1. Culture of sexism
The “Report of the Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry” was released yesterday.
The report says that the Dentistry department is stuck in a “time warp” of sexism, “oblivious to social progress that has rendered some behaviour unacceptable.”
We heard similar concerns about the culture in the school from DDS 2015 students, students in other years, and QP students. Similar comments are found in the Curriculum Quality Student Exit Survey for 2014. We also heard about a sexist culture from women who graduated many years ago. The women were aware of it but tried to ignore it or work around it. We heard that in the 1980s, the dental school administration received complaints about faculty showing inappropriate and offensive images in lectures. For many alumni, 25 years later, it was extremely disappointing to hear that the same sort of thing was still going on.
Records show that staff complaints to Human Resources have been going on for years. A wide array of individuals shared consistent concerns with us on this.
The graffiti in the room behind the bar in the student common room known as the “Cavity” was there for many years. The walls have been painted over in the last few weeks, but we saw the many offensive scribbles. The faculty members’ attitude was puzzling. They were not aware of the graffiti, or they had heard of it but not seen it, or they never went to the student lounge. And yet, many were students while the wall was being “decorated.” Not one faculty member told us that the graffiti was a disgrace and embarrassment and should have been dealt with years ago. Why had something that might have been found in a grimy men’s washroom 50 years ago been tolerated in Dentistry—and how could it have lasted so long?
One possible answer is that the dental school has been oblivious to changing mores, to how respect for women should be expressed in the 21st Century, and to behaviour that is no longer considered acceptable.
The report discusses the dynamic between the DDS program, which takes up to 38 students per year, about half of whom are female, and the Dental Hygiene program, which accepts 40 students per year, “almost all of them women.” The report then goes on to note the role of race in the culture of the university and how that played out in the dentistry scandal. On this last point, the report specifically mentions Examiner contributor El Jones:
Many people told us that racism is a “ticking bomb” at Dalhousie. We heard about numerous incidents of overt racism: “No N—-rs Allowed” and “#whitepower” on walls of washrooms and study rooms in the Killam Library; anti-Muslim messages on campus prayer spaces; angry white students disrupting an African Students’ Association event featuring El Jones, Poet Laureate of Halifax.
Black faculty and staff told us of racial harassment and discrimination in employment. Recent immigrants described feeling marginalized. Indigenous people said their communities were virtually absent on campus. What we heard suggests an entrenched culture of white privilege. The prevailing ideology is “racelessness.” Race is supposed to be irrelevant, which ignores the reality of the impact of racism.
I haven’t this morning asked Jones if I can reprint her private Facebook post concerning this, so I won’t. But it’s interesting that she is the only person in the entire report who is mentioned by name.
The report continues:
A number of people pointed out to us that the response to the incident, both within the University and in the media, reflected and reinforced the culture of white privilege. Incidents of sexual harassment and violence against racialized women, both on campus and elsewhere, tend to attract very little media attention and inadequate responses from the authorities. But when a group of white women became the subject of offensive comments, there was an extraordinary level of concern and urgency, along with public outrage. We also heard that media attention on the Facebook episode overshadowed racial issues and incidents happening on campus during the same period.
I think I’ll leave it there for this morning. I’m sure others will have lots of commentary in the days to come.
At least people in Nova Scotia don’t obsess over women’s sexuality… oh, wait…
2. The virginal/motherly matrix
“Times are changing and the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival is changing, too. The regent can be pregnant, but she can’t have kids,” reports the CBC’s Yvonne Colbert:
The changes now allow participants to live common law and to become pregnant during the year they represent their community. Married women and young women with children are still not permitted to take part.
3. Pedestrian struck
Halifax Regional Police is investigating a vehicle/pedestrian collision that occurred this weekend in Halifax.
On June 27, at 7:15 p.m., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Bayers Road and Oxford Street. A 28-year-old woman crossing Bayers Road in a marked crosswalk was hit by a car turning left from Oxford Street onto Bayers Road. She suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS.
A 68-year-old woman was issued a summary offence ticket under section 125(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This ticket carries a fine of $693.95 and four points on a driver’s license upon conviction.
4. No ferry money from Maine
Surprising no one at all, the delegation of Nova Scotians who went to visit Maine governor Paul LePage, hat in hand, have been disappointed, reports Timothy Gillespie:
A high-level delegation of senior Nova Scotia officials returned home from Maine empty-handed after a round-trip excursion on the luxury cruise ferry Nova Star. Ministers Geoff McClellan and Zach Churchill and a bevy of bureaucrats met in Maine with embattled governor Paul LePage, attempting to pry from him an agreement for his state to support the cash-strapped Nova Star operation.
The ostensible reason for the trip by Bluenose officials was to secure assurances of funding support, including, but not likely limited to, the guarantee of a $5 million line of credit for the Nova Star, whose Maine-based executives burned through almost $36 million in Nova Scotia taxpayer monies in less than 14 months. Maine officials have previously said that there is no legislative solution to the funding problem.The Finance Authority of Maine, a quasi-governmental financing agency, has worked aggressively to explore options for Nova Star with private lenders, said Bill Norbert, the agency’s spokesman. “So far, no takers,” Norbert said.
One commenter on Facebook said that it looked to him that “two ministers and several senior bureaucrats spent two days on a round-trip cruise to arrange a future meeting in Nova Scotia with a delegation from Maine.”
In his typical fashion, Stephen Archibald wanders around Fairview and finds all sorts of visual delights, including the above juxtaposition, of which Archibald dryly notes, “a perfect relationship: next door to a denture clinic were easy-to-eat noodles.”
And Archibald hits on something I’ve been screaming about since the thing was built: the horrible St. Lawrence Place apartment complex. We’re supposedly all about creating pedestrian-friendly, visually pleasing and “vibrant” (gulp) streetscapes, but somehow city planners let this monstrosity go up, with a streetside parking lot literally walled off from Dutch Village Road, creating a dead pedestrian zone right at the entrance of Fairview. As Archibald notes:
My big disappointment was the new St Lawrence Place development by the WM Fares Group. It is clear that they have no interest in being a part of the Fairview community that surrounds them. Here is how they greet Dutch Village Road.
I respect that they made no attempt to pretty up or conceal their contempt for Fairview. I do have a problem with the city folks that allow this sort of development that sucks the life out of the street. We all know better.
St Lawrence Place is probably a fine place to live and if you don’t live there, keep out.
The Fares Group have their offices in the St Lawrence development so they must be proud of it. To my eye their big sign communicates they don’t pay attention to the details.
Going through the development agreement documents related to St. Lawrence Place, it’s evident to me how this went all wrong. The developer, the planners, and the city councillors who approved the building were focused on the wrong things. Here’s the approved (after it was built) development map:
There are a lot of things to note on this map.
The first is its orientation. North is to the right, making Joseph Howe Drive the primary focus of the map: St. Lawrence Place is a building facing Joseph Howe (and more generally, the entire peninsula), while Dutch Village Road is the “back” of the project, in effect a service alleyway. But anyone who walks around that area sees it exactly opposite: that stretch of Joseph Howe Road is just another suburban wasteland, with sprawling parking lots in front of the Superstore, Shoppers Drug, and other large retail outlets, while the Dutch Village Road corridor just past St. Lawrence Place is by far the more interesting street, with a fascinating mix of diverse mom and pop stores, small restaurants, a couple of bars, and the like. There are something like eight different ethnicities represented in a two-block stretch of road.
The second thing to notice is the way the planners thought about pedestrians. The dominant feature in their minds was the Chain of Lakes Trail, the old railway bed that was converted to an active transportation trail. Indeed, COLT is a jewel in the city, travelling through the forests next to the Chain of Lakes waterway (despite council turning it into a year-long sewer project, but that’s another story). The stretch of COLT next to Joseph Howe Drive, however, is worthless for pedestrians. While a bike path is useful, in terms of pedestrians, we need broad sidewalks, separated from the roadway, with interesting interfaces with businesses, not parking lots. But in the planners’ minds, COLT is elevated in importance, so important that the real pedestrian corridor, the one people actually use — the sidewalk along Dutch Village Road — was ignored.
Which leads to the third thing on the map: the inclusion of a “regional trail connector” in the development, which, in the planners’ words, “provides a mid-block connection between Joseph Howe Drive and Dutch Village Road.” But this mid-block connector serves just one possible destination: the Superstore. Even to get to the Superstore, the connector saves just one block. Anyone wanting to walk further north along Joseph Howe could follow Dutch Village Road in front of Mexico Lindo and Freeman’s up to Joseph Howe; anyone wanting to walk south would walk along Dutch Village Road, past St. Lawrence Place to the intersection of Bayers Road and Joseph Howe. The sidewalk along the street, not the trail, is the main walking route. And to be sure: there’s lots and lots that can be done to improve the pedestrian experience while walking along Dutch Village Road, but those improvements should’ve started with a nice pedestrian-friendly streetscape in front of St. Lawrence Place.
But maybe you disagree. Maybe you see the trail as the important thing here. OK, for the sake of argument…the trail’s the important thing. But what did we actually get?
Before the development was approved, but after it was built, Fares had a change in the application. Explains the staff report:
The applicant has requested a non-substantive amendment to recognize and allow for the relocation of the Regional Trail Connector walkway to the south side of the property. The walkway connects to the Regional Trail (“Chain of Lakes Trail”) which abuts the subject property on the Joseph Howe Drive frontage. Schedule B of the existing development agreement (Attachment B) showed the location of the Regional Trail Connector walkway as an active transportation pathway through the development on the north side of the property. This provides a mid-block connection between Joseph Howe Drive and Dutch Village Road. During construction, challenges with topography and building design resulted in relocation of the walkway to the south side of the property.
Staff has reviewed the proposal relative to the provisions of the existing development agreement and has determined that the proposed amendments maintain the intent of the existing development agreement. The proposed change continues to provide an important mid-block connection for pedestrians, cyclists, and other active transportation between Dutch Village Road and the Regional Trail on Joseph Howe Drive. To permit the change in location of the walkway, the proposed amending development agreement adopts a new site plan which reflects the as-built location and design of the Regional Trail Connector walkway from the north side to the south side of the properties. Therefore, staff recommends that Council approve the proposed amending development agreement as contained in Attachment A.
That’s a lot of gobbledygook bureaucratese to say that despite the original agreement to build the trail on the north side of the property, the developer found it was cheaper to build the trail on the south side of the property, so that’s where they put it, and therefore we have to approve it after-the-fact and who are we to object?
By this time it’s clear that the “Regional Trail Connector” is a throw-away, something tossed into the development proposal because it sounds nice and can sway easily duped councillors to get on board, and not because it was highly important in anyone’s mind as an actual pedestrian corridor.
Here’s what the thing looks like:
It is, in fact, a piece of crap, some cement thrown down between a parking lot and a fence. I doubt anyone at all uses it to actually walk between Dutch Village Road and the Chain of Lakes Trail. Why should they? It’s a more interesting walk to travel along Dutch Village Road.
Or rather, it was a more interesting walk to travel along Dutch Village Road before W.M. Fares, unthinking bureaucrats, and easily duped city councillors created a pedestrian dead zone on the street.
2. Cranky letter of the day
After reading in the paper about the inequality of women’s rights, how can I not be astonished that in today’s world, especially in Canada, men are allowed to walk around naked from the waist up yet women are not? Outside of the protruding (pun intended) fact that women are more developed than most men and that we can lactate, please tell me what the difference is.
As well, there are some heavier-set men whose breasts develop the same as any woman’s. Why should they not be told to cover up? Fair is fair. There are some places in this world that couldn’t care less whether either sex wears any clothing whatsoever. We are all born naked, so if we want to live life that way, why can we not?
As with anything there will be the haters but as with everything and with time people will eventually care less. Would I walk around topless or even naked in the summer? Perhaps topless — but this should be my choice and not that of some bureaucrat.
Sherrill Martin, Lower Sackville
No public meetings. There’s not much going on this entire week in government, as Canada Day falls smack in the middle of the week. Ten-day holidays abound.
Remember when Quebec demanded that it be called a nation, and Stephen Harper made that whole controversy go away by simply agreeing to it? Well, exactly the same thing has happened with the Dartmouth separatists: Mike Savage has agreed to change the sign next to Sullivan Pond, calling the place Dartmouth.
In the harbour
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, arrives from St. John’s