For most of 2012, Mary MacDougall was acting community leader at l’Arche Cape Breton. That year, her birthday fell on a Tuesday, the night the whole community gathers to share supper, news, and conversation. That’s when Mary received an unexpected birthday gift from a man who has never spoken a word in his life.
Then there was the time L’Arche Core Member David Gunn decided to ham it up at a gathering where EMT’s were present, inspiring a bigger reaction than he bargained for.
You can subscribe to l’Arche Cape Breton’s YouTube channel, and follow l’Arche Cape Breton on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also make a tax-deductible donation to l’Arche Cape Breton (a registered charity) by sending a cheque payable to The Ark Community Initiatives Society, 3 l’Arche Lane, Whycocomagh NS B0E-3M0.
In some ways, at least. Our old friend Hans Rosling (previous Contrarian appearances here, here, here, and here) brings us up to date, and highlights the amazing recent prograss in (parts of) Ethiopia:
Rosling’s Gapminder data visualization software now has some tools you can download to your own computer.
Huffington Post’s Canadian edition yesterday published an investigative report by a team of student journalists from the University of King’s College detailing the housing crisis facing Nova Scotians with intelectual disabilities.
There is not enough room in the system for all of the people who need a place to live. They languish on waiting lists that are hundreds of names long. Their families, in turn, must support them with scant financial, caregiving or community programming resources. Eventually the families get too old or sick to do it, making the situation for their relatives in rehab even worse.
With so little room, placements are driven by crises. These crises, in turn, lead to inappropriate placements that only exacerbate individuals’ disabilities and sometimes cause mental health issues.
It is a bureaucratic system driven by policies, not people’s needs. And in the instances where policy would help to improve lives – in properly licensing, regulating, staffing and overseeing housing options – the system falls short.
Successive provincial governments have known all about this crisis and have repeatedly promised to fix it. The current NDP government is no exception.
After years of inaction, the Department of Community Services (DCS) recently produced a report — more accurately a discussion paper — about options for dealing with the crisis. The new document repeats sweeping promises of change, but DCS continues to ignore the findings of a 2001 report it commissioned that could have served as a basis for action 12 years ago.
“The Kendrick report is now over 10 years old and basically the fundamentals of the Kendrick report are no different now than … 10 years ago,” Dr. Brian Hennen, a past president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, told the student journalists.
Jenn Power, Atlantic Regional Co-ordinator for l’Arche Cape Breton [and—disclosure—my daughter-in-law] summed up the crisis on her Possibilities blog.
[T]he primary struggles of the individuals profiled in the piece are not their disabilities per se, nor the way those disabilities might affect their mobility, learning skills, or emotional health. Instead, the suffering they endure arises from the way the provincial “support” system treats them as a result of their disabilities. They are reduced to their diagnoses, their difficult behaviours, their classification level. They languish on endless waiting lists with no idea of the future, then are hurried into last-minute crisis placements at warehousing facilities. They are forced to fit into an existing (outdated) system; the system is not expected to change to fit the needs of individuals.
This is not news to any of us who have friends or family members with intellectual disabilities, or who have been involved in this field for any length of time. Our people are overlooked, patronized, ignored, devalued, and abused. Their voices are not heard. But boy, do they have something to say.
At Nova Scotia’s l’Arche communities, and many other DCS-funded homes, bureaucratic rules often deepen the impact of disabilities, rather than lighten them. Here’s one of several examples Power cites:
Lindsay and Tanya, both of whom graduated from high school and hold down full time jobs, would say that they deserve the right to stay home alone and watch TV or read a book or relax on the couch for a couple of hours every now and then. But because they live in a provincially funded group home, they are denied this dignity of risk and are forced to join whenever their housemates leave the house.
Of the ways Darrell Dexter’s government failed to achieve its supporters’ aspirations, none is more disheartening than its failure to bring order, purpose, and humanity to the Department of Community Services. Will the next government do any better?
Consider taking in the annual l’Arche Cape Breton Springfest at the World Trade and Convention Center, Membertou. It’s an evening of stories and songs by the l’Arche troupe, together with delicious desserts and an auction featuring arts and crafts by l’Arche folks, and goods donated by l’Arche supporters.
L’Arche Cape Breton will share their gift of music and storytelling, while illustrating their incredible zest for life.
If you aren’t familiar with l’Arche, here’s a wee introduction:
Director and videographer: Naomi Cousins; Producer: Mary MacDougall; Artist: Anil Kumar; Musical score: Pius MacIsaac; Cast: Members of l’Arche Cape Breton.
The James McGregor Stewart Society, a small voluntary group with a single summer intern, has managed to pull off in a month what the Disabled Persons Commission of NS (annual budget: $600,000) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ($2.1 million) have not achieved in the decades of their existence.
It has surveyed the accessibility of MLAs offices throughout the province. The results will not be a source of pride for Nova Scotia or its legislators.
The survey rated MLAs’ constituency offices based on parking facilities, power door buttons, entrance accessibility, washroom accessibility, and proximity to accessible bus routes. Since accessible bus routes are mostly beyond an MLA’s control (many ridings have none), that category was not included in the final ratings.
Only four MLAs (Lenore Zann, Eddie Orrell, Kelly Regan, and Graham Steele) got a perfect score: paved parking with designated accesible spaces; level entrance, satisfactory ramp, or elevator; power door button; accessible bathroom with grab bars and wheel-under sink).
One MLA, Chris D’Entremont, who represents Argyle and sits on the Management Commission that will decide whether accessibility will be a condition for reimbursement of office expenses, scored a perfect zero. His office has no paved parking, no designated parking spaces, no level entrance, and no accessible washroom.
Although 43 MLAs claim an accessible doorway, only eight have a power door button, which means a constituent in a wheelchair can get in only if someone assists them. Once inside, wheelchair-using constituents will find only eight offices with fully accessible washrooms. How confidently could you attend a meeting knowing you would would have no chance to pee until you got home? You certainly couldn’t hold a job in such an office.
Another 30 MLAs claim some level of washroom accessibility, but lack grab bars, a wheel-under sink, or a high toilet. This translates as: Use at your own risk of accident or humiliation.
The survey turned up fewer regional variations than you might expect. The average MLA scored 3.1 points. Urban MLAs averaged 3.3, while rural MLAs averaged 2.9.
Metro MLAs averaged 3.2; Cape Breton MLAs just 2.4.
Liberal MLAs had the best score: an average of 3.5 points. PCs averaged 3.0, and the NDP trailed the pack with an average 2.9 points.
Two MLAs, Percy Paris and Geoff MacLellan, have not yet completed the survey. Cape Breton South is vacant.
Perhaps the most telling statistic is this: The eight MLAs who sit on the House of Assembly Management Commission, the body currently deciding whether to require accessibility as a condition of expense reimbursement, have an average score of just 2.3 — the lowest of any group I checked.
Speaker Gordie Gosse, who chairs the committee, has a double distinction: His constituency office and his office in the legislature are both inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.
Clicking on the image at the top of this post will bring up an interactive map of Nova Scotia with a colored marker for each constituency office. Clicking on a marker will bring up accessibility details for that office.
Please note that the map and the data underlying it are works in progress. Some MLAs continue to provide new information, and the society’s intern, the redoubtable Kelly McKenna, is updating it continually. The information in this post is up to date to the best of my knowledge, but it’s a lot of information, and there could be minor errors.
The Canadian Automobile Association says so in a survey published today. The Kempt Head Road comes in at No. 5 (actually No. 6, since two roads tied for third).
Ironically, the gravel portion of the road is in pretty good shape after a couple of post-winter gradings. But the paved portion? Oh, the paved portion! It’s hard to depict in a photo, but this is pretty much how it looks from end to end:
For the curious, the Kempt Head Road begins at Exit 13W on the TransCanada Highway 105, near the Seal Island Bridge (officially the Great Bras d’Or Crossing). It runs southwest past the Calabash Rd., the Slabdash Rd. (officially but incorrectly “MacLean Rd.”), Church Cross, Steele’s Cross, and the Matheson Road, where the pavement ends. It continues around Kempt Head and back up “south side” of Boularderie (actually the southeastern shore) until it intersects with the other end of Steele’s Cross, where the pavement resumes.
It comes to an end at the notional southern terminus of the Slabdash (MacLean) Rd., which is really just an overgrown remnant at that point. From here, the Hillside Boularderie Road carries on to Bras d’Or, 20 km to the east. Total length of the Kempt Head Road itself: 40.8 km., of which about 24.5 km. is paved.
Hat tips to SP and NS for alerting me to the survey, and to my neighbour Valerie Patterson, suspected of stuffing the ballot box.
Do not — repeat: DO NOT — send me photos of your supposedly much worse road. We won in a fair fight, and the fine people of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal are now honor- and duty-bound to renew our infrastructure. Preferably this summer. You can try again next year, and see if your wimpy road wins the 2014 CAA survey.
And please let me and Valerie know when the CAA takes nominations for the most beautiful road in Atlantic Canada.
Ashley McKenzie and Nelson MacDonald need help finishing their latest movie about New Waterford. Their first two shorts, “Rhonda’s Party” (2010) and “When You Sleep” (2012), achieved exceptional success, screening to widespread praise at the Toronto International Film Festival and Cannes, as well as at festivals in Montreal, Stockholm, Whistler, and St. John’s. Along the way, they picked up half a dozen industry awards, including the top prize in CBC’s Short Film Faceoff.
Despite these early triumphs, the pair have had to turn to crowdsourcing to raise the last few dollars needed to finish post-production on their latest film, “Stray,” the story of a lonely New Waterford girl who tries to befriend a homeless cat.
They wouldn’t need this money if they had taken the expedient route of filming in Halifax. But director Ashley and producer Nelson are committed to telling Cape Breton stories in an authentic way. By paying the extra transportation and crew costs to film here, they were able to set scenes in magnificent post-industrial settings that just aren’t available anywhere else. (Lord knows how Nelson wheedled permission to shoot in some of these locations.)
We’re always bemoning the exodus of talented young people from Nova Scotia. Ashley and Nelson could easily flourish in a major film center, but they choose instead to stay here and tell our stories. We’ve been friends for years, and I can’t think of any two people who work harder, or bring greater intelligence and dedication to their craft.
Isn’t that something we should support?
With just 48 hours to go, their Indiegogo crowd-sourcing campaign is about $1,600 shy of the goal needed to finish “Stray.” You can contribute here.
Hold the ketchup, if you please.
When the Rollings Stones played the Halifax Commons in September, 2006, Mick Jagger impressed the crowd by using the term “Haligonian,” and even pronouncing “Newfoundland” correctly. Forty years into his career, the rock superstar still had the professionalism to get every local concert detail exactly right.
I have never seen an effort to sprinkle a touring show with meaningful local references to match what Old Crow Medicine Show frontman Ketch Secor displayed last night at the Nashville-based, alt-bluegrass band’s Membertou show in Sydney.
“It’s intimidating to play the violin in a city that has a 60-foot-high statue of one,” Secor told the crowd. ”You see the cop on the corner and you wonder, ‘Does he play the fiddle?’ You get talking with the crossing guard and ask, ‘Do you play the fiddle?’ What about the guy painting lines down the middle of the street, does he play?”
“Then you start to wonder, “Do I play the fiddle… well enough?”
(He does. Secor’s pyrotechnic style is a cross between Ashley MacIsaac and the Leahy Family Band.)
Early in the show, Secor described an obviously fictitious drive he claimed to have taken through rural Cape Breton, throwing in half a dozen local place names.
“You got hillbillies up here?” he asked. “Where do they live? Victoria County? Well here’s a song for all the hillbillies out in Victoria County.”
In introducing the George Jones song, “Tennessee Whiskey,” Secor illustrated the Texas crooner’s universal appeal by noting that Scooter Jim, a fixture of downtown Sydney’s streetscape, had been humming a Jones tune earlier that afternoon.
Advance work can’t give you these little telling details. You can only get them by taking the trouble to walk around the city and chat up everyone you meet.
Toward the end of the show, the band played a song with the same verse structure as “We are an Island,” and before you knew it, they had inserted the chorus — words all correct, air slightly askew — into their own song.
We are an island, a rock in the stream
We are a people, as proud as there’s been
In soft summer breeze or in wild winter wind
Home of our hearts, Cape Breton
The crowd, naturally, went berserk, as the refrain repised half a dozen times.
As in Halifax, a series of encore tunes ended with a letter-perfect a capella rendition of “Barrett’s Privateers.”
Attention young musicians: Want to make an impression on the road? Take a few notes from Old Crow’s fakebook.