1. Nursing homes
“Earlier this month, immediately following its budget, the New Brunswick government notified nursing homes that financial pressures dictate they must reduce the number of licensed nurses on staff,” reports former CBC reporter Jennifer Henderson, who is now freelancing with the Halifax Examiner. “The decision set off alarm bells for nursing home operators in New Brunswick and has the nurses’ union in Nova Scotia concerned similar cuts might happen here.”
Nova Scotia health officials promise they’re not following New Brunswick’s lead, but as Henderson reports, neither are they living up to existing provincial staffing requirements. In fact, Nova Scotia has failed to meet its own standards since at least 2007, when the auditor general called attention to the matter.
In a related article, “People are living too long in nursing homes,” Henderson analyzes the province’s move to reduce nursing home costs by bulking up the Home Care system.
Both articles are behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Landon Webb
“The province will not stand in the way of Landon Webb’s court challenge to guardianship under the much-criticized Incompetent Persons Act, and a new or amended act will be in place by spring 2017,” reports Mary Ellen MacIntyre in Local Xpress:
“We’re letting the public know today that we don’t intend to oppose this and that we are going to make amendments that, again, respect the rights of people with intellectual disability and that modernize and reflect society’s changing values and understanding,” provincial Justice Minister Diana Whalen told a news conference on Tuesday.
Perhaps most importantly, many legal scholars were already on his side. Longtime critics of the Incompetent Persons Act, under which people deemed incompetent can end up bereft of any decision-making powers over their own lives, lined up behind Webb, calling for a complete repeal or revision of the act.
Faced with mounting calls for changes, Whalen announced she would conduct the review with the aim of either completely repealing or extensively amending the act.
The amended or new legislation will be “more nuanced, more special to individual cases,” Whalen promised.
3. District 8 election
Solidarity Halifax, “a membership-based, pluralist, non-sectarian, democratic, anti-capitalist organization in Halifax,” has issued a statement saying Evan Coole, its announced candidate in the upcoming city election for District 8 (Halifax Peninsula North), is withdrawing from the race. After nominating Coole, the statement explains:
Solidarity Halifax then learned of Lindell Smith’s candidacy for District 8 just before our campaign launch in early December. Smith is a progressive emerging leader in the African Nova Scotian community.
Nova Scotia is often called the “Mississippi of the North.” African Nova Scotian history is replete with both brutal oppression and brilliant resistance. Ongoing racism and unofficial segregation manifests itself in many ways, including an absence of any representation on Halifax city council.
Solidarity Halifax recognized the historic significance of Lindell Smith’s candidacy, and the potential for his campaign to highlight issues important to African Nova Scotians in the North End.
We carefully deliberated whether to continue our candidacy. We had many conversations on the issue, both internally and with our allies in the African Nova Scotian community.
Ultimately, Solidarity Halifax made the decision to withdraw our candidate from District 8. We are proud of the program we developed and are grateful to have recruited an excellent candidate in Evan Coole. However, we could not reconcile our campaign’s continuation with our anti-racist organizing principles.
That’s all good, but the statement continues:
As part of our political process in preparing for municipal intervention, we made a decision not to endorse any candidates not running for Solidarity Halifax. As such, our withdrawal is not an endorsement of Lindell Smith’s candidacy. However, we do wish him good luck in the election.
This left a lot of outside observers scratching their heads — why withdraw because Smith is in the race, but then not endorse him? — but as Solidarity Halifax member Ben Sichel explained on Facebook, the group is determined to follow its own procedures, which don’t allow for endorsement of people not in Solidarity Halifax. I guess it’s more like Solidarity With Ourselves… less critically, while sometimes the inner workings of leftist groups can be mind-numbingly complex and overly obsessed with consensus, such attention to detail really can be revolutionary.
In any event, the Halifax North promises to be an interesting one. Current councillor Jennifer Watts is not running for reelection, and such circumstances usually result in a wide open field with lots of candidates, allowing for a strong progressive candidate to do well as more centrist candidates split the vote with each other. That’s how Watts herself first got elected in 2008.
In an earlier age, newspapers were warned against reporting on suicide at all. The fear was that reporting on suicide resulted in “contagion” as other people with notions of suicide took note and followed suit.
Self-censorship in the media became standard after the repulsive race to name the thousandth suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge. I was living in California at the time and remember it well:
In 1995, as No. 1,000 approached, the frenzy was even greater. A local disk jockey went so far as to promise a case of Snapple to the family of the victim. That June, trying to stop the countdown fever, the California Highway Patrol halted its official count at 997. In early July, Eric Atkinson, age twenty-five, became the unofficial thousandth; he was seen jumping, but his body was never found.
Ken Holmes, the Marin County coroner, told me, “When the number got to around eight hundred and fifty, we went to the local papers and said, ‘You’ve got to stop reporting numbers.’ ” Within the last decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology have also issued guidelines urging the media to downplay the suicides. The Bay Area media now usually report bridge jumps only if they involve a celebrity or tie up traffic. “We weaned them,” Holmes said. But, he added, “the lack of publicity hasn’t reduced the number of suicides at all.”
Therein lies the rub: guidelines around reporting on suicide make intuitive sense, but do they really stop contagion? There are examples of media-induced contagion, but they all come from pre-social media days. Now, when memorial Facebook pages are created for suicide victims even before the death hits the local newspaper, the traditional media plays catchup. It’s no longer the report in the paper that leads to contagion, but the celebratory social media presence. There are recent examples of “suicide clusters” that seem to have been prompted by Facebook pages — the first suicide victim becomes something of a celebrity, leading to the next, and then another. So now, instead of self-censorship, it makes more sense for news media to do what they do best: provide context to help educate the public.
Which is to say, I think Dylan DesRoche, writing for Metro, got it right with the report on the suicide of Cody Glode. DesRoche’s editors broke some of the cardinal rules of the suicide reporting guidelines — they referred to suicide in the headline, and they put attractive photos of Glode on the front page — and DesRoche addressed the issue head-on:
Cody Glode was seen as a true warrior, both inside the ring as a mixed martial arts athlete, and outside of it, battling blazes with Truro fire services.
But there was one battle that was too much for the young Millbrook man.
He lost his battle with depression on March 1 when he took his own life.
DesRoche goes on to chronicle Glode’s unsuccessful search for mental health services, drawing attention to the lack of urgency for those facing crisis.
The details of any individual suicide aren’t usually relevant, and they don’t appear to be in this case, but I think broadly reporting on suicide needs a full discussion of means reduction. That is, suicide is often a fleeting thought — probably most of us have thought about it — and then life goes on. It’s not always true that “if they really want to do it, they’ll find a way.” On the contrary, if at that fleeting moment of suicide ideation the means of suicide are not present, then the person will likely get past the moment of crisis and go on. So it’s important to know that the #1 means of suicide is via firearms, and so removing firearms from the home of a despondent person is the best thing we can do for them.
Where I fault Metro is it should’ve included resources for those in crisis. In the Halifax area, the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team phone number is 902-429-8167.
5. Rebecca Thomas
Yesterday, Mayor Mike Savage named Rebecca Thomas as the next Poet Laureate of HRM:
A spoken word artist and the current Halifax Slam Master, Rebecca Thomas also holds the position of Coordinator of Aboriginal Student Services at the Nova Scotia Community College. Coming from an Indigenous background whose family has been greatly impacted by residential schools, Ms. Thomas has come to recognize the lack of prominence given to First Nations perspectives within the history of Halifax. As a Mi’kmaw woman, she embraces the opportunity to bring her cultural voice to the broader public discussion through the Poet Laureate position, and believes that the arts and poetry can help people heal in ways beyond traditional therapies.
“Poetry can give a voice to the voiceless. Poetry can make a powerless person feel powerful. This is why I speak,” said Ms. Thomas.
Rebecca is also an active supporter of youth engagement through poetry and the arts and has volunteered the past two years with the Halifax Youth Slam Team. Over the last several years she has organized a variety of workshops and poetry series’ with a focus on youth empowerment and diversity education.
Rebecca will officially assume the position of Poet Laureate on April 1, 2016, in time to celebrate National Poetry Month. The naming of the new Poet Laureate will also be marked in late April with a special reading at Regional Council and a public reception. The reception will celebrate the legacy of the outgoing Poet Laureate, El Jones, and introduce Rebecca and her work to the citizens of the municipality. More details on this event will be communicated at a later date.
Yeah, sure, but how is Thomas with cat memes?
1. Heads Up Halifax sends the wrong message to the wrong audience
“Though the creators claim that it’s aimed at both drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their phones, Heads Up sure sounds to me like it’s squarely focussed on pedestrians,” writes Erica Butler:
Maybe it’s because “heads up!” seems like absurdly little to ask of someone operating a motor vehicle. I mean, a driver’s head should always, at a minimum, be up… Sure, it’s unstated, but it’s clear to me: the Heads Up message targets pedestrians.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Cranky letter of the day
There was an interesting topic discussed on last week’s edition of Market Place (CBC TV).
Trans Canada highways across Canada vary from 100, 110 and 120 maximum kilometres per hour on posted speed limit signs depending on what province you maybe traveling through.
Some provinces want the maximum 100 speed limit signs to be upgraded to a maximum 110 speed limit. Safety factors were one reason given for the suggested changes. The only province in Canada today with the 120 maximum limit is British Columbia. Officials there say their highways are safe with this kind of speed posting.
As for Nova Scotia, I believe that until the Trans Canada Highway throughout the province has a stabilized 100 per cent asphalt road surface to drive on, speed limit signage should be no higher than 100 kilometres per hour.
Clarence Landry, Seaview
No public meetings.
Tempus fugit (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Betül Kacar, from Harvard University, will speak on “Tempus fugit: Design, construction and evolution of ancestor-descendant hybrid organisms in the laboratory.”
Philosophy Weaponized (7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Duncan MacIntosh will speak on “Philosophy Weaponized”:
Should democracies tolerate some of their laws being kept secret from their own citizens? Would warfare be better conducted using automated weapons systems (“killer robots”)? Is the world well-served by the existence of the defense industry? Is terrorism best seen as a military problem or a social problem? How is a society to defend itself when its own sense of right and wrong is used as a weapon against it?
Stray Dog (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of the 1949 Kurosawa film. I can’t find the trailer for it, but there’s a weird Chinese-language version of it.
In the harbour
Energy Progress sails to sea
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, news 95.7, at 4pm.