Monday, 22 July 2019

Historian Nolan Reily chronicles how one hundred years ago workers in Amherst, Nova Scotia, —women and men, union and non-union—shutdown the town’s industries. Even the mechanics in the local garage went on strike. It was a community strike, just like the one that had started four days earlier in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

May First, international working class day, also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Halifax General Strike of 1919 against war profiteering and super-exploitation of the construction trades in the wake of the Halifax Explosion of 6 December 1917. Tony Seed looks at the circumstances that triggered this strike, and many others like it in Nova Scotia and all across Canada.

“These stories are true.” Brenda Thompson introduces five people who lived between the early 1800s and today. “Their hardships were not their fault, yet they were punished for being different or for merely being poor. When it comes to people in poverty, our minds remain shut. Our attitudes and policies are still stuck in the 1860s, Brenda writes

Brenda’s piece was produced in partnership with the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, for co-publication in Connections, published three times a year by the College. We really appreciate this wonderful opportunity to promote longer pieces by Nova Scotia authors on topics so dear to our heart.

Angela Bowden remembers growing up Black in rural Nova Scotia, and reflects on the enduring damage done by abusive police practices over the generations. “I vividly recall, as do many of my peer group, police officers slowly driving by us numerous times, following us as we walk, asking us our names, where we are going, where we are coming from, and who our parents were.”

Brenda Thompson, author of Poor houses of Nova Scotia, on the only poor house in the province that segregated its residents based on the colour of their skins. Other poor houses did not allow the sexes to mix but allowed African-Nova Scotians and Mi’kmaq to live under one roof with white people. Not in Bridgetown though.

Ricky RIchard reflects on the tremendous debt he and fellow Acadians owe to the Mi’kmaq for shielding them when they were chased and deported by the British. “I am alive today because of the Mi’kmaq. I want to thank them. I owe them my life and that is a debt I cannot possibly repay. … My life is theirs, but I am ashamed of the way we have treated the Mi’kmaq. We have dispossessed them of their land, their livelihood, their ways, their dignity. History teaches us that too many injustices have been brought to bear on such a generous and welcoming people,” writes Richard in this remarkable open letter.

This September Nova Scotia’s Town of Windsor formally commemorated the little known fact that David Ben-Gurion, future prime minister of Israel, was trained along with the rest of the Jewish Legion at the town’s Fort Edward. But while Ben-Gurion came to fame as the founder of Israel, there was a darker side to this Zionist leader that is too often ignored, writes author and Cape Breton University teacher Garry Leech.

Picture yourself as a poor person, 125 years ago in Nova Scotia. Brenda Thompson, author of a wonderful book on poor houses in Nova Scotia, on what it would take to be accepted in a poor house, a place so horrible it would always be your last resort.

There’s a wonderful new book on the history or poor houses and poor farms in Nova Scotia, written by poverty activist and frequent NS Advocate contributor Brenda Thompson. Things are better now, of course, but in a way not much has changed for people who are very poor.