Sackville councillors approve construction of new wetland as extension to Waterfowl Park

Future Ducks Unlimited wetland area looking toward the intersection of Bridge and Lorne from St. James St.

Sackville Town Council has approved signing an agreement with Ducks Unlimited Canada to construct a six-acre wetland conservation area on land the town has acquired north of St. James Street behind the Marshlands Inn.

Town manager Jamie Burke told councillors last week that under the agreement, Ducks Unlimited will construct, maintain and manage the wetland for 30 years.

In response to a series of questions raised by Councillor Andrew Black, Burke said the wetland would not pose a risk to nearby homes if heavy rains breached the earthen berm that will enclose it.

“Ducks Unlimited has a risk assessment program,” Burke said. “They inspect these things twice every year, so they do their own investigations and evaluations on an ongoing basis.”

Burke added that if there were a heavy rainstorm, water would flow out of the Ducks Unlimited wetland into deep ditches and the new retention pond that the town is digging south of St. James St.

“The agreement also requires Ducks Unlimited to provide proof of liability insurance naming the Town of Sackville as co-insured, which we do with all agreements that we enter into with third parties,” Burke said.

Mosquitoes?

Town manager Jamie Burke

Councillor Black also asked about mosquitoes breeding in the new wetland.

“There’s mosquitoes there now,” Burke answered, “and mosquitoes breed in those small, shallow, little pools of water,” he added. “I guess the idea of this Ducks Unlimited pond is that  there would be a consistent amount of water in the pond, which is less favourable for mosquito breeding.”

Burke also suggested that the wetland will provide habitat for birds, insects and other species that eat mosquitoes and their larvae.

“So, having this type of managed wetland is a good thing,” he said. “We’re certainly not going to say it’s going to reduce the number of mosquitoes, but it is a managed project by Ducks Unlimited so there is some assurance that it’s not going to make matters worse.”

Burke pointed out that with 400 to 500 wetland areas in New Brunswick alone and more than 2,000 in Atlantic Canada, Ducks Unlimited is used to managing projects like this.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve partnered with Ducks Unlimited,” he said. “We’ve got an award-winning Waterfowl Park, which Ducks Unlimited was instrumental in creating and managing.”

To read a previous story on the Ducks Unlimited project, click here.

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Climate Change Week: Sackville audience hears about the benefits of carbon taxes

Professor Brad Walters and MLA Megan Mitton at the Vogue Cinema

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton says she wishes New Brunswick’s Conservative government would stop wasting taxpayers’ money going to court to fight federal carbon taxes and take action instead to avert the worst effects of climate change.

During a panel discussion Monday evening at Sackville’s Vogue Cinema, Mitton said the burden of proof against carbon taxes should rest with those who oppose them.

“This [putting a price on carbon] is proven to be one of the things we can do,” she said. “This is one of the most efficient ways to get our emissions down.”

Mitton also wondered why opponents of carbon taxes aren’t proposing an alternative.

“If there’s a better way forward, I’m all for it,” she said. “I’m not seeing a better plan. I’m not seeing an alternative.”

Politics and economics

Mitton made her comments during one of a series of events organized by the local group, EOS Eco-Energy, to mark climate change week.

Mount Allison Geography and Environment Professor Brad Walters, who was the other participant on the panel, said the fight over carbon taxes is primarily political, not economic.

“The idea of carbon taxes emerged predominantly out of mainstream economics and [they] were actively supported by conservative politicians more so than those on the left,” Walters said.

“Over time, the strange irony, if you want to call it that, particularly in North America, is that as conservatives have abandoned any commitment at all to appropriate climate policy, the centre and left have moved over and embraced carbon taxes as one of the instruments that’s key to moving the economy away from fossil fuel dependence,” he added.

“Carbon taxes are administratively simple to implement,” Walters said. “They are economically efficient, there’s virtually unanimous consensus among economists that carbon taxes are probably the most efficient policy instrument available to facilitate this transition away from fossil fuels to alternatives.”

 Consumer rebates

Both Mitton and Walters agreed the federal carbon tax that will take effect on April 1, will actually benefit most New Brunswickers because they will get more money back in rebates than they will pay in taxes.

The federal government estimates, for example, that a New Brunswick family of four will pay an average of $207 this year, much of it through an extra 4.42 cent-a-litre tax on gasoline, while receiving a rebate of $256 in 2019. (See CBC report: How the carbon tax will affect you in 2019.)

Mitton and Walters suggested, however, that because consumers pay the tax upfront and receive the rebate later, they have an immediate incentive to cut down on burning the fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

Mitton argued that implementing a price on carbon to reduce emissions will be cheaper than doing nothing.

“Climate change is really expensive,” she said, adding that governments and individuals are already paying more because of extreme weather that causes catastrophic flooding, for example.

Mitton said she had a meeting a few months ago with provincial transportation officials who said that wilder winter weather has increased the costs of keeping the roads clear.

“We can’t talk about this in a vacuum,” she said, adding that doing nothing is not an option.

“It’s much more expensive and it’s just sticking our heads in the sand,” Mitton said.

For more information from the federal government on how carbon taxes will affect New Brunswick, click here.

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Sackville councillors vote to accept military gift now rather than risk losing it

Councillor Shawn Mesheau

Sackville Town Council has rejected a motion to delay accepting the gift of an armoured combat vehicle for installation in the town’s Memorial Park.

During council’s meeting Monday night, Councillors Shawn Mesheau and Bruce Phinney moved and seconded a motion to postpone signing an agreement to accept the vehicle, known as a Cougar, until the council meeting in March.

They argued that a postponement would allow time for consultation with the Sackville Legion.

The 8th Canadian Hussars want to donate the retired Cougar to symbolize the regiment’s long association with the town, but Councillor Mesheau said that while he respects the Hussars’ connection to Sackville, he thought the Legion should have a chance to comment.

However, other councillors voted against the motion to postpone accepting the gift after the town’s Chief Administrative Officer said CFB Gagetown, where the Cougar is being stored, is apparently anxious to move it within the next month or so.

Phil Handrahan added that the Hussars had “a couple of communities” that were interested in receiving the Cougar, but preferred to donate it to Sackville.

“I’m not saying it’s urgent, but I know that they’re basically anxious to have a decision so that they know it’s going to be moved off base,” Handrahan said.

Councillor Joyce O’Neil

“I’d be very, very disappointed if this Cougar went somewhere else,” said Councillor Joyce O’Neil.

“I can’t see any reason why the Legion would even really need to be asked about this, I guess in all fairness maybe they should, but I just don’t like to see us put it off so that there’s a chance that we would lose that,” O’Neil added.

Councillor Allison Butcher agreed.

“I think it’s important that we try and get approval for it sooner to make sure that it could actually be placed in our park,” Butcher said. “I would hate to take the time and then lose that opportunity.”

How urgent?

“I’m a little disappointed in the fact that we can’t give it another four weeks,” Councillor Mesheau said after the defeat of his motion to postpone accepting the Cougar.

“We seem to see a lot of things that become pressing all of a sudden [and] as a council, we have seven days to consider something.”

Mesheau also wondered just how urgent the matter really was.

“How long has it been sitting there waiting to moved?” he asked, “and when will it actually be moved here?”

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Marilyn Lerch launches fifth book of poems aiming to ‘tell the tale of our time’

Marilyn Lerch at Owens Gallery book launch

Sackville poet Marilyn Lerch fought back tears Sunday as she addressed almost 100 people at the Owens Art Gallery during the launch of her fifth book, That We Have Lived At All: Poems of Love, Witness and Gratitude.

“Coming here was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Lerch said, “and for these twenty-some years, your wisdom and friendship and activism have nurtured me and enriched me in measureless ways.”

Lerch, who has just finished a four-year term as Sackville’s poet laureate, received many rounds of applause as she introduced and read several of the poems in a collection with a wide range of themes: community; love and loss; a sustained celebration of the Earth’s natural beauty; and anger and foreboding over the ways in which human beings, their systems and technologies are relentlessly destroying that beauty.

“Poets have to tell the tale of our time,” Lerch said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say we are being hunted by powerful forces whose consequences are often deliberately kept secret or unknown; forces that have already violated the carrying capacity of our Earth; forces that have created unprecedented inequality giving power to the few over the many.”

Lerch read “What Do You Have to Say for Yourself, Poet?” the first poem in a section of her book called “In These Anthropocene Times.”

I say
the turning point is past,
the worst is yet to come.
Having clawed to the pinnacle
we see
the ruins strewn below,
what made them
powers
the rapid descent,
so find a clear running brook
and say your goodbyes.

I say
we know we cannot go on like this
and we know it will go on like this.
We know what must be done
and we know it will not be done,
not in time, not in time,
so listen to a songbird and weep.

As her audience listened intently, Lerch read through her poem’s stanzas to a kind of final affirmation:

And yet,
and yet I say
because the collapse is upon us,
because accepting the unacceptable is no longer
an option for our species,
we are called to heroic acts,
to live within
the great acceleration of fire and advancing waters,
the desperate eyes of animals and children,
with some grace and
always resistance;
to suffer, fall, fail, keep on,
sing      play              paint
write
dream
our truths.

I say
how much, what, who ends,
yet to be known.
Seeds of goodness,
seeds of courage
still being sown.

Poetry of disappearance & acceleration

Marilyn Lerch talks to a reader during her book signing

“In the most general terms, my poetry comes out of a preoccupation with disappearance and acceleration and how what it means to be human is changing,” Lerch said.

She explained that by disappearance she meant extinctions of species and also what she termed the disappeared.

“By that I mean capitalism’s implacable war against any group, movement, uprising or nation that threatens it,” she said, adding that the many U.S. interventions in Latin America, including the current one in Venezuela, are an example of this war.

“Acceleration to me refers to technology produced without thought to the precautionary principle; the mania for newness is both cause and effect of consumer pathology,” she said, adding that both disappearance and acceleration feed global warming.

Lerch drew laughter when she wondered about the advent of computers that process 10,000 financial transactions per second.

“What do you do with that?” she asked.

Digital domination

“How ironic that globalism creates tribalism,” she said. “How incredibly fast the dream of everyone connecting to everyone else on the World Wide Web has morphed into cyber-warfare, voter meddling, shutting down a nation’s electrical system.

“I believe that digital domination will continue to condition us if we allow it,” she continued, “as one part of our civilization seems bent to making us hybrids, machine and muscle, partially robotized, and invaded and implanted with God knows what.”

In her poem “The Last Luddite Addresses the Lonely Vapourized Crowd,” Lerch suggests ways to act against “the encroaching darkness swallowing us” by bowing our heads to:

perform acts that feel right and lovely in themselves,
create profound, poignant, terrifyingly beautiful art,
make our lives ever-extending webs of love,
and, if we can,
let arise from the deepest recesses of our hearts
a tenuous trembling moment of gratitude
that we have lived at all.

During the question and answer period after her readings, Lerch said she makes no apologies for writing poetry that deals directly with the big political issues of our time.

“I think Adrienne Rich said ‘poetry doesn’t change anything, but nothing changes without poetry’. I like that,” Lerch concluded.

To listen to Marilyn Lerch’s three minute reading of “What Do You Have to Say for Yourself, Poet?” click  on the media link below:

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Canadian regiment seeks to donate armoured military vehicle to Sackville Memorial Park

Cougar armoured vehicles maneuvre in a field during a military exercise in Alberta. Cougars, which were equipped with a 76mm gun and a 7.62mm machine gun, were in service from 1976 until 2005

Sackville Town Council is expected to approve an agreement on Monday to accept a retired Cougar armoured military vehicle for display in the Sackville Memorial Park, which is dedicated to those who died in past wars.

James Lockyer, honorary colonel of the 8th Canadian Hussars, told councillors at their meeting this week that the reserve armoured regiment wishes to donate a Cougar that is now in storage at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. The Cougars, which were also able to travel on water, were in military service from 1976 until 2005.

“We have the Cougar [and] we’re quite happy to move it to Sackville,” Lockyer said. “We would like to donate that to Sackville as a memorial to the 8th Hussars and to all soldiers who lost their lives from this community.”

Sackville and the Hussars

James Lockyer receiving the 2018 Order of New Brunswick

Lockyer explained that the 8th Canadian Hussars had a close association with Sackville from the regiment’s formation in 1848 until 1997 when its C Squadron based here was disbanded and the Canadian Forces armouries building on Main Street was demolished. He added the 8th Hussars regimental band was also based in Sackville.

Lockyer said the regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Peppard, would like to re-establish the relationship with Sackville with the gift of a Cougar.

“We would be delighted if we could open up a C Squardon once again in Sackville. We would be absolutely ecstatic if we could do that,” he said, adding however, that the only thing that would prevent it would be the need to find a location to replace the old armoury.

In the meantime, he said, the Cougar could serve as a symbol of the close relationship between the town and the regiment.

Sackville’s obligations

“What we would request from Sackville is a concrete pad,” he said, “so the vehicle doesn’t sink down into the mud.”

Lockyer said the regiment would also require the town to paint the Cougar every five or six years and sign an agreement exempting the Department of National Defence from liability for any injuries associated with the display.

Finally, he said the regiment would like to hold a dedication ceremony sometime in June.

Council support

The 8th Canadian Hussars donated this armoured vehicle known as a Ferret to the Sackville Memorial Park in 1994

Councillors Bill Evans, Bruce Phinney, Allison Butcher and Michael Tower welcomed the gift, although Evans did ask Lockyer what he would say to those who might criticize placing a second, gun-equipped, armed forces vehicle in the park. Evans suggested that while he personally didn’t agree, some might call it a glorification of war.

Lockyer replied that the Cougar is more of a gift from the regiment than the Canadian Forces. He added that last year he toured battlefields and visited military cemeteries in Italy where 55 soldiers from the 8th Canadian Hussars were among thousands of Canadians killed during the Second World War. Lockyer said he reflected on those deaths as he travelled to the airport at the end of his 21-day tour.

“I’m in a car driving to Rome, they’re not,” he said. “I’m going to the airport, they’re not. I’m getting on an airplane to fly home, they’re not, in fact, they’re never coming home,” he added.

“This vehicle is a testament to them, that’s what this is about. This is not a glorification of anything,” Lockyer concluded, “but it does say that people who have worn this uniform have made the ultimate sacrifice for who we are.”

To view Lockyer’s presentation to Town Council, click here.

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Flood money: Sackville spends $373k to keep water at bay, extend Waterfowl Park

Site of new Ducks Unlimited pond looking toward the intersection of Bridge and Lorne from St. James Street. (Click to enlarge)

If all goes according to plan, Sackville will get another extension to its Waterfowl Park this year.

Town councillors will be asked next week to approve an agreement with Ducks Unlimited (DU) that would enable preliminary work to start soon constructing a six acre pond on vacant land behind the Marshlands Inn, north of St. James Street and east of Lorne.

The town has released information showing it spent $75,000 purchasing two parcels of land for the DU pond from Marshlands owners Lucy and Barry Dane, who operate under the company name Blaj Hospitality Inc.

The town also spent an additional $25,000 to buy a third parcel from Sarah Evans and Alan Barbour, who run the Black Duck Café.

The DU pond was first announced in November 2017 when town officials outlined plans for the construction of three ponds as part of the Lorne Street flood control project.

A larger pond that will be able to hold 40,00o cubic metres of water is now being dug south of St. James Street and if council approves, soil excavated from it would be used to construct the berm needed to contain water in the smaller DU pond, which could store up to 8,600 cubic metres.

Overview of Ducks Unlimited pond area. Marshlands Inn is at the top, St. James St. at the bottom and Lorne St. at left. (Click to enlarge)

Town engineer Dwayne Acton told council Monday night that DU will pay the costs of creating the pond and installing the water control structure that would connect to a culvert under St. James Street. He added the group would also be responsible for maintaining the pond during a 25-year renewable lease.

Acton said DU had been planning to begin work this summer, but approached town officials late last week hoping to use some of the earth being excavated for the pond south of St. James to build the dyke or berm needed to contain water in its own pond.

“They don’t like to dig earth because they’re disturbing the earth,” Acton said. “So that is why they’re asking us if they could…bring the material in from across the road to build the berm.”

He said DU would hire a contractor in the spring to shape the berm and build the structure to control water levels in the pond.

Acton added that the normal water level would be one-and-a-half feet, but the three-foot berm would allow additional water to be stored during severe storms before being slowly released.

He said the town would look at putting a walking trail on top of the berm along with interpretive signs.

“Essentially, it would be an extension of our Waterfowl Park, very similar to what you’d see if you’re walking out on our existing Waterfowl Park,” he said.

Other property purchases

The land purchases for the Ducks Unlimited pond were part of a total outlay of $373,900 since the town began assembling land for the Lorne Street flood control project in early 2017.

Town manager Jamie Burke

Town manager Jamie Burke told councillors on Monday that in total, the town has acquired 18 properties with all but one of the transactions fully complete.

“This has been almost a two-year, complicated process,” Burke said, adding, “trying to do this in a small town in an efficient way and protecting the taxpayers’ money is extremely difficult, so we’re very pleased that we’re now complete in this process.”

Burke said the land acquisitions allow the town to carry out the current phase of the flood control project and to push ahead with Phase III if it succeeds in getting money from the federal and provincial governments. (Phase III would involve construction of a large stormwater retention pond behind the community gardens on Charles Street as well as installing culverts and digging ditches to drain water across the industrial park to a new aboiteau on the Tantramar River near the town’s sewage lagoons.)

CN land swap

Burke outlined a complicated land exchange with CN Rail under which the town agreed to purchase the Crescent Automotive, AutoPlus store in the industrial park for $99,900. The town then gave the building to CN in exchange for seven CN properties needed for the flood control project.

“It worked for us and it worked for them,” Burke said, adding that the town managed to create a partnership with CN on flood control.

“This has been a long, complicated, frustrating at times, file,” Burke added, a sentiment echoed by Mayor Higham.

“Wow, this was much more complex than we thought it was going to be going in,” Higham said.

“I appreciate the inventiveness you’re shown here to protect the taxpayers’ dollars with the deals across, swapping and slipping and moving around so that we could cover the potential footprint of a flood mitigation strategy with this,” the mayor added.

To read more details about the town’s property transactions, click here.

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Mt. A. hears about slavery, racism and making Black Lives Matter

Robyn Maynard

About 250 Mount Allison students, professors and university staff listened Thursday night as author Robyn Maynard spoke about how, after more than 400 years, racism still prevails in Canada in spite of the country’s self-image as a beacon of tolerance, diversity, equality and human rights.

“Canadians are trained, in fact, to identify anti-Black racism as something that only occurs in another place, the United States, or in another time, the past,” Maynard said.

“I mean that very literally when I say ‘trained’ in terms of schooling and media continually passing on this message.”

Maynard, who is the author of the 2017 bookPolicing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, said blacks still suffer from the dehumanizing effects of the slavery that was widely practised in what is now Canada for more than 200 years.

“Many widely held beliefs around blackness forged under slavery, that black people are pathological, more animal than human, less sentient and able to feel pain, dangerously criminal, these have very much carried forward to the present day and continue to inform many of the ways that black people continue to be treated in this society,” Maynard said.

The title of her talk, which was part of the Mount Allison President’s Speakers Series, was: “Making Black Lives Matter in Canada: Reflections on Race, Gender and Social Justice.”

Institutional racism

Maynard argued that Canada’s public institutions — including the police, prison and immigration systems, schools, and child welfare agencies — treat blacks as though their lives matter less than the lives of others.

“In the criminal justice system, for example, a study just came out from the Ontario Human Rights Commission showing that black people are 20 times more likely to be killed by the police than their white counterparts,” she said. “In Montreal since 1987, black people were 15 per cent of deaths at the hands of the police even though we are eight per cent of the population there.”

Maynard added that such racism extends to the child welfare system.

“Black youth are disproportionately pulled from their homes and placed in state care,” she said, referring to recent figures from Ontario.

Racial profiling

“Has anybody here heard about carding?” Maynard asked her Mt. A. audience. A number of hands went up showing that many were aware of the numbers of black people routinely stopped by police.

She mentioned reports from several cities across the country where racial profiling has become an issue.

Maynard said police surveillance of blacks stretches all the way back to advertisements for “fugitive slaves” offering rewards for the capture and return of those guilty of the crime of “self theft” in seeking to free themselves from bondage.

“Black people moving freely in public space were seen as suspect, were seen as possibly criminals, possibly escaped criminals, which created a kind of intensive scrutiny that has been part of the fabric of the place we now call Canada for centuries,” she said.

Blacks in jail

Maynard added that the abolition of slavery didn’t free black people from past practices and white suspicion.

“In 1868, you have John A. Macdonald who justified actually the need to maintain the death penalty in Canada because of, I quote: ‘The frequency of rape committed by Negroes’ who, he argued, were ‘prone to felonious assaults on white women.'”

Maynard referred to recent statistics showing the over-representation of indigenous and black people in Canadian jails.

The figures show that in federal prisons, for example, black people are over-represented by more than 300 per cent in relation to their population, while indigenous people are over-represented by almost 500 per cent.

Maynard said migrants — who are often black — seeking asylum in Canada are also subject to indefinite detention, some for years.

“According to figures released by the CBSA, the Canada Border Services Agency, just in 2006-2007, more than six thousand migrants were detained, over 400 of them for longer than three months including 162 minors,” she said.

“We often talk rightly about the incarceration of migrant children in the United States without thinking about those realities as they persist in this country,” she added.

Racial segregation

Maynard mentioned segregation in Canadian schools, neighbourhoods and even cemeteries.

“Whenever I’m giving a talk about this, I generally ask people if they learned about, for example, segregated schooling in the United States and the civil rights movement,” she said.

Robyn Maynard autographs her book for Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau

She added that while most Canadians know about American segregation, few have learned, for example, about segregated schools in Canada. The last one in Ontario closed in 1965, while in Nova Scotia the last segregated school closed in 1983.

In today’s schools, she said, black students face more severe disciplinary measures than their white counterparts. In Toronto, for example, almost half of the students expelled from schools between 2011 and 2016 were black, while only 10 per cent were white.

Maynard said segregation was also practised in at least one orphanage, the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

Before it closed in the 1980s, the segregated orphanage received a government subsidy of $27 per day, per child while other orphanages in Nova Scotia received $55 per day.

Maynard pointed to other racist practices affecting black children.

“In the 1940s, children of what was called ‘Negroid blood’ were deemed non-adoptable and in the 1950s, Toronto’s Children’s Aid Society had children of what was called ‘Negroid appearance’…put right into institutions instead of foster care.”

Recognizing racism

Maynard suggested that in Canada, the word “racist” has become a kind of insult.

“People want to say, ‘I’m not racist’ because that’s a bad thing to be,” she said, adding that it would be more helpful if people recognized that racism is structural, embedded in institutions and that it continues to exist in Canada.

“It’s easy to say ‘I’m not a racist,” she said.

“Instead say, ‘What am I going to do about it?'”

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