1. Mark Furey’s potential conflict of interest in the mass murder inquiry
Tim Bousquet reports on PC leader Tim Houston’s affidavit, filed with the Conflicts Commissioner of Nova Scotia, arguing that justice minister Mark Furey is in a conflict of interest over the public inquiry into the mass murders of April 18-19. The conflict arises not only from Furey’s three-decade career as an RCMP officer, Houston claims, but from his involvement in policies that may have led to policing failures over that terrible weekend.
Houston notes that Furey worked for the RCMP for over 30 years, including a year-and-a-half stint (from May 2007 to August 2008) as a “Policing Consultant (Advisor to the Minister and Deputy Minister)” and then from August 2008 to July 2010 as the District Commander in Lunenburg, which Houston characterizes as a rural district.
In those roles, says Houston, Furey would have been “engaging” in rural policing policies, which then later, as Justice minister, Furey would be implementing…
Some of those policies involve staffing levels. Bousquet continues:
It’s impossible to argue the point. Even if one were to take the position that staffing levels were not an issue on April 18 and 19, you’d have to defend that position, which would necessarily involve Furey taking a stand on the issue, which would again involve his past actions as District Commander, Consultant, and now Justice Minister. It’s inherently a conflict.
Even more potential conflicts abound and Bousquet gets into them in the story. Read the whole thing here.
2. What does it mean to be “Nova Scotia Strong?”
Over the last few months, “Nova Scotia Strong” signs, stickers, and t-shirts, have been everywhere in the province. I got to thinking about the slogan — which, in a very Canadian way, is a knock-off of Boston Strong, which itself derives from Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong and the American military’s Army Strong campaign.
In my story “What does it mean to be Nova Scotia Strong?” I talk to three people about their views on the slogan.
From the piece:
“Why strong? Why not ‘Nova Scotia Together’? It has to do with feeling under threat, right? It was COVID, it was Portapique, it was all the other things that were taking place, the death of a toddler — I think many people were really pushed to the edge,” said Fiona Martin, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Dalhousie University, in an interview. “How much more really troubling, tragic news could they take?”
But over time, Martin wonders if the slogan has started to lose meaning…
Louise Penny of the University of King’s College asks:
“What does it mean to be strong? Does it mean to be empathetic? Does it mean to be resilient? Does it mean to be a community that takes care of its most vulnerable people? Or are we talking about strength as force, about the RCMP or someone who’s armed?” she asked. “It seems to me that second definition of strength is not a very sustainable one. The kind of force displayed by the police across North America this summer? It doesn’t look very strong to me. It looks hysterical and brutal.”
And University of Ottawa social sciences prof Michael Orsini, who has written a lot about ableism, says the call to being strong, “doesn’t leave much room for people to be vulnerable and to feel like they’re not sure.”
I expected a lot of negative reaction to this story. One person turned me down for an interview, because his one attempt to express some reservations about “Nova Scotia Strong” (mostly based on trying to figure out what it meant) was met with disbelief and he said it wasn’t worth the hate mail he was going to get.
So I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have said they’ve felt some discomfort with the slogan, but hadn’t really been able to articulate why. Also, in a world of quick takes, I appreciated the thoughtful and nuanced views of the people who did agree to be interviewed.
3. Is there a case of COVID-19 reinfection in Nova Scotia?
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.
Tim Bousquet reports on the provincial COVID-19 briefing yesterday, and the news that the province has a possible case of reinfection.
In May, a nurse in the Halifax area tested positive for COVID-19. As is standard, 10 days after the nurse stopped expressing symptoms, the nurse was considered “recovered” and resumed work.
But recently, the very same nurse started expressing symptoms, and on Sunday was again tested; the results were “inconclusive,” but are being treated as a positive case…
[Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert] Strang said today that Sunday’s test result could be revealing a “residual” presence of the virus in the nurse’s body from May. Alternatively, the nurse may be the first known case of reinfection in Nova Scotia.
Strang said that there are documented cases of reinfection elsewhere in the world, and while so far rare, the fact of reinfection suggests that any immunity resulting from contracting the disease may be short-lived. And, he said, that’s why those who have recovered from COVID-19 still have to practice physical distancing, mask wearing, and the other public health measures.
The story also looks at the current state of COVID-19 in the province, and Bousquet asks Strang if there is any tension between his focus on public health and the premier’s political concerns.
4. Woman shocked that CRA asks her to pay taxes the way most Canadians do
The story runs under the headline “CRA shocks woman by asking her to pay tax on money she hasn’t yet earned.”
Wow, terrible, right?
A P.E.I. woman who got a letter asking for taxes on money she hadn’t earned thought she was being scammed until the Canada Revenue Agency set her straight.
“When I opened it, I thought it was a scam printed on CRA paper because I know there have been scams, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it,” Mary Mullen, a French Village resident, told CBC…
“I was very shocked. I kept telling them this is income I haven’t totally earned yet,” Mullen said.
If you’ve held one salaried job your whole life, you may not realize that CRA asks many Canadians to pay their taxes in installments. You file your return, you get your assessment, and then if you should be paying installments, you get a schedule. I can understand that Mary Mullen may have been unaware of this, but it’s hardly shocking news.
In fact, as Colbert writes in the story:
Dalhousie University Professor Emeritus Shirley Tillotson is a tax historian. She said for some Canadians, the advance instalments are a routine occurrence…
Mary Mullen said she will pay the instalments ahead of the deadlines this year, but she’s asked her employer to start deducting income taxes. She’s also completed a simple CRA form that allows taxpayers to request either a fixed amount or a percentage of their Canadian Pension Plan and/or Old Age Security be deducted for taxes.
I like Colbert’s writing. She does a great job of finding people who’ve been mistreated by predatory companies or caught up in horrible bureaucratic messes. Sometimes, the fact that she’s drawn attention to these stories helps solve the problem.
But I’ve got to say this piece baffles me. And it’s the featured story on the CBC Nova Scotia website this morning.
5. An unexpected COVID-19 consequence: more cracked teeth
Here’s something I didn’t see coming. Nebal Snan reports for the Chronicle Herald that dentists are seeing a surge in visitors with cracked teeth and jaw pain.
The cause: Largely stress. When people are more stressed, they tend to grind their teeth in their sleep, which can lead to cracking them and to jaw pain.
Other causes for fractured teeth include eating hard or chewy food and not taking care of your oral hygiene. For example, people might not be brushing their teeth after every meal because they’re mostly at home constantly snacking.
“Why would I brush my teeth if I’m going to eat again? That kind of thinking,” said [Dr. Sura] Hadad.
The biggest advice both Hadad and [Dr. Chad] Avery have for preventing cracked teeth is to brush and floss properly.
“People are probably washing their hands more than they’re brushing or flossing their teeth,” said Hadad.
Well yeah, I’m not going to floss 20 times a day, but point taken.
1. Bread in the Bones and other local film festival offerings
On Saturday afternoon, I mixed two cups of rye flour with two cups of water and tossed in a few thin slices of onion. Then I covered the bowl and left the mixture in our bedroom, where heat from the afternoon sun would start the process of turning flour and water into a nice sour starter.
But that would take a few days, and we would need bread sooner than that. So the next morning, I put together a couple of loaves of pain au son — a style of bread made of at least 25 percent bran. Not the lightest loaf, but tasty and a good keeper. Then, that evening, I sat down to watch Bread in the Bones, a documentary about bread directed by NSCAD prof Darrell Varga. It’s part of the Atlantic International Film Festival this year.
There are many things I love about bread-baking, including the variability of its schedules. Some breads take days. Some take hours. Or you can leave bread to rise in the morning and bake it at the end of the day. And because you’re dealing with living organisms — yeasts — your results will vary too. This is also part of the pleasure.
In some ways, Varga’s film is a love letter to bread. It starts off with a pulsing, jazzy piece by composer Lukas Pearse, as the camera pans in tight closeup over the textures of a loaf of bread, in a style reminiscent of softcore porn. From there, we meet bakers, historians, and bread lovers of all types.
It’s easy to get all romantic and rapturous about bread, but I appreciated that the film got into the more sordid side of things as well. Commercial bakeries in the early 1900s were miserable and filthy, staffed largely by immigrants. Bakers, we learn, had a very high suicide rate. One of the impulses behind industrial pillowy white bread was racism: the bread was white, and it was baked in modern facilities instead of by dark-skinned outsiders.
For me though, the most interesting part of the film was the personal connections people had to bread, whether it was heading to the local Jewish bakery every day, building their own bread ovens, or, in one case, recovering from the trauma of a partner’s suicide by baking bread and giving it to homeless people in the neighbourhood.
There’s a lot in here about the universality of bread, but the focus of the film, shot in the US, Canada, and Europe, is on western traditions. And I would have liked to have seen some local content, since there’s an, uh, rising interest and interesting stuff going on in the local bread and grain scene.
I’m curious about how online festivals are playing out. I love Sappyfest, which takes place annually in Sackville, New Brunswick. I signed up for the virtual Sappy online, but didn’t participate in a single event. There are a couple of reasons for that, I think. First: summer. Second: place. Sappyfest is really tied to its location. People gather together, there are quirky art projects all around, the atmosphere at the shows is fabulous and mostly family-friendly. All stuff you can’t really replicate online. And while during lockdown I was happy to spend time in front of the screen participating in online trivia and spelling bees, that was less appealing in August.
The film festival may be a different story. Other than the galas, which are available for 24 hours, the rest of the festival films are available to screen during the entire week of the festival, which runs from September 17-24. There are enough interesting-looking local films and shorts that we are not likely to easily see elsewhere that I might pick up a pass, especially since I’m now not tied to seeing them at any particular time.
2. Scholars Strike Canada
The Halifax edition of Scholars Strike Canada, a national teach-in “on ending all forms of racist, carceral, institutional and systemic forms of violence” takes place online today from 2 to 5 PM.
Co-hosted by El Jones and OmiSoore Dryden, the event features seven streaming sessions, many as short as 20 minutes, making them relatively accessible to those working through the day.
The Scholar Strike Canada website explains the background:
Scholars across Canadian universities are outraged at the relentless anti-Black police killings of Black people in the U.S. and in Canada. As athletes have done, so, too, must academics. We will be joining thousands of academics in higher education in a labour action known as Scholar Strike to protest anti-Black, racist and colonial police brutality in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. Scholar Strike for Black Lives in Canada will take place on Sept 9th & 10th, 2020. For these two days, we will pause our teaching and all administrative duties. We will use this time to organize public digital teach-ins on police brutality and violence in our communities from both historical and contemporary perspectives…
Scholar Strike originated in the U.S from a tweet by Dr. Anthea Butler who, inspired by the striking WNBA and NBA players, put out a call for a similar labour action from academics. The Canadian action is aligned with the one in the U.S., in its call for racial justice, an end to anti-Black police violence and it adds a specific focus on anti-Indigenous, colonial violence.
Last month, friends invited us out on their boat on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We chugged around the eastern part of St. Margaret’s Bay aboard a Cape Islander, watching the birds, going for a swim, and having a generally lazy and enjoyable day.
Because I don’t usually get to see the bay from the water, I was struck by how many homes have been built right at the shoreline, or back a bit from the shore with a huge expanse of lawn heading down to the water. Many of these homes have huge rip-rap walls — essentially piles of rock — shoring them up. While these walls may help to protect individual properties, they can intensify the action of waves, leading to more damage and further erosion farther down the shore. That, in turn, can lead to other property owners having to harden the shoreline by their own properties in order to protect them.
There’s a metaphor in here somewhere.
None of this is new. Tim Bousquet wrote about the phenomenon for The Coast back in 2007, when he toured St. Margaret’s Bay and part of the South Shore:
We travel around St. Margaret’s Bay, but the same issues hold everywhere, up and down the coast of Nova Scotia.
Down Indian Point Road we look at a new construction project. Someone has bought an old cottage that was wedged onto a small lot. In order to build a much larger house, they tore down the cottage, dumped a bunch of rip-rap—gigantic boulders used to hold back the sea—along the shore, and filled in behind. Controversy surrounds a septic system being built on the property—”the tide comes up as high as that outfall,” points out Graham—but she concentrates mostly on the “infilling,” the fill dirt dumped behind the rip-rap in order to turn what once was marsh into dry, hard land suitable for building.
“This used to be a flood plain, and part of the natural system up and down the coast,” she explains. “This construction is more of what we call the hardening of the coast.”
There’s a lot more of this “hardening” along Highway 3, where it parallels the coast. Dozens of houses are built atop rip-rap, literally jutting out into the sea, with the remnants of beaches on either side of them.
“There used to be fish shacks here,” explains [activist Alexi] Baccardax. “They weren’t meant to be houses—they flooded when storms came through. But people buy them up, and rebuild them as these giant homes. They don’t want their houses flooded, so they build these giant seawalls around them.”
The controversial property on Indian Point Road, in Glen Haven, is right behind the row of trees in the photo above. Since that Street View image was taken, someone has bought the property with the for sale sign in front of it, done some in-filling, and is in the process of wedging another rip-rap-protected home into the cove.
When I see construction like this, I can’t help but think of climate change and flooding. How will these homes withstanding rising sea levels and storm surges?
Yesterday, on Twitter, I noticed Gerry Post linked to a sea-level rise map, saying he has been “looking at real estate for my daughter who is moving home from the USA and have found this resource v helpful. It has eliminated a number of prospective properties.”
The resource is the Coastal Risk Screening Tool from the non-profit Climate Central. Pick a location, and the map shows you current sea levels and land projected to be below annual flood level — in other words, under water at least one a year — for whatever year you choose. (The default is 2050.) I went to check out those Frost Fish Cove properties, and they are under water at least part of the time by 2030, according to the projections.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here.
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting, agenda here.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting, agenda here.
Ready2Launch Demo Day (Thursday, 2:30pm) — Eight Dalhousie start-up teams will present a four-minute pitch, with a top prize of $5,000 to the best one. Virtual event; more info and sign up here on HopIn.
A “Night‑In” with Eco‑Justice Warriors (Thursday, 7:30pm) — virtual fundraiser with Environmental Defence and The ENRICH Project, featuring online conversations from women at the frontlines of Canada’s eco-justice struggles, many seen in the documentary film There’s Something in the Water. Author and keynote speaker Dr. Ingrid Waldron will share her research on the hidden truth of environmental racism in rural Canada and how industrial catastrophes have been precisely placed – all in remote, low income and very often Indigenous or Black communities – proving that your postal code can determine your health.
Tickets $25, more info here.
In the harbour
06:00: Atlantic Kingfisher, tug/supply vessel, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11:30: CMA CGM Brazil, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
14:00: Atlantic Kingfisher moves to Pier 9
16:00: Tampa Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
22:30: Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England
Dog-Eared and Cracked is the books podcast I co-host with my old friend Jay. We recommend books for each other, then discuss them. I had managed to get this far without ever having read anything by Bukowski,
As Jay puts it in the episode description:
Will Phil gain an appreciation for school-yard beatings, boils and heavy drinking? Does Jay provide any illumination on whether Charles Bukowski was an insightful genius, an emotionless sociopath, or one of the best writers of his generation?
Listen and find out!