News

1. Indigenous employee talks about harassment at CFB Halifax

Ashley Burke with CBC talks with Steve Morrisey who’s now on sick leave from his job at DND from the harassment he says he suffered from a superior on the job. Morrisey tells Burke “it was hell.”

It’s been just one complete disaster. The harassment policies and everything are supposed to be there to protect you. And there was no protection. I was hung out to dry because I’m a civilian, and he’s a military chief. They protect their own.

For 17 years, Morrisey worked Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, which included three years as its national co-chair. He says the harassment began when he went back to his position as a computer support technician at CFB Halifax. In 2015, Morrisey submitted a complaint saying his superior asked him to have a “powwow” and accused him of “playing the Indian card.” The investigation by DND found two incidents of harassment.

CFB Halifax. Photo: Wikipedia

Morrisey is now on sick leave for depression and anxiety and has applied for long-term disability. He says the military remains an Old Boys Club while it’s trying to recruit Indigenous members. CBC reached out to DND for comment and spoke with Capt. Guillaume Lafrance:

We fully understand that the Canadian society is changing. The workforce is evolving. We are embracing diversity as much as we can.

Some mentalities need to be changed. This takes time. We don’t have the perfect 100-percent solution yet but we are working at it.

2. Halifax courthouse not accessible

Elizabeth McSheffrey at Global talks with accessibility advocates, including Paul Vienneau, about the courthouse on Spring Garden Road. The province says the building is accessible; advocates say it’s not. The building has a ramp, but signage is an issue. Anyone who needs to use one of the two elevators inside needs special permission to do so.

McSheffrey spoke with Sarah Young, who has a neuromuscular disorder called Friedreich’s Ataxia, which makes taking the stairs inside the building difficult. So she has to rely on the elevator and a sheriff who can help her access it.

Nobody should have to ask where the accessible entrance is, I mean accessibility is a right it should be clearly marked, and again, it’s a government building.

They escort you on and they escort you off to the top floor, and well, I mean, last time I checked, if I need somebody else to do it, it wasn’t accessible.

Paul Vienneau. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Vienneau says the building needs upgrades to let people know about its accessible features.

If you come in the door and you have to search for somebody with a magical key, that’s not really accessible, because everybody else can take for granted walking in the door, going up and doing what they need to do.

The province did commit to putting up the proper signs and reviewing the heritage building for other accessibility issues. The province passed the Accessibility Act in 2017, which will make buildings across Nova Scotia more accessible by 2030.

3. Parents concerned by delays in pre-primary program

School starts in a few weeks, but some parents in Fairview and Clayton Park don’t know the status of the pre-primary programs in their area, reports Alexa MacLean with Global. In the spring, the province announced the program would be expanding to 56 new schools. This is year three of the four-year rollout of the program for four-year-old children. But there are delays at some of the programs, including École Burton Ettinger Elementary and Duc d’Anville Elementary in Clayton Park. MacLean talked with parent Lynn Liao who said she just learned the basic details of where and when the pre-primary program was starting in Fairview.

We didn’t know whether to give notification to our current day care as to whether we were leaving in September or not and I was nervous, I didn’t want to give them notification, so we never gave them notification so we’re still paying for September and if pre-primary does start and we also have to get before and after care then I’m incurring double the fees.

The pre-primary program at Duc d’Anville Elementary in Clayton Park is delayed.

The program at Duc d’Anville, meanwhile, is delayed by a month. MacLean spoke with Steve Gallagher with the Halifax Regional Education Centre who said four new portables are being built on the school grounds to make up for lack of space.

The portable classrooms traditionally used at other schools cannot be used at Duc d’Anville because of site and space constraints. A different approach was needed and staff are working on designing and building new portables, each with its own washroom facility, that will fit within these constraints, while offering the best programming options for our pre-Primary children

4. Downtown mural defaced with graffiti

Screenshot of Beatles-themed mural from CTV.

A mural in downtown Halifax that was part of a beautification project was spray painted with graffiti. Amber Solberg, one of the organizers behind the mural project on Blowers Street, told CTV she believes the mural was vandalized Wednesday night.

Sometime in broad daylight, in front of so many people, someone came by and just spray painted it. I feel sick just looking at it.

About 60 people have been working on the Beatles-themed project since July and it’s about halfway finished. The parts of the mural with the graffiti will have to be painted over. The artwork is part of a program called Gritty to Pretty.

The mural project was funded by money from Downtown Halifax, whose executive director, Paul MacKinnon, says they will contribute more money toward the repairs.

It’s just really unfortunate that in the process of trying to beautify something, someone just kind of took it upon themselves to really just wreck what is a beautiful community project.

5. Mystery of stolen purse not in the bag just yet

Francis Campbell at the Chronicle Herald has a fun story about a Halifax woman who found her stolen purse, 39 years after it went missing.

Liz Campbell was working at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, on Grafton Street in Halifax when on Dec. 1, 1980, she went Christmas shopping. She took cash out of her purse and left the bag in a filing cabinet at her office. Then it disappeared. She filed a police report, but the purse was never found.

She fit all that stuff in that purse? Photo: Liz Campbell

Then Brendan Sage, an employee at Smarter Spaces, the new tenant where Campbell’s former employer was located, found the purse when he was doing 3D scanning of mechanical conditions in the ceilings of the women’s washrooms. He went through its contents, found Campbell’s ID, tracked her down through Facebook, and returned the purse to her. Campbell says the purse was like a time capsule, with car keys, her birth certificate, and some makeup.

There was a full packet of Certs in there and the package still looks brand new. I offered my daughter one, but after 40 years, I think I’ll pass.

Campbell plans on keeping the purse and its contents.

This story just reminds me I need to clean out my purse.


Views

1. A look at who’s paying less than a living wage

I wrote about living wages before, here, here, and here. For some time, I had a handful of people sending along job postings with terrible wages, with many of the jobs requiring a degree. I hadn’t been looking or receiving any lately, so I thought I’d ask and look around myself to see if employers were still offering dismal wages.

And yes, they are.

I asked friends and social media followers to send along any postings they found for jobs that pay less than a living wage. I’m sure when September hits and everyone is back to the routines of school and work, there will be more jobs posted. I will do another search then.

A reminder that according to Living Wage Canada, a living wage in Halifax is &19.17/hour (it’s $17.30 in Antigonish).

A competitive wage is not a living wage. A competitive wage means employers can pay as poorly as their competitors are paying.

The minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $11.55.

Some of these jobs require post-secondary training (a degree or diploma). Others say they don’t. All pay under the living wage.

I want to say first that my goal here is not to shame people for what they earn. People do what they need to do to feed and take care of their families. I think these employees deserve more. For a lot of people, it’s tough to get out of that cycle of low-paying work. For new university graduates, it’s tough to find their first jobs that will pay enough to help with student loan payments and the increasing costs of housing. Many older workers are pushed out of workplaces so companies can hire younger talent they can pay less. I think sharing these job postings gives people a look at what job hunters are facing now. If you make a good salary, great! I’m happy for you. Someone told me that these people “should just work harder and get a better paying job.” But working hard doesn’t always guarantee a good income; often it’s about other factors, including having the right connections.

Let’s take a look:

Real Estate Marketing Coordinator

Pay: $11.55/hour, ft
Benefits: not listed
Education required: not included
Responsibilities: Designing materials for agents, database management, social media management, writing and editing marketing releases and other marketing materials, and tracking and analyzing agent referrals

This job doesn’t ask for a degree or diploma, but the skills they’re asking for clearly require some post-secondary training in marketing or public relations. All for minimum wage. What does the average real estate agent make in commissions?

Recreation program leader
Pay: $12/hour, ft
Benefits: Health and life insurance benefits
Education required: Degree/Diploma relating to Recreation /Education/Child Studies or related experience; CPR and first aid training
Responsibilities: Providing recreational activities for children ages five to 12 and assisting head program leader

I always say we value our children, but not the people who take care of or mentor them. Any job in childcare involves a lot of responsibility yet the pay is often terrible.

Also, the CEO of this organization makes $155,000 a year, which I don’t have an issue with unless you’re paying your staff just above minimum wage.

Recreation program leader
Pay: $11:55/hour, pt leading to ft
Benefits: Not listed
Education required: High school
Responsibilities: Providing recreational activities for children ages five to 12 and assisting head program leader

This job is virtually the same as the one above that prefers the degree, but it pays minimum wage.

Labourer
Pay:
$14, ft
Benefits: Not listed
Education required: Not listed
Responsibilities: Working in a scrap metal recycling facility, picking the line, loading and unloading materials by hand or with equipment, packing, unpacking and sorting goods, maintaining inventory

I scoured job boards myself, outside of the communications, administrative assistant, and childcare jobs that were sent my way. I found this one and a few details stand out. This job doesn’t require any post-secondary education, but the pay is terrible for what seems like a pretty physically-demanding job. The hours are back shift in a remote location where there’s no public transit, so the candidate would need a car. Also, the workweek is 55 hours, six days a week, with Sundays off. Will the employer pay overtime after 48 hours?

I also found several reviews for jobs with this employer. The reviews were mixed, with some saying the pay and coworkers were good and staff got lunches and doughnuts on the Saturday shift (can’t you do this and pay better?).  Other reviewers said the owners were disrespectful and labourers deal with poor working conditions.

Administrative support assistant
Pay: $13 to $15/hour, ft
Benefits: not listed
Education required: High school or secretarial experience
Responsibilities: Support to management, answering calls and emails, planning meetings, taking minutes, lots of administrative duties

Okay, this job doesn’t require a degree or diploma, but the workplace is located in an area with no access to public transportation, so the candidate should have a car. I see this a lot, too. Jobs with companies not on bus routes and with managers who want staff to own vehicles while paying them less than $15/hr.

Corporate services administrator
Pay: $11.55 to $15.67/hour, ft
Benefits: Yes, including health, dental, life insurance
Education required: Diploma with some years or high school with several years experience
Responsibilities: internal and external marketing, sponsorship, social media, web content, develops and maintains databases

It’s great this gig offers benefits, but if the candidate gets minimum wage, what’s the net pay?

Bookkeeper
Pay: $16/hr, ft
Benefits: not listed
Education required: degree
Responsibilities: Taking care of financial statements, reports, plus some administrative duties. Candidates must be bilingual (English and Chinese).

I always do the math on these things, so if this gig pays $16/hr at a 37.5-hour workweek, that’s $31,200. I checked out the cost of a four-year commerce degree at Dalhousie and, well, it’s more than what this job pays.

Entry-level tech support (data intelligence)
Pay: $14/hour, ft
Benefits: health, dental, vision
Education required: Some level of college/university with technical focus or a combo of work/education experience
Responsibilities: telemarketing duties, including outbound calls selling upgrades, responding to customers through email and phone

This company has several listings on the site, some of which pay more than $20/hr, although those positions require the candidate work from 4 a.m. to noon. When I see a company post jobs this frequently, it either means they’re in a rapid growth stage or there is huge turnover. At this pay, I’m guessing turnover is an issue.

Volunteer sports writers and editors
Pay: None! Well, “exposure”
Benefits: not listed
Education required: Journalism degree or diploma, but will consider all “hard workers”
Responsibilities: Researching, interviewing, and writing. Must submit at least one article a week

Where do I start? A lot of people working in creative fields such as journalism, art, and music are used to seeing these kinds of ads and getting requests to work for free. I think volunteer work is important, but that’s not what this is. Never work for free with a promise you might get paid down the road. As a friend said recently, “You can die of exposure.”

If you don’t have funds when starting a business to pay your staff, you’re not a very good businessperson.

The two best pieces of advice I got in journalism school were to never go to HR to get a job because it’s their job to get rid of you (meaning when you’re looking for a job, go directly to the boss you will be working with). And you don’t have to start at the bottom.

My advice to journalism grads? Don’t work for free. Your time and talent is worth compensation. You can get exposure and paid at the same time!

Here’s a good Twitter account where artists share their experiences with being asked to work for exposure.

Brand ambassador
Pay: $11.57/hour, pt
Benefits: Not listed
Education required: Graduate or current college grad or 1-2 years of customer service experience
Responsibilities: Set up and tear down at events, assist colleagues and the public, represent the brand at events and make sure events go smoothly. Develop content for social media

Two cents more than minimum wage! But this is only a part-time gig at minimum wage, so if you’re not in school, you’d have to have another job. But this gig requires a flexible schedule, including weekend, evening, and holiday shifts. It would be tough to find another gig to work around those hours.

After I put out my call for job postings in Monday’s Morning File, I got an email from Evelyn White, a contributor to the Examiner. White works as a tutor at NSCC during the school year, October to May. She works with African Nova Scotian students, students of African descent, as well as marginalized students. White says her contract states tutors can work up to 13.5 hours a week, but she says she usually works one to three hours a week, maybe six hours at the height of exams.

White started the job six years ago when the pay was $18/hour. She just got her new contract and that rate is the same. There hasn’t been a raise in the rate in six years.

White is more than qualified for the job. She’s an alumna of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and was honoured for her master’s thesis on The Racial Development of Blind Black Children. And she’s the official biographer of Alice Walker, the writer best known for The Color Purple. In other words, she’s more than qualified to be helping students at NSCC with writing their essays and preparing for exams. She deserves more than the $18/hr she’s paid.

I would not be unhappy with $25 or $30 an hour. I can say with humility I know what I’m doing when I teach students how to write an essay.

For comparison, my daughter has a private math tutor who charges $30 an hour and she’s worth every penny. White says she enjoys her work with the students and says she understands how important it is for these students to work with someone who looks like them. And she appreciates the mandate of NSCC.

It’s been extremely gratifying for me as someone whose education had been shaped by Black teachers.

For me, community college is where it’s at.

But after six years, White says the wage for tutors must increase.

As a newcomer here and getting hired, I knew instinctively what it should be in terms of the wage. I don’t know what it will take to change their wage scale and look at the ways it’s exploitative.

White also says there needs to be more advocacy around wages in Nova Scotia.

I think people don’t recognize how many people are struggling to make ends meet.

When I talked with White and others about jobs in Nova Scotia, I often heard some of the same concerns, especially around attitudes about wages. As White mentions, there’s doesn’t seem to be the advocacy required to change. We are often told we should be grateful to have a job at all. It’s not polite to talk about money, so employees take what they can, even when they deserve more.

One of the interesting arguments I’ve heard about a universal basic income (UBI) is that such a program would make employers up their game in terms of wages. Those receiving an UBI wouldn’t have to take just any jobs, terrible jobs, to get by. They’d have a cushion of support while looking for the right job at a good wage. And employers would have to make jobs more attractive, including by increasing wages, to attract the best candidates.

I was glad to hear about The Fight for $15 and Fairness, which is not just about wages, but also more protection for workers. Let’s see more of this.

I’m interested in seeing more job postings that pay less than a living wage, and your ideas on how we can change it.


Noticed

Yesterday, I was heading to Port Hawkesbury for a meeting and while I was driving, which is how I do my best thinking — or clearest thinking, at least — I thought about Evelyn White and how she must influence the students she tutors at NSCC. In those few hours a week, she’s sharing wisdom and advice with them that will shape their careers and lives. And as I headed to Cape Breton, I remembered how an interview with Linden MacIntyre with the Fifth Estate shaped my decision to pursue a career in journalism.

In the spring of 1992, I had reconstructive jaw surgery as a part of an orthodontic plan to fix an overbite and recessive chin. I was 21 at the time. The surgery went well enough, but about a week after experiencing nosebleeds I was sent back to the hospital for tests. The swelling was subsiding in my face and the bruises were fading, but a lump in my right sinus didn’t seem to want to go away. I stayed a couple of nights and shared a room with several other young women, all of whom were getting ready for the same surgery that week. I remember one young woman in the bed next to me because she had bright red hair. Her family was there visiting before she had surgery the next day.

I went home when the nosebleeds stopped but days later was taken to emergency with hemorrhaging. The doctors unwired my jaw and packed my sinuses with what look like tampons. I was in the hospital for about three weeks after. I don’t remember much of the first bit as I was knocked out on morphine.

Linden MacIntyre. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Eventually, the bleeding stopped and my jaw was rewired. I can’t remember all the details, but it seems I had an infection in my sinus that was pressing on an artery. I went home and back to work and gained back the almost 30 lbs I lost from eating only Instant Breakfast shakes, Cream of Wheat, and broth for about six weeks. I got straight teeth and a few steel wires in my jaw; if you see them on an x-ray they’re twisted in knots and bows.

And then a producer from the Fifth Estate called.

That young woman with the red hair in the bed next to mine had the same complications I did and died as a result. She was 19.

She was from Cape Breton and apparently Linden MacIntyre heard her story. And through some small-world, Nova Scotia connections, a family member of mine heard about this young woman and told her family about me.

MacIntyre and a crew came to visit and interviewed me about the surgery and resulting complications. They interviewed the young woman’s family and a number of other patients across Canada who experienced complications from similar jaw surgery.

It was a tough interview and I thought about that young woman quite often. I think it took me months to watch the entire segment.

I was wracked with nerves but MacIntyre was gracious and asked good questions. I enjoyed watching the crew set up with the lights and MacIntyre doing the re-asks of the questions. I grew up writing (mostly poems) but as a teen and young adult I was a news and documentary junkie. I watched all those investigative shows like W5 and the American ones like Investigative Reports, and Biography on what used to be A&E. And, of course, I watched the Fifth Estate. While I was recovering in the hospital in May 1992, I watched the news. The stories that dominated that month were the Westray disaster and the murders of the staff at the McDonalds on Kings Road in Sydney River, just a five-minute walk from my grandmother’s house.

That one interview and seeing how that story — that young woman’s story, my story, those other patients’ stories — came together inspired me to pursue a career in journalism. I went on and finished a bachelor of arts and then moved to Toronto for the two-year program at Ryerson University. I wanted to work in television, maybe even on the Fifth Estate. I did a couple of stints in television news, but eventually moved on to print. Over the last 15 years, I met many others in media whose work influenced me, too, and who gave me opportunities (like Tim!)

I think about the spring of 1992 whenever I go to the VG. They have the same soap in the dispensers and the smell of it brings me back to that time. Every May for the last 27 years, I think about that young woman with the red hair. I think about her parents. And I think about Linden MacIntyre.

Our stories are shaped by many things: chance meetings, random connections, funny moments, those small-world quirks, and tragedies. It’s a privilege that people share their stories with journalists who then find the words to share them with everyone else. In all the changes in media business, I don’t think this will ever change.

So, thank you to Linden MacIntyre, for sharing that young woman’s story, my stories, and our stories. We never know how they will turn out.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Mount Saint Vincent

Saturday

Africville: A Spirit That Lives On (Saturday, 2pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — opening reception with refreshments. From the listing:

In 1989, MSVU Art Gallery, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, and the Africville Genealogical Society collaborated on the exhibition Africville: A Spirit That Lives On. The exhibition, catalogue, and symposium celebrated the legacy and spirit of Africville and set the benchmark for collaborative, community driven exhibitions. Today, on the 30th anniversary of the exhibition, the collaborators have reunited and are joined by the Africville Museum, to create a project looking back at the original exhibition and take the opportunity to reflect on what has happened since.

ASL interpretation is available by request for all public programs – please email for more information.


Public Gardens

Friday

Mamma Mia! (Friday, 9pm, Public Gardens) —  FIN (Atlantic International Film Festival) movie sing-along and costume contest. More info here.


In the harbour

06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:15: YM Modesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
07:00: Ocean Force, ro-ro container, arrives at berth TBD from Saint-Pierre
15:00: Mol Paramount, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
16:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for sea
17:00: YM Modesty sails for New York

No cruise ships this weekend.


Footnotes

Yesterday, I was in Antigonish and trying to find the visitor information centre. It’s in a building with a gas station but I ended up in another location of that same gas station chain because I took too many turns in that roundabout between the new highway and old highway. My GPS didn’t recognize the civic address for where I was going. I asked the gas station clerk how to get back to the other station. He gave me clear directions, complete with landmarks like, “drive past that vacant lot,” and then summed up my situation:

You’re in the right church but in the wrong pew.

This was the first time I heard this idiom; I am a bad Nova Scotian, I guess. And I did find my way to the correct location.

Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Showtime start for Mama Mia is now 8:30 – gate opens at 8:00 (due to weather postponement; dusk is earlier now)

  2. I am completely not surprised that the same policies which have created the same conditions in most big cities in North America are producing the same conditions in Halifax – wages which are stagnant or falling in real terms and soaring housing costs. Who could possibly have predicted that, in a province where employers have more or less unlimited access to skilled foreign workers who have essentially no rights or labour mobility once hired in Canada, wages for entry-level skilled work are pretty close to minimum wage?

    The various programs in Canada and especially the Atlantic provinces that guarantee the ownership class a very cheap and very precarious workforce absolutely have to go. If people are going to come to Canada as anything other than a tourist they have to have the same rights from day one – but people who are here on a guest worker visa, as TFWs, or skilled workers hired through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program do not have any real labour rights. I’m not saying that it is necessarily what is going on with the examples Suzanne Rent gave, but in my field entry level salaries are almost 10,000 dollars lower than they were a decade ago and an unlimited supply of cheap entry level workers who cannot change jobs for several years is a big part of that.

  3. This doesn’t account for the roughy 2,000 Nova Scotians, mostly with intellectual disabilities, in Sheltered Workshops, aka Social Enterprises who receive just pennies an hour for their labor. Although they produce real products, they do not receive the fruits of their labor. Significant retail sales are appropriated as general revenue for the organization.

    What is most irksome is the validation this gives to the ‘othering’ of people. Although the province has minimum wage legislation and other labour standards, we can’t figure out a way to treat participants in these programs like anyone else.

    Have you heard of ‘segregation’? Look no further.

  4. Suzanne- lovely story about your operation and the girl with the red hair. Way to get the tears flowing on a Friday morning!