News

1. COVID and protests

It appears Ottawa police are breaking up the “convoy” protest in that city (this is an ongoing news story this morning and it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening).

I’m of mixed mind about the protest. I don’t agree with the cause(s) such as it(they) is(are) — it was obvious from the start to any observer who cared to look that the requirement that international truckers be vaccinated was only the pretext for a broad range of grievances from white supremacists, Nazis, and other, yes, deplorables.

And obviously, outright criminal behaviour — as opposed to misdemeanour traffic violations and the like — needs to be addressed, and there are in Ottawa reports of theft, threats of violence, and even attempted murder.

However…

There needs to be broad tolerance of demonstrations in a dynamic democratic society. Even of those demonstrations we vehemently disagree with. Too often, many people’s knee-jerk reaction is simply to sic the cops on people we don’t like or who inconvenience us while expressing their views.

When the “convoy” started, the Nova Scotia government banned blockades of Highway 104 at the provincial border. I thought even that ban was overly broad — it banned people from even demonstrating near the highway, without blocking it — but given the importance of the single highway link to Nova Scotia’s economy and potential disruption of the delivery of medicine and other life-needed supplies, the ban was justifiable.

But on Friday, probably as a result of events in Ottawa, the province expanded the ban to include all roads, streets, and highways in the province, including those in cities. Violators can be fined up to $10,000 each.

This is an excessive reach of the police state.

Protests that block streets are a regular part of life in a democracy.

Dozens of times every year the streets around Province House are blocked by union activists, student protestors, anti-maskers, and any number of other groups. Now, anyone participating in such protests can be fined $10,000.

I recall that after Raymond Taveel was murdered, a spontaneous remembrance of his life broke out as thousands poured out on Gottingen Street, incidentally stranding a handful of motorists in the crowd. Halifax police wisely did not interfere in the demonstration, but merely helped the motorists slowly back out of the crowd.

A group of anti-logging protestors has been regularly blocking a public road in order to protect a forest.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter protest in Halifax consumed Spring Garden Road and South Park Street for about eight hours, blocking all traffic.

The high school students conducting the climate change strike often march in public streets, blocking traffic.

All of the above protestors could now be charged $10,000, which is quite the deterrent to people expressing their political views.

(This gets to a broader discussion about the purpose of public streets and who gets to use them, which I don’t have time for this morning, but note that streets in Halifax were built for public purposes a century and more before the automobile was invented.)

Yesterday, a basket of local deplorables extended their “convoy” protest to the streets of Halifax, and there was a chorus calling for the cops to intervene because, well, because we don’t like the deplorables. But so far as I can determine, just one person was arrested; this one:

Photo: Sean MacGillivray

“Literally: as the lone protester who just faced down a mob of enormous vehicles was bundled into a police car, she shouted to onlookers, “get vaccinated, it saves lives,” wrote Sean MacGillivray. “That happened today in our city, right in front of me.”

“This is what you will always get, Halifax, when you go begging for more policing,” commented Martha Paynter.

I was driving around during the protest and didn’t see much in the way of deplorables, but I did see a lot of counter-protestors lining the streets carrying pro-vaccination signs and the like. This is exactly as it should be.

Linda Hallett, Liz LeClair, and Shaylyn McCauley at a counter protest in Halifax on Sunday. Photo: Liz LeClair

I’m not in Ottawa, so can’t speak to the inconveniences experienced by the residents. But I liked the non-police response of this website, which identifies the trucking companies with vehicles involved in the protest, seeking to “naming and shaming” the companies. As I told one person on Twitter who accused me of being a Nazi (projection much?) for celebrating this approach: you have the right to be an asshole, and I have the right not to hire assholes.

One of the trucks in the Ottawa protest is registered to Seaboard Liquid Transportation of Dartmouth

One of the vehicles identified by the website was the above, a vehicle whose US Department of Transportation (US DOT) number is registered to Seaboard Liquid Transportation of Dartmouth.

This is doubly problematic for Seaboard, as the company is owned by Joe Shannon, who also owns the Shannex chain of nursing homes, which has both a very COVID-vulnerable resident customer base and at least one current COVID outbreak. So, a truck registered to one Shannon company was involved in a protest against policies designed to save the lives under the care of another Shannon company.

To Seaboard’s credit, when the photo was brought to its attention, it immediately decried the Ottawa protest: “We appreciate the opportunity to clarify the situation,” the company said in a tweet. “We have reached out to the truck’s owner to be removed from the convoy. The convoy and the related protests do not represent beliefs or values of Seaboard Transport.”

Evidently, while the truck is owned by Seaboard, operation of the truck is contracted out to a third party.

It was a good corporate response in the moment from Seaboard on a weekend, but the incident shows why companies should better vet its contractors, and I hope to hear more from the company today about how this happened in the first place, and what concrete actions were taken.

All of which is to say, we shouldn’t have a knee-jerk “sic the cops on them!” reaction to protests we don’t like, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take any action at all.

It strikes me that the anti-whatever-they-ares have this bizarre view of “freedom” such that they think they’re entirely disconnected from society. They see themselves as tough individualists who don’t need to abide by shared norms and practices. Suzanne Rent sent me a link to a wonderful essay by Colin Horgan that poses the question: Why do we all have to live in someone else’s never-ending juvenile fantasy?:

Decades of big budget movies, first-person video games, reality television, and online platforms powered by algorithms designed to feed people a never-ending sludge of toxic shit has convinced a seemingly non-insignificant number of individuals in our society that they are each the lone voice capable of warning the world of impending doom. They are the chosen ones, the special few, on a hero’s journey to topple the many (and multiplying) great evils of the world. They are living out an action thriller. It’s them against the world, always. They’re fucking Bruce Willis. They’re Neo. Great.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really fucking tired of living in someone else’s juvenile hero fantasy… I’m fed up of having to listen to the childish logic, immature reasoning, and plain old dumbass arguments the conspiracy crowd are endlessly shoving in our faces. None of what they say makes any sense. None of it is worth anything. None of it should affect reality. All of it is just the same garbage I listened to 15 years ago in the back of a book store in central London, warmed over and repackaged by a new, dumber crowd that’s come out of the old dark corners to play dress-up. If all these people want to jump around pretending to be superheroes, I can recommend a lot of playgrounds. But, frankly, it’s time they got the fuck off our lawn, be it parliamentary or otherwise.

This is where you might say: Well, some of their concerns are valid or maybe something about economic hardship or how people feel they have no voice in the political sphere. But you know what? All of that is also mostly horseshit. It just is. And in the minority of cases where some of those arguments are valid, the solutions are not an armed invasion of a national capital to overturn an election or some infantile “memorandum of understanding” that requires that the government disbands. Those are not the tactics of people who are just looking for a voice in the national conversation. Those are the tactics of people who don’t care about the conversation and who don’t give a shit about any solutions other than those conjured by their own purely narcissistic fantasies.

I’m sick of these fucking LARPers making a lot of noise with only their own fabricated bullshit to cry about. And you should be, too.

Yes, the world isn’t perfect, and we need to push to change it, including through protests, even those that occupy streets. What we shouldn’t do, however, is reject the social compact completely.

And we should remind the childish who think they somehow live outside this society that there are in fact societal consequences for their actions.

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2. Graffiti at Grosvenor-Wentworth school

Anti-vax graffiti and an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory were found at Grosvenor-Wentworth school Saturday:

I don’t know what the proper response to such ignorance is.

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3. Wayne Hankey

Wayne Hankey. Photo: University of King’s College

Wayne Hankey has died.

Hankey was an Anglican minister, King’s prof, and celebrated academic. It was widely known that he was a sexual predator who assaulted young men at the university, but the ethos at the time was (often) to laugh it off and make jokes about “Hankey Pankey.” (Stephen Kimber wrote about Hankey here.)

In 1990, one young man made a complaint about Hankey. Hankey was suspended from his university job for two years but returned, and continued to teach classes at the associated Dalhousie University, right up until Halifax police charged him last year for a sexual assault that happened in the 1980s. After the initial charge last year, two more victims came forward, and Hankey was charged twice more.

Hankey was to face those three sets of charges in court next month. His death (apparently from a heart attack) deprives his victims of a full public accounting of Hankey’s wrongdoing.

The university, however, is continuing with the independent review of Hankey. That’s good. The full story is much larger than one sexual predator on campus; it additionally entails an academic culture that looked the other way and excused it. If additional victims or others with information want to assist the review, they can email ukings@rubinthomlinson.com.

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4. Nova Scotia Power

“Blame Donnie Cameron,” writes Stephen Kimber, who goes on to give us a very helpful primer on the creation of the publicly-owned Nova Scotia Power, and then its privatization by Cameron in 1992. Kimber follows with a recap of Nova Scotia Power’s outrageous requests for higher rates and more. Continues Kimber:

As for other aspects of Nova Scotia Power’s application, [Premier Tim] Houston told reporters, “no option is off the table… It’s time to look at every aspect of the relationship between Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia Power.”

It would be nice if “no option off the table” included the possibility of making Nova Scotia Power a for-the-public public utility again.

Don’t hold your breath.

Click here to read “Nova Scotia Power: the Houston government says ‘no option is off the table.’”

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5. Lie detector tests

A polygraph test.

“Prospective Halifax police employees may no longer be subject to a scientifically sketchy lie detector test after a council vote on Tuesday,” reports Zane Woodford:

Last June, council asked for a staff report “on developing an evidence-based formal policy for polygraph testing for the purposes of human resource management, especially during the selection process for any or all employees of the municipality.”

Halifax Regional Police use polygraph testing to screen their own sworn officers and civilian employees, as well as other HRM employees and contractors who have access to HRP buildings or systems. HRP spends about $260,000 annually on the testing, as El Jones highlighted in a 2020 piece for the Halifax Examiner.

As the Examiner reported last year, councillors asked HRP Chief Dan Kinsella to justify the spending during budget talks…

The report coming to council on Tuesday, written by acting human resources executive director Laura Nolan, acknowledges the tests are unreliable.

“Current academic literature on the use of the polygraph consistently questions the validity of the polygraph as a tool in pre-employment screening. Many scholars and scientists discount the process entirely while others suggest strategies for increasing its efficacy as a supporting tool (as opposed to an excluding tool) in hiring,” Nolan wrote.

Click here to read “Staff recommend Halifax stop conducting pre-employment polygraph tests.”

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6. Angela Simmonds running for Liberal Party leader

Angela Simmonds announced on Friday at 11 am that she is running for the leadership of the provincial Liberal Party. Photo: Angela Simmonds.

“Angela Simmonds is running for leadership of the provincial Liberal party,” reports Matthew Byard:

She’s the first person to declare they’re running for the leadership. If elected, she will be the first person of African descent to lead a major political party in Atlantic Canada and the first female leader for the provincial party.

“I’m running because this province and party needs an approach to leadership that tells honest truths, and makes space for diverse views, and works to stay in touch with everyday Nova Scotians,” she said in a video posted to social media on Friday morning. “I’m running because I am that everyday Nova Scotian.”

Simmonds was elected as MLA for the riding of Preston this past August. After being sworn in as an MLA, Simmonds was selected as one of two deputy speakers to the legislature — the province’s first Black MLA to hold the position.

Simmonds is a law school graduate who, prior to being elected, worked as the executive director of the Land Titles Initiative in the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism.

She currently serves as the Liberals’ official critic for Justice, Equity and Anti-Racism, the Human Rights Commission, and the Accessibility Act.

Click here “Angela Simmonds running for leadership of Nova Scotia Liberal Party.”

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7. Saltwire case moves to PEI

The pandemic has for the past few months limited my access to the courthouse, but those limits were relaxed a bit last week (they’re still not completely eliminated), so I’m playing catch-up with court news.

One case that evolved in my absence was a lawsuit filed by six employees at a PEI printing plant against SaltWire. As I reported last July:

…a group of six laid-off SaltWire employees who worked at the production facility in Charlottetown sued the company, saying in effect that SaltWire used the pandemic as an excuse to not pay them a full severance and filled their positions with lower-paid employees.

“The Applicants state that their employment was not frustrated, by COVID-19 or otherwise,” continues the lawsuit. “The Applicants state that SaltWire attributed their terminations to frustration due to COVID-19 in a bad faith attempt to avoid termination obligations to its long-time employees.”

The lawsuit additionally claims that after the six employees were laid off and terminated, “SaltWire continued operations out of its production facility in Charlottetown. SaltWire continued to employ more junior personnel in each of the Applicants’ former positions…. SaltWire acted in bad faith by terminating the most senior employees … under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic, in an attempt to avoid its termination obligations.”

The six are represented by Anna-Marie Manley of Patterson Law. The claims have not been tested in court, and SaltWire hasn’t yet filed a response.

SaltWire filed for a jurisdictional change — the suit should be heard by a PEI court, not by a Nova Scotian court, said the company. And Justice Kevin Coady has agreed, declining to accept jurisdiction and suggesting the plaintiffs refile in PEI.

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Noticed

Morris Street, 1977. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald continues to break out his old photo albums (this could take centuries), prompting all sorts of fun memories.

Most recently, he brings us photos of Morris Street. Of the above photo, he notes excitedly: “Aren’t these houses GREAT! Classic examples of the favourite Halifax house form of the nineteenth century. The grey one had its roofline modernized, probably in the 1880s.”

Morris Street, 1977. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Archibald also relates a story about the above house:

Continuing down the street there was another Italianate-style villa. In 1977 it had a case of the drearios, but I’ve learned that in the 80s it was renowned as the Gay Grey Apartment building and was the site for “the most famous party to be held outside of a gay bar.”

Archibald links to a fabulous post written by Randy Kennedy in the Gay Halifax archive (all posts in Gay Halifax are fabulous) about the collection of gay people who lived in the house, and the most famous party:

In 1980 or 1981, for Good Friday we all decided to have a mega party, because of course bars were closed back then on certain holidays. We expected a good sized crowd, but nothing like what showed up. Chris‘s apartment was the dance floor because it was the biggest and he had all the music, turn tables, speakers, etc . Jim‘s apt became the bar where people would give over their liquor to be labelled with their names so it was not a free-for-all, and mine and Barry‘s apartments were quiet areas for mingling. More people showed up than we ever expected, but our party worked like a well oiled machine with people taking shifts as barman, bus boy and even security. It went on to the wee hours of the morning until it finally died out and became the most famous party to be held outside of a gay bar. Half way through the party even Laverne made an appearance by sliding down the banister with a full bottle, flying off at the bottom and landing on the floor without spilling a drop. It was the best party ever. On a footnote, that place was also haunted by a ghost we called Mz Biz. Anyone who lived there had experiences with her .

Mz Biz? Even gay people’s ghosts are better than hetero people’s ghosts.

Archibald has lots of other GREAT photos here.

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Government

City

Monday

Southdale Future Growth Node Public Meeting (Monday, 6pm) — more info here

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Province

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm) — video conference; Auditor General’s 2017 Recommendations – Mental Health Services in the Province, with representatives from the Department of Health and Wellness, Nova Scotia Health, and IWK Health Centre


On campus

King’s

Tuesday

Experiencing Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace: Challenges and Solutions (Tuesday, 6pm) — 2022 Black History Month panel discussion via Zoom with Angela Simmonds, Suzy Hansen, and Tiwatope Ogundipe; moderated by Jalana Lewis, with drumming by Olugu Ukpai


In the harbour

Halifax 
16:00: One Majesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:30: NYK Deneb, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England
18:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
23:00: MSC Leigh, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal

Cape Breton
01:00: Algoma Victory, bulker, arrives at Pirate Harbour anchorage from Savannah, Georgia



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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. No one likes a good anti-authority protest more than me. As a proud socialist and union member I have been in many in my time, and have even been arrested in two or three. I totally agree with you that protest is essential to the possibility of real democracy. However, I have a problem with what is going on in Ottawa–not with the truckers and the proudly ignorant, but with the police, because they gave free access to the city to the protestors. I have never experienced this. In every protest I have been in the police controlled access to the site, often illegally and with brute force. (Remember “kettling” at the G20 demos in Ontario in 2010.)

    So what happened In Ottawa? Why were the police so prostrate and unprepared? Why did they give the vandals the keys to the city? Why do they deal with these protestors in ways no other protestors ever are?

    Letting the protestors in Ottawa run rio gives protesting a bad name. Perhaps this is a big part of the whole point?

  2. oh boy Tim, i was reading how you see the current protest scene and weighing your pov as i made my way along and then i got to this: “A group of anti-logging protestors has been regularly blocking a public road in order to protect a forest” so what i want to know is: which group of protesters are you referencing and where,
    because the people i know are out there because a forest is so much more than trees, but without trees there can be no forest they are forest protectors rather than anti-logging. enough to this anti-business, let’s have more rainbows…and i’m not so sure the road is public. I recommend reading the entry for Day 68 at the Last Hope Camp
    https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellionNovaScotia/photos/pcb.1468390336890983/1468390303557653

  3. An important distinction between these and other demonstrations shutting down roads is that the “convoy” is using vehicles to do it. They are using their large, heavy, fast machines (the vehicles and their horns) to shut out and shut down others. Rather than risk their own bodies for their cause, they sit protected in their vehicles, which move rapidly and powerfully, at times inflicting risk, and harm, on others.

  4. With regard to Ottawa, Tim, my kids are living in the midst of it. It is antisocial, bullying behaviour run amuck. Here’s my daughter’s comment: “What a different world we live in now, where the sight of someone holding a Canadian flag makes you afraid.”

    City streets do not only contain businesses, legislatures and bike lanes. They are where people have chosen to live, often lured by development, advertising of great times in the downtown, easy or walking or biking access to amenities, work, shopping, etc. In short, they are home.

    When I write about the antisocial behaviour that many of us have endured in the Dalhousie university corridor, and people tell me, “it’s your problem for living in a student ghetto,” I bristle. I’m just a homeowner, this is where I live. The Ottawa siege is student antisocial behaviour on steroids.

    No-one has the right to terrify and bully others. That is what is going on now for close to two weeks in Ottawa. My daughter can’t go to her regular grocery store – she feel unsafe with all the unmasked protesters there and they bully and threaten people wearing masks. Young women are jeered at. Seniors holed up indoors. People can’t walk their dogs.

    Completely 100% nothing, a big fat 0, will change because of this protest. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like the reasons for it What matters is “you shall lie down and no-one will terrify you.” Stop honking, remove dangerous substances, go sit peacefully in a park, stop breaking the law and protest all you want. Neither the US nor the Canadian governments will change their policies about vaccine requirements for truckers. But at least the residents of downtown Ottawa will no longer be held hostage by a bunch of thoughtless thugs, “fuelled” by racism, antisemitism and populism which should not be celebrated by democratic Canadians. Shame on them.

  5. We start looking at this convoy protest based on some pretty shaky assumptions. There was a lot of unrest but it was nowhere near erupting like this.

    Our PM put a vaccine mandate on trucking at a time when, cautiously but in fact, we are opening up across the world (leaving Britain out of the discussion). Why did the US impose their mandate? Only Uncle Joe knows but it makes no sense. Why did we? It was a move to put the finesse on helping the Conservatives collapse. That worked, too. But what is the cost? If our platform is to don the sound-cancelling headsets — because we are right — and continue to present a brick wall as an answer to everything, what we will get is collapse. There were so many alternatives to this. This is the first time I have felt frightened. Not of Covid, not of truckers, but of the elements that are attracted to the energy that comes when people stoke their anger and enjoy their derision and confer power to the idea of an enemy.

  6. There is no defence for these “protests” by truckers here or in Ottawa. None. This is social upheaval orchestrated by people whose only interest is fomenting societal disruption through disinformation and fanning flames of hatred.

  7. Privatization has been a scourge to Canadian society.

    The NSP shambling mess is the obvious Nova Scotia example.

    Mine is the privatization of the public train line from Calgary to Banff to Vancouver by the Mulroney government in the 80s. What a magnificent part of the country that should have been preserved for all Canadians.

    Now that train line can only be accessed from a private company for over $2000. Guess who has benefitted most from privatization?

  8. Under the absurd rules that clearly aren’t going to be enforced, the counter protesters who briefly delayed the “convoy” are arguably liable for $10,000 fines too. I encountered the “convoy” while driving on Robie St, and found the traffic slowdown they caused to be comparable to normal traffic at 4-6 pm on a weekday. Although the honking was annoying, the protest was short and didn’t turn into an occupation like in Ottawa. Part of living in a free society is that other people, even stupid people, are going to do things you don’t like and you might be slightly inconvenienced or uncomfortable as a result.