2014 Halifax version of the colored entrance

Colored Entrance

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.”

Epicurious Morsels

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 hundreds of retail establishments like this, by the way. Can you explain the difference?

It’s not the difference that should bother us, but the similarity. White southerners didn’t bat an eye at segregationist signs in the 1950s. Mobile Canadians don’t bat an eye at respectable establishments that exclude users of wheelchairs in the 20-teens.

Can I explain the difference? Yes. Canada lacks the public and political will to extend to people in wheel chairs the same civil rights we would be appalled to deny African Americans or Jews. After repeated protestations from Gus and others, HRM’s all-powerful building code enforcers have begun insisting new businesses include wheelchair accessibility, but heaven forfend a ramp should intrude on a square inch of the city’s notoriously wheelchair unfriendly sidewalks.

By the way, Epicurious Morsels and a lot of other Halifax establishments could solve this problem for less than $100 with a portable threshold ramp.

Make that 1,049 votes from annihilation, theoretically

Sharp-penciled Contrarian reader Gus Reed points out that the Dips could have been wiped off Nova Scotia’s electoral map by as few as 1,049 votes, not 2,087 as I wrote Friday. For this to happen, all the defectors would have had to switch their votes to the second-place finisher in their respective ridings. 1,049 switchers would have done the trick under those highly theoretical circumstances.

But then the whole exercise was theoretical.

By the same token, Darrell Dexter would have needed only 11 Liberal voters switching to him to hold his seat.

These scenarios raise another question, likewise theoretical. In the 2000 Florida recount, we learned that the US election system is insufficiently accurate to determine the winner in extremely close races. No one knows who won that primary; the outcome was decided when five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court chose the candidate they liked best.

For all its apparent crudeness—paper ballots marked with a stubby wooden pencil—Canada’s election system is much better at deciding close contests. But can it reliably determine the outcome of races in which a single vote separates the top two finishers? Probably not. Party apparatchiks could always find reasonable doubt about the validity, eligibility, or probable intentions of at least one ballot, or at least one voter. My hunch is that a string of ridings decided by one vote would result in a string of judicially ordered by=elections.

MLAs will open their offices to all Nova Scotians

Contrarian friend Gus Reed, co-founder of the James McGregor Stewart Society, sums up the significance of a unanimous decision today by the House of Assembly Management Commission that will require that constituency offices for all Nova Scotia MLAs to be barrier free:

This simple regulation marks a sea change in approach for the provincial government:

  • People with disabilities are acknowledged to have the same rights as others
  • Written rules, rather than promises, are the solution
  • All parties agree on the principle, the problem and the solution
  • The initiative came from the community of Nova Scotians with disabilities

Let’s hope that the lesson is not lost and that it sets a precedent.  In order for Nova Scotians with disabilities to become full citizens, they need equal access to all parts of their world.

Amen. Congratulations to all involved (and a special salute for Kelly McKenna, the James McGregor Stewart Society intern who bird-dogged the issue all summer, insisting that MLAs get the job done).



Contractors belatedly install a wheelchair ramp at the Chickenburger outlet on Queen St. in Halifax Monday afternoon. Background here. Congratulations to Gus Reed for making HRM a little more inclusive than it was yesterday.

The city insists that installing the ramp was a condition of Mickey MacDonald’s “temporary” occupancy permit all along, but the chronology of events tells a different story.

July 4 — Reed, who uses a wheelchair, meets with MacDonald to protest against the newly opened restaurant’s inaccessibility. The owner is adamant that a ramp is not feasible.

July 6 — Reed writes to Brad Anguish, HRM’s Director, Community & Recreation Services, to complain that Chickenburger is out of compliance with the barrier-free requirements of the Nova Scotia Building Code Act.

July 10 — HRM building inspector Michael Morgan visits Chickenburger and issues an “Order to Comply” requiring it to install a ramp.

So… kudos to MacDonald and HRM for putting this right, after an initial delay and a push from Gus Reed.

But wouldn’t it be good to see the city take a pro-active approach and issue similar orders to restaurants that have been out o compliance for years?