ACAP Cape Breton hosts a Sydney Harbour tour for the birds

bird watching harbour tour - acapACAP Cape Breton and CBRM Wastewater Operations invite the community to a free birding event along the Sydney Harbour coast Sunday, February 7th. Participants will meet at the Sobey’s parking lot in Sydney River (in the corner toward Keltic Drive) at 1pm before exploring waterfowl hot spots beginning with a drive to Westmount that ends at Battery Point in Sydney.

“Sewer Stroll” is a common term among Atlantic birders for a bird watching tour that touches on wastewater outfalls because birders know that these are the best places for winter diving ducks. The number and diversity of birds on the surface can give clues as to what is going on ecologically below. The tour will be led by Dave McCorquodale and Dave Harris of CBC’s The Bird Hour. CBRM Wastewater Operations staff will discuss the past, present, and future of wastewater outfalls as Dave and Dave discuss how and why birds use these areas.

Sydney Harbour is a fascinating ecosystem that is used by both wildlife and people. Many residents of the CBRM affect the quality of the harbour everyday through residential wastewater, transportation, and development. “CBRM residents provide nutrients and energy for many birds that come south and spend their winters in Sydney Harbour,” says Dave McCorquodale, “We will see Iceland Gulls and Barrow’s Goldeneye for example.”

“Although we are not always aware that we are a part of a complex ecosystem, we do always have the opportunity to preserve and conserve”, says Jen Cooper, project coordinator at ACAP Cape Breton. “Participants in the Waterfowl Walk will get to observe firsthand a rarely explored link between humans and the environment in which we live. After enjoying the bold plumage of winter diving birds participants will have a better understanding of the benefits of personal choices like using biodegradable products.”

Participants are encouraged to carpool. To register and for more information, please phone ACAP Cape Breton at 902-567-1628 or visit . Dress for the weather and please bring binoculars if you have them.

ACAP Cape Breton, located at 582 George St. in Sydney is registered charity with a clear vision in which local people are actively engaged, working, and learning together to build a healthy and sustainable community.

Letter to the Editor: A Second Chance for Viola Desmond Day

To the Editor:

As February 15 approaches, I am reminded that Viola Desmond did not get the honour of Viola Desmond Day as promised for Nova Scotia’s first Heritage Day 2015.

That day came and went and as many will remember the weather was pretty rough—very cold in Halifax with huge chunks of ice blocking the sidewalks and roads. The plows had just about given up and the major ceremony planned for the North End Library was canceled. The day came and went. And according to the rules for Heritage Day, that was the last day for Viola Desmond. Honorees for the next seven years had been selected. For example, on Feb 15, 2016—in the heart of Black Heritage/History Month—we in Nova Scotia are encouraged to celebrate Joseph Howe.

That first Heritage Day in 2015 was dedicated to Viola Desmond because, as many people know, Viola is the woman who refused to give up her seat in the “whites only” section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. That was November 8, 1946. Viola was a black businesswoman on her way to Sydney to deliver her line of beauty products, when her car broke down. She had to stay the night in New Glasgow, waiting for car parts, and she decided to take in a movie. She happened to sit in what the theatre management had designated as the “whites only” section.

When she was told that black people had to sit in the balcony she refused to give up her seat, and she ended up being carried out of the theatre struggling with a policeman and the manager. Jailed for the night, she was tried next morning without a lawyer and found guilty of cheating the Nova Scotia government out of one penny — that’s correct, one cent — the difference in amusement tax between the main floor ticket and the balcony.

Fined $20 and costs, Viola later appealed the judgment unsuccessfully, losing on a technicality. But one judge went on record to say that the case was never about the amusement tax and always about race.

It’s meaty stuff in Canada’s story of social justice.

Sixty-five years later, Premier Darrell Dexter apologized on behalf of Nova Scotia, and then Lt-Gov. Mayann Francis read out Queen Elizabeth’s Grant of Free Pardon, recognizing that Viola Desmond had committed no crime. The Town of New Glasgow held two days of recognition, unveiling a painting of Viola Desmond that now has a permanent place in Government House in Halifax. There have been many honours, school programs and scholarships established in her name. Canada Post released a Viola Desmond postage stamp. Many people campaigned for a permanent Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia. Instead, the provincial government declared the third Monday in February each year as Heritage Day, to honour a different person or event each year into the future. The first Heritage Day in 2015 was “Viola Desmond Day.” The weather, as I said above, pretty much blocked that opportunity to remember Viola’s courage and Nova Scotia’s ongoing struggle for racial equality.

Here are the subjects of Nova Scotia’s Heritage Day for the next seven years: 2016 is Joseph Howe; 2017 is Mi’kmaq Heritage; 2018 is Mona Louise Parsons; 2019 is Maud Lewis; 2020 is Africville; 2021 is Edward Francis Arab; 2022 is Grand Pré National Historic Site.

These are all worthy subjects. Whether they should be the focus in the middle of Black Heritage Month is debatable. My fundamental point is that Viola Desmond’s day has come and it has gone—and with it, the lasting messages that should not be forgotten.

Viola Desmond deserves better.

I want to suggest, at the very least, that this year we move the provincial calendar ahead by one year—and hope for weather that will permit gatherings wherein Viola Desmond can be formally celebrated and discussed as was planned for February 2015. It seems a reasonable accommodation, and it gives us an opportunity to reconsider the decision that denies Viola Desmond an annual day of her own. Perhaps the debate will be taken up again, and either our Nova Scotia Heritage Day can be declared a permanent Viola Desmond Day, or another day can be declared as Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia.

Viola Desmond Day does not have to be another statutory holiday, a day off work with the schools closed. That would be costly for businesses and it will not forward the educational value of a Viola Desmond Day. Instead, I recommend that Viola Desmond Day should be a day of focus – a day of teaching about Viola as a businessperson, a defender of her family, and a brave social activist. It should be a day of deliberately measuring how far we all have come along the road toward social justice, while remembering Viola Desmond’s achievement for us all.

Ronald Caplan, C.M.

Hamlet returns to CBU Boardmore Theatre stage Thursday

Wesley Colford plays Hamlet and Kathleen O’Toole plays Ophelia in CBU's upcoming production of Hamlet, opening Thursday - photo: David Sneddon
Wesley Colford plays Hamlet and Kathleen O’Toole plays Ophelia in CBU’s upcoming production of Hamlet, opening Thursday – photo: David Sneddon

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet returns to the Boardmore Theatre from January 28-30 and February 5-6 at 7pm and February 7 at 2pm. Directed by Scott Sharplin, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous work tells the tale like you’ve never seen it before.

The story goes… something is rotten in Denmark. The murdered King rises from the grave to give his son an impossible task–find the path to revenge without losing his mind, heart or soul. From this poison puzzle springs one of the most beautiful, controversial, and gripping stories ever told–adapted by Scott Sharplin into a macabre fantasy unlike anything you’ve ever imagined. Continue reading Hamlet returns to CBU Boardmore Theatre stage Thursday

New book explores legacy of Old Trout Funnies, CBLA

The Cape Breton Liberation Army and its generals were the brainchild of Sydney Mines artist Paul “Moose” MacKinnon, whose self-published Old Trout Funnies satirized Cape Breton politics and popular culture during the Island’s cultural renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s. MacKinnon also created annual CBLA calendars, between 1979 and 2000, lampooning and lamenting hundreds of well-known Cape Breton personalities through detailed caricatures.

The Funnies, the calendars and other of Paul MacKinnon’s comic creations are the subject of a new book from CBU Press, Old Trout Funnies: The Comic Origins of the Cape Breton Liberation Army (now in stores). Continue reading New book explores legacy of Old Trout Funnies, CBLA

CBRM celebrates New Years Eve with music, carnival and fireworks

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) Recreation Department will celebrate 20 years of amalgamation on New Year’s Eve with an ambitious celebration featuring activities and entertainment for all ages.

Beginning at 6pm on December 31st, the North parking lot will be transformed into a Carnival site with a 70’ Expo Wheel on the Sydney Waterfront. The Carnival site will also include a carousel, free popcorn, and warming tents with carnival style games and free cotton candy. These rides will continue through Friday, January 1st, and Saturday, January 2nd, so that all will have the chance to enjoy. Continue reading CBRM celebrates New Years Eve with music, carnival and fireworks