A childhood friend found this disturbing 1956 photograph by the late Life Magazine photographer Gordon Parks on the Facebook page of the African-American history group BlackPast.org. She reposted it on her own Facebook page, and I reposted to to mine, adding, "It's worth remembering that this was less than 60 years ago." It didn't take long for Gus Reed to post this photo of the posh Hydrostone restaurant Epicurious Morsels, adding: 60 years ago there was a separate entrance for African Americans at the Birmingham bus station. 60 seconds ago, this was the wheelchair entrance at a restaurant in Halifax. One of...

On the eve of Stephen Harper's eighth anniversary in office, writer and statistics buff Alex Roberts has a must-read piece in the Ottawa Citizen, cleverly tagged, "Harper's Economic Index.*" It casts a jaundiced numerical eye at how well he has managed the economy, the thing pundits constantly tell us he's so good at. A few samples: Estimated amount spent on taxpayer-funded advertisements since 2009 touting the “Economic Action Plan” and the government’s economic record : $113,000,000 National unemployment rate in January, 2006: 6.6 National unemployment rate in December, 2013: 7.2 Number of consecutive annual federal budget deficits: 6 Number of consecutive annual federal budget surpluses under...

[See Update in second to last paragraph.] Just 64 days after taking her seat in the Nova Scotia Legislature, newly elected Liberal MLA Pam Eyking left Canada for a 28-day family trip to Australia and Taiwan. Eyking and her husband Mark, MP for Sydney-Victoria, left Canada on Boxing Day. Her office said she is expected back in Nova Scotia Thursday, the 23rd. Contrarian learned about the trip from a prominent Cape Breton Liberal who asked not to be identified, but said party members are annoyed at her taking a long foreign vacation so early in her term as MLA. Elected October...

Foreign Policy magazine is wondering why Canada—sweet, cuddly Canada—has taken to naming warships after battles in which it humiliated US forces. The supply ships HMCS Queenston and HMCS Chateauguay (pictured above as conceived by a Canadian naval artist) will be built by Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd. In the prestigious foreign policy journal, author Michael Peck notes: America's good-natured neighbor to the north is naming its newest naval vessels after battles where Canadians trounced U.S. invaders in the War of 1812. The Battle of Queenston Heights, on Oct. 13, 1812, saw an outnumbered force of 1,300 British regulars, Canadian militiamen, and Mohawk irregulars repel a...

SableUpdate The three Parks Canada bureaucrats who tag-teamed an illustrated talk at tonight's ninth annual Sable Island Update faced a skeptical, though not overtly hostile, audience. The first time Canadians heard about plans to turn Sable Island into a National Park, Jim Prentice, environment minister at the time, launched into an addle-pated discourse on how great a park would be for private businesses that could could ferry boatloads of tourists out to Sable and put them up for the night in hotels. You want to hope this was a spontaneous outburst by a know-nothing minister, but with Harper's crew, who can be sure? Parks Canada bureaucrats have struggled ever since to convince Sable's large, passionate constituency that they are not the advance guard for a mob of gun-toting Reform Party vandals bent on paving Sable and putting up Ferris wheels. In the process, they appear to have persuaded the naturalist and longtime Sable champion Zoe Lucas. (Disclosure: Zoe and I have been friends for years.) zoe_lucas copyIn her talk last night, Zoe, who is principal organizer of the meeting, gave her usual fascinating and witty précis of events on Sable over the last 18 months—a spell-binding catalog of weather highlights, scientific discoveries, critter strandings, beach debris, and whatnot. She followed this with a useful history of tourism to the island, gently driving home the point that people have always visited Sable (albeit in small numbers) and properly managed, such visits cause little damage while helping build the passionate constituency for conservation that is Sable's best protection from Cretins like Prentice. Zoe and I have not spoken about this, but it appeared to me that she and the Parks Canada officials charged with setting up the new park have established a productive and mutually respectful relationship. This has not always been the case. Zoe is a woman of strong views and a willingness to express them. She has not always enjoyed a blissful rapport with Sable's federal overseers. In their presentation, the Parks Canada officials made the obligatory gestures you would expect toward Zoe's revered role as unofficial steward of the island, including the invaluable scientific work she has carried out over nearly four decades. Beyond that, they peppered their inventory of preparations for park status with signals they have been listening, and thinking about imaginative ways to fulfill Parks Canada's mandate to provide visitor opportunities without wrecking the place. Two small examples: They hope to get Google to carry out Street View mapping of the island, so Sable buffs can treat themselves to virtual tours from the comfort of their living rooms. When challenged about regulations that ban petroleum drilling on the island, but permit seismic testing, they agreed with a marine geologist in the audience that sufficient seismic testing has already been carried out, and it's unlikely future tests would be permitted. I don't want to go overboard here. The trio of officials did sometimes lapse into practiced talking points whose purpose was to mollify, rather than inform. They professed not to remember what the park's annual budget was, but when pressed (by me) they agreed to give Zoe this information for publication on her Green Horse Society website (specifically, the park's 2013-2014 annual budget, and the annual operating budget they expect once startup costs are behind them). I'm no @Tim_Bousquet, but I did my best to live-tweet the event. With occasional help from seat-mate Alan Ruffman, I think I did capture the gist of most, if not all, the questions. You can find these tweets by searching for my Twitter handle (@kempthead) or the hashtag #Sable. Those outside the Twitter realm can view the live-tweets in bullet form after the jump. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, reading from the bottom up will give you my account in chronological order. Errors and omissions are mine.

If you are near Halifax Tuesday night, you can get the latest information about Sable Island's transformation into a National Park at what promises to be a fascinating meeting. The 9th annual Sable Island Update, latest in a series of meetings oganized by naturalist and longtime Sable resident Zoe Lucas, will see illustrated talks about scientific and organizational developments on the island. This year's session will also feature an an extended opportunity to question Parks Canada officials about their new role as federal stewards of the island. Lucas began the updates a decade ago, when Environment Canada announced plans to abandon the...

The Senate expense scandal, and the government's malodorous handling of it, has given new life to shopworn nostrums for reforming or eliminating Canada's maligned upper chamber. All have flaws ranging from severe to fatal. Eliminating the Senate would eliminate sober second thought, that useful brake on the unfettered power of a majority government in the "dictatorship between elections" that is Canadian democracy. Electing the Senate would imbue the upper chamber with legitimacy, empowering it to act much as the U.S. Senate acts, with all the attendant complications for passing legislation. Creating an Equal Senate, with the same number of members from every province,...

No sooner did I write that two veterans would get the last word on the Remembrance Day poppies discussion, than a Facebook message arrived from my friend Walter Van Veen, whose teenage father spent the war hiding in a secret compartment in an Amsterdam flat. A Jewish family shared the compartment. Facing starvation, they gave themselves up a few weeks before the end of the war—and were killed. Walter's father held out and survived. Walter writes: You know my take on this [the media firestorm over white poppies being handed out at the National War Memorial]. This is one fairly cynical narrow view...

A Connecticut reader who describes himself as a paratroop veteran from the Korean War era who was lucky to be assigned to Germany, "rather than that slaughter house of Korea," writes: I find this convention that has developed of saying, "thank you for your service" off-putting. It immediately shuts the door.  Nothing more to say except, "Thank you." Puts us in a box. You will never hear veterans speak to each other this way. Besides, the dirty little secret is most of us had the time of our lives. It was great fun. Another reader sends along this message from his brother, a Vietnam vet....

[See correction appended below.] I am amazed that Liberals and New Democrats have not been more effective at highlighting the hypocrisy of the Harper government's claw back of services and benefits to veterans—especially vets who suffered cruelly in Stephen Harper's Canada's* Afghanistan adventure. Demonstrations on Remembrance Day weekend protested the closure of Veteran's Affairs offices across the country. Recent news stories have highlighted the government's haste to drum injured vets out of service before they qualify for extended benefits. The contrast proved too much for a Halifax friend who watched the Halifax Mooseheads organization celebrate "DND Night" Friday. He writes: Two dignified octogenarians in wheelchairs...