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did you know you can get a license for that…?

October 4, 2014

Sacred Heart – Halifax, NS

I was on my way home when I came across this notice, which is located at the grand front entrance of Sacred Heart School, on Spring Garden Road, here in downtown Halifax.

It seems that an Elizabeth Hawkins-Harris, of Sacred Heart School of Halifax, has received her falconry license.

That, I have to say, is very cool!

Who doesn’t want to have a bird of prey perched on their outstretched arm? A Falcon. An Eagle. A Hawk.

They are magnificent birds!

Back on the farm, I grew up with hawks in the same way I grew up with pigs, and cows, and chickens.

One day I was just breaking out of the woods, by the back field, when I perfectly happened to watch – in that very instant – a hawk swoop down out of the sky and take out a rabbit. I caught the last 2-3 seconds of his swoop, the hit, the carry, and in a instant, the hawk was flying away with his limp corpse.

So, how cool is a falconry license?!

And what a great achievement for Sacred Heart to boast about.

As UTS, and Earl Haig Secondary are a couple of jewels in the Toronto District School Board Crown, so too is Sacred Heart to Nova Scotia. (It is the high-achieving private Catholic school equivalent to the secular (Protestant) private Halifax Grammar School.)

It is the land of the hyphenated last name, the Land Rover, top academic marks, official chastity, and Falconry Licenses.


Anyway, I saw this notice as I was walking home after de-briefing with a friend about my last week at the youth shelter. I was on my way home after a good long walk examining some of the sad stories that make up this bottom Totem of our world. (I could list all the gory details here before you but what could I really say that you haven’t already heard before? Is there any new way for me to tell you about some of our youth who have been sexually assaulted, who’ve had to live with an incestuous father, brother, neighbour… uncle? You already know that story.

Or the kid who was beaten about the head so often that he is now mentally delayed, can’t hold a job, or get his own place? The kid who is now on a 5 year wait list for getting his own community-assisted bachelor space? How he has to spend most of his time in a shelter for men because there are not enough youth beds to go around.)

If ever there was a parallel universe to the world of youth I work with, this notice, and this type of school, is the shining example.

Their worlds – as youth – are a million miles apart. One group eats organic, has a rowing team, and trains falcons. The other, sleeps under cardboard, and eats whatever Feed Nova Scotia can scrounge up. One group shops with Daddy’s credit card, the other rummages in our basement boxes for a pair of dry socks.

Yet, one day, some of the youth from Sacred Heart will be in government leadership positions (along with their mates from the Halifax Grammar School), and it will be their astute educated political decisions that will decide “what is best” policy for Nova Scotia’s “shelter people”.

(And by “best”, I mean fundamentally, what’s cheapest?)


Whenever I have been asked to talk about “youth” or “homeless youth” to politicians, corporate leaders, the media, or just about any middle class educated person, I know that I am trying to hold a conversation over this million miles that lies between us.

It’s nearly impossible to get over-achieving A-type leadership personalities to not want to just keep saying to you: “why don’t homeless people just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get on with it?”

(Sure, rich and/or successful youth have lots of their own shit too. I’ve also worked in some of the so-called highest functioning schools – the types of schools where 80-90% of the graduates go to university – and I have seen the stress they too live under. But, at least let us not pretend, that they are the same stresses. Having no roof over your head when you are 16, 17, 18, is always the trump card.)

Politicians are often the worst to talk to, because they love to come by your place of work for a good photo op and round-table “exploration” of the issues, nod their heads with you and harumph a lot, and then go back to their office and give the money to a corporate crony – whom they had always planned on giving the money to in the first place.


Everyone who works with the poor knows this, yet,

I am still expected to play the game in this political farce,

just in case some crumbs fall out of their briefcase on the way out the door.



p.s. Don’t get me wrong. I think its fantastic that this young woman got her falconry license. Every Hermione Granger should get to be a falconry wizard! …what a wonderful world it would be…, if all young people got to live out their dreams!





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