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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Our Paths Meet on the Common

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Membertou 400 Membertou 400 -2 pow 4

HALIFAX – On any given day, the Halifax Common is an open public space where people overlap. A place where our paths intersect. Last weekend the Common served that same function, but on a much greater scale. Mawio’mi Grand Chief Membertou 400 brought together over 6,000 people – including many Aboriginals from across Canada who travelled great distances to participate in the ceremonies. It was the largest powwow that had ever taken place in Atlantic Canada.


The 4 day-long event included drumming and dancing competitions, a free Buffy Sainte-Marie concert, knowledge sharing, free food and the temporary installation of over 15 wigwams throughout the park. There were also a number of people who camped with their families on the North Common.

Tents on the Common
Mini tent-city on the Common!

With the addition of a working fountain and improved lighting at nighttime, the park was practically unrecognizable. Or better yet, it was a well-executed example of what the Halifax Common could and should look like, successfully serving its purpose as a accessible public space where communities can come to gather. Without an admission charge.

Baseball diamond reimagined.

Clumsily, on the other side of the park, preparation is beginning for events of a different sort. The controversial Concerts on the Common, a showcase of once-popular (in some cases never popular!) imported musicians, are right around the corner. A small building is under construction that will house a permanent power supply that will accompany the yet-to-be-built “special events plaza”.

Power Supply
Construction begins on the power supply building.

As I watch the Common become permanently altered to accommodate the for-profit ‘mega’ concerts, I can’t help but be reminded of how the public was left out of the design process. The details of the design are still few, and not available within the Proposed Conceptual Plan from HRM.  Just imagine how much more vibrant our city would be if we had more publicly accessible events like Membertou 400. …And way less Kid Rock.

smaller photos by Roberto Rochin Suarez

larger photos by Katie McKay



  1. Wow. People were actually allowed to camp on the Common?

  2. I agree completely with this post.  I volunteered at the powwow and saw tons of beautiful and community-building moments.  This is what Halifax needs.  I come from a small town and have lived here for three years without ever really feeling like I was really a part of the community, until last weekend.

    I also agree with your point about improved lighting.  The one thing everyone’s mother tells them is not to go by the Common at night.  Maybe some more lights would decrease the ‘sketchiness’ of the area.  Another great thing the powwow brought to the Common was recycling receptacles.  To the best of my knowledge, under regular conditions the Common only have garbage cans.