1. COVID update: no more restrictions after March 21
Well, the news was likely a surprise to most Nova Scotians. At yesterday’s COVID briefing, which Tim Bousquet was live-tweeting, Premier Tim Houston and chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang announced that the remaining COVID restrictions would start easing next week and be completely lifted on March 21. Bousquet had the details here in what may be his final COVID update.
So, here’s how it will roll out. Bousquet writes:
On Monday, February 28, proof of full vaccination will no longer be required for “non-essential, discretionary events and activities” such as going to restaurants, bars, and gyms, and participating in sports. Proof of vaccination will still be required for health care settings.
The following week, on March 7, restrictions will be further eased, as detailed in this press release.
Also on March 7, COVID reporting will become weekly, rather than daily.
Bousquet got his question and his follow-up and asked Houston and Strang about COVID deaths and resourcing for hospitals. You can find both of those exchanges in the update.
He spent yesterday morning live-tweeting from the Mass Casualty Commission, and then the afternoon live-tweeting the COVID briefing. I am sure he was all live-tweeted out by the end of the day.
Bousquet has been on the COVID briefings and all the data since the beginning. For months, he’s taken that data on the COVID dashboard and made it make sense to all of us, so we could see the daily, weekly, and bigger pictures of what COVID looked like. He created graphs and charts that were handy and important visuals. Like many of you, I followed along as he live-tweeted those briefings and asked the tough questions on our behalf. I filled in for him a handful of days last June tweeting out the COVID data, and I have to say it was a bit stressful! And I didn’t have a grasp on the data like he does. I know he could just look at that dashboard and knew how the day was looking for Nova Scotia in terms of COVID-19.
It’s been something to watch. Weekly COVID briefings will give him a break and I hope he gets to start working on some of those projects he’s talked about.
Please remember, you can still subscribe here. While there may no longer be weekly briefings, I am certain we’re not done with the reporting on COVID just yet.
2. Councillors take budget talks in camera as residents call for cuts
Halifax regional council’s budget committee met on Wednesday and Zane Woodford was there to hear 20 residents share their thoughts on the 2022-2023 Halifax Regional Police and RCMP budgets. Woodford writes:
As the Halifax Examiner reported earlier this month, the Board of Police Commissioners voted to recommend council approve HRP Chief Dan Kinsella’s full budget request for an increase of $2 million, or 2.3%. That vote, passing with a narrow 4-3 margin, came after 24 people spoke out against the budget increase.
At Wednesday’s meeting, councillors heard from 20 people. All of them were opposed to a budget increase for HRP.
“The last thing police need is more funding,” sociologist Hailie Tattrie told the committee.
Numerous speakers cited the conduct of police on August 18, 2021, when they arrested and pepper sprayed protesters outside the Halifax Memorial Library as city staff evicted unhoused people from makeshift shelters. They cited the Wortley report that found Black people were six times more likely than white people to be street checked in Halifax. They cited the many instances of police violence against Black people in the city, like Demario Chambers and Santina Rao.
The speakers argued the municipality should heed the recommendations from El Jones’ Subcommittee to Define Defunding the Police. That subcommittee’s report, tabled in January, recommended better oversight, “detasking” the police from some of their duties, and increasing spending on social programs including affordable housing.
Woodford was also live-tweeting from the budget committee meeting and sharing what those 20 residents had to say. Click here to read that thread.
So, after the committee heard from the 20 residents, they heard from Halifax Regional Police chief Dan Kinsella, who told them about the “unique complexities” to policing in Halifax, and why the force needs more officers. As Woodford reported, Kinsella offered to give the committee more details, but only in-camera, so not in public. Councillors unanimously agreed to go in camera, which Woodford pointed out “is not typical for the budget committee.”
3. The Tideline, Episode 68: Halifax Black Film Festival
This week on The Tideline, Tara Thorne’s guest is Joyce Fuerza, who is the lead programmer with the Halifax Black Film Festival. Now in its sixth year, the festival, which is beaming in from Montreal, features the work of two local filmmakers. Fuerza and Thorne also talk about the challenges of putting together a film fest in COVID times. Also, Thorne has a new tune from Safeword.
Click here to listen to that episode for free.
Oh, and speaking of the Halifax Black Film Festival, our reporter Matthew Byard is taking part in a session called Can Media Really Make or Break Us, which is part of the Halifax Black Film Festival’s Black Market Series. The series moderator is Amber Fryday with Global News, and other panelists included Brian Daly, journalism instructor and freelance media consultant; Jarvis Googoo, member of the Mi’kmaq community; Trina Roache, assistant professor Rogers Chair in Journalism, University of King’s College; and DeRico Symonds, leader, community advocate, and educator.
Here’s the poster for the event or you can click here to learn more.
4. Doctors and paperwork
Carolyn Ray at CBC reports that doctors in the province are happy with changes that mean the amount of paperwork they have to do is being reduced. As Ray reports, the province recently got the Golden Scissors Award from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, “acknowledging cuts to physician red tape.”
Dr. Heather Johnson, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, told CBC that doctors hate paperwork and it’s a “necessary evil” of their job. A lot of the paperwork doctors do here is still by hand, filling in charts and forms, scanning them, and faxing them. And it’s not very efficient. Johnson tells CBC that some forms are especially problematic. One form, which doctors call the blue form, is for employment support and income assistance programs. Ray writes:
Up until now, she said it required pages of medical information, some of which was not even pertinent to the program. On top of that, doctors had to fill out the same form every year for every patient that was in the program, even if their health had not changed.
“I don’t know if anybody ever read the form. It was kind of like a stamp,” she said.
Three years ago, Johnson said the then-Liberal government started working with Doctors Nova Scotia to revamp the system.
They surveyed doctors to see where changes could be made. Johnson said when the Progressive Conservative government was elected last year, doctors were happy to see that reducing paperwork was a priority.
The blue form has been changed, it makes sense, and doctors don’t have to fill in a new one, unless there have been medical changes.
A press release from the province said all this work to reduce paperwork is being led by the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness. According to the release, “The office has set Canada’s first burden-reduction target of 50,000 hours, the equivalent of 150,000 patient visits, for unnecessary physician administrative work, to be achieved by 2024.”
1. Are you happy and you know it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness this past week.
I started thinking about it when I listened to this episode of Tapestry on CBC on Monday afternoon when I was, appropriately enough, in my happy place — on a road trip. Host Mary Hynes interviewed Faith Hill, an associate editor with The Atlantic (when I first heard the name, I thought they meant the country singer; I have no idea how happy she is). Anyway, Hill also wrote this piece, Resolutions Are Not the Vibe for 2022, back in January. Hill loves New Year’s resolutions and makes them every year, but she stopped making them during the pandemic. She talked with Hynes about her own complicated relationship with resolutions, and she wondered if others had that same issue:
Anecdotally, I think a lot of people I talked to have felt the same constant pressure. Being on the hamster wheel where you keep trying but you never feel quite good enough.
Hill said the US was in a “cultural moment” in which self-improvement was big. There are life coaches, self-help books, gurus, and products being marketed to us to make feel and look better — you know, a lot of that foolish stuff I write about. (Hynes pointed out that we Canadians are “right here beside you” in that cultural moment).
And then a couple of days ago, I read this interview, Yale’s Happiness Professor Says Anxiety Is Destroying Her Students, by David Marchese with New York Times Magazine. The “happiness professor” is Laurie Santos, who’s been teaching a course Psychology and the Good Life at Yale since 2018. Apparently, it’s one of the school’s most popular courses.
Now, I will admit when I first saw this headline and starting thinking about happiness — and a happiness class especially — I thought it sounded pretty kooky, especially when there’s a lot of shit going on in the world right now. We can’t be happy all the time, right? And sometimes trying to be happy all the time makes people, well, unhappy. But Hill and Santos bring up some good points I will try to flesh out here, along with my thoughts on happiness (that may make you unhappy, I know.)
Happiness is not intuitive: We may think we know what will make us happy, but Santos says we’re usually wrong. Our brains are actually wrong about this. And being happy may take effort, but it doesn’t need “stuff.” Santos said:
After a busy day, I want to sit and watch crappy Netflix TV shows, even though I know the data suggests that if I worked out or called a friend I’d be happier. But to do that I have to fight my intuition. We need help with that, and you don’t get it naturally, especially in the modern day. There’s an enormous culture around us of capitalism that’s telling us to buy things and a hustle-achievement culture that destroys my students in terms of anxiety. We’re also fighting cultural forces that are telling us, “You’re not happy enough; happiness could just be around the corner.” Part of it’s all the information out there about happiness, which can be hard to sift through, but a lot of it is a deeper thing in our culture that seems to be leading us astray.
Having structure helps: Santos says structure, whether it’s through religion or even something like CrossFit, can help make people happier. It’s what that structure offers that helps: a sense of belonging, a purpose, and shared beliefs. Santos says there’s evidence that religious people are happier and the structure is the key:
But is it the Christian who really believes in Jesus and reads the Bible? Or is it the Christian who goes to church, goes to the spaghetti suppers, donates to charity, participates in the volunteer stuff? Turns out, to the extent that you can disentangle those two, it seems to not be our beliefs but our actions that are driving the fact that religious people are happier. That’s critical because what it tells us is, if you can get yourself to do it — to meditate, to volunteer, to engage with social connection — you will be happier. It’s just much easier if you have a cultural apparatus around you.
But I think there are other structures that can help, too. Like safe and affordable housing and living wages. These won’t necessarily make people happier, but they certainly set people up for stability. If you don’t have a safe place to live, or are constantly worried about paying rent, living paycheque to paycheque, or working more than one job to just get by, that certainly creates a stress that makes happiness a far distant second in your life.
Get the hell off social media (or at least limit your use): I am telling you, social media is harming us in ways we yet don’t understand. In the interview with Santos, Marchese asks if getting off social media would be the most important thing her students could do to be happy. These are young people who grew up with social media. Here’s part of her response:
We go through a lot of the work on social media. One of the things is: Delete all your apps right now. You can see their faces. They’re like, Uhh. But all these things are tools. You could use them in ways that are positive for your well-being or negative. Instagram is worth mentioning in that sense of its totally infinite potential for downer self-comparisons, but students also use it to connect with communities — about eating disorders and anxiety. So we talk about how you can nonjudgmentally try to be present enough to notice how these things are making you feel.
To help limit how often they use social media, Santos teaches her students the acronym W.W.W. which stands for what for, why now, and what else. This can help them — and you — think about the opportunity cost of being on social media. Why are you there? Why are you using it now? What else could you be doing? It’s a good exercise because I bet we all have better things we could be doing.
The small things do matter: Hill told Hynes in her interview on Tapestry that while she is a big resolutions person, she gave up on resolutions for 2022. Instead, she created a list of “small good things.” She writes:
I got to visit home and bake tomato bread pudding with my family; my roommates and I decorated our new apartment, each adding a piece of ourselves to the whole; I grew even closer to my best friends, shivering through long conversations in triple-layered socks when we still couldn’t meet inside; the weather got warmer; I got vaccinated; I read some beautiful poetry. These aren’t accomplishments — they’re more like gratitudes, or bright points, or road signs for my future self to follow. They remind me that my life can be beautifully inconsequential, and the things that make me most human are not particularly unique or impressive.
At the end of Marchese’s interview with Santos, he asks her the purpose of life. And she answers: “It’s smelling your coffee in the morning. [Laughs.] Loving your kids. Having sex and daisies and springtime. It’s all the good things in life. That’s what it is.”
Stop listening to other people: Now, this wasn’t in the interview with Hill, or the one with Santos. This is my own personal advice — and you don’t even have to listen to it! People can bring us down. I think most people know what they want and what makes them happy, but sometimes getting there is hindered by other people’s insecurities, anxieties, and expectations. People want you to do what they want you to do. This is really the offline version of social media. People will always want to have some say in how you live your life.
Generally, when people tell me what to do, I like to say, “I’m set, but thanks,” but this is always a work in progress.
I admit that the interview with Santos hit in a particularly personal way for me. I have 19-year-old daughter who, like many other young people her age, and maybe the same age as some of Santos’s students, has the unimaginable task of figuring out what she wants to be and do with her life over the next several decades. I see how that can create an incredible amount of anxiety. I don’t recall having that kind of pressure at the same age, although I do remember the push from teachers and guidance counsellors to go to university; for some of the teachers, what was then called vocational school was considered the second-best option (they were wrong, of course).
These same young people are also in the terrible position of looking at the milestones their parents and grandparents achieved — like buying a house — and realizing it all may be out of reach to them. We have failed them in many ways. We push them to achieve and they don’t know what it’s all for. Santos addresses this in her interview with Marchese:
I assign students this book by the social scientist Alfie Kohn, who does work on how much grades and extrinsic motivations mess kids up. The book Santos assigns is “Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes.”
He tells the story of giving this speech to high school students: A student raises their hand and is like, If everything you said is true, and I’m not just working for grades and trying to get into college, then what’s the purpose of life? When I assigned that chapter, I also got that question. They’re not sure what they’re supposed to get out of college other than accolade building.
As a parent, I try to guide my daughter through all of this, and maybe I suck at it, but the general advice I offer to her regularly is to figure out what kind of life you want to live and then find a career that will work with that. But also don’t forget the fun stuff, too, and the time away from work. You don’t need to be productive all the time. You don’t need all the stuff. I don’t know if it will make her happy, though. But we can all put structures in place to help all us feel happier and to live better lives. It really is a work in progress.
2. Views of Barrington South
Stephen Archibald is back with some old views in his new Old Album, Number Fourteen: Barrington Street South. All of the photos in this album were taken in the 1970s of buildings along Barrington, heading north after South Street. Some of the buildings are still on the street, while others are long gone, like this one that was at the corner of South and Barrington. Archibald writes that he thought it may have housed some federal government offices. And while he imagines what the building could have been, it was demolished and replaced by what he calls “aggressively nasty looking apartments.” There are far too many of those in the city if you ask me.
Just next door is a building that is still there: Henry House. I really like it there! The last time I went there for dinner was just before Christmas 2020, I think. I’ll have to go back.
Archibald is a man who likes details and he wrote in the blog he remembers taking these photos to learn the “vocabulary of old Halifax masonry.” So, he shares closeups like this one:
Archibald has some details on who lived in some of these buildings, too. He writes: “Arne Benson who came from Norway and introduced Halifax to therapeutic massage. He also had a dance band, and his daughter was Head Girl at QEH when I went to high school.”
And he has this photo from 1977 of the grandest stone house on the street: Government House.
You can check out more photos in the full Old Album, Number Fourteen here.
Historica Canada released its newest Heritage Minute this week. This minutes focuses on Chloe Cooley, who was an enslaved Black woman in Upper Canada in 1793. As the Historica Canada website says, Cooley’s “acts of resistance in the face of violence led to Canada’s first legislation limiting slavery.”
You can watch it below.
I went looking for more research on Cooley and found this entry at the Canadian Encyclopedia, which details what is known about Cooley’s life:
Cooley was first enslaved by Benjamin Hardison of Bertie Township (now Fort Erie, Ontario), a farmer, miller and member of the Legislative Assembly. She was likely forcefully relocated to Bertie Township at the end of the American Revolution. Some time before 1793 Hardison sold Cooley to United Empire Loyalist Sergeant Adam Vrooman — a resident of Queenston, Upper Canada (see Loyalists in Canada). Like many Black women enslaved in colonial Canada, Cooley would have worked as a domestic servant in both the Hardison and Vrooman households.
As the Heritage Minute notes, Cooley tried to run before. From the Canadian Encyclopedia:
According to Vrooman, she regularly protested her enslavement by behaving in “an unruly manner,” stealing property entrusted to her on his behalf, refusing to work and engaging in truancy (leaving her enslaver’s property without permission for short periods of time and then returning).
Cooley’s screaming as she was being led to the boat to be sold, as told in the Heritage Minute, alerted Peter Martin, a Black Loyalist who was formerly enslaved. The incident was also witnessed by William Grisely, a white man, who made a report to the Executive Council of Upper Canada. The Council charge Vrooman for disturbing the peace. The charges were dropped after Vrooman petitioned against them, arguing he didn’t break the law because Cooley was his personal property. The whole incident moved Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe who, along with Attorney John White, introduced legislation to abolish slavery in Upper Canada, two months after Cooley was taken.
From the Canadian Encyclopedia:
On 19 June 1793, Attorney General John White proposed an abolition bill to the House of Assembly. The bill received opposition, because from between 1792 and 1816, several colonial officials and politicians enslaved Black people in the province. The Provincial Secretary William Jarvis enslaved six people. From the First Parliament of Upper Canada through to the Sixth Parliament of Upper Canada, three members of the Executive Council, 10 members of the Legislative Council, and 20 members of the Legislative Assembly held property in slaves. Three politicians came from direct ancestors (father or grandfather) who enslaved Black people in Upper Canada.
The result of Simcoe and White’s abolition bill was a compromise and the bill was amended. Following the revision, the legislative assembly passed An Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude (also known as the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada). Simcoe gave the bill Royal Assent on 9 July 1793. The Act did not free any enslaved persons in the province. At the outset, it confirmed and validated the institution of slavery. The Act prohibited the importation of enslaved persons into Upper Canada but did not outlaw the sale of slaves within the province or across the border into the United States. It laid the foundation for gradual abolition, ending slavery after twenty-five years. The new law stipulated responsibilities for enslavers upon manumission (freedom from enslavement) and encouraged former enslavers to employ their former slaves as indentured servants.
Slavery was abolished in Canada in 1834.
The 2016 short film The Echoes of Chloe Cooley tells Cooley’s story from conversations with Order of Ontario Historian, Wilma Morrison. The 1993 book Slavery and Freedom in Niagara by Michael Power and Nancy Butler is dedicated to the memory of Cooley and tells Cooley’s story, too.
Nothing is really known about what happened to Cooley after 1793. Power and Butler’s book says Cooley was never heard from again. Cooley was one of hundreds of Black women enslaved in Canada. We may never know any details of their stories.
Dr. Notisha Massaquoi, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Society University of Toronto, Scarborough, shared the heritage minute on Twitter with this comment: “Slavery lasted in Canada for about 226 years and it has only been abolished for 188 years. According to my calculations Black people where enslaved in Canada longer than we have been free in Canada.”
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting
Budget Committee – Contingency Date (Friday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting
Live Conversation with President Saini (Thursday, 10:30am) — virtual talk with guests Elizabeth Rogo from TSAVO Oilfield Services, Kenya, and Ajith Rai, Suprajit Group, India
Electric Vehicle 101 (Friday, 12pm) — virtual information session with Brendan Piper from Next Ride: what exactly is an EV; the costs of owning an EV; rebates; are EVs truly environmental friendly or is it just greenwashing; all about charging and future trends
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
10:00: SLNC Severn, bulker, arrives at anchorage from Aulds Cove quarry
12:00: CMA CGM T. Roosevelt, container ship (140,000 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
13:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
14:00: SLNC Severn sails for sea
14:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
16:30: CMA CGM T. Roosevelt sails for New York
16:45: Selfoss sails for Portland
18:00: MSC Qingdao, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
19:00: Desert Virtue, bulker, arrives at Sheet Harbour from Norfolk, Virginia
No arrivals or departures.
Last weekend on CBC, they played the song My Heart Will Go On played on the recorder. It’s quite something. And I say this as someone who in elementary school played the soprano and alto recorder in a recorder quartet. But here it is! If you can stand the audio, turn it off and just watch the video, which is a treat.
Your level of happiness for today will depend on your reaction to this.