News

1. Dear Mr. Premier, I know you’re busy but …

Roadside memorial in Portapique to the 22 victims of the mass shooting that began there. Photo: Joan Baxter

Stephen Kimber has some suggestions on how Premier Stephen McNeil can appoint a public inquiry into last month’s shootings. As Kimber points out, McNeil already has an example to follow: The public inquiry into the Westray mine disaster on May 9, 1992. Two days after the explosion in the mine that killed 26 miners, Premier Donald Cameron stood up in the legislature and said:

A judge from the Nova Scotia court will soon be appointed to chair an independent public inquiry into the disaster at the Westray mine. This judge will have all the powers of the inquiries commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act and the Coal Mines Regulation Act. The commissioner will seek and hire expertise as he or she deems necessary.

And just four days after that, Cameron had more details:

Today, I am announcing the appointment of the Honourable K. Peter Richard of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Trial Division as Inquiry Commissioner … It is essential that Nova Scotians know all the answers to the questions surrounding and leading to this tragic event. Mr. Justice Richard’s inquiry will not be limited to the events of the early morning of May 9th. Nothing and no person with any light to shed on this tragedy will escape the scrutiny of this inquiry. The commissioner will be able to seek and hire expert, independent advice as he deems necessary. He will have all the powers to subpoena witnesses if necessary. The inquiry will proceed with the full cooperation of the Government of Nova Scotia, its departments, agencies and commissions. The commissioner’s report will be made public. Mr. Speaker, the answers to many questions leading to the terrible events of May 9th can only be obtained through an independent, thorough and all-encompassing investigation… We owe this to those died, to their families and to all Nova Scotians who were touched by this tragedy.

Says Kimber, “All you — or your spokesperson — really needs to do is to crib Cameron’s words to show how much your government cares about getting to the truth of Portapique and to make sure such a tragedy never happens again. You’d be a month late, but better late than never.”

Read the full story here.

2. Mark Furey and the RCMP’s secret army of Smurfs

Justice Minister Mark Furey. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Paul Palango, a former senior editor at the Globe and Mail and author of three books on the RCMP, writes about the Secret Armies of the RCMP and wonders if Justice Minister Mark Furey, a former Mountie, will ask the tough questions that needed to be asked about how the RCMP handled the shootings in Nova Scotia in April. Palango has been dealing with attacks from Smurfs in recent weeks. About Furey, Palango says:

Furey collects a healthy pension from his Mountie days and is revered in Mountie circles as one who made a life for himself in the outside world. He says he does not have a conflict. But does he? He says he can deal dispassionately with the enormous task before him. But can he?

The powerful, mind-controlling threads of Mountie DNA are instilled in every recruit who passes through Depot, the RCMP training facility at Regina. Among the first things a young Mountie is taught in his or her indoctrination is that the RCMP is “The Silent Force.” It does not answer or explain itself but lets the public speak for the organization.

That sounds high-minded and confident. It might appear to the casual observer that all kinds of Canadians leap to defend the RCMP in the time of crisis, but dig deeper and you begin to understand that the seemingly spontaneous defence of the force and its actions is anything but. The force is being a little too disingenuous.

Read the full story here.

3. Experts says Canada needs “coercion control” law like U.K.

The entrance to the Portapique Beach Road blocked by the RCMP as they conducted their investigation into the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

Michael Tutton with The Canadian Press speaks with Carmen Gill, a professor at the University of New Brunswick, who says a public inquiry into the shootings in Nova Scotia in April could show the importance of a law like Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act, passed in the United Kingdom in 2015, could stop abusers like GW from going undetected. Tutton reports that by the end of 2018 308 people had been convicted and sentenced under the law in the U.K. and 97% of them were men. Says Gill:

Coercive control is a horrible form of violence because it’s a way of controlling people and depriving them of their basic rights.

Someone who is controlling their spouses will take all kinds of tactics to minimize their ability to reach out. This was a disturbing situation which clearly shows he was isolating his partner.

Last week, the Examiner reported on the several people who knew and did nothing about about GW’s abusive behaviour toward his girlfriend. (Tim Bousquet is back in court today when the crown may turn over six more Information to Obtain documents or ITOs)

Joan Baxter also spoke with Boe, who lived in Portapique, who talked about GW’s violence toward his girlfriend and his ownership of illegal weapons.

Gill tells Tutton such a law would mean people could report patterns of behaviour by an abuser and then police could look at those repeated actions, rather than specific incidents.

Tutton says Gill recently submitted a paper on this potential legal reform to the federal Justice Department’s ombudsman. Gill says current laws in Nova Scotia that allow for protections orders against an abuser aren’t enough.

Heidi Illingworth, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime, tells Tutton before the shootings she was thinking of recommending coercive control legislation similar to that in the U.K.

I’m definitely in favour of bringing a piece of legislation forward that would amend our Criminal Code in Canada, because we can only really deal with physical (intimate partner) violence.

Read the full story here. 

4. Frontline workers: Nurses

Tracy d’Entremont. Photo contributed

I recently interviewed Tracy d’Entremont and Sheri Millington, two Nova Scotia licensed practical nurses who took deployments to work in long-term-care facilities affected by COVID-19. This story is the first in a series I wrote about workers on the frontlines of COVID-19. We’ll be sharing the other stories every day this week.

I really enjoyed hearing from the all the workers, about how their jobs have changed over the last two months, their concerns about COVID-19, how they support other workers in their fields, how they’re supported by their friends and families, and what they do in the spare time they have.

Read the full story here.

5. Ethicists: Immunity passports are a “bad idea”

Françoise Baylis. Photo submitted

Yvette d’Entremont talks with Dalhousie University professor and bioethicist Françoise Baylis about immunity passports and how they’re a bad idea for many reasons. Baylis is the co-author of an article published in Nature on Thursday that lists the 10 reasons why immunity passports are a bad idea. Immunity passports are physical or digital documents that prove someone has been infected with COVID-19 but recovered and now immune to the virus.

Baylis tells d’Entremont she worries such documents could be used to track and monitor people.

If you allow that to happen in the context of a pandemic because you think, ‘Oh, I’m trading off privacy for health,’ it seems reasonable.

“But have you thought through the implications long term of creating that platform, having that information collected? In the article I explicitly allude to the fact that what looks like an immunity passport today could become the biological passport of the future, and what kind of information could that include?

Baylis says racialized or marginalized people are more at risk under an immunity passport system.

If I had been writing this [article] here locally, I would be saying ‘Look, we have in recent memory a huge issue in Nova Scotia around carding and we need to look at that data which very clearly showed in an independent report that it disproportionately had an impact on the Black community.

So why would you think that this might not similarly have an impact on the Black community? We need to be mindful of that.

Read the full story here.

6. Casey welcomed home by family, friends, officials

On Sunday, the body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned home to Halifax. Casey, a public affairs officer for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, was killed in a crash in one of the planes in Kamloops, B.C. on May 17. CBC has the story here. 

The Snowbirds shared a video of the repatriation ceremony at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Casey’s body was met by military honour guard. Her family, including her parents, grandparents, siblings, partner and friends, were part of the ceremony, as were Gov. Gen. Julie Payette and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The motorcade left the airport and made its way along a route that drove past Casey’s childhood home and school. Hundreds of people lined up along the route.

Before entering the Canadian Forces, Casey was a journalist with 95.7 News. Last week, Meghan Groff, a community editor with Halifax Today, wrote this lovely piece about Casey, her colleague and friend.

Groff writes about Casey’s recent visit to the province:

Jenn’s last visit to Nova Scotia was earlier this month to launch Operation Inspiration. I don’t know if it was timing or the pandemic that kept the team at Greenwood, but Jenn wasn’t able to make it into the city for a visit this time. However, she was able to soar above it.

She was happy to get the chance to hop in a plane and ride along for the Snowbirds’ Halifax flyover. I knew it must have been difficult for her to be so close, yet so far.

The last text Jenn sent me said, “It sure looked nice down there.”


Views

The prices and penalties women pay in a pandemic

Aimee Rae Hannaford was one of several women interviewed for a story in the Washington Post about women giving up their jobs to take care of their children during the pandemic. Photo: Aimee Rae Hannaford/Twitter

Saturday morning, I woke up to this article from Carolina Kitchener with the Washington Post trending on social media.

Kitchener interviewed several women about their lives and careers at home during the pandemic, including Aimee Rae Hannaford, a 46-year-old who, until recently, was the CEO of a tech company she co-founded. Hannaford is also mom to a three-year-old son, Ryan. What really got everyone fired up were the details about Hannaford’s husband, who, according to Hannaford, couldn’t look after their son on his own for three days. Her husband is off from his own job, “considering his options,” but does some property management, a schedule that is far more flexible than Hannaford’s 70-hour workweek. There were several details about Hannaford’s story that bothered people, but this paragraph seemed to really got people fired up:

[Hannaford’s] co-founder, busy with her own kids and aging parents, was able to help out less and less. Even outside work hours, Hannaford would field emails and take calls as her son, Ryan, climbed into her lap and tried to grab her phone. Her husband would plead with her to “get off the computer,” she said, teaching Ryan a trick to get her attention: When she wasn’t responding, her son would call her “Aimee” instead of “Mom.” (Hannaford’s husband declined to comment for this story.)

Hannaford ended up closing down her business, leaving 13 employees, including a number of other women and minorities, out of work. I followed the fallout for a bit on Twitter and Hannaford defended her husband and decision to close her business, saying the article didn’t have the whole story, although she didn’t provide many details.

Hannaford’s story got people riled up for a reason (a lot of people said they stopped reading the piece after the bit about Hannaford’s husband, but you should read the rest of the article; it’s depressing how women have to give up so much to take on more than they already do at home). There is no shortage of articles talking about the ways in which women are negatively affected during this pandemic. This certainly wasn’t the first article I’ve seen over the last several weeks.

Without childcare, many women are balancing working from home with taking care of their children. In some cases, women are giving up their jobs entirely, and it may not be easy for them to get back to work. Photo: Alexander Drummer/Unsplash

On Sunday, Duncan McCue at CBC Radio talked with several Canadian women who say they aren’t sure how their careers will be affected by this pandemic. Like Kitchener’s article, the women all talked about trying to balance working from home with schooling and housework. Others worried what they’d do without summer camps and childcare options. Pedro Barata, head of the Future Skills Centre, an employment research institute at Ryerson University, tells McCue they predict more women will reduce their work hours or opt out of work entirely just to keep up with everything at home.

As we think about a working-from-home environment, especially if schools and daycares are closed, guess what? That is going to affect women and their careers the most.

Barata says one study shows when both men and women work outside the home, it’s still the women who are expected to the housework and childcare. A pandemic, he says, just exacerbates that inequality.

This could actually be a step backwards in terms of the equality between men and women in the workplace and career paths.

I wonder what would happen if women made the same or more money than their husbands? Would husbands be as quick to leave their jobs if they made less than their female partners?

In this piece, The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism, in The Atlantic, Helen Lewis says there’s already research on how other pandemics, including Ebola, affected women and men differently. And it doesn’t look good for women.

Many stories of arrogance are related to this pandemic. Among the most exasperating is the West’s failure to learn from history: the Ebola crisis in three African countries in 2014; Zika in 2015–6; and recent outbreaks of SARS, swine flu, and bird flu. Academics who studied these episodes found that they had deep, long-lasting effects on gender equality. “Everybody’s income was affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” Julia Smith, a health-policy researcher at Simon Fraser University, told The New York Times this month, but “men’s income returned to what they had made pre-outbreak faster than women’s income.” The distorting effects of an epidemic can last for years, Clare Wenham, an assistant professor of global-health policy at the London School of Economics, told me. “We also saw declining rates of childhood vaccination [during Ebola].” Later, when these children contracted preventable diseases, their mothers had to take time off work.

Kevin Yarr at CBC PEI reports that the pandemic is affecting more women on the island and their work. UPEI economist Jim Sentance tells Yarr the unemployment rate was up marginally for men, but it was almost four times greater for women.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation lists all the ways in which women are affected by the isolation measures during the pandemic, including an increased risk of gender-based violence, economic stress, increase workload of caregiving and housework, and reduced access to services. As the foundation stats points out, Indigenous women, Black women, East Asian women, women with disabilities, and senior and elderly women face even greater isolation and barriers during the pandemic.

The pandemic has increased the rates of domestic violence across the world. In Canada, between April 1 and May 6, there were nine cases of domestic violence across the country that had fatal results, including the death of a woman in Hammonds Plains on April 2 and the domestic assault of GW’s girlfriend in Portapique on April 18, which led to the country’s worst mass murder.

Women are also working on the frontlines of the pandemic. Says the foundation:

The three industries with the highest ratio of women versus men in Canada are health care and social assistance (82.4%), educational services (69.3%), and accommodation and food services (58.5%), reports Statistics Canada. In 2015, “around 56 per cent of women were employed in occupations involving the 5 Cs: caring, clerical, catering, cashiering, and cleaning.”

Women are facing greater job losses:

Given that women are concentrated in sectors and industries hardest hit by isolation measures, a higher proportion of women have lost their jobs in the early stages of the pandemic. During the week of March 15-21, employment dropped by 298,500 or five per cent among women aged 25 to 49, which was more than twice that of men.

Women’s mental health is being impacted more than men’s. According to the foundation, a poll by Abacus Data showed that 49% of women compared to 33% of men reported feeling worried about the pandemic. In a survey by Leger, 75% of women said they were concerned with a family member contracting COVID-19. Compare that to 64% of men. And another survey by the Vanier Institute for the Family showed more women than men said they were anxious about the pandemic and their sleep was negatively affected.

The foundation launched a Tireless Together Fund, which will help women and girls with critical emergency funding during the pandemic.

Fortunately, there are people already thinking ahead about women and the economic recovery and making childcare is a top priority. In this story from Teresa Wright from The Canadian Press, Armine Yalnizyan, a fellow with the Atkinson Foundation, says economic recovery won’t happen if women can’t go back to work.

There’s no recovery without a she-covery and no she-covery without childcare.

Wright says Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen is behind an effort to look at the ways in which childcare can be improved to help parents going back to work, while Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef stresses the importance of childcare, too.

Access to skilled labour was already a challenge before COVID and we cannot afford to lose women who choose to work because of lack of available, affordable, high-quality child care. This will be fundamental to restarting our economy

Jennifer Robson, a social policy expert from Carleton University, says the feds also need to look at long-term care, which was hardest hit by COVID-19, and where women make up the majority of the workforce.

And Yalnizyan says essential worker should be getting more than good childcare, but also health and dental benefits, but says employers keep workers’ hours low so they don’t have to pay for benefits.

I hope we have learned by now that no one, including employers, benefits from workers having more than one job. Employers are paying a reputation cost for not paying their employees well enough to not have another gig. Another good idea would be keeping the raises and “hero pay” intact for workers in grocery stores, most of whom are women.

In Nova Scotia, some day cares will open on June 8, which means the parents who are comfortable sending their kids to one, can go back to work. But what about those families whose kids are too old for day care, but not old enough to stay home on their own for the day? The HRM cancelled its summer camps, so these families will have to find workarounds. And in some cases, that will mean mom stays home.

If there’s a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, which is very likely, who will stay home with the kids when schools are shut down, helping with their schooling while trying to work their own jobs at home? It will be the women who step up, again.

But this issue is not just about money; it’s about expectation. It’s still the women who are expected to do more of the childcare and the housework. It’s expected than women will find the job that’s more flexible, and usually pays less, so they can take care of the kids and the home. And, of course, the childcare workers who will be taking care of the children when parents are working are some of the lowest paid women in the workforce, earning anywhere from minimum wage to certainly less than a living wage. This issue is also about what we value. We still don’t value the work women do inside the home or outside of it. We don’t pay them for it and we ask them, not men, to make the choices between work and family in a crisis. We talk often about the motherhood penalty, in which women lose out on wages as they have children (men, on the other hand, get the fatherhood bonus when the kids come along). But now we’re clearly seeing a pandemic penalty and it’s the women who are paying it in many ways.


Noticed

I saw this list of rules around the household bubbles that seems to provide some clarity. This is the first time I’ve seen the rule around shared custody arrangements; that those houses must remain each other’s bubbles and each of those households can’t add a bubble. Is that happening, though?


Government

City

Monday

Special Audit Committee (Monday, 11am) — virtual meeting, agenda here. Immediately followed by

Special Audit and Finance Standing Committee — virtual meeting, agenda here.

Special Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 1pm) — virtual meeting, agenda here.

Tuesday

Special Budget Committee (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting, agenda here.

Special Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — virtual meeting, agenda here.

Province

Monday

No meetings.

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am) — teleconference: Agencies, board and commission appointments.


In the harbour

Monday
05:00: YM Enlightenment, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
13:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
15:00: George Washington Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:00: Bold, superyacht, sails from Dartmouth Cove for somewhere in Europe, where someone who has 950,000/week to burn will rent it
16:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
18:00: YM Enlightenment sails for Rotterdam

Tuesday
00:30: George Washington Bridge sails for New York
04:30: CMA CGM Pelleas, container ship, arrives at Pier TBD from Tanger Med, Morocco


Footnotes

Remember when people shared this meme all over Facebook? I wonder how they’d answer this now?

Suzanne Rent

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

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4 Comments

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  1. I know that articles and research have statistical categories, but as a retired professional woman whose husband was responsible for homenaking and child care, and whose son has the same role in the next enervation, I am always regretful that such men are not acknowledged in discussions about gender equity.

  2. Suzanne Rent’s research and writing about women, work and the Covid crisis, are excellent. It’s particularly upsetting that women — who are in normal times often the last hired, and first fired — are now self-firing, leaving the workforce they fought so hard (over 50 years plus) to be part of.
    I’m grateful to read Rent’s trenchant account. However, I’m dismayed there is so little pick up on it by “progressive” employers, unions and activists.

  3. “Access to skilled labour was already a challenge before COVID and we cannot afford to lose women who choose to work because of lack of available, affordable, high-quality child care. This will be fundamental to restarting our economy”

    Why is it always about the good of the corporate sector? When politicians talk about the lack of “skilled labour” they are not thinking of high wages for workers, they’re thinking of profits for business. And, they are demeaning those essential workers in our society that they do not see as “skilled”.

    Why can’t it just be that we provide high-quality child care, while paying the child carers a decent wage, because women bear the biggest child care burden and they need it. Whether or not they are “skilled labour”, whether or not they are helping to “restart the economy”?

    1. They use the term “skilled” to mean “We need workers who are here on visas or other arrangements who cannot easily change jobs, so we can pay them as little as possible”.