1. Privacy “breach”

I got the letter.

I hadn’t checked my PO box for a few days, but yesterday I finally got the registered letter telling me my personal information was “breached” via the province’s Freedom of Information webpage screw-up. It was pouring down rain, like cats and dogs and goats and other small animals, so the letter got a little wet. Here it is:

I’m not overly concerned about my particular information — if I understand this correctly, my name, PO Box number, and email address were released. That’s the same PO Box number and email address that’s readily available on this site’s “contact” page. Additionally, I guess the letters from the FOIPOP office outlining the gigantic fees they wanted to charge me for a few requests I made were also released, and the details of those requests. I don’t mind if people out there in the world read that. I did have an interesting back-and-forth with one FOIPOP worker about one particular file; but he was professional and helpful and I didn’t write anything that I wouldn’t want public. So in terms of its impact on me personally, all this warrants a gigantic shrug.

Other people who had their personal information posted on the website might feel differently. I can imagine scenarios that might cause difficulty for people — someone FOIPOPing their personal health records or police reports that name them, to give just two examples.

I had an interesting back-and-forth with someone on Twitter yesterday about the word “breach.” We concluded that the province is using the word to purposefully confuse people.

When the province tells me that my information was “the subject of unauthorized access in a breach of your privacy,” it is making two claims:

First, it is claiming that the person who accessed the information — who we now know was a 19-year-old Halifax man — was “unauthorized.” Well, I guess he wasn’t specifically authorized by the province to see that information, but it’s another thing entirely to say he accessed the information in an unauthorized fashion. That’s quite the contestable claim. He went to a publicly available website, after all.

Second, the “in a breach of your privacy” can be read two ways. The proper way to read it is that the province breached its security protocols by placing the the information on a public-facing website. This is undeniably true. But that’s not how they want us to read this; they’d rather us read it the second way. That is, they imply that the teenager breached the website. But he did no such thing. Given the information that has been released publicly, he appears to have simply scraped the website in the same manner that is used by plenty of people and businesses every day for perfectly legitimate purposes.

That is to say, the word “breach” is being used to conflate the province’s screw-up with the teenager’s legal curiosity — to confuse us.

I’ve been using weird constructs like “so-called breach,” “non-breach,” or “breach” in scare quotes, but this is only legitimatizing the province’s confusing language. I’ll try to think of a better word.

Meanwhile, reports Michael Tutton for the Canadian Press:

David Fraser, a privacy lawyer who is leading the 19-year-old’s defence, said Thursday that after meeting with the youth, he’s further convinced he was merely downloading information he believed to be in the public realm.

Fraser said the youth unknowingly gathered some personal information last month that the province should have taken basic steps to protect.

“I’m optimistic that based on all the publicly available information … there’s nothing to suggest a fraudulent or malevolent intent. That’s an essential element of the offence in the Criminal Code … and I don’t see that there,” he said.

The lawyer said he’s hopeful that police will reach the same conclusion, as they attempt to determine from their investigation if there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a crime was committed.

2. More on sponsored content

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Tuesday, I deconstructed Northern Pulp Mill’s “sponsored content” in the Chronicle Herald, noting that:

But of course, I’m not editing the piece, and no one at the Herald is editing it either.

It’s just advertising disguised as a news article. Worse, it’s purposefully misleading advertising. Honestly, I can’t even believe this passes muster with the Herald’s advertising standards.

Wednesday, David Patriquin followed up with his own deconstructing, and also with a list of questions he sent the Herald, and yesterday he published the Herald’s responses:

1 Are ads carried electronically in the Chronicle Herald targeted in any way, e.g., to show up when a reader views certain content?
Answer: Yes, we GEO Target.

2 How do the costs for “Sponsored Content” compare with the cost of putting the equivalent amount of material or space in an ad?
Ans: A ¼ page ad size cost to run in print 1 day = $2661 + tax. Rate Card attached.

3 Are there guidelines or specific requirements for Sponsored Content?
Guidelines are in the PDF

4 Do Chronicle Herald staff write any Sponsored Content?
Ans: Yes, but you [the sponsor] don’t have any say in it.

5 If so, what are their journalistic guidelines?
Ans: All stories in the CH are subject to news content and they write them, sponsored content is not your best option unless you don’t care what you sponsor.

6 How long does a Sponsored Content item remain posted? Is it always available as an archive?
Ans: 2 -4 weeks

It took some clarification through a direct phone conversation for me to understand what is involved related to questions 3,4, and 5.

Sponsored Content is written by Chronicle Herald staff from materials provided by the sponsor. I was told that the Chronicle Herald staff have “red flags” that they adhere to; if something doesn’t smell right… they do their due diligence; they can’t put false information out to the market place…and the content has to be useful to the readership.

3. Pregnant nurse attacked

Personal security alarms held together with masking tape. Photo: NSGEU

I received a police release yesterday at 2:55pm relating to an attack that happened on Monday:

Investigators with the General Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division are investigating an assault that occurred at the East Coast Forensic Hospital.

On April 23 at 3:08 p.m. police received a report that a female employee had been assaulted by a female patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, 88 Gloria McCluskey Drive in Dartmouth.

The victim was transported to the hospital by EHS with non-life-threatening injuries. The investigation is ongoing.

That apparently was in response to a press release issued by the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union (NSGEU) 36 minutes earlier, at 2:19pm:

A nurse was attacked and sent to hospital days after the Nova Scotia Health Authority called a request for an independent violence in the workplace risk assessment a ‘waste of time’, says NSGEU President Jason MacLean.
“This nurse, 33 weeks pregnant, while being attacked by a patient was left completely vulnerable because her personal security alarm was not within reach and held together with masking tape which made it impossible to signal for help,” says MacLean. “This issue was brought to the employer two months ago, on two different occasions, and each time the concerns were dismissed. This nurse could have lost a child. What more is it going to take before the NSHA takes action to protect its nurses and health care workers?”
On February 23, 2018, in accordance with the Occupational Health & Safety Act a report was submitted to NSHA management, part of that report included:
  • Concerns that Personal Security Alarms (PLAs) were not consistently in working order;
  • The PLA is triggered by using a slide button, the tape being used to hold the PLAs together prevented the emergency slide button from being easily activated;
  • The secondary alarm is triggered by pulling a string to remove the bottom plate, this is also hindered by the use of tape; (see photos)
  • A request for a qualified independent violence in the work place risk assessment be conducted.
 These, along with other health and safety concerns, were not addressed to the satisfaction of the employees so on March 28, 2018 a report was submitted to the Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee. In a follow-up meeting on April 16, 2018, the employees were told a violence in the workplace risk assessment would be a waste of time.
“One week after having their safety concerns dismissed this nurse was attacked. If not for others hearing her screams who knows what the outcome could have been for her and her unborn child,” says MacLean. “For too long the NSHA has turned a blind eye to the safety concerns of nurses and health care worker who are doing their best to hold a broken health care system together. These are dedicated women and men who are committed to caring for sick and vulnerable people. They should be given the tools to do their jobs safely.”

4. Tantallon highway crash victim identified

Liv Colley. Photo: Facebook

One of the people killed in a single-vehicle highway crash Wednesday near Tantallon has been identified as 21-year-old Liv Colley. Colley was a member of the Dartmouth Rugby Pigdogs RFC.

5. Beer

“The Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia is alleging that a recent move by the New Brunswick Liquor Corp. (ANBL) contradicts something called the Maritime Beer Accord, potentially stunting the industry,” reports Andrea Gunn for the Chronicle Herald.

As Gunn explains, the “beer accord” has allowed small brewers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to sell beer in each other’s retail stores without going through the provincial liquor agencies. Well, until now. ANBL has told Picaroons Brewing in Fredericton that it can no longer sell Nova Scotian beer.

Gunn goes on to unpack the complex history of the so-called Maritime Beer Accord; I was struck by this passage:

According to a smattering of old news articles and various internet citations, this Maritime Beer Accord was basically a handshake agreement between the liquor corporations of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, made more than a decade ago,

A news release issued back in 2007 by the New Brunswick government said the agreement was put in place to lay groundwork for both Sleeman Breweries and Molson Canada to distribute their beer in both provinces under local brewer status.

It’s interesting to see who wields power in the Maritimes, and who doesn’t.

6. The $48 NSF Fee Octagon

Stephen Archibald went to Washington, D.C., and while walking around Georgetown came upon a bank building that looked awfully familiar:

Photo: Stephen Archibald


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

5:30am: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
8am: Selfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 35 for sea
8am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
8am: Athens Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Jacksonville, Florida
8am: Artania, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for St. John’s
8:30am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
9am: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
3:30pm: Athens Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Crete I, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
5pm: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s


Tomorrow, I’ll be part of a panel discussion on “The Future of Journalism in Atlantic Canada.” I have no idea what the future of journalism in Atlantic Canada or anywhere else will be, but I guess I’ll talk about what I’m doing with the Examiner and how that works. Some fun and interesting people, who are probably smarter than me, are also on the panel. If you’re not an AJA member, you can come to all the sessions tomorrow for $40, or $20 if you’re a student.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Thanks for always posting Noticed In Nova Scotia. It’s a precious gem I might otherwise miss.

  2. It’s ridiculous to blame someone of breaching who, with a few keystrokes on a public website, is able to access confidential information that we expect and trust to be guarded by our government. I’d say offer the boy a summer job, give him full access to all public government websites and let him complete the ‘acceptance testing’ that SHOULD have been done already. Those search option functions should have already been subjected to someone trying every which way to produce a wrong result.