1. Critics says PC Nova Scotia Power bill doesn’t have any teeth
Jennifer Henderson was at the Standing Committee on Law Amendments yesterday where advocates had plenty to say about the Houston government’s Bill 147, which they say is poorly drafted and has no teeth to help low-income Nova Scotians or keep Nova Scotia Power accountable. Henderson writes:
The PC government bill proposes to give the government and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board the authority to introduce performance standards that Nova Scotia Power would have to meet or pay a fine. These include meeting environmental targets and establishing a program to assist low-income families with their power bills. The NDP also introduced a bill that contained similar performance standards, but if the power company fails to meet them, the company’s revenue and profits would suffer.
For 20 years a group called the Affordable Energy Coalition has been fighting to establish a mechanism to provide some kind of relief for poor people forced to choose between heating and eating. In its written brief to the Law Amendments Committee, the group supports Bill 147 while pointing out it has no chance of actually helping poor people, unless it makes an additional change to the same Public Utilities Act.
“We welcome this important initiative and the government’s commitment to strengthening equity and low-income service and energy poverty,” read the brief submitted by Claire McNeil and Brian Gifford on behalf of the Affordable Energy Coalition. “However, we are presenting here today to address a problem with the Public Utilities Act that will undermine and frustrate the government measures to address energy poverty by regulation under this Act.”
Henderson also writes about Bill 135, which amends the Electricity Act to forbid Nova Scotia Power from levying any new charges or fees on homeowners and businesses who generate their own renewable energy.
2. Letters to Black Loyalists
Matthew Byard reports on a project commemorating the 1,196 Black Loyalists who left Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone. That project includes a letter-writing campaigns, but organizers tell Byard they still need more letters. Byard writes:
#1792Project is an advocacy and letter-writing campaign aimed at educating people about the history of the 1,196 Black Loyalists who, in January of 1792, left Nova Scotia aboard 15 ships on a mass exodus to Sierra Leone in Africa. This year marks 230 years since the exodus.
“Right now we are still moving forward with the collection of the 1,196 letters and what we wanted to do is we wanted to make sure that we had a letter for each seafarer who actually traveled on one of those 15 ships that went from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone,” said Karen Hudson, principal of Auburn Drive High School in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.
But so far, the project hasn’t collected enough letters.
“I’m up to about 520 but individuals and schools have reached out saying that [more] letters are coming,” Hudson said.
Byard takes us through the origins of the project, which started as an art installation at Pier 21, and includes some of the history of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia, the exodus to Sierra Leone, and what will happen with all those letters the organizers are gathering for the campaign.
3. Port Wallace Gamble, Part 4
Joan Baxter revisits her award-winning series on Port Wallace, the real estate boom, and the toxic legacy of gold mining with this latest article that looks at the proposed development. Recently, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing designated Clayton Developments’ Port Wallace property one of nine “special planning areas,” which is slated for fast-tracked development in the HRM.
Baxter recently met up with a group of residents from Waverley Road to check out the site at Port Wallace subdivision. She describes the “bucolic beauty of the place” but there are also advisory signs warning people not to swim or fish in the waters of Barry’s Run. Baxter writes:
Barry’s Run is anything but pristine.
It is contaminated with arsenic, which is coming from the historic tailings of the Montague Gold Mines site a few hundred metres upstream, where gold was mined from 1862 until 1928, and then off and on until 1940.
For nearly 80 years, the miners simply dumped the tailings — the fine sandy material laced with arsenic and mercury that was left after the rock was crushed to extract the gold — into nearby streams.
Baxter goes on to chronicle the contamination of the waters here, plus how the public was kept in the dark, and tries to find out what the plans are for the project and how the contamination could affect the development.
4. The Tideline, Episode 75: KR Byggdin
Halifax author KR Byggdin joins Tara Thorne on this week’s episode of The Tideline to talk about their book Wonder World, the story of Isaac, who leaves a lonely decade in Halifax to return to the conservative Manitoba community — and father — that rejected him. Here’s a description of the book:
Upon his arrival he’s surprised to learn that his hometown is queerer than he ever realized, and he discovers some secrets that reframe his entire life, and possibly his future. Byggdin stops by to discuss the novel’s genesis, how much of it connects to their own life, the prospect of going home as their full self, and how queerness moves even in religious, rural spaces.
This show also has a brand-new track from Aquakultre.
“My body, my choice” except if you have a uterus
Over the weekend I was driving and listening to the radio when I caught an interview with a conversative politician. I can’t remember who it was, but they were talking about vaccines and how the decision to get one was between a patient and their doctor. That line stuck with me because it’s one I think of when I think about reproductive decisions, which, as we all know, far too many people think is their business.
Then I got thinking about how that slogan “my body, my choice” was co-opted by the anti-vaxx movement. We’ve seen the signs during so-called “freedom” rallies. How did this happen?
And many of the folks who use the “my body, my choice” phrase when it comes to vaccines and masks are anti-choice when it comes to reproductive issues. My body, my choice, but not for anyone with a uterus!
I found this study, Can “My Body, My Choice” Anti-Vaxxers Be Pro Life?, by Tina Rulli at Department of Philosophy, University of California, and Stephen Campbell at the Department of Philosophy, Bentley University. In the abstract, Rulli and Campbell write “that the case for opposing gestation mandates on grounds of bodily autonomy is much stronger than the case for opposing vaccine mandates — even if fetuses have full moral status.” Rulli and Campbell did a comparative analysis of the ways in which vaccine and gestation mandates restrict bodily autonomy and liberty, harm prevention, and compared the mandates themselves. Here’s their conclusion, including a bit on the anti-vaxx movement’s use of the phrase “my body, my choice”:
Our finding is that while both types of mandate prevent morally serious harms, gestation mandates far more extensively restrict bodily autonomy than do vaccine mandates, which are only moderately invasive. Given this assessment, one who opposes vaccine mandates solely or primarily out of respect for bodily autonomy ought to likewise oppose gestation mandates.
Anti‐vaxxers may have chosen to co‐opt “My Body, My Choice” from the pro‐choice movement to leverage the power of that slogan for their own cause and to imply that pro‐choicers should be concerned about the bodily autonomy infringements in vaccine mandates. Anti‐vaxxers should know what adoption of that slogan commits them to in the abortion debate. Anti‐vaxxers who are ultimately concerned about vaccine mandates’ restriction on their bodily autonomy should be pro‐choice.
On Wednesday, I spoke with Martha Paynter, a registered nurse working in reproductive health care in Nova Scotia, and the chair of Wellness Within. She had a lot to say about the slogan “my body, my choice,” and its origins — and limits — and its misappropriation by anti-vaxxers. Paynter says:
Whenever the right evokes this idea of freedom or small government, it’s always in relation to maintenance of the status quo, and non-interference of the white supremacist patriarchy.
Leaders in the Black feminist movement really have articulated the language of choice was always inadequate and always conveyed this arbitrary menu. Really, that catchphrase [my body, my choice] is a product of white feminist focus on abortion rights to the exclusion of all else. What the reproductive justice movement and Black feminism has really shown is that when we’re talking about true reproductive liberation and the well-being of women, trans, non-binary people, and our children, we’re talking about all those protections that come from a strong social safety net. The reproductive justice movement is really about everyone getting to govern our bodies in such a way that there is collective well-being and we thrive collectively. That’s where it intersects with this rhetoric and falls apart.
It’s maintenance of a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal power norm. That is the freedom that the right-wing movement is trying to maintain. In that sense, it’s very much aligned with their anti-abortion rhetoric and their interest in controlling women bodies. They’re interested in controlling the bodies of people who aren’t male. They interested in big government when it comes to big military, big police, and not when it comes to big investment in collective well-being.
The slogan is used by the right when it comes to decisions about masks and vaccines. But Paynter says mask wearing and vaccines are individual actions that we can take, but we should think more broadly.
My concern when we focus exclusively on those actions is we let the state off the hook for not doing those truly transformative things that would change our society’s health. Like sick pay. Like housing. That’s also in line with what we learned from Black feminist thought. Of course, those things are useful and effective, but they’re individual and we can’t be distracted by them and fail to call the state to account for its failures to address the social safety net broadly.
People love their slogans. Stay the blazes home! Get back out there! Nova Scotia Strong! I asked Paynter, who has a book — Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada — coming out May 25, if she has a better slogan for reproductive movement, or if we need slogans at all:
Slogans are useful for chants. But our reproductive justice movement does have to be much more complex and inclusive. Sometimes that isn’t super amenable to these pithy little phrases, and that’s okay because it’s 2022 and we can be more complex.
On Tuesday, a young man died after he was swept out to sea at Peggy’s Cove. His brother was swept out, too, and he’s now in hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Even before the news of the man’s death was public, people on social media had a lot to say. And much of it wasn’t kind at all. Far too many commenters said anyone who stands on the black rocks at Peggy’s Cove is stupid, deserves what they get, or is a winner of a Darwin award. Never mind that someone just lost their life; let’s make judgements about their intelligence in a tweet.
Far too many lives have been lost at Peggy’s Cove. A 46-year-old woman from Quebec died there in 2016. A 25-year-old man from Ontario was swept off the rocks in 2015. There have been many more before that.
There are signs all over Peggy’s Cove, including one at the entrance of the road and more near the rocks, yet people still get far too close to the water. I am intrigued, too, why those signs don’t work and I think about it every time I am at Peggy’s Cove. I wrote about why people ignore warning signs for this Morning File back in the summer of 2020. There are all sorts of factors coming into play here: lack of familiarity with the place, perception of risk, perception of control, poor design and location of the signage, and so on.
All of us have been in a place and situation where we didn’t play attention to our surroundings, ignored signs, and paid the consequences for it. Sometimes those consequences are trivial; other times they’re tragic. The consequences for me not paying attention to road signs and getting lost driving in a city I never visited before would be far, far less serious, of course, than if I don’t see or heed the warning signs at Peggy’s Cove. Think about the last two years and how many warning signs many of us ignored: arrows in grocery stores, signs asking us to mask up or wash our hands, and others. All of us, at some point in time, figure signs don’t apply to us.
Ignoring or not seeing warning signs at tourist spots isn’t even unique to Peggy’s Cove. Last June, two researchers in Iceland set up near a warning sign at Sólheimajökull Glacier. Over several days, they watched how tourists responded to a warning sign near the glacier, and what those tourists did next. The pair saw 153 groups of tourists who decided to continue past the first sign, 60 groups who did not, and still another 11 groups split up, with some going past the sign, while others stayed behind. So, most people ignored the warning. Here’s what one of those researchers, Deanne Bird, said about the tourists’ reaction to the sign:
Generally, people don’t think anything will happen to them on their vacation, so they are willing to take the risk and many just want to take selfies and get a great picture. When people travel in groups, they often place the responsibility on their tour guide or tour company. This is not just unique to volcano areas. The lessons that we would take from this study can be applied to other areas, for instance forest fires when people are hiking. How can we ensure they are informed about the risks?
We Nova Scotians like to think we know all about the dangers — not just of those slippery black rocks at Peggy’s Cove, but of the ocean itself. Yet the world is surrounded by water, and if we found ourselves in an oceanside place we didn’t know so well, we just might ignore the signs and the danger and easily become a victim of the sea too.
There’s no shortage of stories of people getting swept out to sea. In California this week, three fishermen rescued two teenage girls who were swept out from a beach. In November in Iceland, a tourist died after he was swept out to sea by a sneaker wave at Reynisfjara beach. Last month in Hawaii, a 25-year-old New Jersey man was dragged out to sea while he was swimming at a beach. He was never found. This article lists includes several stories of people getting swept out along the coastline in California. Some of them were rescued, but later died. Some are still missing. In Newfoundland in April last year, a 21-year-old student slipped off rocks into the water and was never found. In 2019, at Salmon Cove Sands beach, one child and three adults were swept out while they were on a flotation device. Fortunately, they were all rescued and unharmed. What would the people of social media have to say about all of these people?
Many people on social media offered their own solutions to keep people safe when visiting Peggy’s Cove. Those ideas range from more education to hiring staff to patrol the rocks and telling people to stay away from the water’s edge. Still others suggested creating more signage, including a sign that lists the names of every person who died at the site. We certainly can’t fence off the sea, as some people suggested. That study from Iceland and the glacier said information is key, and that everyone, including taxi drivers, tour guides, and hotel staff can help inform tourists about dangers at popular sites.
I don’t know what the solution is, and it is nerve wracking seeing those photos of people too close to the water’s edge. But the sea isn’t going to change its ways.
“The sea is pretty ruthless,” Eric Morash, a fisherman from Peggy’s Cove, told Karla Renić at Global this week about the two men who were swept out on Monday.
Yes, the sea is ruthless, but our comments about these tragedies shouldn’t be.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, online) — agenda here
Law amendments (9am, Province House) — info here
Legislature sits (1pm, Province House)
Law amendments (3pm, Province House) — meeting continues
PhD Defence, Nursing (Thursday, 11am, online) — Jennifer Lane will defend “Working Through Stigma: A Constructivist Grounded Theory of Delivering Health Services to 2SLGBTQ Populations in Nova Scotia”
How To Handle Microaggressions In The Workplace (Thursday, 1pm, online) — register here for webinar with Camille Dundas and Sean Mauricette
The micro in microaggressions is a bit of a misnomer. Because when you experience one, it doesn’t feel very micro. In fact, it can feel like death by a thousand cuts. It might be one of the reasons an astonishingly low number of Black employees (3%) say they would want to return to the office full time. Any marginalized group can experience microaggressions; in this one-hour webinar, racial equity educators Camille Dundas and Sean Mauricette will help us understand:
– Where microaggressions come from
– How to recognize a microaggression
– How to speak up when you observe one
– How to cope when you experience one
– How to respond when you’ve committed one
In the harbour
05:00: CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci, container ship (152991 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Belledune, New Brunswick
09:00: FS Fulmar, French naval patrol boat, sails from Tall Ships Quay for sea
13:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
15:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
16:30: CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci sails for New York
17:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
This weekend, I am heading out on a run to Frenchys’ stores. I couldn’t decide if I should check out the locations on the South Shore or in the Annapolis Valley. I asked some Twitter followers, and people have very strong opinions about what locations are best.
I’ll have to do a couple of road trips to cover them all.