1. “We need answers and justice. This tragedy cannot have been for nothing”
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.
Jennifer Henderson speaks with Erica Surette, whose mother, Patricia West, died in Northwood Centre nursing home after contracting COVID-19. On Tuesday, lawyer Ray Wagner filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Surette against Northwood Care Group Inc. Three other families have contacted the lawyer. Surette tells Henderson:
Fifty-three families have lost their loved ones at Northwood due to COVID-19, and we need answers and justice. This tragedy cannot have been for nothing.
In the statement of claim, Surette says her mother was moved from a single room on March 26 to a shared room and bathroom in Northwood Centre. Surette says she objected to the move.
The statement of claim says Northwood struggled with maintaining communications with families while providing care to residents and “knew, or ought to have known, that elderly residents should not be housed in a Long-Term Care Facility with hundreds of other elderly residents and staff members, all in close proximity with one another, and without appropriate and effective physical distancing and quarantining measures in place.”
Murray Stenton, communications advisor for Northwood, says they received notification of legal action, and “will carefully review and vigorously respond.”
Read the full story here.
2. One day in the streets doesn’t stop injustice, but it does show how Black lives matter
El Jones shares stories from the Justice for Regis rally on Saturday and the stories she hears often. There’s the young Black man who Jones talks with on Monday after the rally. He’s one of a few prisoners who’s filed a habeas application challenging his and others prisoners’ solitary confinement. He tells Jones he wishes he could protest.
I tell him that they are doing something bigger than protesting. They’re fighting for the rights of all prisoners. Be strong tomorrow, I say. Be confident. People are with you.
Jones talks with Santina Rao, the young Black mother who was arrested in front of her children in a Walmart in January. Rao tells Jones she’s devastated by what’s happening.
I can’t stop thinking about George Floyd, and how an officer pressed his knee into his neck, the same way they did it to me here. The exact same way. For similar reasons, too.
They lost their lives, yet here I am alive. One of the lucky ones. Even if some people wouldn’t call a broken wrist, concussion, lacerations and trauma lucky, I do. Because I’m still alive. I wasn’t suffocated to death on camera. Or thrown off a balcony. Or run over. Shot in the face. Killed in my own house.
Jones shares more stories — from prisoners at Renous; from Yusuf Faqiri, whose brother, Soleiman was killed in jail; from Lynn Jones and other elder women; from the mother of the 15-year-old boy beaten by police outside a mall in Bedford. Jones shares all these stories of heartbreak, but there’s also hope.
Justice also looks like Black and Indigenous people organizing together, and white people holding the line for hours in the street to protect Black and brown and Indigenous people from police.
It is young people and elders speaking together. It is communities arguing about strategy, and those who choose to use their energy to work for community in other ways. It is the people who do the work of organizing unseen: the banner makers, the crowd marshals, the people bringing water. It is the man walking the crowd for hours with hand sanitizer, tirelessly offering it to people. It is fighting and dancing. It is kneeling and protesting. This is how we practice. This is how we learn what justice feels like. This is how our lives matter.
Read the full story here.
3. Halifax Water cuts costs and keeps rates flat
Halifax Water may have cancelled a rate hike for this year, but hikes are on the way next year. Zane Woodford reports on Halifax Water’s rate application the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) heard on Monday. Halifax Water’s application in February included rate hikes of 5.8% for the average residential ratepayer effective Sep. 1. Another increase of 5.8% would be effective April 1, 2021.
But as Woodford reports, after the COVID-19 crisis hit, the utility changed its application and won’t raise any rates this fiscal year. Next year, only the wastewater treatment charge will go up, by 32 cents per 1,000 litres.
Halifax Water will also cut costs by $1.9 million in dip into surpluses from previous years.
Read the full story here.
4. Heritage Trust appeal thrown out, board upholds Halifax development decision
Zane Woodford reports on the Utility and Review Board (UARB) tossing out Heritage Trust’s appeal of a development approval on Brunswick Street.
In July 2019, Brunswick Street Developments Ltd. got approval for a development agreement for a 42-unit, eight-storey residential building at 2267 Brunswick St. The next month, Heritage Trust appealed the URAB’s decision, arguing the Halifax and West community council, which approved the agreement, “erred in approving the development agreement” because it “did not reasonably carry out the overall intent of the municipal planning strategy” (MPS).
On Monday, the UARB announced it was upholding the council’s decision, saying Heritage Trust “has not met the burden to persuade the Board, on the balance of probabilities, that Council’s decision fails to reasonably carry out the intent of the MPS as a whole, and in particular those policies which address heritage properties, areas, and resources.”
Read the full story here.
5. We’ll soon be driving more again, so watch out for animals that have gotten used to car-free roads
As Nova Scotia slowly reopens, there will be more drivers on the road. And that means more potential for collisions with the wildlife that have enjoyed us not driving on the road so often. Stay the blazes home, the animals say.
Yvette d’Entremont interviewed Karen Beazley, a biodiversity and conservation professor at Dalhousie University, who says animals have changed their behaviour and have adapted to quieter spaces.
Our worry is they’ve started to get more onto the road or have less wariness about human presence and traffic on the roads. They may have gotten a little used to being out and about, and so if we pick up our presence and movements we would anticipate it might suddenly boomerang to a higher incidence of collision.
Beazly tells d’Entremont there are already anecdotal reports from researchers who say fewer salamanders and turtles being killed on the roads.
And Beazly points out there’s a benefit to us, too, in working from home.
People have slowed down and maybe they’ve heard the birds and seen some things as the city’s been quieter. I’ve noticed a lot more birdsong and I saw a pileated woodpecker, various other things and so maybe others have as well. That might have enlarged their consciousness a bit.
Read the full story here.
“This is my beautiful family. They are not the same colour as me.”
Yesterday, Donalda MacIsaac, a good friend of mine, called me to read to me a post she saw on Facebook. She started reading and was in tears within moments. It was a story about a woman whose husband and children have experienced racism in Nova Scotia. Then she told me about the author. It was her daughter-in-law, Lisa Lively-MacIsaac (“those are my grandbabies,” Donalda said). Here’s what Lively-MacIsaac posted:
This is my beautiful family. They are not the same colour as me. The colour of their skin is not the only thing we don’t have in common. All 5 have lived and experienced racism in our little corner of the world. My anger and hurt runs deep because these are MY people. They have LIVED it, I have experienced it. I have wiped tears, hugged, advocated, prayed with and had endless conversations. But enough is enough. When I tell my boys to make sure their hoods are down when they walk through our neighbourhood. To keep their hands out of their pockets when we are in the store. To work harder in school than the kids beside them, because they need to FIGHT for opportunity. When my husband is pulled over by the police, and the officer looks at me and asks if “I’m ok”. When my daughter has mud rubbed on her at school. When my son hides in the bathroom at school. When my husband is asked if he has drugs on him. When all have been called the “n” word at school and in our neighbourhood. When my son is asked why his skin is dirty. These are just some examples. They have LIVED it, I have experienced it. My kids will now make excuses, mom they don’t understand, mom they just aren’t educated, mom they are old. It’s time to wake up! Enough with the excuses. Become an anti-racist. Black lives matter. #blacklivesmatter @hearthalifax
Lively MacIsaac is a school teacher in Halifax. Her husband, Micah, is a social worker. Their four children are Rocco, 15, Dawson, 13, Penelope, 10, and Scarlett, 8. I spoke with Lively-MacIsaac yesterday afternoon about her Facebook post and her family’s story.
I posted it because it’s been on my heart for a long time and it seemed like the right time to write about it. What’s going on in the world, here in Canada and the States, it just gives us a platform to talk about it. I feel like there’s so much hurt underneath it and people don’t understand it until they actually had to live it. I am white, my husband is Black, and our kids are biracial, but it’s something we talk about all the time in the house, but we don’t share it with others. It’s not because we’re embarrassed. It’s a problem we’ve just dealt with inside of our home. But now, I feel like today, especially with the blackout on social media, I felt comfortable enough to share how I felt and shared our own experiences. I think people are shocked this happens in our own backyards. I am a teacher. I see it happen at school. I see it with my own kids. I see it with stories from my husband.
And the MacIsaacs have stories.
A couple of months ago Lisa and Micah were pulled over by the Halifax Regional Police. Micah was driving and the car is registered in Lisa’s name.
HRP looked at me and said, “Are you okay?” I said, “What?” He wouldn’t even address Micah because Micah was driving my car.
Last week, two of her kids were walking home from a friend’s house. A woman driving a car stopped and said, “You have a nice tans.” Her son told Lisa not to get upset, saying the woman was old and didn’t understand the colour of their skin.
At school, one of their daughters, who’s in Grade 3, had mud rubbed on her and garbage thrown at her during lunch by three boys. Lisa and Micah had no idea it was going on. The teacher found out and talked to the boys, who said “we don’t want a n-word in our classroom.” The teacher called Lisa and Micah right away. The principal talked to the parents of the boys.
Really, that’s still an issue? All of them have been called the n-word.
Her sons were on an all-Black hockey team. Before one game, they were waiting outside the BMO Centre when a coach from another team walked by and said, “Oh look, they’re trying to take over hockey now.”
My kids heard it. We heard it.
The MacIsaacs talk about these stories all the time at home, often over family dinners. Lisa says the boys know if they go running, they should wear running clothes, not regular clothes, because they don’t want anyone to think they’re running with something. When they go to the store the kids keep their hands outside of their pockets and they keep their hoods down when they go for a walk.
These are warnings that get passed down through generations, Lisa says.
Micah says his mom (Donalda) told me to keep my hands out of my pockets when I was that age, too, and here we are still telling our kids 25 years later. These are conversations we have all the time at the house. It’s normal for us. This is how it works in our world and this is how it works in the white world. It’s become normal for us. I think I forget sometimes how different it is for us.
The boys know if something happens, they should get out their phones and record it.
There are conversations white people need to have with their families, at their dinner tables, too. Lisa has suggestions on how to start.
Learning that this is happening in our own communities. Learning that it’s all around us. Learning that the kids need to hear it from Grade Primary, before they go to school.
In her classroom last year, she had one student tell her their mother said the n-word wasn’t a big deal to say. Lisa says she spent the next two weeks doing class work on the origins of the word.
You’re reversing all these remarks for so long. By the time they get into junior high, the grades I teach, it’s so ingrained in them.
Also do not be colour blind. This whole idea, “Oh, I don’t see colour.” We honour the colour of your skin. It took me a long time to teach [my kids] that’s a beautiful part of you. I don’t want them to be invisible. These things you’re saying in your home, your kids are listening. If you’re watching the news and you have an opinion, your child is listening to you. It’s reversing it, shutting it down, having these grand conversations, however you have to do it. I think it happens all around us. Let’s talk about the hurt. Let’s talk about why we have these prejudices and reach out to the Black community and say, “We need to do better.” I feel like we could all do better.
Lisa says her kids are very aware of what’s happening in Canada and the U.S.
I want them to understand why people do it and why we would be part of it as well and how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and stand up for yourself.
The hardest part of it is the reality of it. It’s the reality that makes us cry. As much as we try to say it’s just normal for us. Having those conversations at the dinner table and realizing not everyone has those conversations. It’s so upsetting that it’s taking this, seeing a Black man die before us on a screen, to make people say, “Oh, now I want to listen. Now you have my full attention.’” It shouldn’t have taken what happened to George Floyd to have this conversation in Halifax. Black people have had enough, they are frustrated. I am tired of it. My kids are tired of it. My husband is tired of it.
Lisa says Micah was scrolling through social media yesterday, crying, saying he had never seen so much support for the Black community. But the conversations need to happen after the social media hashtags have moved on to a new one.
I say keep talking about it, keep learning. Ask people. Dig for more information. Read books. Educate yourself. As a teacher I am constantly learning. There’s so much to learn. We need to keep educating ourselves and not being ignorant to it, not ignorant as in rude, but just silent. Not saying anything makes it worse. People will say, “I don’t know what to say.” Say something. Share this. Don’t stay silent.
There needs to be change. People need to listen. Stop talking and listen. Shut up and listen. Take the time to reach out to your neighbour. Maybe it’s someone you don’t even know. Just listen.
In north-end Dartmouth, there are two organizations that joined together and have a new name. The Dartmouth North Community Food Centre and the Dartmouth Family Centre are now known as The North Grove.
If you’re not familiar with it, The North Grove is a community hub on Primrose Street where people can have dinner, take cooking classes, participate in family programming, grow a garden plot, and connect with community. The staff also advocate for public policies that promote well-being of people and communities. They do good work in Dartmouth north.
The new name was announced a couple of weeks ago. It moved from its former location on Albro Lake Road to its new spot with the food centre. Yesterday, I met with Caralee McDaniel, who’s the manager of the family centre. This August marks the fifth anniversary for the food centre. The family resource centre celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. When they came together under one roof, McDaniel says they all thought a new name would be a way to reintroduce themselves to the community. Combining each of the organizations’ previous names was too long, confusing, and quite a mouthful. The north in the name is a nod to its north-end Dartmouth roots. McDaniel says the grove means a stand of trees that are sheltering.
It really resonated as a name. We as a staff stand together for and with our community, but our participants of the community, we all stand together and shelter each other. I remember when I first heard it I thought, ‘That’s it. We’re the North Grove.’
Like so many other community organizations, The North Grove has had to adjust to working with restrictions under COVID-19. The centre itself closed on the first day of March Break.
It took us a good two weeks to come up with a solid plan that would keep the staff and the community safe while still providing as much support as we could.
The first thing they did was organize meals and food distribution around the end of March. On two days each week, people from the community can stop by and pick up meals, all while properly socially distancing. A team of drivers deliver bags of produce, along with diapers, formula, and personal care items for those in need, twice a week.
McDaniel says they are talking about some plans to reopen, adding the process will likely be assessed each month as they go. She says Dr. Robert Strang and his office are working with non-profits to look at safe ways to reopen and restart programming. The food centre has a large dining space, but they can’t fill it with people for a while. The program spaces in the family centre are large enough to hold about 10 people, but to include appropriate social distancing likely won’t work.
McDaniel says one of the biggest challenges has been reorganizing everyone and everything remotely. She says there have been lots of Zoom meetings, lots of phone calls, and lots of emails.
As staff, we’re a very social group and our organizations are very social and community connections have been one of the biggest things people appreciate about the work that we do. I think the biggest thing for us was trying to do everything remotely and how can we still be supportive, how can we be supportive of each other, all while being remote.
They did replicate some of their family programming online, including through Zoom and interactive Facebook posts. But McDaniel says not everyone has the proper devices, internet service, or computer literacy. They also have a list of participants from programs that has been divvied up and each staff has a group of clients they call often. There’s also an emergency number that was handed out so anyone needing to speak to someone can call.
We tried to come up with various ways to keep connected with people and recognizing the people who come to our programs and services also want to connect with each other, which has been hard. The Zoom programs have helped a bit, but it has its limits.
McDaniel says the crisis has really exposed issues that already existed in Dartmouth north such as those around mental health, and missing connections to programs, people, and services in the community. The staff work to connect clients with other resources through emails or notices sent in food delivery and takeout bags.
McDaniel says having the family centre move into the same space as the food centre means the two groups can collaborate more. The five home visitors who used to visit clients in their own homes are still connecting with people online and through phone calls, but they are also the food delivery team.
COVID has also given us a chance to do work we normally wouldn’t have done and to get together in different ways. That’s been a positive for us.
The community gardens outside are already blooming. But even how clients work here will look different. As always, the food grown here will be used by the kitchen in the food centre or put in the produce bags. But instead of having clients grow food on-site, they will be sent grow kits so they can grow food at home. Rob MacNeish, the garden coordinator, will offer support through tutorials, online and in-person.
This has taught us things can really be done differently. We want to move back to in-person and that’s our whole reason for being, but it has helped us be really creative in the ways we stay connected and support people.
McDaniel says in the meantime, they’re all looking forward to reopening.
I think our participants miss us, we miss them, we miss each other as staff. We will work together really carefully, and thoughtfully, for the day we can reopen, even if it’s starting small to the day we can have a grand opening and have everyone in the new space.
In the harbour
06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
09:00: FSL Singapore, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
11:30: Ef Ava sails for Portland
I will be dropping into an office where I worked a few days a week pre-COVID. I’ll be safe and socially distanced, of course. It will be weird being around people after working from home every day for more than two months.
The comments made by Lisa Lively-MacIsaac “This is my beautiful family. They are not the same colour as me.” Are all painfully true. I have seen all the same things with my family.
Nearly 50 years ago I adopted two children, one white and one black. When you raise daughters of different races, you see first -hand that race is not a real biological thing. Four genes for skin colour and your whole life can be transformed for better or worse. It affects your treatment by others, your prospects in life, your self esteem, your friends….
Most Nova Scotians assume there is no racism, but it is not true. It doesn’t take a lot of subtle insults, or apartments lost, or jobs never given, or unfair police behavior to lower your self esteem and make you realize that you can’t make a real life for yourself in Halifax. My heart breaks for the young African Canadians who no longer expect fair treatment.
There has not been enough progress here. Halifax’s racist past won’t go away until we all acknowledge the pain we collectively inflict on African Canadians and work to change it.
I have seen it from both sides and when members of our African Canadian community tell you about unfair treatment, believe them. What they say is true.