'Art and accessibility go hand in hand' at Halifax festival

More than 30 disabled artists showcased and sold their creations Sunday at an accessible, inclusive event in Halifax that included American Sign Language interpreters and sighted guides.

Sara Graham was one of the co-ordinators for the seventh annual Art of Disability Festival. Being partly deaf herself, she recognizes the importance of bringing people with disabilities together to share their art.

“It’s about taking risks and chances, and giving opportunity to people who want it,” she said. “I think it’s really important that accessibility is showcased and I think that art and accessibility go hand in hand.”

Helene Comstock, who is partly blind, crochets, weaves, knits and makes ornaments by hand. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

Among the artists were painters, photographers, a maker of pet treats, a DJ, an author and even a chocolatier.

The event was run by Independent Living Nova Scotia, a charity that supports persons with disabilities by enabling them to “remove social and environmental barriers.”

Shelley Adams had a table of knitted goods set up near the entrance. Her service dog, Pogo, was beneath the table.

“I’m blind, so I think that it’s kind of an interesting craft to have,” she said. “A lot of people think it’s so visual, but I learned when I lost my vision. I love being able to create different patterns based on how things feel.”

The seventh annual Art of Disability Festival took place Sunday, Aug. 12 at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel in Halifax. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

Beside Adams was Helene Comstock, who’s partly blind. Her table was filled with bright, colourful items. She makes items like crocheted items, cards and Christmas ornaments.

Comstock uses her partial blindness to influence her art.

Shelley Adams and her service dog, Pogo, attended the festival for the first time. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

“It’s a lot to do with colour,” she said. “When I look at a picture of something, sometimes because of my vision it’s all blurry, but I can see the colours.”

Comstock is no stranger to disability festivals and said this was her third or fourth time attending.

“I always look forward to coming here,” she said. “It’s a good way to meet other artists and promote my own art, so it’s very good that they have this event.”

Dennis McCormack is a poet and songwriter. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

At the front of the ballroom, Dennis McCormack recited his poetry on stage. Besides visual art, artists are invited to showcase song, dance and other performances. For McCormack, it’s a way to make his written art more accessible to people.

“I’m making the poetry available now not only in word but in sound,” he said. “What brings me here is the profound ability and capability of these different disabilities.

“We have people here with physical challenges, mental challenges, but they’re people who have a story to tell, a talent to share.” 

Dennis McCormack described a painting by Kimberly Csihas in this way: ‘I just saw a painting where I saw fingers holding up light in a dark world. That light will become the light that we all need.’ (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

McCormack said the art often reflects how people with disabilities experience life.

“I love to come here because their artwork takes me away,” he said. “I just saw a painting where I saw fingers holding up light in a dark world, and that light will become the light that we all need.”

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Clearwater happy with federal decision on Arctic surf clam licences

Clearwater Seafoods Ltd. is applauding a federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans decision to cancel a fourth Arctic surf clam fishing license, that currently leaves the company with a monopoly on the lucrative shellfish export.

In February, then-fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc announced the department was awarding a licence to Five Nations Clam Company, led by Elsipogtog First Nation, N.B., and Premium Seafoods of Arichat, N.S. It would have allowed the company to harvest 25 per cent of the Arctic surf clam quota.

DFO announced Friday that it cancelled the license in early July. There was no explanation provided for the decision.

The Arctic surf clam is a bright red tongue-shaped seafood that is exported to Asia for sushi. The First Nations quota — some 9,600 tonnes a year — was a prize worth tens of millions of dollars.

The license was awarded based on its benefits to the Indigenous community. That sparked controversy when it was unclear exactly how involved the Indigenous community was with Five Nations Clam Company.

Court records filed in April revealed that Five Nations was only 25 per cent Indigenous-owned.  

The Arctic surf clam is a bright red tongue-shaped seafood that is exported to Asia for sushi. (Robert Short/CBC)

Minister LeBlanc also faced criticism for having possible family ties to Five Nations Clam Company. Conservative fisheries critic Tom Doherty suggested that LeBlanc’s wife had a financial stake in the winning bid. LeBlanc moved to Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade after the cabinet shuffle in July. 

It is unclear who currently has access to the remaining 25 per cent quota of clams at this time. In an email to CBC News, DFO said: “The remaining 25 per cent of the 2018 [total allowable catch] may be made available following discussions with the current license holder.” 

Clearwater told CBC that they are “ready and willing to harvest the 25 per cent of the clam quota for 2018 and 2019 in order to allow the economic benefits to remain in coastal communities while the Minister considers next steps.” 

The Arctic surf clam is one of the main products produced at Clearwater Seafood;s processing plant in Grand Bank, N.L. (Clearwater Seafoods)

Clearwater says it employs staff from over 52 communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Without access to the 25 per cent remaining quota “adjustments in our business would have been required,” the company says.

Rex Matthews, mayor of Grand Banks where Clearwater does most of its processing, says a 25-per-cent loss in quota would mean cuts to jobs and hours.

The DFO says a new process to award a fourth Arctic surf clam license will be launching in spring of 2019, with a decision finalized by 2020.

See more articles from CBC Nova Scotia

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Mail delivery service to resume after contract drivers halt strike

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have agreed to return to work at 7 a.m. on Friday following an agreement to meet this weekend to resume negotiations with Nor-Pel, a Quebec-based delivery company operating in parts of the Maritimes.

A new conciliator was appointed was appointed on Thursday morning. The conciliator will meet with representatives of the two sides on Saturday in Halifax.

Workers had established a picket line at a Canada Post sorting plant in Sydney, but it was ended on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Gordon MacDonald, CUPW Breton local president, has been one of the workers on strike. He says the news of the meeting brings excitement for workers.

“From the start this is all we wanted to have happen, to have discussions with the employer,” he said. “We’re going into this with very cautious optimism, but certainly excited and happy to be back to the work that we enjoy.”

About 20 workers who deliver for Nor-Pel, which is contracted by Canada Post, have been on strike since Wednesday morning. They are seeking better pay and benefits.

Workers are still in a legal strike position.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

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Talks between Yarmouth, surrounding municipalities over fire dispatch break off

Negotiations between the Town of Yarmouth and the municipalities that use its fire dispatch service have ended unresolved.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said that they have failed to reach a “fair and equitable” agreement for sharing the cost of the service. She said the town pays 70 per cent of the cost associated with the four dispatchers.

Fire dispatch provided by the town is contracted out to 24 volunteer fire departments in the region. Each department pays $100 per month.

But those fees only cover $28,800 a year out of a total cost of $260,000. Mood said that cost should be distributed among all municipalities using the service and not put on Yarmouth’s taxpayers.

Alain Muise, Argyle’s chief administrative officer, stated in a press release that users of the service agreed to an increase in funding to “aid the Town in the preservation of this local service.”

But the offer was rejected by the town on the grounds the numbers were not “fair and equitable.”

Muise said Yarmouth should be bearing the brunt of the cost.

“I believe that those that use the service the most and have control over the delivery of that service probably would be in a situation where they have to pay a premium,” he said. “That would be the Town of Yarmouth.”

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says she is looking for a “fair and equitable” solution to negotiations with municipalities that use Yarmouth’s fire dispatch service. (CBC)

Mood’s original plan to reduce cost was to put the service up for tender and eventually to lay off the four dispatchers. She has since changed her opinion.

Yarmouth sends letter to fire chiefs

“We’re really hoping that we can maintain the service,” she said. “The 24 volunteer fire departments … we know they see tremendous value in continuing dispatch as it is.

“We’re hoping they will look upon our proposal favourably [so] that we can get back to business as usual.”

The Town of Yarmouth sent a letter Thursday morning to the chiefs of all 24 volunteer fire departments offering solutions.

Proposed ideas include dividing dispatch costs by percentage of calls per region. The chiefs have until Sept. 24 to respond.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

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Convicted killer William Sandeson wants computer back for 'sentimental' reasons

Convicted killer William Sandeson went back to court Thursday morning to ask Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service to return his computer. 

Sandeson, a former Dalhousie University medical student, made the request in a video hearing, telling the court that information on the computer had “sentimental” value.

He didn’t say exactly what he meant.

The computer was seized during the investigation into the death of Dalhousie University student Taylor Samson. A jury convicted Sandeson of first-degree murder in June 2017 following the man’s disappearance. 

Samson’s body has never been found. 

Sandeson is appealing his murder conviction. 

He’s also been involved in a subsequent legal battle. Earlier this year, he took Dylan Zinck-Selig to small claims court after his former roommate admitted he took some of Sandeson’s homemade wine and two pairs of sneakers after police searched the pair’s apartment. 

The court awarded Sandeson $700. 

The judge Thursday, however, said he was uncertain whether he had jurisdiction to hear Sandeson’s request given the appeal request. 

The Crown argued that Sandeson’s computer cannot be released as it could be considered evidence if that appeal goes ahead. 

The prosecution instead offered to provide a copy of the computer’s hard drive to Sandeson’s father. While Sandeson accepted that suggestion, he argued that he wants to machine itself. 

The hearing will resume Aug. 9.

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Athletes play hard, but Special Olympics about friendship

For many athletes the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games are more than an athletic competition. They are a dream come true.

James McDonald is playing basketball for Nova Scotia at the national event being held in Antigonish this week.

“I joined in 2016,” he said Wednesday. “I build a lot of friendships here and I just really enjoy playing basketball with my friends.

“I never thought two years ago that I’d be here playing with teams [from] across [Canada].”

It is the second time the national event has been held in Nova Scotia.

It’s hard to recognize Antigonish, a town of 4,000. It is packed with more than 1,000 athletes, 200 coaches and thousands of fans from all across the country.

A quarter of the town’s population is volunteering at the event. 

There is competition in athletics, basketball, bocce, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, softball and swimming. 

To compete in the games, athletes must qualify at local and provincial levels.

In the stands, basketball player Lennie Porter watched Nova Scotia play.

His team, representing New Brunswick, was due to play next.

“I’m here to play basketball … we are going to go out and play and hopefully we can do our best to win. I’m so pumped to be here.”

Lennie Porter gets ready to play basketball for Team New Brunswick. (Steve Lawrence/CBC News)

John Hodgin, Porter’s coach, said the athletes look forward to the competition every year.

“It just means the world to them,” he said. “They get to go out and have fun. The whole spotlight’s on them and that’s what they love.”

Parents agree. The stands near the track are packed with fans with signs and T-shirts supporting their province and athletes.

Brenda Fraser and her family are watching their children compete in four events for Nova Scotia.

“They’re so hyped, they’ve been hyped the last few months” she said. “We’re watching our kids do their personal best. The friends they’re meeting — the teams are fantastic.”

An athlete receives her medal for the 10-kilometre run. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

Shelly Latta is cheering on her daughter, Emily, who competes for Nova Scotia in athletics.

“It’s an absolutely awesome community. Emily didn’t really have a place in regular sports so we got involved with the Special Olympics. It’s an awesome extended family.” 

Athletes can receive medals in their events, but that’s not the main objective.

“My favourite part is playing with my friends, making new friends and really enjoying the sport,” says McDonald,

Brenda Fraser and her family look at track and field. (Steve Lawrence/CBC News)

It’s the camaraderie that impresses Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan.

“The teams are playing, and playing hard, against each other, but they’re also cheering on when someone makes a good shot.”

Duncan announced plans this week for the federal government to invest $16 million over five years to support the Special Olympics. She hopes it will change the public perception of people with an intellectual disability. 

“When those athletes marched into the arena, the sound was deafening,” she said. “They are champions when they arrived here. They have won the right to [represent] their provinces and territories, and I want all the athletes to know the whole country is cheering them on.” 

Porter’s family is cheering him on from their home in New Brunswick. For them, he has a message.

“Hi Mom and Dad. I love you guys back home. I’m going to make you guys so proud.”

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Pay attention to pets as temperatures soar, says expert

As temperatures soar across Nova Scotia, pet owners are reminded that pets are not as equipped to deal with the heat as we may think. After all, they are wearing full fur coats. 

Samantha Lawrence, an animal-care specialist at Homeward Bound City Pound in Dartmouth, says the shelter takes steps to ensure their animals are safe in the heat.

“We try to minimize the amount of time our animals spend outside,” she said. “We limit the amount of time volunteers take them out for walks and we try to limit the amount of time that they go in the back exercise run.”

Mischa and Mila use the water to keep their temperature down. (Sara Lowe)

Different breeds of dogs handle heat differently. Lawrence says that dogs with fair skin or thin hair are at risk of getting sunburn and owners should use pet-safe sunscreen for their protection. 

Dogs with short snouts and pushed-in faces, like French bull dogs and pugs, can’t handle the heat as well as others. These dogs have a difficult time breathing and panting, which keeps them cool.

“You can take them out for potty breaks and short walks,” says Lawrence, “but you have to be very cautious because they can overheat really easily.”

Pugs and other short-nosed breeds have trouble breathing in hot weather. (Danica DeJong)

There are ways to tell if a dog is not coping well with the heat. Increased panting, red gums and lethargy are all indicators that a dog has had too much sun.

In bad cases, a dog could have a seizure. “If you’re noticing anything off, consult your veterinarian,” says Lawrence. 

Buddy, a golden retriever, is shown at Chez Deslauriers beach in Pomquet. Dogs with fair skin and thin hair are at risk for sunburn. Experts recommend pet-safe sunscreen. (Tiffani Woodington)

There still are ways to have fun in the sun with your pets. For walks, Lawrence advises going out in the morning and evening when the sun isn’t as strong.

Sidewalks and roadways can be too hot for a dog’s paws in the middle of the day. There should be shaded areas In the backyard with access to drinking water.

Lawrence recommends freezing food and toys in water as a fun treat for your pup. (Jenny Cowley)

One trick is to set up a kiddie pool or sprinkler. “It keeps them cool and it keeps them having fun, especially if they like water,” says Lawrence. 

For a special treat, Lawrence suggests freezing wet food, treats and toys in a large bowl of water. “It takes them a while to get to the good stuff, but it’s a good way to keep them cool.” 

Owners should treat pets as they would treat themselves, says Lawrence.

“If you’re feeling the heat, your dogs are especially going to be feeling the heat. Don’t subject them to anything you wouldn’t be comfortable with personally.”

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia   

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Nova Scotia will fund HIV-prevention drug PrEP

Nova Scotia will cover the HIV-prevention drug PrEP under the provincial pharmacare program, the government announced Friday. 

The government said PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, helps prevent the spread of HIV, especially with people at high-risk for infection. It will be covered starting Monday. 

The move comes days after CBC News reported a big increase in HIV cases in Nova Scotia. The province has seen 16 new cases already in 2018, compared to the average of about 16 for an entire year. 

Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, said the drug is effective at preventing HIV infections when people also practice safe sex. 

“There is now clear evidence on the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV. Any steps that increase access to PrEP are important contributions to reducing the impact HIV has on individuals, communities and our health care system,” he said in a media release. 

He said people interested in using the drug should talk to a primary health-care provider to find out if they’re eligible. 

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