1. Officer’s lawyer says Corey Rogers ‘had a part to play’ in his death in police custody
Zane Woodford has a report on the closing arguments from lawyers representing Corey Rogers’ mother, Jeanette Rogers, three Halifax Regional Police officers, and the police department at the Nova Scotia Police Review on Wednesday.
Back in June, Woodford covered five days of testimony, including from all three officers, constables Ryan Morris, Justin Murphy and Donna Lee Paris, as well as a sergeant in charge of training, a booking officer, and a use of force expert. Woodford reports on the closing arguments made by James Giacomantonio, the lawyer for Morris, who argued a “hindsight bias” had “crept into” the hearing. From Woodford’s story:
“There is no evidence that a reasonable police officer, who’d examined the forehead of a person who’d been striking their head a few times a few inches away and didn’t see any abrasion, should’ve taken any action or been concerned about head injury,” Giacomantonio said.
Giacomantonio argued Rogers wasn’t extremely intoxicated, and suggested his death was his fault because he didn’t follow the officers orders when they brought him into the drunk tank.
“He was given a number of opportunities by these officers to comply. He refused to comply. And that’s what started the cascade of bad luck that led to the untimely death of Corey Rogers,” Giacomantonio said.
“I say with some respect, a reasonable member of the community who has now learned all there is to learn about this tragedy would know that Mr. Rogers himself had a part to play here, that it was his actions and his choices to be difficult and to not respect the officers’ authority that led to the spit hood being put on him, that led him to be carried into the [drunk tank] and then the cell.”
2. COVID update: proof of vaccination required starting Oct. 4
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Yesterday, chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Tim Houston held a COVID-19 briefing. Tim Bousquet was there and had the full report here.
Ten new cases were announced yesterday, but the biggest news was the announcement that the province will have a “proof of vaccination” requirement for people entering all non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars, and gyms. That will take effect on Oct. 4. And starting next Wednesday, Sept. 15, all restrictions, including masking, social distancing, or gathering limits, will be lifted. (Private businesses may still enforce some of these rules, though).
There were questions at the briefing about how “proof of vaccination” differs from a vaccine passport. Here’s what Houston said about that:
Well, I guess words matter. I mean, this is a policy that’s designed to keep people safe, just like all the other policies that have come from Public Health. So the reality is it’s a policy that will keep people safe. So that’s what we’re calling it — the proof of vaccine policy. I mean, other people may want to call it other things, but I was pretty clear during the campaign and any time I’ve been asked that, we pay a great amount of respect to Dr. Strang and his team at Public Health. And when people look at what’s happening with the fourth wave, they look at the Delta variant. There’s certain things we need to do to stay, keep people safe, keep Nova Scotia safe. And one of them is have a proof of vaccine policy. So that’s what we’ll have.
It’ll be interesting, too, to see how comfortable people will be when the restrictions lift. For example, who will still continue to wear a mask? I will, at least while I’m inside more crowded spaces like grocery stores.
3. Lawsuit: ventilators that help people with sleep apnea emit toxic chemicals
Jennifer Henderson reports on a lawsuit that claims a type of foam used to muffle noise from machines used by people with sleep apnea emits a toxic chemical that can be inhaled or ingested. On June 23, Health Canada issued a product recall of Philips DreamStation ventilators. Henderson interviewed customer John Uhlman of Sackville who said he was told by Philips Respironics he’d get a new machine, but hasn’t so far. Instead, Uhlman went out and bought a complete new machine for $2000.
Henderson learned more about the statement of claim that was filed in a Newfoundland court last week:
That claim launches a potential national class action lawsuit against Philips Canada and Royal Philips (the Dutch parent company) on behalf of consumers who bought various Philips branded machines. (You can find a full list of the devices and a link to the website of the law firm representing Philips customers here.)
Bob Buckingham is the lawyer taking the manufacturer to court. He’s best known for having successfully pursued financial compensation from the Catholic Church for male survivors of sexual abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland during the 1990s. The trigger for this lawsuit was a recall in the United States. Here’s how Buckingham describes the case on his website:
On June 14, 2021, Philips Respironics issued a recall notice in the US for approximately 35 models of its Respiratory Devices that were manufactured with a Polyester-Based Polyurethane (PE-PUR) sound abatement foam. Exposure to the PE-PUR foam can have adverse health effects including, but not limited to, increased cancer risk, respiratory damage, asthma, kidney and liver function, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, and headache.
It is alleged that Philips Respironics negligently designed and manufactured the Respiratory Devices and failed to warn users of the health risks associated with use of the Respiratory Devices, while assuring users of the safety of its products.
4. PRICED OUT: Addressing the Housing Crisis community session in Lower Sackville
I’ll be in Lower Sackville on Thursday, Sept. 23 from 6pm to 8pm for our next community session to talk about the housing crisis. The session is at Acadia Hall, at 650 Sackville Dr. and on a bus route. It’s free to attend. Click here to sign up.
Remember, if you can’t make it to any of our sessions, you can always call or text our PRICED OUT message line at 1-819-803-6215. You can also email us at [email protected]
Hope to see a good crowd on Sept. 23!
5. The Tideline, Episode 45: Tin Can with Nancy Urich and Seth A. Smith
On this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne talks with Nancy Urich and Seth A. Smith, the married duo at the core of Dog Day. They also makes movies together: First there was Lowlife, then there was The Crescent, and now there is Tin Can, an eerily prescient drama about a world consumed by a plague and a scientist trapped in a life-suspension chamber (it’s the titular role). Urich and Smith venture into the city for the first time since pre-COVID to talk building an entire universe, premiering online, their plans for their live FIN premiere later this month (spoiler alert: fries), and lots more. Plus TWO Dog Day tracks.
You can listen to the episode for FREE! Click here.
Coverdale Courtwork Society increases its livable wage
On Monday, Labour Day, the Coverdale Courtwork Society — which provides court support, bail support, housing, advocacy and programming to women, girls, trans, and non-binary persons — announced it was increasing its livable wage.
It’s rare to hear about an organization upping its wages these days, so I had to learn more. On Wednesday, I spoke with Ashley Avery, executive director of Coverdale, about the wage increase.
Avery said when she first joined Coverdale, she worked with the board on how to bring the base wage up to a livable income. That process started a year ago by increasing it to $20/hr. Avery said the board’s HR committee did its research, connecting with other non-profits to do a survey of wages. Adsum House has been a local leader in paying a living wage (I wrote about that in this Morning File in February 2019). “If they can make it work, so can we,” Avery said, adding the Coverdale board has been committed to paying a livable wage ever since:
This line of work is incredibly difficult. It’s often led by women and non-binary and trans folks and it’s really disturbing when you have a very dedicated groups of folks doing difficult work in the community who are also then struggling to make ends meet. Some people are working full-time jobs and still having to access food banks, and still living insecurely housed.
Avery said increasing wages in a non-profit is challenging because funding is so precarious.
As an executive director, I committed to them that I will do the work of getting the funding into our bank account, which means when I am talking to funders, I need to stress the point and the importance of being able to pay people a living wage.
I haven’t had any pushback from funders on this. We shouldn’t expect non-profit workers to work for half the cost, often doing twice as much work.
A living wage clearly has benefits for Coverdale, too. Avery said:
I think it helps attract people with an abundance of skill sets, which is really important. It’s obviously helpful in retaining employees and keeping people on the team. Coverdale is a community and what we’re trying to do is build our community and extend our community and what that means to us, in part, is not only taking care of the people who come to us, but taking care of our employees and making sure they can do this and get paid what they should be getting paid.
Avery has advice for other non-profits considering raising their wages:
Obviously, it’s important to work closely with your board of directors and to flag this as a priority. It’s really challenging in not-for-profit work, especially some of the smaller non-profits, who don’t have core funders, which is a larger problem, a systemic problem. Make it a point of advocacy and don’t let go of it. If it’s really important, non-profit leaders are some of the best advocates in our community and I would just say continue to push on it and figure it out. Maybe it means you have less staff and maybe other sacrifices need to be made. But really strong advocacy work with funders to just stop asking for less; ask for more. Be really up front, honest, and transparent and back up your argument. … As a sector, in particular a women’s sector, we don’t want to participate in the marginalization and impoverishment of female workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic really was a catalyst in this change (I wish all the employers complaining they can’t find workers would listen to this):
We learned a great deal during COVID about the impact frontline work has on people. We’re seeing this across various industries that use frontline workers — staffing shortages and people leaving industries. There are a lot of reasons for that and it’s incredibly complex, but one of the reasons is because people had an opportunity to be removed from the frontline work for a little while and see other opportunities and see maybe they don’t have to work in these difficult jobs for a low wage. We wanted to recognize that and be cognizant of it. There is a staffing shortage in frontline work certainly in the housing sector. And, in part, the way to respond to that is to be competitive and to make sure people are interested or thinking about coming into this sector that it can be a career they can live on. So that did go into our thinking.
Avery said the response is overwhelming and exciting, but she doesn’t want to see a divide among community organizations because some can pay more than others.
What I hope happens is that it helps to start to shift funders’ — government or otherwise — mindset and we start to really strengthen the narrative and conversation around this topic, instead of making certain non-profits feel bad they can’t afford to pay their staff a living wage. And that it serves as an inspiration and provides a glimmer of hope that it’s possible. I hope that it’s reaching funders of non-profits and they are seeing this is where the money needs to go. You really need to invest in people. The biggest cost of a non-profit is the people and that’s where we need to put our investments.
Good for Coverdale.
Exploring Nova Scotia’s roads less travelled
Before I go on a road trip, I look at a map, usually this one, and I pick a destination, often one I’ve been on before. But sometimes I choose a road I’ve never taken. You know — the scenic routes. That’s what I did on Sunday when I chose Highway 245 up through Arisaig and Cape George (I stopped at the lighthouses at both spots. There are spectacular views in both and they sell ice cream at the Arisaig Lighthouse) and the Highway 337 south down to Antigonish. On the way to Halifax, I took Highway 289 home from Westville through to Brookfield. This was my first time on this road and for several kilometres, when I was surrounded by nothing but trees, I wondered, “Why is this road here?”
I got an answer after I tweeted out some photos, including this one of a sheep that crossed the road in front of me (a motorcycle driver and I both pulled over to make sure it made it across safely).
Someone responded to that photo with this:
Hwy 289 was one of the early colonial roads and that part of it was part of the route used to herd livestock from Pictou area to 18th and 19th c. Halifax to market. The journey required the herds be pastured along the route, in fields extant to this day. If only sheep could talk.
And the sheep made it to the field, but wasn’t interested in a chat.
On Tuesday, I went digging around for more information on Highway 289 and came across Joan Dawson’s book Nova Scotia Lost Highways: The Early Roads that Shaped the Province, which was published in 2009. (There are copies at the Halifax Public Libraries). I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but it’s so fascinating to learn about the old roads in Nova Scotia, some of which we still travel.
In the preface, Dawson wrote that in the 1990s, she worked on a project for the Nova Scotia Museum in which she followed the routes of the two original “Great Roads of Nova Scotia:” that is, the road from Halifax to Truro, and the road from Halifax to Windsor. Her guide in that was a small book of road maps called “Surveys of the Roads from Halifax to Windsor and from Halifax to Truro” written by John Elliott Woolford. The book illustrates the roads as they were in 1818.
The Nova Scotia Archives has Woolford’s maps here. Of course, I started checking them out, comparing them to current roads and highways. Dawson’s book includes sketches of some of the stops along these roads, including one of my favourite places to visit, Uniacke House in Mount Uniacke. Here’s Woolford’s sketch of the estate:
The road during Woolford’s time is now the driveway and trail of the estate. Highway 1 was long ago rerouted. Dawson’s book is so interesting, and I’m looking forward to finishing it and then maybe planning some drives around it. I didn’t find Highway 289 in Dawson’s book or Woolford’s sketches … yet.
One of the first old roads I remember driving was back in the late 90s when someone told me about the “Road to Nowhere” officially known as Highway 374, which runs from Sheet Harbour to New Glasgow (so many roads seem to connect to New Glasgow!) I drove this road back then. From what I recall, it’s about a 45-minute drive and there’s not much along the way but trees (maybe there’s more now; I haven’t driven that road since).
But this week I found this article by Steve Maich in Macleans from 2004 called Nova Scotia’s Dry Spell. Highway 374, it seems, was built as part of the province’s vision for the oil industry. As Maich wrote:
Tory premier John Buchanan spent much of the 1980s talking about the enormous benefits that would soon flow to the province. As if to underscore that confidence, the province unleashed a rush of spending aimed at fostering development of the industry. That spending has left Nova Scotia dotted with ill-fated public works projects, from a virtually untouched industrial park in Melford, created to house an oil refinery that was never built, to Riverview Consolidated School in the tiny outport of New Harbour, built in the 1970s for a rush of settlement that never materialized. The school was built to accommodate 400 students, but last year it had just 17.
Perhaps the most infamous example is Highway 374 connecting tiny Sheet Harbour on the eastern shore with New Glasgow, about 85 km to the north. The Buchanan government used an offshore development fund to build the road in the 1980s on the basis that Sheet Harbour would soon be a key supply depot for drilling rigs. But in 1987, falling natural gas prices put the Venture field on hold. It wouldn’t be revived until 12 years later, as part of the Sable project. Sheet Harbour never became the supply hub that was expected, and Nova Scotians ruefully call Highway 374 the “road to nowhere.”
Another good resource is the Facebook group Abandoned Roads of Nova Scotia started by Steve Skafte, who is slowly working on a map of all the unmaintained public roads that are still owned by Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR), the municipality, the county, or another government entity. From the photos on the page, it doesn’t appear that many of these roads are suitable for driving, but rather a good hike.
Anyway, I have a list of Nova Scotia roads and highways I want to check out, including the 316/348 that runs from Isaac’s Harbour to Stellarton, the #203 through Shelburne, the #340 through Yarmouth/Digby counties, and Highways 10 and 14, the old Windsor Road, which I honestly can’t believe I haven’t travelled yet. I’m open to any suggestions, too.
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — on YouTube
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — on YouTube
In the harbour
05:00: Hyundai Faith, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
08:00: Isabelita, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Drepano, Greece
12:30 Isabelita sails for sea
13:00: CMA CGM Mexico, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka [this is a very large ship]
23:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Portland
07:00: Paul A. Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Quebec City
On Tuesday, the first day of school, I wondered when we’d be hearing about that day of the year when everyone tries to raise awareness about bullying by wearing a certain colour shirt to school. It turns out it’s today. It’s not the only day of the year we celebrate it; you’ll have a chance in February, April, and again in May. I wrote about this day in Morning File last year and why it doesn’t help stop bullying.
For what it’s worth, I’m wearing a blue shirt.