School heritage fairs across Nova Scotia cancelled

School heritage fairs across Nova Scotia cancelled

A labour dispute between the Nova Scotia government and teachers has resulted in the cancellation of elementary school heritage fairs across the province.

Every spring, students from grades 4-9 compete with projects and presentations about local history.

Saint Mary's University in Halifax announced in early March that the Nova Scotia Provincial Heritage Fair it hosts every year will not take place. 

Job action raised uncertainty

Kerrily Freeman, chair of the university's history department, said Friday the decision was made to cancel because "we weren't sure how many children and how many schools had been able to participate in heritage projects this year given the job action."

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is also cancelling its regional heritage fair, held every May at Cape Breton University.

The co-ordinator of elementary programs, Cathy MacNeil, said in an email that planning for events was suspended during work-to-rule so there was little time to prepare.

"Teachers are being very selective in choosing what works for them as we transition from work-to-rule," she said. "At a recent meeting of our principals, the message was to cancel the regional event."

Missed opportunity for Canada 150

Arja Vainio-Mattila, dean of arts and social sciences for Cape Breton University, said it's a missed opportunity for students.

"Particularly in this year of 150 years of Canada, all kinds of programming takes place around this idea of heritage," she said. 

She said it's important "to understand where you come from and the place that you live, how everything we do is informed by history."

Saint Mary's is holding the 150 Youth Summit in place of the provincial heritage fair. Eighty students will be chosen from around the province to take part.

Freeman said students will work with an Indigenous artist on a collaborative, public art project.