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July 15, 2017

Grace for Sarah

Carrie Ernst, Operations Manager at Independent Living Nova Scotia, has written to tell us about an effort underway to remember Sarah Dube, first recipient of the James McGregor Stewart Award in 2015.  As you remember, Sarah died late last year, and her friend Grace McNee is cycling across Canada as a personal tribute to Sarah and fundraiser for Independent Living Nova Scotia, to which Sarah was so devoted.

Carrie writes: "Sarah touched the lives of so many and inspired others with her spirit, kindness and light. I am hoping to share this with your society and it’s members."

Grace on a Bike – The Sarah Dubé Memorial

On June 22, 2017 Grace McNee began her incredible journey in Vancouver, BC. Over the next few months, she will be cycling across Canada on her trusty bike Beto to raise money for Independent Living Nova Scotia in loving memory of Sarah Dubé.
Grace explains why she is traveling across Canada in Sarah’s memory:

“Sarah came into my life last year, and while I had far too short a time with her, she touched me deeply and inspired me beyond measure. Although I was her care worker, Sarah cared for me as much as I did for her and quickly became my nearest and dearest friend. She had many passions, from travel to philosophy, to the environment, to animal rights, and many more, too numerous to count. I learned a lot from her and she has inspired me to tackle the trek across Canada by bicycle. Nothing was ever too much for Sarah, and she never let her disability define her.
Sarah was a strong believer in the importance of independent living, and chaired the Board of Independent Living Nova Scotia (ILNS). We attended many meetings and events together, and I have been privileged to see the impact of some of the work they do. Through Sarah, independent living has become a cause near and dear to me. Sarah opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world, and of living in it. She will always be one of the strongest and feistiest people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I am riding by bicycle across Canada, from the West Coast all the way to Newfoundland, and am raising money for ILNS in Sarah’s honour. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated.”
Grace’s website has an interactive map and blog of her locations, adventures and hard work.
Please check out Grace’s website and consider supporting her efforts:

July 9, 2017


On August 21, 1939, Germany and Russia announced their infamous nonagression pact, setting the stage for World War II.

President Roosevelt was in Halifax Harbour when he heard the news.  He was aboard the USS Tuscaloosa, a heavy cruiser of the New Orleans class, 61 feet wide and six hundred feet long.

Roosevelt was on a fishing trip.  Literally.  The Tuscaloosa had left New York August 12, cruising in Canadian waters, visiting Campobello, Halifax, Sydney, and Bay of Islands.  They fished off the back of the Tuscaloosa and angled for salmon in the Humber River.  They were on the way back to Washington.

It's not hard to picture the handsome FDR sitting on the fantail.  He was seldom photographed with his wheelchair, but his heavy braces are always pretty obvious.  In fact, there's a picture:

Jump ahead 78 years to the visit of an even more impressive warship, the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, 252 feet wide and 1092 feet long.  The visit was meant to celebrate Canada's
150th birthday.

The best that can be said about the visit was that it did not carry the present Chief Executive. Other than that, the Americans displayed a remarkable insensitivity and official indifference unworthy of our southern neighbour.

Perhaps thinking of Halifax's potential for a USS Cole style attack, and that the Harbour Hopper is a modern assault vehicle, the US Naval Command demanded the closure of the ramp next to the casino, effectively terminating the operation of the popular tourist attraction.

We have a high tolerance for the many inconveniences visited upon us in the name of security.  But on Canada's birthday it is far more important for a grade four student to get acquainted with the long history of this beautiful harbour than to worry about al Qaeda in Halifax. Harbour Hopper operators made up some of the economic loss by ferrying US sailors ashore, but nothing can compensate for the grade four's disappointment.

I had been corresponding with a visitor, excited about the new wheelchair-accessible Harbour Hopper.   There was a chance her ride would take place on the Northwest Arm, but it, too, was canceled.

On July 4th, Independence Day in the US, it's customary for the US Consul in Halifax to host a lunch for Nova Scotia Officials.   This year it was held on board the Eisenhower.  Speaker Kevin Murphy was invited.  A wheelchair user, Kevin had the presence of mind to read the fine print, which warned of strenuous activity and disinviting people over 70.  It was made clear to Kevin that there would be no accommodation, despite the fact that the Eisenhower has high speed elevators capable of transporting the 90 aircraft between decks. Eisenhower officials mused about potential difficulties arising out of a medical emergency, as if the Eisenhower didn't have a hospital on board, an operating room and lots of helicopters used for just such contingencies.

Just incidentally, our new Lieutenant Governor Arthur LeBlanc, who is 74, somehow managed to escape the prohibition on septuagenarians.  He was accommodated.

Wikipedia says "The speaker of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body, is its presiding officer (chair). The title was first used in 1399 in England."  Kevin isn't just another politician.  He's a literal and figurative symbol of our democratic system of government.  Failing to accommodate him is an un-neighbourly act of consequence to all Nova Scotians and we should take note.

Americans are justly proud of their Americans with Disabilities Act.  Its reach extends to the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy, the USS Constitution.  Even though it was commissioned in 1797, the top deck is wheelchair accessible.  But a ship bigger than George's Island, two hundred years newer can't handle our head of government.

Americans need to be mindful of how much they depend on others.  We took care of thousands on 9/11.  Halifax Harbour played a vital role in both World Wars.  It's our harbour (you can tell by the spelling), our national holiday.

I'm unhappy with the Americans, I'm especially unhappy with the treatment of Speaker Murphy.  Let's be careful with our sovereignty.  Making America great again shouldn't depend on offending a neighbour.

June 15, 2017

2017 James McGregor Stewart Award

We are pleased to announce that Gerry Post is the winner of the 2016 James McGregor Stewart Award.

In a ceremony on June 30th, Stewart's 128th birthday, Post will be presented with a $1000 cheque by Speaker Kevin Murphy.

The Award recognizes leadership, effective advocacy and outstanding personal achievement of a person with a disability. “The award honours the resolve shown by Stewart”, says Warren Reed, a co-founder of the Society. “In Gerry Post our selection committee found a person that, like Stewart, leads and excels regardless of barriers.  Gerry is a force of nature”.

Post was nominated for his exceptional achievement in spearheading the improvements to the Bill 59 accessibility law just passed in Nova Scotia, facilitating a multi-pronged approach to make it happen, setting a new standard for government consultation and group action.

Gerry's strategic approach was learned in his award-winning and globe-spanning planning career. You can read much more about Post in last year's profile.

Even among a group of exceptional nominees, Post is a standout. He has been unstoppable and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for the work he did on the Bill 59 and the changes it will make to many people's lives.

Happily, Post has decided to come out of retirement and has accepted a position as Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate. He looks forward to the challenge, working to implement the new Accessibility Act.

The Award recognizes the spirit of Mr. James McGregor Stewart who overcame many barriers, despite a disability resulting from polio. First in his class at Dalhousie Law School in 1914, he was also President of the Students' Council. He was shortlisted for the Rhodes Scholarship but was not successful, due to concerns expressed about his physical condition. Nevertheless, Stewart went on to head a Halifax law firm that became the present day Stewart McKelvey. He was Chairman of Dalhousie's Board of Governors. In 2000, Canadian Lawyer magazine named him as one of Canada’s ten greatest lawyers.

The Award was established by friends of the Society through the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, an organization that supports philanthropy across the province.