1. One Patient One Record

A paper with handwritten notes and a photo of two ambulances outside a hospital.
An example of a doctor’s chart notes. One Patient One Record will eliminate the use of paper notes like these. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

The Nova Scotia government is spending $364.5 million to buy a fully computerized clinical information system the health minister said “will transform the way health care is delivered in Nova Scotia,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

Oracle Cerner Canada has been awarded a 10-year contract after a five-year courtship the province had with two short-listed bidders. Cerner will design, implement, and maintain an electronic health record system known as “One Patient One Record” or OPOR at the IWK Children’s Hospital and all provincial hospitals.  

It’s expected to take two years before the first three hospitals switch over to OPOR.

Dartmouth General, Cobequid Community Health Centre, and the yet-to-open Bayers Lake Outpatient Clinic will be the first hospitals to get the system. However, the capability for a doctor anywhere in Nova Scotia to access a single program where they can view their patient’s x-ray or test results from a Halifax area hospital could be up and running within 10 months.

OPOR officially launched Wednesday and Health Minister Michelle Thompson was eager to describe some of the “re-wiring” changes. 

“For years, doctors and nurses and allied health care professionals have been telling government that the current models for collecting and sharing information are robbing them of valuable time they could be spending with patients,” Thompson said.

Click here to read Henderson’s full story.

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2. 6.9% power rate increase

Electrical equipment is seen behind a fence with a sign indicating DANGER.
Electric transmission equipment at Nova Scotia Power’s Tufts Cove Generating Station on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Beginning today, residential ratepayers will see power bills rise 6.9% or, on average, about $12 a month,” reports Jennifer Henderson.

Power rates will take another 6.9% jump next year.

Small businesses will see their bills go up 16% this year.

The rates have been approved in a decision released by the Utility and Review Board this morning. Nova Scotia Power made the application in January 2022 which was followed by legislation passed by the Houston government to limit non-fuel increases to 1.8% a year. Nova Scotia Power and groups representing consumers, businesses, and environmental groups then negotiated an agreement late in November that has been largely endorsed by the regulator today.

Here is part of the UARB’s written decision: 

The Board is satisfied that the negotiated average rate increases across all customer classes of 6.9% in each of 2023 and 2024 are reasonable and appropriate. The Board also finds that it is reasonable to defer part of the increased fuel costs to later years. The Board is keenly aware that any rate increase has an impact on ratepayers, particularly low-income customers and those on a fixed income. No rate increase is ever welcomed by ratepayers. However, the Board places significant weight on the fact that all major customer classes have negotiated these rate increase levels.

The request for increased rates by the Company, and the amount of the negotiated increase, must also be considered in the context that NS Power has not had a non-fuel rate increase since 2014. During the period 2014 to 2022, inflation has risen over 20%. Moreover, various federal and provincial environmental provisions require NS Power to retire coal assets and invest in infrastructure to meet 80% renewable goals by 2030 and net-zero GHG emissions requirements by 2050.

Henderson gets into highlights of the decision and Nova Scotia Power’s profit margins. This is a developing story, so we’ll have more details later.

Click here to read Henderson’s complete article.

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3. Cashless economy

A slender arm of someone wearing a black sweater holds out a machine for someone tapping a credit card to make a payment at a wooden counter.
A report found that 73% of Canadians believe grocery stores that don’t accept cash are discriminating against some consumers. Credit: Karolina Grabowska/

Yvette d’Entremont has this story on the results of a survey that found most Canadians — 73% — believe when grocery stores don’t accept cash as payment, it’s a form of discrimination for some consumers. d’Entremont writes:

Despite the fact most are choosing cashless options (debit/credit cards), results of a new national survey released Thursday suggest a majority (almost three out of four Canadians) still think bills and coins should be a payment option.

That’s because they consider a cashless grocery store discriminatory.

The goal of the survey study, Cashed Out: How a Cashless Economy Impacts Your Grocery Experience, a Canadian Perspective, was to understand what an increasingly cashless experience means for Canadians.

Conducted last month and funded by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab in partnership with Angus Reid, the survey involved 1,503 Canadians who were asked to share their perceptions. 

Among the findings was that 73% of Canadians see grocery stores not accepting cash as a form of discrimination against some consumers.

That number was highest in Quebec (78%) and lowest in Manitoba (67%), while 70% of Atlantic Canadians deemed it discriminatory. 

You can click here to read the article.

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4. Africa society celebrates Black History Month

10 members of the Members of the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society hold a banner bearing their name.
(Circa 2014) Members of the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society (AFACS). Photo: AFACS / Facebook.

“Seven months after holding its largest Africa Festival of Arts and Culture on the Halifax waterfront, the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society is hosting a series of Black History Month activities,” reports Matthew Byard.

The activities include a panel discussion on inclusion and diversity in the workplace, a series of elementary school presentations throughout Truro, Dartmouth, and Halifax, and an annual dinner and dance gala at Mount Saint Vincent University. The events run from Feb. 7 to 11.

The panel discussion is titled, “Experiencing Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace: Challenges and Solutions.”

“The first time we had [the panel discussion] was last year and it was virtual because of the pandemic. But this time it’s going to be in person,” said George Mbamalu, founder and chair of the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.

“We have a serious problem of inclusion and diversity in the workplace because the work is not fully inclusive, so that’s why we’re targeting the workplace. So, every year we will try to discuss the same topic but with different people and backgrounds.”

Byard also has details on other events including performances at schools and a gala dinner.

Click here to read the full story.

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Ditch the hashtags: here’s how employers can support workers’ mental health

A young woman stands in front of a white board with pink and yellow Post-It notes on it while several other people sit in front of laptops on a table.
Let us count the ways of improving mental health in the workplace. Credit: Jason Goodman/Unsplash

Over the last week, since the telecomm’s PR hashtag day that’s supposedly in support of mental health, I’ve been thinking about the real things that might improve people’s mental health, especially in the workplace.

So, for this Morning File, I decided to share some ideas. Some we’ve written about before and some you know well. But all are more than a hashtag. I’d like to hear your suggestions, too, but here a few suggestions for now:

Pay people at least a living wage

We write often about living wages. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives releases details on the updated living wages each year; for its most recent calculations, the living wages in Halifax are $23.50/hr.

Working low-paying jobs puts workers mental health at risk because it means they’re often struggling to pay their bills and living paycheque to paycheque. Maybe they’re working a second or even a third job to get by. That means dealing with a few schedules. Combine that with having a family, and your stress level just went up.

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed a few employers that pay a living wage. Adsum for Women and Children introduced its living wage policy back in 2016. I spoke with executive director Sheri Lecker about the policy in 2019.

[Lecker] says the policy has opened a dialogue about women, work, and what they earn. Offering a living wage works well for recruitment and retention of staff and it fosters continued loyalty from staff, and she wants employers to know paying a living wage is “doable.”

“Ultimately, in our work, we will be supported if we do good work. And if we want good people, we have to be a good employer. That’s the message.”

In September 2021, I wrote about Coverdale Courtwork Society and its living wage policy. Here’s what Ashley Avery said about the policy:

Coverdale is a community and what we’re trying to do is build our community and extend our community and what that means to us, in part, is not only taking care of the people who come to us, but taking care of our employees and making sure they can do this and get paid what they should be getting paid.

Paying a living wages removes the stress of scraping by and not having to work more than one job. That can’t be anything but good for your staff’s mental health.

Right to disconnect

Workers have a right to disconnect from their jobs. This is tough to do if your phone is always with you, you work from home, and your boss feels the need to message you at all hours. But some jurisdictions are taking action with right to disconnect laws.

This article from Benefits Canada lists the provinces that have such laws, including Ontario. Right to disconnect legislation took effect there June 2, 2022. Under that law, “employers with 25 or more employees [have] to have a written policy about workers disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday.”

In December 2021, Québec Solidaire introduced Bill 799 regarding the right to disconnect. If that goes ahead, companies with 100 employees or more will have to develop a right-to-disconnect policy with their staff.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, doesn’t have such legislation, although according to a statement sent to Benefits Canada, “the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration is watching the evolution of the working environment in the province and across Canada very carefully to ensure it meets the needs of Nova Scotians.”

In Europe, France was well ahead of the game, introducing right-to-disconnect laws in 2017. Employers there have to negotiate agreements with unions about policies around disconnecting from technology after working hours. Other countries followed suit, including Italy, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, and Portugal.

The article in Benefits Canada makes a good point that legislation is one thing, but people’s behaviours are another. So, put the phone or the computer aside and take some downtime from the job. And management, don’t be messaging staff off-hours. Everyone needs a brain break from work.

The right to disconnect is part of a larger conversation around work-life balance, too. Workers deserve a life beyond their jobs and not everyone wants to be part of hustle culture. Unplugging is good!

Deal with the harassment, bullying in your workplace

One issue I think really affects someone’s mental health is harassment or bullying in the workplace. We talk about toxic environments, which have high turnover, gossip, lack of communication, and low morale — and I’ve written about my own experience before — but workplaces are toxic because some of the people in those workplaces are toxic.

Here’s what I wrote then about the cost of toxic workplaces with stats from the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety:

  • Psychological health problems cost the Canadian economy ~$51 billion per year, $20 billion of which results from work-related causes.
  • 47% of working Canadians consider their work to be the most stressful part of daily life.
  • Psychological health problems affect mid-career workers the most, lowering the productivity of the Canadian workforce.
  • Only 23% of Canadian workers would feel comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue.

The stress of working in such a place is incredibly damaging to your mental health. You often take that stress home and it affects other areas of your life. I’ve said before usually the only way to deal with a toxic workplace is to leave, but I got thinking about how to make these workplaces better and what can be done to support workers who are being harassed. Maybe there are ways to prevent a workplace from becoming toxic in the first place.

So, I reached out to Julie Lalonde, a women’s rights advocte and public educator in Ottawa. She offers courses in bystander training; I took an online session last year and wrote about it here.

Lalonde often does training in workplaces, too, focusing on what she calls the five Ds of bystander intervention: direct, delegate, document, distract, and delay. We spoke about harassment and its connection to mental health in the workplace.

Now, when we were chatting, I used the term bullying, but that’s not a word Lalonde said she uses in her training.

“To me, it’s more important to focus on the root causes,” she said. So, oftentimes it’s things like sexual harassment, or racism, or even ageism. Anything that is in terms of comments that are unwanted, unwelcome, meant to humiliate, denigrate. But also, things like ostracizing someone, either because they are different or have expressed a different opinion, or also because that person has spoken out. I think that’s where the bystander piece is important.”

She also suggests people think differently about privilege and marginalization since who has privilege and who is marginalized might be different in a workplace setting.

“I think when it’s important when we talk about how to create safer environments and workplace culture, that we think of the most powerful person in that place and what they can do, but we also think of the person with the least amount of power, which again, could be someone who is disabled or the only person of colour. Or it could also be someone who is an intern or a co-op student. Or someone on contract,” she said.

Lalonde said it’s important for workers and management to think beyond the traditional definitions of privilege and marginalization in the workplace. 

“You could be a person of colour but you’re the vice-president and have been there for 25 years and you could be a young person who looks privileged but only there temporarily, so they have no job security if they were to speak out.”

Lalonde said workplaces can incorporate bystander training into their hiring practices. So, during an interview with a candidate they can give them scenarios and ask how they’d respond. Lalonde said it’s important to use nuanced and complex examples, though, and not obvious situations that have an obvious answer.

“You need examples like someone approaches you to say they’re experiencing harassment by a particular person, but please don’t say anything to anyone,” she said.

“That’s an example I use in my workplace trainings because that is a reality. Someone might come to you, but tell you not to say anything to anyone. So, now you feel like you’re stuck being complicit with the abusing behavior or breaking the confidentiality of the person who confided in you.” 

So, what’s a good answer for that scenario? Lalonde said always ask the person a followup question. For example, ask them why they don’t want you to say anything about the harassment and then troubleshoot with them how you can say something while protecting that person at the same time.

“So, maybe it’s you go with them to file a complaint to HR. Or maybe it’s you asking to hide your name, but going to HR to speak about what we can do and then can bring back options to figure out what makes most sense for you. Do you want me to sit on this for a week or two while you think about it? So, really asking a follow-up question, which to me is very obvious, but does not come up in my workshops because people think you have to report it,” Lalonde said.

I asked Lalonde about what human resources departments can do because many employees don’t feel comfortable going to HR because they believe HR is on the side of the employer.

“I do think HR often does do that,” Lalonde said. “And similarly, I think unions defend abusers routinely. There is no simple answer because it depends on who your harasser is. If it’s management, you have to deal with HR. If it’s a colleague, you might have to deal with your union. There’s no easy answer to it, but I think part of it is to get HR to really rethink the ways to have this conversation,” she said.

“I have been brought into multiple workplaces because HR training went poorly. When I looked at the materials, it’s because the HR training was very punitive. It was very ‘these are the rules, don’t break them.’ This is how to talk with people. It wasn’t a collaborative discussion around ‘hey, what are we witnessing? Why don’t we feel comfortable saying something? Do we even know what the policy is? Does anyone here feel comfortable using the policy?’ That’s the approach that moves the marker.”

Over the past couple of years, Lalonde said she’s now being invited to workplaces to speak about the futility of resilience, and the push back against management that tells staff just to be resilient instead of talking about structural issues (she has a book Resilience Is Futile: The Life and Death and Life of Julie S. Lalonde, about her own experience with abuse and stalking by an ex-partner).

“You’re overworked, you’re underpaid, you’re not being compensated properly, go to this mental health workshop where we’re doing yoga for an hour instead of actually changing the conditions that force people to be so burned out in the first place,” she said.

Lalonde told me she thinks conversations around mental health in the workplace are still siloed around conversations about harassment. She added employers have a misunderstanding about mental illness, that it’s only “people crying in the bathroom” and they don’t make the connections to systemic issues.

“It’s incredibly difficult to create that plasticity in your brain when you’re an adult. Our capacity to be resilient is 100% tied to structural problems. I can’t resilient my way out of racism in the workplace,” Lalonde said.

This was a good discussion and I’m interested in hearing readers’ thoughts. Certainly people in the workplace won’t always get along; there are just certain personality types that clash. But harassment is insidious and I’m not sure management always sees it or even cares. Building prevention into workplaces, hiring and promoting better managers, and having collaborative, non-punitive HR policies is a good start.

Paid sick days

There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of paid sicks days over the last few years. Of course, having paid sick days means people who test positive for COVID, the flu, or any other virus, can isolate at home without worrying about losing pay or spreading a virus to their colleagues.

But paid sick days can be used as mental health days, too. Sometimes a day or two away from the workplace is helpful, especially if you don’t have to worry about losing pay.

Oh, and don’t ask for a doctor’s note either.

Paid leave for mental health

Sometimes you just have to leave a stressful workplace, at least for a little bit, and taking sick days isn’t enough. I wanted to know more about the paid leave for workers who were so stressed by their jobs they needed a break and have run out of paid sick days, if you even get them. I know people who’ve taken stress leave because of their awful workplaces.

I contacted Employment and Social Development Canada about some of the rules around EI sickness benefits and how they apply to sick leave in the event of mental health. I got responses for my questions from spokesperson Maja Stefanovska. I asked about the particulars around stress leave for mental health if the stress is connected to the workplace itself:

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of protecting and supporting mental health in the workplace.

While there are no provisions under the Canada Labour Code (the Code) specifically related to stress leave, employees in federally regulated workplaces covered under Part III of the Code have access to up to 10 days of paid medical leave and up to 27 weeks of unpaid medical leave. These can both be taken for mental health reasons, including stress. Employees may also have access to job-protected leave for work-related illness and injury if the situation that led to the injury or illness, such as stress, can be linked to the workplace. For more information, consult the types of leave offered to federally regulated employees.

So, employees can apply for EI sickness benefits, and all those details are here. Workers can receive 55% of your earnings up to a maximum of $650 a week. Stefanovska also noted this:

When Canadians are facing illness, injury, or quarantine they deserve to be supported financially as they recover. Recognizing that workers who suffer from more serious conditions may require more time to heal, the Government of Canada permanently extended EI sickness benefits from a maximum of 15 weeks to 26 weeks for new claims established on or after December 18, 2022.  

What I was wondering, though, was about going on stress leave because of stress connected to a toxic workplace, but wanting to find a new job while you were on leave? If the people you’re working with are causing you the stress, and the place is not going to change, why on earth would you want to go back? Here’s the response:

Federally Regulated Workplaces:

A federally regulated employee can take paid and unpaid medical leave for a variety of reasons, including a personal illness, such as stress. The Code does not limit an employee’s ability to look for new employment while on leave or outside of the employees’ working hours.

Employment Insurance:

While receiving EI sickness benefits, workers are not required to search for employment, however, they must remain available to work were it not for their illness. For example, a person receiving EI sickness benefits would not be eligible for any period where they were not available to work because they were on holiday.

Individuals who are receiving EI sickness benefits do have to submit reports every 2 weeks for as long as they receive benefits. The reports show ongoing eligibility and make sure they get the benefits to which they are entitled. If the claimant works or earns money, they must indicate it on their report. 

And here’s what I learned when I asked if the employee doesn’t want to go back to a toxic workplace:

Federally Regulated Workplaces

Under the Code, federally regulated employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees and protecting them from workplace hazards, including harassment and violence. The Harassment and Violence Prevention regime under the Code requires that employers take action to prevent, protect against, and respond to occurrences of workplace harassment and violence, as well as to investigate, record and report all occurrences of harassment and violence.

Employment Insurance

Following their period of illness, if a worker loses their job, they may still be eligible for EI regular benefits.

A fundamental principle of the EI program is that claimants must lose their employment through no fault of their own to be eligible for EI regular benefits. A claimant is disqualified (or disentitled) from receiving benefits if they have been suspended or dismissed as a result of their own misconduct, or if they have voluntarily left their employment without just cause. Voluntarily leaving is considered without just cause when the claimant does not take every reasonable alternative available to them to avoid unemployment.

A claimant can be justified in voluntarily leaving their job if, considering all the circumstances, quitting their job was the only reasonable alternative.

A list of the 40 main reasons for voluntarily leaving a job is available here. The link includes an overview of each reason, reasonable alternatives that may be used, and why the reason for quitting is considered to be with just cause.

Everyone’s situation is unique. Service Canada officers undergo extensive training so that they can provide assistance and ensure claimants receive all benefits to which they are entitled. Individuals are encouraged to apply, and allow Service Canada to determine if they are eligible.

Phil Moscovitch pointed me to this page from the Canadian Labour Congress about taking leave for mental health issues. Here’s an interesting bit about what you have to tell your employer about taking leave:

Many workers believe they have to tell their employer the reason that they are seeking time off work. This is not true. Your personal medical information is private, and you have the right to the privacy of your diagnosis, but you will need to let your employer know of any limitations you have in returning to work.

Two examples would be:

  • You have a lot of fatigue and so need shorter hours temporarily; or
  • You have trouble concentrating with a lot of noise and need a quiet place to work temporarily.

I’d like to hear from some folks who took stress leave and applied for benefits and how that all went. And I think the rules under provincially regulated employers might be different, but I didn’t have the time to find out.

I suspect some people just quit their jobs in toxic workplaces and take the risk of not having an income for a bit. But we can do better than a hashtag.

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Body shaming over at Woman’s World

A cover of a magazine that shows a blonde smiling white woman wearing a pink sweater. The headline reads "Soup Off 16 Pounds This Week." Other headlines include "Double Chin? Fake a lift with this kitchen leftover that slims quick" and Doc's secret ingredient extra-quick bone broth costs pennies a day.
The latest issue of Woman’s World. Credit: Suzanne Rent

On Monday night, I was at a grocery store and waiting in the line to pay for my groceries when I noticed this magazine cover. Now, I know these magazines are always there, but I usually never pay attention, because I don’t care about celebrities or tabloid gossip. But the headline on this latest issue of Woman’s World stood out to me. Were they suggesting you can lose 16 pounds in a week by eating just soup?

I grabbed the issue and plunked it down on the conveyor belt and took this photo. The young cashier was watching, so I pointed out how ridiculous and dangerous this headline was. She said anyone who loses 16 pounds in a week would end up in the hospital.

I don’t buy Woman’s World, but know the magazine has been around for decades; since 1981. And its covers are always like this with headlines about weight loss programs, how to get rid of belly fat, and how to rescue yourself from your hormones.

Besides the soup diet, this particular issue has suggestions for how to get rid of your double chin with a kitchen leftover.

The magazine promotes itself as a publication for women over 50 [that’s me] and includes nutrition, wellness, beauty, and fashion tips. Now, that might be fine, except what this is promoting is dangerous physically and mentally. There’s no safe way to lose that much weight in a week. And while I love soup, I can’t imagine eating nothing but soup for a week to lose 16 pounds.

I shared this photo on Twitter and one follower commented how this magazine was always around her house when she was a kid and how damaging it was. Someone else said the only way to lose 16 pounds in a week is to sever your own arm to use as stock in the soup.

Sure, give me a magazine with healthy and delicious recipes and realistic exercise routines. But that doesn’t make money. Body shaming women has long been big business. Don’t buy into it. No real woman’s world needs it.

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Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Alderney Gate and online) — agenda


Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — agenda


No meetings

On campus



External Controls on Deep-Water Sediment Deposition in Offshore Tanzania (Thursday, 11:30am, Milligan Room, Life Sciences Centre) — Graduate Student Symposium from Marina Dottore Stagna, PhD candidate, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Molecular Logic of Synapse Organization and Plasticity (Thursday, 12pm, Tupper Building, 3H1) — Tabrez Siddiqui from the University of Manitoba will talk

The Cunning Little Vixen (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — DalOpera production; until Feb. 5, $15/10, more info here


The Cunning Little Vixen (Friday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — DalOpera production; until Feb. 5, $15/10, more info here

In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
09:00: Stavanger Pioneer, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea 
10:00: NYK Virgo, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea

Cape Breton
14:15: Marguerita, bulker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury Paper from Vila do Conde, Brazil
20:00: AlgoTitan, oil tanker, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for sea
23:59: Algoma Vision, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick


Phil Moscovitch wrote about sandwiches on Tuesday and I wrote about soup today. We’ll have a main course for you tomorrow.

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

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  1. Thanks to Suzanne Rent for a very important article. Julie Lalonde’s book is a must read, in my view. Also we in Equity Watch find that when most employees talk to HR about workplace problems, they find themselves in the uneviable spot of HR threatening their jobs directly or indirectly — especially when there is no union. We find that many women (especially) end up taking time off work due to stress and bullying at work –and then find themselves pushed out of their job. The punishment against women who try to speak out or even to evade bullying and discrimination at work is terrible. We need collective action to solve these problems. Complaining to the NS Human Rights Commission is slow and frankly ineffective. The goal has to be for management to find a way to FIX the problems. Otherwise, it’s mainly women employees who end up losing or quitting their jobs. Why does the woman have to lose her job and income? Also Equity Watch has a free webinar anyone can access anytime with Julie Lalonde about toxic misogyny in the fire dept, the police dept and the military — here: