1. Israel and the Palestinians

Rana Zaman offers a TED Talk (Facebook)

Stephen Kimber writes about Rana Zaman, a social activist and Pakistani immigrant, who until the end of June was the federal NDP candidate for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. Until someone found old tweets Zaman wrote about Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

Frustrated by seeing what she described as “unarmed Palestinian protesters” being shot during the Great March of Return in the spring of 2018 — Amnesty International, in fact, reported “over 150 Palestinians have been killed in the demonstrations [and] at least 10,000 others have been injured, including 1,849 children, 424 women, 115 paramedics and 115 journalists — Zaman angrily accused Israel of “committing genocide against Palestinians because Israel is not willing to share! Tell me what are Palestinians supposed to do,” she asked? “Just die… oh wait! They are!! Where’s your heart?”

The NDP said Zaman’s tweets were “unacceptable” and she was dumped by the party. Climate-change activist and Ecology Action staffer Emma Norton won the nomination last week.

Kimber examines the language in Zaman’s tweets, but also goes back to learn more about Zaman, who says that during her brief time as the NDP candidate she received hate emails and was the victim of anti-Muslim attacks on social media. Kimber found that Zaman has been open to dialogue on hateful speech in the past, including in a case in 2016 when she met with a police officer who made Islamophobic comments on social media. Zaman met with the officer, who explained he was experiencing “personal issues” and “personal loss” at the time he posted the comments.

Without excusing his behaviour — for which he’d offered a written apology — Zaman noted that the officer’s comment “is coming out of pure anger, and there’s something behind it, there’s pain and anger behind that comment.”

Click here to read “Can we talk about Israel and the Palestinians? No?”

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2. A letter from a serial killer

Michael McGray

Tim reports on a letter written by serial killer Michael McGray to a prison psychiatrist in 2003. The letter was one of the documents the Halifax Examiner obtained in the Glen Assoun wrongful conviction case.

At the time he wrote the letter, McGray was housed at the Atlantic Institute in Renous. He tells the prison psychiatrist about hearing voices, seeing phantoms, and how he wanted to get out of segregation to live as a normal prisoner. McGray also talked about his continued compulsion to kill.

I feel that I have so much inside me that needs to be released. I committed many murders from 93 to 98 after I was released again but I never had as intense urge like I did in 91 or today because then I was able to satisfy my urges every few months.

Doctor, it’s not just that I have an anger problem, I’m sure I do but I feel I have to hurt people to survive. It’s like food or air, I need it so badly. Sometimes I feel the only reason to go on living is so that I can kill an inmate someday and have that release again.

Brenda Way was murdered in 1995, a time when McGray committed several murders. In 2010, McGray murdered 33-year-old Jeremy Phillips, who was near the end of serving a nine-month sentence for aggravated assault.

Click here to read “‘The only reason to go on living is so that I can kill”: A bone-chilling letter from a serial killer.’”

3. Mom says she forgives person who killed her son in shooting

Triston Reece (Football Nova Scotia)

Triston Reece was identified as the young man killed in a shooting in the city’s west end at 5:30 on Friday. He was 19.

Mairin Prentiss at CBC spoke with Reece’s mother, Dale Russell, who says she forgives the killers of her only child and wants to speak with them directly.

I’ve already forgiven you. You can knock on my door at any time and I would like you to explain to me why you did this. I just need to know why.

Russell tells Prentiss she doesn’t want Reece’s friends to retaliate, but rather work on their education and goals in memory of her son.

Anybody that knew Triston and loved Triston, I need them to take his work ethic, his dreams, his way of living and apply it to their own life. And I want them all to come to me and tell me what they did and how they honoured my son in their life. That’s what I want.

Reece played football for Halifax Citadel and Russell says her son’s goal was to play in the CFL or NFL. Reece was working toward going to Saint Mary’s University and playing for the Huskies. On Saturday, Citadel Football posted a note about Reece on its Facebook page:

Words can’t do this young man justice. He was a loving son, a leader, a kind soul, an elite athlete, a great teammate, an all-star, a champion, and a young man with the brightest of futures.

4. Quinpool road open to traffic again

Commuters in Halifax were happy this morning as a section of Quinpool Road that was closed since April 1 reopened, two weeks earlier than expected.

There was a lot of excitement about the news over on Twitter. The HRM made the announcement through a news release on Friday.

5. A stroll of love through Oceanbreeze

Jason Spurrell as Rouge Fatale organized the Stroll Through Oceanbreeze on Saturday

A few hundred people showed up for the Stroll Through Oceanbreeze, the rally organized by Jason Spurrell aka Rouge Fatale after homophobic graffiti was spray painted on the home of a couple, Devin Moore and Tim Gottschall, in the Dartmouth neighbourhood.

Moore marched with Spurrell and other drag performers, including Chris Catherine Cochrane (Elle Noir) and Steve MacLeod (Deva Station). Spurrell once lived in this neighbourhood and says he was happy to be back to organize the event.

I know my community down here. I knew it was one person and one person doesn’t deter the hundreds who are here with love. And that’s exactly what we’re showing here today.

Spurrell says as soon as he heard about the graffiti, he started organizing the stroll. He says when he reached out to other drag performers, everyone quickly agreed to take part.

I had to be here and I had to support. When one queen calls, all queens show. It’s amazing to see how many people came out to be a support for these folks.

A few hundred people took part in the stroll in the Dartmouth neighbourhood.

Nicole Munro at The Chronicle Herald spoke with Moore about the incident and the stroll. Moore says this was the second incident of graffiti at their home. They didn’t report the incident from about five years ago to police.

At the time, we didn’t do a police report, but this time we felt like we had to. It just really bothered me that in this day and age that this would be taking place. We’ve made a lot of progress, but still have to make a lot more.


1. No-show policies at Nova Scotia’s medical clinics

Just over a week ago, I made a trip to the walk-in clinic at the Ravines Medical Centre off Larry Uteck Boulevard. My family doctor used to be here, but has since moved on to another clinic, so I hadn’t been here for some time. The clinic has regular hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and walk-in hours after 5 p.m. and on the weekends. In a few spots in the waiting area, there were posters listing the number of no-shows for the last few months.

This was first time I saw no-shows posted. No one the clinic wanted to talk on record, but Yvette d’Entremont at The Star Halifax reported on the clinic’s no-show posters back in May.

The clinic had a handout with 10 other clinics listed, most of which are in Clayton Park and on the Bedford Highway. About half of those are walk-in clinics, so I called the others. A staff member at Regency Park Medical Clinic and Walk-In say they post no-shows. A few had no comment on their no-show policies. Others wouldn’t mention their policies, citing privacy concerns.

When my family doctor was still at the Ravines, I missed an appointment after a job interview went very long. I was charged a no-show fee of $35, which I paid.

Almost a year ago, Carolyn Ray at CBC reported that the Duffus Health Centre was posting the number of no-shows at its clinic. In August 2018, there were 118 no-shows. The clinic was sending letters to repeat offenders and letting go those patients who had three strikes against them.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Nova Scotia has Professional Standard and Guidelines Regarding for Ending the Physician-Patient Relationship.  According to the document, a physician must not discharge a patient “because a patient fails to keep appointments or pay outstanding fees unless advance notice has been given to the patient.”

Barb Johnson, a spokesperson with Doctors Nova Scotia, told me they don’t have a formal policy about posting no-shows and it’s up to individual clinics if they want to post those numbers.

We’re certainly supportive of anything that educates patients about the impact of missed appointments – particularly as they contribute to access issues.

After I posted my photo of the Ravine Medical Centre no-shows on Twitter, someone mentioned that the endocrine and diabetes clinic at the IWK also posts no-show numbers. I gave them a call.

The staff at the IWK clinic got the idea to post the number of no-shows from the Ravines Medical Centre. One of their staff saw a social media post about the Ravines posting its no-shows and decided they’d try it to address the issue there. Karen Carter is the director of the endocrine and diabetes clinic. Its patients are children who come for first visits, some of which are just the one time, and for those children who need long-term care. Carter says they really get to know many of the families who visit the clinic.

Carter says they put up their sign in early July. She says they have no-shows as well as patients cancelling appointments within the 24-hour period before, which is often too late to fill in that spot. She says the 308 represents about 20 per cent of the total bookings from January to June this year.

It’s really lost time for another family. Maybe they don’t know the impact. It’s really opened up the conversation.

Carter says the reason people don’t show up or cancel last minute vary. She says weather, particularly in the winter, is an issue. Life gets in the way and families get busy. Carter says their goal is to help families so they can make their scheduled appointments on time.

We’re not assuming people are doing this intentionally. Things come up in people’s lives. We get that. We want to help as opposed to shame. Anything we can do in collaboration with families we want to do.

I called the Nova Scotia Health Authority too, and they sent me along to Brian Martell, director for the department of diagnostic imaging for the Central Zone of NSHA. The central zone includes the VG, the Dartmouth General, Cobequid Community Health Centre, the Halifax Infirmary, and Hants Community Hospital. Diagnostic imaging includes ultrasounds, MRIs, PET scans, and CT scans. Apparently, no-shows are an issue here.

Martell says the no-show rate for diagnostic imaging in the central zone is about seven to eight per cent. But he says it’s also a balancing act in that department. He says while they’d like a lower no-show rate, they also rely on no-shows to fill last-minute requests from inpatients or those in ERs who need immediate diagnostic imaging. They do have a number of spots open each day for those emergency and inpatients, but the no-shows open up a few more.

The no-show rate for us is what’s too much and what’s too few. I still wish our no-show rate was less than seven or eight per cent.

In the central zone in June, there were 9,300 bookings for diagnostic imaging. Martell says, “To me, that sounds outrageous” that there were 654 no-shows the same month.

In June, there were 1,133 bookings for MRI and 73 no-shows. Also in June, there were 1,800 patients for CT scans and 147 no-shows.

Martell says in 2017, the department did tackle the issue and focused on decreasing the number of no-shows for ultrasounds. First, the department stopped relying on patients’ family doctors to send out appointment letters and had the diagnostic imaging clinic send those letters out directly to patients. Martell says sending out letters also gave them the opportunity to detail to the patient what prep they needed to do prior to showing up for their appointment. For example, patients getting a bladder ultrasound should arrive at the clinic with a full bladder. Patients also received a phone call from an automated system five days before their appointments.

Martell says the letters were effective in that patients who did show up were more prepared for their appointments.  But he said the letters and phone calls decreased the number of no-shows only by one or two per cent, and they are now looking at a system that would send out reminders to patients via emails.

Martell says he’d like the department to be more proactive in informing patients about the issue of no-shows. And he has one message for patients who can’t make their appointments: “If you can’t make it for your appointment, please try to call us. If you can’t make it, someone else will.”

Horizon Health Network in New Brunswick had a campaign to try to reduce no-shows in its health facilities. According to this release, in 2013 there were 400,000 appointments booked across the Horizon Health Network and 24,000 no-shows. The campaign included a TV ad to talk about the issue and encouraged patients to call to cancel or re-book.

I emailed the network to find out the results and was told that through the campaign, no-shows were reduced by 50 per cent and today they have a target benchmark for no-shows of five per cent or less. In an email, Gary Foley, vice-president professional services, told me that maintaining that benchmark takes consistent reminding, monitoring, and education.

Overall, I am very satisfied with our results. In a nutshell, we need to remind patients and clients they have to be an active participant in their own health care journey. They have to understand why they are being booked for tests, therapies, interventions, etc. They also have to be asked, when they are booked for such tests, if they will follow through. If they are not, it is better for us to know up front and for the health care system to keep the door open for when they will follow through.

This is one healthcare issue patients, clinics, and healthcare practitioners have to work on together. Certainly, clinics need better systems to remind patients of their appointments and that’s happening. Charging a fee is a penalty and possible deterrent, but I doubt it’s easy collecting the fees if people aren’t showing up for their appointments. And patients need to control of their own healthcare and showing up for appointments is part of that.

2. Time to talk tough on alcohol consumption and its effects on healthcare

On Saturday, Ally Garber of Bedford wrote a letter to the Chronicle Herald, Big Alcohol a growing menace to young women, health system.

Garber talks about some of the data found in a CMJA report, Rising alcohol-related harms in Canada, of the rise of harms due to alcohol use and how that increase is affecting the healthcare system. The data, which is from Ontario, shows in that province alcohol-related ER visits between 2003 and 2016 were 4.4 times higher than the increase in visits overall. The report also noted that alcohol-related visits to ERs by young women increased by 240 per cent between 2003 and 2016.

Garber points to “Big Alcohol”, which is targeting its marketing directly to young women, and she wants to know who’s going to make the “hard choices.”

Not a day goes by in Nova Scotia where we don’t hear about the challenges in obtaining adequate health care: thousands without a family doctor, packed emergency rooms (if they are open at all), wait lists for basic surgeries, insufficient supports for mental health treatment, lack of resources for developmental disorders, and so on.

We collectively wring our hands and point fingers, but at the same time we’re unwilling to entertain any evidence-based policies that will decrease harmful use of alcohol and its consequences.

Our elected officials, across all political stripes, are constantly beating their chests, touting their adherence to transparency and accountability, yet none — literally, not one — has shown leadership in this area. In fact, the last time alcohol consumption in Nova Scotia was raised and half-heartedly addressed appears to be back in 2008 with a report from Health Promotion and Protection titled, “Culture of Alcohol Use in Nova Scotia.

I know the alcohol marketing Garber is talking about. And I often see the “wine mommy” memes all over social media, joking that moms must need wine to get through a day of raising their children. Even more disturbing, I recently learned there are products, including t-shirts and mugs, with the logo “Drunk Wives Matter” being sold for the past few years. This is offensive in too many ways to count. Also, we should be concerned about everyone’s drinking, not just women’s.

A new Temperance movement won’t work, but Garber’s right — we need to have better discussions and education around our use and abuse of alcohol and how it’s affecting our personal health and the healthcare system. We do need to talk about this. Now, who’s up for it?


On Sunday, Bicycle Nova Scotia posted a notice on its Facebook page and Twitter feed for those cyclists who use the Macdonald Bridge.

 HRP may be waiting for you at the Dartmouth side of the bridge in the coming weeks. If you’d like to keep riding to continue along Wyse or head up Nantuket we suggest the following. Otherwise, we advise dismounting. #BikeNS Halifax Cycling Coalition

They posted a photo of the alternate route.

Someone on the Facebook page asked if this suggestion came directly from HRP. Bicycle Nova Scotia says it’s “coming through the grapevine.” But the post garnered a lot of discussion from commentors on both pages, particularly about the lack of proper bike infrastructure and use of police resources:

I’m not a cyclist, but I ask other drivers to please share the road with cyclists and pedestrians.




No public meetings.


Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council Special Meeting (Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — two minor matters on the agenda.

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — time subject to change. Agenda here.



No public meetings.


Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — a per diem meeting.

On campus



Analysis and mining of complex network: an overview of our current research (Tuesday, 11:30am, in the auditorium named after a bank, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Alneu de Andrade Lopes from the University of São Paulo will talk. His abstract:

In this presentation, I will describe our current research on the analysis and mining of complex networks. The representation of data and knowledge as a graph allows us to take advantage of a more expressive “relational” representation of data compared to the usual propositional attribute-value representation employed in data mining. The graph allows objects and the relationship among them to be naturally represented. The presentation will focus primarily on network-based, supervised, semi-supervised, and unsupervised learning techniques developed in our group. I will comment on some of our articles on these topics, as well as some applications and future work.

Community Garden (Tuesday, 12pm, Henry Street behind the Computer Science Building) — volunteers wanted. All fresh produce donated to the Loaded Ladle’s free meals program for students. Info and sign-up sheet here.


Town Hall: The Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts: Building, Concert Hall, and Governance (Tuesday, 7pm, Faith Tabernacle, 6225 Summit Street) — from the event listing:

There are over 7,000 signatures of concern on a petition launched in June 2019 regarding the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts and the historic building in which it is situated. There has been public demand for a town hall to discuss the future direction of the Conservatory’s building and concert hall and the Conservatory’s governance structure. The Conservatory Faculty Association feels there is enough information to host a town hall on all of these issues, and therefore invites the general public, the Conservatory’s Board of Governors, staff, faculty, parents and students, and other stakeholders to a Conservatory town hall.

In the harbour

05:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: Themis, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
08:00: Rebecca, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 29 from New York
16:00: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
16:00: Augusta Mars, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


I’m on vacation this week and will be heading out for some Nova Scotia summer adventures. There are so many beautiful places in this province. Follow me on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent. I’ll be posting photos.

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

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  1. Zaman views “not mainstream”? Really? Who’s view are we considering mainstream? I think there are 3 views on Palestine and Israel:

    1) Zaman’s and the UN’s and Chomsky’s and Tutu’s Jewish Voices for Peace and the 100’s of institutions and 100’s of millions of people supporting the BDS movement who know Israel is an apartheid state.

    2) People and institutions that know the first view and are ok with that.

    3) People who don’t have the faintest idea of what is happening there.

    Let’s not be the 3rd group.