1. Lung cancer study
“A Dalhousie University-led research project could break new ground when it comes to identifying lung cancer risk in people who’ve never smoked,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.
An estimated one in five Canadians diagnosed with lung cancer are so-called never-smokers (smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime). They are at increased risk due to environmental factors like radon gas, arsenic, and air pollution.
Atlantic Canadians and residents in the territories have the highest incidence and mortality rates of lung cancer in the country. It’s also one of six cancers identified as having the lowest survival rate.
“When you think about the mortality that comes along with lung cancer… it’s certainly a lot of people that we don’t think about that get lung cancer who had never smoked,” Dr. Robin Urquhart said in an interview.
Urquhart, an associate professor at Dalhousie University’s Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, is leading the five-year project. National in scope, it’s expected to provide information about environmental exposures that increase lung cancer risk and to improve early detection efforts across the country.
Over the course of five years, the multidisciplinary team of researchers will identify biological risk markers related to radon, arsenic, and air pollution. They’ll also develop an air pollution monitoring system to learn more about how it affects cells and elevates cancer risk.
2. Province House
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
The spring sitting of the Nova Scotia legislature ended last night after only 14 days.
The PC majority government passed a $14 billion budget, highlighted by $6.5 billion allocated for health care.
The PCs passed a law that through new regulations will give politicians the authority to decide who is eligible to work as a health professional in Nova Scotia. The law will broaden the type of services that physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, and other caregivers may provide.
The Patient Access to Care Act was passed despite concerns raised by the 13 regulatory bodies — including the College of Nurses and the College of Physicians and Surgeons — which worry the law gives government too much power. The context for this change is the fact more than 139,000 people currently have no family doctor.
The Houston government also passed an amendment that will extend an amended rent cap. There are 300,000 renters in Nova Scotia. Property owners will be permitted to raise rents by 5% beginning in January 2024.
The government took no action to prevent landlords from using fixed-term leases to raise the rent by any amount when one tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in to the same unit.
Regulations to implement the Coastal Protection Act passed in 2019 were not introduced and there appears to be little in the way of a defined Plan B to transition away from coal if additional imports from Quebec and other provinces do not materialize.
An NDP Bill bill to restrict the use of non disclosure agreements in cases involving sexual harassment did not pass.
No action was taken on a PC motion to expel Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin from the legislature, nor on a motion by Liberal leader Zach Churchill urging the PCs to withdraw or repeal their motion.
Smith-McCrossin accused the PC caucus of signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with a staffer. The PCs denied that and Status of Women minister Karla MacFarlane accused Smith-McCrossin of lying.
Smith-McCrossin later admitted to reporters outside the chamber she had no proof the NDA was signed between the young woman and the PC caucus. Smith-McCrossin also said she refuses to continue to be ” bullied” by the PCs, which turfed her from its caucus in 2020 because she supported constituents who opposed Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border closures due to COVID.
PC MLAs say the only purpose of their motion is to provide Smith-McCrossin with a chance to correct what she said inside the legislature and apologize. Parliamentary privilege protects MLAs from lawsuits if they misspeak or get the facts wrong while speaking inside the legislative chamber.
Both motions involving Smith-McCrossin remain in play going forward to next fall’s sitting of the legislature, but Premier Tim Houston has said the PCs do not intend to use or activate their motion.
This item is written by Evelyn C. White.
My surname has often prompted people in HRM to ask if I’m related to Portia White (1911-1968). I can’t claim blood ties to the famed African Nova Scotian opera singer. But as a so-called “come from away” of African ancestry, I’ve tried to educate myself on the history, culture, and politics of the longest-standing Black community in Canada.
Thus, I was intrigued by the controversy surrounding the African Nova Scotian flag that was unveiled in 2021. As detailed by Examiner reporter Matthew Byard, some African Nova Scotians took issue with the project.
In their view, the flag’s creator/designer, Wendie L. Wilson, had failed to consult with sufficient community stakeholders prior to its appearance in public spaces such as the Macdonald Bridge. Others applauded the flag as a powerful symbol of a racial group that has battled injustices in the province for generations.
Byard and Wilson are both African Nova Scotian.
A workshop, “Celebrating our Black Heritage: Uniting People of African Descent,” will provide a safe space for Black folk to build bridges and foster greater understanding. Scheduled from 5 pm to 8 pm on Thursday, April 13 in the Helen Creighton Room at the Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth, the event has been developed by the Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) in collaboration with the Community Mobilization Team (CMT) and the African Nova Scotian Affairs Integrated Office (ANSAIO).
“The power structures have spread mythologies that have sometimes created tensions between us,” said Raven Glasgow, manager of programs and engagement for CMT. “The workshop will focus on our common bonds. Because we are all in this together.”
“As proud African Canadians, we walk the world with Black skin but with a multiplicity of identities,” added Daren Okafo, manager of innovation & strategic partnerships for ISANS. “African Nova Scotians have experienced a deeply complex trauma. We are trying to open the dialogue and empower the diverse voices of all Black people who now call the province home.”
To register, contact Colleen Belle at (902) 406-4749 or email@example.com The workshop welcomes Nova Scotians of African heritage.
Well, it looks like there’s been some interest in a couple of historic Acadian churches. The plight of the two churches, Saint Bernard and Saint-Marie, didn’t look so great a couple of weeks ago. I wrote about Saint Bernard when it went up for sale and the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth had to take the listing down because it was was swamped with offers.
As Michael Tutton with The Canadian Press writes, Archbishop Brian Joseph Dunn with the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth says there will be meetings this weekend to discuss offers on Saint-Marie and Saint Bernard. Tutton writes:
The Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth has accepted a conditional offer for Saint Bernard Church — a 1,300-square-metre building southwest of Digby, N.S., which opened in 1932 — from a buyer with plans to repair and repurpose the building. The structure, which needs millions of dollars in upgrades, was constructed with 8,000 blocks of concrete hauled into the town of St. Bernard over three decades.
Meanwhile, Sainte-Marie Church, a landmark wooden building in nearby Church Point, N.S., has received an offer of about $10 million from an anonymous donor for its repair and maintenance — but the gift is conditional on the church restoring services.
The offers come as a big surprise given that the community had tried for years to save the spaces in some way. And Saint-Marie was headed for demolition this summer. Dunn told Tutton he was “delighted” with the offer on Saint-Bernard, but the future of Saint-Marie, meanwhile, depends on what he hears at this weekend’s meetings. If congregations are shrinking in the community, then where will new parishioners come from to keep services going? Dunn said to keep Saint-Marie going, other churches in the area would have to close.
“If we’re going to have this church then we don’t need all these (other) churches,” Dunn said. “So they (parishioners) have to make a decision they will be committed to this church, so ultimately there will be one or maybe two churches (in the parish).
“This is what I’m presenting this weekend … It (Sainte Marie) doesn’t have to be a church immediately with everyone moving, but within five years we need to be moving in the direction that we have one major church here or maybe two on the (Acadian) shore.”
I am on the old church beat now, so I will be watching and reading to see what the details are.
Anam Khan at CBC spoke with students and the ex-president of NSCAD about their concerns about racism at the school. Khan writes:
Alexandra Masse remembers the day she went home crying in the spring of 2020 after a staff member at NSCAD University looked at her and said, “it makes sense the virus came from China because the Chinese are so dirty.”
“I genuinely feel it’s an unsafe place if you’re a minority there,” said Masse, who is half Chinese and graduated from the textile and fashion program in 2022.
She is one of seven current and former students who spoke to CBC News about their experiences with racism at the school. They say racialized students at NSCAD are often patronized and disrespected by faculty, and the university does little to protect them.
“I’ve witnessed professors that I absolutely love just tear apart, yell, and curse at Asian international students for literally no other reason than they can’t speak English with, like, a perfect Canadian accent,” said Masse, who grew up in Windsor, Ont.
Last year, Charmaine Nelson, who served as NSCAD’s director of the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, resigned from that role becuase she said she faced discrimination as a Black woman.
Khan also spoke with Dr. Aoife MacNamara, who was appointed as NSCAD president in 2019, but then removed from the role a year later. MacNamara told CBC there was a lot of resistence from the school to understand systemic racism.
MacNamara said she began working with students and other stakeholders in June 2020 to create a task force geared toward developing an anti-racist action plan for the university, after hearing several complaints on the issue. It was called President’s Advisory Council on Anti-Racist Initiatives (PADCARI).
“It was diluted completely,” said MacNamara, because it didn’t have any capacity to make changes.
When a group of Chinese students told her they were being graded unfairly, she recommended that they put a complaint in writing. She said she took that to the relevant dean, but an investigation by the administration found no evidence to uphold the complaint.
“Basically, people want to defend the faculty,” said MacNamara. “It’s more important that nobody is labelled racist than it is to solve the problem.”
Peggy Shannon, the current president of NSCAD, said she hasn’t heard any complaints of racism from students, adding she’s working on making the school more inclusive.
The school has expanded supports for BIPOC students, she said, and an office of opportunity and belonging has been established along with an online system for anonymously reporting discrimination.
She also said 80 per cent of the board has changed over the last three years and they are working to be more inclusive.
Halifax Chamber of Commerce: ‘No one wants to spend money downtown anymore’
I wonder if Patrick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, is licking his wounds today.
Over the past few days, Sullivan has taken a beating online after doing this interview with CBC in which he said HRM workers should get back to their offices in downtown Halifax to spend money and keep restaurants and stores busy.
Sullivan said HRM workers are only in the office two days a week, and said those workers should be back in the office three to four days a week to increase how much they spend at businesses downtown.
Sullivan was tossing out some numbers, saying there were between 3,600 and 5,000 HRM workers downtown. He said having that many workers downtown more often works out to about $3 million to $4 million a year in spending.
“These are taxpayer dollars,” Sullivan said of the HRM workers’ salaries. “And right now we still have the office space, we still have the desks, and we still have people working from home. So, I think we need to make some decisions about whether this is a long-term view or a short-term view of how people are going to work in the future. If it’s a short-term view and we had people work from home during the pandemic, then perhaps it’s time for them to return. If it’s a long-term view that we’re looking for, then maybe we need to divest of some of the office space.”
This was a frustrating interview to listen to. Sullivan said workers should be “fully contributing” to work, that these workers knew there would be expenses like parking and transit when they took HRM jobs, and the chamber would “like to see their taxpayer dollars spent effectively.”
So, HRM workers owe downtown businesses part of their salaries, is that it? So, workers should just suck up the costs of going downtown even if they are saving money and being just as productive working from home?
Coun. Shawn Cleary was on CBC’s Mainstreet on Wednesday talking about Sullivan’s interview and comments. I can’t find the clip online, but Cleary basically called Sullivan’s comments idiocy, and corrected him on some numbers about how many HRM workers actually work downtown and details on office space.
Shaune MacKinlay, Mayor Mike Savage’s chief of staff, had this to say about Sullvian’s interview on Twitter:
The Chamber’s numbers are wrong: Most HRM employees do not work downtown or even in offices. They are frontline: police, fire, transit, public works. They went to their workplaces throughout the pandemic. This is an obvious point that does not fit the narrative.
A lot of commenters rightfully pointed out that people can’t afford to be spending money on lunch out every day. Workers don’t owe any business their lunch money.
Still others pointed out that the Halifax Chamber of Commerce offices aren’t even downtown, but in Burnside where there’s lots of free parking. Sullivan countered that argument by saying all of the chamber staff are in the office five days a week and spending at restaurants in Burnside.
Now, I always say you should avoid working for employers who insist “we’ve always done it this way” and who can’t adapt to changes. The pandemic has changed the nature of work and employers need to change with it. Clearly, working from home is working for workers, so maybe those businesses that depend on the spending of those workers should adapt instead.
I wondered what other area business associations thought of how remote work is affecting business. I contacted Karla Nicholson with the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association, who didn’t have time for a response.
But Tim Rissesco, CEO with the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, sent along this response:
Downtown Dartmouth has less office workers than downtown Halifax. But our businesses do feel it when office buildings empty out like when Fisheries and Oceans vacated Marine House several years ago for the BIO campus.
Our businesses are reporting that post covid spending habits are still not where they were pre-pandemic. There is some benefit for downtown Dartmouth from remote workers as the ones that live in the nearby neighbourhoods frequent our establishments throughout the day.
Like all downtowns across North America, we would like to see more people living in our downtown and I believe that with the mix of development sites that downtown Dartmouth could have a lot more housing for all income levels. The more people that we have living downtown, the more successful our merchants will be!
We support events like the food crawls and open street events to attract people downtown as well as promoting our businesses on social media to keep our friends, neighbours and potential customers up to date on what they could find in downtown Dartmouth.
To its credit, downtown Dartmouth does good work to get folks downtown. In January, they hosted the Ice Festival downtown. During Switch Dartmouth, they closed a few downtown streets for that festival. These events make downtowns more interesting beyond demanding that workers go to the offices there.
Cities, of course, aren’t just places to work. Halifax is now a very expensive place to live. If we want more people downtown, make it a better and more affordable place to live.
But even if there was more affordable housing downtown, there always will be some people who want to live in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Remote work has likely saved those folks lot of time and money on commuting.
And maybe those workers staying closer to home has improved businesses in their communities. Maybe those workers spend more time at coffee shops and restaurants closer to home. Maybe they get more time with their families. And maybe they are more likely to volunteer with organizations closer to home. I’d love to hear how communities outside of downtown Halifax have been affected by remote work.
Instead of fighting to get the workers back to the office, maybe we should think about building and improving the communities where workers want to work.
Young women who want to become nuns
I am not sure if it’s because I was still thinking of Evelyn C. White’s article on Black women who become nuns, but last week I noticed this article, “Behold, the millennial nuns” by Eve Fairbanks in Huffington Post. The article, which is from July 2019, is a long one, but I was so intrigued and wanted to share it with you.
Fairbanks, a millennial herself, tells us about a few young women named Tori, Rachael, and Mackenzie, and their desires to enter the sisterhood. I won’t give away all of what happens, although each story has a different outcome, and some of the young women are still figuring it out.
But if there’s an interest among young women to become nuns, it may have to do with someone else; finding a sense of order, a place to belong, and someone to guide you through life.
Fairbanks spoke with John Olan, who teaches a junior year theology course at St. Mary’s Ryken, a co-ed Catholic high school in Maryland. Each year, Olan invites religious brothers and sisters in for what he calls “vocation talks.” Most of the presenters don’t capture his class’s attention so easily, until one year a “sterner priest” came to talk to the class:
He was dressed in all black and a tight clerical collar. The way Olon characterized him reminded me of Jude Law’s Pius XIII in “The Young Pope”—at once glamorous and traditional. “You are called to holiness,” the priest exhorted the class. “You are called to be saints.”
“I’m sitting at my desk, wincing,” Olon said. He was thinking, “Yeah, not these kids. We need to tone it down.” And then “this one kid, a lacrosse player, very stereotypical, stopped to ask me, ‘Is that guy coming back next week?’”
“Oh, no, don’t worry,” Olon reassured him.
“But I want him back,” Olon remembered the lacrosse player saying. Other classmates agreed. “And I’m like, ‘What?’”
The more Olon thought about his students’ enthusiastic response to the hardcore priest, the more it made sense to him. Millennials and Generation Z kids report much higher levels of social anxiety, pessimism and depression than previous generations. He’d seen it firsthand in his own classroom. “When I ask kids what they want to do in their lives, they’ll say, ‘I guess I’ll get a job,’” Olon told me. They would explain that they had already done everything. They had destroyed worlds, fallen in love, built communities, made art. Then he’d realize that they meant they’d done this all online.
In real life, they were much more fearful. Everything they said — every youthful, experimental pose they struck — became a part of their permanent record on social media. The stakes seemed so high for even tiny choices. Sometimes, after class, they would ask him mournful questions like, “What have I ever really done that has any depth?” They reminded him of people having midlife crises. Yet Olon noticed that the more cornered they seemed, the more pressured they felt to do something truly wholehearted and unique. To be like Steve Jobs and take a huge risk that changed the whole world. Hemmed in on all sides, they also yearned for a tabula rasa, to tear everything down and start over from scratch.
“The level of anxiety and sadness these kids have, I don’t think we can even understand it at this point,” Olon said. “I think there are things these kids are experiencing now that we don’t even have names for.”
Fairbanks wrote this piece a year before the COVID hit. Now in year three of the pandemic, I wondered how young people are feeling, especially those just starting out in adulthood. Many of them missed so many milestones during lockdowns. I am sure we still don’t know the long-term effects the pandemic had on young people.
I wondered, too, if this desire to become a nun was the sisterhood version of “trad wives,” young women who post stories on Instagram about their 1950’s housewife styles and goals. The appeal is in the aesthetic while ignoring the realities of the lives lived by actual housewives of the 50s.
I mentioned Fairbanks’ article to my 20-year-old daughter, the funeral director in training, who said, “nuns are cool.” But when I explained the article was really about young people feeling anxious about their futures and looking for meaning and direction, she sarcastically replied, “Do you think?!”
Parents don’t have the answers either, as hard as we try to be a safe space for our kids. Once after checking out rental ads, my kid said to me, “I’ll never be able to afford to live on my own, will I?” And I didn’t know what to say because clearly so many people out there don’t know if they will be able to afford to live anywhere either.
We had a longer chat on the topic, which I won’t share here, but it got me thinking about young people, their futures, and how the older adults in their lives are letting them down. I wrote about this before after hearing one of those typical kids-these-days conversations.
As I wrote then, I do think kids these days have it tougher. And I say this as a Gen Xer, the cohort that everyone forgets in any discussions on what generation had it worse (that’s not me whining about it). We are all living with several crises: a housing crisis, an affordability crisis, and the climate crisis, and the people who can do something about all of this don’t seem to be doing anything.
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with having a calling and joining a sisterhood, but it’s not a way to escape what’s going on. Fairbanks spoke with several sisters who described their own crises of faith. Young people are still trying to figure the world out and we’re placing a huge burden on them and their futures. No wonder they feel anxious about it.
And many people who don’t go to church find religion in other ways, as Fairbanks writes:
The conviction, in the way we now talk about the climate or the loss of our “values,” that the world will inevitably be ruined because of our sins. Things like Goop and the gluten-free movement are basically straight-up religions, promising spiritual renewal and healing from all sickness, only with a jade yoni egg as the Eucharist. We’re fixated on minimalism and self-purification, be it by the methods of Marie Kondo or “inbox zero” or Jordan Peterson, whose popularity rests less on his insights about Carl Jung or lobster biology than on his idea that life can be boiled down to 12 rules—commandments.
People need something or someone to follow.
Rachael, one of the young women Fairbanks interviewed about wanting to become a nun, described her life as a “wild mouse rollercoaster.” Fairbanks writes:
It’s a particular kind of roller coaster, she explained, one that’s designed to accelerate riders rapidly along a straight track, faster and faster, and then whip them around a turn they couldn’t see. “You get to like going straight,” she said, “but then you can’t anymore.”
That’s what her life had felt like: She’d make a series of decisions, oftentimes encouraged by elders or friends, and as soon as she grew comfortable, some eventuality would whip her around a 90-degree corner, nauseating her, and she’d have to start the whole project of figuring herself out again.
History right now is like the “wild mouse.” We know that we can’t keep going straight in the way we’re going, in terms of consuming the Earth’s resources, in terms of the deepening of inequality and the specter of automation, in terms of proposing a complete mastery over the world and over the courses of our lives. We’re fucking things up, but the turn remains hidden.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
Public Information Meeting (Thursday, 5:30pm, HEMDCC Meeting room, Alderney Gate) — Case 24619, application for an addition to the former Dartmouth Post Office at 53 Queen Street, Dartmouth
Artificial Intelligence, ChatGPT, and academic integrity (Thursday, 2pm, online) — free 90-minute panel discussion
In the harbour
05:30: One Helsinki, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:15: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
13:00: Morning Charlotte, car carrier, sails from Pier 9 for sea
21:30: One Helsinki sails for New York
21:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
On Saturday, I am co-hosting a session, along with Patricia Hyland, at the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia about writing about your ancestors. Looks like we have a full house for the afternoon. I think there will be some Examiner readers there, too.