Every time the Smiling Goat gets a new roast, Geoff Creighton uses his Clover brewing machine to make adjustments that accommodate the distinct flavours of the coffee.
Every time the Smiling Goat gets a new roast, Geoff Creighton uses his Clover brewing machine to make adjustments that accommodate the distinct flavours of the coffee.
A group of volunteers in Halifax is offering high-risk sex offenders a second chance.
The BBC has coined fair trade as one of the ‘words of the decade’ – and rightfully so. It has become a trendy catch phrase, but few know exactly what it means.
A group of two-spirited people and their supporters named the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance is organizing the first regional gathering of its kind for next July.
By Max Leighton
Harold Douglas Delaney, a Victoria County school janitor, was fired for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
He may continue to earn pay or even return to work following a hot debate over the legal definition of moral conduct.
Last summer the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled that Delaney’s dismissal was unfounded. This led to a Court of Appeal hearing last Tuesday where the school board contested the ruling.
“It’s bizarre that this has happened,” said lawyer A. Robert Sampson who is representing the board.
“Imagine having a daughter that age and hearing that he may be in contact with your child?”
Delaney’s relationship with the girl, who is not a student at his school, began outside of school hours; at the time the legal age of consent was 14.
Since Delaney’s trial he has spent time living with the young girl in what they both describe as a consensual relationship.
Delaney continue receiving pay since last summer’s ruling.
For Susan D. Coen, counsel for the Canadian Union of Public Employees 5050, the union representing Delaney, the case is a matter of legality against morality.
She argued that although the union has described the relationship as “repugnant,” in order for the dismissal to be legal there would have to be legislation in their collective agreement or the Education Act that addresses conduct with students after hours.
As it stands, Nova Scotia’s education laws offer little protection.
Sampson claims the laws should protect the rights, dignity and safety of all students under the board’s supervision and outline the responsibility and obligations of workers, citing section 40 of the Education Act. But he admits official legislation outlining the extent of these obligations is lacking.
“There is not a lot of jurisprudence dealing with off-duty conduct,” says Sampson. “Now the school boards have the opportunity to challenge this.”
One reason for the appeal was the board’s reliance on the Milhaven test, named after a case involving Milhaven Fibers.
In cases of off-duty conduct, arbitrators and adjudicators often apply the test to outline circumstances that may justify firing employees based on their behaviour outside of work. These include refusal or reluctance to work and interference with management.
Sampson believes this is such a case. Under the Milhaven test, actions that “harm the general reputation of the employer, its product or its employees” may also be cause for dismissal.
Since the trial judge acknowledged the test and admitted that the board’s reputation may have been harmed, there could be grounds to re-examine her findings.
“Employees go home at 3:30 and are no longer under board domain,” said Sampson.
“Milhaven sets out an accepted test that brings conduct that occurs outside back into jurisdiction.”
According to Sampson, school boards across the province eagerly await the outcome of the appeal. Groundbreaking cases often provide a provincial standard to judge similar cases in the future.
For Delaney and the union, a worker’s rights cannot be governed by the moral opinion of their employer.
“Unless policy mirrors statutory provision the rule cannot be out of step with the (union’s) collective agreement,” said Coen. “If employers can govern morality, how far does it reach and what are the parameters?”
The judges are expected to reach a decision sometime in the next few months.
Food program co-coordinator Marla McLeod of the Ecology Action Centre, based in Halifax’s north end, believes the home-cellaring method is the next step in the movement to buy and eat locally.
by Nick Mercer
The environment isn’t fond of your disposable coffee cup and lid.
Kathy Johnston, education officer of solid waste resources for Halifax Regional Municipality, says that not all of a disposable coffee cup is paper. “The cup contains a plastic resin,” Johntson says. The paper will decompose, leaving the plastic.
While some municipalities will accept the cups as organic, the HRM does not accept them at all.
James Meish, the manager of the Just Us! on Spring Garden Road, says it’s been a struggle finding cups that are compostable. “The cups we have are not compostable,” he says, “Halifax does not have the facilities to recycle our cups. So we are trying out best to find alternatives for our customers.”
Coffee cup lids are also a problem for recyclers.
According to the HRM website, the municipality only collects plastic containers that have a viable and sustainable recycling market. This includes hard or rigid plastics, #1 polyethylene terephthalate and #2 high-density polyethylene.
“For us to recycle the plastic there has to be a market for it,” says Johnston, “It is easy to find a market for #1 and #2 plastics. Others are not sought after.”
The other types of plastics include another plastic used for lids, #6 polystyrene, which is considered garbage in HRM.
“We can guarantee where #1 and #2 are going somewhere,” says Johnston, “We know where it is going, and what its being made into. The other plastics, we’re not sure where they are going and what’s being done with it.”
Coffee shops are finding it hard to get alternative cups, says Meish. “People want cups that last, not ones that start to leak when they get a few blocks away.” He says his shop encourages the use of travel mugs.
Customers get a discount of 30 cents every time they use a reusable mug. Just Us! rewards their customers for using reusable cups by signing a card that will lead to a free coffee.
An article on the website, Sustainability is Sexy, updated in August 2009, agrees with what Meish and his staff are doing. It says that a lot of coffee houses encourage customers to use reusable mugs.
The article says that the manufacturing of reusable cups can have a bigger environmental impact than paper cups, but that impact lessens over time as the cup is reused.
Major coffee chains are starting to recognize that their products are not helping the environment.
According to the Starbucks website, reducing the environmental impact of its cups comes down to two efforts: developing recyclable cup solutions and increasing customers’ awareness.
It offers a 10-cent discount in the United States and Canada for those who have their own mug or tumblers. Customers who stay in store with their beverages have the option of using ceramic mugs.
In 2009, Starbucks served 4.4 billion more beverages in reusable cups than in 2008. The company aims to have 100 per cent of its cups recyclable and reusable by 2015.
“We offer customers the use of sleeves,” says Meish. “They are biodegradable. They are made of cardboard that breaks down, and customers can re-use them if they want.”
Starbucks switched from double-cupping their beverages to cardboard sleeves in 1997 in an effort to reduce waste. In 2006, it produced the first hot beverage cup made with 10 per cent post-consumer recycled fibre.
According to the Tim Hortons website, their cups go through a process that makes a renewable resource.
They are lined with a polyethylene to prevent leakage through heat and pressure.
Sustainability is Sexy says that the polyethylene helps to keep beverages warm and prevents the paper from absorbing liquid and leaking.
This resin also prevents the cup from being recycled. The cup ends up in a landfill to decompose. The process releases a gas called methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat trapping power of carbon dioxide.
“If its not paper, we’re not going to treat it as paper,” says Johnston.
The music scene in Halifax is moving out of the bars and into small cafés
By Jess Spoto
Coffee shops, once seen as places for people to read or quietly converse, are turning into lively, musical venues.
This past Friday, the Smiling Goat Organic Espresso Bar held its first live music night. Featuring live jazz performed by bass player Paul Vienneau and Rob Crowell of The Mellotones on saxophone, owner Geoffrey Creighton says he always wanted to host live jazz music in his café.
In association with Spring Garden’s “Shopping Under the Stars” event, the Smiling Goat will feature live jazz again on Dec. 10 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Creighton says it’s a good opportunity to catch the public eye and plans on hosting future jazz nights after the Christmas season.
“Just come in,” says Creighton when asked how musicians can sign up. The café can accommodate up to three players “or a quartet if they’re all standing,” he jokes.
Creighton will rely on social media, CKDU radio ads and the Jazzeast organization to get out the word about the jazz acts.
Located on South Park across from the Public Gardens, the Smiling Goat has a chic atmosphere designed for Jazz.
Meanwhile, the Wired Monk on Morris Street is also planning a musical comeback.
“It’s a custom and everyone likes music,” says owner Sook Kim. “It’s real.”
Kim plans to advertise within the school community. She is thinking about having an open-mic night once a month.
Just Us! café is expanding its musical community involvement as well. The coffee shop’s renovation plans include a community stage, says employee Ali Larson.
With many musician inquires and lots of bookings in fall, the coffee shop should have the stage ready by December. The grand opening will follow three weeks later.
Larson says that they “want to be the only ones” with a stage.
Anyone interested in playing at Just Us! can call, email, or go into the café and book a performance.
Coburg Coffee House has been a Tuesday night destination for anyone looking to play an open-mic set since last April.
Organized by musician and present employee Breagh Potter, the weekly open-mic night has been booming since September’s return of students.
“We’ve been full every week with the exception of one slow week due to rain,” she says.
Students and local musicians, both first timers and professionals, sign up to play. Potter describes the coffee house atmosphere as “supportive, acknowledging and casual.”
“Everyone walks up on the same level regardless of experience. It is an intimate experience, there is no stage so everyone is close and taking in the music.”
The event runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and each musician is entitled to free drinks and allowed to play about three songs.
“Duets are popular,” says employee Emily Craig. “So are unique instruments like banjos, bass and bongo drums.”
Local Jo Café and Market on Oxford Street has been hosting live music for the past four years, says manager Danielle Sureitte.
Complete with vintage photos of the city, Local Jo offers a family friendly environment and began hosting live music as “somewhere for neighbours to go for entertainment” she says.
Musicians can contact Sureitte, who will send out a monthly email with available dates. The only stipulation is the set must be “‘au naturelle,’ meaning no microphones.”
The event runs from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and there is no cost to play or attend the live music event. Instead, attendees are invited to tip the performers.
For other open-mic nights or live music coffee venues check out Humani-T Café located on Young Street and Alteregos on Gottingen Street.
Fair Trade certified coffee may have struck a chord with moral mainstream coffee drinkers, but if consumers don’t understand why they’re drinking it, it’s unlikely to reach its potential for positive change in the world.
The goals of Fair Trade have the capability to highlight unequal global trading practices that are partially responsible for financially handcuffing those in developing countries. But it has largely failed to do so.
“Certainly, buying Fair Trade products is better than not buying Fair Trade products, but if it doesn’t lead to an understanding of how the entire global trade system is unfair, buying Fair Trade products is unlikely to ever lead to any sort of substantial social, economic or political change,” says John Cameron, assistant professor in international development studies at Dalhousie University.
In an article published in World Development last year, Laura Raynolds said that overall sales of coffee haven’t changed, but sales of “sustainable coffee” such as Fair Trade have exploded.
One reason for this mainstreaming of Fair Trade is that people “desire to make a positive difference in the world through their consumption,” said Peggy Cunningham, dean of management at Dalhousie.
Cameron believes that it is the simplicity that encourages consumers.
“It’s something concrete that people can do now. It doesn’t require a commitment of time, of energy, of money. It’s one decision, one action they can make in their daily life.” He adds that this desire to feel good about consumption is an issue.“It’s more about making the North American and European consumers feel good than it is about benefitting small-scale farmers in the global south.”
Buying Fair Trade may be a simple decision, but the ins and outs of certification certainly aren’t.
Kate Crough, a graduate of the University of Guelph’s international development program, loves coffee but doesn’t go out of her way to drink Fair Trade. “There are many caveats and inconsistencies in Fair Trade labeling,” she says. “I believe that a system that is more complete and consistent is necessary before I spend the extra money on coffee.”
The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International sets formal standards that buyers and suppliers must meet to be certified. There are generic standards that must be followed as well as standards specific to each of the 20 products the organization certifies.
There are different standards for different types of labour organization.
Coffee falls under small producers’ organization standards. Within that there are ambiguous standards that refer to Fair Trade prices being set based on things such as “relevant quality” and “reasonable margins” to be provided to exporters to cover their costs. This type of language doesn’t help coffee drinkers know that the path their coffee beans took from tree to mug was one that could help the world.
“I understand what Fair Trade is supposed to be,” said Andrew Walker, a history and political science major at Dalhousie University. But anything beyond the concept is beyond his
understanding. Being in a research-intensive degree “the last thing I want to do when I’m done researching is research some more,” says Walker.
Walker is a consumer of Fair Trade coffee but wasn’t able to explain why.
“I haven’t really thought about why I buy it, because I’m sure I could say ‘oh it’s fair trade.,” he says.
But that is exactly where Walker believes the problem lies. People end up drinking it “without ever really understanding why it is important.”
This knowledge is an integral aspect of the movement, says Cameron. Without it, there’s no chance for a deeper understanding of global trade practices.
If consumers don’t understand what Fair Trade really means or why they drink it, encouraging awareness of the bigger problems in trade may prove to be a daunting task.
“If North American consumers are led to believe that by buying Fair Trade coffee they’re solving the problems of inequalities and unfairness of global trade, I think they’re getting the wrong message,” says Cameron. “The message that they need to be getting is that the entire global trade system is unfair.”
The availability of Fair Trade coffee is no longer exclusive to independent cafés and coffee bars, like Halifax’s own Just Us!, Coburg Coffee or Blowers Street Paper Chase. Mainstream retailers such as Starbucks have entered the Fair Trade game as well. It’s a bit of a catch-22.
“Starbucks has the potential to make a huge impact,” Cameron said. On the one hand, Starbucks has marketing capabilities that can reach audiences and inform them about Fair Trade realities that smaller co-operatives and NGOs don’t.
But Cameron adds that multinational corporations getting involved may interfere with people’s knowledge of the issue. “It suggests that there are essentially market-based answers to challenges of political and social injustice.”
Raynolds writes that market-driven buyers pose a stark dichotomy to the message Fair Trade tries to send. “Dominant coffee brand corporations limit their Fair Trade engagement to public relations defined minimums.”
But for Cameron, it comes down to the bottom line.
“I’m less concerned with how North American and European consumers feel when they buy a cup of coffee and more concerned about prices that coffee farmers get, however that’s achieved.”