings that they only bought in the last couple weeks.

“They don’t have many choices so they started selling their products and their belongings. We all hope we can find a solution as soon as possible. But I’m not sure if it will happen or not.”

This is the second yard sale, the first happened last Friday after prayer.

The students were told to leave by early September.

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IWK program provides pro bono legal services to families in need

A little-known program at the IWK Health Centre provides pro bono legal assistance to some families of patients at the hospital.

The hospital has partnered with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia and the Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper to create the IWK Family Legal Health Program.

Some of the types of law that they’ve encountered through this program include labour and employment issues, immigration law and access to government programs.

‘We needed some support’

Jackie Pidduck, a social worker at the IWK, told CBC’s Mainstreet that she often comes across legal issues at the hospital.

As social workers, she said she and her colleagues knew there must be ways to support these families, but they didn’t have the legal expertise to help.

“I think in relation to housing laws and also around immigration, we needed some support to be able to provide better care to the families that we serve,” said Pidduck.​

Andrea Hewitt, the collective social responsibility co-ordinator at McInnes Cooper, said the firm created a formal pro bono program six years ago.

They were in the process of creating partnerships with organizations when they reached out to the IWK. The relationship with the hospital began in 2015.

“We thought, ‘What a great opportunity for us to utilize our skills and our resources to help families in the community,'” said Hewitt.

Rewarding work

Hewitt said the firm started getting meaningful files and assigning them to lawyers who were excited by the opportunity.

One of the examples, said Hewitt, is when they worked with a family visiting from another country. The mother had children with her and was pregnant.

The woman had a high-risk pregnancy and was unable to leave Canada. A lawyer from the firm was able to get visas extended for the family members to enable the mother to remain in Halifax and have her child at the IWK.

Pidduck said legal matters can become sources of significant worry and having assistance with them can actually help the clients with their health.

“When patients and families actually feel like someone is on their side, that they have advocacy, that they know their rights, sometimes that piece of control over your situation also helps your health,” said Pidduck.

The program has limitations. For example, it is unable to assist with criminal law — but clients can be referred to where they can get help.

Many doctors and IWK staff didn’t know the program existed until recently.

Pidduck said the group spoke with the doctors, residents and other staff at the IWK recently. Many were unaware of the program.

The program has helped with more than 55 legal issues, worth $200,000 in services.

Hewitt said other law firms and lawyers have been assisting and they are looking for more to join in the effort.

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Nova Scotia teen wins international award for river cleanup work

One of province’s youngest environmental advocates, Stella Bowles is getting international recognition for her work to protect Nova Scotia waterways.

Bowles, 14, won first place in her age group at this year’s International Young Eco-Hero Awards.

She is the only Canadian on the international list of recipients who come from nine different countries. 

“It feels really good to be recognized. It helps spread my message as well,” Bowles said. 

Stella Bowles stands next to the LaHave River with part of her sampling gear. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Her science project at age 11 convinced three levels of government to pledge over $15 million to help clean up the LaHave River on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. 

When Bowles tested the river in the fall of 2015, there were 600 straight pipes dumping sewage directly into the water.

Work to swap out straight pipes for septic systems that include septic tanks, pump chamber, sand filters and drain fields began this spring. It’s expected 75 to 100 of the pipes will be replaced by the end of 2018 with the rest completed by 2023.

Bowles has been using grant money she received for her project to inspire other children in Nova Scotia. She has been running workshops to teach them how to test their waterways and encourage them to get involved in clean water work.

She also has a new book, My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River, that comes out in September outlining her journey. She hopes her book will become part of school curriculums in Nova Scotia one day.

“I hope it can show them that your age shouldn’t put a limit on what you can do,” said Bowles. “Age is just a number.”

But she doesn’t want to stop there, she thinks her generation has a lot of work to do.

Bowles said she hopes her story can inspire other youth to ask questions and to be proactive in creating environmental change.

Looking forward, Bowles said she wants to work with the provincial government to enforce the elimination of illegal straight pipes.

Stella Bowles shows a group of children in Wolfville, N.S., how to test their local waterways. (Submitted by Andrea Conrad)

The International Young Eco-Hero Awards recognize a wide-range of environmental projects.

They include everything from creating a composting program to starting an “elefriendly bus” which safely transports students around elephant areas.

The awards are presented by Action for Nature, an international non-profit organization based in California, that encourages young people to take action to better their environments.

The 18 recipients, ages eight to 16, will receive their awards at the end of August.

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Cat food at Dartmouth SPCA runs 'dangerously low'

The Dartmouth location of the Nova Scotia SPCA came close to running out of an important resource on Saturday morning. 

Heather Woodin, the SPCA’s provincial administration coordinator, said there were only a few cans of wet food left.

They put out a request for donations on Facebook, saying supplies were “dangerously low.” 

Wet food is important because it provides nourishment for kittens, cats who are sick, and for some cats it is all they will eat, said Woodin.

Although the SPCA does receive donations, she said it’s difficult to keep up with the needs of the approximately 300 cats and kittens in their care.

There’s an influx of animals in the summer and sometimes the organization can even take in 10 to 20 kittens per day, she said.

Kittens at the SPCA enjoying some of the wet food that was donated on Saturday. (Submitted by Heather Woodin)

Woodin said the current overflow has affected the food supplies but the challenges aren’t new. 

There has also been an increase in animals surrendered to the SPCA over the past few years, she said.  

The Nova Scotia SPCA adopted an “open admission” policy earlier in January of this year, which means they will no longer say no to surrendered or stray animals that are brought in. The organization also has a no-kill policy for when it gets overcrowded. 

Woodin said people started to come in with crates of wet food on Saturday afternoon and she she hopes for more in the next few days as the cans run out quickly.

“If you’re thinking about donating definitely now is the time and now is when we could use the most help,” she said.

In the meantime, the SPCA is working to solve the overflow of cats in its care by reducing the price of adult cat adoption by $60 over the long weekend.

She said they lose money on every adoption, but the organization tries to make up for the losses in donations.

Donations started coming in after the SPCA posted a plea for wet cat food on Saturday. (Submitted by Heather Woodin)

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Five hospitals in Nova Scotia to have emergency room closures this weekend

Five emergency departments in the province will be closing their doors for parts of the Natal Day long weekend.

Hospitals in Middle Musquodoboit, Lunenburg, Tatamagouche, Pugwash, and Shelburne will have closures over the next three days.

  • In Pugwash, the North Cumberland Collaborative Emergency Centre will closed Monday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • In Lunenburg, the Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital emergency department will be closed from Saturday at 7:30 a.m. until Sunday at 7:30 a.m.
  • In Tatamagouche, the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital Collaborative Emergency Centre will be closed overnight in August and September.
  • In Middle Musquodoboit, Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital’s collaborative emergency centre is closed and will reopen Saturday at 8 a.m.
  • In Shelburne, the Roseway Hospital emergency department is closed and will reopen on Saturday at 8 a.m. It will close again Saturday at 6 p.m. and reopen on Monday at 8 a.m. It will close again on Monday at 6 p.m. and reopen on Tuesday at 7 a.m.

Emergency room closures are not new to Nova Scotia.

The 38 emergency departments across the province have a total of 313,538 scheduled open hours each year.

report last year showed a total of 25,124.5 hours of closure for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, running from April until the end of March.

Though emergency room closures are not new, Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall said closures over the long weekend could mean a potentially dangerous situation for people in rural areas.

“It’s highly likely the risks increase over the long weekend,” said Mattatall. “It is terrifying to think that somebody’s health and life might be at risk.”

Kristen Lipscombe, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said in an email that temporary emergency department closures may occur when doctors, nurses or paramedics are unavailable.

“If coverage isn’t found, a temporary closure may be unavoidable,” said Lipscombe.

The nearest emergency rooms to Shelburne are in Liverpool and Yarmouth and both are between 45 minutes to an hour away.

“Sometimes I’m just left with the sense the decision-makers really aren’t thinking about it in terms of people’s lives,” said Mattatall. “People can die when they don’t have access to the services that they need.”

Mattatall said this is the longest closure she can remember happening in Shelburne.

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Police horses returning to duty as Lancers set to reopen after strangles outbreak

Two Halifax police horses are getting ready to return to active duty as the downtown stable where they live prepares to reopen its doors following an 11-week quarantine due to a highly contagious respiratory infection.

Sarge and Valour are two of the 27 horses that live at the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers, where the infection was discovered. Sarge is one of the horses that contracted strangles.

In a tweet Friday, Halifax Regional Police said the two horses are healthy and are in the process of getting ready to return to active duty.

We <a href=”https://twitter.com/HfxRegPolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HfxRegPolice</a> are so happy to report <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sarge?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Sarge</a> &amp; <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Valour?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Valour</a> are healthy!!!! They have begun the process of getting ready to return to active duty….but first they are getting treated to a spa day! Baths, grooming and lots of smiles from their human partners!! <a href=”https://t.co/8vqp7ziutl”>pic.twitter.com/8vqp7ziutl</a>

&mdash;@HRPMountedUnit

In May, an equine strangles outbreak forced the Bengal Lancers, a non-profit, to quarantine its stable and suspend all programs, including riding lessons, therapy sessions for adults and kids, and summer camps.

On Wednesday, the organization said in a Facebook post that all the horses at the stable are officially strangles free.

“Every single horse in the barn has now undergone 3 separate tests to confirm they are all free of strangles,” the post said.

The group announced it will be opening its doors again next week.

Strangles is caused by Streptococcus equi bacterium. It can cause enlarged lymph nodes in a horse’s throat, which can impair its breathing. The disease is highly contagious to horses.

Halifax police said Sarge and Valour will be treated to a spa day with baths and grooming before returning to duty.

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Man's dying wish lives on in the roar of guns at Citadel Hill

​Citadel Hill has gained two new rare replica cannons, known as guns, and they come with a special history.

Bruno Pépin, from Kingston, Ont., first visited Nova Scotia about 10 years ago. He fell in love with the historical re-enactments put on by the Halifax Citadel Society.

He loved it so much that one of his dying wishes was to have two of his precious replica cannons go to the national historical site. That wish has been fulfilled.

It doubles the Citadel’s rare replica cannon collection and puts them on their way to a goal of six.

Pépin was always a history buff. 

He had two replica guns made, paying to have wood imported from the United States for the wheels.

The guns are exact replicas of a battery of six that were used in Halifax in the late 1860s and 1870s.

Re-enactors pose with one of Bruno’s two guns that were brought to the Citadel earlier this month by his widow. (Robert Short/CBC)

A year ago, Pépin took the two guns on a 16-hour road trip, visiting Nova Scotia for the last time. He went with his friends to visit Citadel Hill and fell more deeply in love with the work being done for living history in Halifax.

“He had a great time and he loved how welcoming the fort was to him,” said his wife, Sophie.

Terminal Illness

After his visit, Bruno Pépin’s illness became terminal.

He had Caroli disease. It is a congenital disorder that affects the bile ducts within the liver and occurs in about one in a million people.

Sophie said her husband was strong-willed and didn’t let on how sick he really was. It wasn’t until after he died in May that she found medical records dating back 20 years and saw he had been on a waiting list for a liver transplant.

Rod MacLean, executive director of Halifax Citadel Society, says it has always been a dream for the group to recreate the original battery of guns. (Robert Short/CBC)

After he died, she went on a road trip to Halifax with two friends, bringing the two guns to their new home. She also brought some of her husband’s ashes to spread at a place he loved so dearly.

“Even with his ashes, when I spread his ashes on the Citadel, his ashes wouldn’t blow away,” she said. “They stayed on the grass. Even in his ashes he didn’t want to blow away.”

In retrospect, she said, his final visit to the Citadel last summer may have been a bucket-list wish.

The reeenactment group celebrated its 25th anniversary last weekend. (Robert Short/CBC)

‘It’s been a dream of ours’

Rod MacLean, executive director of the Halifax Citadel Society, said Bruno’s guns are special to the program for many reasons. 

“It’s always been a dream of ours to recreate that battery through our re-enactment program,” said MacLean.

Sophie Pépin says she didn’t know how sick her husband had been for the past two decades until going through medical records after his death. (Submitted by Sophie Pépin)

He said these guns add a lot of capacity to the program and allows the society to tell the artillery story much more fully than before.

There is also a special emotional importance of the guns and MacLean said there is an onus to take special care of them.

Sophie Pépin said her husband would be happy to be resting on the hill. She thinks a piece of him lives on in Halifax.

“I figured, because the cannons were there, a part of him was there. To spread [the ashes] out, he sort of has an overview of the cannons still.”

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