Understanding Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence

Many immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence require culturally sensitive support services. A new project on Canada’s east coast aims to ensure these types of services are made available.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC) received almost $230,000 in funding from Status of Women Canada to create projects to ensure local domestic and family violence service providers, as well as settlement service providers, are adequately equipped to support immigrant women experiencing violence at home.

“We don’t know that the rates are different amongst immigrant women, but what we do know is that even though it’s difficult for everybody to disclose and seek help, we want to make it as easy as possible when they do,” says Dr. Catherine Holtmann, director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research (MMFC), one of the project’s partners. “We’ll respond in ways that are appropriate and help them to stop the violence in their lives.”

Alex LeBlanc, managing director of the NBMC, says settlement service providers currently lack expertise in addressing intimate partner violence while domestic, intimate and family violence service providers lack capacity in terms of cross cultural contexts.

“It speaks to a lack of capacity on both sides of the fence. We want to figure out what the needs are and how to address them in a more coordinated way,” explains LeBlanc.

Barriers for immigrant women

Reflecting on her own background entering Canada as a refugee, Hyasinter Rugoro, one of the project’s research co-chairs, says there are many possible structural barriers that may impact an immigrant woman’s ability to access services.

“One woman may not be able to access [services] because of the linguistic barrier, another one may be frustrated for not being culturally understood when they are trying to access the services or it could be somebody not understanding that they exist,” Rugoro explains.

Rugoro, who will be volunteering her time along with fellow immigrant and co-chair Dr. Maria Costanza Torri over the three-year duration of the project, recalls being new to Canada and being directed to prenatal classes, along with other services, of which she had no prior knowledge.

“There could be someone or some people that could be left into loneliness and confinement, not knowing where to go or what to ask for.”

Helen Lanthier was a project co-coordinator of Be the Peace, a similar initiative in Nova Scotia.

Also funded by Status of Women Canada for three years, Be the Peace was a coordinated community response to violence against women and girls, including sexual assault in rural communities. Thanks to this project, Nova Scotia’s South Shore area now has sexual assault services.

Lanthier says having the focus on immigrant women presents unique challenges due to the damaging impacts of societal stereotypes.

“Stereotypes are destructive and discrimination can happen because of [them],” Lanthier states, pointing to the recent niqab debate during the federal election as an example of this.

Lanthier’s counterpart says there might be some similarities between their project’s considerations of rural women and the NBMC project’s focus on immigrant women.

“I think there’s a lot of overlap. Probably one of the biggest barriers is isolation,” says Sue Bookchin, co-coordinator for Be the Peace.

Bookchin speaks of rural isolation partially being present by lack of transportation, and social isolation by not being part of the dominant culture.

She says sensitivities, perceptual obstacles, fears and shame may hinder immigrant women from coming forward to access services and that attracting them to conversations might be more challenging.

Protecting confidentiality

The NBMC’s initiative is set up to pilot in four different communities in New Brunswick, both English and French, rural and urban: Saint John, Moncton, Bathurst and St. Stephen.

There will be various stages to the project including: assessing the community’s needs, exploring partnerships and collaborations, knowledge sharing and eventually an evaluation.

Like Bookchin, LeBlanc anticipates challenges in getting women to come out and share their experiences.

LeBlanc is concerned branding the project under the label of domestic violence might turn people away or make those who do come forward more vulnerable. But according to Holtmann, even though this project isn’t research, the needs assessments will abide by university ethical principals.

“We will ensure their confidentiality … the results of the needs assessment will not refer to any individual in any way that they could be identified.”

As well, because this project is about hearing what immigrant women, along with service providers, have to say, transportation, childcare and whatever else is necessary to make sure interested women can take part will be made available.

“We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and beliefs and my definition of domestic violence could be different from somebody else’s,” says Rugoro. “So we are really trying to understand the level of what the immigrant women know about domestic violence.”

As originally published by New Canadian Media

Nova Scotia Aims to Lead in Immigration

Immigration Minister Lena Diab gives a speech at the Halifax Central Library as part of an Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia event to launch the Making Nova Scotia Stronger booklet on Sept. 23. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Immigration Minister Lena Diab gives a speech at the Halifax Central Library as part of an Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia event to launch the Making Nova Scotia Stronger booklet on Sept. 23. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Nova Scotia now has the ability to fast track an additional 300 immigrants through new express entry streams.

The announcement made by Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab earlier this month came after the federal government gave into the province’s pressure.

It’s great news, we have worked extremely, extremely hard in this province and that’s recognition that the federal government and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has seen that,” Diab told New Canadian Media. “We want to be seen as the hardest working provincial jurisdiction in the country when it comes to immigration.”

Nova Scotia will now be allowed to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program (PNP) this year, nearly double the 700 nominees the province was previously capped at.

Originally 350 spots had been reserved for the express entry streams, and they were already filled at the time of this increase.

It was also recently announced that Nova Scotia’s PNP will now include two new streams: the entrepreneur stream and the international graduate entrepreneur stream.

“It’s important to poke at the notion of how much things are increasing or decreasing,” says Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who is a professor at Dalhousie University. “We’re not talking about a huge increase here, 300 more spots under express entry is not a large number of people.”

Despite this, Ramos does view the announcement positively. 

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province,” he says. “I think that it will mean change, but change is a good thing.”

Express entry applicants bringing their families, buying property and engaging in other markets and services is a step towards solving Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic issues, explains Ramos, but it may not solve the province’s rural needs.

“I think the intent is to spread out migration to all the parts of the province, but if the jobs are actually in Halifax I’m not so confident there will be so much of a spread as people may hope for,” says Ramos.

According to Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia(ISANS), approximately 25 per cent of people coming into Nova Scotia have said they were interested in settling outside the urban area of Halifax, but many eventually have to move to the city to find employment.

“I think there are communities across Nova Scotia who really see immigration as part of the solution to their demographic challenges,” says Mills. “The reality is that immigrants come from large urban centres. They’re risk takers and they want to move to urban centres.”

Nova Scotia’s pioneering streams

The national express entry system is an electronic system that was introduced in January to better manage how skilled workers apply to immigrate to Canada. It prioritizes people based on their ability to settle and take part in Canada’s economy, rather than the first come, first serve system.  

Its main improvement has been decreasing application processing times, although it also aims to fill labour shortages.

The three federal economic immigration programs it is tied to are: the federal skilled worker program, the federal skilled trades program and the Canadian experience class.

Nova Scotia was the first province to create its own associated streams. Under the PNP, these are Nova Scotia demand, created last January, and Nova Scotia experience, introduced in May.

Both streams, like the national express entry system itself, are aimed at highly skilled immigrants. Ideal candidates for Nova Scotia would be individuals already living there and contributing to the economy – like international graduates.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada,” recalls Diab. “We received numerous calls from other provinces looking for advice on how we’re doing what we’re doing, which is actually wonderful.”

The program was launched specifically to help students working in Nova Scotia to become permanent residents, aiding both international graduates and their employers.  

“This is exclusively for Nova Scotia graduates who are working for Nova Scotia employers in jobs where these employers are saying these are the people that we need and want because they have the skill that we couldn’t find in other graduates,” says Diab. “It’s a win for everybody.”

Benefits of a provincial stream

When an express entry candidate is nominated through any PNP they are invited to apply for permanent residency.

These applicants must have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they are applying to and must want to live there. There is no requirement as to how long they must stay.

The difference between applying to the provincial express entry systems versus the national one is if the candidate is nominated by a PNP he or she gains a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This is the tool used to evaluate an express entry individual’s profile credentials.

A PNP nomination, and associated job offer, garners 600 of a possible 1,200 points.

Without the direct nomination, hopefuls must apply to the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) job bank in search of one. The idea is employers in provinces and territories would then search through this pool for candidates.

Nine months later, though, the job bank is still not operational.  

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream because you get those 600 points, which now automatically gets you in because the numbers are so low,” explains Mills. “It’s like a cream rises to the top situation: in January you had to have 700 and something points, last week it was 400.”

As originally published by New Canadian Media

Prof looks to make lithium-ion batteries that last a lifetime

Jeff Dahn’s research could be answer to energy shortage and storage question 


Jeff Dahn stands beside Blue Beauty, a $1million, high resistant charger system built by his research team. It discharges and charges 100 lithium-ion cells very precisely allowing the team to compare one timed discharge with the next. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Jeff Dahn is a busy man. When he isn’t teaching his class of 500 students, he spends most of his time studying lithium-ion batteries.

You may not realize it but when using your laptop, iPod, cellphone, camera or cordless tool, you’re actively using research that a Dalhousie physics professor helped to produce.

“Do you like your phone? Do you find laptop computers quite useful? Well none of those would exist without the lithium-ion battery,” said Jeff Dahn, a professor in applied physics and materials experiments.

He is a Canada Research Chair in Battery and Fuel-cell Materials as well as the NSERC/3M Canada Inc. Industrial Research Chair.

Dahn is one of the pioneering developers of the lithium-ion battery now used worldwide in everything from laptop computers to electric vehicles. He has worked in this area since 1978.

He now aims to increase the lifetime and safety of these battery cells while decreasing the cost through advanced diagnostic testing.

Using high precision chargers Dahn tracks how much a battery degrades during each charge and discharge in order to project how long the battery will last.

He’s also screened different additive electrolyte chemistries in lithium-ion cells: small chemicals to change the surface films on the electrode materials of a cell so that they will become less reactive with the electrolyte during operation, allowing the battery to last longer.

With $6.2 million in funding, Dahn is partners with 3M and 3M Canada, as well as Medtronic Corp., GM and Magna.

“We’re not playing around in some academic space that has no bearing to reality,” said Dahn, who travels to Warren, Michigan, to talk to General Motors Dec. 10, in order to present his most recent work.

“We’ve been able to make lithium-ion cells that are better than what’s in cars currently.”

Having already presented it to Magna on Nov. 19, he said, “their staff were impressed, wanting to put the new chemistry to evaluation rapid testing right away.”

One thing Dahn and his students have already made marketable is a positive electrode material called lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide.

Thirty-five per cent of all electrode materials use lithium ion cells with the material, which was invented at Dalhousie in 2000, Dahn said. That represents 20,000 metric tones of material every year that’s used in 35 per cent of lithium ion cells around the world.

Doug Staple, a Killam post-doctoral Fellowship with the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dal, said, “the writing is on the wall for lithium- ion batteries in terms of competing storage technologies.”

However, “You need it with transportation,” he said after a lecture on solar power at the Museum of Natural History, Monday night. Not only for cellphones and laptops but for example if you want to run a really good car you’ve got to have a good battery and the lithium battery can do it.”


Dr. Doug Staple discusses the solar DESERTEC Concept, where solar thermal power stations would be built in the Middle East and North Africa. He points out, “this tiny square of the Sahara Desert is all you would need to provide the entire world with solar power – it’s not the entire blotting out of the sun.” (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Dahn’s research team usually consists of 25 graduate and undergraduate students all working on individual research projects.

Connor Aikin has been a member of Dahn’s team for the past three summers and is currently working on his undergraduate Honours Thesis within the group.

Aiken is studying gas evolution in cells or the explanation as to why some vacuum-sealed cells start to expand, resulting in cells that are shot.

Dahn relates it to a recent Samsung Galaxy S4 recall in Europe in which batteries were doing just that.

Aiken measures the gas in the cells by weighing them underwater, developing a software program that has the instruments charging and discharging while measuring their volume via their weight as they operate.

“The cool thing with Jeff is that he does this stuff because he cares about bettering the standard of living and stuff like that. He wants to be able to provide people with storing energy in a clean fashion – like electric vehicles are a part of our motivation here, to get away from combustion,” said Aiken.

Dahn said he has attributed so much time to one project because he wants to produce valued work for the public research money he is awarded.

“I’ve always viewed the role of the scientist that gets funding from the taxpayer to give something back. You have choice of what problems to work on. Why not work on something that’s challenging that also has a payback?”

And from an environmental standpoint his research could make a drastic difference.

Mike Wilkinson, the environmental services manager with facilities management at Dalhousie, has recently taken over collection of used batteries on campus.

Last year he sent off six, 210-litre packages – the size of large oil drums – filled with different types of dead batteries.

“If you consider a city the size of Halifax and how many batteries each individual uses on average per capita, that’s a lot of batteries a year – it’s huge,” said Wilkinson.

Originally published on UNews.ca

Blurred lines surrounding role of TAs

Neuro-psych students do work similar to that of TAs, but without payment – a method that may be adopted by other departments 


Megan Thompson is seen marking lab papers late into the night at Killam Memorial Library. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Maggie McCann, a third-year student in Dalhousie’s Advanced General Psychology 3010, does much of her coursework in another class. She teaches a lab section of the first-year course Introduction to Psychology and Neuroscience – a class with 1,000 students.

She’s one of 40 students in 3010 who created course material, and teaches a 50-minute lab every two weeks to typically 26 students — marking assignments and establishing grade rubrics in addition to attending two hours of lectures every week.

But Leanne Stevens, the instructor of this course in the Psychology and Neuroscience department at Dalhousie as of July emphatically states: “they aren’t TAs.”

Leanne Stevens in her office in the LSC. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Leanne Stevens in her office in the LSC. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

“We call them TAs because it’s a short easy thing to say but we don’t equate the two,” she said.

It’s something McCann is OK with.

“I don’t personally mind too much because I think that being a TA is a really big responsibility and I think someday I’d like to become an official TA as a job. And I think that having any kind of experience that helps me learn to do that more effectively is valuable,” she said.

Maggie McCann is a teacher in more ways than one – instructing swimming and life-saving courses as well as "TAing." (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Maggie McCann is a teacher in more ways than one – instructing swimming and life-saving courses as well as “TAing.” (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Megan Thompson, a fourth-year neuro-student also enrolled in 3010 isn’t of the same mindset.

“As much as I enjoy the class it would be nice to be compensated,” she said.

People are surprised when they find out that she doesn’t get paid.

“I understand that it might not be completely feasible because there are so many students but at the same time I still think it comes down to respect.”

She feels like she walks a thin line in her position.

“Who am I a student to? Who am I a TA to?” she asks. “What my responsibilities are and how others view my responsibilities as well are blurred.”

CUPE 3912’s last collective agreement states that a teaching assistant is: “an employee hired to assist an instructor in the presentation and delivery of a course,” who is also involved in activities such as marking, tutoring and monitoring labs.

“In a TAship an instructor would actually be giving you a stack of stuff and telling you to go do it. My students are actually taking an active role in what’s the best method to present this (material) to these students, so they build it from the ground up,” said Stevens.

Jennifer Stamp explaining the difference between her DISP TAs and the “TAs” in 3010. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Jennifer Stamp explaining the difference between her DISP TAs and the “TAs” in 3010. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Jennifer Stamp who teaches three different versions of first-year psychology, including the class taught by these “TAs”, said, “They’re learning what they’ll have to do as a paid clinician.”

She envies the class time the students have to learn different pedagogical tools. “As professors we get zero training in teaching whatsoever and it’s kind of crazy because between 30 and 40 per cent of a professor’s job is teaching.”

Stamp stresses the students are in no way taking jobs that would go to actual TAs.

“It’s not like if we didn’t have this course we’d hire a bunch of TAs,” said Stamp.

This scientific communication class may have its practice used in other courses by next fall.

Tim Juckes, a professor who teaches Science 1111 may take up this style of education for his own course. He hopes his class will be an opportunity for third year students to gain experience for grad school.

“It will be an attempt to understand communicating science information processing; an opportunity to learn by interaction,” he said.

But the blurred lines surrounding what a TA does at Dal, do not stop here

Dalhousie does not differentiate enough between the role of TA and that of a marker.

Christina Behme works as a part-time faculty member in Dalhousie’s philosophy department but she’s also the vice-president of the CUPE local and represents teaching assistants at Dalhousie.


Christina Behme outside the CUPE general meeting in the Dalhousie Student Union Building. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

She brought forward the issue at the CUPE general meeting on Friday.

“People have been contacting us because they have to do the same amount of work and the same kind of work and be paid as a demonstrator as people that are being paid as TAs,” she said.

A TA makes substantially more money than that of a marker or demonstrator — the equivalent of seven or eight more dollars per hour.

“They have been fighting the employers for years for a specific definition of what TAs do and what a marker is doing,” she said.

“We are trying to get the university to commit to clear guidelines of what a marker has to do and what a TA has to do.”

The reason why there haven’t been more complaints?

“Most of the TAs and markers are graduate students who depend on their supervisor to write their letter of recommendation so they are more than happy to work more than they have to,” said Behme.

Dalhousie’s director of academic staff relations, who usually deals with these types of issues is on parental leave and was unavailable to comment.

“It’s a problem that has been longstanding,” said Behme. “Professors have been told ‘you only have that much money available so you have to make it work so instead of hiring TAs we’re just hiring markers.’”

Originally published on UNews.ca

Feminist art show tackles identity

Feminist art exhibition follows tradition of paying tribute to those slain in Montreal Massacre 


Kelly Zwicker curated this year’s showcase. In her curatorial statement she writes: We acknowledge this tragic historic event and we seek to draw on the conversation about sexualized violence in a local way in light of this year’s SMU rape chants and Rehtaeh Parsons’ rape, harassment and subsequent suicide.” (Photo: Kelsey Power)

A wedding veil is pinned to the wall, but in this case this piece is not a mere accessory – instead it is a message. The words “I think it’s ok to be alone,” are “scribbled” into the tufts of tulle with needle and thread, showcasing the artists’ opinion that being alone is overlooked and undervalued by society.

This was just one piece in a new show from NSCAD’s Feminist Collective. My Feminism aims to showcase the many different ways people experience feminism and the problem of applying labels to identity.

Kelly Zwicker, a fourth- year student at NSCAD, and the main curator and organizer of the My Feminism event says she wanted to show “how feminism isn’t just one thing.”

It is a continuation of the conversation started with last year’s showcase Why Feminism, which focused on the relevance of feminism in today’s society.

“For people who are questioning whether they want to label themselves as a feminist we want to make them more comfortable identifying as such,” she said.

The annual, juried group show by the university’s Feminist Collective is held at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on Granville Street the week of Dec. 6 each year to commemorate the 14 women who were murdered in the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal on that date, as well as the annual National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women.

“It’s kind of hard to totally break down what my feminism is but I really like listening as an activist practice,” Zwicker said, explaining why she liked a piece by Emily Chudnovsky.

Chudnovsky’s piece *Toward Me [or] Beyond I* is a sound installation consisting of a series of interviews with various unidentified individuals asked to answer the question: how does one experience themselves as a self.

The seven-minute reel of responses consisted of statements such as:

  • ‘I was just figuring out where I was going and how to reclaim myself,”
  • “Being in my own world is, in a certain way, trying to reach out,”
  • “Maybe I would define myself less as a woman, but when I’m on the outside that’s how other people see me,” and
  • “I just feel like maybe as I become more of an adult I find myself less specifically woman.”

Chudnovsky had the idea for her installation this summer. Finally finding the courage and time to submit it, the fourth-year University of King’s College student chose this subject matter because, “a lot of women-identified folks don’t get a chance to speak about themselves as a self separate from perceptions placed on to them in the outside world.”

“I felt like it would be really interesting and important to sit and understand and be immersed in that in that experience of listening.”

Her own feminism has become so much a part of who she it’s difficult to describe. “It’s become a part of my eyes so now I think what I should do is step back and listen,” she said.

Zwicker liked the piece saying, “It’s really important to listen to someone instead of trying to do things for them or listening to what people need and meeting them where they are.”

Sarah Trower acting as co-curator for the event along with Genevieve Flavelle and Merray Gerges, also presented her own piece: “We’re Fabulous, Don’t Fuck With Us.”

Meant to lend confidence to people, her piece is a series of posters, flyers and buttons with the slogans, “I Do What I Want,” “I Say What I Want,” and “I Wear What I Want.”

A tongue-in-cheek representation of her own feminism she says the piece addresses the continued oppression of women in society and “being able to speak your truth, and do what you want to do, and wear what you want to wear without getting crap for it.”

Beck Gilmer-Osborne submitted a piece for the show upon hearing that there were no other trans/queer-identified artists submitting work.

The fourth-year NSCAD student had already been working on TUCK – a performance piece in the form of a video installation, which happened to suit the show.

Wearing a plastic chest binder filled with milk while nude, Gilmer-Osborne is seen to fill the chest binder, puncture it with a straw and consume its contents.

Filling the binder with milk makes it difficult to breathe and so drinking the milk both takes the pressure off by taking the milk out but also increases the tightness of the binder.

“I focus a lot on like breasts as subject matter as it’s a really quick indication of gender more than anything else so just it’s just something that’s easy to work with that people understand.”

My Feminism will run until Dec.7, Tues. – Fri.  from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sat. 12 a.m. -4 p.m.

A Feminist Collective meeting will take place this evening from 6-7: 30 p.m. and a roundtable discussion and artist talk will happen Thurs. at the same time. Both will be held in the same space as the show.

Originally published on UNews.ca.

Law students struggle to find articling positions

Not as desperate as Ontario, Nova Scotia students still see scarcity of articling placements 


Twelve of last year’s Schulich School of Law’s graduating class are still struggling to find articling positions. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Law students are about to start looking for articling positions this year and they are facing a troubling legal landscape that law organizations are only starting to address.

The Law Society of Upper Canada introduced two new initiatives last week in Ontario: a three-year pilot program and an innovative program at Lakehead University. Both aim to fight the growing problem within the province – law students unable to find articling positions.

The first, titled the Law Practice Program, has been introduced as an alternative option for Ontario students struggling to find a position. It will consist of four months spent doing course work and four months at a law firm or clinic.

Ryerson University will house the English-language version of the program and the University of Ottawa will house the French version. The society promises students who pursue this program will attain the same knowledge obtained in a traditional articling role.

The Integrated Practice Curriculum is the second trial idea. Students at Lakehead University will gain skills by putting in additional hours during the law degree program, followed by a four-month work placement in northern Ontario. This will allow for an accelerated path to writing the bar exam: no normal articling necessary.

In Nova Scotia, as with the rest of Canada, it has been a mandatory part of the licensing process for law graduates to gain employment as article clerks. They normally work in the office of a qualified principal for 12 months before they write the bar admission course.

But it may be time to review this practice in this province as well.

“It certainly isn’t like it was even five years ago,” said Rose Godfrey, Director of Admissions and Career Development at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law. “There are more law schools, more and bigger classes and fewer jobs, so I think everybody right now is seeing a bit of a decline.”

Although the Schulich school has enrolled between 165 and 170 students over the last couple of years, the school has had a difficult time finding articling placements for all of its graduates.

Godfrey is still helping 12 students from last year’s graduating class find their articling placement — a higher number than in the past.

“We’re working with the barristers society,” said Godfrey. “We’re trying to increase the number of articling students that employers would take and really promoting the rural-area employers to reach out and think about taking some articling students.”

Few rural practices have traditionally taken articling students and those that do have tended to pay substantially less than firms in Halifax, where the sector has grown over the last decade.


Though the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society doesn’t have any involvement in graduates seeking employment, it has relaxed its regulations regarding articling.

“We’ve opened up as much as our regulations allow to enable creative, unique articling positions,” said Darrel Pink, executive director of the society. “We think that’s our job, but we can’t find jobs. We just don’t think it would be beneficial to do that.”

The society doesn’t actually hold any jurisdiction until a law student is placed within an articling position.

But Pink did say the number of articling students that have been called to the bar, and the number of articling students overall, have declined slightly.

The number of articling positions available is directly tied to the marketplace.

“It’s a combination of both an increase in students and the (weak) economy. Because the law firms or the legal employers are just not hiring as many students as they used to,” said Godfrey.

Claude Baldachino, director of professional development with Cox & Palmer, said “the demand far outstrips the supply,” in regard to the number of applications it receives.

Susan Hayes, chief professional resources officer at Stewart McKelvey, agrees, adding, “we see more third-year applicants than we have in the past.”

“They could be more selective about what they were looking for,” she said. “It’s very easy, as it’s all electronic these days to send off more resumes than it ever used to be, and I almost expect everyone’s applying everywhere.”

Both law firms have received upwards of 250 applications in recent years and both have consistently taken six articling students in the past few years – a reduction from 10 before the recession.

Although Pink speaks highly of the merit of standards of the new Ontario programs, he cautions this might not be the best solution to a changing legal landscape.

“It’s really easy to look at something like the (Law Practice Program) and think why don’t we have one in Nova Scotia. The expense, the cost of having a (Law Practice Program) is not fully ascertained but it’s in the hundreds of thousands — it’s in the millions — of dollars,” said Pink.

The Law Society of Upper Canada has increased the dues for every lawyer so that they contribute a sum of their annual fee to cover a portion of the cost of the Law Practice Program. At Lakehead University, it will become part of the tuition but students will be partially subsidized.

 Originally published on UNews.ca

Students get swabbed for stem cell database

Stem cell and marrow network visits Dal to find donors 

Hailu Meulatu, coordinator of donor management from OneMatch came to Dal Tuesday in hopes of gathering new potential donors. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Hailu Mulatu, coordinator of donor management from OneMatch came to Dal Tuesday in hopes of gathering new potential donors. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

For those in need of new stem cells, finding the specific match of genetic markers similar to their own could mean a second chance at life.Some people spend their entire lives searching for their perfect match – but most of the time this isn’t a life or death situation.

For the third time in three years, OneMatch, a Canadian stem cell and marrow network, visited Dalhousie University’s campus this Tuesday. Organizers planted themselves in the Dalhousie Student Union Building for the daylong Get Swabbed event in an effort to attract potential new donors.

Somewhat successful, the campaign attracted 70 students to become registered – a figure shy of the day’s 100-person goal.

Young cells are more successful at replicating. Most participants were in their late teens. About half were male and there was a fair number of ethnically diverse donors – all attributes the network is in need of. Men have turned out to be more appealing donors due to differences in body size (their larger frame producing more stem cells) as well as their increased resistance to Cytomegalovirus Infection. As well, there is a severe shortage of representation among black and aboriginal donors in the databank. Organizers are seeking these individuals specifically because a match must be the same ethnicity as the donor, in terms of genetics.

All in all, the event was about raising awareness.

“This campaign is managed and run by student champions from A to Z normally,” said Hailu Mulatu, co-ordinator of donor management. “This is our way of empowering students to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.”

But this time around, Brenda Smart, administrative staff in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies organized this event, after becoming personally attached to the cause.

“I found out about OneMatch through my family because my nephew was in need of a transplant,” she says. “We always knew that probably someday he would need one and about a year-and-a-half ago, the doctor said they needed to start looking more actively.”


Brenda Smart, organizer for “Get Swabbed” says, “It’s about making people aware that this organization exists.” (Photo: Kelsey Power)

A member of a large family, Smart was shocked to learn that a genetic match could be found within immediate family only 25 per cent of the time. “Immediate family” consists of siblings, and parents. Other relatives stand the same chances of being a match as a perfect stranger. This is the reason why donors who sign up to support OneMatch as a potential donor agree to donate to any patient in need – not only those they might intimately know.

“The other 75 per cent of the time you are looking at someone to be a match for you, it’s like we’re looking at a pool of potential donors,” Mulatu said.

So increasing the number of people in the database increases everyone’s potential to find a match. The procedure at this point is simple: a swab of a Q-tip of the inside of your mouth.

“Blood donation is good as well, but it sounds like (swabbing) is a little more specific,” said Jessica Cosham, a 24-year-old environmental studies master’s student, who acted as a volunteer for the event after signing up for OneMatch three years ago.  “If they don’t find a match they don’t have a match.”

Close to 1,000 people in Canada are currently searching for a stem cell match.

“We are looking at the unit genetic markers that we inherit from our parents, our grandparents and our ancestors – essentially that are unique to all of us,” said Mulatu.

He explains that these genetic markers are Human Leukocyte Antigens, found on the proteins of white blood cells, which we acquire randomly at birth. Blessed with a set of 10, we receive half from our mother’s makeup and half from our father. This is a random distribution of their own makeup, which is why even siblings are not completely the same.

“Matching the donor and the patient is a very difficult task,” he said.

Brenda Smart now knows. With 325,000 Canadians contributing to an international database of 21 million people that Canadians seeking new cells have access to – her nephew miraculously found one match, which happened to fall through. Following this news, his father became an imperfect donor in the interest of time.

For those who missed the opportunity, and are interested in making a donation, anyone can register online at OneMatch.ca.

Rebecca Aucoin joined OneMatch today because of a personal connection to the cause. Her cousin was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 12, having two bone marrow transplants before passing away three-years-ago. “I want to be able to help someone else the way her donors helped her.” (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Originally published on UNews.ca



Entrepreneur kids make deal on Dragons’ Den

Hope Blooms’ salad dressing sales will be used to provide post-secondary scholarship  

Hope Blooms

Hope Blooms’ mentors await the arrival of the evenings’ guests of honour – the seven children who took a business proposal to CBC’s Dragon’s Den. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

More than 40 exuberant youth, described under the unlikely title of being both at-risk and as entrepreneurs, walked away with $40,000 of investment funding last night.

A large crowd of supporters gave them the red carpet treatment at the North End Public Library, as they gathered to watch CBC broadcast the secret result of their proposal for a salad dressing business on the reality television series Dragons’ Den.

The kids had asked for $10,000 with five per cent royalties during their trip to Toronto earlier this year.

The children not only tamed the Dragons, but also left some of them tearful.

The packed audience of more than 300 gathered at the event could have used a package of tissue, as people made speeches concerning the positive change the children made to the community.

Hope Blooms is no regular business. This salad dressing enterprise has its roots in a 3,345 square metre garden and a 9 x 7 foot greenhouse run by neighbourhood kids in Halifax’s North End.

What used to be weeds in Warrington Park is now a positive project thanks to North End Community Health Centre’s dietitian Jessie Jollymore.

“Education is the foundation of everything we do. It’s just through a hands-on and teach-by-doing-method,” she said.

One dollar from every bottle sold goes to a scholarship fund for the youth involved.

“Right now there are 43 youth involved and as long as you’ve been a junior leader for more than two years you qualify to enter into the scholarship,” she said. Started last year, the total amount raised has reached $10,000.

“Everybody whose put in their time would get something towards their education plus the added life experience of being taught business and culinary,” said Natasha Jollymore, Jessie’s daughter who came up with the original idea for the business.

“Everything we make goes right back to the community or to the kids.”

Alvero Wiggins has been the youth co-ordinator for the program for the past three years and works directly with the children when gardening, making salad dressing, or overseeing sales at the Seaport Market.

He’s no stranger to the neighbourhood after growing up here. Now, 26, he has his own son involved in the initiative.

“The goal (of the scholarship) is so that we can increase choice so that young people don’t feel that they have to follow a certain path and that they can choose their own path.”

Aside from the scholarship, and the meeting with the Dragons, the small business is in the midst of setting up a mentorship program where nine youth will be paired with a leader in the community in a job-shadowing scenario “to gain skills to increase their employability in the future,” said Wiggins.

Kolade Kolawole-Bobeye, a 13-year-old involved with Hope Blooms who had the chance to travel to Toronto, dreams of becoming an engineer and plans to stay involved in the business until studying at university. His mother, Olayinka Kolawole-Bobeye, “prays and hopes” that both the business and scholarship fund continue to grow.

Originally published on UNews.ca


Bill introduced to tackle cyber bullying

Legislation would make it illegal to send intimate images without consent of the person captured.

The Conservative federal government introduced a bill in Parliament this afternoon aimed at amending the criminal code and combating cyberbullying.

This bill would make it illegal to send intimate — or indecent ­— images electronically without the explicit consent of the person in the picture.

The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, which targets the criminal behaviour associated with cyberbullying, was initiated by the federal government following a string of suicides across Canada related to such abuse.

The legislation follows the attempted suicide that led to the death of Rehtaeh Parsons of Cole Harbour– an alleged rape victim who was cyber bullied. Stricter legislation that gives victims the ability to sue alleged cyberbullies was enacted in Nova Scotia this summer.

“The legislative measures that we have just introduced to protect Canadians against cyber bullying will give our system additional tools to deal more efficiently and effectively with these criminal acts,” said Justice Minister Peter MacKay in his bullying awareness announcement.

The new preventative measures would:

  • Prohibit the non-consensual distribution of intimate images
  • Empower a court to order the removal of intimate images from the Internet
  • Permit the court to order forfeiture of the computer, cell phone or other device used in the offence
  • Provide for reimbursement to victims for costs incurred in removing the intimate image from the Internet or elsewhere; and
  • Empower the court to make an order to prevent someone from distributing intimate images.

“This bill will also modernize the investigative powers in the criminal code in order that police and crown attorneys have new tools through which more effectively to tackle cyber bullying and other cyber crimes,” MacKay said.

Judicial controls would monitor these new investigative tools to help police investigate criminal activities involving electronic communications – warrants would need to be issued.

Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced the bill with MacKay today, saying Ottawa has a number of crime prevention school projects allocated as part of a $10-million envelope issued in 2012.

Other government initiatives include the Youth Justices Fund – giving $390,000 to provinces and territories to support projects combating cyber bullying that could reach criminal conduct.

Lianna McDonald, director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, operates cybertip.ca and said, “We’ve seen first hand and all too often the collision between sexual exploitation, technology and bullying.”

More than 100,000 reports of sexual assault or cyber intimidation have been made in the last 10 years.


University Ave. could be bike corridor

Committee looks at a sustainable plan of how to get people moving among institutions on the peninsula


Dave McCusker and Rochelle Owen wait to address the Transportation Standing Committee last Wednesday. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

Imagine this the next time you’re stuck in your car in traffic in Bedford, or on the bridge: a bicycle corridor where thousands of people move easily among the city’s universities and hospitals.

That’s just one of the options Halifax’s Transportation Standing Committee considered at a meeting last week.

The committee is looking at the possibility of opening up University Avenue to become a segregated bicycle corridor and moving the usual mass of cars parked along the side street into a parkade – potentially beneath an elevated Wickwire Field.

This is part of the Institutional Transportation Planning Committee’s cycling report, which aligns with Dalhousie’s master plan.

“Maybe you can get parking off of University Avenue,” said Rochelle Owen, of Dalhousie’s Sustainability Department in her address to the HRM. “And that would free up University Avenue to be a dedicated cycle corridor for pedestrians from Robie Street down to Lower Water Street.”

Owen has led this collaborative committee involving Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s University, Capital Health and the IWK since 2010. Both the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal act as adviser. The goal of the committee: to ease the Halifax peninsula of the current transportation problems that plague its inhabitants.

“There’s something like 45,000 movements between these institutions per week,” said Councillor Waye Mason, who was in agreement with the presentation and proposed an additional service: bicycle rental stations.

“I think a bike corridor project is not just about commuting it’s also about during the working day,” he said. “If you’re going from the university to the hospital site to another hospital site then you can take the bike and can leave the car in the garage.”

It’s a simple solution that would follow the committees’ higher goals of increasing health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – which happens to go along with saving money at the same time.

“People are increasingly living on the peninsula and certain pinch points on the peninsula make it challenging for people to get to our organizations,” said Owen.

So solving the parking problem and having alternative road access is seen as a priority.

“We bring 65,000 people to the downtown core and the total would be about 18,000 on Halifax campuses and yet they have about 30 ride share participants,” said Owen.

Which is why Dave McCusker, Halifax’s planning manager, who sits on the committee, thinks vanpooling may be an answer to commuters’ problems.

“The organizations will purchase vans and then employees can sign up to be a van driver – then if you live in Kingswood, one driver in Kingswood would then pick up five other people in Kingswood and take them to the (bus line) one or Dal or SMU or wherever they’re going.”

As Owen says, “there are options, someone has to bite the bullet at city hall and move on some of these larger transit issues.”


What University Ave. currently looks like. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

 Originally published on UNews.ca.