1. QAnon knows no borders
Joan Baxter reports on QAnon, a global movement that promotes conspiracy theories, which has followers here in Nova Scotia. QAnon only started a few years ago with one post on the 4chan internet channel. Baxter took a look around to check out some of the post QAnon and its follower share. Baxter writes:
From what I have gleaned from YouTube videos, Facebook and Instagram posts, and Tweets, basically QAnon-ers believe that a global cabal of Satan-worshipping political and Hollywood elites are pedophiles who are abducting and trafficking children whom they sexually abuse and torture, or whose blood they drink or flesh they consume.
But it gets even more outlandish and far-fetched.
According to QAnon, the only person who can fight the liberal elite evildoers and save the children from this global child-trafficking cabal is Donald Trump, which means that QAnon-ers stridently support Trump for re-election in November.
In May 2019, the FBI released a memo warning that QAnon adherents could be possible domestic terrorists driven by conspiracy theories, and a study in July 2020 summarized five criminal cases in the US involving violence motivated by QAnon.
However, in August 2020 Forbes reported that Trump was still retweeting Republican congressional candidates who were promoting QAnon conspiracies online.
Maybe you’ve seen some of the COVID-19 conspiracies on social media. And this pandemic has been a boon for membership into QAnon, even in Nova Scotia. Baxter also talks to Marla (not her real name) who lives in northern Nova Scotia about why she became part of the QAnon movement after learning about it through a social media post shared by a friend. Marla says:
The movement, in my opinion, is simply the banding together of Patriots from all over the world and over all social media platforms and local communities to push the truth out there. There have been several Patriot rallies peacefully protesting the COVID mandates (they are NOT laws). They are unjust and unwarranted and were not developed under Parliament or from Science. The COVID restrictions are not about a virus. They are about grooming society to obey orders, to introduce a Socialist Government, which is ALWAYS the precursor to a Communist Government. All people have to do is find the truth and say NO.
Baxter interviews Evan Balgord, Executive Director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, who says people are “intellectually susceptible” to these groups, adding, (and I think this is very important), these people are:
… looking for a sense of belonging and connection and secret knowledge they share with other people. Working on a group project gives them this kind of deep social engagement, and you can see people go from not really using social media all that much, to posting literally every 20 minutes for all of their waking hours.
Some people become obsessive. It becomes their life. And they just produce so much content and usually reinforce each other, like with their slogan, “Where we go one we go all.” That becomes a very, very powerful force.
Most people aren’t going to snap and do something absolutely dangerous, but by being part of that environment they’re contributing to the whole environment.
Baxter also talks with Janet Conway, the Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, who studies transnational social justice movements. Conway says the pandemic may have made some people more vulnerable to QAnon’s conspiracy theories. “People have been online more than ever and alone and isolated and desperate and depressed,” Conway says. “The pandemic contributes to a sense of vulnerability and crisis, which is well-founded.”.
Last night, I noticed group called Unmask Our Children started on Facebook on Thursday, Sept. 10 and now has almost 1,500 members. This group, started by Brandi Shaw and based in Yarmouth, is demanding, as its name suggest, the removal of restrictions on mask wearing for children at schools. It looks like they have a protest planned in Yarmouth today. A lot of the talk is the same: limiting of freedoms, and so on. They also shared posts from Dr. Suzanne Humphries, a promient voice in the anti-vaxx movement.
2. Nova Scotia is safe for school children and would-be municipal politicians… but not for Liberal MLAs
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.
Last week, 120,000 public school students, 10,000 teachers, and many janitors, bus drivers, and support staff went back to class, even though there were still concerns about safety around COVID-19.
Zach Churchill, minister of education and early childhood development, said it was safe to do so.
Then, on Wednesday candidates running in the upcoming municipal election filed their papers, even though the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities asked that the election be delayed until we were more certain around the risks of COVID-19. But Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter said it was safe to have an election.
Liberal MLAs, meanwhile, still won’t commit to doing public business in public, or even online. As Stephen Kimber writes:
On Tuesday — the same day all those students, teachers and staff ventured back to school under provincial order — the frail-bodied and feeble-willed Liberal members of the legislature’s Health Committee said no-no-no-no-no to a Tory-supported NDP motion that the committee stick to its monthly meeting schedule and that meetings not be cancelled without unanimous consent.
On Wednesday — the same day candidates were required to file their papers to run in the provincially-mandated municipal elections — Liberal laughingstocks on the Public Accounts Committee used their majority to just-say-no to another NDP motion, also supported by the PCs, this one asking that monthly meetings of the legislature’s most important oversight committee take place by teleconference or videoconference if COVID restrictions prevent members from meeting in person.
Margaret Miller, a Liberal clapping seal on the public accounts committee, acknowledged after the meeting that committees could meet virtually, but that the Liberal MLAs have chosen not to. So there.
“The province has been held to account,” she claimed without — as we say in the journalism trade these days — any evidence to support her claim. “I don’t think any other province has done a better job at making themselves available.”
It is to laugh. It is to cry.
3. Plans for seven-storey building at North and Oxford streets coming to new Halifax committee
Zane Woodford reports on an updated proposal for a new development submitted for the corner of Oxford and North streets that will get looked over by a new committee created for the Centre Plan.
George Giannoulis’s Mosaik Properties, which is affiliated with his family’s Mythos Developments Ltd., is behind the proposal. The 45-unit apartment building now on that corner is an old convent and will be torn down for the new seven-story building that will have 130 one- and two-bedroom units. Writes Woodford:
It’s the latest iteration of the developer’s plans for the lot and the first under the Centre Plan rules, the first half of which were adopted last fall. Mythos previously applied for seven, then nine, and then six storeys on the site, but council turned down those plans in 2017.
The Centre Plan zoned the site as “corridor,” meaning a developer can build 20 metres high, or six storeys.
Because this proposal has a floor area of more than 5,000 square metres, it’s considered a Level III application. That means it needs to go through a public consultation process.
4. Judge: RCMP investigator made “declarations under oath [that] do not appear to be factually correct”
Tim Bousquet reports on the ruling of Nova Scotia Judge Del Atwood who wrote that statements an RCMP investigator made in a court application were not true. The RCMP investigator made a court application, or an “Information to Obtain” (or ITO), looking into the circumstances around a car crash in which one person died and two others survived.
In particular, the investigator wanted Judge Del Atwood to order the Health Authority to produce the hospital records of the two survivors of the crash because the investigator suspected the driver of the vehicle was drunk.
In his ruling Judge Atwood did not name the investigator, but he refers to the investigator as an “officer,” making clear he is an RCMP officer.
The investigator began on the wrong foot, opening the ITO with what Atwood called “an improvident start”:
Attached is the production order and ITO for Judge Attwood (sic) to review and authorize … Once completed Judge Attwood (sic) can fax back the signed Warrant to the Stellarton RCMP Detachment.
Atwood denied the application, but not before, as Bousquet writes, getting into a “legal and philosophical analysis of different levels of “suspicion.”
5. Premier’s chief of staff considering run for leadership
Premier Stephen McNeil’s chief of staff, Laurie Graham, is considering running for the leadership of the provincial Liberal party. Michael Gorman and Jean Laroche with CBC report that Graham could resign from her position as early as this week to run for the leadership role. Graham didn’t respond to calls or texts.
The leadership vote takes place on Feb. 6 and anyone interested in running has until Oct. 9 to officially enter the race. The rules of the race will be released today. As Gorman and Laroche report, Graham is the only person without political experience to consider a run for the job so far. Gorman and Laroche write:
After working for several decades as a reporter for CBC and then CTV, some of that time spent covering federal politics in Ottawa, Graham left that job to return to Nova Scotia in 2016 to work as McNeil’s principal secretary. She was eventually named chief of staff.
Although that is typically a behind-the-scenes post, Graham found herself thrust into the public spotlight last February amid questions about the way she handled information brought to her about drunk-driving allegations involving former Liberal MLA Hugh MacKay.
1. Breaking down street barriers for people who are blind and partially sighted
Last week, Milena Khazanavicius called 311, HRM’s municipal and information line, about a guy-wire on Young Street. The guy-wire, which is attached to a power pole, sticks out low over the sidewalk (Khazanavicius is five feet tall) and aims directly for Khazanavicius’s head. Khazanavicius is blind and has a guide dog named Louis. Her calls to 311 didn’t get far and she was told the guy-wire is the responsibility of Nova Scotia Power. But it’s still on a municipal sidewalk, so she sent an email to Coun. Lindell Smith, Mayor Mike Savage, and Johanna Stork, a certified orientation and mobility specialist who was on the Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM. In the letter, Khazanavicius wrote, “I’m not certain why I have wasted years of my life and precious energy educating and explaining why this is a danger,” and she demanded an answer.
Khazanavicius says she’s been advocating for pedestrian safety for people who are blind and partially sighted for five years, but there are still barriers to safety in the city.
I’m tired. Nova Scotia Power should have trained the individual. I shouldn’t even be sitting here talking about this right now. It shouldn’t be happening. Twenty-six years of being blind I never thought I’d be this angry.
In a city where construction sites are everywhere, Khazanavicius and others who are blind and partially sighted have to navigate dangers they shouldn’t have to. Khazanavicius helped consult on new guidelines the HRM has around sidewalk safety on construction site. To help engineers understand the danger, she says they even had those on the team blindfolded and given a white cane to navigate their way around. But despite new guidelines, Khazanavicius enforcement remains an issue.
They have been doing a pretty good job, but they are still signing off on contracts, letting the developers do whatever they want, and there’s no one following what the developer is doing. It’s all written there. No one should even have to chase these people.
She was walking down Agricola Street last month and there was a construction sign sticking out at her head level. She had Louis with her, who did notice the sign, but those signs are still dangerous.
I know so many people who have scars on their foreheads because of this stuff who are blind and partially sighted.
Khazanavicius lives on the peninsula and there’s construction all around her. Khazanavicius, who has a spicy sense of humour, is still frustrated with these barriers that prevent her from living her life and often make her time getting anywhere longer and more complicated.
I feel like I’m in a research laboratory, you know, where they put the rats in. Can you find your way out? There’s no cheese for you at the end.
She says she has friends who are blind and partially sighted who live in Bedford, Lower Sackville and other areas who face the same barriers.
She says cities like Calgary and Montreal include safe pedways for pedestrians to use. Not here.
There are other barriers on the streets, too. Khazanavicius and some friends with Walk and Roll, which advocates for safer routes for all pedestrians, surveyed dozens of the automated pedestrian signals (APS) in the city. Those are the sounds that alert people who are blind and partially sighted when it’s safe to cross the street or an intersection.
“The thing with those is they are consistently inconsistent,” Khazanavicius says.
She says she was told to hold the button for three seconds to activate it.
First of all, it’s COVID. I don’t want to have to activate anything. No one wants to touch those things. When the traffic light changes, so should the walk signal, which it does, but it should be making the noise.
Khazanavicius says she’s almost been hit three times because of non-working APS buttons, including recently at Almon and Windsor on a cold, rainy night.
“Not a single person, not blind, not sighted, should be pushing any button, anywhere,” she says.
She says she was told the city is now only checking the buttons every year to see if they work. She says they should be checking every three months. She says she’s often told to call 311 when there’s a problem.
Why is it my responsibility? You get out there and hire more people and make them check this. Don’t put the onus on any pedestrian.
If a traffic light is not working, it’s fixed within an hour because heaven forbid we back up the cars. But a push button is not working for a pedestrian? It’s a week. They are working faster on it because I got mad.
Elsewhere, Khazanavicius says, at new street developments crossings should be straight. She points to the intersection at Bayers and Young, where the crossing is on an angle. She says to go to the Superstore on Young Street safely, she has to work around to avoid that crossing.
At the corner of Robie and Cunard, she says a friend missed a pylon with his cane and nearly went into a ditch. She says at one point, all the way down from Young Street to Gottingen, every curb cut was taken out for repaving. And everyone was walking down Young Street with traffic again. There was no safe access.
She says all of these issues are barriers for others, too, including parents with strollers and seniors with walkers.
But it’s not just on streets and sidewalks where there are barriers for people who are blind and partially sighted. Khazanavicius says new apartment buildings and condos often have intercoms with touch screens, but they aren’t voice-activated, so she can’t ring up to the person she’s visiting.
“There’s no way to feel it, it doesn’t talk to you,” she says. “It’s the most maddening thing ever.”
In the grocery stores, the arrows on the floors for shoppers to follow often aren’t a good contrast colour, so not helpful for those who are partially sighted. She says there should be ropes for blind and partially sighted shoppers to follow. And some stores took away shopping baskets, which some people who are blind and partially sighted prefer using.
“[These features] made it inconvenient and not accessible,” she says.
And a lot of the shiny and new buildings with all the glass on the front are tricky for people with partial sight who might walk into them. Khazanavicius says a strip of bright colour can be painted on to prevent injuries.
She’d also like to see more sidewalks directly from bus stops to stores, so people don’t have to navigate busy parking lots to get to a store entrance.
That guy-wire on Young Street now has a bright yellow plastic sleeve, although its height hasn’t changed and anyone who is blind or partially sighted could still run into it.
The city needs to follow and enforce the bylaws and regulations they have written themselves, and stop putting the onus on people with disabilities, especially those who are blind and partially sighted, to be calling in and letting them know about problems. I’m tired.
If I can’t get to where I’m supposed to be going, then we have a problem. And you don’t want to have me as your problem.
Right now, California is burning with some of the biggest wildfires in the state’s history. As of Friday, one of those fires has burned at least 14,000 acres of land and destroyed or damaged several homes. This fire was caused by fireworks set off at a gender reveal party in the area.
If you don’t know, the gender reveal party trend started more than 10 years ago. Typically at these events, parents have someone bake a cake that’s either blue or pink inside which when cut open reveals the gender of the unborn child (pink means it’s a girl; blue, it’s a boy). Some of these parties get creative with Silly string, streamers, confetti, balloons, or a pinata, all of which will reveal either pink or blue. In March, Nicholas Nahas, vice-president of King of Donair, created a gender reveal party using pink and blue donair sauce squirted on a garlic finger. Photos of the parties are usually posted on social media for lots of likes and shares.
The party in California isn’t even the first gender reveal celebration to cause a destructive fire. A fire that destroyed more than 47,000 acres of land in Arizona in 2018 was started when a highly explosive substance called Tannerite was then shot at with a high-powered rifle at a gender reveal party. (The smoke was blue, in case you’re wondering).
At another gender reveal party in Iowa in 2019, a woman was killed from the shrapnel from a homemade pipe bomb that announced the baby’s gender.
Even in Nova Scotia, parents like blowing things up to show off the gender of their unborn child. Back in April 2016, Monica and Graham Driscoll of Falmouth told CTV they hosted a gender reveal party complete with fireworks. Graham Driscoll says he had a “lightbulb moment” about the party. The Driscolls had staff at the IWK write down the gender of their unborn child on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope. The Driscolls took the sealed envelop to a fireworks company and a staff member, sworn to secrecy, chose the firework assigned to the gender listed in the envelop. They invited family over and set off the fireworks, which turned the sky pink. Said Graham Driscoll to CTV:
I always wanted a little boy first and then a little girl second so in my mind this is perfect, couldn’t have asked for better.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
I always thought gender reveals were weird, even if non-explosive items like cake are used. When I was pregnant, I didn’t want to learn my child’s gender and some people asked how I would plan for their arrival. Plan? You mean how I was going to plan to fit them into the social construct of gender? Would the baby cry if it didn’t like the colour onesie it was wearing? Sure, there’s planning involved when you have a baby, but I can’t think of anything connected to its gender that needs to be planned. Knowing the gender before the birth simply didn’t matter to me. It was exciting not knowing.
Back in July, a father shared on reddit that he was disappointed and walked out of the gender reveal party for his and his wife’s baby when they learned they were having another girl. Says the disappointed dad:
To be honest, all I was hoping for for baby #2 is to be able to toss a ball around with him and coach little league. Or watch him go on Boy Scouts camping trips. I know my daughter is only five, but I’ve already started to deal with the dramas of being a father of a girl and the thought of having to double up now on the neuroticism was harrowing. I grew up in a house with three older boys and one younger sister and I can’t imagine seeing myself be outnumbered.
There are so many problems with this statement, including the bits about girls and their dramas and neuroticism. And just imagine being disappointed with your child and it’s not even born yet. What a burden for that kid.
Even the woman credited for starting the gender-reveal party trend back in 2008 when she had a cake baked with pink filling has had enough with the destructive parties. In her Facebook group for her blog, Jenna Karvunidis, who lives in Los Angeles wrote:
Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you.
It was 116 degrees in Pasadena yesterday and this tool thought it would be smart to light a fire about his kid’s dick. Toxic masculinity is men thinking they need to explode something because simply enjoying a baby party is for sissies.
I messaged Rene Ross, executive director of the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County, asking what she thinks about gender reveal parties. She says the expectations these parties bring are “problematic to say the least,” for youth and for society. Says Ross:
Celebrations of the gender binary fuel assumptions that gender is determined by your assigned sex at birth, which is not the case at all. Such celebrations and events are also exclusive of trans folks, non binary folks and the lived experience of many. It would be so amazing to envision celebrations that are more inclusive. Gender and questions of gender are something I hear a lot about from youth and the gender unicorn continues to be one of my most popular class presentations. Youth really do struggle with gender and their own identity. Being able to trust and communicate their struggles with parents and families is essential to their overall health and well being. I still have my baby book upstairs and I know a lot of folks who still have theirs. I also hear stories about my birth, the baby shower my parents had, and even a list of the presents my parents’ friends gave me. It’s all great keepsakes. But I have often wondered what it must be like for youth who do not identify as their assigned sex whose parents had gender reveal parties, to come across their memory books, their scrapbooks. How tough it must be for them to come forward to their family when the binary they do not identify with is not only ignored but celebrated. I think it would be pretty rough.
So, celebrate your pregnancies and your babies, but there’s no need for the gender reveals. They’re destructive in many ways. Let 2020 be the end of gender reveals. There are so few true surprises in life that when a child is born it’s the only reveal you need.
North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm) — virtual meeting; agenda here.
No meetings scheduled.
No public events Monday or Tuesday.
In the harbour
15:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:30: MSC Elbe, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
20:00: BBC Edge, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Montreal
Morning File mornings go by so quickly.