Volume 8.    Issue 3. (Jan/Feb 2003)

Cover Story editorial
community profile making a difference
rural report opinion

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Cover Story



Letter From The Publisher

Back in Your
Mailbox Again!

Well, we’re a bit late, but Coastal Communities News is still in business. In the last issue, we issued a heads-up to our readers that the November/December issue may be our last. The evidence you hold in your hands proves the inaccuracy of that, and for this we are all delighted.
Our thanks for our ongoing ability to publish this magazine must go first and foremost to the Nova Scotia Department of Education, which was wise enough to see the educational value in keeping people in our rural and coastal communities in touch with one another through our pages. Thanks are due to two other provincial departments as well: both Community Services and Economic Development saw fit to put some funds in a pot that will allow us to continue our visits to your mailbox.
No, it’s not guaranteed funding for ever and ever. In this day and age, there isn’t any such thing as that, as any of our readers involved with local community groups know all too well. But the help the province is providing will give us some breathing space to seek alternative, longer-term sources of support for this publication. Over the next few issues, we’ll be working in partnership with adult literacy groups in different parts of the province to help them tell their own stories in their own ways. Watch for that, and for more of the sort of community stories you’ve come to expect in these pages.
A couple months ago, the Coastal Communities Network (CCN) feared that its voice would be muted by the demise of this magazine. We’re grateful that this isn’t about to happen. Through the pages of this magazine, as well as through its many other important endeavours, CCN will continue to be “A Large Voice for Small Communities.”

– CCN’s Editorial Board


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Community Profile



Fundy Gem: Harbourville

A Great Place to
Run out of Gas

by Scott Milsom

There are few more stirring views in all of Nova Scotia than those offered after coming up from the Annapolis Valley over the North Mountain and down toward the Fundy shore on a sunny day. As you descend, the blue of sky meeting the deeper blue of sea delights the eyes. There are a number of roads in Kings County alone that climb out of the Valley and then fall seaward to small communities along the Bay of Fundy, places such as Scot’s Bay, Hall’s Harbour, Baxter’s Harbour, Canada Creek, and Morden. But none offer a more stunning panorama than the road leading north from Berwick to Harbourville. As I coast down the north slope of the mountain on a crystal-clear Friday morning in late November, I see the familiar sky-meets-sea vista, punctuated only by the high brown cliffs of Ile Haute at the mouth of Minas Channel and the far shore of Cumberland County and Cape d’Or.
I’ve come to try to get a sense of what moves this little community of 250 to 300 people, and to that end I’ve agreed to meet local resident Holly MacDonald in the Harbourville Community Hall. I arrive and am met by Holly and about a half-dozen other women active in the Harbourville Restoration Society (HRS), which, among other things, is responsible for the running of the Hall. There’s a bit of an emergency to deal with: the furnace isn’t working, and it’s cold enough that the pipes might freeze. But after a few phone calls and a fair bit of tinkering, the heat comes on and, though a chill remains, the danger has passed. The women get busy about the Hall, putting up Christmas decorations and making preparations for a community pot-luck supper set for the coming Sunday.
Holly tells me that the Community Hall was, until sometime in the 1960s, a two-room schoolhouse. “When the school was shut down, the Harbourville Women’s Sewing Circle, which has been a going concern in this community for more than 100 years now, took over the building,” Holly tells me. “When the HRS got together a few years back, it made sense for it to take over the Hall, but if it hadn’t been for the ladies of the Sewing Circle, this building would have been long gone by now.”
The people of Har-bourville, through the HRS, have been at work for a number of years in a long-term effort to fix the community’s crumbling wharves. In days gone by, Harbourville was the busiest port on the Nova Scotian side of Fundy, but as seaborne commerce declined over the years the wharves were sorely neglected. The HRS was founded in 1999 to address the need for major repairs. “The provincial Department of Economic Development pledged $200,000 some time ago, but it was contingent on our ability to find matching funds from other sources,” says Holly, who serves on the HRS’s Board. “Just yesterday, we received word from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) that they’re going to pitch in with $250,000. Together with funding already secured for wharf repairs through an agreement between the Annapolis Valley First Nation and the federal Department of Fisheries, the money now in place will go a long way toward all that needs to be done. We still need about another $500,000, but we’re delighted with this most recent news. Fixing the wharf will be a big boost for the community, and it will do wonders for tourism in the area.”
Indeed, the good news seems to motivate the women as they go about preparing the Hall for Sunday’s gathering, when the HRS will make its “official” announcement to the community about ACOA’s decision. “That’s not the only piece of good news we’ll have Sunday,” quips Holly. “Santa will be here too.”
Among the women at the Hall this morning is Harbourville native Mary DesRoches, who now lives on the other side of the North Mountain in Somerset, just north of Berwick. After coffee, Mary and I leave the other women to their work and she takes me on a round of visits that begins next door at the home of life-long Harbourville resident and Sewing Circle member Jenny Morton. She invites us into her living room, which commands a lovely Fundy view.
“I was born in this house,” Jenny tells me. “My Dad used to drive the mail between Berwick and Harbourville, back in the days, long ago, when there was still a post office here.” Jenny can remember back to the 1930s, a time when Harbourville was a bustling port. “Groceries would come by boat from Saint John, and there were, at one time, five stores here, and two hotels,” she says. “Then, in the ‘50s, we had a dance hall here, and people of all ages would come to the dances. Local musicians would play country music, and, though there wasn’t supposed to be any drinking, bottles got passed around. But there was never any trouble.”
At one time, there were lighthouses both in Harbourville and on Ile Haute, and Jenny remembers a particular Christmas tradition that developed. “The lightkeeper on Ile Haute would be very isolated from the rest of the world, especially in winter,” Jenny explains, “and people in Harbourville developed the habit of lighting a bonfire on Christmas Eve as a way of wishing him and his family a Merry Christmas. He would signal back with a fire of his own to let us know that all was well.”
Mary, who attended elementary school in the two-room schoolhouse that is now the Community Hall, remembers the Harbourville lighthouse. “At one time, my father was the lightkeeper there, but the Coast Guard closed it down in the 1950s,” she says. “I remember getting out of school one day in the early 1960s, and there was the Coast Guard, tearing down the light. I was devastated, and angry too, because there was nothing wrong with the structure. It was a lesson to me as a young person that, if people in communities want to be heard, well, they had better start speaking up.” The light on Ile Haute is still operated by the Coast Guard, though it has been automated since the 1950s.
After our visit with Jenny, Mary and I drive up a dirt road to see Margaret Swindell, who owns and operates a small farm on the outskirts of Harbourville. Like Jenny Morton, she too can boast that she still lives in the house in which she was born. “This house was built in the middle of the nineteenth century,” she tells me, sitting in her farmhouse kitchen. “My Dad bought it in 1923, and I took over from him in 1963. As a kid, I’d tag along with Dad as he did the chores around the farm. (If it was dark, he’d use an oil lamp, because we didn’t get electricity here until after World War Two.) When I went to school, I had to wear a dress, but I’d come right home after classes, go up to my room, put on my pants, and go on out to the barn.”
I remark that there can’t be too many farms around the province operated by single women. “I never had any interest in marrying anyone,” she tells me, “because I like being my own person, not having to ask anyone’s permission to do things.” She explains that she raises beef cattle and grows grain, potatoes, hay, and also tends a small vegetable garden. “I used to also keep some dairy cattle,” she says, “but I got out of that ten years ago, when the last of the cream trucks that used to come up over the mountain stopped coming.”
“I’ve liked the life I’ve lived here through the years,” she tells me just before we leave. “I’ve been happy, and I wouldn’t trade my life for Queen Elizabeth’s.”
Our next stop is Fundy Lore, an art gallery that features the works of painter Horst Maria Gilhauman and is operated by Ly Munk. As Mary and I admire the beautiful paintings and prints that feature Harbourville’s day-to-day life, Ly tells me that she and Horst, who was born in Germany in 1936 but emigrated to Ontario in his 30s, discovered Harbourville after the couple came to the area in the early 1990s so Horst could study philosophy at Acadia University in Wolfville. “We fell in love with Nova Scotia because of its unique lifestyle, and with Harbourville for the very same reason,” Ly says. “When we first came here, the community had seen better times, but in recent years there’s been a huge resurgence of community pride. There’s a restaurant that’s been operating here for four years now, and the gallery is entering its third year.”
We make a final stop at the home of Greg Hamilton, who fishes scallop, herring, mackerel, and lobster from Harbourville, and who also operates a fish market on the waterfront during the summer months. We find him hard at work in his garage, which is dominated by the rusty, wheel-less hulk of what he tells me is a 1935 Ford. “I’m looking at this as a two-year project,” Greg says of his restoration effort. “I got the body on the Eastern Shore for $500, but I expect I’ll sink thousands more into it. I’m having a really hard time trying to find a front grille for it.”
Greg, who is married and has three grown children still living in the area, is one of seven people (including two Native fishermen from the Annapolis Valley First Nation Reserve near Cambridge), who fish out of Harbourville. “In my younger years, I worked as a carpenter in the Valley,” he says, “but I wanted to get into fishing, and I did that in the early ‘80s. I’ve seen changes over the years in the fishery here. On the negative side, of course, the groundfish have gone way down, but on the positive side of things, lobster catches and prices have been remarkable. And new practices adopted in the scallop fishery over the years seem to have helped the stocks, so things look good for the future of that fishery too.”
As Mary and I head back to the Community Hall, she explains that there are a lot of non-residents who have bought land in the Harbourville area in recent years. “They come here because of the beauty the community offers,” she says “and most of them are great additions to the community. But it’s made land prices go through the roof. I’d love to move back here, but it’s just too expensive now.”
Back at the Hall, the furnace has by now done its warming work and the women have pretty much got things ready for the upcoming Sunday. “After the Sunday supper,” Holly MacDonald tells me, “we’ll have a Christmas Food Drive for the Berwick Food Bank here, and then we’ll close her down for the season.”
When I remark that the people of Harbourville seem very welcoming to people who come here from away, Lois Bearden, one of the women who has busied herself through the morning here replies, “I’m one of them. Back in the ‘70s, Russia Road [which veers off the main road from Berwick as one descends into Harbourville], was pretty much ‘hippy central.’ My husband’s Mom was a Cajun, and he didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so we figured it was a good time to come up here and look into his Acadian roots. We got to Harbourville, and ran out of gas. We’ve been here ever since.”
As I head back up over the north slope of the North Mountain toward Berwick, I take one last look in the rear-view mirror of the lovely vision of Ile Haute, then check my gas gauge, seeing that I’ll be fine. But, “So what?” I think. Even if I ran out of gas, I’d simply coast back down to Harbourville, where I know I’d be well taken care of.

For more information on Harbourville, visit <www.harbourville.ca>. To learn more about the art and philosophy of Horst Maria Guilhauman, visit <www.tilltoppress.com>. If you have a front grille for a 1935 Ford in your garage or attic, please call Greg Hamilton at 538-9707.

Discussion Points
1. Can you see, or feel the effects of, the deterioration of rural infrastructure and government services in your own community?
2. Do you believe there are seniors in your community who have in their memories valuable lessons of history that might benefit younger generations? If so, how might you be able to help preserve the wisdom of those memories?
3. If agriculture is major part of your community’s economy, how has the decline of small farm operations affected life in your community?
4. How open do you believe your community is to people from away who move into your midst? If it is open, why do you think that’s so? If it isn’t very open, why not?



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Rural Report


CCN’s 2002 Proud Community Awards

Dancing, and
Celebrating, Excellence

More than 70 people gathered at the Glengarry Best Western in Truro on the evening of November 13 for the Coastal Communities Network’s (CCN’s) third annual Proud Community Award (PCA) presentations and Gala Dinner. Regaled by good food and Irish dance – the young people of Truro’s Leydon School of Irish dance put on quite a show – representatives from community groups across the province celebrated ten outstanding achievements of individuals and organizations that have made Nova Scotia’s coastal and rural communities better places to live.
After reviewing scores of nominations, our panel of judges selected two finalists in each of five categories. After dinner, the winners and runners-up in each category were revealed. They were:
Community Innovation, Winner:
Truro Tree Committee

Recent years have seen the devastation of many trees across the province by Dutch elm disease. The Truro area has been particularly hard hit, and beginning in 1999 this group decided to make the best of a bad situation. Since then, more than 30 sculptures celebrating the town’s heritage and history have been made by a number of artists. Handed the “lemons” of Dutch elm disease, this group has made “lemonade” and, in the process has honoured Truro’s history and heritage. As well, the group has produced a booklet to guide visitors on a “Truro Tree Sculpture Tour.”
Community Innovation, Runner-Up: River John CAP Site Committee
These volunteers are committed to promoting the rural way of life and furthering the economic development of their village through information technology. They view education as central to this, and they have offered no-cost courses on computer troubleshooting, as well as other courses to help local businesses and individuals hone their computer skills. The Committee has established a program that offers businesses within a three-mile radius free access to the internet without tying up a phone line. To see more about the work of this Committee, visit <www.riverjohn.com>.
Culture, Winner:
CKJM-Cheticamp Co-op Radio

A group of citizens concerned about the erosion of Acadian culture in the Cheticamp area formed a non-profit co-op in 1992 to raise funds for a community-based radio station. In 1995 CKJM went on the air, and since that time it has successfully preserved and promoted the local culture. The station has, from the beginning, been open to the community. With more than 60 percent of the programs hosted by volunteers, virtually everyone in the community is given the opportunity to participate. For the past seven years, CKJM has been fostering both cultural and community pride in the Cheticamp area.
Culture, Runner-Up:
Weymouth Falls Community Unity

This group was established to help the African-Nova Scotian communities of Digby and Annapolis counties overcome existing barriers relating to employment issues. It soon realized, however, that community members had broader concerns, including education, the preservation of heritage, community pride, economic development, youth, and other issues. The group holds regular meetings and workshops, and offers programs to highlight community strengths and to overcome barriers to local development.
Resource Management, Winner:
Scotian Gold Co-op

With its re-organization in the 1980s, this farmer-owned co-op has helped Valley apple growers overcome the fickle demands of the global marketplace. While half of Nova Scotia’s apples go to low-yield commodity products like juice, the vast majority of Scotian Gold apples are premium eating apples. The co-op has worked to develop new varieties of high-end apples, and has helped give producers control of their future. Today, co-op members have the ability to plan for the continuity of their farms for future generations.
Resource Management, Runner-Up:
Guysborough County Inshore
Fishermen’s Association

This group has brought together small-boat fishermen along the coast of Guysborough County to work democratically in their common interest. Through this group, crab allocations are shared by the inshore fleet. It is also involved, in partnership with other fisheries organizations, in several lobster conservation programs and is active in the management of groundfish resources for inshore harvesters. Throughout all its deliberations, this organization has always stressed the twin themes of democratic representation and the sustainability of fisheries resources and harvesting methods.
Small Business, Winner:
Ray Doucet, Manager, Cheticamp Co-op

As manager of this local co-op for the past 30 years, Ray has seen annual sales rise from $200,000 to approximately $10 million. Having expanded to a full grocery section, an in-store bakery, and hardware and building-supply sections, the co-op has helped keep millions of dollars in the community. Ray’s devotion to community is evident in his volunteer efforts that successfully challenged government plans to take health-care services from the Cheticamp area. He also worked tirelessly to help local fish harvesters and plant workers take cooperative ownership of a local fish plant.
Small Business, Runner-Up:
Homestead Craft Shop at Maud’s Place

In partnership with Maud’s Place, a fledgling heritage museum in Brookfield, this venture has brought together more than twenty area craftspeople in a cooperative effort to both market their wares and stimulate growth in the local economy. Operated this past summer from mid-June to mid-September, the shop was staffed entirely by volunteer craftspeople. Many who had previously restricted their sales to Christmas bazaars were able to expand summer sales. Through the project, local craftspeople democratically shared their talents and ideas. Plans are now well underway for the 2003 season.
Youth, Winner: Graham Dixon
This fourteen-year-old is a reliable and innovative volunteer at the Samuel Wood Museum Complex in Wood’s Harbour .He has helped with food-drives, fund-raising events, and Child Wellness Days. Whenever something needs doing at the Complex, Graham is there, filled with ideas and enthusiasm. When a fire escape needed replacement, Graham seized the initiative by drawing up plans and ordering lumber. When computers needed moving, Graham offered fresh ideas and lent a central hand. No matter what is needed at a given time, others at the Complex know that Graham can be relied on to both come up with good ideas and then follow through on them.
Youth, Runner-Up: Cornelia van den Hoek
Cornelia, who has just finished high school, hails from Economy, Colchester County. After attending a youth leadership course, Cornelia noticed that many people in her area had to drive an hour to attend 4-H activities. So, she organized a large group of both adults and young people to establish the Glooscap 4-H Club in Economy. This has allowed more local young people to become involved with 4-H. Cornelia also noticed another need in her community – a chronic shortage of swim instructors. So, she took two years of courses, and, in cooperation with local pool owners, has offered swimming instruction in three different local communities.

In past years CCN held its Proud Community Awards as part of its Annual General Meeting. This year, however, it decided to hold a two-day event that included a Trade Fair, workshops, and a “Town Hall” meeting hosted by the Nova Scotia Rural Team, a group consisting of representatives from federal and provincial governments as well as a number of community-based activists from around the province. CCN also found sponsors (see box, this page) to help defray the costs of the event. We are grateful to all of them.
Although CCN often has to deal with things that don’t work for coastal and rural Nova Scotia, the 2002 Proud Community Awards were a celebration of what is working. All the finalists serve as inspirations to those of us still working away in our efforts to make our communities better places to live and work.

For more information on the Coastal Communities Network, its Proud Community Awards, or the 2002 winners and runners-up, contact Scott Milsom, CCN Communications Officer, at 445-7168.

Discussion Point
Does your community or municipality find ways to celebrate those whose work betters life for the entire community? If so, how?


 

Nova Scotia’s Farmers

Growing to
Feed the World

Farmers feed the world. In Nova Scotia, more than 50 different crops are grown and many types of livestock are raised. Safe, quality food is a top priority for farmers and the agricultural industry in the the province. Agriculture is responsible for more than 16,000 Nova Scotian jobs.
Try your luck at our Agri-Quiz to test your knowledge of this vital
Nova Scotian industry

1. How many people does one Nova Scotia farmer feed?
a: 100
b: 120
c: 140

2. What type of apple is grown only in Nova Scotia?
a: Cortland
b: Delicious
c: Gravenstein

3. How many litres of maple sap does it take to make one litre of maple syrup?
a: 20
b: 30
c: 40

4. How many eggs can a hen lay in a year?
a: 184
b: 284
c: 384

5: What is Nova Scotia’s provincial berry?
a: cranberry
b: strawberry
c: blueberry

6: How many glasses of milk does a dairy cow produce each day?
a: 100
b: 200
c: 300

7: How many beef farms are there in Nova Scotia?
a: 1,000
b: 2,000
c: 3,000

Answers
1: b 2: c 3: c 4: b 5: c 6: a 7: a

Source: Nova Scotia Dept. of Agriculture

 


 


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editorial



Charities and
Democracy

People who live in Nova Scotia’s small rural and coastal communities are all too well
aware of a dynamic shift in government over the past several years. In the name of “fiscal responsibility,” the feds decide they are getting out of a particular business. (Remember, for example, the days when Ottawa felt it was part of its job to manage and maintain wharves because they were central to the viability of so many of our coastal communities?) When such things happen, people look to the provincial government for support. But, not being given any resources from Ottawa to help out with these former federal responsibilities, the buck gets passed on to municipalities. Typically, these are at least as starved for funds as the province, and the job at hand inevitably has to be picked up by groups of unpaid volunteers. (For example, look to your local Harbour Authority, which is almost certainly made up of unpaid volunteers. Look also at more distant and lower quality health care, or to local school closures, to see the effects of federal and provincial unloading of responsibilities.)
People in our communities typically band together in the face of this withdrawal of responsibility on the part of government. They do what they can by forming community-based organizations to fill in the widening gaps of need. Whether the job before it is providing alternative transportation for those needing health care or organizing a drop-in centre for young people, community groups are in constant need of funding. While many government programs might underwrite specific projects, they are almost universally unwilling to fund “core” activities for these community groups. And, as often as not, government agencies will ask for “matching” funding from other sources. Community groups typically spend much time and effort dressing up their “core” activities as “projects” in order to secure funding to do the work that needs to be done in their communities.
There is another potential source of funding community groups might make use of, but the way things stand today, many of them are unable to. There are many charitable foundations and generous individuals who would like to help local community groups with their worthwhile projects, but current taxation regulations make it very hard for community groups to take advantage of this. Because of the taxation benefits of giving to charity, charitable foundations, in particular, can only fund activities defined as “charitable” by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA), the “gatekeeper” of charitable status in Canada. Sadly, many community groups that apply for charitable status are turned down, because of the very outdated definition of what activities qualify as “charitable.”
The laws regulating charitable activities in Canada are based on English laws from the 1600s, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. They restrict charities to the following four activities: the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, and other purposes beneficial to the community. You would think that “other purposes beneficial to the community” would include all sorts of good works, but the courts have interpreted this very narrowly. And, the way the CCRA defines “the advancement of education” is also narrowly interpreted. It may not include, for example the publication of educational materials that raise public awareness about a given issue. In fact, the CCRA’s definition is so narrow that it usually includes only educational institutions. So, while the CCRA might consider giving a man a fish as “the relief of poverty,” if you simply show him how to fish, it may not be considered “the advancement of education.” You might have to put the man in a classroom and teach him how to fish there in order to qualify under the CCRA’s current definition. You’d think learning to fish might involve water somewhere, wouldn’t you?
Along with such narrow definitions, the CCRA enforces another regulation that often leads to applications for charitable status being denied. This is its “ten percent rule,” which restricts the “advocacy” activities of any charitable organization to ten percent of all its activities. Thus, an organization that offers aid to people with, for instance, lung cancer, would probably be looked upon as a charitable organization by the CCRA, but if that same organization was found to be spending eleven percent of its efforts to promote clean air and smoke-free areas it could be judged to be doing too much advocacy work and therefore have its charitable status denied or revoked.
So, a charity can distribute band-aids to injured workers, but it had better not advocate too strongly for safer workplaces. To make matters worse, the CCRA’s interpretation and application of its regulations is often inconsistent and arbitrary. The environmental group Greenpeace is considered “too political” for charitable status, while the Fraser Institute, a right-wing, pro-big business think-tank, is not. In recent years, a YWCA in rural Ontario was refused charitable status until it removed mention of women’s rights in its application. In Québec, a Christian group was told it would be refused charitable status because its mission – the elimination of torture – involved lobbying certain governments to change their policies. So, the group could cheer up prisoners who had been tortured, but it was not allowed to appeal to governments to stop torturing people in their prisons. And, the list of such examples goes on.
Happily, there’s a national coalition working to help the process of change along. A Vancouver-based group called the Institute for Media, Policy, and Civil Society, together with the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, have launched a “Charities and Democracy” project to hear the voices of community groups across the country and to develop means to convince the federal government that changes to our charities laws are essential. Change is needed to allow community groups to do the work that has to be done to assure the survival and development of our small communities. In 2001, the project heard from over 700 people as part of a National Dialogue on Charities and Advocacy. This past fall, workshops were held across the country to further the movement for change.
Other countries such as Scotland and Australia have recently updated their charity laws to reflect 21st-century realities. It’s long past time that Canada did the same.
Government representatives from departments at all levels have appealed to community groups across Nova Scotia – and across Canada – to tell them how government policies can be harmonized to benefit our small communities. Well, folks, here’s an ideal place to start.


– Scott Milsom

For more information on the “Charities and Democracy” project, visit <www.impacs.org/policy/>.

Discussion Points
1. How does government downloading affect people in small communities?
2. How can getting charitable status help make the work of community-based groups more effective?
3. Is “education” something that can only happen in a classroom? Can you think of things that have helped educate you that took place outside a classroom setting?
4. Should environmental groups that advocate policy changes for environmental reasons be considered charitable?



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Coastal Currents



Making A Difference


Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve


Working for the
Environment, Practically


by Scott Milsom

In 1987, as the environmental movement was gaining ground across the globe, the United Nations (UN) issued the Brundtland Report. Named for the Norwegian Prime Minister of the time, it was also given the title Our Common Future. It defined “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That’s a huge order, but since that time the UN has been working to promote the concept.
One of the means it has chosen to move this work forward is through the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program, which has seen the establishment of more than 400 “biosphere reserves” around the world, including twelve in Canada, and one – the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve (SNBR) – in Nova Scotia.
Lunerburg-area resident Wanda Baxter is the voluntary Project Coordinator of the SNBR Association, and I met her to try to get to the bottom of the “biosphere reserve” concept, and what it might mean to people living in southwestern Nova Scotia.
“The SNBR received its designation in September of 2001, after a group of local volunteers made application to UNESCO,” Wanda says. “The whole idea of biosphere reserves is that it’s a voluntary thing. Perhaps the word ‘reserve’ is a bit unfortunate, in fact, because it implies that there won’t be change. Of course, there will. The biosphere reserve concept recognizes that education, culture, and the economy are all inter-linked. Each biosphere reserve has a core protected area, and in our case this is Kejimkujik National Park and the adjacent Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area. But the biosphere is far larger than these smaller protected areas, and we are looking at the five counties – Annapolis, Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne and Queens – that make up the SNBR. The whole of southwestern Nova Scotia is really a unique series of ecosytems.”
Wanda explains that the SNBR and other biosphere reserves serve three functions. First is a conservation function, to conserve landscapes, ecosystems, species, and genetic variation. Next is a development function, to foster economic and human development that is culturally, socially, and ecologically sustainable. Finally, there is a logistical function, providing support for research, monitoring, education, and the exchange of information related to issues of conservation and development.
“We’re working with landowners throughout the entire area,” Wanda says. “Our first aim is education: it’s important that people see the SNBR, not as something intrusive, but as something that can be helpful in people’s development plans. The keyword is ‘sustainability.’”
How, I ask Wanda, would the laying of sewer pipe in Yarmouth in, say, ten years from now, be affected by the existence and growth of the SNBR?
“It’s not that we’d want to go in there and tell them they have to do it this way or that way,” she responds. “We don’t ever want to develop into anything resembling a regulatory body. In an ideal world, our existence would simply mean that more information was available, that the ‘sustainable development bar’ was set higher, and that people in Yarmouth might take some pride in the fact that they were laying their sewer pipes in a way that was better for the environment than before.”
Through partnerships with government agencies, environmental groups, and researchers, the SNBR has worked to raise awareness about species at risk, such as the very rare and secretive southern flying squirrel, which in Canada is found only in the southern parts of Nova Scotia, Québec, and Ontario. “Along with the southern flying squirrel,” Wanda tells me, “other ‘species at risk’ in southwestern Nova Scotia include the mainland population of moose – most of whom spend much of their time in the Tobeatic – the pine marten, Blanding’s turtle, along with several plant species. We’re working to raise awareness about all of these species.”
The SNBR Association is working with government and private landowners in a buffer zone around Keji and the Tobeatic to promote the goals of conservation and sustainable development. “It’s entirely a voluntary thing,” Wanda says, “but companies like J. D. Irving and Bowater are anxious to get involved. Sure, it’s good public relations for them, but it’s also good for the environment. It used to be that environmental activists were mostly finger pointers, pointing at bad practices. But there has been a paradigm shift, and environmentalists are now working with the private sector and local communities to better the environment and promote sustainable practices.”
Wanda, who is from the Kingston Peninsula not far from Saint John, New Brunswick, studied English at Mount Alison and the University of New Brunswick, and then took an Environmental Ethics course at Dalhousie. “I was always awed by the way the natural world was portrayed in literature – like the descriptions of the English moors in Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and the writings of Henry David Thoreau,” she says. “But as much as I loved school and learning, I found that I wanted to get involved in more than the theoretical: I wanted to dive into work that was practical, useful.” After going west to get a Master’s degree in Environmental Planning and Policy at the University of Calgary and graduating in the fall of 2001, she and her partner moved to Lunenburg. Soon, a job opening came up, and Wanda found a way to apply her book learning in a practical fashion by working with the SNBR Association. (Funding for that position has dried up, at least for the time being, though Wanda continues to work with the SNBR Association on a voluntary basis.)
One of the central aims of biosphere reserves worldwide is the promotion of products that stem from environmentally sustainable practices. In southwestern Nova Scotia, forestry products spring immediately to mind, and the SNBR Association is engaged with a number of forestry organizations to promote such products. But there is also another area with tremendous potential: “We are working with governments and the private sector to help develop ecotourism in this part of the province,” Wanda tells me. “Much has already been accomplished in this area, but there is still a huge amount of untapped potential for ecotourism in this part of the world.”
Although the biosphere reserve concept is currently stalled in the United States – as part of the anti-UN sentiment in that country – the biosphere reserve concept is being embraced enthusiastically by governments in Europe, and elsewhere globally. “In Europe,” Wanda says, “biosphere reserves are being embraced by governments. It’s something of a top-down approach there. Here, though, we need to build things from the ground up, to make the biosphere reserve concept a community-driven one. There’s now a Canadian Biosphere Association in place, and there’s a National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, which promotes the concept of biosphere reserves and advises the Prime Minister. And the concept is also being promoted by the Assembly of First Nations.”
Last year, a group on Digby Neck was fighting to block plans by an American company to develop a quarry. It wrote to UNESCO and asked them why the SNBR Association wasn’t helping them in their battle. “We’re still brand new,” Wanda explains, “and we can’t engage in such struggles at this point. We are working to get firmly established, and our priorities right now are structure and democratic governance. We’re quite encouraged by the fact that the province and a number of municipalities have been very supportive. As well, we’ve had piecemeal funding from Parks Canada and Environment Canada.”
The SNBR is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, and having brought municipalities onside, the Association is now looking for the province to show its commitment and endorsement of the project. A February meeting will set the course for the Association for the next three to six months. It seems that the biosphere reserve concept will probably catch on here, as it has in many other countries. Our environment will only be the better for it.

For more information on the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, visit its website at <www.thegreenpages.ca/snbr-rbsn>.

Discussion Points
1. Do economic priorities sometimes get in the way of environmental ones? Can you think of examples in your own area?
2. Can you think of any ways that economic activities in your area might be changed to help the environment?
3 Do you think there should be times when environmental factors should take precedence over economic ones when it comes to a proposed economic development?


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Opinion



Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia


Making the Law
Serve the People

by William H. Laurence, Legal Research Counsel, Law Reform Commission
of Nova Scotia

Can you think of a recent example of the law touching your life? Have you sat on a jury? Do you administer the estate of a deceased spouse or relative? Does a former spouse pay maintenance to you? Perhaps one of the many administrative tribunals that operate in the province made a decision that affected you. If any of these examples apply, then you have likely benefited from the work of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia.
The Law Reform Commission is a small public body that proposes changes to the province’s laws in order for them to work better, or to become fairer, more understandable, or better suited to current ideals of justice. Since its establishment in 1991, the Law Reform Commission has published reports on a broad range of topics relevant to Nova Scotians – domestic violence, maintenance enforcement, the probate system, juries, mortgages, and mental health law are some of the subjects about which the Commission has proposed legal reforms. Remarkably, though a provincial public body, the Law Reform Commission has been operating since 2001 without government funding. The Commission receives all of its funding from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia.
The Law Reform Commission does not make the province’s laws. Rather, law-making is the responsibility of the elected members in the House of Assembly, through legislation, and of the province’s judges, through their case decisions. Nonetheless, Law Reform Commission proposals are reflected in a number of provincial statutes. Assembly representatives from all political parties have referred with approval to Commission reports or to Commission work generally, during the course of legislative debates
The Commission’s work has also influenced the manner in which government operates. For example, in the area of appointments to public agencies, boards, and commissions, the provincial government recently acknowledged, consistent with a 1997 Commission report, that the process for choosing people should be “transparent.” This would include ensuring that the criteria for an appointment would be consistent with the agency’s purpose and publicly available, and that the process for identifying and selecting people would be clear.
The Commission’s influence goes beyond legislation and government policy. Commission reports serve an important educational function. Available for free, either in print or through the internet, they are used as a source of legal information by a wide range of community members. Commission reports are used as course materials at post-secondary institutions. Government, public interest groups, and other organizations use Commission reports in order to develop awareness of issues and to focus discussions among interested people. Commission reports are distributed widely. They are available, for instance, at public and university libraries in Nova Scotia.
Another significant role of the Commission is responding to enquiries about the law or about aspects of the Commission’s work. The Commission does not provide legal advice, nor does it intervene in legal cases. Nonetheless, since 1991 Commission staff have responded to a large number of enquiries made by telephone, by fax, by letter, by e-mail, or in person. In replying to enquiries, Commission staff have provided legal information, copies of Commission reports, along with other documents and contact details for government departments and other relevant institutions.
The law is meant to serve Nova Scotians. If a law is obsolete, unworkable, confusing, or unfair, it performs a disservice, and it should be changed or eliminated. The Law Reform Commission is committed to raising public awareness about problems with our laws and to proposing forward-thinking changes that will help to ensure our laws are clear, relevant, effective, and fair.

If there are aspects of the law that you’d like to have changed, the Law Reform Commission welcomes your comments. It can be reached by phone at 423-2633, by fax at 423-0222, by post at 1484 Carlton Street, Halifax, NS, B3H 3B7, or by e-mail at <info@lawreform.ns.ca>. To find out more about the Commission, visit its website at <www.lawreform.ns.ca>.

 

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Coastal Communities News


Acknowledgements

Coastal Communities News is published bi-monthly by the Coastal Communities Network, a non-profit society registered in the province of Nova Scotia.

Coastal Communities News is made possible by the generous efforts of many volunteers, and by financial contributions from Human Resources Development Canada, and by donations and in-kind contributions from the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Culture, as well as from member groups and organizations.

We welcome all articles and submissions, from individuals and groups, with content in keeping with the role and nature of this magazine. We reserve the right to edit all submissions. Except where additional credit has been given, all articles are prepared by the Editor and Editorial Board.

Join the Coastal Communities Network

Our Mission Statement

The Coastal Communities Network is a volunteer association of organizations whose mission is to provide a forum to encourage dialogue, share information, and create strategies and actions that promote the survival and development of Nova Scotia's coastal and rural communities.

"A Large Voice for Small Communities"

CCN is made up of organizations rooted in Nova Scotia's coastal and rural communities, and it is the diversity of its membership that gives it strength. Your organization, and your community, can help CCN determine its direction and strengthen its voice still further. Join the Coastal Communities Network today.

How to Become Involved
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CCN's strength lies in its membership, which is made up of organizations rooted in Nova Scotia's coastal communities. The range of member organizations is very broad, including churches, fish harvester groups, municipalities, community and regional economic development agencies, unions, universities, and local community groups. CCN welcomes the participation of any organization that represents the interests of a coastal community or issue and is interested in working together with similar groups across the province. Your organization can become involved in a number of ways:

— by participating in regular monthly meetings of the CCN membership. These are held in Truro (usually on the first Tuesday of each month), and allow representatives from member organizations to review what is happening in coastal communities across the province, plan actions on issues of common concern, and review progress on CCN-sponsored projects;

— by getting on our mailing list to receive regular copies of Coastal Communities News. Send us your name and address by mail or fax, or call us directly;

— by contributing written articles to Coastal Communities News, and so letting everyone know what's happening in your community;

— by taking part in CCN workshops and information sessions. Special events like this are held on topics of importance to coastal communities (for example, community economic development, co- management in the fishery, etc);

— by inquiring about CCN's resource library, which includes information, reports, and studies on topics that affect the future and sustainability of coastal communities.

You may contact us at:

CCN Executive Director:
PO Box 1613
Pictou, N.S. B0K 1H0
Phone:(902)485-4754 Fax:(902)445-7134
e-mail:coastalnet@ns.sympatico.ca

CCN Communications Office:
Phone: (902) 445-7168
Fax: (902) 445-7134
e-mail:ccnews@ns.sympatico.ca


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