1. COVID-19 and vulnerable populations
Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Robert Strang have announced that they’re moving to providing COVID-19 briefings just three days a week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And so there was no briefing yesterday, and I was otherwise engaged all day in any event, so couldn’t even update the numbers.
Yvette d’Entrement, however, reported on the ‘Open Dialogue Live’ panel discussion that was held at Dalhousie University and live-streamed to a virtual audience:
[Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada’s secretary general] kicked off the discussion, noting how in recent weeks he’s experienced pushback when Amnesty International or other human rights organizations and experts say the COVID crisis needs to be about human rights.
“People kind of scratch their head and say, well, it’s a public health emergency. It’s an economic crisis. It’s not really a human rights concern, is it? But obviously everything about this situation, absolutely everything, is entirely about human rights,” Neve said.
“The virus itself. The economic collapse. Certainly the impact on the most marginalized and vulnerable communities. The ways in which a lot of existing human rights violations are exacerbated and made worse, and certainly the question of what kinds of restrictions are or are not permissible on other rights.”
2. A’se’K Day
“Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul is calling Thursday ‘A’se’K Day,’” reports Joan Baxter:
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented PLFN and allies from gathering to celebrate the occasion, it is a momentous one.
A January 29 ministerial order from Environment Minister Gordon Wilson stipulated that by April 30, 2020 the Northern Pulp mill on Abercrombie Point “shall cease discharge of all wastewater” through its effluent pipeline to Boat Harbour.
This puts an end to nearly 53 years of pulp pollution flowing into the water body known by the Mi’kmaq as A’se’K, or “the other room.”
The same directive stipulated that the pipeline itself be sealed by May 1, 2020 — today.
Once the Boat Harbour Remediation Project has received environmental approval from the federal government, the long process of removing contaminants and restoring A’se’K as a precious tidal estuary for PLFN can finally begin.
Incidentally, Joan Baxter has received an honourable mention from the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom for the 2020 Press Freedom Award. She shares that honour with cartoonist Michael de Adder; the overall award went to Kenneth Jackson, a reporter/producer with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
We’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have Joan as part of the Examiner team. She matches her reporting depth and thoroughness with a compassionate insight that I can only strive for: she sets the standard.
“Get your phones ready to take some tick pics,” reports Yvette d’Entremont. “A Bishop’s University research project that provides quick, expert online tick species identification and real-time monitoring and mapping of ticks has just launched in Nova Scotia.”
This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.
4. Helicopter crash
“One Canadian military member is dead and five others are missing after a helicopter serving with a NATO naval task force crashed in international waters between Greece and Italy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed,” report Kathleen Harris and Murray Brewster for the CBC:
Four Royal Canadian Air Force members and two Royal Canadian Navy members were on board at the time.
“All of them are heroes. Each of them will leave a void that cannot be filled,” Trudeau said.
Nova Scotia Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a marine systems engineering officer originally from Toronto, is confirmed dead.
Later on Thursday, the defence department identified those still missing:
Capt. Brenden MacDonald, a pilot originally from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
Capt. Kevin Hagen, a pilot originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer originally from Trois-Rivières, Québec.
Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, a naval warfare officer originally from Truro, Nova Scotia.
Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator originally from Guelph, Ontario.
Like all of us, Barbara Darby has struggled to find an emotional anchor, the proper response, in the wake of our dual disasters:
So yes, I thought my heart was heavy. But in truth, my emotional responses in the last couple of weeks of this cruelest month have been all over the proverbial map. The ra(n)ge of my emotions includes shock, a lethargic paralysis of feeling at all, anger, bewilderment, and just plain sadness.
But I admit, I am most ashamed of one response in particular, and I don’t say this lightly.
I have shrugged. Well, maybe that’s not the best word but it’s the word I find now. I’ve said to myself (shrug), “oh, not another one.” (Remember, how the cry against antisemitism and mass-school shootings was “never again”?) And I’ve said to myself, with a shrug, “not that surprising.” That the (most) recent murders committed by a man with a so-called “passion” for guns and state-sanctioned force were acts of misogyny has come as a shock to many. I’ve shrugged and said out loud, “duh!”
It is the quotidian obviousness of it that I can’t stand. The oxymorony of this shrugging: I’m feeling intense anger at how unsurprised and hardened my heart has become to such horror. The anti-woman violence, the gun violence. On top of the shocking discovery that we’re collectively vulnerable because in part of how we’ve managed resources and our politics and supply chains and healthcare funding. We can’t even figure out how to get rid of extra milk or get a hair cut or keep up the animal slaughter without pushing people too close for health.
And so, I tell myself, don’t shrug this off. Let your heart be broken, so you don’t become inured (again).
2. Contagion at sea, c. 1875
Stephen Archibald relates the story of his grandmother, Mary Davis Armstrong, who weathered a smallpox outbreak aboard her father Samuel Bancroft Davis’ ship, the barque Herbert C. Hall. This happened around 1875 and Mary was about eight years old. Archibald recaps:
Doesn’t that sound familiar? I was fascinated that the approach we use today was so well understood: isolation to reduce infection, the value of those who have developed immunity, the importance of vaccination. Even being “hungry for bread!’
3. Death and caretakers
Jenny MacDonald writes about being with her 105-year-old grandmother, Connie MacDonald, at the time of her death.
I can relate to the intensely private moments Jenny shares — holding hands, the sponging of her mouth, applying Vaseline to her lips — as I experienced the same acts just a few months ago with my mother, as she lay dying.
Jenny bonded with one of Connie’s caretakers:
She cried. When the morning staff arrived hours later, they cried too.
This is how I learned what the word “care” truly means. It is about feeding, cleaning and clothing. It is also about knowing how much my grandmother loved her lipstick, and that she would have wanted to look her best even in her final moments — especially in her final moments. It is about grieving loss even when loss is part of your job. Call it care, compassion, kindness — call it love. It is all of these things.
We are all grieving — caretakers too.
Small acts of care like these help us to connect with our loved ones when they are at their most vulnerable. These acts comfort us as much they comfort our loved ones. In this era of Covid-19, so many of these experiences have been taken from us.
“More than 100 media outlets in Canada have made cuts in 11 provinces and territories in a six-week period, with nearly 50 community newspapers shuttering,” reports Steph Wechsler for J-Source. “Upwards of 2,000 workers have been laid off.”
COVID-19 Media Impact Map for Canada — a joint project of J-Source, the Local News Research Project at Ryerson’s School of Journalism and the Canadian Association of Journalists — collates available data on cuts across the country based on news articles and worker accounts confirmed by our own reporting. The map and a fact sheet summarizing the data are prepared by the LNRP principal investigator April Lindgren and project research assistant Christina Wong.
What we found won’t surprise many who have been following the news. Still, the constellation of cuts is sobering. While these data aren’t absolute — our project will be updated regularly — we do know that at local and hyperlocal levels, the pandemic is accelerating what some are describing as a mass extinction event.
This is terrible news. Of course lots of industries are failing, and businesses everywhere are shuttering. The personal impacts are enormous, whether you’ve lost your job because you worked at a bar or a hotel or a newspaper, so I don’t want to minimize anyone’s experience. It’s not a competition for who has the worst situation.
I will say, tho, that the news media play an important role in our society, and it’s not one that can be replaced or likely even fired up again should we start moving to something that looks like a path towards recovery. We’ll never “return to normal.” The future is going to be bleak for at least a few years, and it will be that much bleaker still without a press that can hold the powers that be to account.
On a slightly more positive note, so far the Halifax Examiner is weathering the storm. I have no idea what the situation will be like, say, three months from now, but I had honestly thought we’d be effectively bankrupt by now. However, because readers have been so supportive financially, we’ve been able to avoid that fate and even grow. And so we’re taking the opportunity to add an additional full-time reporter, starting Monday. Details then. How long we’ll be able to keep that reporter on staff depends entirely on your continued financial support; please subscribe.
Some people have asked that we additionally allow for one-time donations from readers, so we’ve created that opportunity, via the PayPal button below. We also accept e-transfers, cheques, and donations with your credit card; please contact iris “at” halifaxexaminer “dot” ca for details.
There’s a COVID-19 briefing today, at 3pm.
In the harbour
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Pier 41
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
15:00: Crane Master, dredger, arrives at Berth TBD from sea
15:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Charlottetown
16:00: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Barcelona
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is hearing from readers. People have been kind and of course the attaboys feel good, but I especially like that readers are engaged: they want to have conversations, they ask for more facts and for my opinion, they offer up their own discoveries and insights, and these are often quite compelling and useful. It’s something wonderful to realize that the Examiner is so much more than just me, or just me and the other writers, but additionally is a community. I value that.
In these crazy times, however, it’s impossible to keep up. Yesterday I was engaged in a work project that needed all my attention from 6am to 6pm. Throughout that time, I could hear my computer pinging with emails and DMs and FB messages and Slack updates and… And then I had to catch up with publishing articles and a complex tech situation that needed figuring out in order to advance a story, and before I knew it, it was 10:30pm, and I said ‘enough.’ I turned on the TV and cracked a beer, and no sooner had I taken my first sip when a new email popped up from a surprising source. OK, what’s this about? I wondered, and for the next 30 minutes I was on the phone. Then, to bed, finally.
And I woke up this morning to find that several readers had been up at 2am, at 3am, at 4:30am, sending me incredibly helpful information that will make its way into future Examiner articles. Really good stuff.
I’ll try to get to all of this, as time allows. But inevitably I’ll miss a lot of it, or set it aside to return to later, only to have those projects drop ever further down the pile. I apologize for this. But I want you to know that it means a lot to me. You folks are great.