News

1.What is going on at the East Coast Forensic Hospital?

East Coast Forensic Hospital. Photo: NSHA

El Jones looks into concerns about treatment at the East Coast Forensic Hospital after the death of Greg Hiles last week. Women’s Wellness Within has requested a meeting with Health Minister Randy Delorey and has called for an inquiry into Hiles’ death at the facility.

Jones has talked to patients, former patients, and staff, over the past couple of months about their concerns about treatment of patients at the facility. She’s sat in on review board hearings with one patient and witnessed a habeas corpus challenge by others, including Hiles.

Patients testified to infrequent meetings with their treatment teams, lack of release planning, problems with medication, inaccurate diagnoses, lack of culturally competent care and racist comments from staff, lack of programming and access to rehabilitation on the MIOU (Mentally Ill Offender Unit), and an arbitrary system of discipline, among other complaints.

Patients and staff also questioned the effectiveness of the Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB) who make decisions about patients’ restrictions of liberty, and assess their readiness to return to the community. They allege that the Board does not provide independent oversight, and that patients are unable to challenge decisions made by their treatment team.

Jones chronicles the complexities of what’s going on at ECFH and the habeas corpus applications filed by patients: the complexities of legal arguments, mental health care, criminalization, race and cultural competency.

But Jones also talks about her own struggles writing the story — her fatigue and depression about the work, how she left, but came back, writing about it again, and the urgency that writing takes on now.

Did Hiles, along with the other men, in arguing this case put into the record evidence that now will be combed through to determine whether the hospital had any culpability in his death? What might have happened if anyone had paid attention to the conditions these men testified to, that they desperately wanted to be heard and known?

And how are patients supposed to be heard when funding for applications like a habeas corpus are very rarely granted? These patients end up crushed by two opposing poles: on the one hand they are deemed NCR, and therefore must be held in the Hospital often for months and years on end, but on the other hand, they are competent enough to represent themselves in court and to face complicated legal arguments.

The men wanted their case heard in a courtroom because they argued that the Board didn’t provide any pushback to or oversight of decisions made by staff. They hoped that by going in front of a judge, their conditions could be changed, and that their claims to injustice would be weighed and validated. And more than that, they wanted their complaints to be public, and for people to know what happens behind locked doors.

2. Fairview tenants get warnings from landlord

Some tenants at Vimy Avenue remain at their apartments, despite eviction notice, warnings of disruptions. Photo: Google Maps

Frances Willick with CBC reports that about 10 tenants in an apartment on Vimy Avenue in Fairview received notices from their landlord that the heat, power, and water will be interrupted during renovations.

Tenants were notified in May they were to leave the building by Aug. 3 when renovation work was to start. But several tenants stayed behind after that deadline. On Monday landlord Adam Barrett of BlackBay Real Estate Group posted notices of the disruptions and that renovations would start on Aug. 27.

Please note that water, power and heat will be interrupted daily due to plumbing and electrical updating between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday for the next six months. Your patience is appreciated throughout this process.

Barrett says he offered tenants $1,000 each and gave three months’ notice rather than go through Residential Tenancies for the eviction process.

We tried to take a different approach, which should have worked, but unfortunately it hasn’t. Why would you not take it, instead of live through the nightmare of this renovation?

He says some tenants have not paid their rent since the spring and are intentionally damaging the building.

Leigh MacLean, a housing support worker at Halifax Housing Help, is working with the tenants.

We’ve gone through all the appropriate channels. The only person that’s not acting above board is the landlord here and there doesn’t seem to be … any kind of consequences or accountability for the landlords that are doing this.

She says she’s called MLAs, city councillors, Residential Tenancies, but is not getting anywhere, adding many of the tenants can’t find affordable housing elsewhere in the city.

3. Herring Cove Road getting new sidewalks and bike lanes

Work on new sidewalks and bike lanes will start on Herring Cove Road, including the 500 block, in the next few weeks.

Yesterday Halifax regional council awarded a tender to Dexter Construction for new sidewalks and bike lanes along Herring Cove Road in Spryfield, Julia-Simone Rutgers with The Star reports. Dexter will get paid $3.6 million for the work that will take place between Greystone Drive past Lynnett Road and into the 500 block. Parts of Herring Cove Road now have a sidewalk, while more rural parts have paved shoulders and ditches. Councillor Steve Adams says the work is “important for the community.”

It’s going to help bring all the members of our community together and give it a real facelift.

The work also includes more crosswalks, a storm water system and repaving. Work will start in about three weeks and will take a year to complete.

4. New scam sends threats about porn usage

A new sextortion scam is threatening to send embarrassing content to contacts.

A new sextortion email scam is targeting people in Atlantic Canada, reports John MacPhee in the Chronicle Herald.

In the scam, a recipient gets an email in which they’re told their porn usage has been tracked through their webcam. The scammer then threatens to send videos, images and screenshots to the recipients’ contacts unless a payment is made.

Kristin Matthews, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau Atlantic, says no one has lost money from the scam, but they’ve received a couple of reports of the scam locally. There have been more reports across the country.

There’s likely a lot of people who aren’t reporting it either because they’re embarrassed, or they’ve just kind of deleted the email and went on with their life.

Some of those people may have been targeted because their data was compromised in a security breach. That means some of the emails that recipients get include their phone numbers and a password, making the scam appear more threatening and real.

Matthews suggests deleting or not opening any emails from unknown sources and those who ask for payment with bitcoin, gift cards or wire transfers, which can’t be tracked.

5. MacCullough’s murder remains unsolved 20 years later

Jason MacCullough

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the murder of Jason MacCullough in a park in north-end Dartmouth, reports Graeme Benjamin with Global. In a news release, Halifax Regional Police say they are still looking for witnesses to the crime.

Investigators believe there were several people in the area at the time of the homicide and strongly believe there were witnesses to the crime

The body of 19-year-old MacCullough was found on a path near Pinecrest Drive on Saturday, Aug. 28, 1999. MacCullough’s murder is one of the cases that’s part of the Rewards for Major Unsolved Crimes Program. 


Views

1. Preserving our stories online and the future of archives

Earlier this summer, I visited the Portia White exhibit at the Colchester Historeum in Truro. White was an operatic contralto and probably Canada’s first international superstar of music. She made her professional debut in Toronto in 1941 and sang on stages across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean, and Europe. Her repertoire consisted of European classical music and African-American spirituals. In a review of one of her concerts, Edward Wodson with the Toronto Evening Telegram called her voice “a gift from heaven.”

White was born in Truro and began singing at church, including in what now is the New Horizons Church in downtown Halifax where her father, William A. White, served as rector. The exhibit was created by White’s niece, Sheila, from artifacts White’s mother, Izie Dora, collected and kept during her career. This exhibit is on display at the historeum in Truro until mid-October and then it will move to the Black Cultural Centre in Dartmouth. I recommend you check it out.

This exhibit is rich with photos, sheet music signed by White, concert posters, family photos, and newspaper clippings. White’s music and interviews she recorded play in the background. There are also several anecdotes about the racism White faced during her career and also revelations that White has a son who still lives in Halifax.

White’s mother kept the artifacts about her daughter in such immaculate condition and it’s a wonderful way to learn about her career. But I also wondered how an exhibit of an equivalent artist (or anyone else) will look years from now, especially since much of the content we create now is digital.

Some of the artifacts from the Portia White exhibit at the Colchester Historeum in Truro. Photo: Margaret Mulrooney/Colchester Historeum

I met with Paul Maxner, a senior archivist for online resources at the Nova Scotia Archives. He started with the archives in 1997 and is responsible for two websites, the main archives site and the Nova Scotia genealogy site. Both have hundreds of thousands of digitized records; each year, about 25,000 to 50,000 items are digitized for the main archives website, with another roughly 30,000 items digitized on the genealogy site.

But less than five per cent of the content at the archives is actually online. There are several staff who work every day digitizing content, including 16-mm films that are available on the archives’ YouTube channel.

Certainly, the online world, including social media, seems to present a challenge for archivists whose job is to preserve content. But Maxner says while we’re producing an immeasurable amount of content now, how archivists decide what to preserve really hasn’t changed.

We as archivists need to know there is the integrity and authenticity there. We apply archival theory and practice like we would to a piece of paper, a photograph, or a diary to digital objects. It seems far-fetched, but when you break it down to the theory and practice it’s not different than reading a sound file or a video or a film.

I’ve heard the term, ‘just because we can save it doesn’t mean we should.’

Maxner says the Library and Archives of Canada and the National Archives in the United States were scraping Twitter and Facebook annually for posts that were public.

That ended up being petabytes of information. It got quite overwhelming.

Then, Maxner says those institutions are started to back off on that process and are reviewing the content. Smaller archives would follow suit. For example, locally, the provincial archives wouldn’t save everything connected with singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett, who actually did a work term at the archives, Maxner tells me, but rather they’d save select items from his career, from songs to social media posts.

We’d look at that and say, ‘So what’s Joel’s body of work?’ What is meaningful to society in the future to say he did these things and here is some of the evidence of his career. That’s what we look at: evidence of activities.

The archives also includes the Helen Creighton collection, which includes recordings, photographs, handwritten notes, and much more from the Nova Scotia folklorist. But Maxner says they don’t have everything Creighton created or collected in her lifetime.

You never have everything and there’s no societal good to save everything. It’s not necessary to save everything to prove these actions happened. That’s the professional philosophy around it.

Maxner says in the private sector, there are companies that are saving digital information. The Wayback Machine has been scraping the content from websites since 1996, although the online archive didn’t launch until 2001. Plug a URL into the search option and you can see snapshots of websites over the years. Even the Examiner is there, with 708 snapshots saved since 2014.

One of the biggest problems for archives is digital obsolescence. Today’s computers don’t come with CD drives and some newer computers don’t even include USB ports. Word processing programs change and Maxner says platforms like WordPress are very challenging to preserve because they have hooks and elements like images, text, and videos that are embedded and coming from various places.

Paul Maxner, senior archivist for online resources at the Nova Scotia Archives, with some of the scanning equipment staff use to digitize records like maps. Photo:  Suzanne Rent

In the lobby at the archives building is a display case of several artifacts. None of these are original, but technology has allowed the staff here to reproduce copies so close to the original no one could tell the difference. Staff can scan and copy documents and maps and then take care to duplicate the tiniest details like rips and marks found on the original. The original document, meanwhile, is stored safely in the vault while visitors can get the same experience from reproductions.

Maxner says one of the things he likes to do when he travels for work is talk to people about some of the content available at the archives. He was in Moncton for the World Acadian Congress this summer. The archives has a collection of early Acadian registers with some of the records dating back to Port Royal in 1702. These items are digitized and searchable, but Maxner says they still have the same storytelling power for those who look at them.

We’ve had people from Louisiana call and be so overwhelmed emotionally because this is their ancestor who was expelled from their homeland and then forced into the U.S. and made their way into Louisiana. Those are very meaningful connections with people and we still do that with the digital object.

What will the archives look like in 50 or 100 years? Maxner says the building likely won’t change much, but the archives’ online presence will and more content will be online. He recalls early on there were questions about putting content online and if that would discourage people from coming to the building to do research. But Maxner says the opposite is true, and the archives are busier than ever. The Nova Scotia Archives had one of the first social media accounts within the provincial government. It was also one of the first archives in Canada to use social media. You can find them on Facebook. Social media may mean we’re producing more content,  but it’s also connecting us to more content, too.

People will come into the building to learn more about the everyday experiences of those people. Genealogy records don’t tell that story. But we do have other records here that would support those questions. What we found in our reading room is people are coming in and they know their great great grandmother was born on this date, but they are asking us deeper, more interesting social questions about society and her place in the world and what influenced her, and then what probably influenced your family and heritage.

I’m studying a genealogy program with the National Institute of Genealogical Studies in Toronto. In my latest course, the second of 40 I have to take for my certificate, the instructor reminds us it’s important to curate our own stories for our descendants. We may not be a Portia White, but our stories will be important to those who will search for details on our lives, 100, 200 years from now. Maxner says maybe it’s time to start thinking of what we save, the important photos, the records, the memories, and how we save them. Many of us have cameras on our phones now, but out of those hundreds of photos we take, only a few might be worth keeping (probably not all the selfies). And we should keep the original photos rather than just saving them to Facebook because the resolution will be better in the original. So in a way, Maxner says, not much is different.

People have curated their lives since cave drawings. We all are curating as we go through our lives.  The medium has just changed.


Noticed

This week, I sent out a few invoices for freelance work I did recently. One of the projects was for a new client, so I was very surprised when I received payment on the same day I sent my invoice.

If you’re a freelancer, you know this is rare. Tim pays contributors to the Examiner immediately. So, by the time you’re reading this Morning File, I will have been paid for writing it.

I do quite a bit of freelance work and get paid in what the freelance world would consider a decent amount of time (anywhere from in 10 days to a month). Sometimes an invoice goes astray for whatever reason, (I waited a couple of months this year for two invoices to be paid out), but I’ve never not been paid for work I’ve done. I know colleagues, however, who’ve waited for months to receive payment. Others have not been paid at all for gigs. I’m also pretty persistent at contacting editors and accounts payable departments for invoices that aren’t paid on time. Certainly my landlord or other creditors would be equally persistent if I wasn’t paying my bills on time.

Not getting paid on time is a frustratingly common issue in the gig economy.

Until July next year, I am also working a contract that pays me on a biweekly basis. I may not need the money from my freelance work right away but that’s not the point. The freelance work is done, I should get paid in an acceptable amount of time. I don’t need to get paid immediately, but certainly within a month is nice. Getting paid immediately is wonderful.

I worked as a magazine editor for years and always made sure I’d submitted a freelancer’s invoice quickly. And that employer was pretty good at paying within a month, if not much sooner.

Earlier this summer, I read this story that was making the rounds on Twitter. Wudan Yan is a journalist in Seattle who writes for publications like Buzzfeed, The New York Times, and Huffington Post. On her own website, she wrote a blog about chasing down not only outstanding payments from clients ($5,000 to be exact) but also asking for payment of late fees. As she points out, $5,000 is what she needs to cover her expenses for a month, so not being paid on time means her own financial circumstances are at risk. This is the cycle freelancers often find themselves in; waiting to get paid while trying to pay their own bills on time. Yan chronicled the entire process of asking for payment and the late fees, including her emails to editors and accounts payable staff and their responses back to her. Some clients paid the late fees reluctantly while other refused to pay the late fees at all. Yan battled with the emotions of asking for late fees, wondering to herself if she was being too “difficult” by even asking.

Should I be faced with the threat of never working with a client ever again when all I intended to do in the first place was be strictly professional? (Which seems to not be quite… professional on the client’s part if the contractor has delivered everything as expected and on time, anyway.) And who is to decide what is more “reasonable”? If a publication is in the wrong and pays late — and admits to it — why not own up to those wrongs by paying out a late fee? It is what anyone else would have to do if they didn’t pay their rent, healthcare bills, or credit card statements on time. Why do publications who hire freelance writers get a pass when the other businesses operate on a monthly payment cycle?

Yan says not paying freelancers and refusing to pay late fees, even if such penalties are outlined in contracts, is exploitative.  It’s like the working-for-exposure issue many writers know well. Chasing down payments that are overdue is the sort of labour freelancers do that they don’t get paid for and keeps us away from researching and pitching other story ideas. The efforts to which Yan went are extraordinary. She says freelancers should work together to keep clients accountable and charge late fees. Not doing so is why some publications are flaky when it comes to payment. We do the work and deserve to get paid. It’s a business transaction like any other.

It seemed to me the publications I worked with here are not accustomed to having to pay out late fees likely because others haven’t bothered in the past. Of course, sometimes the money that we are owed from a publication is only a few hundred bucks, so we end up calculating whether or not hassling a client to pay tens of dollars is worth it. It often nets out to a hard no. An organizer from the Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union I spoke with said that it’s rare for anyone to go to the lengths that I did to get outlets to pay a late fee.

So, thank you to publications like the Examiner for valuing its contributors and paying us on time.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Migration (Thursday, 10am, SB 255) — Karly Kehoe talks about “The Role of Universities in Addressing the Global Challenge of Migration.” From the listing:

As our societies grapple with questions connected with the topic of migration, the research community needs to make available its expertise and be willing to work with all stakeholders to find ways of facilitating effective dialogue and managing expectations. A range of expertise is needed to develop sustainable solutions to issues such as mass displacement, newcomer integration, and research security. Historians have the benefit of seeing trends over time and space; they have developed intimate understanding of the causes and consequences of human movement.

In this talk, Dr. Kehoe explores how her research on historical migrations is informing her work with at-risk and displaced scholars around the world and how her connections with other researchers is helping to build a stronger interdisciplinary lens through which to see the challenges posed by migration more clearly.

RSVP here.


In the harbour

05:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
16:45: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
21:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
21:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica


Footnotes

I’ve been travelling around the province this summer hosting community meetings as part of a project called Not Without Us, which is a partnership between Easter Seals Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities. I’m meeting with women with disabilities who’ve experienced domestic violence, as well as the staff who work at women-serving organizations like transition houses and women’s resource centres. The goal is to hear these women’s stories and their idea on how women with disabilities can better access resources in their communities.

This has been an eye-opening experience learning about accessibility in our province. Much of the issues these women face involve transit, transportation, housing, communication like internet access, and the stigma and silence that still surrounds domestic violence. The lack of accessibility to transit, housing, and so on is especially pronounced in small towns and rural communities. As an able-bodied woman, I have taken for granted how easily I can get around and access resources.

I first want to say it’s incredibly brave of these women to come to these meetings and share their experiences with me and each other. The stories are hard to hear and I know they’re harder to tell. And while they’re has often been a lot of emotion, there has also has been laughter.  That may seem odd given the issues we’re talking about, but I hope it also means we’ve created a space in which these women can talk and feel safe doing so (no one’s names are being included in the final report I’ll be writing this winter). I’m learning too from the staff at women-serving organizations and about their jobs and what they need to work with clients. They are also integral to this process. Many of these meetings become networking opportunities for women to learn from each other about services in their communities and offer support.  I’m grateful to everyone who has taken part.

Originally, we were to host five meetings, but by the time the project is over, I’ll likely have visited at least nine communities across the province. I’ll be hosting meetings in Kentville on Sept. 11, Amherst, Sept. 25, and Sydney Oct. 9, and plan to hold another meeting in Halifax (our first meeting was in Halifax in July). If you want to know more about the project or know any women or staff who’d like to take part in a meeting, just email me at suzannerentnwu@gmail.com. I’m also open to visiting other communities, too.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. On paying for freelance work: I fully support collecting late fees. In fact I am owed 400.00 by a Michael Bowden of Mass. who contracted me to conduct a botanical survey of a bog in Yarmouth county. Work was conducted in 1993. He wanted to harvest cranberries. I was destitute for work not having begun my full time career with government at that point. But I had no recourse to collect. Never heard from him. Phone calls and letters were ignored.

    I never gave away my expertise again however. Lesson learned.

  2. I know this is preaching to the choir, but the importance of paying freelancers adequately and in a timely manner cannot be overstressed. It is not just about compensating someone for work they have done – just like as one would a lawyer, dentist or plumber – but perhaps more importantly sustaining a climate where freelancers can themselves be sustained. In an age where we are inundated with trash news, non-news and advernews, having freelancers responsibly plying their trade is true service to the public. So it pays off to pay freelancers.

  3. Saving stuff that matters. The chart being scanned is by des Barres of Halifax Harbour – a rare and beautiful chart from the Atlantic Neptune.

    Has the scanning been completed and does anyone know if it available online?

    Mapman Iain

  4. I’m quite sure that a saying about “if you don’t know where you’ve been, you are doomed to make the same mistakes – eternally”, Thanks for the good piece on archives. I would also like to say that many of the small museums around the province could use more support – both in dollars and also in volunteers. Thanks to all who toil in the papers and photos and bits and pieces of the wonderful history and heritage of Nova Scotia.