News

1. “An apology would be nice and I would like to know what happened”

A roadside memorial for Kristen Beaton. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Last night the Mass Casualty Commission hosted an open house in Debert which family members of those killed in the shootings in April 2020 attended. Jennifer Henderson spoke with some family, including Victoria Dickie, Joey Webber’s aunt.

“We wanted to let them know we are here.” She was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a colour photo of a smiling, handsome man who was her nephew. “We have a list of questions that we passed on tonight to someone with the Commission. I came to find out if they were sincere and I feel somewhat reassured. There will be no rest until we get some answers.”

Henderson also spoke with Joy McCabe, who was in her kitchen when two men jump out of an unmarked car and started shooting at a RCMP police car and a uniformed Emergency Measures official at the Onslow fire hall. McCabe told Henderson they deserve an apology.

For a whole year nobody from the RCMP came to see us. I just need some answers. Why aren’t they taking shooting practice or learning how to handle their guns? I now have PTSD and anxiety. It’s hard to go to work every day when I jump anytime there’s a bang.

Other open houses are scheduled for the next three afternoons in Truro, Millbrook, and Wentworth. More information is available here.

Click here to read Henderson’s story.

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2. Code critical: patients are waiting hours for ambulances

Jennifer Henderson was busy this weekend and has a second story today, on a report from Nova Scotia Health that shows offload times of hours in all of the province’s health zones — far off from the province’s target of 30 minutes to offload 90% of patients arriving at emergency departments. Henderson writes:

At Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, nine out of 10 ambulances waited more than three hours at Emergency. In June that would have been a two-hour wait. At Cape Breton Regional Hospital, the wait time was one hour and 20 minutes, or nearly three times the half-hour benchmark. The South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater reported nine out of 10 patients waiting two hours to be admitted to its emergency department.

And the waits are long in the Central Zone, too. Henderson again:

During the first three weeks of August, ambulances waited four hours to offload patients at the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Sackville. Cobequid ER nurse manager Jamie Stewart described working conditions “as a war zone” in a recent interview with The Current on CBC Radio. Stewart described one night early in September when the 30 beds were full, 44 patients were in the waiting room, and eight ambulances were lined up outside. The Sackville community health centre isn’t supposed to be open after midnight, but the same tired staff continued to work through to the next day to handle the backlog of patients.

Meanwhile at the Dartmouth General Hospital, paramedics averaged more than three hours (185 minutes) waiting to discharge their patients.

What’s behind all the long wait times? Click here to read Henderson’s full story.

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3. Happy “Right to Know Week,” Canada!

Last week, Joan Baxter had a two-part series on Right to Know Week — you can read part 1 here and part 2 here. Well, today kicks off the actual Right to Know Week, and Baxter has a new article for us to celebrate!

If you recall, Baxter included this bit in her postscript in part 2.

On March 18 this year — six months ago — I submitted an ATIP to the federal government for information on Pieridae Energy’s request to Ottawa for federal financing for its proposed LNG plant in Goldboro, Nova Scotia. On Apr. 1, I received a letter saying that the Department of Finance Canada needed an additional 30 + 90 days to “comply with” my request. That meant I should have had the information on August 1. On Aug. 5, I wrote to ask for an update and was told the file would be sent to me by Aug. 16. On Sept. 13, I wrote again for news of the [Access to Information] ATIP, and was told by the Senior ATIP Advisor that she “hoped to have it moving along” and sent out soon. No word since then.

Well, Baxter finally heard back. I won’t give it all away because neither did the ATIP.

Click here to read the entire story.

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4. Canada voted, but your vote may not count ⁠— again

In his latest column, Stephen Kimber talks about electoral reform and continued promises to make it happen. Six years ago during the federal election, Justin Trudeau said, “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

And electoral reform came up again in the last federal election. As Kimber writes:

Trudeau insisted, for photo-op purposes, that he remained open to getting rid of the first-past-the-post system, but it was no longer a priority since there was “no consensus.”

So, what’s next? Kimber writes:

How likely do you think it will be that the Liberals bring in electoral reform in this term? Your first two guesses don’t count.

Support for other parties is just as skewed but in different ways. The NDP won 17.7% of votes cast but ended up with just 7.4% of seats. The Greens got 2.3% of votes cast but just 0.6% of seats. Maxime Bernier’s right-wing People’s Party, on the other hand, won 5.1% of votes but got no seats at all.

Wait a minute! If there was simple proportional representation, that means the right-wing, anti-vaxx fringe PPC could end up with 20 seats! Who wants that?

Not me, but I’d rather have those marginal views represented in the House of Commons where they can be countered than in the streets where their fringe frustrations can grow unchecked.

Click here to read Kimber’s column.

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5. Dal party

Well, there was a big party on the streets around the campus of Dalhousie University this weekend.

As Vernon Ramesar reported for CBC, hundreds of students had a party on the streets near Dalhousie on Saturday afternoon. Thousands more students attended another party in the same area that evening. Ten people were arrested for public intoxication and HRP handed out tickets to partiers for carrying open liquor. 

As you can imagine, social media was all over this story all weekend. Lots of people said kids will be kids and they don’t deserve to pay a big price for mistakes of their youth (one student in this article from CBC said after a first year under COVID restrictions, students deserved the party). Others talked about the safety of the residents in the neighborhood whose yards were wrecked by partiers. Others talked about the way in which police handled (or didn’t handle) the party compared with the way in which police evicted homeless people from shelters and tents last month. 

Nick Sowers, an emergency physician who also lives in the area where the party happened, tweeted this out Sunday afternoon: 

On Sunday afternoon, Dalhousie released this statement condemning the actions of the students, saying they’d “be pursuing disciplinary action under our Code of Student Conduct.”

Later Sunday night, Dal sent out this tweet (if you don’t know, all caps means they’re yelling).

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6. Hundreds march through Halifax to demand action on climate change

Dalhousie Student Union Vice President Mazen Brisha chants into a megaphone during the School Strike for Climate Change in Halifax on Sept. 24, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

On Friday, Zane Woodford was in downtown Halifax as hundreds marched as part of Global Climate Strike. That’s an an international student-led protest first started by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in 2019. The march included students and MLAs from all three major parties.

Woodford spoke with one of the main organizers:

Lilian Hougan-Veenma, one of the organizers and a Grade 12 student at Citadel High School, said she got involved because she was experiencing increasing anxiety about climate change.

“It got to the point where it was like I couldn’t continue living my life in a way that was like happy and fulfilled unless I did something to organize,” Hougan-Veenma said in an interview at the strike on Friday.

Nova Scotia and Canada should have stricter climate change targets, Hougan-Veenma said.

Click here to read Woodford’s complete story.

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Lessons in acceptance and inclusivity from Zack’s crew

Leona Burkey with her daughter Maggie and son Zack.

Last week, Leona Burkey gave a talk to her son’s Grade 5 classmates at Atlantic Memorial-Terence Bay Elementary. She has given this talk before. Burkey, a professional singer-songwriter and musician I’ve interviewed in the past, shared this message about that talk on her Facebook page:

My son Zack is in Gr. 5 and on the autism spectrum. There was a time when we lost a lot of sleep over what his public school experience would be like. Every September I go in to his school for a frank little talk with his classmates about the weird and wonderful world of autism. This morning there were three grades / 90+ kids in the “talk” all sharing and chatting about neurodiversity. All supported by this incredible little school. My heart nearly busted open.

On Saturday, I chatted with Burkey about this talk, about Zack, and what the students at Atlantic Memorial have taught her about inclusivity and acceptance.

Zack was diagnosed as on the autism spectrum when he was around three years old. Burkey said they delayed his start to public school by one year. But before that first year in Grade Primary, as she says in her Facebook post, she and her husband did lose sleep over how Zack would do at school.

As a family we were all losing our minds and hoping that he can handle this. Can the school handle it? He had some physical behaviours that would be curious for a primary kid. So, he didn’t speak a whole lot. He’s very verbal now. A lot of it was around trying to build as welcoming an environment as possible. 

Atlantic Memorial-Terence Bay Elementary in Shad Bay is a small school of a couple hundred of students. Burkey said from the very first day, the administrators, teachers, and EPAs were accommodating, and worked to get ready for Zack. But she still wanted to connect with other students.

I almost felt like all of that effort would be maximized if we had a chance to talk with his classmates without him there, to talk about some of these weird and wonderful things that they might notice or they might have questions.

That first year, Burkey gave each primary student a tiny jewel to keep to remind them that kids are all different but still also the same. She and the kids talked about activities they loved and things Zack liked to do. Then they got into what she calls the “curiosities of autism.”

Kids are so accepting, way more than adults, I discovered. He was the only kid on the autism spectrum. His classmates were amazing. They were asking very candid questions, just like kids do. Does Zack talk? Does he have pets? Why does he flap his arms? Or why does he make sounds? All of these things have really diminished over the years and Zack is a lot more social, but then other curiosities came up. So, it just become a thing and it was very organic. Once kids had a chance to ask questions on their own terms, they said, “Oh, we’ve got this figured out.”

When I see kids shooting their hands up and jumping out of their seats to put in their two cents about what they think of Zack, how they’ve supported him … it’s extraordinarily warm. I can’t think of how the experience could have been more positive over the years. They really are remarkable.

Because Zack’s school is so small, some of the same kids take part in the talk each year and share all what they’ve learned. Zack doesn’t take part in the talks. Burkey says she thought students might be more open about asking real questions if they didn’t have to be worried about making Zack feel uncomfortable.

Burkey said that the school, teachers, and Zack’s long-time EPA have been “extraordinary.” (They nominated his EPA for a certificate of excellence from Autism Nova Scotia.) Zack now is not the only the student at the school who is on the spectrum, so she says the teachers benefit from the talk, too.

To have that happen in real time with the students who share the classroom space with Zack,  I think it helps the teachers, too. It feels like walking the walk on inclusivity. That’s what blows me away. It happened organically. And it’s because of this little school. They really, really try hard. I think it makes it easier for the teachers to support each other. Everyone is on the same page.

Burkey says the talks have given her a “sigh of relief.”

Children have such a natural way of accepting each other’s differences. If you give them a little bit of knowledge … and reminding them that Zack might not say much, but he understands everything that’s coming in. I think for me as a mom, especially when I look back at the first few years we did it, to see some of his crew, classmates who have been with him from the beginning, who now have become experts in their friend and what he’s into, what he loves, what makes him different, and what makes them the same. They’re the ones who pipe up first. To see them proud to have known Zack all this years and learn these things. It’s the furthest thing from awkward … when you discuss it openly, it takes the fear out of the equation.

Burkey said initially the family worried about Zack making friends. But that worry didn’t become a reality. She said all of Zack’s birthday parties have been filled with kids from his school. She calls them Zack’s “crew.”

I have never had to call a mom to make arrangements to make sure Zack has a few kids at his birthday party. They roll in here, the entire crew. It makes my heart burst every year.

Those connections extend beyond the school grounds. Burkey remembers last winter the family went out sledding at a nearby golf course. School had been online, thanks to COVID-19. There were two boys from Zack’s class there.

One came over and said, “Zack, hey buddy, it’s good to see you. Come over here and slide with us.” I saw Zack’s face light up and off they went having sled races. He called them “my kids.” There have been so many lovely examples of that where it hasn’t been the teachers creating that environment. It’s everybody and the kids are in on it, too. Having them in on the chats gives them a lot of respect for the support they provide every day.

Maggie and Zack riding the waves.

Burkey says in the talks they do an exercise in which she asks them about their favourite thing. Every kid has a favourite thing from a pet to a TV show. She says they use that as an example to show them they are all different and have different things they love. Then they talk about Zack’s favourite things like video games, sports, riding his bike, and his biggest love — beaches with big waves, especially those post-storm waves. Zack has a slapstick humour and a belly laugh that Burkey says “slays” people. She calls it his gift. She says he’s come a long way and she credits him being fully immersed in school life for that.

The evidence is abundant that these kids are not growing less kind about this situation. It’s lovely seeing them all together supporting Zack. He has a lot of skills that help him fit in. But he has some things that are a little strange as well. I think [the talks] take the fear out of it and the wondering.

Burkey says she’ll likely keep doing the talks. For next year, that’ll be Grade 6 and Zack’s first year in junior high. She says when she leaves the talks she feels “like a million dollars.” That’s a long way from those sleepless nights before Zack when to school. And Burkey credits the kids and Zack’s crew.

If the kids learn and the school is fine, I would love to do [the talks] forever. Kids are wonderful anyway. They are engaged, happy to chat, and have lots of questions. Their interest is inspiring. Their interest in all of it and how they can learn more about it, how can they be more supportive, and accepting … it gives me the feeling that I have hope for the world. To walk away with that assurance that his classmates are in. They’re all in. It doesn’t mean he’ll be friends with every classmates, but over the years he’s felt the acceptance of a crew and I can’t say enough about it. It’s changed him. It’s made him more social. It’s made him love school. We might not give kids enough credit for how supportive and accepting they can really be when we give them a bit of knowledge.

In November Burkey will join other musicians to do a show at The Carleton in support of Autism Nova Scotia, where Zack’s sister Maggie is in the sibling program. This is the sixth year and the show is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 23. (They’re watching that fourth wave).

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Noticed

Jill Chandler.

In August 2020, I wrote about the When You Die Project and spoke with its founder, award-winning producer, director, and writer, Johanna Lunn. The project has a When You Die podcast and a recent edition hosted by Kelley Edwards featured Jill Chandler, a singer-song writer, musician, and mom who lives in P.E.I. 

I’ve known both Edwards and Chandler for years; we worked at a dinner theatre together (I was the bartender). Both are incredibly talented singers and very funny. You should hear them! But in this podcast they talk about Chandler’s becoming a young widow in her 30s when her husband, Donald, died of cancer in 2013. At the time, their three children – Rowan, Cooper, and Darcy — were under the age of five.

In the podcast (full transcript here) Chandler talks about how she met Donald (he was a doorman at Hell’s Kitchen), his diagnosis (Donald had brain cancer and died six weeks after his diagnosis), his death, grief, and how she’s moving on. This meant moving from Halifax to P.E.I where her parents live, and getting back to music, songwriting, and performing (her youngest, Darcy, joins her on stage and she’s very talented). Chandler also talks about her kids and how they process their grief, even though they may not remember Donald. There are a lot of really profound stories in here (Chandler also sings a song). Here’s one of the stories Chandler shares:

Edwards: Can you tell me the story about when you were taking Darcy out of the bathtub?

Chandler: I can.

Edwards: I find that a wonderful story.

Chandler: Well, this was after Donald died. Sometimes time periods are a little bit grey for me. Years can kind of flow into one, so I don’t know exactly how old Darcy was. I’m gonna guess she was about three, so maybe it was within a year after Donald died. We were in our house here on the Island, and she was in the tub, and I had taken her out of the bathtub and wrapped her in a towel.

I was down on my knees and I kind of hugged her into me, drying her off, and she whispered in my ear, “Daddy’s here.” It was… I can’t explain the feeling I first felt. It was almost terrifying for a second because this was, like, what? What? I kind of held her back away from me and looked in her face again, and then she just said it so peacefully and calmly again. “Daddy’s here.” And I said, “He is.” It was incredible to just experience that with her.

I called my best friend Denise who’s a very spiritual person and she kind of talked me down. Not that I was on a ledge, but I’ve gone through a lot of unique moments with my kids on my own. I reach out to my support circle often, so she just allowed me to see the beauty that was that moment.

Chandler and I are Facebook friends and she shares photos of her children there, stories about grief and gratitude, and what she’s learning along the way. Much of this she shares in the podcast, too. You can listen to it all here. 

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Government

City

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — Reconvened at 6pm if required. On YouTube, live captioning on a text-only site.

Province

No meetings this week


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Belong Speaker Series: Breaking Barriers (Monday, 1pm) — Nicola S. Smith from the University of British Columbia will talk via Zoom.

New questions in stochastics prompted by physiology and medicine (Monday, 3:30pm) — Sean Lawley from the University of Utah will talk. Streamed live in Room 319, Chase Building, or via Zoom.

The life sciences are pushing the boundaries of stochastic processes theory. In this talk, I will illustrate this point through three diverse problems. The first problem comes from pharmacology. What should you do if you accidentally miss a dose of medication? Skip the dose? Double your next dose? I will formulate a mathematical model to answer this question and show that it requires generalizing an exotic random variable studied by Erdos and others in the 1930s. The results of this analysis challenge current medical recommendations on this question. Second, in a very different biological and mathematical problem, I will show how a longstanding question about insect respiration leads to a new class of stochastic partial differential equations that provides significant physiological insight. Finally, in another disparate problem, I will address a question from human fertilization. Why do 300 million sperm cells search for the egg when only a single sperm cell is necessary? I will show how the apparent redundancy in this and other systems in cell biology can be understood in terms of recent results in extreme statistics that modify traditional timescale calculations.

Traditional Sacred Texts and the Art That Makes Them Accessible (Monday, 5:30pm) — Ann Shaftel will talk.

Traditional Buddhist texts in monasteries were inaccessible to diverse populations who had low literacy. Paintings, sculpture, music and dance carried iconographic depictions from the texts to serve as a guide to meditation and visualization. The relationship between texts and illustrative art is traditional and ongoing, even in today’s digital universe. This presentation offers you a view into traditional Buddhist monastery archives and the changing art forms that continue to illustrate sacred texts.

Tuesday

A description of a reflective functor in the category of presheaves (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building or online) — Frank Fu will talk via Zoom:

It is well-known that the subcategory of limit preserving functors in the category of presheaves is reflective. But what is the exact definition of the left adjoint? In this talk, we consider the subcategory of product preserving functors (a special case of limit preserving functors) and give a description of the left adjoint using some concepts from multi-sorted term algebra.

Saint Mary’s

Monday

No events

Tuesday

Checkmate: How Social Distancing Has Changed The Social Media And The Business Support Game (Tuesday, 11:45am) — online webinar in advance of Omnichannel Retailing Event Oct. 1. More info here.

Mount Saint Vincent

Monday

No events

Tuesday

Business & Tourism Department (virtual) Fireside Chat (Tuesday, 6pm) — Zoom event with Deborah Rosati from Women Get on Board.

King’s

Monday

No events

Tuesday

Launch of German History special issue “Sexuality, Holocaust, Stigma” (Tuesday, 2pm) — via Zoom, with Jennifer Evans (Carleton University), Dorota Glowacka (University of King’s College), Anna Hájková (University of Warwick), and Nicholas Stargardt (University of Oxford.)

Lawrence Hill in conversation with Evelyn C. White (Tuesday, 7:30pm) — In this Zoom keynote lecture of the 2021 AfterWords Literary Festival

Hill will talk about his book-length essay Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book, which arose out of a letter he received in 2011 from a man in the Netherlands who was reacting to Hill’s best-selling novel The Book of Negroes. Hill and White will discuss literary censorship and how Hill attempted to come to terms with the book burners’ motives and complaints. This fascinating conversation will include an audience Q&A.


In the harbour

Halifax
05:30: Bishu Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
14:00: Cape Corfu, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
15:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
15:30: Bishu Highway sails for sea

Cape Breton
1500: My Lady, yacht, moves from Government Dock (Sydney) to Baddeck
17:00: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
18:00: Solana, oil tanker, moves from Point Hawkesbury anchorage to Point Tupper


Footnotes

I stood on a horse on Saturday. I’d join the circus but I already have a Twitter account.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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    1. Such a great point! I am of a generation where those on the autism spectrum used to be off-handedly branded with the “r” word and assumed to be dysfunctional. Greta has underscored that in so many cases being in this group of remarkable people is actually a super power.