My Nova Scotia Hosting The Great Mid-Life Road Trip Sun, 22 Sep 2019 09:34:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My Nova Scotia 32 32 125914392 Lynn Coady muses about love, loss and long-term care with novel Watching You Without Me Sun, 22 Sep 2019 09:34:11 +0000

Edmonton short story writer and novelist Lynn Coady — who won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013 for novel Hellgoing — is originally from Nova Scotia. Coady finds the funny and the absurd in family life — and both are front and centre in her latest novel, Watching You Without Me. It’s about a woman named Karen who, after the death of her mother, goes back home to Nova Scotia to care for Kelli, her sister, who is disabled and requires a caregiver.

The work of a caregiver

“I grew up in Cape Breton. When I was a kid, my parents were in a situation whey they had to look after my aging grandparents. At first, they would come up from Margaree every summer to stay with us in Port Hawkesbury. They stayed down in our basement. They would also bring my uncle, who was developmentally disabled — like the character Kelli in the book — and who always needed care. 

When I was a kid, my parents were in a situation whey they had to look after my aging grandparents.

“My grandfather died when I was about 14. My grandmother was with us a lot longer and almost made it to 100. She was home with us the whole time, along with my uncle who needed somebody with him all the time. It wasn’t always easy. My dad had a bitterness about the fact that we couldn’t take vacations or go anywhere due to this caregiver situation. Sometimes I wondered why it had to be the way it was.” 

A time to care

“When my parents retired, they moved to Dartmouth. They now have caregivers coming in regularly and, these days, there’s a little bit more access to that kind of help. I started writing Watching You Without Me around the time my brother and I were giving each other those looks, understanding that it’s going to be on us now as our parents are in decline.

“It’s a sad stage that we all get to. My mind just started going to a dark place because I didn’t want to think about all the ramifications of the situation. I thought I’d write a scary novel as a result — perhaps to find a nice metaphor for everything that scared me at this stage of life.”

Caregiving benefits

“Kelli was the character who got me through writing the book, which wasn’t fun to write at times. People would ask me what my book was about and I felt I couldn’t reduce it to being about infirmity, death, grieving and housework — even though that’s what the book is about! But then I would think about Kelli and I loved her as a character. I feel incredible affection toward her in the same way I feel toward my uncle, who is very similar.

In the book Karen is regretting is the idea that she convinced herself that caregiving is a way of cancelling yourself out.

“In the book, Karen is regretting is the idea that she convinced herself that caregiving is a way of cancelling yourself out. What she’s starting to realize, now that she’s spending time with Kelli, is caregiving can be incredibly rewarding and it’s a way of being human. She’s been denying herself, for all of her adulthood, and telling herself that’s bad. To bond with Kelli feels good. 

“This is, in a way, awful because she’s denied herself that her entire adulthood. She’s denied herself a relationship with her mother.”

Lynn Coady’s comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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N.S. bird watchers shocked by ‘staggering’ bird declines Sun, 22 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000

Bird watchers in Nova Scotia say they are shocked but not entirely surprised by the findings in a recent report that estimates there are nearly three billion fewer birds in Canada and the United States than there were half a century ago.

The report published Thursday in the journal Science counted a loss of 2.9 billion birds compared with 1970, which represents a population decline of 29 per cent and an “overlooked biodiversity crisis.”

“This has been something that has been talked about for many years,” said Lucas Berrigan, who works for Bird Studies Canada.

“We’ve been sort of peripherally aware of it, [it’s] just never been summarized in this way before.”

The study was co-authored by Environment Canada and Climate Change Canada, along with five United States agencies. It combined population data from more than 500 species going back half a century.

Its findings reflect what’s happening in the Maritimes, said Berrigan.

“This is not just North America,” he said. “There is a global crisis and I think we need to… take this more seriously than we have previously.”

Lucas Berrigan says bird population declines are a global crisis. (Submitted by Lucas Berrigan)

While Bird Studies Canada does not have the same kind of statistics, it is monitoring certain populations, such as aerial insectivores and seabirds like Leach’s storm petrel.

“Barn swallows, chimney swifts and nighthawks, as well as seabirds, storm petrels in particular, these are birds that are usually out of sight of most people, but they are of a significant importance ecologically,” Berrigan said.

“We’ve seen quite large declines in those populations. The largest population of one of these seabirds has declined nearly 50 per cent in the past 35 years.”

Others impacted include backyard birds, warblers, finches, sparrows and songbirds, as well as long distance birds like swallows and sandpipers that come to Canada from the Arctic.

Berrigan noted that another recently published paper spoke about how neonicotinoid — a pesticide — is affecting bird migration.

“In short, they lose a significant amount of body fat when feeding on seeds treated with very small amounts of [neonicotinoids],” he said.

“Body fat is extremely important for migratory birds since it determines how far they can fly at a given time.”

Andrew Holland, a spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, said birds are important for many reasons and everyone should care about their decline.

“It’s staggering really,” Holland said of the study’s findings.

The study noted that birds provide important benefits to ecosystems, such as pest control, pollination and seed dispersal. (Submitted by Lucas Berrigan)

“When you look at those numbers, clearly it’s a signal that there needs to be more conservation of lands that protect the habitats for the birds that are remaining so that they have a fighting chance of bouncing back.”

Habitat loss and climate change are among the major factors impacting the decline of bird populations.

Free-roaming domestic cats, collisions with glass, pesticide use and a decline in insects are also factors, he said.

Holland suggested that people leave their cats indoors.

“A lot of lands have been lost — wetlands, forests, coastal shoreline areas have been lost to erosion, storm surges, development and subdivisions,” said Holland.

“So what’s happened is these birds have been displaced and they’ve lost their traditional habitat and they’ve had difficulty relocating.”

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Triumph of engineering: Halifax man switching classic car to electric power Sun, 22 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000

A research engineer at Dalhousie University is in the process of retrofitting his classic car to be powered by electricity.

Nathaniel Pearre brought his 1971 Triumph Spitfire to the Halifax Waterfront on Saturday for the Electric Avenue — an event that touts itself as the largest electric vehicle event in Atlantic Canada.

“Having a little electric convertible is something that’s a little bit rare on the market and having something that has the vintage style is a nice touch,” Pearre said.

Pearre is with the Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory at Dalhousie, a group he described as “enthusiasts of all things electric, including renewable energy and energy storage and electric drive.”

Getting started

He found the convertible in New Brunswick on Kijiji about a year ago. He said it was a good candidate for an electric conversion because “it had a pretty solid frame and body, but a lousy drive train.”

During the winter, Pearre said he slowly removed all the greasy bits and over the summer he hired an undergrad, Mitch Gregory, to work on the vehicle to develop necessary enclosures and to do a lot of the fabrication work.

“We were in the Dalhousie heavy prototype lab, so we could really make some progress over the summer and get it to the state that it was in at the show, but we had to get out of the lab by the time the students came back for fall semester,” he said.

Almost ready to drive

The convertible isn’t ready to drive — but it’s close. “There’s a lot of fiddly work,” Pearre said.

“In an ideal world, it might be two more weeks of work but it’s gone from being a full-time project of an energetic undergrad to a weekend and evenings project, so timelines tend to drag,” he said.

“But we hope to make it driveable, if not get it on the road by the end of the year, and then over a long cold winter try to refine suspension and make it more roadworthy.”

He said retrofitting a classic car to be electric is not the most sensible or the most economical route, but he said it’s a great route for anyone wanting a hobby and a passion and a fun vehicle for Sunday driving.

“The motivation for building this car was not to save the world, the motivation for building this car was to have fun,” he said.


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Woman seriously injured in car crash on Highway 125 in Cape Breton Sat, 21 Sep 2019 17:28:31 +0000

Nova Scotia RCMP are investigating a car crash Friday night in Cape Breton Regional Municipality that sent six people to hospital, including four children.

Police say the vehicle transporting six people left Highway 125 at Leitches Creek, rolled and ended up in a ditch at around 7 p.m. 

A woman passenger was ejected at the scene and suffered serious, life-threatening injuries. She was transported by LifeFlight to the QE II Hospital in Halifax.

Cpl. Lisa Croteau said Saturday she did not have any updated information on the woman’s condition.

The four children in the car were transported to hospital for observation and released in the morning.

The driver, a 27-year-old man from North Sydney, sustained minor injuries, was transported to hospital and was also released in the morning.

The incident remains under investigation.

Croteau said charges are pending against the driver of the car.

She could not say what those charges are likely to be.

Highway 125 was reduced to one lane in the area for several hours, then closed for a period of time. It has since been re-opened.


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Possible gas leak reported on Bloomfield Street in Halifax Sat, 21 Sep 2019 12:40:45 +0000

Heritage Gas says it’s responding to a report of a damaged gas line on Bloomfield Street near North-End Halifax.

Emergency responders, including police and Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, are at the scene on Bloomfield Street.

The utility has released few other details at this time but said on Twitter that Bloomfield Street is blocked off at Gottingen as they investigate the possibility of a gas leak. 


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Drone, night vision equipment used to find missing hikers in Halifax Sat, 21 Sep 2019 11:26:07 +0000

Two hikers are safe after being reported missing in the winding trails of Halifax’s Long Lake Provincial Park just after midnight Saturday.

Due to the size of the area, first responders used a drone and night vision equipment to search for the two women. 

Using the drone, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency spotted the pair just before 3 a.m., about 750 metres from the intersection of St. Margarets Bay Road and Albert Walker Road. 

Officers with night vision equipment accompanied by a police dog went to the location. They escorted the women out of the woods at around 4 a.m. 

Neither hiker was injured but paramedics checked them out as a precaution.  


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How Canadian investigators use DNA to track down contaminated food Sat, 21 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000

Experts say Canada has become a world leader in preventing illness and saving lives by tracking down the source of dangerous bacteria and other pathogens that invade the country’s food supply. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency can now do that work faster and more conclusively than ever before by decoding the genetic information of organisms like salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.  

“That provides us with the ability to more effectively remove the contamination from the marketplace, thus protecting Canadians,” said Mohamed Elmufti, the science leader in microbiology with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 

Four million Canadians get sick from contaminated food every year, according to the inspection agency’s website. 

The agency’s goal is to identify contaminated food that’s making people sick and get it off store shelves as quickly as possible, before it makes anyone else ill. It then tries to prevent the contamination from reoccurring. 

Mohamed Elmufti is the science leader in microbiology with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (Submitted by Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

A process known as whole genome sequencing helps identify what’s causing an illness. The technique allows the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to determine the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s entire genome.

Once that’s done, scientists know what kind of illness a particular organism can cause, and they can use its own DNA to track it. 

If an organism on a food is also inside a person and has the same kind of DNA, then scientists know that particular organism made the person sick.      

“This helps food safety investigators do a much better job of identifying the food vehicles that are making people sick and also identifying sources of contamination in the food manufacturing environment,” said Burton Blais, who works in research and development at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Ottawa laboratory.

Scientists at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have already sequenced 10,000 different bacterial pathogens. (Submitted by Canadian Food Inspection Agency)


When combined with other investigative techniques, whole genome sequencing is an impressive tool for figuring out where a pathogen came from. 

Whole genome sequencing also provides the agency with far more information than previous tests and can be done much faster. The old techniques of identifying an organism took days or even weeks, as samples had to be shuffled between different labs.    

“It still boggles my mind to think how right now… we can take a bacterium and in less than two days, we have the entire genomic blueprint of that organism laid out in front of us,” said Blais.  

And those few days really matter. 

“If you can shave off one or two days or three days in terms of making a recall decision, because you’ve identified the exact food that’s causing the problem, that can make a huge difference in terms of public health outcomes,” he said.   

Burton Blais is the section head of research and development at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Ottawa laboratory. (Submitted by Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

In the five years the agency has been doing this work, its scientists have sequenced 10,000 different bacterial pathogens including salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.

That kind of work has made Canada a world leader in using this technology to track pathogens, according to Lawrence Goodridge, a professor of food safety at the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, part of the University of Guelph.

Since so much food crosses the border between the United States and Canada, public health and food safety organizations in both countries have to work closely together to make sure all that food is safe.

As of March 22, there were 566 laboratory-confirmed cases of salmonella illness connected to recalled breaded chicken. (Shebeko/Shutterstock)

“The United States I would say is a world leader in genomics and because we are right next to them and collaborate closely with them, that also means that we are a leader in the use of genomics for the use of food safety analysis,” said Goodridge.    

Genomics is a term used to describe the science of decoding genetic information in an organism’s DNA. It looks at how genes function and interact with each other and influence growth and development, according to the inspection agency’s website.

Genomics is different from genetics, which studies individual genes and how organisms inherit genetic traits like eye colour from one generation to the next. 

Lawrence Goodridge is a professor of food safety at the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, part of the University of Guelph. (Submitted by Lawrence Goodridge)

Goodridge said these methods have already changed the way food is processed in Canada. 

Since 2017, hundreds of Canadians have become sick after they ate food contaminated with salmonella. Some even became seriously ill. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was able to use whole genome sequencing, along with other investigative techniques, to track the source of the salmonella to raw breaded chicken products like chicken burgers and chicken strips.

It takes far less time to identify an organism using whole genome sequencing compared to previous techniques. (Submitted by Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

To curb the problem, the agency put in new regulations requiring all manufacturers to reduce salmonella levels to below detectable amounts in breaded chicken products packaged for retail sale. 

In most cases, that means the chicken will be cooked to kill the bacteria before its frozen and shipped out for sale. 

“So this is one example within the last two years that really shows how whole genome sequencing has increased the safety of the Canadian food supply,” said Goodridge.


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Ex-parole officer who abused children dies, leaving behind a series of lawsuits Sat, 21 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000

One of Nova Scotia’s most infamous pedophiles has died, leaving behind a series of lawsuits involving some of his victims.

Cesar Lalo died Aug. 28 in an Ottawa hospital after a brief illness. He was 79, according to his obituary which was published on Monday.

No one knows exactly how many young people Lalo abused during his time as a probation and parole officer employed by the Nova Scotia government. He was convicted of committing sex offences against 29 youths and children from 1973 to 1989.

But prosecutors stopped proceeding with cases against him once they felt they had amassed enough convictions to have him declared a dangerous offender.

They could not persuade a judge to make that designation. Instead, Lalo was declared a long-term offender. He was sentenced to five more years in prison, followed by a period of ten years of close supervision in the community.

In passing sentence, Justice Heather Robertson said a more appropriate prison term would have been nine years, but she gave him credit for the four years he had spent in jail while his case made its way through the courts.

Lalo had difficulty adhering to the terms of the supervision order and those ten years stretched on and on. Every time he breached a condition, he was charged and re-imprisoned and the ten year countdown was halted. He was reluctant to abide by the condition that he undergo chemical castration in order to gain his release. He was also found in violation for viewing child pornography. 

In 2014, the Parole Board of Canada loosened some of the restrictions Lalo had been under, including the one that had prevented him from accessing the internet.

Following the expiry of his sentence, Lalo settled in the Ottawa area.

Several of his victims launched civil lawsuits against him. Most of the lawsuits included the Nova Scotia government as a defendant on the basis of vicarious liability — the legal principle that even if his employers didn’t know what he was doing they should have, and should be responsible for his conduct as an employee.

Three of the lawsuits resulted in judgments against Lalo and the province. But the government entered into negotiations with many others. Since November 2014, they have settled 29 of the suits. It is not clear how many lawsuits are still ongoing. 

 All of his victims had been sent to him in his capacity as a probation and parole officer. Many had committed minor offences like truancy or shoplifting. Some hadn’t committed any crimes at all and were sent to Lalo for counselling by authorities who worried the boys were at risk of getting into trouble if they didn’t get guidance.

But they didn’t get guidance from Lalo. Instead they were subjected to physical and mental abuse. Lalo threatened that if they didn’t do what he asked, he would have them sent to Shelburne, the site of a youth prison for boys that had a notorious reputation of its own.


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Bhangra film documentary reveals what makes the popular dance group tick Sat, 21 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000

A documentary about a group of Bhangra dancers in Nova Scotia and its evolution into a vehicle for “joyful activism” was released Friday.

Filmmaker Nance Ackerman said she was intrigued by the popularity of the Maritime Bhangra Group, whose video of them dancing on the rocks at Peggys Cove, N.S., went viral in 2016.

During the making of the documentary, she said she discovered what makes the dancers so appealing, and why they use their performances to raise awareness about issues such as climate change and diseases including ALS and breast cancer.

The term she used was “joyful activism.”

“They are doing it with hope and with laughter…. They are very joyful and dedicated and committed to change,” Ackerman told CBC News.

In the cut-throat world of social media, where nastiness is frequently used to draw attention, the Maritime Bhangra Group provides something different and refreshing, the documentary maker said.

A documentary about the Maritime Bhangra Group and the dancers’ infectious appeal was released Friday. (Maritime Bhangra Group)

“They are just wonderful people who truly care. I think these guys truly have it in their heart,” said Ackerman.

Hasmeet Singh, who founded the group with his brother, Kunwardeep Singh, said the documentary is the story of five immigrants and their quest to give back to their community.

“We’re not in a position to tell anyone what to do,” he said of their support for good causes, adding they are open to suggestions for ways to help out.

Watching the documentary brought mixed emotions, Hasmeet Singh said.

“Much laughter. We cried. We focused on all the mistakes we made in English grammar. We laughed at each other,” he said.

He reminisced about how the group was first seen as “a bunch of people dancing on the street,” before attracting media attention with their energetic performances and eventual participation in Canada 150 celebrations.


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‘We can’t wait anymore’: Halifax climate rally calls for immediate action Fri, 20 Sep 2019 20:22:09 +0000

A climate action rally held Friday in Halifax — one of the thousands taking place around the world — called for immediate measures to combat severe weather changes affecting the earth and all its species.

More than 200 people of all ages gathered for the event in Grand Parade, kicking off a week of activities designed to draw attention to the issue.

Young people worldwide joined marches and climate strikes Friday. They were joined by labour and humanitarian groups and environmental organizations.

Halifax student Willa Fisher, 17, said young people want immediate change to combat the severe environmental effects of climate change. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Willa Fisher, a Grade 12 student who lives in Halifax, summed up the anxiety felt by today’s young people and their frustration at the lack of action on the part of adult leaders.

“I think that the youth are scared,” she said. “The climate comes first and our futures come first.”

Fear of economic change and political pushback are “little technicalities that don’t matter. We just need to overcome them and we need to find a way no matter what. And we can’t wait anymore,” she said.

More than 200 people participated in a climate action rally Friday in Halifax, one of thousands of similar events taking place around the world. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Among the events planned for Friday was a “die-in,” part of national strategy to bring attention to the climate crisis message. Typically protesters lie down on the ground in a visible public space, disrupting the flow of pedestrians and daily business activity to draw attention to their cause.

Fisher said she and her friend, Julia Sampson, first got involved in the fight to stop the deterioration of the planet due to climate change about five or six months ago, posting a page on Instagram to inform others about the issue and to plan events.

“It’s a national thing really,” she said. “We’re drawing a line because we want for everyone to care about climate change.”

Tynette Deveaux, one of the organizers of the climate action rally at Grand Parade, said the event kicks off a week-long series of gatherings leading up to an international general strike Sept. 27. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

One of the rally’s organizers, Tynette Deveaux, said she’s pleased with the number of people who turned out.

“We’re really pleased and there’s so much more planned this week,” she said following the rally.

“We’ll  be holding the climate strike one week from today. I think the momentum is just going to continue to grow through the week. It’s really special because it allows all to come together and see what each other is doing and to stand together. “


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