1. City HR department lies about progress in implementing recommendations to address racism and discrimination
A staff report that came to council yesterday says the city drastically overstated progress being made on implementing the recommendations of a 2016 report on the racism faced by Black municipal workers.
Zane Woodford reports:
A few months after the public release of the report, municipal staff told council that more than 60% of its recommendations had been implemented. The most recent progress report said 87.9% were complete.
Neither update was true.
On Tuesday, regional council debated and passed recommendations from a new confidential human resources processes and practices review by KPMG. Buried in the staff report was an admission:
“While reviewing the above external review, it was decided that an internal audit of the progress reported on the Employment Systems Review (ESR) should be completed. The percentage of completed recommendations was found to be significantly lower than was previously understood, and currently stands at 40% complete with 60% of the recommendations outstanding.”
As of Tuesday night, the incorrect figures remained up on the city’s website.
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2. Province issues hospital parkade tender and the city wants answers
Zane Woodford’s second piece of the day is about the controversial new parkade the province wants to build next to the Museum of Natural History. The project is part of the QEII re-development, which will see the current multi-storey car-park torn down. Yesterday, the province issued a tender for design and construction of the new parking lot.
The detailed drawings released with the tender show about 3,900 square metres of the land being used is provincial, and about 2,600 square metres is municipal. Part of that municipal land is in use by the Bengal Lancers horse-riding school for its paddock and part by the Wanderers Grounds and HFX Wanderers FC for its entrance.
“The parkade will have up to 900 parking spaces and sit on the current parking lot of the Museum of Natural History,” the province said in a news release on Tuesday.
Woodford has some great quotes from Councillor Waye Mason, who has been very vocal about his opposition to the project. He speaks with a lot more anger than we are used to hearing from councillors.
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Update: This morning, Mark Hodgins reports for Halifax Today on a letter from Premier Stephen McNeil to Mason. Mason had previously asked the premier for answers and was rebuffed.
Hodgins writes that now McNeil “is dismissing” Mason’s concerns.
The premier writes that there is “some misinformation out there about the project” and he wants to ensure Mason has the correct facts when speaking publicly.
Correct facts, huh? At least he didn’t say fake news.
3. Mental health clinic shuts down
Last spring, the North End Community Health Centre launched a promising sounding pilot project: a walk-in mental health clinic.
In a CBC story from last June, Carolyn Ray writes that the idea came from social worker Megan MacBride.
I do some counselling in my work at the health centre, but it never feels like enough,” said Megan MacBride, a social worker at the North End Community Health Centre.
“The demand for service is increasing and it’s very difficult to keep up with that, especially for folks who are marginalized, who are living in poverty, who experience homophobia, racism.”
MacBride came up with the idea after seeing a similar service while working in Ottawa. When she moved home, she began to advocate for funding to offer it to people in the Halifax area.
The program, which was funded through a $27,350 grant from the province’s Communities, Culture and Heritage Department, had been offering the drop-in programs Tuesday night at the North End Community Health Centre on Gottingen Street and Thursday night at the Chebucto Family Centre on Herring Cove Road.
Counsellors will see their last patients this week at both locations.
A spokesperson for the province’s Communities, Culture and Heritage Department told CBC News the grant money that was used for the pilot project isn’t renewable and groups need to apply for it year after year.
Please look again at the size of that grant: $27,350.
More than 60 people used the walk-in service that was offered from 5-9 p.m. two nights a week and about 60 per cent returned for further care.
“We’re seeing more folks return than the one-off and I think that sort of speaks to the nature of mental health and how it’s an ongoing process,” MacBride said.
“We have a pocket of people who have received intensive mental-health services in the past and been connected with the health authority and maybe just need a little support between their sessions and then there’s others who connected 10 years ago and that’s not their needs now.”
An aside: Kudos to both the CBC and the Chronicle Herald for not using your standard “person with their head in their hands” image to depict mental illness.
Many mental health advocates have said the chief barrier to seeking treatment for mental illness is not stigma, it’s a lack of resources and long wait times. (Don’t get me started on the trouble with anti-stigma talk either; I’ll leave that for another day.)
But yeah, Let’s Talk.
4. The history of King’s and slavery
In February 2018, the University of King’s College launched an inquiry into the university’s connections with slavery. King’s commissioned four scholarly papers on the subject, and the findings of two of them were presented at a meeting on Monday, Andrea McGuire reports for The Signal.
The meeting heard that King’s founder Charles Inglis owned at least two slaves when he lived in New York, and advertised for their return when they escaped. According to one of the ads, one of these slaves was a boy “about 15 years of age.”
But Inglis is far from the only figure from the university’s history with connections to slavery, as those attending an information session at the University of King’s College discovered on Monday.
“Our findings show that by far the larger proportion of individuals involved with King’s in the first generation either owned enslaved people before they immigrated to Canada, got them once they came here, or both,” [paper co-writer Karolyn Smardz] Frost said during her talk.
“Those who did not often earned at least part of their income from handling slave-produced goods in one way or another through the West Indian trade.”
Last year I went to (and wrote about) a talk at Dal by historian Craig Steven Wilder on the links tying some of America’s oldest universities to slavery.
The schools benefited not only directly from owning slaves (Wilder gave the example of a school selling a slave donated to the institution by a supporter in order to pay for roofing repairs) but from the larger slave trade of the day.
This was the case with King’s too. McGuire writes:
One of [researcher Shirley] Tillotson’s key findings was that between 1803 and 1833, 35.7 per cent of King’s public funding came from taxes on slave-produced goods such as sugar.
“So the Canadian story is a tax story,” Tillotson said. “It’s a public revenue story. These colleges were funded, in large part, through taxes on slave-grown goods.”
5. CTV brings us the local angle
CTV is reporting that the novel coronavirus has not been found in Halifax. Considering that, as I write this, there is only one confirmed case in Canada, and two presumptive cases, and they have been all over the news, I think we probably would have heard if there was one in Halifax.
Still, I look forward to reports on all the other places where the virus has not been found.
Paragraph one of the story helpfully tells us that even though an Asian grocery stocks many products from China, business has not been affected by the outbreak.
With Chinese New Year in full swing, things have been busy at Tian Phat Asian Grocery in Halifax. Family-run for almost 30-years, many of the specialized products come from China, although the store deals primarily with North American distributors. Despite an international coronavirus scare, supplies haven’t been a problem for the business.
Meanwhile, Vice reports that “A Disturbing Number of People Think Coronavirus Is Related to Corona Beer.”
6. Man loses ditch tax case
Francis Campbell reports for the Chronicle Herald on an Upper Tantallon man who has run out of options when it comes to fighting Halifax Water’s so-called ditch tax. The “tax” is a stormwater run-off charge, and some residents on septic systems resent having to pay it.
David Banfield’s original appeal of the charge was dismissed. He then took his grievance to the Utilities and Review Board, which also dismissed it. Banfield appealed that decision in court.
Unlike some others who have complained about the ditch tax, Banfield doesn’t dispute that run-off from his property goes into the Halifax Water stormwater system. Instead, he argued in court that his privacy and Charter rights had been violated when the municipality provided his information to Halifax Water.
The court was having none of it, Campbell explains:
The three-judge panel found that “Mr. Banfield’s name and address were not confidential.”
“His name and property location are listed at the public land registry, were available to the municipality for municipal purposes, and appear openly on any number of documents needed for everyday life,” the justices wrote. “For instance, Mr. Banfield placed his name and address on the cover of his appeal factum, copied to Halifax Water. Information in ‘plain view’ or ‘public view’ may afford little reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The court further said that Banfield preferred a system in which stormwater charges are billed only to water customers.
“Not being a water customer, he just does not want to pay a stormwater user fee,” the decision reads. “But, if he does not pay, others will subsidize Halifax Water’s stormwater service to Mr. Banfield.”
7. Bus Stop Theatre funding approved by council
Council voted yesterday to provide $250,000 to the Bus Stop Theatre Co-operative to help fund the purchase of their building and renovations.
The theatre co-op had originally asked for a $500,000 commitment from the municipality, requesting that commitment by June 2019 in response to the impending sale of the privately owned building that houses the co-op. The estimated purchase price of the building was $725,000.
The theatre has been doing well in finding private-sector funding, Labelle said.
“We had an objective of raising $150,000 by the end of 2020, we’re already at $145,000 and are securing financing partners to get us farther into that goal,” he said.
[Bus Stop executive director Sebastien] Labelle said the theatre is used by countless artists and community members who converge to showcase and witness talent in the community and from elsewhere coming to our community.
I’m happy about this. The Bus Stop is an important venue for both emerging and mid-career artists. It has a history of innovative and accessible programming.
Only one councillor voted against the motion to approve the funding. You won’t need three guesses to figure out who it was.
A couple of weeks ago, I was exchanging messages with writer and editor Kim Hart Macneill, and she mentioned her recent experience at a cafe in downtown Toronto. She was downtown, in the financial district, and she walked into a cafe and ordered a cup of coffee.
After placing her order, Hart Macneill noticed the place only took cards. No cash.
In January 2019, I spent a week in New York’s financial district, in lower Manhattan, and noticed a lot of places that wouldn’t accept cash. But I only registered this in a vague sort of, “wave of the future, I guess” kind of way.
Hart Macneill is more perceptive than me. In our exchange, she wrote:
The only reason I could grasp was to keep people who panhandle out. When I asked the manager about it he said I was 100% right. I asked them to dump my coffee and refund my card. And he looked at me like I was insane… “It’s the Financial District. Everyone has a card.” No sir. Everyone does not.
Last Thursday, New York City Council passed new rules banning stores from refusing cash. The New York Daily News reports the regulations will “require all businesses that sell any articles, goods, merchandise or commodities to take cash or risk civil penalties up to $1,500.”
The Daily News continues:
The “cashless ban,” which is expected to go into effect in about nine months, also prohibits stores from charging customers higher prices for paying in cash.
“No longer in NYC will brick-and-mortar businesses have the right to refuse cash and effectively discriminate against customers who lack access to credit and debit,” [Councilman Ritchie] Torres said. “The City of New York cannot allow the digital economy to leave behind the 25% of New Yorkers who are chronically unbanked and underbanked.”
What’s your experience of businesses in Halifax refusing cash? My impression is there are a fair number of places that only take cash. I haven’t seen much of the opposite, but I don’t frequent a lot of downtown coffee shops.
1. Food, memory, art
Last weekend I stopped by the top floor of the Central Library to look at a photo exhibit by artist Emily Lawrence. The show is called Plate Portraits, and it features photos of food, based on memories of people with dementia.
Lawrence researched the show by spending a day with seniors who have dementia at the Berkeley residence in the South End of Halifax, talking about their food memories. I asked Lawrence about the experience:
I went in for a whole day and I brought some cookies and we had some tea. Some of the residents were able to access their memories and talk about them quite clearly. They talked about their mothers’ cooking and all kinds of things their mothers made, and what they would eat on holidays or during celebrations.
Some of the other patients struggled to keep a conversation going, but I had a bunch of Betty Crocker cookbooks I brought in, because they were quite popular. I would ask if their mothers were using these recipes and some of them would say, “Oh yeah, this exact recipe” or “this exact loaf of bread.” For those that were struggling more, I found the cookbooks were an easy way to talk about food. The images were quite triggering for them…
Almost everyone had a birthday cake memory and everyone could recall their Christmas meals absolutely perfectly. They would remember the specific kinds of cookies their mums would bake and give out in the neighbourhood. Everyone was just like, I love food, I just love food so much.
After interviewing the residents, Lawrence re-created some of the foods and photographed them on dishes she’d found at Value Village. The photos were originally exhibited at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, and for that show, Lawrence had a scratch-and-sniff coating applied to the images.
Finding a company to apply the coating wasn’t easy though. Lawrence says most companies who do that kind of work aren’t interested in her scale of project:
They don’t want to work with small fish—they work mostly with perfume companies, doing inserts in magazines. I was like hey, I just want to print these 10 photos. But I found this one guy who was amazing, and his son was doing research on Alzheimer’s and the power of scent so he had a soft spot for this and said we could work on it.
He had a huge library of scents and sent me a few dozen samples for what he thought would work based on the prints I had. They didn’t have spaghetti, but they had tomatoes and oregano and pizza, and for the birthday cake there was a variety of ones I could choose, and once I smelled them I selected the one that worked best for the photo. They take that scent and they use the scent in a varnish—it’s called encapsulation—in a way that will prevent it from evaporating. So they printed the photos and then screen printed the varnish onto them.
Lawrence considered doing a photo featuring an entire roast turkey dinner, with five different scents, but the cost was prohibitive. It would have been about $2,500 just for the one print.
Scent is such a strong trigger of memories. There has been some really interesting research into using scent to trigger memory for Alzheimers patients, which makes sense. We all have those experiences. Something I thought was really nice about the Scratch and Sniff show is I’ve never gotten so much feedback on my work. People would tell me about a strong food memory they have, or about how a certain scent will make them feel, or bring them back to something specific. That was a nice outcome of this project.
Over the course of the month at Craig Gallery, the constant scratching started to damage the photos, so the library show just features photos in frames.
I was quite taken with the exhibit. Although the images were obviously very carefully constructed, with a colour palette reminiscent of the 1950s and a lot of care in the composition, these didn’t look like cookbook photos. The slices of bread on a plate, the sprinkles of sugar on a jelly-roll — the images had the feel of a particularly fond and vivid memory.
The exhibit runs until February 27.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — the departments of Transportation and Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Planning and Development are on the agenda.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22640 (Wednesday, 7pm, Prospect Road Community Centre, Hatchet Lake) — Chris MacDonald wants to convert the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Prospect into a B&B.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Thursday, 3pm, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — all about the QEII rebuild.
No public meetings.
#dalTHANKS (Wednesday, 12pm, various locations) — “celebrating the thousands of Dalhousie alumni and friends who “create scholarships and bursaries that make university more accessible for students” instead of simply increasing the tax rate on the filthy rich and properly funding universities. At Wallace McLean Learning Commons; Tupper Link; Alumni Lounge, B Building; and Student Learning Commons, Agricultural Campus.
Bring your own tax deduction form.
Mini Law School: The future of the legal profession (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Jacqueline S. Walsh will talk.
Dalhousie Reading Circle — Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Thursday, 9:30am, Indigenous Student Centre Community Room, 1321 Edward Street) — the first of 10 reading sessions in which participants explore the final report and make a plan of action on the Calls for Justice for Dalhousie University. More info here and here.
This is What Freedom Sounds Like: Black Women, Agency, and Jazz in Black Power Era America (Thursday, 12pm, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with Tammy L. Kernodle from Miami University, Ohio, President of the Society for American Music.
Chair in Population Cancer Research Candidate Academic Presentation (Thursday, 12pm, Theatre C, Tupper Link) — In “New epidemiologic approaches and insights on the link between excess body weight and colorectal cancer” Peter Campbell from the American Cancer Society will
discuss his research group’s work on innovative and transdisciplinary approaches to understanding the implications of excess body weight with colorectal cancer risk and prognosis. This work integrates a variety of academic disciplines, including epidemiology, molecular pathology, biostatistics and genomics. He will provide updated information on colorectal cancer risk factors, including results from recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and give examples of how GWAS data can be integrated with lifestyle data to investigate Gene-Environment interactions and risk prediction for colorectal cancer. He will also present recent prospective data on associations of circulating diabetes-biomarkers and colorectal cancer risk that may underlie some of the obesity-diabetes-colorectal cancer associations observed in questionnaire-based epidemiologic studies. Using recently generated data from targeted tumor sequencing and clinically-useful molecular markers, he will also show examples of etiologic heterogeneity for associations of BMI and colorectal cancer. He’ll also present data on the prognostic implications of pre- and post-diagnosis adiposity on colorectal cancer survival. Last, he’ll discuss recent international efforts he’s leading on understanding the causes of early onset colorectal cancer.
City Dreamers (Thursday, 6pm, Room HA-19, Medjuck Building) — screening presented by Equality in Architecture (EiA) in conjunction with Dalhousie Architecture Film Series.
Regional Forum on Closing the Gender Gap in Digital Workplaces: Building the Talent Pipeline for Women (Thursday, 6pm, Auditorium, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — one of three regional summits funded by the Department of Women and Gender Equality. $28.75, more info and registration here.
Marriage of Figaro (Wednesday, 7:30pm, President’s Lodge) — with Roberta Barker and performers.
King’s Infringement Festival (Wednesday, 8:30pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — continues. See Tuesday’s listing for details.
Decolonizing (≠ Reconciling): Science, Technology, and Indigenous Relations (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — Kim TallBear from the University of Alberta will present this 2020 MacLennan Public Lecture.
This talk departs from misguided interpretations of “reconciliation” that see accounting, accountability, and “restoration of friendly relations” as a two-way street, between settler-colonial society and Indigenous people(s). However, it is the settler-colonial power structure that is responsible for restoration of good relations, land, and “resources”—both human and more-than-human—that were cut from Indigenous communities and which disrupted Indigenous lives and lifeways. Focusing on a definition “decolonization” that requires the restoration of Indigenous land and life (Tuck and Yang 2012), this talk examines the role of science and technology via several case studies in restoring good relations, resources, and governance capacity to Indigenous nations and communities.
More info here.
King’s Infringement Festival (Thursday, 8:30pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — continues. See Wednesday’s listing for details.
In the harbour
I see that Saltwire’s SALT weekly launches February 13. I wrote about the launch announcement (illustrated with stock photos from St. Louis, Las Vegas, and elsewhere) back in December. SALT will publish every Thursday, like The Coast, and will print 25,000 copies. (The Coast prints 23,000.)
SALT’s description of its content says:
Sometimes stories are too long. Or too dense. We get it. We are sharing SALT with the simple intention that a dash of smart, efficient information keeps us curious.
So don’t expect anything like the Coast’s Jane Kansas feature on the demise of The Newfoundland Store.