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Trans Awareness Week: meet Margot Durling, designer of ‘Chosen Family’ art piece – Global News

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This week marks Transgender Awareness Week, and one Halifax artist hopes their piece inspires others to feel accepted.

Margot Durling is the trans and non-binary artist behind the new Chosen Family art piece standing tall at the Halifax Commons.

“There’s a history of genders beyond the binary,” Durling says.

They knew they weren’t female when they were very young.

“I’ve always been an artist so I drew a lot as a child and anatomically I was drawing myself as male very early on.”

Read more:
Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous, People of Color ensure their voices heard during Halifax Pride

Durling says they didn’t even know about the word “transgender” until their 20s.

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“It’s really beautiful to see younger folks who identify as outside of the binary, or as trans,” they say.

“Having that support, having that language, those resources and that community so early on is really beautiful to see and I wish I had that growing up, too.”






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Transgender Awareness Week


Transgender Awareness Week – Nov 9, 2020

But, Durling says, it’s also a unique experience to come out as an older person.

“It comes with a lot of beauty as well.”

Durling says they’ve had a lot of support from the community when coming out and transitioning.

“It’s hard to describe how powerful that is, that notion of ‘chosen family’ to be immediately and wholeheartedly accepted as kin, as a part of this magical queer community.”

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Read more:
New report says racialized trans, non-binary Canadians face increased harassment, violence

They say they haven’t had a “fully accepting” experience with family when they came out, but that has changed.

“They’ve since turned that around and very much celebrate who I am today.”

Durling says they understand it can be hard for parents, “when their children are coming out and turning out not quite as they expected them to be.”

Chosen family is “acceptance from people that are in a community that identify the same way as you do or similar.”

That concept inspired the art installation unveiled at the Halifax Commons last month.

‘Chosen Family’ is the new art installation unveiled at the Halifax Commons in October.


‘Chosen Family’ is the new art installation unveiled at the Halifax Commons in October.


Global News / Alexander Quon

Durling says this idea is deeply engrained in the queer and trans community, but elsewhere as well.

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“Families look a bit different nowadays. Being accepted and treated as family is a beautiful thing and that’s what it’s really about.

“Those figures being so upright, having their heads held high, gives that sense of pride and resilience.”

Chosen Family is now a permanent installation in the heart of Halifax.

“Seeing yourself reflected in the built environment is a deep source of validation and belonging and I hope this art does that for people that are walking by,” Durling says.

To those struggling with their identity, Durling says: “find community, explore gender, have fun and do your best to accept yourself.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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From bag tags to public art – The North Bay Nugget

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A look at some of city hall’s $423,000 in proposed service changes

North Bay City Hall
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In the coming weeks, members of North Bay council will debate the city’s proposed $97.8-million 2021 operating budget.

The budget is a $4 million, or 4.28 per cent, increase from 2020, and is levied from ratepayers in order to cover day-to-day spending on services related to the fire department, arenas, parks, the marina, roads and the landfill.

Of the proposed $4-million increase to the tax levy, which is subject to change as members of council meet for discussions over the coming weeks, nearly $423,000 is related to proposed service level changes, some of which were put forward by members of council.

The Nugget has summarized some of those proposals:

Interest relief – $180,648 cost

The change would reduce the interest charged for past due accounts from 1.25 to one per cent a month.

Firefighters – $109,159 cost

North Bay Fire and Emergency Services is proposing the immediate hire of two additional firefighters.

The fire service says there are two members on long-term Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) leave who are not expected to return.

Both members are being paid by WSIB directly, with the fire service contractually responsible for paying a “top-up” of approximately $52,000 a year.

Should those firefighters reach the six-year WSIB lock-in eligibility by June and September 2021, the fire service would be free of its contractual obligation, resulting in two vacancies.

The change would see the fire service temporarily go from 56 firefighters to 58.

The fire service also says it has experienced “extreme staffing pressures” this year due to reductions resulting from WSIB claims, contractual vacation entitlements and sick time usage.

Yard waste – $48,814

Coun. Scott Robertson has proposed a three-week long, unlimited fall leaf and yard waste collection program for all households.

Although residents can place their leaf and yard waste on the curb, it is included in the city’s weekly limit of three free bags. The waste also is taken to landfill rather than to the organics depot.

The net cost takes into account the expense of running the program and the revenue generated through the sale of compost.

Garbage collection – $18,142 (savings)

Also proposed by Robertson, this change would reduce the number of free garbage receptacles from three to two a week, and increase the cost of bag tags from $1 to $2.

For the commercial sector, the limit would drop from 12 a week to 10.

The city currently sells garbage tags at $1 for each receptacle that exceeds the limit.

Robertson says the three-bag limit is hard to find in municipalities across Ontario, adding that reducing the limit will encourage recycling, which the city sells, and extend the life of the landfill.

The savings are expected to be $36,284 in future years.

Public art – $15,000

The request follows a presentation to council by representatives from the public art advisory committee for an annual amount that would help advance projects such as the downtown traffic signal boxes, as well as others outside of the downtown.

Clean Green Beautiful – $10,000

Clean Green Beautiful, which hosts neighbourhood litter cleanups and other initiatives, is looking to hire an intern and provide additional programs. Members of the group made a budget request to council in September.

Backyard composting – $4,000

Put forward by Robertson, the program would see the city buy 200 backyard composting units and sell them at a $10 discount.

Robertson notes that the province requires some municipalities to have organic waste collection programs, while those that don’t meet the threshold for collection will be legislated to have a form of backyard composting.

The net cost includes the expense of buying the units, advertising and sales revenue.

New software – $50,000

The new software would allow documents and forms to be signed electronically, replacing handwritten signatures and allowing for a faster turnaround.

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From agriculture to iconic Indigenous art, the North Battleford region has much to be proud of – CBC.ca

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CBC’s virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories explores the hidden gems across Saskatchewan. You can invite CBC’s Laura Sciarpelletti to your community for a virtual tour. Visit cbc.ca/lovesk to pitch your ideas.


It is worth looking at the land around North Battleford, Sask., through the strokes of Allen Sapp’s paintbrush. 

In his paintings you will find scenes of families helping families, Cree drumming circles, early ways of farming the land, mothers with their swaddled babies and families joining around the fire to eat. 

It’s a sincere look at what makes the community electric with life, strength and beauty. 

Allen Sapp (left), Ruth Gonor (centre) and Allan Gonor (right) in their home in North Battleford in the late 1960s or early ’70s. (Submitted by Leah Garven)

Sapp was a Cree painter born on the Red Pheasant Reserve, 30 kilometres south of the city of North Battleford. As a child, he was often sick, so he watched people and his surroundings. That is evident in his paintings. 

Sapp eventually moved to North Battleford, which sits by the North Saskatchewan River, to try to make a living as an artist by selling his paintings door to door.

He gained momentum when, in 1966, he met art collector Dr. Allan Gonor, who recognized Sapp’s artistic talent. Gonor encouraged him to paint what he knew — life on the reserve.

Sapp began to do just that. And by the 1970s, His work was known across North America. 

Allen Sapp playing his drum for visiting students at the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford. (Submitted by Leah Garven )

Today, his work can be found at the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford. 

“Allen captured that agricultural life at a very difficult time for most people, let alone First Nations people who had pass and permit restrictions upon their endeavours of making a living,” said Leah Garven, curator and manager of the gallery.   

“He recorded in his paintings a lot of traditions and ceremonies that were technically banned and outlawed … Speaking for people from Red Pheasant First Nation, of course they’re very proud of their son and who he became and and how he represented their community.”

We still have people who come to the gallery, men in their 60s and 70s, who will just weep looking at the paintings because of the memories that he brings back for that generation and that way of life that’s kind of gone.– Leah Garven

Prior to his death at age 87 in 2015, Sapp drove around the North Battleford in a big Cadillac wearing big hats and other cowboy fashions.

“He was a larger than life character in town. He was very singular and very much an individual. He brightened the historical cultural persona in town,” Garven said. 

Garven describes Sapp as humble, loving, sensitive and generous.

“He was brilliant, frankly. In his last days when he would visit the gallery, he knew exactly where he was. And he would come alive when he saw his paintings and he’d sing a song when he come to the gallery,” Garven said.

“We still have people who come to the gallery, men in their 60s and 70s, who will just weep looking at the paintings because of the memories that he brings back for that generation and that way of life that’s kind of gone.”

One of Garven’s fondest memories of Sapp is the way he would interact with children at the gallery. Sapp would often sing and play his drum with them. 

“I think he had a huge impact on the thousands of students that he met over the years. Imagine the power for Indigenous youth to have a prominent building in North Battleford dedicated to the art of Allen Sapp. In my mind, we work every day for Allen.”

(CBC News)

Positive stories

When you think of North Battleford or the neighbouring town of Battleford, what comes to mind?

It might be headlines about crime. Or maybe it’s the historical armed conflict between First Nations and white settlers in 1885.

For the people who live in the Battlefords and surrounding area, there is much beauty and much to be proud of. 

Photographer and journalist Matt Jacques hosts Untapped: An Original Battlefords Saskatchewan Podcast. The podcast focuses on positive stories and the people within the community.  (Matt Jacques)

Rob Rongve is the co-creator of Untapped: An Original Battlefords Saskatchewan Podcast. The podcast, hosted by photographer and journalist Matt Jacques, focuses on positive stories and the people within the community. 

“We decided to create the podcast series to try and maybe showcase that things are very, very good here. Despite what the headlines may say as far as crime and other social issues in the community, you don’t usually hear the really positive stuff coming on the news,” said Rongve.

“North Battleford has been very publicly advertised as the crime capital of Canada. It’s not the reality for the vast majority of us that live in the community.”

That is not to say that the city and surrounding area does not have crime and social issues, Rongve said. It does — particularly due to poverty, he said. 

“But there’s a huge amount of work being done in the community to help and change that. The podcast was one way to promote the very, very positive underbelly of our great community.”

Rongve said podcast episodes about young and diverse people who are doing things to help their community or beginning creative projects are what impact him the most. 

The City of North Battleford. (Matt Jacques)

Taste of North Battleford

Have you ever wondered if you could enjoy a proper sit-down meal at a restaurant while also catching a live game of curling? Yes, that may be the most Canadian question of all time.

Well the answer is yes, you can. 

Rachel Lee owns and operates Beaver Grill Exprezz with her husband Howard in North Battleford. 

Howard and Rachel Lee own and operate Beaver Grill Exprezz in North Battleford. In the background is the local curling rink. (Don Somers/CBC)

The Korean couple moved to the city from Vancouver six years ago and serve up many different cuisines, including Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and Western. 

“All the people who come to our restaurant, they’re all from everywhere … all different diversities … all different taste buds. But we have so many different [items on] the menu that they get to choose many different options here and they all enjoy,” Lee said.

The restaurant sits atop of the curling rink that is home to the Twin River Curling Club. Diners can catch the action. 

“It’s definitely excitement that you can see when the curling is happening. And also the customer gets to join as well.”

Vietnamese noodle soup from Beaver Grill Exprezz in North Battleford. (Beaver Grill Exprezz/Facebook)

Lee said their spin on the traditional Thai rice noodle dish Pad Thai is the favourite dish among customers. Her personal favourite is the Korean Kan-Poong Chicken — a deep-fried chicken breast mixed in Korean sweet and spicy sauce with rice. 

Elsewhere in North Battleford is Armoury Brewing Company. The microbrewery opened in late 2018 and quickly become a hub for the community. It was started by five friends and the enthusiasm is palpable as soon as you wank through the doors. 

The taps are always rotating with beers ranging from simple lagers to special holiday brews. Right now Armoury has the cinnamon Vi-Co stout — a bold stout with dark chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and lactose. 

Armoury Brewing Company opened in North Battleford in late 2018 and quickly become a hub for the community. (Don Somers/CBC)

Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum 

Let’s head across the river to the town of Battleford. There sits the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, a treasure trove of memorabilia including uniforms, photographs, baseball bats, baseballs and trophies.

“Baseball played such a big role in the development and the settlement of this province. It was a game that everybody could participate [in].They did not need a whole bunch of equipment,” said Jane Shury, president and CEO of the museum.

Baseball also turned out to be a bit of a matchmaker.

“Baseball became a social event. Many of the ballplayers played ball because it gave them something to do. They loved the game and they would meet their girlfriend at the baseball game. And so the girls also would go to the game to watch the game … but mostly to see if they could find themselves a boyfriend!” Shury said. 

Between 1876 and 1883, Battleford was the capital of the Northwest Territories. The first recorded baseball game in the history of the North West Territories was played there on May 31, 1879. 

Today, you can find a picture of that historic game at the museum. 

Shury’s favourite artifact is a photo of the pitcher in an 1886 baseball game in Lumsden. That pitcher was Walter Scott, the first Saskatchewan premier. The image has been made into a mural that covers a wall outside the museum. 

Also outside the museum, you will Canada’s biggest baseball bat.

(CBC News)

Nature

Residents and visitors of North Battleford and the surrounding area do not lack things to do and see in the great outdoors.

Head 70 kilometres east of North Battleford and you will find Crooked Bush — equal parts magical and eerie.

Crooked Bush is considered to be a botanical mystery. The Crooked Bush trail winds through a cluster of aspen trees that twist and turn in all directions … except, for some unknown reason, upwards. 

Then, 50 kilometres north of North Battleford, is Jackfish Lake. It’s a gorgeous body of water surrounded by several beaches, with three campgrounds and several hiking trails at Battlefords Provincial Park.

The lake provides great fishing with perch, walleye, pike and whitefish. An annual ice fishing derby takes place every February, usually attracting more than 2,000 competitors during non-COVID times.

Saskatchewan’s first Black settlement

Murray Mayes will repeat at least 20 times in an interview how hard it was growing up in Saskatchewan’s first Black settlement during the first half of the 20th Century. But he will immediately follow that up with how thankful he is for those hard time, because they made him stronger.

Mayes has a lot of joy, and a lot to be joyful about. He exudes pride and love for all his children, who have gone on to have successful careers, give him grandchildren and make differences in their communities. 

Murray Mayes is a descendant of black pioneers in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Mayes was born at the beginning of the Great Depression in the Black settlement of Eldon — 100 kilometres northwest of North Battleford.

After the U.S. Civil War many freed slaves, like his grandparents Joe and Mattie Mayes, moved to Oklahoma to begin a new life.

“Then some of the people that came from the south came up and see these African people. And they said, ‘let’s re-enslave them.’ And they thought, ‘we better get out of here,'” said Mayes. 

Freed slave Mattie Mayes was a well-respected midwife in the Eldon district. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan/R-A10362)

At the time, Canada was inviting people to settle in the country and cultivate the land. 

In 1910, Joe and Mattie Mayes led a group of Black families up from the U.S. The pioneer family bought about 49 hectares of land in Saskatchewan for $10.

I just thank God I came through all those hard times because I learned so much from them.– Murray Mayes

They weren’t exactly welcome, however. The Canadian government discouraged black immigration, preferring white immigrants, according to Mayes. 

The family set up a life in Saskatchewan regardless. 

During the Depression, Mayes lived in a one-room log house with eight other people.

“I used to trap weasels and did some hunting. We didn’t have a gun even out there. We were so poor,” Mayes said of his upbringing. 

“We struggled and we had bedbugs. But I just thank God I came through all those hard times because I learned so much from them.”

Three generations of the Mayes family in front of the Shiloh Baptist Church they built. (Leander Lane Family Photo Archives)

Sweetgrasss First Nation

Saskatchewan has a rich agricultural history. As early as 1885, Battleford area farmers had formed an agricultural organization. Then in 1906, the North Battleford Agricultural Society was formed. It advocated for farmers and ranchers and spotlighted their successes in the industry.

The Cree First Nation of Sweetgrass — located 25 kilometres west of North Battleford — is part of Saskatchewan’s agricultural legacy.

Garry Albert and his wife Carma Swimmer Albert on their farm in 1997. They have been married for 47 years and counting. (Submitted by Garry Albert)

Back in 1884, a reserve was surveyed for Sweetgrass band members. At that time they sold hay and wood, and kept gardens and livestock.

Today, Sweetgrass farmers like Garry Albert carry on the tradition of their ancestors. Albert’s efforts have produced results that he takes great pride in.

Albert is a third-generation crop farmer with 55 acres of land. His grandfather began farming on Sweetgrass land in about 1920. His father would go on to farm the land as well. Albert took over in 1974. 

The Sweetgrass First Nation reserve had between 12,000 and 15,000 cultivated acres around 1920, according to Albert. 

In 1992, the federal and provincial governments signed a treaty land entitlement agreement with Saskatchewan First Nations. Under the agreement, the First Nations received money to buy land on the open market.

“With that Sweetgrass has gone forward and purchased an additional 12,000 and 15,000 acres of land. And ever since then, I’ve been continuously cropping.”

An aerial shot of the Sweetgrass First Nation. (Submitted by Chief Lorie Whitecalf)

Albert thinks he was always meant to become a farmer. He said he knew from an early age. 

“I think I was as young as 10 years old I was involved with following my grandfather around and my dad. I would be with my dad on an open-cab combine. He was combining into the evening, and I’m there in a little platform falling asleep … a little blanket covering me,” he said.

“Then there would be times he’d be hauling grain on a small truck to Cut Knife, which is only about 15 miles from here. I’d be right there. I never turned them down when they asked me if I wanted to come along.”

Albert said he clearly remembers his grandfather running a team of horses and a wagon on the farmland. 

“I’d go with him to a little pasture to the north of us where he kept a few horses and maybe a few cows. That was the biggest fond memory about my grandfather.”

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Cellist turns locked-down museums into backdrop for – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Lucien Libert

PARIS (Reuters) – It’s an ideal pairing for the COVID-19 era: a musician who cannot play for a live audience and sumptuous museums that cannot welcome visitors. Cellist Camille Thomas has put them together to create what she hopes will be a balm for troubled times.

She is carrying out a series of solo performances of classic works set against a backdrop of deserted museum interiors in and around Paris. They are filmed and posted on the Internet.

During the pandemic, she has performed at the Palace of Versailles, the Institute of the Arab World and is scheduled next week to perform at the Grand Palais, a vast exhibition space next to the Champs Elysees. All the venues are shut because of France’s COVID-19 lockdown.

A YouTube video of her performing at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in October had been viewed 36,575 times as of Friday.

“I wanted to symbolise with these images the loneliness of musicians without the public, of museums without visitors,” said Thomas.

She was speaking in a room of the Museum of Decorative Arts this week where she played the Kaddish, a piece written by 20th century French composer Maurice Ravel.

“Of course people need medical care in this pandemic time but they also need care for the soul,” said Thomas, 32, who has a recording contract with a classical music label.

“I believe that art and music is healing and it’s essential to … feel that, after this difficult time, all this beauty is waiting, it’s still there and it’s worth fighting for it.”

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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