Black History Month

Viola Desmond

 
Black History on Prince Edward Island
By Dale Amundson, Editor, SeniorsPEI.ca, February 2, 2019

Again this year there is a paucity of events related to Black History Month. A few related events at public libraries – one at each of 5 libraries and a second event at the Confederation Centre Public Library. The only listing related to Black History Month on the PEI Government website is of these events. Even the Black Cultural Society of PEI facebook page has nothing more to offer.

One wonders if there is a belief that there is no black history on Prince Edward Island. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only is there a black history, there is also a history of slaves and slave ownership. Some of Prince Edward Island’s most prominent residents were slave owners.

Under French rule, it was legal to own slaves on Île St.-Jean. However, the first record of enslaved Africans was in 1784 when 16 “negro servants” arrived with the Loyalists; by 1785 there were almost 100. After 1799, when the name was changed to Prince Edward Island, there were enslaved Africans in Charlottetown and Summerside. In PEI, perhaps due to the small number, enslaved Africans were allowed to be baptized and to marry legally. The wealthy owned enslaved Africans, including businessman William Shurman and the Lieutenant-Governor Edmund Fanning.

Many people are not aware that there were black people on Prince Edward Island in the 19th century, but there were. A black community known as The Bog, developed around Euston and Rochford streets in Charlottetown, near Government Pond, in the 1800s.

Most of the descendants of these black Islanders have been assimilated into the population and are no longer a visible minority. There are black people in thousands of families, from one end of the Island to the other.

In 2014, as part of the celebration marking the 150 anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, a stage production called Tales from the Old Stock: Stories and Songs of P.E.I Black History was performed at the 2014 Celebration Zone. It chronicled some of the missing pieces of Island history through skits and storytelling, as reported in the Guardian at the time.

Historian Bruce Ziff maintains that the first “abolitionist statute” in the Empire was Prince Edward Island’s 1781 act regulating slavery. The only statute in the post-revolutionary, second British Empire to regulate slaves explicitly. A detailed academic analysis of slavery on Prince Edward Island in the article Slave Life and Slave Law in Colonial Prince Edward Island, 1769-1825 by Harvey Amani Whitfield provides some compelling information, along with detailed footnotes and a bibliography. A list of known slave names or identities exists in the appendix of the article.

The 1781 act regulating slavery was abolished in 1825 by an act of the Legislature. By that time there were no slaves remaining on the island.

Those of us who care that the history of Prince Edward Island is represented honestly and inclusively look forward to the time when the Government is willing to commit resources sufficient to bring awareness of the meaning and importance of Black History Month, and black history generally to everyone on the Island.

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Big changes coming to Stanley Bridge Centre building this summer

By Jim Brown

By this summer visitors returning to the popular Stanley Bridge Centre, home of successful farmers markets, history circles and concerts, will see some big changes.

For one thing, the port-a-potty at the back of the building will be gone and a leaky roof fixed.

As much as $35,000 will be spent making necessary improvements, which should make it easier for food vendors to set up.

“We’re going to do a renovation that will expand our entrance, give us washrooms, give us a kitchen, and completely do the roof (including the steeple),” said Don Reid, a member of the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society’s board of directors.

The work includes a ramp to improve access for people with disabilities.

Mr Reid hopes to have the project started sometime in mid to late March and finished in time for the busy tourist season.
“Right now I have two, possibly three vendors who are interested in renting the centre from us.”

The board has even bigger plans for the future, which would require more than $400,000 to completely renovate the building, including putting in a new foundation.

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Parks Canada issues response to Resort Municipality concerns about heavy tree damage from recent storms

Story and photos by Jim Brown
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

For weeks Resort Municipality councilors expressed concerns about the fate of hundreds of fallen trees in the Cavendish area under Parks Canada’s jurisdiction in the PEI National Park.

On Jan 14 Parks Canada emailed a written statement following a request from the Stanley Bridge Centre website.

The full statement is provided below:

“Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and cultural heritage areas in the world. We are aware of fallen trees on its properties along Highways 6 and 13 in Cavendish. Safety is always our number one priority and our trained Dangerous Tree Assessors have examined the area and have removed trees that have the potential for safety risk and exposure to persons. The determination on which trees to remove was based on industry standards and assessed exposure.
 
“Parks Canada takes wildfire risk reduction activities seriously and is taking the necessary steps to reduce the threat of wildfires in all areas of the park. In this regard, Parks Canada developed a fuel modification prioritization tool that utilizes national FireSmart standards to identify forest areas at risk based on scientific methodology. All fuel modification (forest thinning) work in PEI National Park is justified through this evaluation tool and the program resources are managed in accordance with this assessment. Most recently, in the Cavendish area, forest stands surrounding the Cavendish Campground and the Cavendish Visitor Information Centre have been treated. The safety of the public, our crews, park infrastructure and neighboring lands is always our number one priority.
 
“We acknowledge the community’s concerns regarding the aesthetics of the senescent white spruce stands visible from Highway 6. Forest stands in PEI National Park are identified for management actions (i.e. stand thinning/restoration) based on Parks Canada’s priorities of ecological integrity, visitor safety, and fire risk. This type of forest provides valuable habitat for many species of animals and is an important part of a forest ecosystem. Should it become necessary, we will consider these stands in the future as opportunities for forest restoration programs arise.”


In an earlier interview Resort Municipality CAO Brenda MacDonald and Mayor Matthew Jelley, among others, voiced their frustrations about the slow progress made dealing with hundreds of fallen trees in early December.

Brenda MacDonald stated recently area residents had approached her and Council seeking action. Some had offered to help cut and clear away the fallen trees, which could become a fire and safety hazard in the spring and summer months.

The issue first surfaced at planning board meeting in December in which the spectre of California-style wildfires was raised.

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Winners announced just in time for Christmas

The names of two lucky winners were picked from hundreds of tickets at a draw during the Dec 10 monthly meeting of the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society (SBMS). The meeting was held at the Kensington home of vice-president Helen MacEwen. St John’s NFLD resident Chris Pearsey won a beautiful painting of the Stanley Bridge wharf by acclaimed Margate artist Karen Slater. Stanley Bridge area resident Marilyn Simpson won a stunning mural sized photo of the Confederation Bridge, shot by North Granville photographer Clayton Smith, who is also the SBMS’s president. The Stanley Bridge Memorial Society would like to express its gratitude to everyone who bought a ticket for this important fundraiser.

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Storm toppled trees in PEI National Park could pose fire risk in Cavendish

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Is it possible massive numbers of fallen and uprooted trees in the PEI National Park, in Cavendish, could set the area ablaze during the summer season?

According to members of the Resort Municipality’s planning board the PEI National Park could face the same fate as much of California, which endured record-breaking wildfires in November.

Dislodged trees are everywhere following a fierce wind and snow storm recently that plunged much of the Island into darkness for days.

“They’re down everywhere, all the way out from Green Gables to Rainbow Valley,” said CAO Brenda MacDonald.

“It’s a complete mess…It’s terrible out there.”

Parks Canada’s representative on the planning board, Barbara MacDonald, said Parks Canada would investigate those concerns and take remedial action if it was necessary.

Brenda MacDonald said she had to called the Department of Transportation during the storm to remove trees that had fallen across and blocked Highway 6.

Once fallen trees dry out someone walking along on a hot day, flicking a cigarette butt into the woods, could start a devastating fire, said a board member.

Planning Board Chair George Clark-Dunning echoed President Donald Trump’s quote about how the Finns protect their forests from fires by “raking” the underbrush.

“It started a whole cavalcade of (humorous) tweets,” he said of Trump’s misstatement.

“We’ve had at least 15 complaints from property owners since last week saying what is Parks (Canada) doing about this mess, and businesses as well,” said Brenda MacDonald, adding Council would be addressing those concerns at the Dec 10 meeting.

“Spruce trees don’t send down a deep root system, they run across the ground. When it’s wet and windy they wobble. When they’re planted together as thickly as that they’re tall and spindly (and go down),” said board member Arnold Smith, adding it doesn’t take long for them to rot and dry out.

Even before the storm trees were dangling over the boardwalk, ready to fall over, said Brenda MacDonald.

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Morrison cottage to be demolished on December 14

By Jim Brown
A mysterious building on Clark’s Lane in Cavendish that few Islanders ever get to see, but has been a favored haunt of visiting dignitaries and eight of the past 12 premiers, will be demolished on Dec 14.

Parks Canada officials made that decision some time ago, despite a letter from Resort Municipality Chair Matthew Jelley urging them to spare The Morrison Cottage.

According to Brenda MacDonald, the Resort Municipality’s CAO, Parks Canada staff have already been to the building several times removing items of importance and perhaps even the windows.

There has been significant interest by business and residential owners in the resort municipality in acquiring the building, including leasing it or moving it.

The three bedroom bungalow’s fate was brought up at the Resort Municipality’s planning board meeting on Dec 5. It will surface again at the monthly meeting of Resort Municipality Council on Monday, Dec 10.

The Morrison Cottage, built in the 1950s, is owned by Parks Canada but managed by the Province in a deal struck in the 1970s. The Province also handled bookings. Over the decades it’s served as an upscale bunk for visiting dignitaries as well as premiers.

According to a Charlottetown Guardian article in 2016: “Little has been done in the way of major upgrades to the property. It has a garage, hardwood wall interiors, a stone fireplace and chimney and typical cottage-style furniture.”

An internal Parks Canada report, prepared by KPMG, is investigating the feasibility of unloading “non-core” Parks Canada assets to earn hundreds of millions in revenues, perhaps more than a billion dollars.

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The most wonderful time of the year for shopping

There were lots of beaming smiles on the faces of vendors and holiday shoppers alike on Saturday, Dec 1 at the Christmas craft fair held at the Stanley Bridge Hall (Sterling Women’s Institute). Many lucky shoppers came away with the perfect gift to slide under the tree or into a Christmas stocking.
Jim Brown photos

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Huddling together at the gas station

Nearly everyone on the Island lost their power on Thursday, Nov 29, with Stanley Bridge residents finally getting their lights back on at 6:20 pm. Shortly after 8 am, the Race Trak gas station at the Stanley Bridge roundabout was filled with customers and passersby. Many had lost their power earlier that morning, and then rejoiced when it came back on, only to be cruelly disappointed when everything went black again, this time for more than nine hours.


Photos by Jim Brown

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Bad weather forces North Rustico Remembrance Day ceremonies indoors

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Fierce winds and plunging temperatures moved Remembrance Day ceremonies indoors in North Rustico.

Hundreds of people packed the North Rustico Lions Club for the ceremonies, marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that silenced the guns of World War 1. Attendees included District 18 MLA Brad Trivers and PEI’s Senator from Cavendish, Mike Duffy.

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An early start to Christmas shopping season

New London Community Complex Craft Fair held Nov 4
Story and photos by Jim Brown

Auxiliary power may have been needed to keep the lights on, but the annual New London Community Complex Christmas Craft Fair still went ahead on Sunday, Nov 4, drawing hordes of shoppers looking for that perfect item to slip into a stocking or under a tree.
By early morning close to 3,000 Maritime Electric customers were still without power after a fierce windstorm, with gusts as high as 100 km an hour, lashed PEI. No doubt a good number of them found their way to New London.

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New London based entrepreneur Cristin Sawchuk (Old Home Press) designs distinctive, eye-catching apparel that reflects the unique beauty of Prince Edward Island. She was one of dozens of vendors at the Christmas Craft Fair on Nov 4.

  Kensington Intermediate Senior High students had a table at the Christmas Craft Fair, selling chocolate pretzel candy to raise funds for the school's student council. From left, are Kellie Champion, Jack Ellsworth and John Lockerby.

Sabine Schoenknecht, in photo, and her husband Michael Schoenknecht, operate the Lucky Bee Homestead in Murray Harbour North and were doing a brisk business at the Christmas Craft Fair.

Visitors young, old and in-between descended on the New London Community Complex Sunday, Nov 4 for the organization's much anticipated Christmas Craft Fair.

Helene Bouchard is surrounded by gift-wrapped lavender products at the Christmas Craft Fair. Ms Bouchard operates a lavender farm at her Stanley Bridge property. Her many products include edibles for restaurants and the home.

Kathryn deBree, of Gotta Sew, offers repairs, alterations, custom work, upholstery, mending, zippers, hemming and leatherwork at her home-based business in Kensington.

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Light standard knocked down

Department of Transportation work crews were busy across the province on Oct 16, fixing much of the damage caused by fierce winds of up to 90 km an hour. The winds were accompanied earlier in the morning by heavy rains. Above, shortly after 9 am, workers were attending to a fallen light standard about 40 feet from the Stanley Bridge roundabout, on the Cavendish side.


Jim Brown photos

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