Today’s Morning File has links to three articles reported by Yvette d’Entremont yesterday and last night.

Zane Woodford is on paternity leave this month, Joan Baxter is neck deep in other reporting, and Jennifer Henderson, who is a part-time freelancer, is taking richly deserved time for herself. Yesterday, Suzanne Rent was out of town on assignment, and I was tied up all day with other duties and personal stuff (including a long-scheduled medical appointment, nothing is wrong), so that left Yvette to tackle all the news stories coming down the pike. She stepped up and excelled, because of course she did; we’ve always been able to rely on Yvette.

How the Examiner performed yesterday is illustrative of how this operation clicks. We’re a tiny newsroom, stretched thin, and if one or two reporters are tied up with important projects, the others work hard to get the day-to-day work done.

Well, mostly. There is reporting we’re missing, simply because we don’t have the resources to get it covered.

But what we do we can do because of subscribers. Subscribers make this entire operation possible, and more subscribers will help us fill those gaps in reporting.

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1. School support workers return to bargaining table

Woman standing on a sidewalk with signs that read "Fair deal now for school support" and another featuring colourful drawings of children below the words "We miss the kids."
Striking school support workers at the corner of Woodlawn and Main Street in Dartmouth on June 7, 2023. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

“School support workers in the Halifax area are returning to the bargaining table four weeks after going on strike,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

In an email sent to members at 5pm Thursday, CUPE Local 5047 president Chris Melanson said they reached out to the conciliation officer after a Wednesday evening meeting.

“After last evening’s meeting, CUPE Local 5047 reached out to the conciliation officer to say that we had a mandate from members to return to the table,” Melanson said in the email. “The conciliator has since reached out to HRCE who has agreed to come back and bargain.”

Click here to read “CUPE Local 5047 heading back to bargaining table Friday.”

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2. Brad Johns, MLA and support worker

Two bearded men stand in front of MLA Brad Johns's constituency office door chatting seriously.
CUPE’s national president Mark Hancock (left) and CUPE Local 5047 president Chris Melanson stand in front of Brad Johns’s constituency office door on Thursday, June 8, 2023. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

“Noting that PC MLA Brad Johns once worked alongside them and should understand their struggle, a group of striking school support workers picketed in front of his Middle Sackville constituency office on Thursday,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

“Brad Johns was an EPA (educational program assistant) at one point and carries now the title and the classification of library support specialist,” Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5047 president Chris Melanson said in an interview outside Johns’ office. 

Although currently on a leave of absence due to his political career, Melanson said Johns, who is also the current attorney general and minister of justice, is still on CUPE Local 5047’s seniority list.

Reached via phone and asked what he’d say to the striking school support workers, Johns’ comment was brief.

“I certainly understand and encourage them to go back to the table,” he said. 

Click here to read “MLA Brad Johns should ‘understand’ struggle, school support workers say.”

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3. Community support workers

Three white women stand on a sidewalk holding signs. Two of the signs are pink and says "Fair deal now for school support." The sign in the centre says CUPE support our support workers. Behind the women is a line of leafy trees along the sidewalk.
Jamie Bent, left, Ellis Pickersgill, and Tara Crowe are all community outreach workers in schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“Community outreach workers currently on the picket line with other school support workers in Halifax say their role is intergral to supporting students and families in schools under the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE),” reports Suzanne Rent:

There are 44 community outreach workers in the HRCE who work via SchoolsPlus, a collaborative interagency system that works with students and their families connecting them to support within and outside of schools.

As reported by the Examiner, on Thursday the workers learned their union, CUPE Local 5047, reached out to the conciliation officer after a Wednesday evening meeting.

Ellis Pickersgill has been a community outreach worker since September 2021. Pickersgill said the role is quite broad, and community outreach workers focus on numerous areas of support, depending on the needs of the students. For those students under the age of 12, community outreach staff work with them and their families. For students over the age of 12, workers don’t need a family’s consent to provide support to a student. The service is confidential.

“It fills a lot of gaps,” Pickersgill said about the role. “It’s purposely a vague role. Our job is to meet kids where they are and help them to where they need to be, whenever that might be. Something as small as like my pants ripped and I need someone to get me a new pair of pants for the day or to ‘I need somewhere to sleep for the night.’ It’s quite a range of services we might be providing.”

Pickersgill works at Cole Harbour High School where she joined fellow picketers on Thursday. In her role, she helps connect students to supports at the IWK, finds funding for students to apply for recreation program, teaches life skills, or accompanies a student if they have to go to court. She also connects students with food programs or creates food programs in schools. This school year, she applied for a grant and now delivers food boxes to families in need.

She also offers programs in schools that focus on social and emotional learning, consent, friendship skills, empathy building, and snack and lunch programs. And she connects students with resources in the community, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Click here to read “Community outreach workers say their work is integral to students, families in Nova Scotia.”

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4. Fire update

Papers of sheet music lie among burned garden rakes
Damaged sheet music and a photograph are seen among the remains left by a wildfire in Hammond’s Plains, N.S., during a media tour, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL, Tim Krochak

“During a media briefing Thursday afternoon, HRM officials provided an update on the municipality’s progress in lifting evacuation orders and on its recovery phase efforts,” reports Yvette d’Entremont

“We want to let people know everything that we know. We want to let people know the things that we don’t know,” Mayor Mike Savage said. “Return and recovery efforts represent their own massive challenges.”

Savage said the majority of the 4,100 residents who remain evacuated will likely be able to return to their homes on Friday. They’ll be advised via an alert. 

Those whose properties are in the area of “significant impact” must wait longer.

Click here to read “Most of 4,100 evacuated residents may return home Friday; Halifax setting up community hub for evacuees.”

5. 3 years after Portapique, the Emergency Alert system is still broken

A neon sign reads "Be so good they can't ignore you."
Photo by Mohammad Mardani on Unsplash

“Savage said the majority of the 4,100 residents who remain evacuated will likely be able to return to their homes on Friday. They’ll be advised via an alert.”

Wait, what?

Here’s exactly what Mayor Mike Savage said yesterday:

Tomorrow it is our intent, our plan, that the majority of people who are still evacuated will be able to return to their homes. We will issue an alert when that happens. Please keep in mind that not every street can be listed on the alert, but there will be public service announcements that people can go, where they can look at what communities and what streets are able to return.

Telling people in advance that there will be non-emergency “emergency alerts” today is really rotten policy! It means people will ignore the alerts, because they’ll think “oh, it’s just a recision of an evacuation order.”

Here’s hoping there’s not a mass murderer on the loose today!

I discussed what I believe is the improper use of the emergency alert system for notice of evacuation order recisions Tuesday:

My worry is about alert fatigue — my own phone has been screaming at me so often with the evacuation recisions that I’m tempted to just ignore the alerts. At what point does this itself become a public safety threat? What if, dog forbid, there were another, unrelated threat to life as the flurry of evacuation recisions was coming through, say another mass murderer on the loose?

Additionally, once the alert system gets watered down with warnings about things that aren’t imminent threat to life, I worry about “alert creep” — such that the public is warned about ever lesser threats to life until we get to the point of alerts about shoplifters and lost dogs. 

It is imperative, I think, that the alerting system be used exclusively for the very most urgent and imminent threats to life, and I don’t think the evacuation recisions meet that criteria.

The proper way to have done this is that the initial evacuation order would have included a link to a website and/or a phone number for people to call to find out when the order was to be recscinded.

It gets worse. On Twitter, the @HRMFireNews account, which has been the reliable go-to source for news and updates about the Tantallon Fire, tells us that:

I can confirm that 71 minutes passed between the initial evacuation order being communicated by RCMP on social media and the issuance of the first emergency alert through provincial EMO.

It is worth noting that when the initial evacuation order was posted, it appears the decision to issue the emergency alert was already made since it was referenced by the RCMP in that initial communication.

My two cents: 71 minutes is not good enough in an emergency. The use of emergency alerts improved between Portapique and the Tantallon fire, but there is still work to do. I hope that speeding up this process is a part of the post-incident review.

Seventy-one minutes is an eternity during a firestorm like what was occurring on Sunday, May 28 in Tantallon. It truly is a miracle that no one was killed.

As he (the person behind @HRMFireNews is anonymous, but has confirmed he’s a “he”) points out, post-incident reviews aren’t about casting blame, but rather about improving the system. As I commented to him:

You know who does this well? The regulators of the airlines. Every incident, every mishap, no matter how small or insignificant, is analyzed with the aim not of blame but of understanding. People own their mistakes, and learn from them. As a result, flying is astonishingly safe. (I’m still afraid of flying.)

Police agencies are supposed to do the same thing, but it seems to be the culture of policing that lessons supposedly learned in previous incidents are often ignored and so don’t result in a better response for the next incident. Police too often think of themselves as beyond critique, so are incapable of owning their own mistakes.

Could it be that the Emergency Management Offices (EMO) are too culturally tied to police? (There are, as I understand it, two different EMOs involved here: the provincial EMO and the municipal EMO.)

I was initially of the opinion that the emergency alert system was applied correctly during the fires, but as I’ve seen it employed for dozens of non-emergency recisions of evacuation orders, and as I learn of the hour-plus delay in using the system at the height of the emergency, my view has changed.

Three years after Portapique, the emergency alert system is still broken.

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6. Clop-ed

A white man in a blue suit sits before flags.
Colton LeBlanc, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Cyber Security and Digital Solutions, speaks with reporters via video about the MOVEit privacy breach on June 6, 2023.

Using the hack of Nova Scotia’s MOVEit system as a jumping off point, Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator gets into the weeds about the various hacking groups and their techniques; it’s worth a read just to understand the hacking landscape.

But I’m additionally struck by Campbell’s observation:

Cyber Hygiene

This is a difficult subject to write about because so much of the information out there comes from law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity firms with a vested interest in convincing you that ransomware is “a pandemic of epic proportions.”

Less hysterical voices say protecting against ransomware (and data-theft extortion) attacks comes down to good “cyber hygiene” and that sounds sensible, until you think about what it entails and realize it puts an impossible burden on internet users — change all your passwords regularly; don’t write them on sticky notes on your computer; research how apps share your data with third parties; use two-factor identification for all your accounts; don’t use messaging applications over public Wi-Fi; think about where your data is being stored and which nation’s laws will apply to your information (!)

I hope I’m reasonably careful with this stuff, but for the most part, I think I’m like most people and most small businesses: we rely on third parties to do the job.

The Halifax Examiner doesn’t collect anyone’s credit card information — that goes through Stripe, a global internet payments corporation that processes billions of dollars in customers’ money every year. If Stripe were to get hacked, the damage would be unimaginable.

Likewise, all of us trust banks and Amazon and other assorted vendors to protect our financial data, and, if you were an employee of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, you had no choice but to trust that the province’s systems, including MOVEit, would protect your data. It’s not like you could walk over to the payroll office and demand that your pay come as a cheque you’d then deposit at the bank, or ask to be paid with currency in a brown envelope (when I was a kid, that’s how one of my bosses paid me).

Point being: Why is it every time some giant institution (the province of Nova Scotia, Woo Commerce, First Financial, Equifax, etc.) gets hacked and regular people’s data are stolen, the onus is put on the regular people to have “better cyber hygiene”? It’s displacement of blame of the first order.

Sure, change your passwords. But I’ll be honest: I regularly change passwords on sites with truly sensitive information — my bank, access to the Examiner, my email, like that — but for my media subscriptions, I use the same few passwords for all, even though google tells me some of them have been hacked. I mean, Clop or whoever has my password to the Globe and Mail, whoop-de-doo, what are they going to do, read some articles for free? Now if the Globe uses Stripe and that gets hacked, that’s a different issue, but it ain’t on me.

Anyway, click here to read Campbell’s article, “We’ve Been Clop-ed.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator.

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Time waited for me

A clock read 6:00

Time’s phone number was 622-9311.

They’ve changed the area code three times since my childhood, from 703 to 804 to 757. Funny I can remember that.

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No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:00: NYK Constellation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
06:00: Warnow Master, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
07:00: Santa Ines, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Ronnskar, Sweden
07:00: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
08:00: Viking Saturn, cruise ship with up to 930 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York, on a 14-day cruise from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland
11:00: Santa Ines sails for sea
11:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
13:00: NYK Constellation sails for Fort Lauderdale, Florida
15:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
16:30: Viking Saturn sails for L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland
22:30: Warnow Master sails for sea
04:30 (Saturday): CMA CGM Adonis, container ship (154,839 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
Cruise ship Sunday: Carnival Venezia (up to 5,145 passengers)

Cape Breton
15:00: Chicago Harmony, bulker, sails from Mulgrave to sea


There will be an update on the MOVEit hack this afternoon at 3pm.

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

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