1. Indigenous students at Hants East high school say they face tougher suspensions
Aly Thompson at CBC reports on Indigenous students at Hants East Rural High School who say they are being discriminated against when it comes to punishments from staff.
Thompson spoke with several students, including 16-year-old Xavier Sack from the Sipekneꞌkatik First Nation, who says suspensions are often the automatic punishment for Indigenous students. Sack was recently suspended for 40 days for an altercation involving several people, although he tells Thompson he didn’t physically assault anyone.
Some days you feel like you always have to be on guard. You’re always protecting yourself. Some teachers don’t understand what we go through, so they don’t see how hard it is.
Another student, Miguel Greer, was suspended on Dec. 4 for the rest of the school year. He points out another non-Indigenous student involved in a separate fight got a five-day suspension, with a two-day in-school suspension for that incident.
Officials with Chignecto Central say they know suspensions for Indigenous students are high. CBC got data that showed that Hants East, with 743 students and the 23rd largest student body of the province’s 10 largest high schools, had the highest suspension rate.
Gary Adam, regional executive director for Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education, tells Thompson suspensions aren’t always effective and staff need to look at their own biases when it comes to discipline.
It’s part of our journey of reconciliation, if you will, in making sure that together we have deeper understandings, deeper relationships, and an ability to look to other solutions so that the punitive ways of the past are not necessarily the default.
2. Premier’s chief of staff knew about allegations against MacKay
Premier Stephen McNeil’s chief of staff, Laurie Graham, knew of the DUI allegations against MLA Hugh MacKay for several months, but didn’t tell the premier the details. Graeme Benjamin and Elizabeth McSheffrey at Global report that Graham decided the details of the incident weren’t important for the premier to know.
The premier has said he learned of the accusations earlier this month when the police charged MacKay. Yesterday, though, he added that Graham knew about the alleged incident since May 2019.
She would have received a call that said to her there was this allegation, that it had been investigated and there was no substance to it and that was the end of it.
McNeil’s press secretary added that investigation wasn’t a “formal” one and while it was looked into, they found no “credibility.”
MacKay resigned from the Liberal caucus on Sunday and now sits as an independent.
On Tuesday, the Progressive Conservatives presented an email written by a former member of his riding association’s board of directors. The email details an alleged drunk driving incident by MacKay in November 2018 and included details of the pursuit to get MacKay off the road.
MacKay will be in court on March 16 to face the drunk driving charge.
3. Fare increase for Metro X service defeated
Yesterday, council voted against an increase in the fare for Metro X service from downtown Halifax to the airport.
Stuart Peddle at The Chronicle Herald reports that councillor Steve Streatch said the increase in the fare from $4.25 to $6 would affect his constituents who live in the Fall River area and very close to the airport.
I think in this case, to lump the residents of Fall River in with a proposed increase as it relates to those travellers is akin to not being able to see the forest for the trees.
Streatch suggested two other options: Increase the fare only for those going to the airport or don’t charge the fare at all.
Said councillor Shawn Cleary:
The Metro X service, and this particular one, the 320, is not the Cadillac of services. The bus stop at the airport sucks. It’s not like it’s every five, 10, 15 minutes, and it’s not even 24 hours a day.
4. All-male council says no to funding for women’s leadership conference
An all-male municipal council in Nova Scotia has said no to funding a leadership conference organized to encourage more women to run for office.
Tom Ayers with CBC reports that the Town of Port Hawkesbury is hosting the conference in May and organizers asked for municipal support to fund childcare and travel expenses. But Richmond County Council said no way.
Warden Brian Marchand says women attending should pay for their own expenses and training. He also said the conference should include men and that women aren’t at a disadvantage when running for office.
There are many women that are mayors and wardens right across this province and probably right across this country.
There are many women in politics right across the spectrum from provincial to federal, so I don’t think they’re at a disadvantage in any sort of a way as opposed to men.
Councillor James Goyetche said the former warden was a woman, adding:
I think it would be kind of irresponsible on my part, and kind of stupid, to use taxpayers’ dollars to encourage somebody to run against me.
Goyetche has been on council for 23 years.
Port Hawkesbury mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says local businesses have come forward to offer support.
Gender equity certainly starts with an acknowledgement that it’s not a level playing field for women in politics.
5. Nominal fees on Airbnbs won’t help long-term housing issue, critics say
Caora McKenna at The Coast has a piece on the rules for Airbnbs in Halifax and how any strict rules would be left up the municipalities. This month, Nova Scotia is releasing the Tourism Accommodations Registration Act in which anyone operating an Airbnb that is not their primary residence will have to register the property and pay a fee.
Thorben Wieditz from Fairbnb Coalition tells McKenna that’s not enough.
Airbnb systematically converts housing stock into hotel suites, which reduces the available housing stock, increases prices and pushes people out of their community.”
Says McKenna about the fees:
The annual fee for listings that aren’t a primary residence—which a study by David Wachsmuth at McGill University estimates is about half of all listings in Halifax—ranges from $50 for a unit with one to four bedrooms, to $150 for five or more. Meanwhile, platforms like Airbnb pay only $500, which Wieditz says is “literally nothing. Five hundred dollars for a platform to operate, that’s just a nominal fee.”
To give some perspective on the nominal fee, from September 2019 to August 2019 listings in Halifax earned $30.9 million, and, Halifax’s new proposed rules around ride-hailing apps suggested a $25,000 one-time and a fee-per-trip charge for platforms.
Wieditz says that fee won’t help with the long-term housing issue. That report from McGill shows that short-term rentals have removed 740 housing units from Halifax’s long-term housing market.
The HRM is also looking at a way to regulate short-term rentals and its report will be out in the spring.
Pink Shirt Day
Yesterday was Pink Shirt Day. If you’re not familiar, Pink Shirt Day got its start in 2007 when two students, Travis Price and David Shepherd, at Central Kings Rural High School in the Annapolis Valley bought and handed out pink t-shirts in support of a younger student who was bullied on the first day of school for wearing a pink shirt.
Pink Shirt Day is now celebrated as an anti-bullying event around the world.
There are actually several Pink Shirt Days. In Canada, it’s celebrated the last week of February. The United Nations declared the day as May 4. The International Day of Pink is during the second week of April. And in Nova Scotia, the second Thursday of September is Stand Up Against Bullying Day where students are encouraged to wear pink.
That’s a lot of pink.
Anyway, I saw Pink Shirt Day trending on Twitter yesterday and there were lots of kids, teachers, and others in pink t-shirts, including the Halifax Regional Police.
Price is one of the founders of Pink Day, an organization that sells pink t-shirts and hats. A portion of the proceeds from those sales to go bullying prevention programs like the Red Cross’s RespectED. Price travels the country talking to kids about bullying and bullying prevention. Yesterday, he was in British Columbia and shared lots of photos on Twitter. There are other Pink Shirt Day organizations, too, all inspired by Price and Shepherd’s 2007 effort. There’s Pink Shirt Day by CKNW Kids Fund. Like Price’s organization, they sell pink merchandise with the funds going to programs for kids and youth like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Canada and the Kids Help Phone. International Day of Pink, which is April 8, also sells t-shirts, buttons, and pink-day kits.
Beyond the pink-related organizations, there are others that deal with bullying issues, including Unicef Canada and Bullying Canada
Someone asked me if Pink Shirt Day and other one-day awareness campaigns actually do anything to reduce the frequency or severity of bullying in schools. I reached out to PREVNet, a network of NGOs, researchers, and governments that work together to stop bullying in Canada. They didn’t have the kind of data I was looking for, but they sent a message from their scientific director, Wendy Craig:
Campaigns do raise awareness and provide important education. That is the first step needed to bring about change and address behaviour. It is what comes after the campaigns and the awareness-building that will bring about sustained change — that is evidence based interventions.
They also sent me a link to fact sheet from their Bullying Prevention Tools for Schools resource that highlights a whole-school approach, which they say works best. There is no shortage of resources out there for kids, parents, and teachers.
Not everyone likes Pink Shirt Day, though. Usually on Twitter I see stories from parents who says their kids were harassed for not wearing a pink shirt on Pink Shirt Day. I think the intent of Pink Shirt Day is a good one, although if we had Pink Shirt Day in the 70s and 80s when I went to school, I know the biggest bullies would have been decked out in pink. Pink Shirt Day is one day the bullies can play nice for everyone to see.
Another issue I have with Pink Shirt Day or any event aimed at reducing bullying in schools is that adults are often the worst role models when it comes to proper behavior anywhere. I wrote about this before; look at the behavior of parents on the Halifax Regional Centre of Education Twitter’s account when a snow day is called. I hope these parents’ kids aren’t on Twitter reading some of what their parents write.
Or consider the videos parents post of their children, including the pranks they play on them or the punishments they dole out to their children who’ve bullied others in school (posting videos of that discipline is bullying behavior itself, so there’s no mystery where the kid has learned it).
And workplaces are rife with harassment. Just yesterday, Equity Watch hosted a rally downtown to outlaw bullying in Nova Scotia workplaces. I once put out a tweet asking followers if they had stories about being harassed in the workplaces. I got dozens of messages and replies. Adults don’t know how to solve bullying in their own environments, so I’m not sure why we should be teaching kids. And the bullying is the same in workplaces as it is in school where people bully others as a way to get ahead, and it works. The bullying is often overlooked — and even perpetrated by — the people in charge.
I reached out to Michael Zwaagstra, a high school teacher in Manitoba who’s also an author and columnist who writes about curriculum reform, teaching methodologies, and classroom management.
He’s familiar with Pink Shirt Day and says some schools in Manitoba take part and encourage kids to wear pink (Zwaagtra himself forgot yesterday was Pink Shirt Day). While he says Pink Shirt Day likely raises the awareness around bullying in schools, it probably doesn’t do much about reduction in bullying. Instead, Zwaagstra says schools have to take a closer look at their own cultures. That means having the right disciplines in place and the proper training for teachers so they can recognize the signs (he did say most teaches have at least basic training on how to identify bullying behavior in their classrooms).
Students do pick up on how we treat each other and other students.
As teachers, we have to be very careful how we treat students. They can pick up on if we’re not treating someone with respect. Respect is key.
But Zwaagstra says to really see the culture in a school, take a look at how students treat each other when they think no one is looking. Do they include those kids who are quirky and often left out? In other words, how do they treat each other on the days when they’re not encouraged to wear pink shirts and make a big show of it?
That’s often the most powerful anti-bullying messaging you can have.
One of the best essays I’ve ever read on bullying and school culture is Why Nerds are Unpopular, which was written in 2003 by Paul Graham, an American programmer, writer, and investor. It’s a long read, but I highly recommend it.
I found the essay at least a decade ago while researching bullying in schools. Graham talks about his own experience as a nerd in school, but also why nerds are often the targets of bullies (because they’re focused on being smart rather than being popular). Graham focuses on nerds here, but I think much of what he says applies to anyone left out of the school hierarchies. And Graham talks about those hierarchies and the mechanics of popularity, too. I remember this culture well.
Like a politician who wants to distract voters from bad times at home, you can create an enemy if there isn’t a real one. By singling out and persecuting a nerd, a group of kids from higher in the hierarchy create bonds between themselves. Attacking an outsider makes them all insiders. This is why the worst cases of bullying happen with groups. Ask any nerd: you get much worse treatment from a group of kids than from any individual bully, however sadistic.
Graham points out that junior high or middle school seems to be the worst grades for kids who face bullying. That certainly seemed to be the case when I went to school (I’d never want to do it over again). And I remember before my daughter attended school, I wanted her to avoid the brutal culture of junior high, so I moved close to and enrolled her in a school with classes from Primary to Grade 9, thinking somehow having little kids around would soften the hostility that seems pretty common in Grades 7 to 9. And she seemed to make it out okay, although I heard the occasional stories about the mean girls.
There are a number of bits of Graham’s essay that struck a chord with me, including this bit on the artificial world of suburbs and indeed schools themselves:
If I could go back and give my thirteen year old self some advice, the main thing I’d tell him would be to stick his head up and look around. I didn’t really grasp it at the time, but the whole world we lived in was as fake as a Twinkie. Not just school, but the entire town. Why do people move to suburbia? To have kids! So no wonder it seemed boring and sterile. The whole place was a giant nursery, an artificial town created explicitly for the purpose of breeding children.
Where I grew up, it felt as if there was nowhere to go, and nothing to do. This was no accident. Suburbs are deliberately designed to exclude the outside world, because it contains things that could endanger children.
And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.
What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.
Graham published a short follow-up to that essay after receiving hundreds of responses from the first piece. Some readers said he must have been a loser to have had such a bad time in school and continues to be bitter about it. Others said there were no bullies at their schools and not all the smart kids are nerds.
I don’t actually know how to stop bullying for good. It’s one of those terrible human behaviours we have to learn to manage better because it can destroy lives, both childrens’ and adults’. I don’t think one day a year will stop it (and I hope Pink Day proponents know this). I know many of the people I went to school with who were the quirky ones, the misfits, and those who said they were picked on in school, actually became the more interesting adults. And life after graduation became more interesting and fun than any of those years in school. I don’t know either if this is any help for kids being bullied in schools right now, but maybe it’s better than wearing pink for one day a year.
Yesterday, journalist and radio tech Erin MacInnis shared on Twitter a link to a Halifax subreddit thread in which a user found a Game of Halifax board game at a local thrift store. The game was created in 1983 as a fundraiser for the I.W.K.
The game made news in January when Suzette Belliveau at CTV spoke with Kelly Cameron, IWK Auxiliary executive assistant, and Susan McClure, HRM archivist. The municipal archives has one of the surviving copies of the game. You can search for the game at the archives here:
Cameron says some of the retailers features on the game board sold the game to their customers. It was the best-selling game that year with 5,000 copies sold for a profit of $50,000, which help pay for a new dialysis unit at the children’s hospital. Of course, many of those stores and businesses featured no longer exist, including Simpsons, Eaton’s, and Charles Brown Furriers. The board also features a space for the AHL hockey team the Voyageurs.
Halifax historian Lou Collins collected the facts in the game. About the game, McClure says:
It’s a very kind of colonial perspective on Halifax’s history. Certainly, if a game was done now, I think the historical facts would be quite different.
It would be fun to create a 2020 version of this game. Maybe it could include all the places you can no longer afford to live in because the rent is too high.
You can also find the game at the Central Library, although it’s only available for in-library use.
This wasn’t the only board game customized for Halifax. Halifax on Board was a Monopoly clone created in 2005 as a fundraiser for Bryony House.
This game included pieces shaped like a lighthouse or Tim Horton’s cups.
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — the committee is recommending that council direct the CAO to “promote and encourage the use of the Flexible Work Arrangements Business Practise for all non-union employees as an option for managing congestion and reducing single occupancy vehicle trips in alignment with the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP).”
No public meetings.
No public meetings for the rest of the week.
Dalhousie Reading Circle (Thursday, 9:30am, Indigenous Student Centre Community Room, 1321 Edward Street) — weekly meeting for “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” More info here.
Law Hour with Mark Sakamoto (Thursday, 12:30pm, Room 105, Weldon law Building) — Mark will talk about his “Body of Work (so far): Life in Law, Business, Tech & Culture.”
Restrictions of eigenfunctions to general subsets of surfaces (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Suresh Eswarathasan will talk.
Transformative Politics of the Wild (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) —Lisa Young, Executive Director, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) and Elder Albert Marshall, Eskasoni First Nation, will talk about “Re-emergence of Netukulimk in Mi’kma’ki: Awakening the Sleeping Giant.” More info here.
Piano Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room, Dal Arts Centre)
Troutville: Where People Discuss Fairness Issues (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Yukiko Asada will talk.
Traces of Liturgy: Analysing a Manuscript Fragment from the Binding of the Riesencodex (Friday, 3:30pm, room 1170, McCain Building) — Jennifer Bain will talk.
Policing Black Lives: Is this too much Noise about Nothing? Part 2 (Friday, 5:30pm, Room 1108, Mona Campbell Building) — a panel discussion and workshop with Paul Banahene Adjei, Robert Seymour Wright, Sylvia Parris-Drummond, and Isaac Saney
seeks to interrogate how we look at, define and contribute to discussions on the Policing of Black Lives. Are Black Lives Policed? How, Where and When are Black Lives Policed? Is there one way of looking at and understanding the Policing of Black Lives? What are the effects of the Policing of Black Lives? Are the effects short-lived or enduring?
African Heritage Month: Poetry Slam (Thursday, 6pm, Gorsebrook Pub) — the theme: “Rooted.” More info here.
Refugees, Migrants, and Development in Turkey (Friday, 12pm, McNally Main 227) — Mehmet Nuri Gultekin from Gaziantep University, Turkey, will talk.
Migration waves have redefined the demographic structure of modern Turkey since the 19th century up to the current Syrian refugee crisis. Modern Turkish society cannot be understood without the migration, immigration, enforced displacement, and re-settlement of various ethnic and nationalist groups, from the dramatic migration of peasants from rural to urban areas from the 1950s to the 1980s, to the large-scale forced migration of the Kurdish population of the country’s eastern and southeastern regions in the 1990s and 2000s. The wave that Turkey has faced since the Arab uprisings in 2011 is extraordinary, involving hundreds of thousands of civilians from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, and nearly four million people from Syria as “temporary” refugees. The province of Gaziantep, on the Turkish border with Syria, is currently hosting 452,000 Syrians, and 23% of the population of the capital city are now Syrian refugees.
While many citizens, journalists, and politicians criticize the refugees for alleged “problems,” the reality is much different. Based on extensive research throughout Gaziantep, Dr. Mehmet Nuri Gultekin will discuss the real and concrete effects of the migrants and refugees on the development processes in Turkey, and the multi-dimensional interactions and contributions of Syrian refugees to the daily life of the city and the country.
East Coast International Development Summit 2020: Climate Action (Friday 8am, various locations) — for student leaders from across Atlantic Canada. More info here.
Mi’kmaq Women | Mi’kmaq Religion: Researching Mi’kmaq Sovereignty through the Cult of Saint Anne (Friday, 12pm, McNally Main 335) — a talk by Jeanine LeBlanc, a Mi’kmaw PhD candidate in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.
Mi’kmaq people have affirmed Catholicism as an Indigenous identity for the past 400 years. This is a complex history done on Mi’kmaw terms and in reciprocity with the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, this relationship has been understood through a settler-colonial lens of assimilation to European values and worldview. Therefore, there is little scholarship that examines the lived experiences and agency of Mi’kmaw engagement with Catholicism and its institutions. Using core concepts to Indigenous Studies, Religious Studies, and Gender Studies, this presentation will discuss how, despite a long history of colonization involving religious institutions, Mi’kmaq women have operationalized Catholicism historically and contemporarily through the female Catholic saint, Saint Anne, to build their communities and contribute to Mi’kmaw governance.
This presentation will challenge settler-colonial understandings of religious identity rooted in assimilation, moralization, androcentrism, and racialization by focusing on Mi’kmaq women’s experiences of Catholic pilgrimage across Mi’kma’ki (i.e., Mi’kmaw territory). I seek to highlight the strengths and strategies that Mi’kmaq women use when engaging Saint Anne through an intersectional analysis that considers the role of gender and indigeneity in shaping the experiences of Mi’kmaq women with religious institutions. By privileging Mi’kmaq women’s perspectives, this work focuses on women’s resiliency and self-determination, contributing to a great understanding of Mi’kmaq sovereignty.
Mount Saint Vincent
Gender in Health Workshop (Thursday, 9am, Rooms 404-405, Seton Academic Centre) — Phillip Joy will talk about how sex and gender can influence the health of people.
Where Have All the Monsters Gone? (Thursday, 4:30pm, room 404, Seton Academic Centre) — Karen Macfarlane will talk. Email here for more info.
MSVU’s Interdisciplinary Lifespan Developmental Colloquium Series (Friday, 12pm, Room 532, Seton Academic Centre) — Ian Pottie will talk about his research on the development of an imaging agent for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that targets butyrylcholinesterase, an enzyme that associates with the pathological hallmarks during AD. Email here for more info.
Communication Studies Winter Research Panel (Friday 1:30pm, Room 302, McCain Centre) — Alla Kushniryk will talk on “Using Proxies to Evaluate Trust on Social Media”; Stan Orlov talks on “Open Textbooks in Communication and Public Relations’; and Ellen Shaffner talks on “Towards Intersectional History: A Methodology for Historical Organization Studies.”
Miss Chief in the Museum (Thursday, 7:30pm, Alumni Hall) — Kent Monkman will talk. More info here.
When Women Fought for Space ‑ Amy Shira Teitel Talks Space History (Friday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — the space historian and author talks about her new book Fighting for Space. More info here.
Imagining futures (Saturday, 10am, KTS Lecture Hall) — students in the History of Science and Technology program present a conference of their work. More info here.
In the harbour
05:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:00: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica
15:00: MOL Paradise, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:00: Atlantic Star sails for New York
Someone told me Tuesday’s Morning File was very depressing. I tried to think of a joke to share here, but I got nothin’.