1. Opposition: action on climate change is too slow
“Opposition politicians held the Houston government’s feet to the fire on Wednesday during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which was following up on a 2017 auditor general’s report on managing climate change,” reports Jennifer Henderson.
As Henderson writes, the Department of Environment and Climate Change has completed nine of 10 recommendations from the AG’s report, but they’re struggling with the last one: “identifying risks associated with climate change.” That recommendation includes everything from coastal erosion due to rising sea level to the impacts to the electrical grid and other infrastructure due to more extreme weather.
At the meeting Environment Minister Tim Halman said the risk assessment will be done this month, after having said two weeks ago it would be done “by spring.”
Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender, who will be acclaimed as the NDP leader next month, wasn’t too happy. Henderson writes:
The NDP introduced environmental legislation with significant carbon reduction targets back in 2007. Chender is clearly frustrated it has taken so long to figure out how the province intends to meet them.
“We’ve been looking for these targets, this interim plan, for at least four years. So why has it taken so long?” Chender asked.
“There has been significant commitment to achieving the 28 environmental responsibility goals set out in the legislation and the work is well underway to complete the Climate Plan,” replied Lora MacEachern, deputy minister for Environment and Climate Change.
2. Health minister: high volume of visits at IWK emergency department “not unexpected”
Jennifer Henderson had this update to a story by Yvette d’Entremont yesterday about those really high number of visits to the IWK’s emergency department this spring. Henderson got comments from Health Minister Michelle Thompson Wednesday afternoon. She writes:
Thompson said the Department of Health and Wellness has authorized additional funding for two nurse practitioners and another doctor to cope with the surge in young patients. She said that decision was made “within the last several days.” The minister was asked if she was “surprised” by the surge in admissions at the IWK after masks in schools became optional, although mask wearing was still recommended in schools. Thompson said the numbers of visits to the emergency department were “not unexpected.”
“The timing is what is unusual,” Thompson said. “We usually see these respiratory diseases earlier in the year. We have been practicing public health measures for the past two years, so there has been a delay in the season. As we start to live with more choice about using public health measures, we can expect to see some of these increases.”
Thompson also commented on the decision not to offer second boosters to Nova Scotians under the age of 70, saying the province was following the advice of National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which hasn’t yet recommended that other age groups get a second booster.
3. Study: Asian Canadians witnessed, experienced discrimination during the pandemic
“A new Dalhousie University study has found that while Asian Canadians felt unsafe during the pandemic because of COVID-19-related discrimination, they also felt connected to their communities,” Yvette d’Entremont reports.
The qualitative interview study, titled ‘Lived experiences of Asian Canadians encountering discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ was published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) Open.
Its authors wanted to know how the pandemic had impacted the sense of safety and belonging that Asian Canadians felt to their geographical communities. Researchers interviewed Asian Canadian men and women of different ages from each province and the Northwest Territories between March 23 and May 27, 2021.
“The study was conceived at a time when the racist rhetoric about the virus coming from US political leadership was saturating the Canadian news cycle and unfortunately, we discovered that such messages found residence in Canada too,” Stephana Julia Moss, study co-author and a researcher at Dalhousie University’s School of Health Administration, said in an interview.
“Every single one of our participants, literally every single one, witnessed or directly experienced discrimination during the pandemic.”
The study also found that the pandemic had a limited impact on Asian Canadians’ sense of belonging. Here’s d’Entremont again:
“These participants felt connected to and strongly identified with their Canadian and Asian cultures and communities. For example, in addition to their Asian heritage, participants noted ‘being Canadian’ was an integral part of their identity,” the authors wrote.
“Some participants believed that the discrimination hadn’t affected how they were perceived by the broader Canadian society. Strictly adhering to public prevention practices/guidelines, as part of the greater good, made participants feel they were a part of, and belonged to, the community.”
Moss said while quantitative work on this topic (primarily in the form of surveys) reported that Asian Canadians felt their sense of belonging was negatively impacted, finding the opposite via their qualitative research approach was a bit surprising and something they intend to explore in future research.
4. The Tideline, Episode 83: Juanita Peters
On this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne chats with Juanita Peters. Here’s the write-up for the show:
Juanita Peters is a former broadcast journalist and current icon who writes, acts, and directs, including her debut feature 8:37 Rebirth. A tough, dark drama about restorative justice and the grey of life, the film is up for four Screen Nova Scotia Awards on Saturday. She stops by to chat about the film’s COVID shoot, her time as a reporter, what’s in the works — plays! docs! — directing Diggstown, and being named ACTRA’s Woman of The Year. Plus, a new song from Corvette Sunset.
When wildlife and cars collide on our highways
On Sunday afternoon as I was driving on Highway 102, I passed a collision on the other side of the highway. Traffic was stopped in that direction as emergency vehicles and police attended to the driver and passengers of the car. There was a lot of damage to the front end of the vehicle, and fortunately the driver and passengers appeared to be fine. As I and other drivers heading toward Truro slowed down, on the side of the road just ahead I saw a deer with a bloodied hind leg struggling to stand up and get back to the woods.
It was all horribly upsetting, to say the least. It seems there were other collisions between cars and deer that weekend, too. Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons tweeted this on Saturday:
Saw a car collide w/ a deer a few min. ago on Hwy 107. Called 911 & first responders quickly arrived on the scene. Driver will be okay (not so much the car). The deer didn’t make it. Police officer said it was the 2nd deer-car collision today. Be on alert out there, friends.
Sunday was the first time I saw the aftermath of a collision between a deer and a car, although I’ve certainly seen plenty of dead wildlife on the side of the road. And I wondered how we can, if at all, reduce the numbers of these collisions on roads and highways.
On Tuesday, I spoke with Hope Swinimer, the founder and operator of Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth. She told me the rehab had 7,500 animal patients last year, and one of the biggest reasons animals find themselves there is because they were hit by vehicles.
Swinimer said Hope for Wildlife is overseen by regulations through the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNNR) and they aren’t legally permitted to take in adult deer at the rehab, although if a doe was killed and found on a highway, they’d take in her fawns.
“We can have up to 40 or so fawns a year,” Swinimer said. “This year, we’re already up to 16, I believe.”
Adult deer aren’t the only animals Hope for Wildlife or other wildlife rehabs in Nova Scotia can’t take in under DNRR regulations. They also can’t take in black bears, moose, and coyotes. Swinimer says if you see one of those animals in a collision to call 1-800-565-2224, although Hope for Wildlife can still pass along calls about collisions with these animals to DNRR.
Swinimer said collisions between deer and cars are most common between dawn and dusk when animals are more active and closer to the roads. Also, more animals are hit in the autumn months when they’re on the move, getting ready for winter.
There are ways to reduce the number of collisions. Swinimer said slowing down your speed by even five or six kilometres can make a difference in your ability to stop when you see an animal. Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk, and if you have a passenger with you, have them scan ahead to see if any animals are close to the highway. She also advises that if you see one animal close to the road, to stop and pull over (if it’s safe and possible) because there are likely more animals nearby.
I also spoke to Brenda Boates, the operations manager at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Brookfield, not far from where the collision between the car and the deer took place on Sunday. Boates also advised drivers to slow down, not drive when they’re tired, and scan ahead on the highways for animals. At nighttime drivers may not see the whole animal, so she said to watch for the glowing eyes. Boates says animals that have a dark coat, such as black bears, are night prowlers so they’re harder to see because their coats absorb the light from the headlights, and drivers don’t often see the animal until the last minute.
And she said one way to not attract wildlife close to a highway is to stop littering and tossing leftover food out your car windows.
“Litter is very harmful to wildlife,” Boates said. “People are throwing out litter that attracts rodents to the roadside, and then owls hunt the rodents, and fly down to get the rodents, and get whacked by a car.” She added that same cycle happens with other animals such as foxes.
Boates also said it’s helpful to understand how an animal might perceive a highway and cars.
Wildlife doesn’t see things the same way a human would. I’ve heard people say, ‘oh, it’s so stupid. There’s a dead deer and the other deer runs in front and gets killed, too. Animals don’t perceive the way humans do.
Boates said a deer’s defence is to face the predator, brace its legs, and as the predator gets close, they rear up, and strike out with their front legs.
“That is no defence against a truck or a car,” Boates said. “Animals don’t charge cars.”
She says a porcupine, if it sees a car at all, will perceive it as a predator and use its defence mechanism, which is to freeze, turn its butt, and project its quills. Of course, that’s not going to stop a vehicle on the road.
“To them, they’re in their territory,” she said. “They don’t know the rules or read the road signs.”
Boates said that at the rehab centre in Brookfield they get many animals that are hit by cars, including porcupines, foxes, owls, and turtles. She said there are some animals that drivers will hit intentionally, notably turtles, which are protected species. Turtles often lay their eggs on the sides of roads. Boates said if anyone witnesses a driver intentionally hitting a turtle, that should definitely be reported.
As far as the bigger picture goes, both Boates and Swinimer said the medians on some highways can be challenging for animals to get over and they often get caught up against those and can’t go further.
Boates said in places where there is fencing alongside the highways, the number of collisions between wildlife and cars has been reduced.
Swinimer says there are ways to design roads and highways to include tunnels and overpasses for wildlife to pass:
Giving the ability for these animals to travel from one section to another is important. It saves human lives, it saves animals lives, and it’s just a win-win, if we can incorporate things like that into our design when we’re building.
I contacted the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables to see if they kept track of such collisions, and they don’t. But they did send my message along to Public Works, which responded with details about crossings for animals. Spokesperson Brett Loney got back to me with this:
We want to help ensure that our roads are safe for all motorists. To warn/caution motorists of wildlife, we have signage and fencing in selected locations throughout the province. We have constructed wildlife underpasses at several locations including Hwy 104 near Oxford, Hwy 104 near Antigonish, and Hwy 101 near Windsor. A wildlife underpass is also being built as part of the Highway 104 New Glasgow to Antigonish project.
I don’t know what happened to that deer I saw on the side of Highway 102 on Sunday. Swinimer and Boates both said that some deer that are hit do manage to get back up, go back to the woods, and can regain use of a leg that was injured. Swinimer added:
We do have research that we’ve done that found they can go on and live quite a long life and still reproduce on three good legs.
If you can, always check to see if an animal is still alive. If it’s not, be sure to check if there are babies curled up next to it or nearby. It never hurts to check and give Hope for Wildlife a call. We have dispatch all over the province. We can help.
On the weekend, Iris sent me a link to this article by Tracey Lindeman in The Guardian, ‘My responsibility’: tracing the graves of early black settlers in Canada. Lindeman reports on the work of filmmaker James Russell, who funded a project using ground-penetrating radar to locate the graves and headstones of those interred at a burial ground in Niagara-on-the-Lake where a Baptist church once stood. The area was also the site of one of Canada’s first Black settlements. Lindeman writes:
At least two dozen Black people are buried here: those fleeing the US through the Underground Railroad, enslaved people brought over by Loyalists during the American Revolution, Black soldiers who joined the Loyalists in battle against the US, and some free people of colour who escaped an increasingly hostile American nation in the making.
But their graves are not marked, and their names are not known.
Russell argues that it’s only right to give these people a dignified burial, and their descendants a place to lay flowers. That’s why he is self-funding the use of ground-penetrating radar to locate the graves and headstones of those interred at the burial ground.
“It’s always bothered me that this just looks like a soccer field,” said Russell, a film-maker who has spent the last 37 years visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake from his home in Toronto.
“Finally, last November I said: ‘You know, no one’s going to fix this unless I fix it myself.’”
So far, the radar has found 28 potential sites. Nearly 20 more have been found by a local man who uses dousing to find graves.
Lindeman also spoke with Dr. Afua Cooper, who teaches Black studies at Dalhousie University. Cooper said Canada still has lots of work to do when it comes to honouring its Black communities, including the cemeteries where the locations of many of the graves are unknown or unmarked. Cooper told Lindeman:
For me, it speaks to the bigger issue of how invisible Black history is in this country. Visible but invisible at the same time.
The history has been literally been covered up. So whether it’s that cemetery at Niagara-on-the-Lake, or it’s Africville [in Nova Scotia] or it’s Amber Valley in Alberta, what you have is this marginalization of Black history.
There is some similar work happening here in Nova Scotia. Almost a year ago I wrote about a historic cemetery on the back property of a church on Old Sackville Road that got official heritage status. Buried in that cemetery are the ancestors of Lucasville, a historic Black community just outside of Middle Sackville. In 2018 I spoke with Debra Lucas and Irma Oliver Riley, who had been working for years to get the funds to clean up the cemetery, but they also wanted heritage status for the cemetery as well. Riley said,
These are my ancestors. I heard my mother and father talk about them. Even though I will never know them, but I know them through what I was told. My family have all depended on me for what I know. They come to me for what I know and they appreciate that.
Social media really has helped researchers find, identify, and share the stories of cemeteries they discover across the province. Steve Skafte, who runs the Facebook group Abandoned Cemeteries of Nova Scotia, has been locating and cleaning up abandoned cemeteries, and putting them on a map he shares in the group. In his work he found one Black cemetery — the Crow Harbour Cemetery in Granville, Annapolis County. There’s only one headstone there; that of Eliza Parker. The rest of the graves are marked with posts from a radar survey. (Crow Harbour Cemetery is on the map Skafte created here).
And Craig Ferguson, who’s behind the Dead in Halifax Twitter account, has started sharing photos of the headstones of Black Nova Scotians he finds, including gravestones in Camp Hill. Here’s a headstone Ferguson found there in May:
“Camp Hill was historically segregated, but it wasn’t universal,” Ferguson wrote in a tweet. “Charles Cooper was a Black man who lived on Creighton St and worked as a teamster. He is not buried in the so-called “C-S,” probably because he could afford a plot elsewhere. He died of kidney problems in 1893.”
Ferguson once told me there are unmarked graves of Black and Indigenous people in the Old Burying Ground, the city’s oldest cemetery. Matthew Byard and I were chatting over on the team Slack channel about this and wondered where else in Nova Scotia there were Black cemeteries with unmarked graves. What stories would they have to tell?
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting
See Dal’s LORIS Satellite before it’s launched into space (Thursday, 3pm, Romero Classroom, Emera IDEA Building) — from the listing:
Students from the Faculty of Engineering’s Dalhousie Space Systems Labs have designed and built LORIS, the first nano satellite in Atlantic Canada to be launched into space by the Canadian Space Agency. Once in space, LORIS will be used to gather information and data of the Halifax peninsula. Members of the community are welcome to drop by, take pictures with the satellite, and learn more about the project.
In the harbour
06:30: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York, on a four-day round-trip cruise
09:00: AlgoNova, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
11:15: Oceanex Avalon, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
18:00: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York
No arrivals or departures.
It’s supposed to rain all weekend. I’m going outside anyway.