Canada, Climate change, Lectures, News, St. Thomas University

‘Canada needs to build a weather-ready nation,’ says expert

The wild storm on Wednesday night animated Blair Feltmate’s warning to an audience at St. Thomas University that Canada needs to build a weather-ready nation.

Feltmate, a professor at the University of Waterloo, spoke as part of the McKenna Centre for Communications and Public Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. He told the crowd of approximately 80 people that climate change is real and it would be nearly impossible to reverse its effects.

“We’ve removed an area of forest from the earth slightly larger than the United States of America,” Feltmate said. “That’s gone for good. Paved over.”

Specifically, Feltmate’s talk focused on floods because he called the “biggest monkey in the room” the fact that there is too much water.

He warned that Canadians will soon no longer be able to afford the effects of this, focusing on the property and home insurance sector.

“If any industry is on the forefront of addressing the challenges of climate change, it’s the insurance sector,” Feltmate said. “They’re not the canary in the coalmine – they’re the ostrich in the coalmine.”

Feltmate said the country needs to be thinking about adapting infrastructure on two scales if it continues to use fossil fuels.

“Maybe there’s not going to be water here now but there might be 25 or 50 years down the road,” he said. “Let’s adapt to the current challenges… but also we have to use models to forward project what the weather’s going to be like in the future and build that into our system.”

Feltmate proposed solutions to these natural disaster issues, including up-to-date flood plain maps, the concept of the Home Adaptation Assessment Program, and building codes and upgrades.

His lecture left the audience with the overall idea that not adapting to climate change is not an option. Feltmate stressed that it is time to forget the talk and act quickly.

“We need to build a weather-ready Canada right now,” Feltmate said. “Not 25 years from now, not 50 years from now, not 75 years from now. We have a formidable challenge on the table at this moment and we need to embrace adaptation currently.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.

Fredericton, News, Politics, St. Thomas University

Fredericton South MLA Coon upset by budget

Fredericton-South MLA David Coon told a class at St. Thomas University that he believes the government has missed the mark on the 2016 Provincial Budget.

“I think they’ve missed a pretty big opportunity to do things different here,” Coon said. “I think what they’re doing is pretty conventional… it just seems like we’re doing something because we’ve been paralyzed for so long and nothing’s been happening.”

Coon won the vote in the 2014 provincial election as the first Green Party seat to ever be elected into the legislature. Since then, he has struggled to go up against the larger parties of the province, who he contests have convinced the public that “as a province, we’re broke.”

“We weren’t broke then and we’re not broke now,” Coon said. “That’s the sort of narrative that, generally, people have accepted… so, some governments love that because people feel like there’s no choice and they can just carry out their program with limited opposition to it.”

Coon said unconventional ways of doing things in politics need to be considered for New Brunswick, as well as appropriate areas for surplus to be directed. These areas included mental health care, poverty, and income assistance.

He said also said that while he hopes things such as increasing the HST can be useful, looking at the province’s assets in an integrative and unconventional way is what will truly build N.B.’s economy.

“The government has been looking for jobs in all the wrong places,” Coon said. “The right places are here in New Brunswick – building on what we’ve got, building on what we have here, what we’re able to do here, building on the great ideas and ingenuity of people in New Brunswick.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.

Aquinian, Canada, News, Sports, St. Thomas University, Students

Track and field team prepares for Montreal

St. Thomas’ track and field team is headed to Montreal Jan. 29-30 for the annual McGill Team Challenge.

The regular indoor track meet will see a variety of events in the heptathlon and pentathlon categories, such as different-length runs and hurdles, pole vaults, relays and high jumps. Because it is an indoor meet, throw events will be restricted to weight throw and shot put.

But with pressure coming down on the team, each athlete from the men and woman’s team is finding their own way to cope with the stress and are looking to beat their personal bests.

Full story here.

Fredericton, Irving, New Brunswick, News, Politics, St. Thomas University

Professor calls pressure to develop shale ‘corporate blackmail’

A professor at St. Thomas University has urged that the province of New Brunswick should not feel pressured to develop its shale gas industry.

Tony Tremblay, Canada Chair in New Brunswick Studies, addressed the issue of corporate “blackmail” in a recent editorial, saying it implies N.B. has no right to partner with others if it does not develop its own deposits.

“What the overheated rhetoric obscures is that New Brunswickers want what is best for their province,” Tremblay said. “Not what is best for corporations at the expense of New Brunswick, but what is best for New Brunswick in equal partnership with corporations.”

Exploration of shale gas was encouraged by the previous Conservative government of Premier David Alward. In October 2013, a demonstration against shale gas near Rexton turned violent, resulting in five RCMP cars burned and 40 arrests.

Tremblay said the implications of governments who favour those with similar ideas is worrisome for those in economic barrens.

“When a narrow-minded agenda is aligned squarely with the interests of resource-extracting economies then non-resource extracting economies such as New Brunswick must develop their own policies in overheated and often coercive environments,” he said.

Soon after the Liberal government was elected in the fall of 2014, it legislated a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. A three-member commission was named to investigate and make recommendations, such as new regulations for the industry and feedback from consultations with First Nations representatives. Its findings are expected to be reported to the legislature by the end of March.

Premier Brian Gallant cannot commit to a decision until the panel reports. Despite this, editorials in the Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc. newspapers Monday are already calling for a lift of the moratorium as soon as possible.

Tremblay stressed that the alternative to this blackmail from corporations is a responsible and respectful dialogue with New Brunswickers.

“New Brunswickers await clear and honest answers to legitimate questions,” he said. “In an absence of these answers…New Brunswickers will continue to be skeptical of the shale gas agenda.”

He also said that the threats and continued insults will never be enough and will not win the long argument.

“What New Brunswickers have been asking for all along, and what our leaders seem strangely incapable of providing, is transparency and forthrightness,” Tremblay said. “If there is a moratorium on anything in this province, the moratorium on transparency is surely the longest-lived.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.

Aquinian, Fredericton, New Brunswick, News, Profile, Sports, St. Thomas University, Students

Provincial and STU records broken

Two Tommies got-off to a record-breaking start this season at the 2015 Gagetown Indoor Track and Field Meet Nov. 28.

Jonathon Gionet broke the New Brunswick shot put record with a 14.86 meter throw, while Sarah Hickman broke St. Thomas University’s record in the 60 and 200 meters race.

Gionet, a fourth-year student from Bathurst beat the 21-year-old former record of 14.85 meters. This was also a personal-best performance for Gionet that earned him the 2015 Atlantic University Sport title.

Full story here.

Canada, New Brunswick, Thought scoop

Concerns about NB mental health triggered by refugees

New Brunswick’s mental health resources have been under criticism by citizens for the last several years, and the upcoming surge of Syrian refugees is triggering more concerns.

Graeme Dyck, a licensed psychologist in the Moncton area, said the questions about accommodating the refugees invite reflection about the province’s general capacity to provide resources.

“At this time, approximately one third of our provincially licensed psychologists work in public and community mental health,” he said. “That means fewer than 150 psychologists serve the mental health needs of more than 750,000 New Brunswickers.”

Canada has been more open with its mental health initiatives in recent years with campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk, causing it to become a leader in such efforts.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has said that 20 per cent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness at some point in their life.

According to a 2011 study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the direct costs of mental illness in Canada amounted to $22,561.40. These costs included community and social services, income support, hospital care, prescription medication, medical care, and other services. Indirect costs amounted to over $6.4 billion.

The study showed that mental illness is costing the Canadian economy at least $48.7 billion in total per year.

Still, Lee Thomas, a former UNB student and mental health consultant, does not believe that there are enough mental health resources available in New Brunswick.

“I’d like to see an increase in [government] investment for resources,” she said. “Basically, without funding services, it’s impossible for more services to develop and function properly.”

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has delayed his plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of the year, it is expected that 1,500 that will still arrive in N.B.

Joanne Owour-Larocque, settlement coordinator for the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, said these refugees are vulnerable to many mental health risks for a variety of reasons. This includes pre-migration, migration, and post-migration experiences.

“The arrival of Syrian families increases opportunities to strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration,” she said. “[This includes] welcoming newcomers to our community, the longer-settled community, cultural and linguistic interpreters, health services and professionals, and the settlement sector.”

Owour-Larocque said that these increased sectors will enhance N.B. communities’ existing capacity to provide culturally-appropriate mental and physical health resources, as well as support and intervention systems.

The Multicultural Association of Fredericton is one of three immigrant-serving agencies that has been designated by the province’s Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship’s Resettlement Assistance Program. It will act as a refugee-receiving centre to assist refugees throughout their resettlement process.

Christa Baldwin, executive director of N.B.’s branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said that there are many concerns in the community around the province’s mental health system and the time it may take to get service.

“I know that the Department of Health is working diligently in reviewing the system and looking for more efficiencies,” she said, stressing that different zones have different wait times.

Baldwin also said that there is a lot of pressure on the system, adding that “there are concerns for what that may mean when we add the number of refugees to the mix.”

The provincial government’s preliminary framework document for its plans to accommodate the Syrian refugees does not make note of any expected costs for health care or otherwise. It only states that there has been an acknowledgement for the need to assess mental health resources accordingly.

However, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has designated the Syrian refugees as a public policy group. Therefore, they will be eligible for Type 1 benefits under the Interim Federal Health Program, a program that pays for medical care for a short period of time after arriving in Canada.

These benefits include basic coverage, supplemental coverage, and coverage of prescription drugs for up to a year upon arrival.

Supplemental coverage will provide the refugees with access to psychotherapy or psychological counselling in a private clinic or addiction centre for a maximum of 10 sessions.

Dyck said that, when addressing the mental health needs of refugees, there should be no assumptions made about the challenges they are experiencing.

“There is no singular profile of a Syrian refugee,” he said. “Everyone will have their own experiences, history, personalities, cultural identification, family factors, and capacity for resilience… their own narrative, biological vulnerabilities and co-morbid medical conditions.”

He also stressed that making general claims about refugees’ mental health needs may be easy to do, but suggested that the most important needs are basic ones. This includes safety, security, health care, food and shelter.

“[Psychological needs] are highly impacted by more basic needs and often remit where effective demobilization measures exist,” he said. “Therefore, welcoming refugees, providing basic necessities, engaging them and ensuring basic provisions will be essential on an immediate basis.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.


Aquinian, Canada, Fredericton, New Brunswick, News, Profile, Sports, St. Thomas University, Students

Lauren Henman named athlete of the month

Lauren Henman said that it’s a huge honour for her to have been chosen as October’s Coors Light Athlete of the Month.

“I owe all of my success so far this season to my team and coaches,” she said. “I’m just really happy we’re doing so well this year.”

In October, Henman averaged one point per game with four goals and one assist in five regular season games. She is leading the team in scoring and is second in the conference with seven points.

Full story here.

Lectures, News, St. Thomas University

2016 Dalton Camp Lecture: Lyse Doucet and the power of words

BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet addressed the power of words and journalism during conflicts such as the Syrian refugee crisis at this year’s Dalton Camp Lecture.

“I think all of us here today want to believe that words – our words that we write – can make a difference, can make meaning, can even change lives,” she said last Tuesday.

Doucet, a native of Bathurst and also a presenter for the BBC, told the full audience in St. Thomas University’s Kinsella Auditorium that the way the stories of the refugees’ struggles are written is important. The words, the detail and the faces of these stories determine the message that is being sent out.

“Facts matter, language matters, words matter,” she said.

Doucet used the photo of 3-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Turkey as an example of how a photo can be worth a million words.

“Our big world suddenly became smaller, more connected… international news is no longer foreign – it’s all local news now.”

Doucet’s lecture connected today’s refugee crisis with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline.” Doucet said that it is also a story about “how words and images can make a difference.”

The poem, “a story of great love and loss,” tells of a young couple who are separated by the Acadian expulsion of 1755. The Acadians were forced out of their homeland, becoming refugees. Doucet explained that the Acadians later adopted the story as their own as they began to search for their own narrative.

“It is a very human story. A story all of us can understand, and it stays with us today because it is a story of our time.”

Doucet said that even though these stories have changed so much, we aren’t hearing nearly all of the ones today. Groups like ISIS and events like the recent attacks in Paris are overwhelming the governments and have dramatically flipped the stories that are being reported.

“Now the narrative has shifted from providing shelter to tightening security,” she said.

Doucet stressed that there are more than just sentimental issues within the crisis, and it is the job of journalists to cover them, stay with the story, and find answers.

“I began my tribute to [Dalton Camp] with that poem from Lord Byron… ‘A small drop of ink makes thousands, perhaps millions, think,’” she said. “Write bravely, live boldly, and make everyone pause to think.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.

Aquinian, New Brunswick, News

Storm Chips just in time for winter

Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company’s newest product, Storm Chips, are reportedly selling out after only a couple of days of being on the shelf.

Jamie Nevers, marketing manager for the Hartland-based company, said the item is selling well after its first ever launch this year.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” Nevers said. “[We] are hoping for a snowy winter.”

The product, which was inspired by the Twitter hashtag #stormchips going viral last year, combines four of Covered Bridge’s top-selling “flurry of flavours”: BBQ, Creamy Dill, Sea Salt & Vinegar, and Ketchup.

Full story here.

Local business, Minto, New Brunswick, Profile

Queen of Minto’s castle refuses to give up

Pauline Johnson, owner of medieval-themed pub La-Kassa-We in Minto, says that her dreams of owning a castle are slowly coming true.

Johnson, who has dedicated the last two and a half years to designing and building the castle-replica restaurant in her hometown, said that she remembers telling a friend as a teenage that she would someday own a castle.

“Sometimes you just jokingly say things like that,” she said. “I think if it’s something that stays in your subconscious all these year, you tend to build those things.”

La-Kassa-We, which has yet to open officially, was crafted entirely by hand by Johnson, her father and friends. The building resembles a castle of the 1800s, featuring hand-painted designs by Fredericton-based muralist Ron Sajack. The inside is furnished with logs from Johnson’s father’s property, real rock from a gravel pit in Minto, and locally and personally-made items that have a style which Johnson refers to as being “stuck between the Flinstones and the Munsters.”

“People need a place like this,” she said. “It’s depicted in the 1800s because back then it was a very simple-living kind of way and that’s what I wanted to bring back… I believe in things that are from the earth. People had longevity [back then]. Now, I question that. I’m trying to keep my place as natural as possible to keep my patrons as healthy as possible and hopefully they have longevity, as well as I, to enjoy this place. This place is built out of heart.”

La-Kassa-We’s menu items are simple and not necessarily medievally-themed themselves. What inspired Johnson’s menu is the different foods she has tasted while travelling and playing music since she was 14, and the fact that she does not believe in foods cooked with grease.

“There’s no deep-fryers in my kitchen. You’re going to get Cornish hens, ribs, homemade baked beans and baguettes and things like that,” she said. “Your tummy’s just going to be full. It’s good healthy food.”

Johnson said that she has experience some struggles during the two years she’s been building the nearly-finished restaurant. Recently, La-Kassa-We fell victim to a series of thefts from local business in the village. She said that $2500-worth of cooking equipment was stolen, but she has chosen to move on and look beyond it all.

“The truth will come out someday, and if it doesn’t, so be it,” she said. “I don’t want to see that fear and disappointment inflicted onto this castle.”

To make a positive situation out of a negative one and do greater good for the community, Johnson hosted a meeting to organize a neighbourhood watch committee after the thefts and has hosted weekly jam sessions at the pub.

“This place really does belong to the community… If it can be used in a positive way – which it always will be, because I won’t allow any negativity to inflict this place – then so be it, because the people in this town need to be a aware of things go around in their town.”

Alton Morell, a close friend and supporter of Johnson, says that she has done nothing but good for the small village and its surrounding areas.

“Pauline has created something beautiful during hard times,” he said. “She puts a smile on everyone’s face and she has forced us to talk about important issues. She’s a true persevering leader and her business is a staple of that.”

Despite the setbacks, Johnson said that she will not give up and that the “little kicks in the pants” only force her to keep going. She plans to finally get her castle open for business very soon and make a landmark out of it that will promote growth in the community.

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a struggle,” she said. “But we’re built with a big heart and so much strength and courage. We just need to dig deep inside because it’s there. If you truly believe in your idea, you truly believe that it’s good for the animal kingdom and humanity… how can it be wrong?”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.