News

1. The RCMP’s ‘no apology’ speaks louder than words

Photo: Halifax Examiner.

Last week, the RCMP in Nova Scotia said it wouldn’t apologize to the province’s Black community for the use of street checks because they are “part of the broader RCMP, and RCMP national policy still supports the use of street checks as a policing tool.” Stephen Kimber took at look at that lack of apology in his column this week and what that actually means. Kimber writes:

The Mounties apparently don’t just enforce the law; they act as if they are the law. And above it whenever it’s convenient.

And what they’re saying here is simply this: Yes, street checks do disproportionately affect African Nova Scotians. But no, that’s not our fault. If you get street checked because you’re Black, well…  that’s your problem. You’re Black.

In other words — to steal a line from an infamous Supreme Court of Nova Scotia appeal case involving the wrongful murder conviction of Donald Marshall, Junior — Black people are the authors of their own misfortune… because they’re Black.

Click here to read the entire column.

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2. Schools in Charlottetown temporarily shut down after COVID outbreak

Photo: Martin Sanchez/Unsplash

Rebecca Lau at Global News reports on the temporary shutdown of schools in Charlottetown after several students tested positive for COVID-19. This is the first outbreak in schools in PEI.

As Lau reports, the first case was found at West Royalty Elementary School. Then by Sunday, another six new cases were identified, including four at West Royalty. PEI’s chief health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison said 10 out of the province’s last 11 cases of the virus have been children under the age of 12. Lau writes:

None of the children who tested positive are in hospital.

“This is an evolving and concerning situation,” she said. “Our investigation of these cases continues with contact tracing and testing underway as we speak.”

Close contacts are being identified and will have to test and isolate. Morrison said there are currently 50 close contacts identified, and “the list keeps growing.”

Morrison added investigators have not been able to link the cases to travel outside the province, and until they do, they are considering there to be community transmission and are assuming new cases are the Delta variant.

“We know that COVID-19 including the Delta variant seeks out groups of people who are not vaccinated and that is what we are experiencing,” she said.

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3. Kentville councillor asks Ombudsman to investigate allegations of toxic workplace

Andrew Zebian. Photo: Town of Kentville

Kentville town councillor Andrew Zebian has requested that the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman investigate allegations of a “toxic work environment” at town hall, Pam Berman at CBC reports. 

Berman writes:

In June, Coun. Andrew Zebian obtained a copy of a letter written in July 2020 by Kelly Rice, a former chief administrative officer of Kentville. CBC News also received a copy. The letter has already been published by Frank Magazine.

The letter outlines the treatment of staff by certain councillors and Mayor Sandra Snow. It alleges that Snow made inappropriate remarks about employees loud enough for them to hear and threatened to trip a staff member so she would “smash her face.”

Rice would not do an interview with CBC News, but other sources say the information in the letter is accurate.

In an email to CBC, Snow said she is bound by a confidentiality agreement and cannot comment on the letter, but added that “no threats of violence in the workplace are acceptable.”

“I would not, nor have I, threatened a member of staff,” wrote Snow. “My relationship with staff is professional.”

Snow also wrote that council acted swiftly on the allegations and that “legal and professional HR advice was pursued.”

Zebian brought Rice’s letter to a town council meeting in July, but Dan Troke, the current CAO, told him a public debate on it would put town “in legal jeopardy.”

A spokesperson with the ombudsman’s office said in an email to CBC, that because of confidentiality, it can’t confirm matters that “may or may not be brought to the attention of the office.”

Apparently, the town does have a workplace anti-violence policy and there’s a code of conduct for town councils. However, one councillor, Cathy Maxwell, told CBC the code of conduct was not effective. Maxwell said she was bullied by another councillor during her first term in 2016 and asked that the code of conduct be used. Maxwell said she “felt bullied” and her case was dealt with by the mayor and CAO. Maxwell told CBC, “they refused to enforce the code of conduct and the behaviour continued and I was made an outcast.”

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4. Sharks

Photo: Ocearch/Twitter

Ocearch, the non-profit that searches for and tags great whites, found a juvenile female white shark in the waters off W. Ironbound Island on Sunday. Like they do with other sharks they find and tag, Ocearch gave the shark a name: It’s Hali. This shark is 10’2″ in length and weighs approximately 697lbs (that’s less than the weight of an average horse).

Ocearch has been in Nova Scotia before searching for and tagging great white sharks and according to their Twitter feed, it looks like they found another shark this morning. They came back again last week for the final expedition. Global Halifax featured Ocearch on its morning show today:

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5. PRICED OUT: Community session in Lower Sackville

I’ll be hosting a community session for our series PRICED OUT: Addressing the Housing Crisis in Lower Sackville at Acadia Hall (it’s on a bus route) on Thursday, Sept. 23 from 6pm to 8pm. Click here to sign up.

Oh, and you can always call or text our PRICED OUT message line at 1-819-803-6215 or email us at housing@halifaxexaminer.ca.

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Views

Are you doomscrolling?

Photo: Prisilla Du Preez/Unsplash

Last week, I watched the COVID-19 briefing via the provincial government’s Facebook page. I usually watch the live feed elsewhere and for good reason. While I was reading the comments I said out loud in front of my computer, “This pandemic will never be over.”

You’ll recall, that was the briefing when Premier Tim Houston and Dr. Robert Strang announced the “proof of vaccination” policy. While some people were clearly pleased with the news, others talked about their loss of freedom and the tyranny of such a policy. The wellness types told people to avoid vaccines and just eat their vegetables and exercise instead. Someone even mentioned the Antichrist. It was all quite something. 

After I watched the briefing and perused the comments, I commented — appropriately enough — on my own Facebook page how toxic and frightening many of those comments were. And I remembered what Tim Bousquet often says: “There sure are a lot of assholes on the internet.”  

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Scratch that — I have a like-hate relationship with social media. I can see how it’s useful. It’s a communication tool, a learning tool, and an advocacy tool. And it’s played a big role in this pandemic. There’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there making its way to people already scared and weary from COVID-19. And often all that information is treated equally, so for some people it’s hard to judge what’s accurate. Fortunately, there are smart people using social media to fight against all the wrong information.

Timothy Caulfield is a professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta, speaker, author, and TV host — he had a Netflix series debunking a lot of wellness scams. He’s spent much of the pandemic fighting against misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, usually via his Twitter account. Not everyone is a fan; he gets death threats for doing it. His work is worth reading (I interviewed him last year about misinformation around COVID-19. You can find that here).

Dr. Jennifer Gunter is also fighting the good fight against misinformation and disinformation. Gunter, an OB/GYN who writes about women’s health, sex, and the wellness industry, also tackles misinformation and disinformation on COVID-19 and vaccines. Last week, she wrote this article on The Pandemic’s Worst Woman: Dr. Christiane Northrup. 

Gunter calls Northrup a “superstar of pseudoscience” who for years got a platform from Oprah — and even PBS — to share her misinformation about women’s health, which Northrup wrote about in her bestselling book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. In her article, Gunter demands that Northrup lose her certification as an OB/GYN and that Facebook, where Northrup shares all that misinformation to more than 500,000 followers, take that page down. Gunter writes:

Wouldn’t it be great if Oprah owned the connection and tried to undo some of the damage? She could probably call up Mark Zuckerberg and ask him if being one of the 12 most prolific spreaders of disinformation about vaccines makes Northrup bad enough for a Facebook ban? I’m guessing that billionaires take each other’s calls, but I could also be totally wrong.

Let’s be clear, Facebook needs to ban Northrup. I’ve been reading her posts for awhile. This is her primary cesspool where many who haven’t encountered her before meet her propaganda through repostings and shares. This is where her fetid thoughts gain traction. True believers will find her on whatever fringe platform she ends up at, but Facebook needs to shut her down now. Why is it that she is so awful she is banned on Instagram, but still allowed on Facebook which owns Instagram?

I follow both Gunter and Caulfield on Twitter and have learned a lot. Like I said, social media can be an important tool. Through my Facebook and Twitter accounts I get story ideas, connect with sources, and do fact checking. I don’t know what anyone else’s Facebook and Twitter feeds are like but here’s a summary of mine: Facebook is friends, family, and former and current coworkers. For the most part, it’s people I know and like. They share photos of their kids, funny jokes and stories, photos of their travels, stories they published, and generally innocent stuff. But sometimes I’ll see one of those dumb memes with Police Lives Matter or that newcomers to Canada get more money than seniors (I’ve unfriended a lot of people in recent months). 

Twitter, on the other hand, is mostly people I don’t know. I reserve it for work, my own (sometimes bad) jokes, and photos of road trips (and more recently my new kitten.) And I post short rants about employers not paying employees a living wage. I do find story ideas on Twitter and connect with sources — it can be helpful! I read some interesting conversations on there. But I find Twitter the hardest on my head and I work to ignore it, especially when there’s a big news story and EVERYONE has to have their say on it.

I find Twitter the worst when someone shares a video of someone doing something awful. Within hours (and likely much less,) that video is shared millions of times. Someone will write, “Twitter, do your thing.” Soon, the person in the video is identified, their name starts trending, Twitter users find out the name of the person’s employer. By the next day, that employer will announce, sometimes via Twitter, that the person no longer works for them. Twitter has done its thing. I struggle with this whole process in a way I can’t articulate here. But I always have to sign off and step away.

The most common words I see (especially on Twitter) are “anxious” and “anxiety.” Is Twitter making us all more anxious? It can be a hostile place. And all those headlines pop up faster on Twitter than they do on Facebook. Like many of you, I have found myself endlessly scrolling through Twitter, overwhelmed with all the shit going on out there. It’s exhausting. I said to a friend last week that our collective mental health would improve if we just all logged off social media for a bit, got outside, took a nap, or did anything else but be on social media.

There’s a word for all this looking at the bad news on social media. It’s called doomscrolling. Here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster. 

Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back. 

And because there are some smart people on social media, there’s the Doomscrolling Reminder Bot, which isn’t a bot at all, but rather journalist Karen K. Ho, who writes for Business Insider and other sites; she created the Twitter account in the spring of 2020, early in the pandemic, to help people step back from all that bad news. Through that bot account, Ho shares a few reminders each day. Most of the tweets simply say “hi, are you doomscrolling?” Still others include other good reminders, like to drink water, go to bed early, or plan a fun outing with friends. It’s simple and good advice that has worked for me when I needed to step away.  

Ho spoke with Scientific American about the Doomscrolling Reminder Bot back in February about why we doomscroll, how to prevent it, and why those doomscrolling reminders are important to her, too:  

What I really remind myself of, repeatedly, is that when I die, Twitter means nothing. No one will be like, “I went viral a lot.” They’ll be like, “Did I have enough energy to do my job pretty well? Do the people we love know that we love them?” I think those are the things to really invest energy in.

Not all of social media is bad news, of course. There are lots of people who use Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms in fun, interesting, informative, and clever ways. With a lot of muting and blocking you can highlight the good stuff. So, let me leave you with some of the good stuff I follow.

For tips on road trip adventures, I look to Stephen Archibald at Halifax Bloggers, whose work we often share here, and Ron Zwaagstra, who shares photos of his cycling trips via Phone Pix. For my history info, I like Small History NS, which tweets out bits of news and announcements from rural newspapers published between 1880 and 1910. Those announcements were the tweets of their time. For fun distractions, there’s Hourly Fox, which isn’t a news feed, but rather photos of beautiful foxes. And then there’s Unsolicited Dik Diks, a Twitter feed with photos of dik diks, which are adorable small antelopes that live in the bushlands of eastern and southern Africa. These diks are far more photogenic than the, um, other dicks that inspired this account.

Social media is a tool, sometimes a good one. And I wonder what history will say about how social media shaped our understanding and response to COVID-19. But social media is not life. Just a reminder: it’s okay to log off. It’s important, because you and I have better things to do with our time.

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Noticed

Okay, here’s something fun and interesting I found on Facebook!

In last Thursday’s Morning File, I wrote about my road trips and how I often look at maps to choose a destination or a road to travel. Last week, the Nova Scotia Archives shared this on its social media (again, this is a positive of social media): a map from 1960 called “Nova Scotia Canada’s Ocean Playground.”

This map was was marketing tool to promote the province’s tourist destinations (you can find the map in the Archives by clicking here).

The archives post asked readers if they could find their own town on the map. Halifax is pretty obvious, although I was interested to see a harness racing horse that represented Sackville Downs where I spent time in the 1970s (my father owned and trained horses there; a Sunday morning in the barn was better than going to church. Sackville Downs closed in 1985).

I see there are markers for mines in Inverness, Springhill, and Glace Bay. The Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is there. It looks like fishing for swordfish was big off the coast of Cape Breton. Otherwise, there are a lot of fish, boats, and beach bathers.What would a similar tourist map for 2021 look like? It would likely have more wineries and breweries, and I hope much more diversity.

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Government

City

Monday

Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Monday, 12pm) — via YouTube

North West Community Council (Monday, 6pm) — via YouTube, with captioning on a text-only site

Tuesday

Committee of the Whole and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — Committee of the Whole agenda Regional Council agenda; both have live captioning on a text-only site

Province

No meetings this week


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Exploring the Routes Toward Antiracism and (Neuro)science (Monday, 2pm) — Oliver Rollins from the University of Washington will present this Belong Speaker Series: Breaking Barriers seminar.

Halifax Candidates Debate on Student Issues (Monday, 2pm) — online debate covering a broad cross section of topics, focusing on issues of importance to university students

Tuesday

Turn Financial Literacy into Capability (Tuesday, 12pm) — webinar to learn how to make meaningful changes to spending and overall financial health

Raising Our Hands: Indigenous Data Sovereignty & Relationality in LIS (Tuesday, 1pm) — online lecture with Kayla Lar-Son from the X̱wi7x̱wa Library, University of British Columbia

Locally bounded enriched categories (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Zoom seminar with Jason Parker from Brandon University


In the harbour

Halifax
09:00: Trinitas, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
10:30: MSC Veronique, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
15:00: Star Damon, bulker, sails from Sheet Harbour for Gibraltar
16:00: Trinitas sails for sea
16:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Reykjavik, Iceland
22:00: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland

Cape Breton
11:00: Viktoria Viking, fish carrier, arrives at CME yard North Sydney from Bayside, New Brunswick
13:00: Algoma Vision, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
20:00: Viktor Bakaev, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
21:00: Seavelvet, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Es Syder, Libya


Footnotes

A year ago this weekend, I started horseback riding lessons. Saturday was my regular lesson and Sunday I went to the Crescent Beach with my trainer and another student, and two of my trainer’s horses. Riding on the beach is a great way to unplug from everything. My trainer has a policy at the ranch: no phones allowed. That rule applies to her youth and adult students. And it’s a good policy! I should unplug more often. It’s much better to take horses on the beach.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Another way to unplug

    A few years ago I used to regularly make late night checks of websites that were stationary camera feeds from an intersection in downtown Charlottetown and Des Moines Iowa (I think). Nothing was ever happening. No people. No traffic. Just a quiet night. I particularly likws it in winter when the snow was gently falling. Nothing troubling. Just life going on.