News

1. Halifax police board votes to strike committee to define defunding

Photo by Taymazvalley via Flickr.

Halifax board of police commissioners finally passed a motion to create a committee that will define the concept of defunding the police. As Zane Woodford reports, after weeks of confusion, the board passed this motion on Monday. It’s more specific than a motion presented by a municipal staff in July:

That the Halifax board of police commissioners appoint a community advisory committee to assist in adopting a definition of defunding the police, and that the committee present this definition at a future meeting of the board for further discussion and debate. Further, the definition of defunding the police should be based on the following:

  • Police performing core policing functions
  • Allocating appropriate resources to perform non-police functions
  • And investing in resources that have been proven to support community risks and promote crime prevention

Councillors Tony Mancini and Lindell Smith voted no. Smith said the board already had a good working definition, presented by Public Safety Advisor Amy Siciliano and Youth Advocate Program manager DeRico Symonds in July. At the next meeting on Sept. 21, the board will discuss what the committee will look like.

Before the board’s last meeting, the Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group said in a news release that board chair Natalie Borden asked El Jones, a member of its steering committee and a columnist for the Halifax Examiner, to chair the committee.

Monday’s meeting also included a presentation called Applying a Gender Lens to Arrest: A Call for Change by Martha Paynter, Women’s Wellness Within. Paynter talked about issues like the risks of arresting women when their children are present or detaining breastfeeding women.

A slide from Martha Paynter’s presentation to the Halifax board of police commissioners on applying a gender lens to arrest.
A slide from Martha Paynter’s presentation to the Halifax board of police commissioners on applying a gender lens to arrest.

Click here to read Woodford’s full story.

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2. Employees say Organic Earth Market has fired and harassed union organizers

Recently fired Organic Earth Market employee Donna Kim (left) shares a light moment with store employee Bree Dwyre before the start of Monday’s picket. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont
Recently fired Organic Earth Market employee Donna Kim (left) shares a light moment with store employee Bree Dwyre before the start of Monday’s picket. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Yvette d’Entremont went to a protest on Monday organized by employees at Organic Earth Market on Quinpool Road. The employees wanted to get the word out about claims of illegal terminations, harassment, and intimidation of workers by management of the health food store, all of which they brought to the Nova Scotia Labour Board. They were also protesting the termination of employee Donna Kim, who was fired the day before the successful July 31 union representation vote. d’Entremont talked with Kim, who said she was fired the day before the union vote because she was suspected of leading the effort. Says Kim:

I’ve been working there long enough to observe that there’s been a lot of turnover, too much turnover, and to see that my coworkers have been mistreated continuously. I was not comfortable with that. It was upsetting. It was the sort of mistreatment that indicated to us that we had no basic rights and so we realized we needed basic rights in order to function.

Kim tells d’Entremont she’s hopeful she’ll get her job back.

Today we just want to create some attention, to assert that we are serious, we want to make these changes, we think it’s a great opportunity. This is also going to be the first grocery store in Halifax to be unionized, so it’s kind of a big deal.

d’Entremont reports the unfair labour practice complaint brought forward by the Service Employees’ International Union Local 2 (SIEU Local 2), Brewery, General and Professional Workers’ Union, is asking that Kim and another employee be reinstated. The complaint also demands the store’s management cease and desist prohibition on union insignia in the workplace, and stop interrogating employees regarding their union support.

The Halifax Examiner contacted Jamie Wentzell, owner of Organic Earth Market, who said the company was responding to allegations through appropriate legal channels, adding “It’s disappointing that they’ve chosen to picket or protest today. We’re working with the lawyers to put our submission before the labour board. That’s about all I can tell you.”

Click here to read d’Entremont’s full story.

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3. Special constables guilty in Corey Rogers’ death avoid prison, get probation and community service

Halifax Regional Police officers are shown standing around Corey Rogers, lying on the floor of the cells at HRP headquarters, in footage shown in Nova Scotia Supreme Court during the criminal negligence trial of special constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner. Photo: Nova Scotia Supreme Court via Star Halifax

Zane Woodford reports on the sentencing of two former booking officers who on Monday got three years probation and 200 hours of community service each for their role in Corey Rogers’ 2016 death in Halifax Regional Police cells.

Jeannette Rogers, Corey’s mother, the sentencing doesn’t mean it’s over for her.

I still have the appeal for the decision against the three arresting officers to deal with, and I’m hoping the prosecutor will appeal the sentence. Their lawyers have already appealed the verdict.

The booking officers, Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, were special constables at the time of Rogers’ death. Rogers was arrested for public intoxication outside a children’s hospital after the birth of his daughter in June 2016 and was taken into cells at Halifax Regional Police (HRP) headquarters. He was left in his cell with a spit hood over his head. Fraser and Gardner were to check on him every 15 minutes, but Rogers vomited into the spit hood and died of asphyxiation.

Last week, crown prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft argued Fraser and Gardner should serve time in prison to act as a deterrent against future conduct by peace officers, but defence lawyers David Bright and Ron Pizzo argued for suspended sentences, saying Fraser and Gardner shouldn’t be held to the same standard as sworn police officers. Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady agreed with the defence, saying:

After a great deal of consideration, I have concluded that the goals of denunciation and general deterrence can be achieved without incarceration.

Consequently, I am suspending the passing of sentence and placing both Defendants on probation for three years.

Click here to read Woodford’s full story, including Jeannette Rogers’ victim impact statement.

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4. COVID affecting downtown businesses

Ourdoor dining in restaurants along Argyle Street in downtown Halifax

On Monday, Paul MacKinnon, CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, says the level of business in downtown Halifax is not sustainable, adding about 20% of the people who usually work downtown are working there now.

In this story in Halifax Today, MacKinnon says with more people working from home, businesses aren’t seeing the number of clients as usual.

The big piece of feedback we’re getting from businesses is that the current level of business is not sustainable. We’ll be seeing an increasing number of businesses close if the situation stays the way it is.

MacKinnon says there could be an opportunity to convert empty commercial spaces into residential buildings to get more people to live downtown.

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5. School specialists in court battle spend summer teaching virtual camps for kids

Paul Wozney is the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

Emma Davie at CBC reports on summer virtual camps for kids that are being run by school specialists like child and youth care practitioners, speech language pathologists, social workers, counsellors and school psychologists who are part of a court battle over their place in the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

Davie reports:

On Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court granted the province’s Education Department a stay on implementing an arbitrator’s ruling from 2019 — which would put 60 school psychologists, speech language pathologists and social workers in the union until a judicial review can take place in October.

The union and the province have been fighting over the specialists for roughly two years.

Education Minister Zach Churchill has said previously that the department wants to ensure students have access to special services throughout the summer.

The virtual camps started in July and run until the end of this month. The camps are for kids in Grades 2 to 8 and cover topics like teamwork, dealing with stress, how to make friends, and heading back to school after months at home. Jenny-Kate Hadley, co-ordinator of student services for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, tells Davie there are about 175 kids taking part each week.

But Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, tells Davie that a virtual summer camp is just, “Zoom meeting with kids” and specialists teaching the camps are afraid to speak up. Says Wozney:

They were volun-told. They were not consulted, they didn’t participate in the development of what was happening. So this was sort of foisted on them.

There’s really very little high-impact work being done in the summer.

There will be a judicial review this fall and Wozney tells Davie that means the specialists could go back to the union, although he adds the government still has to comply with the decision of the court.

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Views

The lessons we’re teaching our kids when we share their lives online

Photo: Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

There’s a celebrity who pops up on my social media feeds who shares lots of details about their life and their children’s lives online. I won’t say who it is and I’m sure she’s not the only celebrity to do this. But it’s a lot of information–photos, videos, stories, and more — about her children. So many details shared to millions of followers.

Some “influencers” who are also parents share a lot of photos, mostly posed ones of their children, usually as props to get brand sponsorships. Now, celebrities and influencers seem to live in another world, but even non-famous parents share stories and photos of their children online. The spectrum of what parents share runs from nothing at all to ‘my kids, my house, I’ll share whatever I want to share.’ Most parents, I’d say, fall somewhere in between.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so most photos of me are in photo albums in a cupboard or closet somewhere. Some are framed and hanging on walls. But kids now have an online presence we never had to think about. Back then, getting a photo processed took days, if you remembered to drop off the film. But these days, creating content like photos is instant. According to one study, 92% of U.S. kids have an online presence before the age of two. A third of of kids have a prescence online before they’re even born.

As a parent, I’ve had to navigate this stuff. For years, I shared on Facebook funny or smart things my kid said. I called them Quotes of the Day (QOTD). I also shared photos — mostly from our travels, adventures, road trips, birthdays, her artwork, or school events. I had my own rules for what I wouldn’t share about her. No photos of her sick, injured, or upset. Generally, I didn’t share any stories or photos I thought would embarrass her. No private conversations. No concerns or questions for which she wanted an answer from a trusted source. I never shared photos of her on Twitter. If I shared a joke or funny comment on Twitter, I never included her name.

And then I realized I never asked her if she was okay with me sharing anything.

So, several years ago, I started asking. Sometimes she said yes; sometimes she didn’t. I still kept her photos off Twitter and last year I removed most of the photo albums from my Facebook page. Sometimes she goes through my Facebook memories and laughs at the funny things she said years ago that she doesn’t remember saying. It can be a nice archive of her childhood. But she’s older now and I share much less about her. I talked to her before I wrote this article.

I have many friends who share similar content about their kids. I may know what sports they play or how they celebrated their most recent birthdays, but I don’t know their innermost thoughts, if they’re having trouble at school, or private details of their lives. That’s how it should be. I did unfriend some connections, though, who I felt overshared about their children. I felt uncomfortable knowing that much about their kids. Still — is what I’m sharing, even if it’s minimal, any less invasive?

Parents have to teach their kids about boundaries, privacy, and consent in all kinds of relationships and situations. But if we don’t ask them for permission to share their stories online — and we’re their first and most important relationship — what are we really teaching them about boundaries, privacy, and consent? We may enjoy those likes and comments, and sharing our kids’ lives with friends and family, but how are we eroding the trust we have with our children? What will they stop sharing with us if they thought we’d share it with others online?

Our kids will be looking for jobs, they’ll be part of the community, have relationships, and that content we’re sharing will be out there for anyone to find. As an exercise, I searched my kid’s name in Google and didn’t find any photos, stories, or comments. Yet.

Taylor Lorenz with The Atlantic wrote about this topic in May 2019 and shares some of what she learned in this video. According to Lorenz, almost all parents share content about their children. It’s called “sharenting.” But it’s not parents who do this. Schools, clubs, sports teams, and other groups share photos and stories about our children. For example, the Halifax Regional Centre for Education often shares photos of kids in classrooms on its Twitter account. Parents sign media release forms at the beginning of each school year. And Lorenz says when kids learn they have an online presence, their reaction is mixed. Some kids are embarrassed or horrified, while other kids feel famous. Lorenz interviewed 11 year-old Ellen (not her real name) who doesn’t have social media accounts, but still found stats from her swim meets and a story she wrote in Grade 3 when she searched her own name on Google. Ellen tells Lorenz:

No matter what you do, it’s out there for people to know,” she said. “Even if you’re just swimming—the rest of the world will know. My meet records are out there; now people know I’m a swimmer. [The internet] tells you where all the swim meets are, so that would probably tell my general location. It tells you my school. Parts of my story online were in Spanish. Now people know I speak Spanish.”

Lorenz learned some parents are frustrated that they might not have the right to share stories about their children. In some countries, the law is catching up to all of this. For example, in France, children can sue their parents for sharing photos online without their consent. The fines are hefty and parents can face jail time.

This report from 2018 — The Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families, written by Kara Brossin-Boivin, director of research at Media Smarts, a non-profit in Ottawa that promotes digital/media literacy — shows some of the sharenting habits of Canadian parents. According to the report, 73% of parents share photos, videos, or blogs about their children, a figure in line with trends from other countries.

From The Digital Well Being of Canadian Families, Kara Brossin-Boivin/Media Smarts.

The researchers also looked at with whom the parents are sharing the content. And 43% of parents asked said they’re sharing with close family and friends. That figure was consistent regardless of the child’s age. Seventeen per cent of parents asked said they got their children’s consent before they shared the content. In the age categories, 11% of parents whose children were ages infant to four years asked for consent. The number was higher for kids ages 14-15 with 20% of those parents asking for their kid’s permission before sharing.

I also found this article in Forbes by contributor Kathy Caprino who interviewed Andrew Wittman, author of Seven Secrets of Resilience for Parents: Navigating the Stress of Parenthood. In the interview, Wittman talks about everything from cyberbullying to the pressure for kids to perform and be perfect for their parents. I liked Wittman’s motto for how parents should decide what to share online: “Everything should remain private until we go through the process of vetting what should be posted.”

But Wittman also gets into why some parents overshare on social media. Says Wittman:

We have all seen the “sideline” mom or dad at the little league sporting events. You know the crazy, out-of-control parent screaming at their kid on the field, screaming at the coaches, screaming at the refs and then when the game is over, belittle their child’s performance in front of everyone if they didn’t measure up or over-celebrate if their little dumpling is the star. The parents, who were not stars, are living vicariously through their children and pressuring them to succeed.

Many parents are bragging to show the world how awesome a parent they must be because their child is so successful. Left unchecked, this mindset metastasizes into the college entrance bribery scandal. Parents bribing and cheating for their kids so the parents can brag about the great school the child got accepted into. This is the biggest insult to your child possible. It screams out to them that you don’t believe in them and that their own accomplishments are not enough. That they don’t measure up to your social media branding standard.

Social media can also be a support network for parents. It certainly was when we were all locked down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents talked about having no time to themselves. They looked for advice on how to manage at-home learning and balance that with working from home. It can be a useful tool for parenting, but we always have to balance that with what sharing that content means for our kids.

Listen, no parent gets a handbook when their children are born and we don’t get a social media policy either. We’re all learning as we go. But when it comes to what we share about our children online, we have to remember the internet is forever, so we should think before we post, and never post until our children have a say.

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Noticed

Samantha Dixon Slawter, centre, with friends Martha Grant, right, and Donalda MacIsaac, left. Dixon Slawter is the founder of the Crown of Beauty Institute and Association, which will be this generation’s first Black hair school in Halifax. Photo: Suzanne Rent
Samantha Dixon Slawter, centre, with friends Martha Grant, right, and Donalda MacIsaac, left. Dixon Slawter is the founder of the Crown of Beauty Institute and Association, which will be this generation’s first Black hair school in Halifax. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Well, I was very happy to learn about this news. Seyitan Moritiwon at The Coast recently spoke with Samantha Dixon Slawter, founder of the Crown of Beauty Institute and Association, which will be this generation’s first Black hair school in Canada. As Moritiwon reports, the last time the city had a school like this was 77 years ago when Viola Desmond owned and operated The Desmond School of Beauty Culture. I know Dixon Slawter has been working on getting a Black hair school in Nova Scotia for 30 years. The applications are rolling in and she’s waiting for them to be approved. As she tells Moritiwon:

We see a future, we do see promise in having the application in. This is the first time they’ve offered an apprenticeship to study Black hair care.

I interviewed Dixon Slawter back in February when she hosted a session on Black hair care and history during African Heritage Month. I shared that story in this Morning File. This issue is not all about hair and beauty; this is just one of the ways in which Black people in Nova Scotia have been left out of places white people can easily access without even thinking about it. When I interviewed Dixon Slawter, she told me, “You could always go to a hairdresser. Whenever you could afford to go to a hairdresser, you could go. Not me. There was no one out there who could do my hair.”

I still think of this often. This is how we need to think about our privilege because this is one of the many ways in which it plays out.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Special Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting; agenda here.

Wednesday

Special Audit Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — virtual meeting; agenda here.

Special Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — virtual meeting, immediate following Audit Committee; agenda here.

Special Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting; agenda here.

Special Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting; agenda here.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

12:30: Falmouth Bay, bulker, arrives at Sheet Harbour from Vitoria, Brazil
13:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Rotterdam
18:00: Maersk Patras, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Bremerhaven, Germany


Footnotes

On Friday night, I went to downtown Halifax to have dinner with a friend. I lived and worked downtown for years and rarely go there now — maybe a few times a month. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older but I’d much rather head out of the city now than downtown. This weekend, I spent time at farms with horses, donkeys, chickens, and dogs. I never thought this would happen.

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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Wow that’s a really old picture of patios on Argyle! Not only is it pre-big-covid patios and even pre-Argyle pedestrianizing, it’s pre Antojos and even pre Foggy Goggle! This must be 2005 or so?

  2. Sharenting – I’m basically reticent to post much about the grandkids, but sometimes just have to share! However, just last week, my 8 yr old grandson spoke up. I was videoing the kids running around the playground and he said No, don’t do that. That was a surprise. Why? I don’t want you to post it.
    Oh! ok then.
    I promised to not post it and gave him much encouragement about speaking up and letting me, or anyone, know his feelings about that.
    So thanks! This was a timely article about getting kids permission and understanding media presence realities.

  3. “The virtual camps started in July and run until the end of this month. The camps are for kids in Grades 2 to 8 and cover topics like teamwork, dealing with stress, how to make friends, and heading back to school after months at home”

    Imagine the suffering of generations past of children who did not have professional help making friends.