My Nova Scotia Hosting The Great Mid-Life Road Trip Fri, 17 Jan 2020 12:15:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My Nova Scotia 32 32 125914392 Blowing snow, slippery conditions shut down Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Pass Fri, 17 Jan 2020 12:15:26 +0000

Whiteout and slippery conditions have forced the closure of the Cobequid Pass this morning. 

The major link between Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada was shut down Friday at around 7:30 a.m. due to high winds and poor visibility, Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal announced on Twitter. 

A series of collisions on Highway 102 between exits 9 (Milford) and 11 (Stewiacke) forced RCMP to shut down that road around 7:30 a.m. The road was reopened about an hour later, however RCMP warned of continuing poor driving conditions.

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke says there were at least three collisions both northbound and southbound on Highway 102 between Milford and Stewiacke.

“The wind and the visibility is very difficult up there right now,” she said.

“So we’re asking people to take some extra time, really consider whether they need to be out there today and definitely adjust their driving to the weather conditions.”

High winds also forced Halifax’s MacKay Bridge to restrict crossings for heavy and high-sided vehicles, including transit buses. Any Halifax Transit buses which normally cross the MacKay are being detoured across Macdonald Bridge.

ONe of the many fender benders in the HRM on Friday. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Police asked people this morning to avoid any unnecessary travel this morning. 

“Roads are covered in snow and drifts, and visibility is very limited,” they tweeted. 


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Blowing snow, slippery conditions shut down some Nova Scotia highways Fri, 17 Jan 2020 12:15:26 +0000

Whiteout and slippery conditions have forced the closure of several major highways, including the Cobequid Pass, across the province this morning. 

The major link between Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada was shut down Friday at around 7:30 a.m. due to high winds and poor visibility, Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal announced on Twitter. 

A series of collisions on Highway 102 between exits 9 (Milford) and 11 (Stewiacke) forced RCMP to shut down that road around 7:30 a.m.

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke says there have been at least three collisions both northbound and southbound on Highway 102 between Milford and Stewiacke.

“The wind and the visibility is very difficult up there right now,” she said.

“So we’re asking people to take some extra time, really consider whether they need to be out there today and definitely adjust their driving to the weather conditions.”

High winds also forced Halifax’s MacKay Bridge to restrict crossings for heavy and high-sided vehicles, including transit buses. Any Halifax Transit buses which normally cross the MacKay are being detoured across Macdonald Bridge.

Cape Breton Regional Police asked people this morning to avoid any unnecessary travel this morning. 

“Roads are covered in snow and drifts, and visibility is very limited,” they tweeted. 


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When donors cross the line: Charitable sector grapples with sexual harassment Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:00:00 +0000

As Carly Butler got ready to attend another big gala for her job as a major gifts fundraiser, she put on a special dress she’d often wear on such occasions.

But for this particular event at a high-end Nova Scotia resort, she took an extra precaution, placing a safety pin at the neckline to be prudent.

She’d heard there had been “bad behaviour” at the event in the past.

As she and her co-workers arrived at the resort, one charity staffer joked to the crew, “OK, ladies, lock up your vaginas!” Soon after, Butler had an experience she would later describe as “a general disrespect of my professionalism.”

Her job as a fundraiser for the IWK Foundation — the charitable organization that supports the women and children’s hospital in Halifax — required her to drum up $1.5 million in donations the year she was employed there.

During the event, a potential donor asked her to meet him outside in 10 minutes so they could drive his luxury car down a nearby private runway, even though he was drunk. When she said no, he told her she could drive — that there were no police around, and what happened at the resort would stay at the resort.

She didn’t get in the car that day nearly five years ago. But she worries that younger or more vulnerable women starting out their fundraising career may have.

The IWK Foundation supports the IWK Health Centre, a women’s and children’s hospital that serves the Maritimes. (Robert Short/CBC)

As the #MeToo movement continues to sweep across industry after industry, some in the fundraising sector say it’s time for their profession to step up efforts to tackle and prevent sexual harassment.

Workers in some fundraising roles can be particularly vulnerable to harassment due to the deep power imbalance between fundraisers — who are often young women, and whose jobs depend on meeting donation targets — and donors, who are often wealthy older men.

And events like golf tournaments, galas or auction evenings — especially where alcohol is involved — are ripe for abuse of that inequality, say industry insiders.

CBC News spoke with nearly a dozen women across the country who work in the non-profit sector. Nearly all had experiences of being harassed by donors or other employees, either with unwanted touching, sexual innuendo or inappropriate propositions.

One spoke of a former premier grabbing her butt at an event, another of an older donor putting his hand on her knee and offering to “treat” her to a night at the iconic Ottawa hotel Chateau Laurier, while another woman told of a men’s group of potential donors leaving a photo of a naked woman on the podium where she was about to speak.

‘Watch out for this one’

Jacquie Stoyek, who worked in marketing at the IWK Foundation for about five years until leaving in 2017, attended the same fundraiser as Butler.

She recalled seeing a businessman — already intoxicated first thing in the morning — making comments about a foundation staff member and pretending behind her back to grab her butt.

Stoyek said a senior foundation staff member saw that and “kind of gave me the eyes of, like, ‘Watch out for this one,’ sort of thing, and it became this ongoing joke.”

The IWK Foundation declined to answer any questions about the fundraising event, saying in a two-sentence statement it is “unable to provide comment on the specific circumstances” of Butler and Stoyek’s allegations.

But at the time — after Butler reported the luxury car incident to her peers and superiors — she was told not to go future meetings with that donor by herself. Butler said the man cancelled a followup meeting with her when he learned she would not be alone.

The IWK Foundation said in a statement: “With respect to the issue of harassment, it is a very important topic in every sector and we continue to work within our organization to foster a culture of openness, respect and safety.”

The foundation would not comment on whether the event is still taking place.

A survey on sexual harassment conducted in 2018 by the Harris Poll for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that a quarter of female respondents and seven per cent of male respondents had experienced sexual harassment in the field.

The survey involved about 1,000 fundraisers, including about 900 people living in the U.S. and 100 living in Canada.

In nearly two-thirds of the incidents, a donor was the perpetrator.

But less than half of those who were harassed told their organization about the incident.

Harassment often goes unreported

Beth Ann Locke, who until recently served as the chief philanthropy officer for the B.C. Women’s Health Foundation, said women are worried about the questions that will be asked — “What did you do to make him do that? Did you flirt with him?”

They are also concerned that reporting the incident will hurt their career, say many in the industry. If they no longer work with a major donor who has harassed them, they may not get invited to events, be asked to take on large accounts or meet their donation targets for the year.

We don’t stand up for ourselves and we kind of allow this to happen in our own profession.– Beth Ann Locke

At small organizations, there often isn’t another staffer who can take over an account involving a harasser.

Fundraisers are also passionate about the organizations and causes they work for, and are reluctant to do anything that could harm them, say several of the women interviewed by the CBC.

Locke is one of the co-founders of Ms. Rupt, a group that aims to spark conversation and action on challenges facing female fundraisers.

“What drives me crazy is that all of us as fundraisers work to help people who have no voice — so whether that’s the Amazon rainforest or, you know, dogs in Halifax or people with dementia, right?

“And yet we don’t stand up for ourselves and we kind of allow this to happen in our own profession.”

Sexual harassment often comes in the form of unwanted touching, sexual innuendo or inappropriate propositions. (Eleanor Hannon, for CBC)

Locke said she has experienced several incidents of harassment over the course of her career, including someone asking her to be their “mistress,” someone stroking her arm and commenting on her skin and an uninvited hand on her knee under the table.

She said the most severe instance of harassment occurred years ago while she was working in the U.S., when a superior grabbed her wrist — which she promptly wrenched away — and then held his erect penis through his clothes, saying, “This is what you do to me.”

Locke said she reported the incident to human resources, which forced the man to take three days off without pay and lectured both parties about “this kind of stuff going on in our office.” 

“It was like a dressing-down you’d get from your parents,” Locke said.

How some organizations respond to allegations

That type of lacklustre response does not appear to be unusual, according to the Harris Poll survey.

Of the respondents who had experienced sexual harassment and told their organization about it, 71 per cent said no action had been taken against the perpetrator.

Thirty-five per cent of respondents who took steps to deal with the harassment said they experienced a negative impact on their career after reporting it.

Locke said organizations within the non-profit sector need to take allegations more seriously.

She said she’s heard stories of organizations giving donors or other perpetrators a “pass” for harassing behaviour: “‘He’s sweet.’ ‘Oh, don’t worry about it.’ Even kind of a ‘he doesn’t know what he’s doing’ thing.… Or ‘they’re from a different age when that was allowed.’ I’ve heard that one.”

Some smaller non-profits that run on a shoestring budget don’t have a separate human resources department to deal with complaints. 

In some cases, the human resource staff member may also be responsible for finances, Locke said, which can create a conflict of interest.

Lucy White, a Toronto consultant for the non-profit sector, said one of the barriers to change in the industry is that when people do file complaints about harassment, the cases are often settled out of court and out of the public eye, often with non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from discussing details.

“So the real problem is no one ever admits publicly that they did anything wrong and we never find out any of the facts,” White said. “We’re left in the dark about how often this kind of thing happens.”

That silence also means other organizations and those who sit on their board of directors never learn what kind of financial repercussions can stem from findings of harrassment, and the liabilities their own charities could face if allegations emerge.

“What happens is they think it’s not a big deal, right?” White said.

Work underway to address issue

There is some movement afoot to help prevent sexual harassment in the fundraising sector.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), an organization that has 3,500 members across Canada and over 30,000 internationally, has formed the Women’s Impact Initiative to address challenges facing women in the sector.

The AFP, which helped commission the Harris Poll survey, is following up on the results by interviewing fundraisers about their experiences of job-related harassment.

The association already has a donor bill of rights that outlines what donors are entitled to as a result of their donations, but it is now considering developing a similar document outlining a donor’s responsibilities when working with fundraisers.

The real problem is no one ever admits publicly that they did anything wrong and we never find out any of the facts.– Lucy White

Some in the profession say non-profits should take other concrete steps, including implementing and enforcing clear anti-harassment policies, overtly encouraging employees and bystanders to come forward with complaints and improving diversity on boards of directors.

But money is often the bottom line for charitable and non-profit organizations.

Perhaps accepting donations from harassers is where the buck must stop, said Caroline Riseboro, the president of AFP Toronto, the largest chapter in the world.

“If targets are missed, boards tend to get nervous. But, you know, boards need to understand if targets are missed because of a harassment issue, then that’s OK. Better to keep employees safe than to meet the target or the goal.”

Riseboro said she believes most boards do take action when they know about instances of harassment, but board members often don’t realize the behaviour is going on.

For some in the fundraising sector, any impending cultural change has come too late. 

Butler, the fundraiser who worked for the IWK Foundation, left the profession, saying despite the enjoyable aspects of the job, “there’s a whole bunch of distasteful things about it” — including, sometimes, the dynamic between the people who work in fundraising and donors.

“It doesn’t feel great after a while.”

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For every toll paid at the Cobequid Pass, private lenders have pocketed half Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:00:00 +0000

Two years ago today, senior officials from Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation faced questions from the legislature’s public accounts committee about the province’s only toll highway, the Cobequid Pass.

They called it “a very good success story,” a model project for so-called private-public partnerships in Canada. They assured the committee the debt incurred by the $124-million project would be paid off by April 1, 2020.

After that the tolls could be removed, the committee was told unequivocally.

Last week, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines upended that commitment when he said tolls will remain in place for at least another year in order to pay for new projects along the 45-kilometre stretch of Highway 104 through northern Nova Scotia.

But what is arguably the province’s smoothest and best-maintained section of highway has come at a steep price. Of the $348 million in tolls motorists have paid since it opened on Nov. 15, 1997, roughly half — $167 million — hasn’t even gone to paying construction costs or maintenance.

It has instead been gobbled up by interest payments to the private investors who bankrolled part of the project, according to a senior manager in the Department of Transportation who briefed the CBC this week on condition they not be identified.

According to the contract signed between the province and investors in the 1990s, backers were guaranteed a roughly 10 percent per year return, and that interest was compounded every six months.

Before the Cobequid Pass opened, Reader’s Digest ranked the two-lane road through Nova Scotia’s Wentworth Valley as one of the most dangerous in Canada. (CBC)

The Liberal government of John Savage authorized the Cobequid Pass construction through a controversial public-private partnership as a way to get a twinned highway built quickly, without further adding to the province’s debt.

“Adding to the provincial debt was not an option for this project,” transportation officials noted in a 1996 report.

At the time, the bypass was seen as a solution to dealing with a dangerous two-lane road through the Wentworth Valley, a section recognized by Reader’s Digest as one of the worst highways in Canada and dubbed “Death Valley” by locals due to dozens of fatal accidents.

The Nova Scotia and federal governments each contributed $27.5 million toward construction. A Crown agency, the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation, was created to come up with the remaining funds to design, build and administer the toll highway. Private investors contributed a total of $66.4 million to the project.

Nova Scotia’s then-auditor general, Roy Salmon, examined the project, still in its infancy, in his 1996 annual report. He concluded it would have been “significantly” cheaper for the province to simply borrow the money itself, rather than having private investors foot the bill.

Financial projections that approximately $151 million from tolls would be returned to the province, over the life of the 30-year contract, also never materialized.

Instead, all the money collected has gone to paying down the principal and interest, and to upkeep, improvements and running toll operations, including paying the roughly 60 full-time, part-time and contract employees who work for the Highway 104 Corporation.

As Nova Scotia auditor general, Roy Salmon authored a report critical of the decision to build the Cobequid Pass using a private-public partnership. (CBC)

Taxpayers have also chipped in almost $30 million to compensate for toll increases that were outlined in the contract but never implemented, and for discounts offered to frequent users.

So far, $35 million of the original debt has been repaid.

Although, as predicted by officials two years ago, there is now more than enough money in reserve accounts to wipe out the Highway 104 Corporation’s debt (and to pay a roughly $10-million penalty for doing so before the 2026 expiry of the province’s obligation to pay back private lenders), the plan now is to instead use some of that money for highway improvements.

This week, a senior staffer in the Transportation Department revealed there is no longer a definitive timeline for paying off the debt and eliminating the toll.

Hines told reporters a week ago the province is planning to build a pull-off for motorists who need a break, and a “satellite maintenance area” to station road crews and plows about midway along the Cobequid Pass.

He said he wanted those projects built before the province took over the highway and became responsible for its capital improvements and maintenance costs.

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the MLA for Cumberland North, argues the Cobequid Pass tolls should end as soon as the project’s debt can be paid off. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

For PC MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the decision is steeped in “government greed” rather than need.

“The legislation clearly states when the debt is paid the tolls are to be removed,” she said. “The debt could be paid today and the tolls should be removed.

“It’s an unfair tax on the people that live north of the Cobequid Pass, including my residents and citizens in Cumberland North.”

Despite warnings by the auditor general in 1996 that the province scrutinize more closely the “costs and benefits” of public-private partnerships, the Savage government defended the deal unequivocally.

“The government is confident that all facets of this public-private partnership are sound, supportable and conceived in the best interests of Nova Scotia,” transportation officials wrote in their official response to the auditor general’s observations.

Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said the tolls will remain in place in order to pay for a pull-off for motorists and a ‘satellite maintenance area’ to station road crews and plows. (Robert Short/CBC)

That optimistic view reins today in the minister currently responsible for the department.

In an email to CBC, Hines noted: “Behind the cost of the Cobequid Pass are lives that have been saved by having a safer piece of infrastructure in place for motorists.

“A highway that has reduced highway fatalities in the area can be considered a success.”

As for the price paid to borrow from private investors, the minister concludes: “Any infrastructure that we build, whether built traditionally or as a P3 model, has interest and a cost of borrowing.

“Even as a traditional build, a highway would have significant interest costs because of the rate of borrowing at that time.”

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CBU prof says he’s developed device that cheaply cleans waste water Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:00:00 +0000

A Cape Breton University chemistry professor is looking for help commercializing an electrical device that uses a natural chemical to inexpensively remove pollutants from industrial waste water.

Xu Zhang said he’s invented an electrical device and found a natural chemical that acts as a catalyst to rid industrial effluent of pollutants.

Zhang said the device is inexpensive and the natural catalyst makes the technology cost-effective.

He said the device can easily run on solar power or a single AA battery and can be automated and run remotely by computer.

How it works

The device works by adding the catalyst to contaminated effluent and running it past electrodes that remove the pollutants, said Zhang.

“Actually, it’s more like just burning molecules, but it’s very difficult, or it’s very expensive, to make a device to burn some organic pollutant molecules in water,” he said.

The catalyst is non-toxic and it takes itself out after the process is complete, leaving behind a salty solution that is similar to seawater, Zhang said.

The university recently issued a tender for a consultant to determine the best way to commercialize the technology.

Zhang said that could mean selling the invention to a business that would then contract it out to customers, or it could mean starting a company and licensing the technology to industrial users.

The device could be used to remove heavy metals such as arsenic or cadmium and other toxic chemicals like dioxins, pesticides or pharmaceuticals, he said.

Zhang’s research at Cape Breton University led him to a natural catalyst that is non-toxic, takes itself out after the process is complete, and leaves a salty solution similar to seawater. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Food processors, pharmaceutical companies and other industrial operations that produce contaminated waste water find it expensive to treat their effluent, Zhang said.

“Pharmaceutical companies, sometimes 10 per cent of their cost is essentially associated with the waste treatment,” he said.

“With our cost-effective technology, I believe I can help them to reduce their cost.”

Drawing inspiration from Cape Breton’s past

Cape Breton’s history of coal mining and steel making left behind a lot of industrial waste water, said Zhang, so it was natural to look for a solution to that problem.

“It’s not just limited to just Sydney or Cape Breton, but also Nova Scotia, even Atlantic Canada,” he said.

“This is a global … issue for people wanting to get clean and safe water to drink, so therefore we believe if we can develop some cost-effective technology, it will help a lot of people.”


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Man found not criminally responsible for killing wife gets her life insurance Thu, 16 Jan 2020 18:14:19 +0000

A Cape Breton man who was found not criminally responsible for killing his wife is entitled to receive 100 per cent of her life insurance policy, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has ruled.

Richard Dwayne Maidment, 52, who also uses the surname McNeil, killed Sarabeth Forbes on April 18, 2017, in the home they shared in Gardiner Mines, N.S.

Maidment has schizophrenia and his mental health had been deteriorating dramatically in the days before the killing. Forbes and their then 10-year-old son had moved out of the residence as a precaution the day before.

But on the morning of April 18 she returned to the home, where she was killed.

Maidment was charged with first-degree murder, but in December 2017 was found not criminally responsible and confined to the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s only secure psychiatric facility.

In 2015, Forbes had purchased a life insurance policy for herself naming her then boyfriend, Maidment, as the beneficiary. She named their son as an alternate beneficiary.

Friends describe Sarabeth Forbes as full of life and always smiling. (Supplied by Tanya Hennick-McNeil)

Maidment’s mother, Linda McNeil, laid claim to the insurance money on behalf of her son.

Sarabeth’s mother, Emeline Forbes, who is now raising the couple’s son, applied for the insurance money on his behalf. Because there were competing claims, Co-operators Life Insurance Company paid the claim to the court and left it to a judge to decide.

In a decision released Thursday, Justice Frank Edwards ruled the money should go to Maidment, not his son.

“There is a public policy rule which says criminals should not be permitted to benefit from their crimes,” Edwards wrote.

“That public policy rule has no application to this case. Richard has been found to be not criminally responsible. He is not a criminal.”

Edwards is the same judge who found Maidment not criminally responsible for the killing, an event he describes as “an unspeakably horrendous and tragic event for everyone involved.”


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As Northern Pulp shutdown looms, workers seek new careers Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:00:00 +0000

With their mill about to close, Northern Pulp workers are exploring their employment options, and many of those opportunities may be outside Nova Scotia.

A post on Facebook from Wednesday shows Northern Pulp workers posing with the final bales the mill will produce.

“A very sad post today … It was a very sad day, because they’re a family,” said Linda MacNeil, the Atlantic director for Unifor, the union that represents Northern Pulp workers.

Roughly 140 Northern Pulp workers attended a recruitment session by J.D. Irving that was held at the Northern Pulp mill on Tuesday.

“There are a number of skill sets of the workers which would be applicable at our other [operations], including shipbuilding, pulp and paper, and construction and equipment,” said J. D. Irving spokesperson Mary Keith.

On Wednesday, a group of Northern Pulp employees took a photo with the final bales the mill will produce. (Kimberly MacDonald MacLaughlin)

She said the company plans to hire 6,800 full-time positions by 2022, with 87 per cent of those jobs located in Atlantic Canada.

“It’s safe to say the majority of postings will probably be in New Brunswick,” Keith said.

Unifor said other employers in Nova Scotia’s forestry sector have also been recruiting at the mill, but the jobs don’t pay nearly as well.

Info session ignored

The provincial government organized an employment information session Tuesday in New Glasgow that attracted zero Northern Pulp workers, possibly because similar sessions had already been held at the mill.

“We had over 250 individuals in those sessions, so we’ve done a lot of this work … We’ve also had a number of people who have already been in to a lot of our organizations and centres inquiring,” said Amanda White of Nova Scotia Works.

She said some Northern Pulp workers have expressed interest in starting their own businesses or in obtaining certifications in trades where they have work experience from the mill.

The union said its members want jobs, not to be retrained.

“Politically, I’m sure it sounds great and [Premier Stephen] McNeil’s going to pat himself on the back for that. And some will take that opportunity, don’t get me wrong, so I’m not saying it’s a total bad thing, but what I am saying is it’s a far cry from if he had made the right decision [and not forced the closure of the mill],” said MacNeil.

Unusual offer

Meanwhile, Paper Excellence, the company that owns Northern Pulp, has offered to help relocate Nova Scotia workers to fill vacancies in B.C.

The company has also offered to recognize the union seniority of the Northern Pulp workers under the new contracts.

“I don’t give employers credit a lot, but I will give it where it’s due,” MacNeil said. “In this case, they deserve credit for actually thinking about their employees and their futures.”

Northern Pulp employees still have time to decide what to do next. MacNeil said that under their current collective agreement, they’ll continue to be paid until April 21.


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As planes slide off runways, Transport Canada accused of dragging its heels Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:00:00 +0000

Planes skidding off the end of runways and barrelling toward roads or other public spaces is a frightening scenario that happens an average of nine times a year in Canada.

But the country is lagging behind other nations in adopting new regulations to help keep passengers safe when a plane rolls off a runway, according to the Transportation Safety Board. 

For 12 years, the independent agency has urged Transport Canada to introduce new rules to force airports to expand the flat, empty spaces at the end of runways that give pilots extra room to stop if a plane can’t be halted in time.

“It has a safe place to decelerate and that would reduce the risk of injury or death,” Kathy Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview last year.

The risk of overruns has become clear in Nova Scotia, where in the last 14 months two planes have gone off the runway at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

A WestJet flight earlier this month slid 50 metres off the end of a runway. In November 2018, a Boeing 747 cargo jet went 210 metres and came to a stop dangerously close to a road. The cause of both incidents is still being investigated.

Kathy Fox, the chair of Transportation Safety Board of Canada, argues regulations should be put in place to force airports to expand their runway end safety areas. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Fox notes the “very vivid image” of an Air France flight in 2005 that went off the end of a Toronto runway and crashed into a ravine, injuring dozens of people. It shows, she said, why it’s important to expand what are known as “runway end safety areas.”

Currently, the government requires airports to have a 60-metre strip at the end of runways for overruns and recommends an additional 90 metres, for a total of 150 metres. The same is expected at the start of runways in case planes undershoot landings.

The TSB wants a 300-metre space at the end of runways that are 1,200 metres or longer. Those runways are large enough to accept big cargo planes and passenger planes that can carry hundreds of people.

The Halifax airport said all of its runway end safety areas are 150 metres in length. If Transport Canada should require a larger area, the airport will make the changes to keep up with the regulations, an airport spokesperson said in an email.

Some airports have gone further and adopted the full recommendation from the TSB. The Ottawa International Airport, the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport and the Vancouver International Airport all extended their runway end safety areas to 300 metres.

An emergency evacuation slide hangs from the wreckage of the Air France Airbus A340 at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in August 2005, one day after it skidded off the runway and burst into flames. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

The 300-metre area best reduces the hazards involved in runway overruns, according to the TSB. It’s also the length recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency that helps develop international rules for aviation.

Major airports in the United States have also adopted 300-metre runway end safety areas. 

Runway overruns generally occur during landings or rejected takeoffs, according to the TSB. It also says the terrain beyond the end of many runways in Canada could contribute to aircraft damage and injuries to passengers and crew.

Transport Canada refused a CBC News request for an interview, but in an email said it is looking at changing its regulations.

“Transport Canada is developing a regulatory change proposal that will improve safety for Canadians and establish Runway End Safety Area regulations that are in line with international standards,” said Frederica Dupuis, a spokesperson for Transport Canada.   

Transport Canada would not say what size it will require runway end safety areas to be, but the TSB says the government is expected to introduce rules for a 150-metre area, not the recommended 300 metres.

The cargo jet that left the Halifax airport runway in 2018 had been scheduled to be loaded with lobster destined for China. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Dupuis expects the proposed amendments to the Canadian Aviation Regulations will be published some time this year. But the federal institution has made promises like that before.

“If you look back at the history of this, Transport Canada has told us year over year that they were going to be enacting new regulations and every year it gets pushed to the right, so we’ll have to see what actually happens,” said Fox.   

In 2018, Transport Canada told CBC News that amending the regulations takes time and is a complicated process. The regulator has to consider associated costs, possible risks, other impacts and document all of those factors. 

As the years of waiting for new rules tick by, planes continue to go off runways — an average of nine a year across Canada, according to the TSB’s website. 

“In the case of runway overruns, we believe there is systemic issue across the country,” said Fox.  

The most recent runway overrun in Halifax happened on Jan. 5. The WestJet aircraft had 172 passengers and seven crew members on board. The company said there were no injuries. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Fox said some airports may worry they don’t have the room to expand. They could be in urban areas surrounded by buildings or near terrain like mountains that make it difficult to create large, flat spaces.

But she said there are ways around that problem. 

An engineered arresting system can be installed to slow an aircraft down in a shorter distance, she said. A series of blocks made with crushable concrete, or a mixture of concrete and foam, are placed at the end of a runway and break apart as a plane rolls over them. The friction on the wheels brings it gradually to a stop.

The system has been used in a number of airports in the United States and is credited with helping save several aircraft, according to Fox. 

The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the November 2018 incident involving the cargo plane in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

Fox said air transportation in Canada is, overall, very safe, but there’s still room for improvement. 

“The area of runway overruns is certainly one where we think more can be done by the regulator and by the airport authorities to make sure that if somebody runs off the end that there’s no significant damage and certainly no injuries or worse.”


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How Sesame Street-style puppets are making sex talks easier in rural N.S. Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:00:00 +0000

The scenario is familiar to many teenagers in Nova Scotia — things get out of hand at a field party and after too much alcohol someone starts recording on their phone.

But instead of a dry or awkward discussion, the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County in Amherst, N.S., is reaching for puppets to talk about sharing intimate images without consent.

It turns out felt-covered characters with big mouths and unfiltered emotions often succeed in ways lectures or brochures don’t, by enticing young people to open up about sexual health and subjects that often come with plenty of stigma. 

“We use them to reduce anxiety on a topic that can create a significant amount of anxiety,” said Rene Ross, the centre’s executive director and a certified sexual health educator.

“We’re able to really get right in the face of stigma and really challenge it … I don’t think that we would have the same effect if we did it with humans.” 

She said she often encounters discomfort — from students, parents and teachers — while delivering classroom-based sexual health programs in schools across Cumberland Country. Puppets like Betti the Yeti or Little Rene, a puppet in Ross’s own likeness, create an opening for a little laughter.

Little Rene and Little Kirstin are among the puppets that have tackled subjects like menstruation, romantic rejection and drinking. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

“It’s like permission to play. You have this image when you’re a youth and you want to look cool and stuff. Bringing puppets out, you can’t help but giggle,” said Kirstin Trochymchuk, the centre’s youth program co-ordinator. 

The centre has been making videos for a while to try to spread information through the rural county. Puppets have so far tackled subjects such as menstruation, romantic rejection and alcohol consumption.

“We need to create that balance because what we’re talking about, they are quite serious issues. But again, that’s why we use the puppets because they can bring both levity … [and] really, really serious issues with that different kind of connection,” Ross said. 

A recent video, recorded in the council chambers of the Municipality of Cumberland County, had “Judge Truthy” presiding over the fallout of a field party. One of the puppets had disclosed she was a virgin while intoxicated and the judge weighed in on the rules around sharing private videos. It has garnered more than 11,000 views on Facebook.

Each year Ross speaks to about 2,000 students in schools. She often leaves study guides that go along with videos so teachers can continue the discussions. 

She and Trochymchuk started using puppets a year ago to try to connect with young people. But even Ross, who has been working in the field of preventing sexual violence for about two decades, was surprised with the results.

In the classroom and through the centre’s youth programs, kids often ask questions they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable voicing when they’re using puppets, said Trochymchuk

“It’s like a disguise almost, it’s not them. It’s the puppet,” she said.

The next video will tackle the story of Sleeping Beauty and explore issues related to consent. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

This has also translated into more people opening up.  

“People will tell things to puppets that they would never, that they don’t tell to adults. So the amount of disclosures has actually increased with the use of puppets. And we’ve been able to do a lot more deep one-on-one work,” said Ross.

Young people have also been involved in all the videos, from creating the puppets to developing the storyline. Ross said the youth are quick to point out when language is outdated and suggest specific scenarios, like the character who disclosed she was a virgin.

There’s still a long list of topics to tackle based on suggestions from educators and trends that emerge from classroom question boxes. Rates of sexually transmitted infections, access to health care and sharing intimate images are high on the list.

Part of the goal is to create sexual education for digital spaces, Ross said, especially since young people are already learning about sex online and it’s not all positive or educational. Videos are posted on Instagram, Tik Tok and Facebook

“Our kids are living in a digitized time, they’re living in a digital community. There’s so much harm, there is so much hurt, so much anxiety out there that good sexual health education is needed more than ever,” Ross said.

“It makes it more private, so they’re learning sexual health on their own terms, right? They’re going to watch it with a friend or themselves and they’re going to learn it that way,” added Trochymchuk.

She and Ross have put in extra hours learning how to manoeuvre puppets and how to shoot and edit videos. There’s no fancy set. A green screen in their tiny office in Amherst, N.S., often serves as a backdrop and they scour secondhand shops for items that can be recycled as tiny costumes.

Part of the inspiration came from the classics: Mr. Dressup, Sesame Street and the characters created by puppeteer Jim Henson.

Not only did they inspire Trochymchuk’s early love for puppets and spark her creativity, but they showed that educational videos can be captivating.

“I learned from Mister Rogers, for example, that you don’t have to have high production value. As long as you have the message, it doesn’t matter that our tripods are taped together with duct tape, which they actually are,” Ross said with a laugh. 

Ross and Trochymchuk are planning a project about gender identity and correct pronouns at the high school level. Their next video will explore a classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, and the role of consent.


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Nova Scotia-born wrestler Rocky Johnson, 75, has died Wed, 15 Jan 2020 23:59:54 +0000

Nova Scotia-born wrestler Rocky (Soul Man) Johnson, father of movie star and wrestler Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, has died at the age of 75, according to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Born Wade Douglas Bowles, Johnson was originally from Amherst.

Johnson was a WWE Hall of Famer and former World Tag Team Champion, the WWE noted in its obituary.

He made his pro wrestling debut in southern Ontario before rising to fame in the National Wrestling Alliance in the mid-1960s.

He started in the WWE in 1983 with rivalries with the likes of Greg (The Hammer) Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis.

Eventually, he teamed with Tony Atlas as The Soul Patrol and the two men became the first black World Tag Team Champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on Dec. 10, 1983.

After Johnson retired from wrestling in 1991, he helped train his son, The Rock — a nickname that was partly in tribute to his father.

The younger Johnson went on to become the first-ever black WWE champion and then transitioned into a successful career as an actor.

Rocky Johnson was inducted by his son into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 2019, Rocky Johnson published a memoir called Soulman.


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