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Hurricane Fiona

Devastation in Port aux Basques is unbelievable.’

About 97,000 still without power across NS and PEI six days after Fiona.

More than half the fishing ports in Fiona’s path damaged.

Fiona reshaped PEI’s coastlines.

Those are just some of the headlines a week after Fiona slammed into Atlantic Canada. The hurricane will likely be rated as one of Canada’s worst natural disasters — the pictures and stories coming out of Port aux Basques in Newfoundland are heart-breaking.

You can be sure I was paying close attention to the storm’s track as it headed for the same place where I’d spent a week last August. Thankfully, my friends in the Annapolis Valley came through the storm just fine. They had lots of wind and rain and some power losses, but the west side of Nova Scotia is pretty much unscathed.

Family who were travelling on Cape Breton Island rejigged their plans and headed inland to get out of the storm’s path, then hunkered down in a hotel with a supply of storm chips. They too were safe.

Only a week after Fiona, photos of Ian’s destruction on the Gulf Coast of Florida — where I spent New Year’s some years ago with the same Nova Scotian friends — are dominating the news. The Carolinas, where I spent a month as a student many decades ago, are now waiting for Ian’s impact.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d wonder if I was the common link to all this hurricane activity.

Here is a photo I took last summer in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. I figure the ocean-facing chairs are as good metaphor as any for storm watching.

Canada 150: Cape Breton Island

Here we are … finally!

It’s the last day of the year and the last day of the Canada 150 celebrations. (Although, because of the extreme cold weather alert in our nation’s capital, many of the outdoor festivities that were supposed to take place tonight in Ottawa to celebrate both New Year’s Eve and Canada 150 had to be cancelled. Only in Canada, eh?)

For my last post of 2017 and the last post of my Canada 150 series, I am sharing a photo I took along the fog-enshrouded Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island.

The Cabot Trail is 300 kilometres of winding highway that takes you through the Cape Breton Highlands. It’s named after John Cabot, the Italian explorer who bumped into Cape Breton (or maybe Newfoundland — no one knows for sure) while he was out looking for China way back in 1497.

Stunning scenery, isn’t it? The photo hardly does it justice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Canada 150, and the year 2017 overall. That’s what we tend to do as the year winds down. What worries me is how smug we Canadians seem to be about ourselves at the moment. It’s easy to be smug, given everything that is going on in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave to the south of us. But smugness is a dangerous quality because it leads to complacency. And also the (misguided) belief that what is happening over there could never happen here.

Truth be told, we have no right to be smug. There are some awfully dark chapters in Canada’s history that have been glossed over throughout our Canada 150 celebrations.

On the east coast of Cape Breton Island is the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. It’s a reconstruction of the military fort built by the French in the eighteenth century, back when Cape Breton was part of New France and called Île Royale. Louisbourg was the first European settlement on Cape Breton and is a stark reminder that Canada’s origins are colonial.

Look up the word “colonize” — there is no way to soften its meaning. It is the process by which one group of people move in and take control of another group of people. And, no matter how many decades or centuries our ancestors have lived here, every Canadian is a colonist and a settler. Think about that when you next sing the national anthem. None of us — except our Indigenous peoples — can claim a “home and native land.”

If that doesn’t wipe away our smugness, I don’t know what will.

Any public event in Vancouver now begins with the acknowledgement that the land we are gathered on is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. I like hearing those words, but I do not want them to become so familiar that I hear them without thinking about what they mean.

Just like our national anthem.

Canada 150: Peggy’s Cove

Oh, look!

It’s the last month of 2017 and I’ve reached the last province on my Canada 150 tour (with apologies to Nunavut and to Newfoundland and Labrador — both are on my bucket list, but I have yet to visit either). I took this photo in Peggy’s Cove, a small community on the coast of Nova Scotia just outside of Halifax.

I’m still on leg two of my cross-Canada road trip. It was a pretty memorable road trip, as far as road trips go, as I was travelling with four siblings and two parental units. Anyone who has ever travelled in large familial groups knows of what I speak.

There were a lot of personal firsts for me on this family vacation, like travelling in convoy (when we were little, we could fit in one vehicle — not so much as adults) and getting up at the crack of dawn so I could photograph an East Coast sunrise. And my first ever lobster, bought fresh off the dock, and cooked on a camp stove.

At this particular point in my family’s history, our respective places of residences were scattered across three provinces, so we were about as pan-Canadian a family as we could be. It was rare for us to be in one place all together, so there were lots of family photos taken, to the delight of some and the annoyance of others, including a whole whack on the rocks at Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy’s Cove is a pretty photogenic place to take a family photo. It has lots of rocks and some fishing shacks and a picturesque lighthouse.

And lots of tourists. By the busload. It was pretty crazy.

I’m just happy they didn’t get in the way of my photo.