Hilary Beaumont

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Why Halifax shouldn’t welcome Chris Brown

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Renowned woman-beater and musician Chris Brown is coming to Halifax. On Friday, a promotions group announced Brown is headlining a show at Alderney Landing at the end of August.

Already some Haligonians are calling the show problematic.

As one Facebook user, Nichole Fougere, wrote on the event wall: “The town that got huge publicity for gross negligence in [a] rape case will [now] be host to one of the most famous women-beaters in music.”

Another commenter, Harrison Bennett, wrote: “Will Chris Brown be playing the hits or doling them out?”

Brown mercilessly beat up his girlfriend Rihanna, and didn’t stop until police intervened.

Halifax should not welcome this misogynist. His presence is a threat to a local conversation about violence against women—a conversation that’s still in its infancy. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by hilarybeaumont

July 13, 2013 at 2:22 am

Posted in Opinion

Baristas push to unionize Halifax cafe

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Originally published by the Halifax Media Co-op on April 7.

Shay Enxuga talks about how his job was terminated. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

Shay Enxuga talks about how his job was terminated. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

About 120 people rallied outside the Just Us! Spring Garden Road location on Sunday in support of two workers who believe they were unfairly fired from the café in late March.

Several cars and one bus honked as they drove past the rally. Organizers provided free organic, fair-trade coffee to supporters, and encouraged them to drop a donation in a jar for the café’s current workers.

“All we’re asking is for our jobs back and for Just Us! to recognize our right to form a union,” Shay Enxuga told the crowd through a megaphone. “All we’re asking is for Just Us! to live up to its mandate and its social justice values.”

Enxuga and Elijah Williams told the Halifax Media Co-op they were dismissed March 27 after management questioned them about unions and organizing.

“Employees love their jobs,” a current café employee, who didn’t want to be named, told the Halifax Media Co-op. “They want respect and a voice.”

How did people react to the rally on Facebook and Twitter? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by hilarybeaumont

April 8, 2013 at 1:58 am

Posted in Culture, Social issues

Inside Halifax’s underground bars and speakeasies

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Published April 16, 2012. Read the original story on OpenFile.

main photo singers

Names of bootleggers, speakeasies and organizers have been changed. Faces have been censored by request.

The air in The Cave is thick with the smoke of cigarettes and weed. Nearly 40 people sit comfortably on benches made of scavenged wood, sipping tall-boys as a young guy with wild hair and a lip ring strums a banjo and sings from a tiny stage near the bar. A potato-sack banner above his head proclaims: THIS NEVER HAPPENED.

Last fall, this basement was little more than a dark pit with the stench of a coal mine that sometimes hosted house shows for up-and-coming local bands like Long Long Long. Patrons brought their own booze. Now a closet near the stairs houses liquor and, during shows, a bartender. The top half of the door swings out to reveal a stool, crates of bottles and cans, a dim lamp and little else. Officially, booze is available by donation only.

The organizers—nine 20-somethings who live upstairs—say the money goes back into maintaining and growing the bar. They’ve hosted several successful fundraisers for local non-profits, too, grossing about $1,000 since they opened last October. The Cave even raised money for another organization that hosts the odd speakeasy. The man on stage with the banjo—his name’s Cud—has ambitions of eventually opening an underground restaurant in this space. Some of his roommates brew their own beer for the bar.

(Video after the jump.) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by hilarybeaumont

January 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Culture

Sea level rise is happening, so what is Halifax doing about it?

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Published on Jan. 6, 2013. Read the original story in The Chronicle Herald.

Planners John Charles, left, and Richard MacLellan outside their office at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont.)

Forty-five-foot long blackened oak beams form the cathedral ceilings of the 600-year-old New College dining hall at Oxford University. Castle scenes in Harry Potter were both inspired by and filmed in Oxford buildings with similar architecture.

There’s a story students and faculty like to tell about this medieval hall, as does HRM planner John Charles — one of the people tasked with preparing Halifax for the inevitability of sea level rise.

A century ago, students noticed sawdust on the tables in the dining hall, and discovered an infestation of beetles in the ceiling’s great oak beams. The college needed more oak to replace the ceiling, so they approached the Oxford forester.

The forester supposedly answered, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

A grove of oaks had been planted when the college was founded in 1379 to replace the dining hall beams. The planners had apparently anticipated the beetle problem.

The story has gained embellishment in its retelling, however. According to the Oxford archivist, the oaks were not planted for the express purpose of replacing the beams; it is simply standard practice to replant the trees.

Nevertheless, Charles says the fable illustrates how Halifax should take on sea level rise. HRM’s planning department is already preparing for the year 2100. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by hilarybeaumont

January 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Environment

Everyday life’s a challenge in a food desert

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Published Nov. 4, 2012. Read the original version in The Chronicle Herald.

Donnie Mullins (left) and Norman Greenberg (right) want to bring a grocery co-op to the Gottingen-area neighbourhood. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

Groceries cost Donnie Mullins $20 more than most people. That’s the cost of a 2.6-kilometre round trip in a cab from the closest grocery store, Sobey’s on Windsor Street, to his building, Ahern Manor on Gottingen Street, where he’s lived for 15 years.

Mullins used to carry groceries on the back of his motorized wheelchair, but food would go missing on the way home.

“I live in a place that kids actually don’t get fed that well either,” he says. “So, it’s a competition, right?”

“Whatever they can get, they take. They’re hungry, too.”

He can’t take his groceries on the bus. Passengers are only allowed to bring what they can carry on their laps. And like many people in his neighbourhood, he doesn’t own a car. So Mullins dips into his food budget for cab money.

Ahern Manor on the left. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

When he gets his groceries home, he can only carry so many bags at a time on his chair. So people steal the food he leaves downstairs.

Budgeting for transportation and having food stolen means Mullins does not eat as well as he’d like to. He wants a nutritious meal every day, but mostly he eats canned food heated up in the microwave.

“It’s not just me. There are many seniors and disabled people around us who have similar problems. They actually have credit at the corner stores because they can’t get to a grocery store.”

Things would be different if they didn’t live in a food desert.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by hilarybeaumont

November 4, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who owns downtown Halifax?

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Published on July 3, 2012. Read the interactive story on OpenFile.

Argyle Street, as seen from the future site of the Convention Centre. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

In downtown Halifax, property owners jostle for space like fans at a rock concert. Elbows up, Joe Ramia and his brother George Ramia hold strategic space near the waterfront, along Barrington and at the old Chronicle Herald site. It’s no secret Starfish Properties’ Louis Reznick owns more Barrington Street storefronts than anyone else, but he also claims a slice of Historic Properties.

Screenshot of the interactive downtown Halifax map, by Hilary Beaumont and Bill McEwan.

Another strategy emerges along Argyle. Three companies have bought up adjacent buildings, and now lease to restaurants who cater to downtown diners and club-goers.

Gary Hurst and Steve McMullin of Five Fishermen Limited and Cornwallis Properties Limited own Cheers, Taboo, the Dome and the Five Fishermen. At the south end of Argyle, Luigi and Marilisa Benigno of Alessandra Investments Limited own almost an entire block of tiny lots. The cash cow includes restaurant space occupied by The Loose Cannon, Subway and Sicilian Pizza. Across the street, Costa Elles and Chris Tzaneteas own part of the city block that contains The Argyle, Burrito Jax and Venus Pizza.

Other downtown tycoons, like Ralph Medjuck of Cambridge Suites Limited, hold monopolies on hotels, or on the buildings in the banking district, which are mostly owned by Michael Veit and Edgar Reifer of TDB Halifax Holdings Limited.

The priciest properties in the downtown—the Aliant Building ($54 million), Scotia Square ($118 million) and 1801 Hollis Street ($37 million)—are owned by Fortis Properties Corporation, Crombie Developments Limited and Canadian Property Holdings Inc. respectively.

To read the multimedia story with interactive maps, click here. The second story in this series, “The six that own downtown Halifax,” profiles the downtown owners.

An anonymous and slightly greasy note slipped into my breakfast at the Good Food Emporium.

Written by hilarybeaumont

November 4, 2012 at 1:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Health Canada won’t let gay men give blood

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This story was originally published nationally by OpenFile on Feb. 15, 2012. A longer version was then published by Briarpatch Magazine on July 1, 2012.

The Canadian Blood Services won’t let Nick Shaw give blood. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

The first and only time he gave blood, Nick Shaw felt like a hero.

The Canadian Blood Services advertised their clinic at his high school with posters, announcements over the PA-system, and in-class talks by teachers and nurses. Blood donation was touted as a moral imperative, and lots of high school seniors planned to do it.

The 17-year-old saw it as a chance to contribute to some greater good.

At the clinic, Nick completed a questionnaire and entered a private booth where a nurse asked him more questions about where he had travelled and whether he had tested positive for HIV or AIDS.

Then she asked him: “Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?”

The blood rushed to his cheeks and his heart started to race and he said, “No,” quickly.

His high school near Hamilton, Ontario was brimming with homophobia. Nick had accepted his attraction to men, but he didn’t plan to act on his feelings, and he certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone he was gay. He knew if he had sex with a man, he would be banned from giving blood.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by hilarybeaumont

July 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized