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HALIFAX’S CAPTAIN SAYS LACROSSE ISN’T JUST A SPORT— IT’S A PATH TO A BETTER LIFE

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CONTENTS

PHOTO: BRUCE LANTZ

Vol. 20 No. 2 | March 2020

PHOTO: ANDREA MCGUIRE

14

22

16

$100

FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

14 | THE NEXT ACT After controversial changes to how the government supports their industry, local filmmakers work to find a new path

7 | EDITOR’S MESSAGE Giving up plastic bags is a good step for the environment but as long as we stay addicted to fossil fuels, we have more work to do

16 | IN THIS TOGETHER A new local business born out of loss and love is designed with a community-minded approach to do good

8 | CONTRIBUTORS Meet the writers and photographers who work on Halifax Magazine

18 | THUNDERSTRUCK The captain of the Halifax Thunderbirds shares his passion for lacrosse with his new community 22 | WHEN THE GIG IS UP More people than ever are working from one contract to the next— what happens when they get sick?

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26 | DINING: PLANTING SEEDS Nemo Lopez wants to grow a greener Halifax; he’s starting with vegan tacos

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13 | ENTERTAINMENT World championship hockey, live music galore, professional basketball, new art exhibitions, and more

30 | OPINION: A PLACE OF PILGRIMAGE Discovering the power and importance of Africville

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9 | CITYSCAPE University students around the city rely on food banks; becoming Viola Desmond

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EDITOR’S MESSAGE

We’ve only just begun Gestures like giving up plastic bags are good steps but the planet needs us to do much more

I went to Sobeys on Feb. 1. As the cashier piled my groceries at the end of the counter, I waited expectantly for him to bag them. The heap of food grew larger, but no bags appeared. I glanced at the empty rack, briefly flummoxed. The cashier gave me a little shrug. “No bags, remember?” Right. I could buy reusable bags, but I have a closet full at home, so like a martyr, I loaded my groceries back into the cart and took them out to my car, gingerly positioning them in the back. Next to me, a woman with an armload of produce was packing it in her trunk and dropping it on the ground in equal measure. We exchanged longsuffering looks. “We’re doing our part for the environment,” she laughed. I felt very heroic. “Yup, it’s a good change.” Pleased with our sacrifice, we then got into our fossil-fuel powered machines and jockeyed for road space amongst hundreds of other greenhouse-gas emitters, to drive back to our fossil-fuel heated homes. My conscience pointed out the contradiction and my heroic mood faded. In the last issue of Halifax Magazine, I wrote about how the climate-emergency is now widely accepted and top-of-mind. I qualified that by noting that we haven’t done nearly enough to tackle the crisis. I wonder now if I shouldn’t have screamed that in all-cap bold letters. I barely registered the point, and I wrote the bloody thing. It makes me think about Nova Scotia in the Second World War. Towns around the province had regular blackout drills. German bombers couldn’t reach the mid-Atlantic, let alone Eastern Canada, but when the siren whooped, people would dutifully extinguish their lights, close the curtains, and run for cover. Most folks, including the people who ordered those blackouts, didn’t expect the Luftwaffe to suddenly swoop from the clouds. The point was to clarify minds, to remind people that a national crisis was underway and they all had to make sacrifices. Gestures like bag bans are great. They keep us focused on the fact we’re facing humanity’s

biggest crisis in millennia. But they’re just gestures, barely making any movement to solve the climate emergency as long as we remain addicted to fossil fuels. Lugging my groceries into the house by the armload shouldn’t make me feel heroic, it should remind me we all need to make a lot more changes. Those groceries are a good place to start. Zack Metcalfe writes a blog about the environment for Halifax Magazine (halifaxmag.com/blog). In March 2019, he wrote a post called “An earth-saving diet.” He talked about how meat and dairy provide just 18% of the calories humans consume, yet their production takes up 83% of farmland and causes 60% of agriculture-related greenhouse gases. There are a lot of numbers in that post, but 75% is the one that really stuck with me. That’s how much farmland we could return to nature if we all went vegan. If that’s too radical a change, Zack suggests doing it in steps. For starters: cut back, way back, on beef. If you can’t replace it with vegan alternatives, replace it with chicken. That’s the most efficient meat for farmers to produce, with the least environmental impact per serving. That’s a change I can do. I’m a fiend for hamburgers, but I’m trying to look at them more as special-occasion treats. I want to turn to meat less often and perhaps soon not at all. Breaking four decades of eating habits is hard, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing I’m doing it, so I’m trying. In his January post, “Look both ways before buying a car,” Zack wrote about the rise of the electric car. Within a couple years, they’ll be cheaper to buy, power, and maintain than traditional cars. And even though most of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, they’re better for the environment, because they utilize that fossil-fuel energy a lot more efficiently than gas-guzzling cars do. Today an electric car isn’t a great option for most Nova Scotians. Few models are available locally and the ones that are exceed most

PHOTO: TAMMY FANCY

BY TREVOR J. ADAMS

tadams@metroguide.ca Halifax Magazine @HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine

budgets. Charging stations are scarce. But the transformation is sweeping the world and will hit here soon enough. In the meantime, I’m trying hard to drive less, carpooling, walking, or using transit when possible. We used to own a Silverado truck. It was big and loud and handy. We liked it very much. But when it was wrecked in a crash, we opted not to replace it. We’ve been a onevehicle family since and intend to remain so. These are good changes, ones I wouldn’t have considered a few years ago, but they’re not amazing sacrifices. They’re basic things I should be doing and I should be doing a lot more of them. It is the little things. But it’s a lot of little things. Now that we’ve made a little progress and grown more aware, the worst thing we can do is pause for complacent selfcongratulation.

MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 7


CONTRIBUTORS

8 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

MARIANNE SIMON “A place of pilgrimage” Marianne is a writer and subeditor and has published many children’s stories, articles and poems in magazines and newspapers. Her interests include teaching and conducting English-conversation classes. mariannesimon777@gmail.com

ALEC BRUCE Cityscape Alec is an award-winning journalist with bylines in local, regional, national and international publications. He lives in Halifax. brucescribe.com

BRUCE MURRAY Photography for “The love of the game” Bruce has been creating food and lifestyle photography for more than 20 years in the Maritimes and in his original studio in Vancouver. visionfire.ca

HEATHER FEGAN Cityscape Heather is a freelance writer, book reviewer, and blogger based in Halifax. heatherfegan.ca

AMEETA VOHRA “Thunderstruck” Ameeta is a sports and news writer. Her work has been published throughout North America including CBCSports.ca, Star Halifax, CFL, TSN, Featurd, Football Canada, Haligonia.ca, Sportstream.ca, and Usports.

BRUCE LANTZ “The next act” Bruce spent 40+ years as a journalist with newspapers and magazines across Canada before returning home to Nova Scotia four years ago. Now semi-retired, he devotes his time to freelancing, and editing books for authors.

ELLEN RIOPELLE “Planting seeds” Ellen currently lives in Halifax, where she is pursuing her journalism degree at the University of King’s College. Her world revolves around travelling, good stories, and good playlists.

TAMMY FANCY Photo for Editor’s Message A freelance photojournalist, Tammy has shot for East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, Profiles for Success, and Our Children magazines, plus two cookbooks. fancyfreefoto.com

BRUCE BISHOP Cityscape One of the former presidents of the Travel Media Association of Canada, Bruce continues to freelance in the travel and lifestyle genres and coaches Korean business executives in business English.

ANDREA MCGUIRE “When the gig is up” A journalism student from Newfoundland attending the University of King’s College in Halifax, Andrea has a masters in folklore and likes playing accordion.


CITYSCAPE The reality of the starving student For many, college life forces dilemmas like: pay rent or eat?

There is usually a queue of assorted students, domestic and international, gathering in front of the campus food banks before they open at both Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities in Halifax. One might call it a sad case of déjà vu when SMU had to open a “food room” in 2015: 48 years after the world’s first food bank opened in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1967. It was named the St. Mary’s Food Bank. Denominational semantics aside, it may be surprising to note that every institution of higher learning in the city has a food bank on campus (or campuses, as in the case of the Nova Scotia Community College). They are named differently, as in Mount Saint Vincent University’s “ Wellness Pantry” or the “SUNSCAD Food Bank” at NSCAD University. But they all fulfil a critical need to their primary constituent: a hungry postsecondary student who has a hard time making ends meet on a limited budget in a metropolitan area known for its pricey rental housing. Do you eat properly or forego paying rent? One thing all these campus food banks have in common is their ability to somehow stay open year-round. Student volunteers staff many, with sometimes a paid student coordinator. But student associations manage them all, often getting funding from that specific department if not the institution itself. “SMUSA [Saint Mary ’s University Student Association] and Student Affairs & Services provide direct financial support for the Food Room,” says Chantal Caissie, an alumni officer at SMU. “That funding is a university operating budget line. With that funding, they’re able to purchase approximately $2,000 worth of groceries for the room per month.” That’s not the only funding. “The other sources of support come from monetary donations through the university’s Annual Giving campaign, as well as food collection drives throughout the year by different departments, faculties, and student societies,” she says. “Feed Nova Scotia also

PHOTOS: SMU FOOD ROOM

BY BRUCE BISHOP

The food bank at Saint Mary’s University remains busy year-round.

does a food delivery every two weeks that helps supplement the inventory.” Michael Davies-Cole is the manager of the Dalhousie Student Union Food Bank. In a news release, he says there has been an increase in international and graduate students using the facility and that it’s “heartbreaking…to have upper year students come in, saying they wish they knew about the food bank sooner. I have had people say they don’t know if they should be using the food bank, but if you need food you need food. Period.” Finding a student willing to discuss having to use a college food bank is difficult. No one Halifax Magazine approached would talk on the record about their experiences unless we agreed not to use their name. A 2018 study by Nutrients, a peerreviewed scientific journal published in Switzerland shows it’s not a localized issue. “Among students who provided qualitative insights, four main barriers to using the on-campus food pantry were identified: social stigma, insufficient information on pantry use policies, self-identity, and

inconvenient hours,” says the report “Why Are Hungry College Students Not Seeking Help? Predictors of and Barriers to Using an On-Campus Food Pantry.” In Canada, according to a study published in Maclean’s in 2016, “The students particularly at risk are financially independent from parents, namely those funded by band councils, student loans and bank loans. The most vulnerable— international students, Aboriginal students and students with dependent children— were some of the most food insecure.” The study was undertaken by Meal Exchange, the national campus food organization. One woman, a 19-year-old student at SMU who wanted to remain anonymous, talked about her situation: “I visit the Food Room pretty much every week and the volunteers there are really amazing. They help me find what I need to make a couple meals and I feel less stressed about affording groceries.”

tadams@metroguide.ca Halifax Magazine @HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine

MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 9


CITYSCAPE Becoming Viola Andrea Scott’s play about Viola Desmond uncovered the ordinary importance beneath the extraordinary actions of a civil rights icon

If the late Viola Desmond’s storied life as a Nova Scotian business owner and civil rights activist demonstrates anything, it’s that even the simply beloved can also be stubbornly complicated. Happily, Andrea Scott likes complicated. “I’m inspired by people who speak their mind and stand their truth no matter what,” says the Ontario-based actor, producer, and writer who’s spent the better part of two years living and breathing all things Desmond for her play, Controlled Damage, which debuted at Neptune Theatre last month. “But to call Viola a hero is going pretty far. Even her husband didn’t support her.” But wait, didn’t Desmond bravely defy the forces of racism when, in 1946, she refused to move to the “coloured people’s” section of a New Glasgow movie theatre? Wasn’t she convicted on a trumped-up charge of failing to pay a one-cent amusement tax on the cost of her “white” seat, and didn’t she fight that judgement (albeit, unsuccessfully) all the way to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia? What’s more, didn’t Canada Post issue a stamp bearing her likeness in 2012? Didn’t the Bank of Canada put her on the $10 bill (the country’s first vertical note, if that means anything) in 2018? And didn’t the Royal Canadian Mint release a silver coin in her honour just last year? Yes, Scott concedes, but that’s not why people should remember the woman half a century after her death. Forget posthumous fame. It’s who she was when she was, warts and all, that matters. That’s what should resonate with people looking to change their own small corners of the universe today. “If someone told her, ‘You can’t do this’, she would snap back, ‘Says who?’” Scott says. “She was an ordinary person who did an extraordinary thing. That was her real power.” Certainly, when audiences piled into Neptune (the play was 70% sold out by early December) for opening night on Feb. 7, the Viola they saw was not the icon, but the

10 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

human being who steadfastly refused to let anyone push her around. “Andrea has created a piece that reflects both a time in history and a real person,” says Jeremy Webb, the Neptune’s artistic director. “It allows us to take a good look at ourselves right now.” Adds Controlled Damage director Nigel Shawn Williams: “While there’s nothing comic about the story at all, it manages to balance systemic racism, misogyny, and colonial patriarchy with a great deal of humanity and humor.” If that’s all true, Scott says, then she’s relieved. Managing this particular stagecraft has seemed, at times, almost as complicated as the all-too-human subject it explores. Controlled Damage is what dramaturgs like to call a “big play.” The Neptune production boasted 10 actors (seven of whom are local) performing 23 different parts, live music, and numerous scene changes. “Fast, furious and very entertaining,” is how Williams describes it. A far cry from its humble beginnings is how Scott might put it. “Carrie Costello at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People wanted to see more plays about strong Canadian women,” she recalls about a conversation with her colleague a couple of years ago. “She asked me and a few other women to write eight-minute plays she’d be comfortable taking her daughters to see. That’s when I discovered Viola Desmond. The more I read, the more I wondered why I’d never heard of her.” Costello never got the funding for her project, but Scott was hooked by the story of the Nova Scotian beauty-salon owner who refused to give up her seat in a rural cinema because of the colour of her skin. “To me, what happened to her was a microcosm of what was happening every day to real people all over our country,” Scott says. “Viola wasn’t resisting to make a larger point about social justice, at least not then. She was just defending herself and standing up for herself. She paid her dime and wanted to see

PHOTO: WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

BY ALEC BRUCE

the movie, just like anyone else. She did what a lot of us would do if put in the same situation. I believe that’s what everyone needs to understand today.” Scott also felt a personal kinship with her subject. Born and raised in London, Ontario, she felt rejection’s sting early when an authority figure told her she might as well forget about writing. It was 1987, and she was 16. “I don’t have a warm, fuzzy story about an English teacher who believed in me or encouraged me,” she says. “It was quite the opposite. But I didn’t let that stop me.” She enrolled at the University of Toronto and eventually obtained a master’s degree in theatre. After graduation, she worked as an


actor on stage, in television and film, but she grew tired of the roles available to her. “I wanted to see more women of colour in the theater, and it became clear that if I wanted to see that, I would have to create them. I would have to write.” She began in 2011, producing a flurry of well-regarded, award-winning pieces, including Eating Pomegranates Naked (2013), Better Angels: A Parable (2014), Don’t Talk To Me Like I’m Your Wife (2016), and Every Day She Rose (2019). According to Genn Sumi, writing in Now magazine in 2016, Scott’s plays invariably “feature strong, fierce roles for Black women.” The life and times of Viola Desmond seemed a perfect installment in this oeuvre. Scott took the work in progress to a playwright retreat at Stratford where the resident dramaturg, Bob White, urged her to make the piece as “big as it can possibly be.” She enlisted the support of B-Current, a Black theatre company in Toronto, whose artistic director Catherine Hernandez loved the play so much she was willing to help fund its production at another company. Enter Jeremy Webb in 2017. He met Scott at a Starbucks in downtown Toronto and was instantly impressed. “To be honest, I saw a bit of myself in her,” he says. “She’s an entrepreneur, a producer, a creator, an actor, an activist. She doesn’t take BS from anyone. She’s also warm, funny and sociable. So, put it all together and, sure, I would be very happy having this person in my theatre. Of course, after I read the finished play, I knew that if we hadn’t been involved…well, that would have been embarrassing.” Scott doesn’t know how much money Neptune and B-Company have spent mounting her premiere (“They don’t tell me things like that,” she says). But at one point during the negotiations, she estimated between $150,000 and $175,000. Now, of course, that work is done and all that remains is the play: holding up the past as a mirror for the present. Does Controlled Damage uncover the ordinary importance beneath the extraordinary actions of a Nova Scotia civil rights icon? Does it persuade audiences that they can be the heroes of their own lives? It’s complicated, and Andrea Scott likes that very much.

tadams@metroguide.ca Halifax Magazine @HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine

Between the issues Want more? Visit halifaxmag.com for Halifax Magazine’s free archives plus web-exclusive features and columns.

• Stand-up comic and writer Mark Farrell • •

shares wry insights on politics, culture, and life in the city. In his consumer affairs column, Peter Moorhouse from the Better Business Bureau offers advice on protecting yourself from scams and getting help with customer-service disasters. Expanding the craft-beer coverage that appears regularly in the print edition,

journalist Kim Hart Macneill offers the latest tips, reviews, and industry news. Whether you’re a beer newbie or a dedicated hophead, you’ll find plenty of useful info in these columns. Well known arts columnist Ray Cronin, former curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, takes readers inside the city’s thriving arts community, walking you through the latest must-see exhibitions.

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ENTERTAINMENT The hottest things to see and do in Halifax this month

MARCH 12

Symphony Nova Scotia Amidst another busy month, the Symphonyhas a gem for classical purists. Young violin prodigy Kerson Leong joins the orchestra for Bartók’s expansive, inventive Violin Concerto, one of the most demanding violin works in the repertoire. The evening also includes Dvořák’s fiery Slavonic Dances and Symphony Nova Scotia’s first performance of My Name Is Amanda Todd, a poignant work that won the 2018 Juno for Best Classical Composition. symphonynovascotia.ca

MARCH 3–29

MARCH 24

Neptune Theatre

Rose Cousins

This month at Neptune, Martha Irving stars in Calendar Girls: following the death of her husband, Annie and her best friend Chris set out on a mission to raise funds for a local hospital. With the help of four friends, the six women pose nude for an “alternative” calendar. The story soon captures the media’s attention, testing the strength of Chris and Annie’s friendship. neptunetheatre.com

Cousins is back in her hometown of Halifax, performing live at the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Cousins won a Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Singer of the Year in 2012, her 2012 album We Have Made a Spark won the 2013 Juno Award as best Solo Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, and her 2017 album Natural Conclusion was nominated for a 2018 Grammy. dal.ca/dept/arts-centre.html

CONTINUING THROUGH APRIL 5

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Since her first appearance at AGNS in 2014, Althea Thauberger has gained international attention and praise, but State of the Situation is the first exhibition in Canada presenting an extended overview of her collaborative and place-rooted artistic style. The exhibition includes “Kandahar International Airport,” created in cooperation with Canadian women soldiers serving in Afghanistan. artgalleryofnovascotia.ca

MARCH 17

Halifax Hurricanes The hometown pro-hoopsters are back in action at Scotiabank Centre, hosting Maritime rivals P.E.I. in National Basketball League of Canada play. ticketatlantic.com

PHOTO: PAUL MORRIS

MARCH 31–APRIL 10

IIHF Women’s World Championship tadams@metroguide.ca

Halifax Magazine

@HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine

Elite athletes from around the globe battle in Halifax (and Truro) for the international women’s hockey crown. Since 1990, Canada has won the top title in women’s hockey 10 times, plus four Olympic gold medals. ticketatlantic.com MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 13


| FEATURE |

THE NEXT ACT AFTER CONTROVERSIAL CHANGES TO HOW THE GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS THEIR INDUSTRY, LOCAL FILMMAKERS WORK TO FIND A NEW PATH BY BRUCE LANTZ

While the industry has endured gloomy press in recent years thanks to the provincial government’s changed approach to subsidized funding for films, those in the middle of it are doing their best to get by and continue to make quality films. Halifax’s Nancy Urich, 39, and Marc Tetreault, 34, have spent many years between them bringing films to life and riding out the inevitable ups and downs of the industry. And despite the challenges, both are determined to continue doing so. “We had change and upset but now we have a good system,” says Tetreault, a producer of films such as Weirdos and Suck It Up. “We’re slowly rebuilding and letting the world know.” Fellow producer Urich has a slightly different view. “Right now the Nova Scotia film industry is suffering huge,” she says. “The money’s just not there and all we’re getting is a trickle-down from Toronto.” The film tax credit was introduced in 1995 to cover up to 30% of eligible crew salaries, and later bumped up to a maximum of 60% of allowable costs if the production was filmed in a rural community. But it was stopped in 2015, after major protests, and was replaced by a more modest film incentive fund that hasn’t attracted the interest of major production companies. Now, films produced here tend to lean toward the artsy—“in the Canada Council realm”—with less commercial appeal, she says. But that has still given them great success with the film aficionados at international film festivals. 14 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020


PHOTOS: BRUCE LANTZ

For both, the road has been a winding one. Born in Halifax, Tetreault has a history degree from Mount Allison University and has lived in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles, working in construction, then oil and gas—whatever it took to make a dollar. Then he landed eight months of work here as production assistant on a DHX TV show Canada’s Super Speller in 2009. “I learned a lot and met lots of people,” he recalls. “And when I was asked what I wanted to be I started saying producer.” But that takes money and right now that’s hard to find. Tetreault looked at the guidelines for obtaining financing and found short-film experience was a prerequisite. So he started producing with a short film that winter. “I got some dollars and since then I’ve been able to turn the tap on,” he says. Now he’s working as a line producer on feature films, commercials, “a gun for hire.” This year he’s doing a $3.2-million feature film with Jason Levangie’s Shut Up and Colour Pictures Inc. But he says he still hasn’t been able to pay himself much. “Spending $20 million correctly takes skill and art,” he says. “There’s money to be made,” says Urich, who was born in Sydney and lived in Louisburg until she was 18, then moved to Halifax looking for work. Eventually she joined her husband Seth Smith’s band, the Burdocks, and spent five years touring Canada before starting the band Dog Day and making music videos, which led to her first feature film in 2012, Lowlife, an “art house horror” 90-minute feature that won a couple of awards. That was followed in 2017 by The Crescent, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and her current project, Tin Can, a sci-fi thriller being released in 2020. Both she and husband Seth work full time for their production company Cut/Off/Tail Pictures but she takes side jobs (grant writing, accounting, payroll and tax preparation) “to make things a little greasier.” And they continue with their band Dog Day and she fronts another band called Not You. Now with experience in just about every film department, Urich says it’s still a hard road. “Everyone’s affected differently but they took away film equity funding which helped with the last 20% of financing so now it’s really, really, really hard. It’s not like the U.S. Here we rely on government funding.” Tetreault says the film tax credit, which supported local people and their films, even allowing them to pay themselves, was really important for filmmakers. Its loss pushed the industry from the middle to the bottom on the world scale and many who worked in it left for greener climes in Toronto and elsewhere, making it a struggle to find enough people to do the work here. But the local industry has responded by making low-budget, “more egalitarian,” films. “We’re getting some really interesting art being created,” he says. “And it’s not just us, but Canada as a whole. Now we’re making movies for $500,000 or less. It’s all about finding a path, finding a way to still make movies. We’ve opened the door to people making films they couldn’t have made before, and we’ve made really great art because of that.” Urich says there’s still money in films, even working as she does from April to November. “There’s money to be made, compared to music. That’s the hope, the theory anyway,” she says. Now based in Sambro, where much of her film work is done, she classifies herself as “still new” and learning what a producer does, finding money and figuring out where it should be spent. At first people were reluctant to fund her projects but money started coming after she made some short films. “I figure I’m at the top of the bottom now,” she says. “And I’m happy with what I do, with what we do.”

Filmmakers Nancy Urich (top) and Marc Tetreault have seen their industry evolve as it tries to cope with government policy changes.

Tetreault has some advice for those looking to break into the industry here. Getting involved with the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative is the “absolute best” way to break in, and he suggests working on a few short films in trainee positions paired with professionals. He says it’s vital to be available when opportunity calls, so it’s ideal to have a regular job that can be flexible on short notice. “You have to be willing but it can be tough and scary,” he says. If you know what you want, learn who’s above you and hiring, and make sure you have a resumé and present yourself to them (even via email), and follow up once a month. “It’s a game of networking and connections,” he adds. “Our industry is all about knowing people.” Urich says she would have enjoyed getting into the industry at a younger age; despite its problems it’s an easier way to make money than music. She’s finishing a feature film and soon will release another record with her band and then tour across the country. While it’s tough enough, money and crews can be accessed through the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-op or arts grants. “You could even do it [film] in your home, you and a couple of others,” she says. “It’d hard but it’s doable. We all compete but it’s a very friendly group. I would do it again; I’d just get into it sooner.” tadams@metroguide.ca

Halifax Magazine

@HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine

MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 15


| FEATURE |

IN THIS

TOGETHER PHOTO: JENNIFER LEA

A NEW LOCAL BUSINESS BORN OUT OF LOSS AND LOVE IS DESIGNED WITH A COMMUNITY-MINDED APPROACH TO DO GOOD

BY HEATHER FEGAN When both her pets died within two weeks of each other, Carolyn Marshall needed a way to move past the grief. Her new business venture comes with the desire to do good and help others in her community. It’s also been a means to help her work her way through the pain. “I know lots of people lose pets and I know it’s horrible for everybody, but that was sort of the impetus,” says Marshall. Their spirits live on in her new business, Finn and Lucy Premium Pet Gear, selling her hand-crafted leashes, collars, and accessories. When her family’s beloved yellow lab Finnegan turned three, he developed a limp. Despite a diagnosis of elbow dysplasia as a puppy, he loved nothing more than a wild romp through the forest. “We 16 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

thought we were getting him ACL surgery for Christmas,” says Marshall. “My vet called me and she said ‘I don’t know what to tell you but it looks like he has bone cancer.’” Marshall was shocked. “This wonderful surgeon in Bedford, Dr. Draper, got us in at the last minute on the 23rd or 24th of December, and did the bone biopsy. In January he got back to us and said it didn’t show any cancer. We were elated.” But Finn’s limp kept coming and going. Eventually the only options were to amputate the leg or to euthanize the dog. “Because we didn’t have a cancer diagnosis, we didn’t want to euthanize him. He was a young dog. He didn’t fit the model, it’s usually older dogs who get cancer.”


A tough decision: they decided to go with the amputation. “Of course then they biopsied it and it was bone cancer. They said it will come back eventually. But it was miraculous, when he walked out of the surgeon he was a different dog. It immediately got rid of the pain. And he learned to get around on three legs.” His family had about six more months with him. The cancer returned and spread to his lungs. They lost Finn days after his fourth birthday. Two weeks later, their perfectly healthy five-year-old cat Lucy died unexpectedly, while curled up in a chair at home. “Come January, once Christmas was over, we were all just so miserable. Crying every day. This was a way to heal and get through it and get past it,” says Marshall. The product is hip, with patterns ranging from cupcakes, to beers of the world, wine, super heros, and lots of other fun, pop culture references. Marshall releases new products every month. There are over 50 options currently on the business website, and she takes custom orders as well. “It’s more about an expression of what you love, than it is ‘let’s get a pretty plaid collar,’” says Marshall. She sews and makes everything herself. “With a big order, it can take up my entire weekend. It certainly took up a lot of my weekends just to get enough of a sampling ready,” she says. “Most of the designs I’ve printed on the collar have been things where I try to share something loving or positive and I use the expression a lot, ‘wear what you love,’ because it’s a depressing world to live in.” She has half a dozen wholesale customers, including the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, Joggins Fossil Cliffs, the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, local shop Petstuff on the Go, her veterinarian’s office, and her hairdresser. She’s in discussions with a national charity about working together as a social enterprise. Her dream is to have a business where others can earn a fair working wage, with products hand-crafted in Canada. “My deal with everybody is I’m not going to make any more money than you are,” she explains. “If I’m going to make $8 a collar, then I’m going to let it be so that you are making $8 a collar. I believe it only works when we are in this together. It has to work for both people.” Marshall makes it clear she’s not looking for this business to be her main source of income. “But I’d like it to be a main source of income for other people, if that makes any sense,” she says. “I would like other people to be able to do the sewing, to have enough wholesale clients so there’s steady work for somebody, at least one person if not more, and then grow it from there.” Marshall says she has lots of ideas for product expansion, including harness designs and bandanas. Marshall’s full-time job is with Bloom Non-profit Consulting Group, providing fundraising consulting services for charities. She’s been working with business partner and friend Anne Melanson for over 15 years. “She has a constant personal commitment to deliver,” Melanson says. “She knows what she’s good at and runs with those ideas. The nature of our career is working with the charitable sector. We’ve spent the majority of our career working with the community, with educational institutions, with missions that alleviate poverty. She has a commitment to the community-minded approach to do good. She participates in and subscribes to that ideal.” Melanson believes Marshall can turn her business into a social enterprise where people can benefit economically or gain workplace skills. “We’ve seen over the years, the part of the charitable sector that incorporates social enterprise is a successful model for organizations, and she is going in that direction,” says Melanson. “She’s an ardent pet and animal lover, it’s a perfect fit. It ticks all the boxes of who Carolyn is. She’s an accomplished seamstress, loves

Carolyn Marshall works evenings and weekends in her tiny home workshop.

“IT’S AN ENDEAVOUR TO TRY AND SPREAD SOME LOVE IN A FUN WAY WITHOUT BEING ALL PREACHY” —CAROLYN MARSHALL

animals, loves animal owners. This is something that makes a community contribution and she’s having fun with it.” Kathleen Martin is executive director of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network. She shared her thoughts on Marshall’s venture via email. “I met Carolyn through her work with Bloom. She and her partner... consulted with me on a fundraising strategy for the Canadian Sea Turtle Network,” says Martin. “We kept in touch after the consulting project was finished. I was so sorry to hear when Carolyn lost her beloved pets Finn and Lucy and have such admiration for how she took a difficult and sad situation, and anyone who has ever loved a pet knows how much a member of a family they are, and turned it into something wonderful.” Marshall is adamant she wants her company to make a statement. “The tagline that I’m using now is ‘we’re in this together,’ which is kind of my philosophy about all of it, whether it’s all of us together on my street here in Halifax, on the planet, or with the people that I work with,” she says. “Carolyn is committed deep in her soul to making the world a better place through her work,” says Martin. “I am not surprised in this latest venture that she is constructing a company that centres on building not just her business, but also on building our community. It is this kind of choice—insisting on looking at things through the lens of connectivity—that helps heal the fractures we can all see in the world right now.” Positivity, fun, and something to smile about is the message Marshall says she is trying to convey. “It’s really an endeavour of love. It was born out of love for my pets, it’s an endeavour to try and spread some love in a fun way without being all preachy,” she says. “I spend a lot of time on social media and there’s a lot of shaming of people and a lot of preaching to people and I just want there to be some fun and some happiness and some joy. And some love. We need more of that. It’s a scary world we live in, with all that’s happening south of the border. And that kind of stuff spreads. I think it’s really important for those folks on the love side of the coin to do everything that they can to spread it.”

tadams@metroguide.ca

Halifax Magazine

@HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine

MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 17


| COVER STORY |

Thunderstruck THE CAPTAIN OF THE HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS SHARES HIS PASSION FOR LACROSSE WITH HIS NEW COMMUNITY BY AMEETA VOHRA

When Cody Jamieson found out Halifax would be the next career destination, he had mixed emotions. Jamieson, the captain of the Halifax Thunderbirds lacrosse team, has been with the franchise owned by his uncle Curt Styres since they selected him first overall in the 2010 National Lacrosse League (NLL) draft. Back then, they played in Rochester, N.Y. “This is my tenth year in the league and it’s been all with the same team,” he says. “Not a lot of players get to experience that so I was excited because it is a new market, a new team,” he says. “You hear nothing but great things about Halifax.”

PHOTOS: MICHELLE JAMIESON /HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS

In Six Nations Reserve where Cody Jamieson grew up, lacrosse is a family affair. Top: Jamieson and wife Michelle. Bottom: Jamieson, his father Cole, and son Comyn.

18 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

It’s not his first brush with the city. In 2007, Halifax hosted the FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Jamieson competed as one of the youngest players in the tournament and helped his Iroquois Nation team claim the silver medal. The city left a good impression that has stuck with him for years. “Everybody is out and about, is friendly and is welcoming,” he says. Since then, Jamieson has learned a lot more about the city. Being a history buff, he did some research to learn about the Halifax Explosion. A fan of CBC’s Mr. D, Jamieson checked out Citadel High School, where filming takes place. As so often happens, Halifax has taught him to love donairs. “My friend and I always say that every summer, we should just drive down to Halifax and come and get a donair and drive back home,” he says. He adds that he’s tried just about every donair shop in the city. His first love is lacrosse, though—culturally ingrained and passed down to him when he was three years old from his father, grandfather, and older brother. “My first memory of playing lacrosse, I just always remember always having a stick in my hand,” he recalls. “If we went to the grocery store, or we went for a walk in the park, I brought my stick with me. My stick was always with me and my stick was like my best friend growing up.” Growing up in Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, the sport was everything to him. No matter what time of year it was, Jamieson played lacrosse with his brother and cousins. During winter, they shovelled off the laneway and shaped snowbanks into the boards of a lacrosse rink. They wrapped the ball in black tape so they could find it in the snow. Now, Jamieson shares his passion for the sport with his children and wife who used to play it. However, his greatest pride is assuming the role he has in the NLL representing the First Nations. “It gives our young hope,” he says. “There’s more of us in the league now, but still the fact that we’re out here doing it and having success; it gives the young people hope of ‘maybe I can do it one day’ and it might steer them away from some bad around them.” Faced with challenges, the Thunderbirds captain used the sport to help him deal with life and personal struggles. “I used lacrosse as a healing tool for everything; as small as getting into trouble from my parents growing up, to playground fights and disputes with friends,” he says. “Growing into adulthood, there were many times I needed it. Mental health, injuries: all were draining on the mind and lacrosse was the tool I used to cope.” He started a company called Teammates to offer workshops for youth in classroom and gym settings aimed at suicide prevention.


—CODY JAMIESON

MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 19

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

“MENTAL HEALTH, INJURIES: ALL WERE DRAINING ON THE MIND AND LACROSSE WAS THE TOOL I USED TO COPE”


| COVER STORY |

“[LACROSSE] GIVES OUR YOUNG HOPE... WE’RE OUT HERE DOING IT AND HAVING SUCCESS; IT GIVES THE YOUNG PEOPLE HOPE OF ‘MAYBE I CAN DO IT ONE DAY’” —CODY JAMIESON

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

20 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

“We consider lacrosse a medicine game and for me, it always was,” he says. “It makes you feel good, it makes you feel positive and I like to teach that; I like to bring that to people.” The sport has been a constant in his life. “My stick was always there waiting; it wasn’t like other people, it was always willing and able,” he says. “I like to share the medicine I’ve had because lacrosse helped me through some tough times in my life when I didn’t know what was going on or how to think. Lacrosse was my outlet.”


An outlet that has brought him droves of success, Jamieson has won three straight Champions Cups (NLL championship) from 2012–2014, four consecutive Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League championships with the Six Nations Arrows Express, and a Minto Cup (the Canadian junior men’s title). He catapulted Syracuse Orange to the 2009 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship by scoring the clinching goal in overtime. He was named to the All-Tournament team for his postseason run, netting eight goals in six games. During his NLL career, he has put together 85 plus point seasons except for the 2017 season, when he only played one game because of a torn ACL. During two straight playoff years, Jamieson was named Championship Cup MVP (2012–2013) as well as league MVP in 2014 and won the scoring title that year with 108 points. Overall, he ranks third in the franchise’s all-time scoring with 704 points (255 goals and 449 assists). Styres knows what it took for Jamieson to be successful in lacrosse. “He believed hard work will get you what you want,” he says. “He has a strong enough character that it must be good for us too.” Echoing those sentiments is John Catalano, Thunderbirds’ president and COO. “He is very inspirational and he inspires me,” he says. “He’s great to have in the community because if you listen to Cody’s story, what it’s taken him, the hard work, the work ethic, and his family values, it’s just his character and what makes him as great as he is.” Jamieson credits his role models for being the guiding force in achieving his goals in lacrosse including former players Darris Kilgour, John Tavares, and Rich Kilgour. While his older brother ignited a constant competitive fire, Jamieson cites his father as his key influence on his career. “He taught me everything that he could,” he recalls. “He would leave for work early in the morning, come home, change his clothes and drive me straight wherever I had to go. We went and watched our junior or our senior team’s lacrosse game together. He didn’t have to say much but he would say ‘Did you see this? Did you see that?’ His experience was invaluable because it taught me at a young age where to be and to go where the ball is going to be. He was hard on me, he pushed me hard but I wouldn’t be where I am at without him.” Jamieson hopes to help lacrosse grow in Halifax through his leadership on and off the field. “The more success we have, the more people will want to watch and come support a successful franchise,” he says. “They are very passionate already so it’s a matter of getting non-traditional lacrosse people through those doors and watching a game because we like to say it’s a party. This city will start embracing it when more people see it, start coming and giving it a chance. It will be great here.”

tadams@metroguide.ca

Halifax Magazine

PHOTO: BRUCE MURRAY/VISIONFIRE

88

| FEATURE |

SON JAMIE HELLE IRDS S: MIC B PHOTO X THUNDER A HALIF

/

LACROSSE BASICS Known as the largest organized team sport in North America, Lacrosse’s origins are rooted in Indigenous tribes. One of the unique parts of the sport is the stick that consists of a head and a shaft. The head catches, carries, passes and shoots the ball into the goal. Made of solid rubber, the ball is the size of a baseball. A team is made up of 10 players including three defencemen, three attackers, three midfielders and a goalie. This fast-paced game runs for four quarters and a team’s goal is to score more points than the opponents. Precise shooting and game strategy are keys to winning. Players score when they launch the ball from the stick’s pocket into the opposing team’s goal. Opposing teams can try to take the ball away by using either their stick or their body. To protect themselves, players will cradle the ball.

@HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 21


| FEATURE |

When the Gig is Up

MORE PEOPLE ARE WORKING FROM ONE CONTRACT TO THE NEXT—WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY GET SICK?

STORY AND PHOTOS BY ANDREA MCGUIRE

Sara Tilley is an acclaimed theatre artist and writer who recently relocated to Halifax. She’s written eleven plays and two award-winning novels. She also has fibromyalgia, which comes with a complex and often misunderstood set of symptoms. Researchers believe it’s a condition of the nervous system, impacting how the brain interprets pain signals. Full disclosure: Tilley is my partner. I’m a daily witness to her intense bouts of body pain. Sometimes her muscles suddenly seize up and spasm, which can cause small kitchen catastrophes. Lately, her involuntary muscle spasms are also coupled with loud, involuntary shouts. “In the space of an hour, I could have a migraine that changes and dissipates and becomes joint pain, which could turn into sudden feelings of dizziness or unexplainable insect stings,” she explains. “Part of the overall experience is never knowing what’s going to happen next in my body. The only constant thing is that there will be some type of pain or difficulty to navigate.” Tilley’s symptoms can shift from moment to moment. Sometimes she needs to use her cat-covered walking cane, and sometimes she doesn’t. But one thing’s certain: Tilley’s body cannot tolerate the demands of an ordinary workplace. Like most artists and freelancers, Tilley has been precariously employed for years: working gig to gig and managing to get by. “It can be hard to make a living even if you’re a healthy artist,” she says. “Most artists can’t make a living just with their art. They have to take side jobs and random contracts.” In the past, Tilley could land acting jobs to support herself. For instance, she had a small role in the 2013 film The Grand Seduction, Like most artists, Sara Tilley works from gig to gig. Chronic illness makes her economic situation precarious.

22 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020


“IT SOMETIMES TAKES UP TO TWO TO THREE YEARS TO ACTUALLY GET THE SEVERE DISABILITY BENEFITS” —JOCELYN PRINGLE

which allowed her to write and concentrate on other freelance projects. But while she’s worked in spite of her condition for years, she says her symptoms appear to be intensifying. She gave up on-stage performance two years ago. Her pool of possible gigs is smaller than ever. In desperation, she applied to the Canadian Pension Plan disability benefits program this past year. “I didn’t have many options, I felt at that time, because I wasn’t able to do the on-stage work anymore due to my health conditions, so main sources of revenue were not available to me,” she says. Like many applicants, she was refused on her first try. Tilley learned the amount of compensation she would be eligible for, based on her prior earnings and contributions to the Canada Pension Plan. As a freelance artist in the gig economy, a lot of her work doesn’t qualify. She assumed she’d end up in the lowest income category, but hadn’t realized just how low that would be. “They basically give you about $5,600 a year to live on, and then you’re allowed to make about that much additionally in earned revenue,” she says. “So they’re asking you to live on a little more than $11,000 a year and taxes get deducted from that. So if you think about it, that’s less than $930 per month to cover absolutely everything you require, including housing, food, your heat and light, your phone, internet, and medications, which are a big part of my expenses.” Tilley has since withdrawn from the disability benefits application process. She’s still better off scraping together freelance gigs. “If you agree to be part of the disability system and you’re in the lowest level, you’re signing up to be impoverished.” Rebecca Casey is a sociology professor at Acadia University, and recently wrote a report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on labour standards in Nova Scotia. “Every year there seems to be more precarious work than before,” she says.

Precarious work is an umbrella term for various kinds of unstable, low-wage employment. Many people who work precariously don’t get employee benefits. Along with freelancers like Tilley, precarious work can include people earning money from “gig economy” companies like Uber and Airbnb, casual workers, and the selfemployed. “And then we have a lot more work now that’s part-time, low-wage, on-call or contract,” adds Casey. “This type of work is getting more common now than we might have seen about 10–20 years ago.” Jocelyn Pringle is another precarious worker in Halifax struggling with chronic illness. Pringle, whose pronouns are they/them, has worked contracts as a theatre technician over the past 20 years. But four years ago, Pringle began experiencing severe chronic back pain. Now their ability to lift heavy objects, drive a vehicle and sometimes even walk is drastically impaired. Previously, Pringle often had contracts constructing theatre sets. “When you work a gig profession, having a contract that is more than a week long is very exciting and wonderful and makes it easier to plan the other jobs you can take,” they say. “One of the main departments with contracts lasting longer than a couple of weeks is working in the carpentry shop. But I’m no longer able to do those.” Their bosses are understanding, but Pringle’s receiving a lot less calls for work these days. When we met in mid-October, Pringle said they’d worked three days in the last month. Pringle suspects they’ll soon have to move into another profession, though their only work experience and training is in physically demanding jobs like cooking and theatre tech, and they’re not sure what kind of work their body can handle. Pringle has looked into the CPP Disability program. But because they don’t have a diagnosis beyond chronic pain, they expect to be rejected. “Even people who do have an actual diagnosis say it

MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 23


| FEATURE |

“I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE ARE SUPPOSED TO GET MONEY AND LIVE WHO HAVE CHRONIC ILLNESS. IT’S SO HARD” —AL SHAPIRO

sometimes takes up to two to three years to actually get the severe disability benefits,” Pringle says. “And even then, it’s not very much. So it’s almost impossible to live on disability.” Al Shapiro feels similarly discouraged about applying for disability benefits. Shapiro, whose pronouns are also they/them, contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite in April 2018. Shapiro has a nonpermanent, casual position assembling meal trays for patients in Halifax hospitals. As with many precarious workers, Shapiro’s shifts are unpredictable. “It’s this trying to figure out this balance of not running myself into the ground, but also picking up the shifts when there are shifts to pick up, and not knowing when there’ll be money and when there will not be money,” Shapiro says. As is the case for many people with chronic illness, Shapiro’s symptoms are hard to anticipate. “Sometimes I’ll be at work and I’ll be limping around because, you know, ‘Oh, my knee just doesn’t work now,’ or ‘Oh, my foot just doesn’t work now,’” Shapiro explains. “And it’s so hard because I feel like there’s so much fluctuation in symptoms.” Shapiro’s job doesn’t offer sick days, health insurance, or benefits, and Shapiro pays out of pocket for medication and treatments. People with chronic illness often face steep medication costs and if they don’t have health insurance this becomes an even bigger problem. A friend of Shapiro’s with chronic illness once told them they pay $1,500 a month for medications. “I don’t understand how people are supposed to get money and live who have chronic illness,” Shapiro says. “It’s so hard.” Tilley, Pringle, and Shapiro are all struggling to make ends meet in precarious employment situations. And while their disabilities

24 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

greatly limit their earning potential, none of them see the CPP Disability plan as a viable option. In Casey’s view, the CPP Disability policies are outdated. “I think that we need to start rethinking our policies in Canada to realize that the labour market has changed quite a bit since a lot of these policies were created,” she says. “They were developed at a time when work was much better, pay was better, in the sense of what you could get for your wages. We didn’t see the same level of precarity.” No one from Service Canada would agree to an interview. In a written statement, media-relations officer Isabelle Maheu says people who don’t pay into the Canada Pension Plan are ineligible for CPP Disability benefits. According to a June 2019 Parliamentary Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, this includes many people who work for online platforms in the gig economy such as Uber and Lyft. Maheu says that CPP disability benefits are meant to supplement other forms of assistance, such as private disability insurance plans, provincial social assistance benefits, Workers’ Compensation programs, investments, and savings. But precarious workers typically aren’t sitting on investments and savings. According to Casey, many people who rely solely on disability payments are living in poverty. “The government needs to increase the amount people on disability support receive,” she says. “It is not nearly enough with the increasing rent and food prices.” Tilley is a member of multiple Canadian chronic illness groups on Facebook. She’s made connections with people across the country in similar circumstances, and says the situation is “really stark.” “There are people losing their homes and going to shelters and, you know, availing of food banks—all kinds of things going on in this country, all the time, to do with people who are on disability who can’t afford to live,” Tilley says. “The cause of a lot of chronic pain, at least in the medical theory these days, is stress related. So to be caught in a loop of poverty is basically making the chronic pain worse. And I think it is a vicious cycle of getting sick so that you can’t work, and then that stress makes the illness worse and worse.” The June 2019 Parliamentary Report mentioned earlier identifies many problems facing precarious workers in Canada, and recommends income supports that aren’t tied to employment, such as a guaranteed annual income. Casey endorses that idea, along with better opportunities for people who need to work flexible schedules. “We can all become ill or disabled at any moment,” she says. “We don’t have a good system to support us.” tadams@metroguide.ca

Halifax Magazine

@HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine


Books to Start a Conversation

Before the Parade

Portia White

You Won’t Always Be This Sad

A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Communities, 1972–1984

A Portrait in Words

A Book of Moments

By Rebecca Rose

Words by George Elliott Clarke Art by Lara Martina

By Sheree Fitch

978-1-77108-782-7 $19.95 | queer history

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DINING

PLANTING SEEDS NEMO LOPEZ WANTS TO GROW A GREENER HALIFAX; HE’S STARTING WITH VEGAN TACOS

Last February, Nemo Lopez gave up a lifetime of meat eating and became vegan. By March, he ditched a career in the restaurant industry to open his own vegan taco stand at the Seaport Farmers’ Market. Lopez spent years working in the restaurant industry and saw its waste firsthand. He decided to start a small business with a focus on environmental sustainability. “I think owning a business could make a positive impact in trying to motivate people or make people aware,” says Lopez. “I don’t find the point just to make money. To take, take, take. I think you always have to give back to the community.” Lopez came to Canada from Mexico in 2007 with less than $600 in his pocket. He came here as a refugee. He says he was fleeing the drug cartel in Cancún. At the time, Lopez was managing a bar in the hotel district, and says he kicked out two men for harassing a female tourist. After this, he discovered the men were involved in the drug cartel and feared they’d seek revenge. When he first arrived in Canada, he faced a lot of obstacles. He had no connections here, and barely spoke English. “It was tough. The first few years were hard,” says Lopez. “People thought I was naïve when I first came to Canada.” When he first decided to open his business he faced a lot of doubters. “Almost everyone I told that I was going to open a vegan taco stand laughed in my face,” he recalls. “They couldn’t really understand how authentic Mexican tacos could be meatless.” Lopez spent a few months perfecting his recipes before opening his stall in March 2019. He uses all the same flavours as traditional tacos, but instead of meat he uses substitutes like textured vegetable protein, tofu, and jackfruit. “It’s just about taking that negative perspective from people, like ‘oh ew vegan’ and just saying ‘come back, try this’ and even 26 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

PHOTO: ELLEN RIOPELLE

BY ELLEN RIOPELLE

While Nemo Lopez works to share Mexican flavours, he also has a bigger (and greener) mission.

if they don’t buy the food their mentality is going to be a little more open,” says Lopez. Through his various jobs, Lopez has acquired skills that are helping him in his business. Lopez spent a few years working as a door-to-door salesman in Mexico. He often uses the skills he learned in sales to attract customers at the market. Whenever he sees someone looking at his sign he will call them over and offer up free samples. “Here, try this, it’s going to blow your mind,” he told two curious customers as he sprinkled salt onto their palm. “What does it taste like?” he asked them. They look puzzled before the both replied, “Fried eggs!” They both ordered tacos.

Lopez often works at the market alongside daughters Alana and Emily (age 8 and 9). Lopez does most of the cooking, while his daughters share samples. He says when it comes to eating he tries to let them make their own decisions. “When they’re with me, everything is vegan,” he says. “But if they want McDonald’s, I’m going to give them McDonald’s. But I am also going to make them aware that for them to have a happy meal they’re going to get at least five plastic items, and they’re going to go to the garbage.” Lopez is using his business as a way to encourage people to think about their environmental impact. “I’m trying to make


PHOTOS: ELLEN RIOPELLE

At his Seaport Farmers’ Market booth, Nemo Lopez gives out tree seedlings to help people learn how they affect the environment.

“ONE DAY ALL THESE TREES WILL GROW AND HELP MAKE A GREATER IMPACT” —EMMANUELLE SCHULTZE this place better if I can, with what I can. What’s the point to make money if you’re not going to do anything for your community?” he says. He wants to see the Seaport market develop a zero-waste policy, as the Wolfville farmers’ market has. Markets tend to attract environmentally conscious folks because of the focus on local food—they’re ideal places to champion waste-reduction. “It’s more monkey-see, monkey-do than anything at that market,” explains Lauren Barnes, a frequent market shopper. “Seeing other people bring their own bags and their own containers kind of catches on.” Lopez is trying to help spread this mentality at the Seaport Market. When he first opened his taco stand he noticed people bringing reusable containers. He started trying to motivate more customers to do this by offering free agua fresca, the Mexican version of infused water, to every customer who brought their own container. Lopez’s taco stand is simple. On top of a bright tablecloth there is a small burner to heat the tortillas, freshly prepared fillings, and an array of sauces. Sometimes there are also baby trees on display. Although the trees are definitely vegan, they’re not intended for the tacos. Lopez has started giving away baby trees to people in the community. His motivation for the project is to inspire people to be a little more mindful about the environment. “I don’t only give the trees to people who buy food from me,” he says. “Sometimes people

are walking by and they go ‘what’s going on with the trees?’ and I say ‘I’m giving them for free, you want one?’” Emmanuelle Schultze is an intern at the Wolfville market and met Lopez at a recent sustainability fair in Halifax. At the fair, Lopez gave Schultze one of the trees. “I think it’s a brilliant idea,” Schultze says. “We are given this tiny little tree that we will take care of until it’s ready to be transplanted. One day all these trees will grow and help make a greater impact.” Lopez started with 250 trees and they were gone much faster than he expected. He got the trees from the provincial naturalresources department. Simon Mutabazi is the forester who provided them. “Every small act can contribute to educating. As you know, every tree planted helps in terms of carbon storage. If everybody can plant a tree, it’s going to help in a way,” says Mutabazi. The trees are baby red spruce, which is Nova Scotia’s provincial tree. “It’s a valuable tree. Looking at the future, red spruce is here to stay. It’s a good choice,” says Mutabazi. The trees have been a great way to draw people to his taco stand, especially kids. “Three weeks ago I was at the market and this mom and her three-year-old little boy came by,” recalls Lopez. He gave the little boy a tree and explained that he had to take care of it. “I was like ‘what’re you going to call it?’ and he looked at his mom, he looked at me and said ‘unicorn’. It’s not just that you give a tree, but in that moment I could see the mother’s heart just melting,” says Lopez.

Mutabazi believes that engaging with young kids is the key to getting the message out. “They are the future leaders and the future stewards of the land. To get the family as a whole engaged, that’s even better,” he says Alissa Lysack and her daughter Madelyn, age 6, stopped by the taco stand. Madelyn saw other people carrying trees and told her mom she wanted one too. “She loved it, she held it in the car on the way home to take care of it,” says Lysack. “She’s looking forward to finding a place in our backyard to plant it in the spring.” Each tree that is picked up, whether it gets planted in the spring or not, allows the roots of a community to expand. “Kids are so passionate for things like that,” Lopez says. “They care, you tell a kid ‘listen you have to take care of this tree’ and they will.” Lopez has big plans for the future as he continues to grow his roots in Halifax. He wants to write a cookbook, start a YouTube channel, and eventually open up a vegan Mexican restaurant. For now, he is focused on connecting with like-minded people and continuing to grow his business. “A lot of people have passion, they are trying to help,” says Lopez. “So I’m going to try to get close to them and just work as a team. Because that’s what we have to do, we have to be a big team.”

tadams@metroguide.ca Halifax Magazine @HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine MARCH 2020 halifaxmag.com | 27


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OPINION

A PLACE OF PILGRIMAGE DISCOVERING THE POWER AND IMPORTANCE OF AFRICVILLE BY MARIANNE SIMON

Ever since moving to Halifax from India, I’ve wanted to visit Africville. Recently I had the chance to go there with two of my colleagues. After driving down a winding road alongside trucks bound for the adjacent container pier, we reached the Africville Museum situated in a park at 5795 Africville Rd. It’s a replica of a little church. There were no houses, no people, and no children playing around. Deserted. But the exhibits inside the museum took me through the history of Africville and its destruction, and the efforts of the community to keep the memories alive. The museum, opened in 2012, stood on the park with a sweeping view of the land where the Black community had lived and flourished by the Bedford Basin. Residents faced many indignities imposed by the authorities. These included setting up a slaughterhouse, a prison, an infectious diseases hospital, human waste disposal pits, a dump, encroaching railway lines and industrialization in Africville’s backyard. Africville was a thriving community but while the rest of Halifax had sewers, clean water, and street lighting, it had none of these. Landowners in Halifax had deeds and legal titles, but the city considered the inhabitants of Africville to be squatters. In the 1960s, city workers destroyed Africville to make way for industrial development. The final indignity Africville suffered was shocking. Workers razed homes to the ground, demolishing the church early one morning. Residents and their belongings were transported to new locations in dump trucks. I would have thought that such degrading treatment would leave a community totally devastated, destroying their will to survive. But that never happened. Their invincible spirit lived on and they were determined to remain a community and to reclaim Africville. From 1972, former residents began holding picnics, church services, and weekend gatherings on the site of Africville. Organizers formed the African Genealogy Society (AGS) in 1982. The following year saw the first Africville Reunion. I could imagine the joy and enthusiasm. Since then, it has become an annual event every July. My colleagues and I were fortunate to meet museum general manager Juanita Peters and have a long chat. She’s a playwright, actor, and film director. She had us spellbound with her stories of Black Nova Scotian heritage. Her words painted pictures for me and I saw the stories of Africville inhabitants played out on my mind’s screen. Although the citizens of Africville were marginalized, she told us of their happiness. They built a strong, close knit

30 | halifaxmag.com MARCH 2020

community, sharing their joys and sorrows, and helping each other. Their strength was in their unity. The later stories of loss and separation were heart-wrenching; tales of pain, anguish, and frustration. Peters talked about the future plans of the Africville Heritage Trust, which was established in 2010 to manage the museum and the Africville Interpretive Centre. The Trust aims to make the museum a venue for telling the true story of Africville and to share the contributions of the local Black community. The large hall in the basement of the church serves as a community centre for various social activities for the local people. The museum also functions as a contact point for the former Africville residents and their descendants. In 1996, the federal government declared Africville a National Historic Site. The citation called it “a site of pilgrimage for people honouring the struggle against racism.” On Feb. 24, 2010, then-mayor Peter Kelly apologized for the destruction of Africville. The city built a replica of the destroyed church, and the area was renamed Africville Park. It is heartening to note that The United Nations has acknowledged that the people of Africville should be compensated for past injustices. Some parts of the Africville story will soon be incorporated into the Ontario Black History Society’s new national exhibit, Black History is Canadian History: Continuing the Conversation. I hope this will lead to a better understanding of the rich culture and the contributions of African Canadians. But, will these meagre attempts suffice to recompense the people of Africville for their untold sufferings and irreplaceable losses? Eddie Carvery was the last person to be removed from Africville in 1969. But he couldn’t stay away. The next year he returned to his destroyed home and pitched a tent there. He continued to live in the demolished Africville site for more than 30 years, protesting against the destruction of his community and demanding justice for his people. He demanded that the land be returned to its rightful owners. Spending time at Africville was an emotional experience for me. I couldn’t accept the fact that certain sections of society should be marginalized and treated with disrespect. Eddie Carvery’s quest for freedom and justice resounds in the hearts of many. When will we all achieve real freedom?

tadams@metroguide.ca Halifax Magazine @HalifaxEditor @HalifaxMagazine


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