1. Three years after the Lahey Report, nothing has changed
In 2018, University of King’s College President Bill Lahey released a report commissioned by the provincial government, reviewing the province’s forestry practices and making recommendations for a sustainable future. Officially known as “Forest Practices Report for Nova Scotia (2018)” but called “The Lahey Report” by everyone else, it set out a three-pronged approach to forestry. Here’s how Jennifer Henderson summed it up for the Halifax Examiner in 2018:
In general, Lahey concluded the government needs to allow more intensive cultivation on land designated to grow trees for timber and pulp. At the same time, he advocated “a lighter touch” to reduce clearcutting on Crown lands and mixed-use forests while eliminating the practice entirely in and around parks and nature preserves. The Lahey report would ban whole tree harvesting, and urged immediate steps be taken by both private landowners (who own 70% of wooded land) and forestry companies to step up efforts to protect wildlife and endangered species.
Type “Lahey” into the Examiner search bar, and the results are somewhat depressing, if predictable:
“The Lahey Review of Forest Practices is published; what does it mean?”
“Mum’s the word: Stephen McNeil won’t take a position on the Lahey report…”
“The Lahey report on managing Nova Scotia forests was published three months ago; when is the government going to act on it?”
“It’s been two years since the Lahey report was released, but its recommendations have yet to be implemented”
“Three years after he wrote the blueprint for changing how Nova Scotia does forestry, nothing has changed, says Bill Lahey”
This latest piece, written by Tim Bousquet, covers Lahey’s update on how well the province is making progress in implementing his recommendations.
Short version: not well.
Bousquet quotes from Lahey’s update:
None of the work underway on FPR recommendations has resulted in much if any actual change on the ground in how forestry is being planned, managed, or conducted, and I have no indication of when any of it will. From the information at my disposal, I am not able to conclude that much or any change has happened in how forestry is practised based on the work the Department [of Natural Resources] has done on implementing the FPR. This is the overriding and central conclusion of this evaluation.
Combined with the fact that only five [of 45] recommendations have been fully implemented, and that the implementation phase of work on recommendations has not started on roughly two-thirds of all recommendations, implementation cannot so far be judged a success.
With incredibly understated restraint, Lahey writes:
It is not clear that the Department has embraced the ecological paradigm called for in the FPR. Instead, it appears to be still operating within a paradigm in which forest production and ecological systems are regarded as values to be balanced against one another, with the balance in favour of the former where the two come into essential conflict.
Bousquet gives a thorough overview of the implementation failures three years in, and what they may mean for the future health of Nova Scotia forests. He also speaks with Ray Plourde, the senior wilderness coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre:
In an interview with the Halifax Examiner, Plourde pointed out that the Natural Resources Strategy, which called for a 50% reduction in clearcutting, was adopted in 2011. Seven years went by with no actual change in the amount of clearcutting. Lahey issued his FPR report in 2018, and now three years later, there’s still no change on the ground. This fall, the Houston government passed the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, which says the policies will be implemented… in 2023.
“For a decade and a half, reduction in clear-cutting has been promised but not delivered,” said Plourde. “It’s delay and log. Study and log. Think and log. Promise and log.”
2. “Overworked and underpaid” nursing home staff rally
Jennifer Henderson reports on a rally by continuing care assistants calling for better pay and working conditions.
“Overworked and underpaid.”
That’s the blunt message on the hand-printed sign Sharon Yates was holding at one of dozens of rallies outside nursing homes and residential care facilities Monday.
The Day of Action was sponsored by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents about 4,500 Nova Scotians who work caring for people.
Yates has worked as continuing care assistant (CCA) for 14 years bathing, toileting, and caring for elderly or disabled adults at Ocean View Continuing Care. After 14 years, she’s stuck at the top of the pay scale, earning $18.96 an hour.
A lot of the friends she used to work with have left the field in the past year, said Yates. “They were burnt out and tired of being refused vacation and tired of the wages and the workload. And wanting more for residents and feeling that’s not happening.”
Henderson looks at promises the government has made to remedy the situation — and at their inadequacies. And she talks to staff and residents about the kinds of changes that would make a difference to both.
3. New COVID-19 cluster “a defined group of largely unvaccinated individuals”
The province announced 61 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, including signs of low community spread and a cluster of new cases in what the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, called “a defined group of largely unvaccinated individuals.”
In his daily COVID-19 roundup, Tim Bousquet also notes some good news: “There are no new cases associated with the East Cumberland Lodge nursing home in Pugwash.”
As Bousquet noted last week, we are likely to see a sharp increase in first-dose vaccination numbers as the immunization program for children gets underway.
I am trying to remember the lessons I have learned over the past nearly two years and not start losing it over the Omicron variant. This is where staying off Twitter — or at least not refreshing it every few seconds to see the latest — is helpful. We’ll know a lot more in 10 days or two weeks, and it makes sense to wait until we know more. I am just grateful we never dropped our mask mandate in Nova Scotia, because it really seems like it’s hard to convince people they should put masks back on once they’ve gotten used to having them off.
4. Sea lice outbreaks could further endanger wild salmon
Two salmon farms near the Digby Gut are dealing with sea lice infestations, and that could pose a danger to the already beleaguered wild salmon in the area, Ethan Lycan-Lang and Leslie Amminson report.
Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke Aquaculture, admitted to the infestations during hearings into the expansion of its fish farm at Rattling Beach — one of the two locations. The company actually expanded its Rattling Beach site past the approved boundaries six years ago, but the Aquaculture Review Board is only now holding hearings into whether to retroactively approve the expansion.
Sea lice have long been known to be a problem in fish farms on the West Coast. The Ecology Action Centre’s marine campaign coordinator, Simon Ryder-Burbidge, told the Examiner that “the company and the government [have] been telling us that it’s just not an issue here… Then they acknowledged that they were actually dealing with two concurrent sea lice outbreaks right now at both sites.”
Lycan-Lang and Amminson explain what sea lice are, why they pose a threat to wild salmon, and what the company says it is doing to control the outbreak (in an email to the Examiner, Cooke Aquaculture spokesperson Joel Richardson objected to the term “outbreak”). Lycan-Lang and Amminson write:
Sea lice are parasites that live on the outside of fish and feed on their surface tissue and mucous layers. Though they pose no threat to consumers, sea lice have a number of effects on the fish they attach to: they can negatively impact their immune systems, growth, and even some of their behaviours, such as their willingness to take risks. Predators are also more likely to eat fish that have sea lice on them.
Predation is not a concern for farmed salmon, but it is, of course, for their wild counterparts.
Sea lice are native to Canada’s Atlantic coast, meaning they have always been in the region. But Sean Godwin, a BC-based post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University, said open-net pen farms create an environment in which sea lice can thrive.
“It’s like any form of agriculture, really,” Godwin said in an interview. “You have a million organisms in a small space, kind of the perfect conditions for disease and parasites to proliferate. It’d be like COVID in a nightclub.”
You will also be shocked to learn that, unlike BC, Nova Scotia has “no data transparency from industry or government” when it comes to reporting sea lice outbreaks, Godwin says.
Amminson and Lycan-Lang note:
In British Columbia, concerns over the impact of open-net fish pens on wild salmon led to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announcing they would be transitioning away from the practice, completely banning such farms by 2025. No such announcement has come for any Atlantic province.
5. Halifax Regional Police fight two subpoenas related to Kayla Borden’s complaint
Matthew Byard reports on the latest efforts by Halifax Regional Police to fight having Chief Dan Kinsella and Insp. Derrick Boyd testify before the Police Review Board.
The background: In July 2020, Kayla Borden, a Black woman, was pulled over and arrested by Halifax Regional Police.
El Jones first reported on Borden’s arrest and claim of having been racially profiled:
Borden says she was driving home at around 12:50am from her cousin’s place by Charles P. Allen High School. When she reached the intersection of Cuddy Lane and Windmill Road at around 1am, she paused to wait for a police wagon which had pulled up diagonally alongside her car.
“The lights [on the wagon] were not on, which I thought was weird, so I waited about 10 seconds, and then about 5-6 more cop cars came out of nowhere and swarmed me in the intersection from all directions.
“Two white officers approached me. I couldn’t see if they had their guns out or not. They yelled, “Put your hands on the steering wheel.” I was so scared wondering what was going on. After I put my hands on the wheel, the same cop immediately started yelling at me to get out of the car.”
Borden filed a complaint, alleging racial bias within the police force. As part of that process, subpoenas were issued to Kinsella and Boyd.
HRP lawyer Andrew Gough argues in a letter to the Police Review Board that Boyd and Kinsella should not have to testify before the board, but board chair Jean McKenna ruled that only a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has the authority to quash a subpoena once it has been issued.
At the heart of the matter is whether or not systemic racism and racial bias within the Halifax Regional Police played a role in Borden’s July 2020 late-night arrest at a traffic stop…
“This case involves eight police officers who pursued, stopped and arrested Ms. Borden even though she is a different sex, race and description than the suspect they were looking for,” Maxwell argued in his submission [to the Police Review Board].
“She was arrested even though her vehicle was a different colour, make and model than the one driven by the suspect they were looking for. Even though she broke no laws while they were pursuing her,” he wrote.
“Even though her vehicle had a license plate when the vehicle they were looking for did not, they still physically removed her from her car, placed her in handcuffs and arrested her. While the Board has barred Ms. Borden from making a claim against the entire police department, it has allowed her to raise questions of systemic racism insofar as the actions of the respondent officers were directed by departmental biases.”
Although neither Boyd nor Kinsella were present at Borden’s arrest, Maxwell argues that as, respectively, designated-officer-in-charge of HRP’s Professional Standards Division and Chief, they can speak to systemic issues within the department.
For his part, Gough, the police lawyer, rejects this argument, saying “the individuals most suited to speak to why Ms. Borden was briefly arrested are those individuals who briefly arrested her.”
Byard does a great job of walking us through the issues involved in the case.
6. Councillor agrees East Preston is poorly served by transit, but doesn’t think racism has anything to do with it
Last week, Matthew Byard wrote about the shortcomings of transit to and from East Preston, following the latest Halifax Transit route re-organization. Byard wrote:
Neighbouring communities North Preston and Cherrybrook have what some might describe as “full” bus service, similar to most other areas of Halifax and Dartmouth.
Bus service in North Preston has been running for less than two decades, and both North Preston and Cherrybrook have regular weekend and holiday service. Buses are scheduled to arrive and depart in both communities more than 20 times a day throughout the week, from early morning into the late evening.
In contrast, despite the new changes, a bus is only scheduled to arrive and depart East Preston seven times a day throughout the week. Unlike most other bus routes that run at least every half hour during peak hours in the morning and afternoon, the four morning and three evening buses in East Preston arrive and depart over an hour and a half apart.
District 2 councillor David Hendsbee who represents East Preston, reached out to Byard after the story ran. Now, Byard has followed up, with a new story that looks at Hendsbee’s claim that the area is not underserved.
Hendsbee said that the #401 bus that serves East Preston travels between Cole Harbour to Porters Lake via Highway #7 gives more service to the communities of Westphal, Lake Echo, and Porters Lake, in addition to East Preston, and that recent changes to the route came at the expense of transit service to West Chezzetcook, Grand Desert, and Seaforth; there’s now no transit service at all in those communities.
Essentially, Hendsbee tells Byard that because East Preston is in a rural tax district, it doesn’t qualify for full bus service. And there are issues related to transit in many other communities in the area. But Byard argues that there is important context missing, especially since municipal councillors voted unanimously in June to “endorse an ‘anti-Black racism framework’ — an action plan to deal with anti-Black racism related to municipal services, such as transit”:
It is true that people in surrounding predominately-white rural communities and other rural communities have the same transportation options and limitations when it comes to public transit service as East Preston. As Hendsbee noted, some rural communities close to Preston or across HRM have less or no public transit service at all; the historical Black community of Lucasville outside of Halifax has been fighting for years to get transit.
But what sets the residents of East Preston apart from their white neighbouring communities is why its residents live and have longstanding family ties to this particular geographic area of the municipality in the first place: anti-Black racism dating back to the late 1700s.
Simply put: The people of Cherrybrook, North Preston and East Preston were discriminated against for being Black; placed on the outskirts in places like Preston because they were Black.
Over centuries, Preston developed a stigma for being a community full of Black people. And today, even when people from the Prestons are able to overcome obstacles faced by all people living in rural communities with respect transportation, they tend to face additional obstacles when seeking employment by mere virtue of the fact that they’re Black and/or from the Prestons.
Even Black people who don’t live in the Prestons face discrimination by virtue of mere assumption that they are or may be from the Prestons.
A cruel, kinetic, anti-Black racist cycle.
1. Discovering an exciting, strange city in an old part of town
I really like the latest entry in Stephen Archibald’s Noticed in Nova Scotia blog. This time around, Mr. Archibald and his camera head for Spring Garden Road.
During one of our lockdown periods over the last two years, I remember someone posting a photo of the pit beside Spring Garden Road between Birmingham and Queen, and saying something along the lines of people who haven’t been downtown in a year are in for a surprise.
In Archibald’s post, called “Where Am I?” he recalls how he felt when he was downtown last August:
Walking along Birmingham Street with the Mills block demolished, and new and newish buildings to the right and left, I suddenly had the feeling you get when visiting a strange city: an excited sense of alertness because you don’t know exactly where you are or what you’ll discover next. In an instant I realized, at least in this part of town, I could not conjure up the old soul of Halifax, the place I’ve lived for seven decades.
In lesser hands, this would turn into a lament for all that we have lost. Which is not to say that we should not lament the loss of some old buildings, or that we shouldn’t celebrate the construction of some new ones. Not everything is horrible, after all. But Archibald instead returns to the Spring Garden area a few times, and takes photos “to help clarify my thoughts.”
Archibald looks forward to the Spring Garden Road re-design completion (“a game-changer”), but notes that for now the street under construction has the feeling of being a boomtown anywhere — and he shares a photo from Mongolia to drive the point home. He notes attractive sidewalks that are likely to become more so as vegetation grows up, and fine public art. And this makes him wonder about that discombobulated feeling he had:
I expect and often celebrate change in our urban core, so I was surprised by my “where am I” feeling on Birmingham Street. But when I reviewed Street View from a few years back I started to recover the depth of experience I had with this block. Here is a little summary.
On the left in the photo below is the entrance to Mills men’s clothing department, a domestic-scaled space, that would have been front parlours of a nineteenth-century house. The clothing selection was limited but carefully chosen, I fondly remember a canvas coat.
Next, going south, is the King’s Crown where I had haircuts, although I had a longer history with their location on Spring Garden. And then M Home, where we purchased a number of pieces of furniture. Every day I sit on their green sofa.
Before the barbershop a tropical fish shop filled that space with banks of bubbling aquariums. The yellow door led up to a space that I first knew in the mid-1970s as the studio of textile artist Sandra Brownlee. Our friends Mern and John lived there later, and we enjoyed many meals and celebrations together.
Looking at Archibald’s photos it is striking to realize how much change has come to the area. What I really appreciate about this blog is how he maps his personal experience and history onto that change.
In addition to his architectural images, Archibald shares a gorgeous photo of artist Sandra Brownlee at her loom, shot around 1975. I will not share it here, because you should go look at Archibald’s whole post.
2. Pandemic art
Last weekend, I co-hosted a Zoom launch for a new book called 2020, featuring poetry along with drawings by New York-based artistic Bill Liebeskind. Several months ago, I wrote about Liebeskind and his pandemic project — one drawing each day of a person in a mask — for the Examiner here. Liebeskind joined us from his hotel room in Paris (it was 2am there) and talked about how he started drawing people in masks — a bit of a stretch for him, since he does not usually do portraits. In the end, he did over 400 drawings. The Zoom launch included people from as far away as Australia, but there were a couple of us from the Maritimes: myself and well-known Halifax-based writer Chris Benjamin.
Interestingly, a launch hosted by Australian writer Miriam Hechtman, and held at the ungodly hour of 5 am Atlantic time, drew more participating readers from the Maritimes. I read, as did Geordie Miller and Marilyn Lerch, both from Sackville, NB and Harvey Lev, coming from Parrsboro.
Poet Susan McMaster talked about how her brother was diagnosed with an illness and died of it during the pandemic, and she was unable to be with him during his illness or to attend his funeral. So, she said, she feels as though his presence remains hovering nearby. Marilyn Lerch, the former poet laureate of Sackville, NB read a powerful, as-yet-unpublished poem about climate change, and German-Australian writer Albert Sinclair nicely captured the shrinking horizons of our worlds during lockdowns.
I found it interesting to see how different writers approached writing about the pandemic, and, in some cases, about climate change as well. The events were recorded, so click the links if you are interested in watching them.
I am a crossword fan, and I’ve been immersed in crosswords long enough that I have favourites among crossword constructors (that’s what you call the folks who make the puzzles). One constructor whose work I usually enjoy is Brendan Emmett Quigley, and I only recently noticed a reference to him as a member of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra.
Maybe I’m more attuned to typewriters these days since I’ve written about them in the last two Morning Files (you can read those here and here).
Anyway, I was intrigued. Boston Typewriter Orchestra? Well, I am late to the party, because the BTO has been around since 2004, and has a great origin story. From their official bio:
One night in 2004, Boston-area artist Tim Devin was presented with the gift of a child’s typewriter at a bar. his typing eventually annoyed the waitress, who asked him to stop, whereupon he responded, “It’s OK, ma’am. I’m the conductor of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra.”
Devin just blurted this out, but then started to think maybe there was something to the idea.
I love when someone has a wacky idea and then just runs with it, past the point any reasonable person would go. The orchestra’s instruments are manual typewriters, supplemented by office bells. The members wear white shirts and ties, and sit at long tables when they perform. On the band’s website, the personnel are listed under “Human Resources” as “The Typing Pool.”
In a video introducing the orchestra, one member says he plays the “tenor Smith-Corona,” another the “bass Hermes Ambassador.”
Naturally, many of the songs are office-themed. Here are some of the lyrics from “The Staff Meeting,” from the album Workstation to Workstation:
Bring your pens and notebooks
Got to write it all down
At the staff meeting (at the staff meeting)
Just a bunch of bullshit
Bring your best ideas and keep them to yourself
At the staff meeting (at the staff meeting)
Same old song and dance
Boss will tell a joke
Everybody has to laugh
At the staff meeting (at the staff meeting)
In “The Revolution Will Be Typewritten,” the orchestra’s nod to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” the band, er, sing:
The revolution will not come to you as a torrent, a stream or a podcast
you will not fit the revolution in 140 characters…
for the revolution will be typewritten…
The revolution has no backspace key
In a 2016 story (“All keyed up for the Boston Typewriter Orchestra“), band member Jay O’Grady says since the orchestra started, manual typewriters have become more expensive:
As far as he knows, O’Grady says, BTO is unique, save for one copycat group in Sweden. He’s not keen to see more typewriter bands in the world, but he probably doesn’t have much to worry about. Learning to pound those keys just so takes a long time. Besides, vintage typewriters don’t come cheap. “When we started, you could walk into a secondhand store and get one for a couple bucks,” says O’Grady. “Now they’ve become collectibles.”
I mean, it’s all ridiculous, but it’s also inventive and fun, and while you may not find yourself humming along to any of the songs, there is something to the rhythm of all those typewriter keys banging along.
One of the orchestra members, Derrik Albertelli, also plays in a metal band called Swarm of Eyes. Here he is in his non-typist metal performer persona.
Design Review Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — livestreamed
Environment and Sustainability Stancing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — livestreamed
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — livestreamed
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Mic Mac Aquatic Club) — no live broadcast
People, Places and Things (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — presented by the Fountain School of Performing Arts, until Dec. 4; $15/$10; more info here
KI’KWA’JU: Reimagining Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf (Wednesday, 7:30pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — presented by the Fountain School of Performing Arts; $15/$10; more info here
In Ki’kwa’ju, we seek to tell a new story about our relationships to the land, to one another, and to the hard work of reconciliation. This concert presents a full performance of Prokofiev’s score, with a narrated story that moves events to our region in Mi’kma’ki. The Dal Symphony Orchestra is joined by Mi’kmaw artists and storytellers, and the program includes traditional Mi’kmaq singing, dancing, and storytelling. We premiere a composition that draws together Prokofiev’s music with traditional Mi’kmaw instruments and melodies. The evening concludes with “talk back” discussion with the artists, in which audience members will learn about netukulimk, the Mi’kmaq concept of balance between the natural and human worlds.
Hey, my nephew is in this!
People, Places and Things (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — presented by the Fountain School of Performing Arts, until Dec. 4; $15/$10; more info here
Endolysosomal cation channels in health and disease: A surprising novel functional role of TRPML3 (Thursday, 11am, Room 3H1, Tupper Building) — also online; Christian Grimm from Ludwig Maximilians University will talk
The Bald Soprano (Thursday, 8pm, The Pit, Arts and Administration Building) — presented by the King’s Theatrical Society until Dec. 4; tickets and more info here.
In the harbour
09:30: One Honolulu, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
13:00: St. Sofia, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for sea
22:30: MSC Silvana, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
22:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Norfolk, Virginia
15:30: Algoma Victory, bulker, arrives at Point Tupper coal pier from Puerto Bolívar, Colombia
18:30: Paul A. Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Berth TBD in Sydney from Quebec City
19:00: Ionic Anax, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
20:00: Jag Leena, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Point Tupper
I am most definitely not a morning person, but somehow managed to go to the gym this morning (briefly) and still finish Morning File on time. This may not seem impressive to you, but it’s somewhat shocking to me.
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Reading the article about the Typewriter Orchestra brought back a great memory for me.
When I was attending the Business Secretarial class at Queen Elizabeth High School in 1971, we had an Open Night where people could view classrooms and get a sense of the courses available.
For the Typing Class, a few of the students (myself included) did a demonstration of typing with manual typewriters to the “Typewriter Song”. It took a lot of practice to have us all in sync hitting the keys and sliding the platen to have the carriage return ring the bell in time to the music.
It was quite fun, and we received a hearty round of clapping after the performance.
Haha! In high school our teacher would play a record of marching music and whack the desk with a stick, to teach us to type in rhythm. People would gather around the door gawking at the spectacle and noise. Nobody clapped for us.
The “powers that be” still are not getting the message that systemic racism is real and needs to be snuffed out at every opportunity. Eliminating this kind of hard-wired anti-Black bias doesn’t come from trying to find legal loopholes to avoid subpoenas or making up excuses why a chronically underserviced community doesn’t have the same access to busses as white communities. This has got to stop if there is any hope of turning things around. Man up and don’t be afraid of a subpoena. Just go and testify and show you have some spinal fortitude. And put more busses into Preston. Don’t quote statistics about “rural tax zones” or whatever excuse suits the narrative. Extra work needs to be done to kill racism both systemic and individual based.