1. Everything you wanted to know about NDAs, and whether they should be banned
Non-disclosure agreements have become a current political issue, and Jennifer Henderson is here with a helpful guide to understanding the arguments for and against banning them.
First, we’re not talking about business-related NDAs here, but about agreements arising from out-of-court settlements over discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.
Nova Scotia Justice minister Brad Johns had considered banning NDAs in these cases, decided not to, and didn’t really give a good reason why.
As Henderson writes:
At the time, Johns said he was unprepared to explain to reporters the reasons for his decision other than it was based on “multiple factors.”
“I can follow up with you,” Johns told reporters. “I don’t want to say something and be misquoted.”
So, Henderson followed up. (Quick aside: people are almost never misquoted in stories by journalists. We record conversations, and when we can’t record them we take notes. We have lots and lots of experience in taking very good notes. So, usually when someone complains about being misquoted, what they’re saying is that they want to distance themselves from what they said. Do we sometimes get it wrong? Occasionally, sure, and we make sure to correct the record if we do.)
Back to Henderson’s story though. She writes:
Within the past year, both the NDP and Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin had introduced bills that would ban the use of NDAs where the complaint involved sexual harassment or sexual assault.
Other provinces, such as Manitoba referenced by Johns, have been considering broader bans on “misconduct” that include discrimination and sexual harassment.
Johns claims his department considered “the totality of the research” on NDAs but his response to the Examiner makes no mention of what’s happening in several other places.
This is classic Nova Scotia political behaviour: what happens elsewhere doesn’t matter, because we’re different.
Henderson then looks at the findings of the 2023 Manitoba Law Reform Commission on NDAs, legislative changes in PEI and Ontario, and “legislative action” underway at the federal level, as well as potential impacts on the court system.
It is an illuminating read.
2. Seniors’ group calls for full provincial funding of respiratory vaccines
A national seniors’ advocacy group wants Nova Scotia to “fund all federally recommended vaccines and focus on getting them into the arms of as many seniors as possible,” Yvette d’Entremont reports.
D’Entremont speaks with the group’s CEO, Laura Tamblyn Watts, who lives in Digby County:
“Now we have, at long last in our province, finally made good on the promise to fully fund the seniors-specific flu vaccine. So that is good. So we’ve seen some progress. We’ve seen no progress on the other vaccines.”
Adult safety, she said, isn’t just about seniors. It includes those who are immune compromised and people working in congregate settings like schools, hospitals, and in long-term care.
“What we want is Nova Scotians to be able to hug their grandchildren or their children without worrying that this is going to kill them,” she said.
Tamblyn Watts also points out that “it’s really hard to get your vaccines in Nova Scotia, and that doesn’t need to be the case because we did a terrific job with COVID-19 distribution.”
We will learn more about how that holds up after today’s announcement by the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, on plans for the latest COVID-19 vaccine.
The CanAge vaccine access report gave Nova Scotia a D. But we didn’t even do that well on the new Poverty Report Card by Food Banks Canada. It gave Nova Scotia an F — the only province to receive that grade.
Yvette d’Entremont wrote about the Poverty Report Card last week, when it was released, and you can read that story here. Today, in his weekly column, Stephen Kimber looks at the provincial government’s response, and does not find a lot of hope that they will actually do anything to improve the situation. He writes:
Shall we parse?
There is no question that the cost of living is a challenge for many, and people are struggling with affordability and housing across the country.
A challenge for many… struggling across the county… Uh, remind me. Which province got the F? Which provincial government is responding with a canned statement about poverty writ large instead of granting an interview to explain what it will do to improve?…
We realize that — as is highlighted by the report — there is more to do in our province. It will take all levels of government, the private sector, and community working together to come up with solutions.
I had imagined, for the briefest of flickering moments, that the Houston government was about to wear its own responsibility for our embarrassing F. But no. Note the pivot to spreading responsibility like manure in the garden.
It goes on, and it’s all worth reading. Is it possible to be both scathing and somewhat understated? I think that’s what Kimber has pulled off in this column. You should read it.
At CBC, Tom Ayers reports on a complaint about living conditions at Keltic Lodge, and the slow response of provincial inspectors.
The original complaint came from Orlando Rosas, a temporary worker from Mexico.
At the time, Rosas said the staff residence was often damp. He took pictures of mould growing on his clothes and on residence walls, and items in the laundry room.
He also said his cousin got so sick with pneumonia he had to go home to Mexico.
Two weeks later, Nova Scotia Labour inspected part of the Keltic Lodge complex, but, Ayers writes, “did not investigate Rosas’s complaints about mould in the living quarters because the department’s jurisdiction only covers workplaces.”
Federal inspectors also looked into the complaint, but the government won’t comment for privacy reasons. (Everyone’s favourite obfuscatory shield.)
Stacey Gomez, who manages the migrant worker program with No One Is Illegal, told Ayers:
“I do believe that it’s the minimum and that there does need to be more done,” she said. “This doesn’t send a good message to other migrant workers who may be in unsafe living and working conditions.”
5. Sable Island horses
Back to CBC for this next item, a story from Paul Withers on a Parks Canada report saying 150 horses died on Sable Island last winter. That’s more than double the annual average.
Sable Island ecologist Dan Kehler says the horses are most vulnerable in late winter when their energy reserves are lower and grass is harder to find.
“They do carry a parasite load and in the wintertime there isn’t a lot of forage for them. So those factors, together with cold, wet, windy weather can create some challenges and lead to mortality,” Kehler told CBC News.
He says there have been similar sized die-offs in the past yet the horse population of Sable Island National Park Reserve has continued to grow.
The population was at an all-time high last summer, and biologist Philip McLoughlin tells Withers the increased mortality is “a correction” and the herd itself is not threatened.
How misogynist hate groups target young men, and what to do about it
Last month, Steve McCullough, a writer with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, published a piece about the “manosphere.” It’s a dive into the world of online misogyny. Here is how the piece starts:
The “manosphere” refers to a wide variety of men’s groups operating on the internet and offline. Many describe themselves as fighting against progressive (or “woke”) ideas about gender equality. Manosphere influencers often assert the unfounded idea that men are naturally dominant. They distort biology and evolution to argue that restrictive gender norms are “natural.”…
Like white supremacy, male supremacy appeals to men who feel alienated in a changing world. Manosphere influencers promise men support and meaning. But they deny rights and respect to women, trans and nonbinary people. They also advance a narrow idea of masculinity that puts harmful limits on what it means to be a man…
But manosphere influencers and believers aren’t just weird cultural outsiders. Many of the sexist beliefs that motivate them are all too common in modern society. The manosphere takes everyday biases and magnifies them to misogynist extremes.
McCullough writes about different manosphere sub-cultures, the role of memes, recruitment, radicalization, and the motivation for a lot of this online hatred.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the red pill in the image above is a reference to The Matrix. As McCullough writes:
Memes about taking the “red pill” are very common. It often implies that learning male supremacist ideas (being “red‐pilled”) will wake you up to the feminine forces secretly oppressing men.
After reading the piece, I spoke with McCullough about why young men in particular are drawn to these worlds, and what can be done about it. This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Philip Moscovitch: Why did you want to write this piece about online misogyny for the museum?
Steve McCullough: There are a few, to me, obvious gaps in our online content. One of them was digital culture and another was misogyny. There’s also the more personal explanation, which is that I’ve seen a lot of this stuff online, and it’s obviously been getting worse in recent years. And I wanted to write something that sort of tackled why people get involved, instead of just marvelling at the spectacle of how awful it is.
PM: Why do people get involved?
SM: People typically get involved with kind of these radical movements because they’re suffering in some way, or they’re looking for an answer of some sort to something in their lives. It’s often loneliness, it’s often frustration. And what starts out as perhaps a simple search for help or support can turn into something quite a lot darker, thanks to social media algorithms, but also active recruitment on the part of what used to be fringe groups.
My attention was drawn partly by stories about teachers having to deal with this in their middle school classrooms — and currently, one of the biggest sources of information about how to try and debunk or resist [online misogyny] is actually coming from teachers and teachers’ organizations, and organizations that do work in schools on healthy relationships, and are seeing this among adolescent boys especially.
PM: The internet wasn’t around when I was a teenager, but if I am being completely honest with myself, I could totally imagine myself being susceptible to this stuff.
SM: Oh, 100 percent. Let me say that, so you can quote me. Another part of my interest was the fact that I experienced my own times of loneliness and confusion and alienation, especially during adolescence. And if these kinds of superficially compelling folks were out there telling me they had answers, I could see myself falling into this trap.
PM: Part of the appeal seems to be that the world is confusing, and here is someone offering simple answers, right?
SM: Oh, there’s all kinds of stuff in the culture that plays out the dynamic of people gravitating towards a simple answer that also frees them of any sort of guilt or responsibility. One of the things pickup culture does — and it fades over pretty quickly into white supremacy — is say, “You are OK; you, white man, are OK, and I have an answer and a technique.”
The hustle bros are the same thing. You too could be rich. You can be surrounded by models and flashy cars, and it’s OK to want these things. It’s aspirational, it’s validating, and it does address what are legitimately existential sources of angst and anxiety for all kinds of people. I especially identify the adolescent folks who really are a target of this, but it’s certainly not an alien experience to any adult to find themselves confused and alone, or disappointed, or frustrated with their lot in life. The consistent thread that runs through all the different manosphere groups — and there’s more than I wrote about — typically is the simpleminded blaming of whatever situation you’re in on women/feminism. The nativist/ethno-nationalist blaming of everything on immigration plays with the same kind of simplistic logic.
PM: When there were all these stories wondering why young westerners would join ISIS, I remember thinking well, maybe it’s because it’s offering them a vision, as opposed to… what, you can work a minimum wage job for years. How does the current state of capitalism play into this?
SM: Studies in radicalization show that there are both push and pull factors. People get pushed by things like their life circumstance. Maybe they have a difficult family life. Maybe there is an economic crisis. There are things that make them feel anxious, upset, like they’ve lost something, like they’re not where they ought to be socially, economically, financially, romantically. There’s an alienation in that, and a sense of powerlessness. And the pull factors then are the person who says, “We believe you, we validate you, we have answers for you, we can help you. Come with us. We agree with you.” And you can see a similar recruiting dynamic in this idea of ISIS recruitment. You could see it in cult dynamics. Twenty years ago, people were perplexed about gang recruitment.
It’s offering someone a replacement for a kind of sense of belonging and identity and stability that they don’t have — even if the context of what’s being offered is deeply harmful and problematic. We all want to believe that we are good people doing the right thing. And if somebody is willing to tell us that, it’s a very powerful thing to hear, especially if we’re not hearing it from elsewhere. There’s a reason why they harp on the “war on men” thing. It’s to increase that sense of alienation, heightening that sense of push: You are alienated, even if you don’t know it. You are being victimized, and we will help you. So there’s the double logic of creating a problem to which they offer a solution.
Not that there aren’t actual problems! It’s important to be sympathetic to that. Large-scale changes in society have been unsettling all sorts of relationships, but it’s really society-wide and it’s that tempting thing of the simple answer, creating a villain, and validating you.
I think for a lot of people, especially men who were socialized as men, it’s easier to feel anger than sadness a lot of the time. A lot of these influencers, and I’m not even talking about the really fringe people online, but talk radio and a lot of mainstream pundits, are very into encouraging their version of traditional masculine values, which tend towards values of control and anger and violence. And that really sets a dangerous foundation.
PM: Let’s say you’re a parent, or family member or friend, and there’s a young man in your life drawn to these kinds of misogynistic influencers. What can you do?
SM: I think the only real answer to that is the hard one, which is you’ve got to keep having conversations, and you’ve got to – as much as possible — keep inviting people in. Because the more you push them away, that will worsen the problem. The idea of a compassionate conversation that is nonetheless also challenging is a tough line to walk. These aren’t things that happen to us on a rational level. Someone isn’t going to be argued out of their interest in some of these ideas, because they’re fulfilling a need that is social and emotional. So you have to address them on that level. And, you know, that can open the door to other kinds of conversations. But fundamentally, there has to be the idea of maintaining a connection with someone you care about who’s going down that road. It’s the hardest answer. It’s not the answer anyone wants.
PM: And in the oversimplification of online discourse, there is the approach of, “Well, you’re a piece of shit, and I’m not having anything to do with you.”
SM: And you know what’s really amazing? There’s a bunch of people over there on that bodybuilding forum who are willing to tell them they’re not a piece of shit. And in fact, the people telling them they’re a piece of shit is just society trying to control them. And we’ve got the truth for you, man. You can really see how it would work. We all need validation and social recognition and acceptance. And it’s very easy for it to turn into a sort of self-reinforcing feedback loop, where as someone gets more enmeshed, their peer groups tend to reject them, which means they get more enmeshed.
PM: I know you’ve spent a lot of time online over the years, and that’s often not a good thing. Was doing this research hard on you personally?
SM: Oh, the research was very hard. Absolutely. It was difficult. The kinds of rhetoric and ideas that are out there in these groups are so much worse than what made it into the piece. The piece talks about some pretty rough and violent things, but it is barely scratching the surface in many cases. Some of the stuff that gets said and the language that gets used is almost unbelievable.
I thought the piece had to go far enough to illustrate the seriousness of the situation, but there’s a point at which reaching the right audiences was more important. And I think not wanting to completely vilify these folks is important, although strongly criticizing them is. I tried to walk the line of being sympathetic to people who might be attracted to this world, but being critical of people who are in it, and actively recruiting people to it.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate, and online) — agenda
Human Resources (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — Implementing the Equity and Anti-Racism Strategy; Agency, Board and Commission Appointments; with representatives from the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives
Pollinator Garden Tour (Tuesday, 8am, behind Sheriff Hall and Ocean Science Building) — for three hours, until 11am, today and tomorrow
The Dalhousie Review Public Author Reading (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — with Margo Wheaton and Ian Colford
Pollinator Garden Tour (Wednesday, 8am, behind Sheriff Hall and Ocean Science Building) — until 11am
Brass and Percussion Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Strug Concert Hall) — with students from the Fountain School of performing Arts; more info here
Mount Saint Vincent
Fireside Chat (Tuesday, 7pm, Rosaria Multi-purpose Room and online) — an Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre series of events focused on building equity in early childhood. Local experts with practical experience in the Atlantic provinces will share their knowledge and insights. Also live-streamed on YouTube; more info and registration for in-person event here.
Opening Reception (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — various artists
Poetry as Praxis (Tuesday, 7pm, Art Gallery, Loyola Building) — poet Ed Madden in conversation with Seán Kennedy; the exhibition Kaleidoscope will be on display
In the harbour
05:00: NYK Demeter, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint John
06:45: Viking Star, cruise ship with up to TK passengers, arrives at Pier 27 from Boston, on a 12-day cruise from New York to Montreal
09:00: Vision of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,443 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
10:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for West Palm Beach, Florida
10:30: One Cygnus, container ship (146,694 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Norfolk
15:00: Spirit of Discovery, cruise ship with up to 999 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Portsmouth, England, on a 28-day roundtrip cruise out of Portsmouth
17:00: Vision of the Seas sails for Sydney
17:45: Viking Star sails for Gaspé
20:00: NYK Demeter sails for Southampton, England
23:45: Spirit of Discovery sails for Boston
06:30: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Charlottetown, on a 10-day cruise from Quebec City to Fort Lauderdale
06:30: Seven Seas Mariner, cruise ship with up to 779 passengers, arrives at Sydney anchorage from Corner Brook, on an 11-day cruise from Montreal to New York
08:30: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier (Sydney) from Shelburne, on an 18-day cruise from New York to Montreal
10:30: Sonangol Porto Amboim, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
11:30: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from New York
15:00: Zuiderdam sails for Halifax
16:00: Seven Seas Mariner sails for Shelburne
16:30: Insignia sails for Corner Brook
17:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax
Do not floss your teeth immediately after cutting hot peppers.