News

1. Two and a half years later, Nova Scotia Power still hasn’t revealed the “root cause” of the Tufts Cove oil spill

Tufts Cove oil spill, August 2018. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Jennifer Henderson got a look at a report by auditor Bates White into fuel costs at Nova Scotia Power. 

Henderson reports there were no “fireworks” in the audit, but it did uncover some mistakes. Henderson writes:

For example, the audit uncovered an error involving sulphur dioxide emissions from a coal-fired unit in Trenton that led to the purchase of more expensive coal and petroleum coke in 2019 to meet a five-year environmental target. Although the auditor redacted the original amount at the request of Nova Scotia Power, the lawyer for the UARB agreed with intervenors there was no reason why the $740,000 spent on more expensive/lower-emission fuel should be a secret. 

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2. COVID-19 update

Tim Bousquet has the latest COVID-19 update, and as of Monday there were zero new cases of the virus in the province. 

Bousquet’s update includes a detailed list of where the current active cases are distributed, as well as the graphics on the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave, the active caseload for the second wave, and the possible exposure map.  

There’s a COVID-19 briefing scheduled for 3 p.m. today.  

Also, it was one year ago yesterday the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada. 

Click here to read the entire story. 

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3. Woman dies while sleeping in car, man in hospital

Zane Woodford has two stories connected to the issue of homelessness in the province. 

The first is this one about a woman and a man who were found in a car, along with a dog, in the Annapolis Valley. Nancy Mailman and the dog were found dead and Travis Tremblay is in hospital with severe brain damage.  

Woodford spoke with Tremblay’s son, Chace Melvin, who says the car had a leaky exhaust.  

The RCMP confirmed to the Examiner on Friday they “are investigating a non-suspicious sudden death in the Valley.” 

Woodford also spoke with Russ Sanche, the executive director of Portal Youth Outreach in Kentville, who says there are about 250 people across the Valley who were “precariously housed, at risk of being homeless, or homeless.” 

Click here to read Woodford’s entire story. 

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4. A man gets a roof as Halifax quibbles with group’s band-aid solution to homelessness

In the city, Woodford reports on a rally on Monday protesting rumours the city was going to demolish two shelters the group Halifax Mutual Aid put on municipality-owned land in Dartmouth over the weekend.  

On Friday, Elizabeth Chiu reported that a man named Paul moved into one of the shelters. Then over the weekend concerns about the shelters being demolished by the city started to unfold. Halifax Mutual Aid tweeted they heard the city’s CAO Jacques Dubé ordered the shelters demolished. That conversation continued on Twitter through Monday morning with Councillors Sam Austin and Waye Mason, and CAO Dubé responding. 

The municipality did release a statement on Monday. Here’s part of it: 

The municipality is aware of the installation, by Halifax Mutual Aid, of two temporary shelters on municipal property in Dartmouth. As per our established protocol, individuals experiencing homelessness will not be evicted while we seek to identify alternate options for adequate housing. While the installation of structures, including temporary shelters, on municipal property is not permitted without approval, the municipality aims to work with Halifax Mutual Aid to identify alternate options for those experiencing homelessness. By working together on our common goal to address homelessness we are confident that solutions can be identified in the short-term and the long-term. 

Andrew Goodsell is living in one of the shelters, which, as Woodford writes, is a small shed with insulation in the walls and a carbon monoxide detector inside. Goodsell was at the rally, too, and talked to reporters there.  

I think it’s a very sad, pitiful way of trying to give someone a hand, but it’s the best thing that ever happened and it’s from the people, not the city.  

Kevin, a volunteer with Mutual Aid Halifax, told reporters on Monday they need clarification and better communication on vacant versus occupied shelters. Kevin said the shelters weren’t a long-term solution and the city should provide housing.  

I’ll be clear, these are not to code. There is no code for this. These are built by builders and people who know. They’re very solid. But it’s also a moot conversation because if you say, ‘That’s unsafe,’ but you’re perfectly fine with someone sleeping under a tarp on a bench, under a dark underpass or in a tent, then I have to ask where your priorities are. 

Click here to read Woodford’s entire article.  

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5. Study to look at supports for those after a pregnancy loss

A researcher at CBU is studying the supports people who experience pregnancy loss get from employers. Photo: Unsplash

Frances Willick at CBC reports on the work of a researcher of at Cape Breton University who is studying the experiences of people who go back to work full time after experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth. Stephanie Gilbert, an assistant professor of organizational management at the Shannon School of Business at CBU, is looking at what supports employers provide when someone experiences a pregnancy loss. Gilbert, along with Jennifer Dimoff at the University of Ottawa and Jacquelyn Brady at San José State University, will interview Canadians and Americans who, within the last five years, lost a pregnancy and went back to a full-time job.  

Willick spoke with Michelle LaFontaine who delivered stillborn twins. Her employer helped with time off and LaFontaine returned to work after three weeks. LaFontaine works with families and asked to be assigned to another job so she wouldn’t have to answer questions about her pregnancy loss. But her request was denied. LaFontaine tells Willick:  

Ultimately, the message that I received was it was coming down to the bottom line that their needs as an organization would trump my needs as a bereaved mother.  

Willick reports that employees who lose a baby at or after 20 weeks are eligible for maternity benefits (I didn’t know this). But Gilbert says there are no supports for those who lose pregnancies earlier and those supports vary from employer to employer.  

Already, I’ve seen people sharing this article and their own stories about how their employers supported them, or didn’t, during a pregnancy loss.

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Views

Looking for Eliza in Nova Scotia’s poor house cemeteries

Katy Jean searches grave markers at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Digby. Jean is looking for an ancestor named Eliza who lived at the Marshalltown Alms House. Photo: Katy Jean.

I’m interested in genealogy, but I’m also curious about other people’s searches for their ancestors. I’m especially fascinated by the often tragic stories of ancestors who were on the margins of society and rejected by their families. These stories are harder to find, but they tell a history of Nova Scotia and the terrible ways in which some people were treated.  

A few years ago I learned about Katy Jean* and her search for her great, great, great grandmother, Eliza, who died in the Marshalltown Poor Farm, outside of Digby. I wanted to learn how Jean’s search was going, and if she ever found Eliza’s grave. We talked about her search over the weekend. 

Jean’s mother was the first to start searching their family’s genealogy about 20 years ago, and was the first to discover Eliza. Jean took up the search a few years later. They completed their family tree, but Eliza remains the missing branch. Jean says:

We have no idea why this woman was rejected from the family. She doesn’t come up anywhere in any of our stories. 

They discovered on her death certificate that she died in 1914 at the Marshalltown Poor Farm. She was 61. (The Marshalltown Poor Farm was first opened in 1890 and was owned by Robert Marshall. It was replaced by a new building named the Marshalltown Alms House, which closed in 1963 and burned down in 1995).

Jean also found letters from Eliza’s sister that said Eliza was placed in an asylum in Dartmouth by her husband after the birth of their last child. She was just 30 years old then. The letter said Eliza “lost her mind.” Jean says she suspects Eliza was suffering from post-partum depression. Her husband soon met another woman, also named Eliza, and started a family with her.  

Jean says at some point Eliza was moved to the poor house at Marshalltown and was listed as an inmate, although she says she’s not sure how or why Eliza was transferred there from Dartmouth. 

Jean says she searched visiting records, which showed no one visited Eliza and no one signed her out from the house. 

While Eliza’s death certificate says she was buried in a Digby Catholic cemetery, Jean hasn’t been able to find her grave. In October 2018, she and a friend went on a road trip to Digby to find where Eliza was buried. They started looking at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Plympton because she knows that Eliza was baptized at that church.

As they were checking headstones for Amero, Eliza’s maiden name, and Van Tassel, her married name, a woman named Marion approached Jean asking who she was looking for. Jean says Marion told them about a local woman named Joan who has a record of everyone buried in that cemetery.

Jean went to Joan’s house. Over a cup of tea, Joan shared records with Jean, all of which were gathered from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Digby.  

At Holy Cross cemetery, Jean and her friend had found the graves of Eliza’s mother, father, and sister, but not Eliza. So Jean stopped into the cemetery at St. Patrick’s and searched the graves there, but had no luck. She went into the church and asked to speak to the priest. A woman asked why, and Jean told her she was looking for the grave of an ancestor named Eliza Amero.  

The woman looks at me and says, Oh Eliza who died at Marshalltown. She knew exactly who I was talking about. I was so shocked. 

Jean admits she was too shocked to ask the woman any questions about Eliza. She did contact St. Patrick’s several times after that. She searched records at the Digby county office. She searched records at Université Sainte-Anne and at the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos. Jean also did a DNA search hoping to find other lineages to look at — still no connections to Eliza. 

There was never an obituary for Eliza, but her death was recorded in the Digby Courier. Jean says that because Eliza married a Protestant man, she could have been buried in a Protestant cemetery despite what the death certificate says. 

There are all these possibilities. Her bones exist somewhere. There’s always the possibility she never left Marshalltown. I have the suspicion she never left Marshalltown, but there’s no way to find that out.  

Jean isn’t the only person looking for ancestors who were put into poor houses in Nova Scotia, and there are lots of local resources. Brenda Thompson wrote A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia and keeps a blog about poor houses. She tells me many of those who were sent to these poor houses were listed as “harmless insane,” a catchall phrase for those with mental health issues, but also for relatives, primarily women, who were regarded as a nuisance. 

Brenda Thompson’s A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia

The Facebook group Marshalltown Alms House-Voices for Hope has members who are looking for ancestors buried in unmarked graves in two sites near the former poor house outside of Digby. The group and its founder, Brenda Small, worked to stop construction of a new portion of the highway over land where unmarked graves from the poor house are located. The group is also working to get a monument placed in the area to honour those who lived and died there. 

Local authors are also exploring how people in poor houses were treated. Author Ronan O’Driscoll is just finishing edits on a new novel, Poor Farm, which tells the story of a character with autism who lives in a poor farm in Nova Scotia. O’Driscoll’s novel will be published in April. O’Driscoll has a blog about his novel, too. Certainly, many of those sent to poor houses were autistic, a diagnosis unknown at the time. 

In 2o16, Halifax author Steven Laffoley published The Halifax Poor House Fire: A Victorian Tragedy about the city’s poor house that was once located where the IWK Children’s hospital stands now. A fire there in 1882 killed 30 residents. That fire remains the deadliest in the city’s history. In this 2017 story by Zak Markan at CBC, Laffoley says he “wanted to do this project to show the similarities between the Halifax of the 1880s and what’s happening in our community now — how we’re seeing a growing and vast disparity between rich and poor, and what happens to an entire class of people when cast as the other.” That’s still happening today.

Jean is still looking for Eliza, although her search has stalled. She recently joined the Facebook group Abandoned Cemeteries of Nova Scotia and asked its members to let her know if they find Eliza at any of the cemeteries they’re searching. She still visits Digby every three to six months to do this. When she does find her, she wants to mark her grave with a headstone and maintain the site. But more than that: 

Part of the reason I want to find her so badly is to apologize to her. I want to say, “You didn’t deserve this.”

I don’t like to think that anyone would die like that, especially someone in my family, someone my family did this to. Everybody deserves to have a head marker, upkeep, and respect. They should be kept alive as much as we can by speaking their names and acknowledging them. These people die with their name and that’s it. It’s so unfair and so wrong.

As much as I see her as my great-great-great grandmother, my family did that to her and that’s a harsh thing to accept. It bothers me that my family did this to her. I feel like I have to go back on behalf of them and say, “you didn’t deserve this. I’m so sorry we did this to you. This shouldn’t have happened.” For right now, she’s a ghost.

*This article was originally published with Katy Jean’s previous last name, Hines. We regret the error.

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Noticed

Show me the money — but not for this job, they won’t. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Someone sent this job posting to me last week. It’s for a marketing assistant, a degree is required, and the pay is $26,390 a year for 35 hours per week. This is a contract gig and it does offer benefits, but this pay is still bad. In Nova Scotia, minimum wage is $12.55/hr, and going up to $13.10 on April 1. A living wage in Halifax is $21.80/hr.

Interestingly, in the job ad the median wage for this job in Canada is listed as $30.42/hr. The site where this job is listed includes prevailing wages in Canada, including for this job and ones like it. In Nova Scotia, the median wage for this job is $27.18/hr with a low of $16/hr and a high wage of $46.70/hr (LOL). 

While this is an assistant job, the duties require the candidate to

Act as spokesperson for an organization; Initiate and maintain contact with the media; Answer written and oral inquiries; Develop, implement and evaluate communication strategies and programs; Prepare and/or deliver educational, publicity and information programs, materials and sessions; Gather, research and prepare communications material.

The person who is hired will also train and supervise staff. These don’t sound like assistant duties. So many of these jobs add words like “assistant” to the title so they can pay less, even though the job requirements are at a more advanced level.  

Sure, you can work from home, and as someone pointed out on Twitter last week, you can save on childcare costs, so the low pay is okay. I disagree, and ask any parent working from home while their children are at home doing online learning how that’s going for them. 

I have no evidence for this, but I think wages are getting worse. I should go digging for some data.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — live webcast, with captioning on a text-only site

Wednesday

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting; no dial-in or live broadcast

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — live webcast, with captioning on a text-only site

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am) — per diem meeting.

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm) —Department of Energy and Mines deputy minister Simon d’Entremont will discuss Solar Electricity for Community Buildings Pilot Program.

On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

The Future of Work(Tuesday, 12pm) — College of Continuing Education webinar with Astrid Seidel.

The on-going Covid-19 crisis has forced people around the world to adapt very quickly to new safety measures and often unfamiliar ways of communication and work routines. Millions of people are working or studying from home and digital tools have quickly entered fields where many of us would never have expected them before. Besides these sudden technological changes due to Covid-19, Social Scientists and labor market experts emphasize the significance of durable skills such as resilience, effective communication skills, and empathy for our wellbeing and productivity. Besides the pandemic, it is widely agreed that digital literacy, resilience, and ‘people skills’ will continue to be highly important in the age of digitalization. The key question is: How can we prepare ourselves for the future labor market and keep up with developments in a sustainable manner?

This webinar will outline important trends about the skills and competencies that will be required in the foreseeable future and give ideas for an environment that embraces and accommodates lifelong learning. We are looking forward to a vivid exchange of thoughts and ideas!

Self Advocacy Workshop (Tuesday, 2pm) — a MS Teams workshop to equip trans participants with the skills to identify their health care options and feel more comfortable advocating for their health care needs with doctors, nurses, and therapists. Closed space for trans folks.

Wednesday

Canadian Blood Services blood donation clinic (Wednesday, 10am) — today and tomorrow in the Dal Student Union Building. Info on booking an appointment here.

Safe Space for White Questions January Edition (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — moderated by Alex Khasnabish from MSVU and Ajay Parasram from Dal, this is

a series of free, public, monthly drop-in sessions that are open to all but aimed at people who identify as white and are interested in working toward collective liberation. Come ask the questions about race, racism, social change, and social justice you always wonder about but feel nervous asking. You won’t offend us (unless you’re trying to—please don’t do that!).

Live stream link, past recordings, and info here.

Big Data Analytics and Multi Agent Ensemble Learning Approach to Make the Smart Decision Support Systems (Wednesday, 1pm) — online event with Jamal Shahrabi:

Big data analytics is the process of examining large and varied data sets to discover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer knowledge and other useful information that can help organizations make more-informed business decisions. All industries now are facing with a large amount of data and complex management issues with a much more competition than before. The solution is just using the new technologies of big data analytics to manage their organization better by making the smart management system. The most important benefits of big data analytics compare to classical analytical methods are speed and efficiency. Few years ago a business would have gathered data, run traditional analytics and provided information that could be used for future decisions, today that business can identify insights for immediate decisions by smart management systems. Meanwhile all organizations and industries are involving with a broad range of decision making criteria and multiple different internal department based goals and targets that make decision taking process so difficult. In this situation classical analytical methods do not work anymore and Multi Agent Systems (MAS) are needed. Multi Agent Ensemble Learning Systems are rapidly used in a variety of domains for making collaborative smart decision support systems by discovering a solution by agents on their own, using learning. The most important part of the problem is how the agents will learn independently and then how they will cooperate to establish the common task.

Cherie Dimaline. Photo via Twitter

Cherie Dimaline (Wednesday, 3pm) — online talk with the author of this year’s Dal Reads book, The Marrow Thieves

Michèle Audette. Photo via YouTube

Viola Desmond Legacy Lecture (Wednesday, 3pm) — live virtual event featuring Indigenous rights advocate Michèle Audette

Neural Mechanisms of Nociception (Wednesday, 4pm) — online seminar with Jeffrey S. Dason from the University of Windsor

Panel Discussion on Interrogating Whiteness (Wednesday, 5:30pm) — the second in a two-part panel discussion and interactive conversation, with Patricia McGuire, Patrina Duhaney, Nadine Powell, Ajay Parasram and Jacqueline Barkley. With closed captioning; register here.

Mindy Fullilove. Photo: mindyfullilove.contently.com

Resistance as Practice: Acts of AntiRacism Through Architecture & Planning (Wednesday, 7pm) — via Zoom,  the inaugural Robert H. Winters lecture with Mindy Fullilove from The New School. From the listing:

We are organizing this event at a critical moment for architects, planners and other disciplines grappling with difficult histories and professional cultures. This means questioning how designed spaces are embedded with power structures that stratify our society, and how practitioners are implicated in this. Just as importantly, we must acknowledge that this is not a new conversation or area of analysis: racialized communities have developed their own planning and design practices in cities when they have not been heard by the faces of power. This lecture series builds on the ongoing powerful response to racialized violence by presenting the work of practitioners, academics and activists who have pursued these acts of anti-racism as a central focus of their work.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

The Librarian Is In: Searching Library Databases (Tuesday, 3pm) — virtual workshop

Wednesday

Rohini Bannerjee. Photo from the poster.

The WWII Experience in Mauritius (Wednesday, 7pm) — via Zoom, Rohini Bannerjee talks about the Island of Mauritius, and its role in the life-saving detainment of over 1,500 Jewish refugees from Europe during World War II.


In the harbour

06:00: Maersk Patras, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
12:00: Pictor J, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 fro Reykjavik
13:00: Maersk Patras sails for Bremerhaven, Germany
15:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:30: MOL Mission, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:45: Pictor J sails for Portland


Footnotes

I’m involved in some research on gender-based violence and I got this email yesterday, so I wanted to post it here. It would be great if you could share it with your networks. These groups are open to immigrant and migrant women living in the HRM. Thanks!

Please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Suzanne Rent

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

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