News

1. Dead Wrong on Uncover

Tim Bousquet’s podcast Dead Wrong, on CBC’s Uncover, is now live and you can listen to the first couple of episodes here. Everyone at the Examiner knows how hard he’s worked on this podcast for the past several months, but, of course, his work on the Dead Wrong series goes back five years. And keep in mind in the past few months, Bousquet’s also covered the mass shootings in April and COVID-19. We’re all as excited about the podcast as he is, but I know not nearly as tired.

I listened to the first episode last night and was fascinated to learn more about Brenda Way and Glen Assoun and hear from people who know them both. I’ll admit it was tough to listen to some of the stories and details about Way’s murder, but I also learned more about who she was. These are stories that aren’t covered often in media, but are incredibly important to tell.

Episode 1: Pitbull and Episode 2: Psychic Visions are online, and several more episodes will follow.

All of this started with the Examiner and countless hours of investigation by Bousquet. You subscriptions have supported this work. If you don’t already, please subscribe. 

2. “A political act of opportunism”: Conservatives go hard right on gun laws

Memorial in Portapique, NS, for the 22 victims of the April 2020 mass shooting. Photo: Joan Baxter Credit: Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter has this story on virtual “town hall” meetings hosted by the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR) in May. Baxter looks at the one meeting with leadership Conservative candidate Peter MacKay, who tells the audience about growing up in Pictou County and being part of the “firearms community.”

I grew up in a rural community in Nova Scotia. And my earliest memories, quite frankly, of spending time with my grandfather involved walking in the woods where he would carry a rifle. And for my twelfth birthday I got a .410 shotgun. I thought that was the greatest gift that I’d ever received, and I cherish it. I have another bird gun that my other grandfather, who was Irish, gave me, and it’s more of an antique. And it breaks down, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful old gun but I’m not sure that I would even be able to register it today given some of these archaic and new rules around the ban. And we’re going to have a chance to talk about that tonight.

The other three town halls were hosted with the other Conservative Party leadership candidates: Ontario MPs Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan, and the Toronto-based lawyer Leslyn Lewis. But this one with MacKay got quite the audience. About 1,000 people attended online to hear MacKay compared to about 100 who signed in for O’Toole’s meeting.

Besides covering the town halls, Baxter looks at how MacKay has cozied up with the gun lobby over the years. In 2014, when he was Canada’s Justice Minister, a photo showed up on Twitter and Facebook of MacKay at a Conservative Party fundraiser wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a maple leaf, half resembling an AR-15. The slogan says atop “No Compromise.”

Read the full story here.

3. One year later: Health care by the numbers

L-R, participants at June 2019 rally: Dr. Keith MacCormick, Paula Minnikin, Dr. Rebecca Brewer, Leslie Tilley, Dr. Rob Miller. Photo submitted

Jennifer Henderson gets an update about a group called Nova Scotia Healthcare Crisis, which hosted a rally in Halifax a year ago. In that crowd was Paula Minnikin, a business management consultant whose former jobs included leadership positions at Xwave (a former BellAliant company) and the environmental science, engineering, and consulting firm, Jacques Whitford.

Henderson caught up with Minnikin, who says she’s a numbers person, about the By the Numbers, 2020. It’s quite a list. And Minnikin says she’s still speaking up. She says Health Minister Randy Delorey, Seniors’ Minister Leo Glavine, and the N.S.Health Care In Crisis group met last September.

We outlined the significant risk to the health care system and to Long Term Care if there was a ‘bad flu’ in the winter of 2020. We shared that there were troubling signs coming from Australia. We mapped out a plan that would see 1,000 temporary Long-Term Care beds set up in communities in existing spaces for the winter, including hotels and unused overnight addiction treatment beds. Caregivers would be hired from privately-run homecare agencies. The costs were reasonable, considering the average hospital stay costs about $6,082 in Nova Scotia. We did not know COVID was coming. But if the minister had listened, we can reasonably assume that there would not have been nearly as many deaths in Nova Scotia.

Minnikin tells Henderson the group was told “health care is very complex” and its proposal was “too simplistic.”

Read the full story here.

4. Nova Scotians to determine questions and guide research into mass shooting

Dr. Rob Green Photo: Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation

Nova Scotians will have a chance to help choose the topics that will be investigated regarding the mass shootings in April. Yvette d’Entremont reports on the Heal-NS Trauma Research Program, which was released yesterday. Its goal is to help Nova Scotians find answers and healing after the shooting. The research will look at topics like gun violence, mental health, and domestic violence, but the researchers on the program really want Nova Scotians to take the lead on what’s discussed.

D’Entremont interviews Dr. Rob Green, an emergency and critical care physician, who was working at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax when the mass shooting happened. Green tells d’Entremont he and other healthcare providers in Halifax and Colchester discussed the shooting, but he could also tell how it affected Nova Scotians. Green started the Heal-NS in partnership with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the IWK, the Department of Health and Wellness, Dalhousie University, and other universities across the province.

It just struck me that it’s going to take a lot of work to get past this,” he said. “There are so many answers that people need to have addressed, and the way to do that is to actually figure out what the questions are, and then dedicate time and resources and expertise into finding meaningful answers for people.

Traditionally as researchers we want to publish our research. But I am not terribly concerned with our traditional publication routes of putting it in journals. I just want to get something out to Nova Scotians that’s going to kind of relieve the anxiety, help with the coping, get the answers out to them. That’s my goal here.

Read the full story here.

5. Developers proposing ‘Aboriginal’ art gallery in new Halifax hotel — but did they talk to any Indigenous people?

A rendering of the “Aboriginal” art gallery proposed by Steele Hotels.

Steele Hotels wants to put an “Aboriginal” art gallery in its new downtown Halifax hotel, but they didn’t talk with any Indigenous people in the city about the project. Zane Woodford reports on the plan for the gallery, which is what Steele is offering as a public benefit for wanting a taller building.

The company received approval last July from the city’s design review committee to build a 12-storey JAG-branded hotel at the corner of Gottingen and Brunswick streets, across from the Metro Centre. The proposal is two storeys higher than what is permitted by downtown land-use bylaw. Steele offered the public benefit of the gallery to get the extra density and the agreement went to council last week.

The report includes a number of renderings for the gallery plan, which includes artwork ripped from Flickr or a Stingray music release.

Woodford says when council met last week, they said the plan for the gallery didn’t look like it included any consultation with Indigenous people. Councillor Waye Mason says the use of the word ‘Aboriginal’ in the report was a red flag for him.

That led me to wonder whether or not the proponents had actually talked to anybody in the First Nations community here in Halifax or whether they have the support. And I know from talking to some folks in that community, who lead some of the leading organizations in Halifax, that they have not have any communication about it.

Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax tells Woodford she hadn’t heard about the plan for the gallery. The hotel is less than 200 metres away from the planned site for Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre at the corner of Gottingen Street and Rainnie Drive. Glode-Desrocher says the centre could have worked with the developer.

We would’ve helped bring people together. We would’ve brought the right people together. Depending on what they’re looking to do, there’s different elders, there’s different community members, there’s artists, there’s all kinds of people in the community that probably would’ve been happy to support something. But it’s not an afterthought and to me it’s not one meeting. You have to engage in the community. You have to understand the community and be part of the community.

Read the full story here.

6. The Buy Black Halifax campaign to support Black-owned businesses

Non-profit ACCE-HFX organized the Buy Black Halifax campaign, which is connecting customers to Black-owned businesses in the city. Photo: ACCE-HFX

The non-profit group ACCE HFX, which stands for Arts, Community, Culture, Economics, started The Buy Black Halifax campaign as a way to connect Black entrepreneurs with more customers. The campaign is putting together 300 bags that will include sample products from Black-owned businesses in the city.

Shaina Luck at CBC talks with Bradley Daye is the co-founder of ACCE HFX, who says they started off the campaign by approaching 100 businesses.

We wanted to make sure that they were established enough to handle the demand that was going to be asked of them, but we also wanted to make sure that they were small enough that this would mean something to them in that it would help them tap into a market that they weren’t used to.

Luck also talks with Ashley Miranda (Lorde), owner and CEO of Bad Publicity Cosmetics, about why she joined the campaign.

I find, being a black female entrepreneur, it’s kind of hard to reach certain levels of audience because you’re so stuck into your own zone, your own community. It’s hard for networking purposes.

Promotion of the bags starts today and sales start on June 24.


Views

Loneliness and COVID-19

A lot of people are experiencing loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. But some of those people experienced loneliness before. Photo: Sasha Freemind/Unsplash

I have been weathering this pandemic pretty good over the last several weeks. I have a great kid, interesting work, a safe place to live, lots of connections I chat with, and I’m rarely bored. I’m healthy and don’t know anyone who’s contracted COVID-19. But Saturday was a bad day for me.

There were lots of feelings that day. Some were connected to a personal relationship that came to an end in late April, after about five weeks of this quarantine. For some reason on Saturday, I felt a lot of sadness and regret about it.

My daughter has been my pandemic pal for several weeks. She’s funny and we have great conversations. Recently, she went back to her part-time job. She worked that morning. She spent that night with her father, the other half of our co-parenting bubble. She just finished Grade 11 and earlier that week we looked at some university calendars and talked about what she might study when she graduates next year. All of a sudden on Saturday, the empty nest feelings started creeping in. Almost 90 days of following stay-at-home orders was getting to me. I felt not only alone, but very lonely. And I didn’t like it one bit.

I went for a drive, which is usually a good pick-me-up. It didn’t seem to help. The only time I laughed that day was when I saw some roosters hanging out on the side of the road. I took a photo of them.

The next day I felt better, but exhausted. I spoke with a couple of friends. One had almost the exact day as I did, the same feelings. Another said she had a lonely day the week before, and spent it either crying or laughing hysterically.

COVID-19 and these stay-at-home orders are making us live lives we’re not used to. I’m willing to bet a lot of people have experienced loneliness during this pandemic. For us, this loneliness will be temporary. But for others, loneliness is a constant in their lives.

Dr. Ami Rokach is a clinical psychologist who studies and writes about loneliness. Photo: Nova Science Publishers

Dr. Ami Rokach is a clinical psychologist who teaches at York University in Toronto. He’s studied loneliness since 1980, when he says there was almost no research on the topic and people could barely spell the word. He wrote the book, Loneliness, Love, and All That’s Between. We spoke on Monday and he says he’s been paying attention to the way loneliness is affecting people during this pandemic and it’s different from how it plays out for some at any other time.

It depends on how you look at any given situation. For people who are bedridden and ill, that’s really a sad story. But for the rest of us, it’s just a temporary blip in our lives. If we survive it, then we can learn a lot about life and ourselves from it. One, is we can look back later and say I am glad I had the resources to cope with it without suffering too much. Secondly, I really had a chance to find out about the people I connect with.

It opens our eyes and we’re more focused on important things. All the money, all the cars, matter much less than talking with people, connecting with people, getting support from people.

Rokach says loneliness is a subjective experience.

It’s not a feeling because it involves emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. It’s a subjective experience, meaning that while we all talk about the same thing, we experience it in various, different ways. Loneliness is a painful experience, which we don’t like and we don’t want. When we talk about loneliness in general that means we’re alone. That’s one way we can experience loneliness. But an even more painful one is when we’re with other people, such as when we’re in a theatre, a university, or even within a loving family we can still feel alienated, unconnected, and unloved. The most painful loneliness is that within intimate relationships, which is really supposed to protect us from loneliness, but if the loneliness is there then it’s very painful and we’re really in trouble.

Rokach says there two types of loneliness: Reactive loneliness and essential loneliness. Reactive loneliness is loneliness that comes up when there is a significant or loss in our world, for example, what some people are feeling during this pandemic. Essential loneliness is connected to someone’s personality and usually goes back to their childhood and the way in which that person related to their caregivers.

When things don’t go right there, loneliness could creep in and become a part of someone’s personality and then the person will be lonely regardless of what’s happening outside. When we speak about loneliness of people during COVID, I suspect many people have been lonely beforehand and they will probably continue being lonely once COVID is a distant memory because loneliness is such an integral part of them.

There is also a difference between loneliness and solitude. Rokach says solitude is when we choose to be alone to do what we can do only when we’re alone, like thinking, reflecting, and writing.

It gives us respite from the incredible number of stimuli we’re subjected to every moment, not only every day.

And loneliness carries a lot of stigma.

Our society is a couple culture, and if I’m alone I might think that means no one wants to be with me. And if no one wants to be with me, that’s probably because I’m just not good enough, which makes me a loser. And I won’t tell other people for fear they will reject me as well. There are millions and millions of people going around, feeling terribly lonely and not talking about it.

But Rokach says the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to talk about our loneliness because it doesn’t reflect badly on us. A lot of us are experiencing loneliness because of a virus, so more people are talking about it.

In research on loneliness, Rokach says people who feel loneliness says they also feel worthless, unattractive, and unlovable. They are socially incompetent to various degrees. And they are less willing to take social risks to get to know new people. Rokach says they adopt a passive approach to stress, loneliness, and people in general. When loneliness becomes long term, Rokach says people will become demanding and angry, and then critical.

I see that when I work with the elderly. The younger people have work, they have families. But the older people, who are isolated in general, they will become very critical of their children, grandchildren, who supposedly don’t think about them and don’t have time for them. Unfortunately, the angrier they become, the more people run away.

Besides the elderly, Rokach says emerging adults between the ages of 18 to 27, who are at in-between stages of life, are the loneliest segment of the population. Women between the ages of 30 and 35 who are single also experience loneliness more often.

Loneliness also effects physical health. Rokach says those who are lonely are ill more often than those who are not. That’s because loneliness is a form of stress and it lowers efficiency of the immune system. Loneliness can cause sleep disturbances, hypertension, and Rokach says there’s a correlation between loneliness and dementia. Those who are lonely long term have shorter life spans.

Loneliness is a natural mechanism that’s similar to pain. Rokach says both are protective mechanisms.

Loneliness is a built-in mechanism that says to us, ‘you need to be part of the community.’ We are wired to be part of the community. When we get away from the community, loneliness is an alarm bell, which goes off and says, ‘hey you need to do something about this.’

Rokach says when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he knew loneliness would be an issue. He also says most people take a reactive, not a proactive, approach to their loneliness. Rokach took a proactive approach in his own neighbourhood, and knocked on doors checking in on people during his daily walks. He says some have been so fearful of the virus they don’t even come close to the door.

Rokach says when the pandemic started, he chose to embrace the solitude. He filled up his days with writing, researching, keeping in touch with people through Skype. But in the last week or two, he says while he wasn’t lonely, he was starting to yearn to connect with people. So, he called a couple of friends with a backyard, he brought over pizza, and they had a get-together from a safe distance apart, of course.

Another more proactive approach would be taking advantage of technology. He says that through Zoom meetings, people get into other people’s homes, which they might not otherwise see. Rokach says those meetings can be quite intimate.

People have no idea how lucky they are that this pandemic didn’t happen 30 years ago with no cell phones, no internet, and real isolation.

While technology has kept people connected during the pandemic, Rokach says it’s good and bad during non-pandemic times. He says those who post often on social media and get a lot of likes on those posts feel more connected to people. But he says it’s the observers — the scrollers — who experience loneliness because they are comparing their lives to those who share their lives more frequently. He says couples also experience loneliness if they are constantly on their phones, while out at dinner or even checking their phones in the middle of sex (OH MY GOD, DON’T DO THIS).

Rokach says those who were lonely before COVID-19 can start being proactive now to reduce that loneliness. He says talking about your loneliness is a start. Then, get to know people and let them into your lives. He says loneliness is not a part of modern life, but rather a part of being human.

It’s ingrained in us. If there are the right conditions — and I’m not talking about those with essential loneliness — for most people when conditions are right, that’s when they start to experience loneliness. Since we know, just like pain and hunger, that it’s going to come up, it’s okay, it’s part of being human.

COVID came with a price. People died, people suffered. Personally, I hope that it will give us a different way of thinking about life, that it will do something to our value system. We are trained to push for more work, more titles, to buy more stuff. Hopefully, this will make us think ‘I survived three or four months and I found a different way of looking at life. I connected to people in a different way and I want to keep it.’ I think that could do a lot for our society, which is fragmented, apathetic, and not very caring. Will it happen? I don’t know. But I hope so.


Noticed

Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod hosted Body Break for more than 30 years. Johnson says the TV segment was inspired by his experiences with racism. Photo: Body Break

Hal Johnson, who co-hosted Body Break — those TV segments about fitness — with his wife Joanne McLeod, says it was racism, and not fitness, that inspired the idea. Johnson shared a video on the background of Body Break, which started when Johnson was hired to be a sports reporter for TSN. But that offer was recanted because the network already had one Black reporter.

TSN released an apology to Johnson:

We apologize to Hal Johnson for the racism he experienced at TSN beginning in 1988, a shameful part of our past, and thank him for sharing his story as a reminder of the impact of racism in Canadian media that continues today. We recognize that even 30 years later, there is still much work to do to improve our commitment to on-air and editorial diversity.

Johnson shared the story of another experience shooting a commercial along with a white man and a white woman. The director of the commercial had the woman switch places so she wasn’t standing next to Johnson. When he asked about the switch later, Johnson was told the client didn’t want to see a white woman standing next to a Black man.

In the video, Johnson says, “I thought: ‘How can I change things? How can I make [sure] that we can all live, work and play together and there won’t be this attitude: white and black and Asians, people with disabilities, male, female — that we can’t all be together?’”

Johnson and McLeod pitched Body Break to dozens of partners, but it was picked up by Participation, who ran it for more than 30 years.

Read more at CBC here and Johnson’s video is included.


Government

City

Special Halifax and West Community Council (2pm, teleconference) — agenda here.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

06:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
11:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
11:45: Selfoss sails for Portland
16:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York (itinerary)
18:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
22:00: Atlantic Star sails for Liverpool, England


Footnotes

I’ve been awake since 5 a.m. I’m taking a nap now. But please subscribe.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. Thanks for the Body Break story. Incredible (but not really, I guess) that this icon of Canadian TV had its roots in racism. Thanks to right-minded folks at Participaction and even bigger thanks to Hal Johnson’s resilience, patience, persistence and creative thinking.