News

1. Blackface

Writes El Jones:

When the furor over Trudeau’s Blackface photos dies down, to be referred to as an “embarrassing incident” or “controversial,” Black people like Abdilahi Elmi will still be facing deportation. Muslim Canadians will still be on the no-fly list. White nationalist editorials will still be commissioned by major newspapers under the guise of “debate.” And immigration will still be referred to as a “crisis.”

Click here to read “Photos of Trudeau in Blackface don’t surprise Black people; we live this racist reality.”

2. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

“It has always been my belief that as everywhere else in the world, this mill can coexist in the environment of Nova Scotia,” Premier McNeil told the Halifax Examiner yesterday in response to a question about a recent Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision. “But they have to prove that to the regulator and they have to do so in a different way than Boat Harbour.”

Boat Harbour is the toxic effluent treatment facility next door to the Pictou Landing First Nation in northern Nova Scotia. The McNeil government enacted legislation to close down the lagoons by January 31, 2020. After 50 years of dumping, the clock is ticking. Four years after the legislation was introduced, Northern Pulp submitted an environmental assessment report outlining a controversial plan to treat the effluent before piping it into the Northumberland Strait, infuriating lobster fishermen and others. Last April, the Environment Minister found the Environmental Assessment incomplete and requested significantly more information.

Northern Pulp says it will have that focus report demanded by the Minister submitted by the end of this month (it hadn’t been received as of today). But earlier this week, a decision from the Appeal Court questioned whether the NS Minister of Environment (Gordon Wilson) would be capable of delivering an unbiased decision. The Court agreed with the position of the Pictou Landing First Nation that one government department could hardly be expected to act as a regulator of the new wastewater plant while another government department handed six million dollars to the company (Northern Pulp) for preparation work.

“Nowhere does Northern Pulp’s fresh evidence suggest it would build the new (effluent treatment) facility without the province’s funding,” reads the decision by the three-judge panel. “Once the Province approves under the funding agreements, would there be an about-face that denies approval under the Environment Act? Likely, the contractual approval would facilitate the statutory approvals.”

The lawyer for the Pictou Landing First Nation argued the Province had a duty to consult with the band and should not have made a “secret” funding arrangement with the mill’s owners because that could prolong the mill’s operation and the pollution experienced by its neighbours. The NS Appeal Court agreed. As the premier entered an event heralding the Province’s support of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), the Examiner asked the six-million-dollar question. Why didn’t the government tell the public about the money it contributed to Northern Pulp?

“What we funded was the liability associated with us closing down Boat Harbour nine years and 10 months early,” replied Premier McNeil. “What the company does with the money it received is up to the company.”

The premier might want citizens to think their tax dollars didn’t go directly into the preparation of the environmental assessment that could create a conflict-of-interest when the Minister of Environment must decide whether to approve a new treatment system but the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal says that’s probable.

Meanwhile, the Premier suggests there is a much more expensive, high-stakes poker game at play and that’s how much the province will have to pay the mill’s multinational owner for shutting down the treatment facility 10 years before its lease is up. (We can thank the John Hamm government for that lengthy, 28-year lease agreement. The former PC premier continues to serve as Board chair for Northern Pulp Canada.)

McNeil describes the secret $6 million payment made to Northern Pulp as an “advance” on the liability.

“So we made that payment toward what we knew would be a liability for us on closing down Boat Harbour. What we weren’t willing to admit was how much that liability would be. We knew it would be more than $8 million but that would be an ongoing negotiation, or, if the company left, a court decision about how much we owe.”

In budget documents released this past July, the Department of Finance booked $235-million as a potential liability associated with Boat Harbour while indicating this amount may change.

“We were not admitting liability [back in 2017 when the contractual amount was increased from $250,000 to $8 million dollars] until we determined whether the company was leaving,” McNeil said yesterday. “If by closing Boat Harbour and they left, then we would argue about what that liability was. If they are staying in the province, that’s a very different conversation for us. Is it because we closed Boat Harbour or is it because they made a business decision that they are leaving? The legalese is actually to protect both sides.”

The federal Department of Environment is taking another look at whether it has grounds on which to review the project. Once the province receives the focus report from Northern Pulp, it must post the report within two weeks. That in turn triggers a 30-day comment period for the public, after which the NS Environment Minister has “up to 39 days” in which to make a decision. The mill’s owners have previously suggested if the legislation around the January 2020 deadline for Boat Harbour remains unchanged, the mill will close.

3. Cop charged in break in, sexual assault

Two officers with the Halifax Regional Police face charges in separate incidents in the past week.

A 23-year veteran of Halifax Regional Police was in court yesterday, charged with unlawfully entering a home and sexually assaulting the owner. Joseph Farrow, 51, was arrested on Wednesday after the incident in Tantallon.

A news release from the Serious Incident Response Team says the victim and Farrow know each other.

Another officer was arrested last Friday in a theft at a business in Halifax.

Both officers have been suspended with pay.

4. Child care workers complain about transit drivers

A child care worker in Halifax has filed complaints with Halifax Transit saying drivers are refusing service to her and the children in care or driving off before the kids can get into their seats.

Julianne Harnish who works with A Tiny Lab in Halifax told Emmie Davie with CBC there have been two incidents in the past two weeks. Harnish takes care of children between the ages of three and five.

I get stressed out every time we need to take the bus because I never know what kind of service it’s going to be.

In the first incident, Harnish says she, two other adult workers, and 20 children were refused service on one bus, even though she says there were plenty of seats. Harnish says in another incident, the driver pulled away from the stop before all the children were seated.

She posted her experiences on a Facebook for childcare workers and says she learned about similar stories.

A lot of people wrote back saying things like, ‘We don’t even use public transit anymore because of this issue.’

Harnish says she received a reply to her first complaint and was told the issue was addressed with the bus driver.

There seems to be this kind of systemic issue among the Halifax Transit drivers where they don’t enjoy children being on the bus.

Erin DiCarlo, a spokesperson for Halifax Transit, wouldn’t speak on Harnish’s complaints, but says drivers have the discretion to refuse service and can also ask that children not stand in the aisle of the bus for safety reasons.

This week, Halifax Transit announced starting Sept. 30 children under the age of 12 can take the bus or ferry for free. This is a six-month pilot project.

5. Count Me In plan to improve lives of African Nova Scotians

Africville

Yesterday, the province announced a plan to address racism, discrimination, and inequities in Nova Scotia, Francis Campbell reports for The Chronicle Herald. The plan called Count Me In is the province’s response to the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) proclaimed by the United Nations. Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights says Nova Scotia is the first jurisdiction in North America to sign onto the Decade and one of the first in the world to create an action plan. Gilmore also spoke about the story of Africville and its the former residents.

Recognize and acknowledge the extent of the depth of the racism to which people of African descent have been subjected, are subjected and must no longer be subjected. Acknowledge, affirm and document that that was injury, that wasn’t just neglect, that that caused morbidity and mortality, not mere discomfort. From that injury, there were those who benefited, not merely those who lost.

Our futures, inevitably more intertwined than has been even our past, will not be sustainable if the fruits of development continue to be enjoyed by only some, never by all, if our social and economic systems continue to reproduce society stratified, not by effort, by contribution or creativity, but by the sheer dumb luck of where you are born, the colour of your skin, how you look.

Premier Stephen McNeil says he wanted to extend an apology on behalf of his ancestors and the ancestors of Nova Scotia.

 We collectively are standing on the shoulders of your ancestors. I need you to allow me the privilege to join you on their shoulders and together we need to reach our hands toward the promise of your children. We need your children to see the same promise that every other young child sees in this province. Opportunity is what we want to provide.

Minister Tony Ince says the plan will also work on issues like environmental racism, which is the focus on the Ellen Page documentary Something in the Water, which was screened in Halifax during the Atlantic Film Festival earlier this month.

The movie There’s Something in The Water, we need stories like that, we need to be able to tell those stories so that people understand the breadth of challenges the community has faced for generations.

6. Baristas win lost wages from former boss

Lisa Cameron at the Nova Scotia Advocate talks with Shannon Power, a former barista with  The Nook’s Bedford location, which closed down this summer with no notice to its staff.

We suspected the cafe might close, but we weren’t entirely sure. Many kitchen items were being removed during our shifts, including an oven and a refrigerator, but we weren’t given a clear explanation as to why.

Power says staff didn’t receive the appropriate pay when the café closed. According to the Nova Scotia Labour Code, when a business closes workers must be given notice depending on how long they worked for the employer. When no notice is given, staff can get paid for wages lost during the the notice period. That amount is based on their average schedule during a 12-week period. Power says that didn’t happen.

Rather than using our average schedules as the law requires, The Nook calculated our notice pay based on a schedule drafted for the final week alone, when shifts were scarce. This left several of the baristas without the notice pay they were legally entitled to.

Power says all seven female baristas got together and wrote an email to the owners about the pay. She says the owners were defensive in  their response.

The owners demanded our sympathy despite the horrible situation we were left in, and justified their incorrect calculations

The owners also made a post on Facebook.

The baristas did win their case and were compensated according to the law. Power now is working with the Fight for $15 campaign.

For some reason, this particular location has a tough time keeping a business. Before The Nook, this spot was home to another coffee shop, The Jumping Bean. Before that it was Starbucks, which then moved to a location on Larry Uteck. Years ago, there was a Dairy Queen there. I’m curious to see who will be the next tenant and I hope they treat and pay their staff well.

7. Political speed dating in Lower Sackville

Voters in District 15 in Lower Sackville will have a chance to meet and greet the 10 candidates in the running in the upcoming byelection at political speed dating event in Lower Sackville on Sept. 25. The event is being hosted by Chad Lindsay, the Sackville resident behind Sackville.live. Lindsay often creates humorous videos about growing up in Lower Sackville (I grew up there, so I know it’s hilarious) and produces series like Sackville Sunday Stories for the website. He also created the music video Cobequid Road set to the music of Copperhead Road, but with Lindsay singing about Lower Sackville in the 1980s.

The event will take place at Freeman’s Little New York on Sackville Drive from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Those who attend will sit down and chat with a candidate. When a bell rings, the resident will move down to the next chair to speak with another candidate, eventually speaking with all those at the event.

Candidates running for District 15 include Natasha Bouliane, David Boyd, Christopher Owen Davis, Trysta Doary, Mic Hindlet, Mary Lou LeRoy, Shannon McLellan, Paul Russell, David P. Schofield, and Tony White.

Lindsay says he invited all 10 candidates to attend the event and he says most have confirmed, so far.

Chad Lindsay. Photo: contributed

Lindsay says he had several messages from fans of Sackville.live asking him if he planned on creating any specific content related to the byelection. He says he went looking for a single location where voters could learn about all the candidates, their backgrounds, and platforms.

I thought a speed-dating type of platform would be fun, informal, and allow people to ask their top questions, get answers, and move on. I wanted to have a fun way for people to meet and with so many candidates, I didn’t want to plan anything like a debate or  a series of speeches where everyone would doze off by the third person. It would be great if we could increase voter turnout.

Lindsay will be filming the event and will have live streams hosted from Sackville.live.

The byelection is set for Saturday, Oct. 5 with advance polls on Saturday, Sept. 28 and Tuesday, Oct. 1. All voting for this election will be electronic, with votes cast online or by phone.

District 15 was last held by Steve Craig, who won the riding of Sackville-Cobequid in the provincial byelection on June 18.


Views

1. When charity becomes about the giver

Earlier this week, I posted a question on Twitter inspired by some photos I was sent for a project I was working on.

I decided not to use the photos. I know people can do good work and kind deeds without posting photos of them on social media, but those pictures got me thinking about how we document our charitable actions on social media. The most vulnerable people in our society are the hungry and homeless and people shouldn’t be using places like food banks or shelters as the stages for their photo-ops. It’s opportunistic and slimy. It reminded me of this tweet from back in December in which British Tory MPs were criticized for taking festive photos at a local food bank.

Yes, this was in the U.K. but the questions still apply here: rather than posting photos from inside food banks, why aren’t we asking why food banks are getting bigger and busier? Why aren’t we asking how is it we live in a wealthy society and people are living without the basics like food and shelter, but here you are taking photos of it? The reaction to these photos was swift and condemning. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett with The Guardian says these MPs’ policies are the reason people are going hungry, yet they are posing and smiling in photos in food banks.

It sticks in the craw, though, doesn’t it? Or rather, it makes me incandescently furious. These blithe, publicity-friendly smiles, when people are going hungry because of the policies these politicians supported. The last remaining universal credit rollouts are imminent in areas including Blackpool, Anglesey, Milton Keynes and parts of Liverpool and Glasgow. In April, food-bank operator the Trussell Trust reported that its facilities were four times busier in areas where the new credit had been in place for 12 months or more compared with those where it had been introduced more recently. Not too far from my childhood home, in Anglesey, food-bank supervisor Roy Fyles tells the Observer they have been sending out three times as many packages in the past few months. The Trussell Trust handed out 1.2 million food packs in 2016/17. There are 4.1 million children – nearly a third of the entire child population – living in households on less than 60% of the average income.

These kinds of posed photos and selfies are horrible. I know some amazing professional and amateur photographers who know how to tell a story through their photos and it never involves turning the camera on themselves. They have a gift for observing the world around us and the technical skills to capture it through the lens of their camera. They don’t put themselves in the photo; they document what they see and they tell us the story. This is why photojournalists are important. Constantly sharing photos with ourselves in them says we don’t always care about the world around us, but rather how we look and behave in it.

But Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms only exist with a constant stream of photos, videos, and posts, even if that content is terrible or disrespectful. It’s ongoing and interactive. So, we post selfies in bathrooms or drinking our wine, photos of our dinner, sunsets, photos and stories about our kids, random thoughts, rants, and questions, (and yes, I do this), and photos of ourselves doing nice things for others.

Social media can bring a lot of exposure to important causes and there’s a proper way to do this. Think of the Nova Scotia SPCA that shares photos of the dogs, cats, and other animals available for adoption. Who doesn’t want to see photos of adorable animals that need homes? Or service groups doing work in their communities like highway cleanups. Seeing photos of those dozens of bags of garbage probably inspires others to not litter or to pick up after themselves. I also don’t mind when friends share links to fundraisers they are taking part in. My problem is when people constantly put themselves in those photos, like, “Hey, look at me being nice to the homeless!” Just help the homeless and keep quiet about it. Better yet, ask how we can do more to help them. As a friend of mine says, “Do something nice, but don’t get caught.” And keep the cameras out of the places that work to help the most vulnerable.

Tim has talked about this before, specifically about Halifax CAO Jacques Dubé who was looking for sponsors for taking part in the Halifax Harbour Swim. The proceeds from Dubé’s fundraising efforts went to the United Way and he had local developers contributing to his campaign.

Sure, in the face of these horrors, it’s a good idea to support charities. But as I’ve written before, charity should be of the silent kind, the envelope of cash slipped quietly to the food bank, the paycheque deduction made without to-do to the United Way, the 20 bucks handed to the homeless woman, no conditions attached.

Instead, giving to charity has itself become a commodity. Corporations associate themselves with a charity, first for the tax write-off, second for the “branding” that will increase potential customer awareness and therefore profits, and only lastly, if even then, for the actual work the charity does.

Charities and fundraising aren’t going away any time soon. Be kind and giving, but maybe consider your motives before you turn the camera on yourself or pose in that photo when you’re helping others.


Noticed

This week I had my last piano lesson. I took up lessons more than a year ago when I decided to get a hobby to get my head out of my job search and focus on something fun. My first attempt at a new hobby was learning to drive a motorcycle, but I crashed into a wall on the second day, injuring my arm. My right wrist was bruised and swollen for days. Then one night while I was at home, I looked at the keyboard I had in the corner of my living room. I purchased it for my daughter as a Christmas gift several years ago. She never learned to play, but wrote the letter notes in red ink on each key. I decided I’d take piano lessons, which I figured would be far safer than learning to drive a motorcycle.

I searched Kijiji for an instructor and found Pam, a divorced mother of two grown children, who started playing piano as a child and now teaches piano to at least 20 students. This wasn’t the first time I played piano, though. I took piano lessons from the time I was about 11 until I was 13 and I remember being pretty good. I could play Bryan Adams’ Straight from the Heart. So, when I took lessons with Pam, I was surprised a lot of what I learned more than 30 years ago came back to me. I remembered how to read music. I could figure out simple melodies by ear.

Pam taught me using the books from the Leila Fletcher Piano Course. I am now on book three. These books are a throwback to piano lessons of the 50s, when Fletcher was teaching piano to her students. Each piece of sheet music has quaint sketches to match the theme of the song. Many of the tunes have basic names like The Circus or Bill’s Piece. I still don’t know what piece of Bill the song was talking about, but I played it anyway. I learned how to play a bit of everything from Turkey in the Straw to a basic version of Ode to Joy. More recently, Pam was teaching me My Heart Goes On, a titanic task for someone just getting back into playing again. I’m still working on it.

But taking music lessons as an adult is harder than taking them as a kid. Finding time to practice was always a challenge. Some weeks were better than others. I’d get up early enough and practice for at least 20 minutes before I started my day. Some weeks I didn’t practice at all and it showed at the lesson the next lessons. Pam was a patient teacher.

These lessons became more than learning how to play the piano. Over the course of more than a year, Pam and I had some great chats about work, life, going back to school, relationships, kids, and more. There were a lot of laughs, too, especially during the lessons after I didn’t practice for a week. I remember one song in particular.

Pam: I want you to play this song with feeling.
Me: What kind of feeling?
Pam: Not frustration.

During another lesson, I was ruining a song but was determined to get through it, somehow.

Me: I’m just making shit up.
Pam: I can tell.

About a month ago, Pam told me she was moving out of the province. She couldn’t find work here and the wages for jobs in her field were terrible. Where have I heard that before?!

My new-to-me piano.

She told me she was selling all of her belongings, including the piano I played since my first lesson. She asked if I wanted to buy it. I said yes before I even knew the price. I picked the piano up yesterday. It’s a Clarinova, a digital piano with a traditional look, but with all kinds of features like disco and jazz sounds. It was a bittersweet purchase. Piano lessons were one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

When I got the piano home, I found a note inside the bench.

Dear Suzanne,

I hope you get as much enjoyment out of this instrument as I did. I am glad I got to teach you piano. I hope you always make time to learn to play this beautiful instrument. I really enjoyed our time together and we will keep in touch.

Pam

I found another piano teacher. I also recently signed up for voice lessons, so my new teacher is going to take over with the piano lessons, too. I don’t know what I’ll do with all this training other than maybe have recitals for my kid and my cats in the living room. I always have believed it’s never to late to learn anything, and sometimes you’ll learn more than you expect.


Government

City

Friday

Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Province

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Friday

Thinking While Doing – Workshop and Panel Discussion (Friday, 9am, Exhibition Room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — panel discussion in Auditorium at 11:30am. More info here.

“Does This Make Me a Playwright?” (Friday, 2:30pm, Studio Two, Arts Centre) — Ellen Denny will talk about “Becoming a Multi-hyphenate Theatre Artist.”

Neural circuits of resilience and susceptibility (Friday, 3:30pm, Room P5260, Life Sciences Centre) — Rosemary Bagot from McGill University will talk.

A Murder Most Siberian: The ‘Bad House,’ Crime, and Punishment in 1909 Tomsk (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Wilson T. Bell from Thompson Rivers University will talk.

Sharks! (Friday, 4pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — marine wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey is gonna talk about sharks!

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Leading Effectively (Friday, 7:30am, in the theatre named after a bank in the building named after a grocery store) — Denise Rousseau from Carnegie Mellon University will ask “Do You Have the Evidence to Lead Effectively?” Light breakfast, more info and tickets here.


In the harbour

06:00: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Sydney, on a 10-day cruise from Quebec City to New York
06:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
06:15: Ocean Force, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:30: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship with up to 2,100 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a 14-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
06:30: Norwegian Escape, cruise ship with up to 5,218 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
09:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard
13:00: Skogafoss sails for Portland
13:30: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
15:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Bar Harbor
16:30: Ocean Force sails for Saint-Pierre
17:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
18:00: Celebrity Summit sails for New York
18:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
19:30: Norwegian Escape sails for New York


Footnotes

I want to give a shout-out to Iris the Amazing, the office manager with the Halifax Examiner who often copy edits and helps contributors with their work. After I finish writing Morning File, I text Iris to tell her I’m done and we go back and forth on some edits. She gives me tips on how to resize photos. Sometimes Autocorrect on our phones will make a mistake in what we’re trying to fix and we have a good laugh about it (ducking Autocorrect!). Through these texts, I learn a little bit about Iris, including that she likes the Bee Gees. Once we reminisced over the hair and makeup styles of the 1980s, including blue eyeshadow (what were we thinking?!)

Anyway, I want to thank her for her work and great suggestions for captions, headlines, formatting, and more. Thanks, Iris — stayin’ alive at the Examiner.

Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. “We need your children to see the same promise that every other young child sees in this province.” Which in Nova Scotia under this and previous governments, practically speaking, is a complete lack of any opportunity whatsoever.

  2. I understand what you are getting at re: corporate bragging about charitable donations. However, the fringe benefit of popularizing/sharing these stories is that others (perhaps the only moderately wealthy, or workplaces) may find out about a charity in need and the work that they do. The photos are over the top, but I support reasonable reporting of charitable donations. Like this:

    “(Famous Local) donated $8000 to (autism NS) on Wednesday. This money will be used by the organization to provide (respite worker training courses) to (people). A spokesperon for (autism NS) said that this would benefit (group of people). If you or your workplace would like to donate to autism NS, you can do so by calling: (number). We thank all for their continuing support”.

    Yes, it’s basically an ad. But it’s an ad for being socially responsible and helping others. It would be great if it weren’t needed, but it’s an unfortunate reality that it is.

  3. The responses to the Nook’s Facebook post are both fascinating and infuriating. Lots of support, people saying you did the best you could, you went above and beyond, I’m so sorry for you, and so on. And no doubt having a business go under is hard and frustrating and costly. But not paying the wages you are legally mandated to pay can hardly be considered going above and beyond. It’s the bare minimum.

    I worked in retail only very briefly when I was young and had the fortunate experience of working for one boss who was incompetent, completely laissez-faire, and also an unbelievable character. He paid us properly and on time. I had a brief experience with a terrible, puffed-up manager who was soon promoted and replaced by a guy who told us he didn’t care what we did as long as the store was clean, the customers were happy, and we didn’t steal. Soon after that, I started writing to make some money while I was in university and just kept going.

    But when I see the crap some young people I know have had to put up with – the time, energy, and worry that go into working for people who take your tips, don’t calculate your pay properly, disrespect you, expect you to be available at all times but only give you part-time work — it’s infuriating. Especially in light of the discourse around kids not wanting to work. I suspect most young people working retail and serving want to work but in an environment where they are treated well. And they probably don’t want to have to worry if their pay is going to evaporate suddenly.