News

1. Woodford Report: confining construction to property lines and more from Halifax regional council

Halifax City Hall. Photo: Zane Woodford

OK, let’s start the day with Zane Woodford’s roundup of regional council news in Halifax.

Keep construction off the streets

At a virtual council meeting Tuesday, Coun. Kathryn Morse brought forward a motion seeking a staff report outlining “options for requiring large construction projects to be contained on private property rather than being permitted to close sections of public roads and sidewalks.” Morse said the report should look at new fees for companies who need to block off public roads during construction (daily encroachment fees range from $60 for up to 1.5 square metres to $125 for over 2.5 square metres, with lower fees for so-called temporary encroachment), and that any options for keeping streets and sidewalks open and unimpeded should be explored.

Other councillors said they supported the idea, but acknowledged containing construction on private land isn’t always possible in Halifax. Mayor Mike Savage was the only opposing vote though, arguing the city should look at fees, permitting, and builders’ conduct, rather than try to outright bar construction from streets and sidewalks.

There’s no timeline for the staff report.

Before the pandemic, when I was living in Halifax’s Schmidtville neighbourhood, there was never a time I could walk around the block without encountering at least one closed street or sidewalk. I don’t know what I would have done if some condo development wasn’t limiting my access to at least one sidewalk at all times. Would I have become paralyzed with all that unimpeded open space? Or would I have thrived with my newfound freedom? I don’t know, but I wish I’d had the chance to find out.

Environmental concerns in regional plan proposals

“Councillors approved the next steps in the municipality’s regional plan review on Tuesday,” writes Woodford, “but they’re looking for some more information on how the plan will prioritize the environment.”

For those who are a little fuzzy on this, here’s Woodford with a refresher on what the plan is:

The regional plan is the overarching set of planning and development rules for all of HRM, setting out where development can and can’t happen. It was created in 2006, and refreshed in 2014. Municipal staff are now midway through the process of updating the plan again, with a goal to tackle some urgent areas this spring, and a draft final report due by the end of the year.

Staff have a 1,200-page report summarizing public engagement on the plan so far. In it are numerous requests from developers and property owners hoping to enable development rights on specific sites. Some of these requests could have a major impact on surrounding environment.

A map of Stevens Group’s proposal for its land between Highway 102 and Susie’s Lake. Screenshot/HRM/UPLAND

For example, a proposed development between Highway 102 and Susie’s Lake could encroach into the conceptual boundary of the city’s planned Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes park. The proposed development will need a “comprehensive secondary planning process” before it can be considered for serviced development because the land its on is designated an “Urban District Growth Centre.”

In light of this, Coun. Kathryn Morse brought forward the following motion to ensure HRM’s environmental plans are in mesh with the regional plan:

That Halifax Regional Council recommend that the Chief Administrative Officer be directed to prepare a staff report outlining an overall policy and process to coordinate the work of the departments of Planning and Development and Parks and Recreation.  The aim is to ensure council can effectively implement HalifACT, IMP and the Green Network Plan. The staff report should consider the need for a coordinator to lead the Green Network Plan and an updated parks strategy, in light of the following:

1.    the current Parks Canada urban park planning process for Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes,
2.    the pending Sandy Lake study,
3.    recently identified key wildlife corridors,
4.    HRM’s natural asset inventory, and
5.    housing development pressures.

Report: majority of Halifax’s streets will need improvement over the next four years, and it’ll be costly

A report to council Tuesday recommends the city spend $72.4 million over the next four years to bring two thirds of its streets “up to snuff,” as Woodford puts it.

Woodford writes that the report also recommends “a new method of classifying municipally-owned roads, and a new goal for their quality.” Staff proposed the city use vehicle outfitted with a “Laser Crack Measurement System” to grade roads as either poor, fair, or good. Council passed the staff recommendation Tuesday, with the goal of bringing 67% of the streets in the report up to the “good” grade.

Right now, none of the extra $72.4 million required is in the budget. Council’s budget committee meets next on Friday to work out the coming 2022-2023 tax increase.

You can read Woodford’s entire report here.

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2. Watershed protected: there will be no mining or mineral extraction in the area that gives Tatamagouche its water supply

On Monday, Nova Scotia’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Tim Halman, approved protection of the French River watershed in Colchester County.

“This means that regulations under the Environment Act will help to protect the water that people in the Village of Tatamagouche use in their homes, businesses and to support services in their community,” reads a Tuesday news release from the provincial department. The French River watershed supplies Tatamagouche with its water.

“The protected water area regulations,” the release continues, “protect drinking water supplies by giving municipalities the authority to manage watersheds, including restricting or prohibiting activities that may impact water quality or quantity.”

Two of those prohibited activities in the newly protected watershed — not mentioned in the release — are minerals exploration and mining, writes Joan Baxter in her article on the announcement Tuesday:

This means an end to a plan by the mines branch of the former Department of Energy and Mines to promote an area of 30,000 hectares (74,132 acres) in the Cobequid Hills, extending from Earltown to the Wentworth ski hill for gold exploration, which it called the Warwick Mountain Project, as the Halifax Examiner reported here.

In 2017, citizens near the watershed became concerned about the impact that project could have on Tatamagouche’s water supply, so they formed a community group called Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia (SuNNS), and took their concerns to the Municipality of Colchester County. Extensive surveys and public engagement sessions followed, before the municipal council voted unanimously in January 2019 to apply to the provincial environment department for protection for the watershed. After a complicated application process, the Municipality officially applied for protected status for the French River watershed in May 2020.

Now. nearly two years later, that application has been approved.

In August 2021, the Examiner received information on the application’s then-ongoing status through a Freedom of Information request. The information released was heavily redacted, so it wasn’t possible to tell the reason for the delay in deciding on the application. “It did show, however,” writes Baxter, “that there had been strong pushback against protecting the French River from the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) and also Don James, executive director of the Geoscience and Mines Branch of the erstwhile Department of Energy and Mines, now the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables.”

Though the wait was long, the approved protection status for the French River watershed is welcome news to members of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia. One member told the Examiner he was pleased with the decision, but said “This is one down. There are still five to go,” referring to the other large-scale gold mining projects that are ongoing or planned for Nova Scotia.

To read what those other projects are, and to find out more about how the French River watershed came to be protected and what it means for Nova Scotians in the area, check out Baxter’s full report here.

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3. COVID update: five deaths, 492 new cases

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.

Tim Bousquet, the Toronto Star, and the New York Times all put out pieces about how fatigued people are becoming with the pandemic as we approach the two-year anniversary. I’ll take the hint and keep this short and to the point. (If you’d like a more detailed update though, head to Tim Bousquet’s report from Tuesday on the latest provincial public health announcements).

On Tuesday, the province reported that, for the second day in a row, five Nova Scotians have died from COVID-19. One person was in her 70s; the other four were in their 80s. Four of the deaths occurred in the Central Zone; one was in the Eastern Zone.

There are now 92 people in hospital who were admitted because of COVID symptoms and who are still in COVID units. The average age of those hospitalized with the virus is 68, though the ages range from 0-100. Fifteen people are in intensive care. There are also 92 people in hospital with COVID who were admitted for other reasons or were admitted for the virus but no longer require specialized care. Additionally, 120 people are in hospital who contracted the disease in hospital outbreaks.

The province announced 492 new cases yesterday.

  • 234 Central
  • 116 Western
  • 80 Northern
  • 62 Eastern

In other COVID news:

  • Alicia Draus at Global is reporting that 900 treatments of Pfizer’s Paxlovid drug are now in Nova Scotia. “The oral pill,” she writes, “is used to treat those with mild COVID-19 symptoms to prevent more severe illness and hospitalization.” Supply is limited and is said to be best-suited for “those who have underlying medical conditions, are immunocompromised or under- or unvaccinated.” No pills have been prescribed yet.
  • You’ve probably read about the current trucker convoy heading to Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates for truckers. Now, Jonathan MacInnis with CTV Atlantic writes that truckers have been promoting a potential NS/New Brunswick border blockade on social media. Should the protest happen — it’s scheduled for this weekend — it will end Nova Scotia’s streak of five months without a COVID-regulation-related blockade at the New Brunswick border.
  • The X-ring/Omicron debacle made the front page of yesterday’s Globe and Mail. The article, penned by Greg Mercer, begs the question: Will that university ever receive national attention for something positive?

There is a COVID briefing today at 3pm. You can watch that here.

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4. Aquaculture Review Board’s first ever decision on fish farm application postponed

Kelly Cove Salmon’s fish farm near Rattling Beach on the Annapolis Basin. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge (contributed)

Yesterday, Nova Scotia’s new Aquaculture Review Board was scheduled to release a decision on an application to expand the boundaries of a fish farm in the Annapolis Basin, but that decision has been delayed.

The Board is deciding on an application from Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke Aquaculture, to expand the boundaries of its fish farm at Rattling Beach, where they’ve been operating beyond the site’s government-approved boundary since at least 2015. A hearing for the application was held in late November last year. Should the Board approve the expansion, existing operations at the Rattling Beach fish farm will then all be within the approved boundary.

The Halifax Examiner reported on the hearing in December, after a spokesperson for Kelly Cove told the Board there was a spike in sea lice at the company’s Victoria Beach and Rattling Beach fish farms, a potential threat to the health of the area’s endangered wild salmon population. Concerns about the impact of open-net fish pens on wild salmon in British Columbia contributed to the federal government’s decision to phase out the practice on the west coast by 2025. So far, no similar ban has been announced in Atlantic Canada.

A decision on the Rattling Beach expansion application was expected on Tuesday. On that day, however, the Review Board posted an update to its website, saying the decision has been pushed and is now expected at the end of the week.

The reason for the extension is vague. The post on the Board’s website only says the Board is “relying upon Section 27 of the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Licence and Lease Regulations to extend the timeline (if necessary) and ensure that the Board has sufficient time to complete the decision on this application.” In case you were wondering, section 27 of that document gives the Review Board broadly defines the Board’s authority in adjudicating hearings:

(1)    If procedures are not provided for in these regulations or in the Act, the Review Board may do whatever is necessary and permitted by law to enable it to effectively and completely adjudicate on the matter before it.

(2)    The Review Board may dispense with, amend, vary or supplement all or part of the procedures for adjudicative hearings set out in these regulations if it is satisfied that the special circumstances of the application before it so require or it is in the public interest to do so.

The Aquaculture Review Board was created following the 2014 Doelle-Lahey (yes, that Lahey) aquaculture regulatory review, which recommended the creation of “an independent Board to hear and determine applications from the public to have [an aquaculture] licence revoked where there is clear evidence of biophysical unsuitability of the site, or where there is a clear pattern of substantial non-compliance with terms and conditions of the licence.” In 2015, the province amended the Fisheries and Coastal Act to create the Review Board, but did not include the option for the public to bring applications forward.

At the time, the Ecology Action Centre, which was denied intervenor status in the current case before the Board, voiced disappointment that the public wouldn’t have an opportunity to bring concerns about fish farms to the Review Board.

The Aquaculture Review Board website now describes the body as “an independent decision making body with a mandate to decide on aquaculture applications in marine areas for new sites, expansions to existing sites, and the addition of finfish species to sites not currently approved to produce finfish.”

When it finally comes, the decision regarding Kelly Cove’s expansion application will be the first in the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board’s short history.

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Views

#MentalHealth

Photo: James Sutton / Unsplash

It’s “Let’s Talk” day today. The day Bell donates five cents “for every applicable text, call, tweet, or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk.” Every “social media video view and use of our Facebook frame or Snapchat lens.”

These past few years, Examiner writers have written a few critiques on the promotional day.

In 2016, El Jones criticized the phone company for creating a campaign that promotes discussion of mental health, while exploiting and profiting off the mentally ill in prisons:

At the same time as Bell is promoting “conversation” about mental illness, they don’t want to talk publicly about how they make money from the same prisons that warehouse huge numbers of mentally ill people. They don’t want to talk about how the cost of phone calls prevents inmates, including the mentally ill, from talking to their families, and how this isolation prevents healing and rehabilitation. At the same time as we’re celebrating how much money Bell raised for mental illness awareness and treatment, we’re not talking about the millions they make from the fact that so many mentally ill people who can’t get treatment or intervention — especially those from racialized, impoverished, and marginalized communities — end up incarcerated and, as one of the articles on prison phone contracts phrased it, a “captive” market for Bell.

Two years ago, fellow Morning Filer Philip Moscovitch wrote about Let’s Talk Day, calling it “the one day of the year when social media is flooded with messages urging us to talk about mental health and to feel good about doing it.” His story was  published in the Globe and Mail.

In the article, Moscovitch talks about his son’s experience with mental illness, and how campaigns like Bell’s can miss the point, favouring awareness and bare-minimum-participation over funding much-needed services.

“It’s hard to argue with raising awareness and fighting stigma,” Moscovitch writes. “But those things don’t do much to help people who are living in precarious housing or trying to find a way to pay for anti-psychotic medication, which can cost thousands a year.”

There is little evidence that these kinds of campaigns have any significant effect on changing people’s beliefs or behaviour. A study published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2015 said that when it comes to medium- and- long-term effectiveness of anti-stigma campaigns, there is “some evidence of effectiveness in improving knowledge and attitudes, but not for behavioural outcomes.” In other words, people might change the way they think – but not how they behave.

Even worse, the campaigns could be counter-productive. “The more we emphasize how widespread the stigma of mental illness is,” said psychiatrist Ross Norman at a 2013 conference in Montreal on early psychosis treatment, “the more we may be reinforcing people’s stigmatizing responses.”

It’s a great look at how the campaign is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to actually helping people with mental health problems and I’d encourage you to read the whole thing; you’ll need a Globe subscription, though.

Personally, I don’t have a lot against Let’s Talk day, but I do question its effectiveness. Whether it’s counterproductive, like the psychiatrist says in Moscovitch’s article, I’m not sure. I don’t know that it accomplishes a lot though.

First off, when I had social media accounts I’d check regularly, I used to ignore my phone for the day. It would be a wall of white noise, full of posts, tweets, and texts, most of them saying very little, all of them providing the general, perfunctory message, ‘let’s talk about mental health,’ without really talking about it. Sometimes it feels like the epitome of what’s wrong with 21st century culture. Post something online while it’s trendy, let that well-intended but ultimately empty content shine for half a second before it’s lost forever in the endless sea of the internet, feel good about yourself, and move on with your life.

If this is supposed to be a day to raise awareness about mental health, why is the hashtag the vague, ad-like #BellLetsTalk? Why not something like #LetsTalkMentalHealth? At least that sounds like it’s trying to promote discussion around mental health, and not just promoting a phone company.

Those are of the more cynical takes, anyway.

Truly though, actually talking about mental health and mental illness is difficult. I mean, it’s really difficult. Maybe we’re more accepting of the existence of mental health issues. Maybe we’re less judgmental about them. I am. At least, compared with when I was younger. But that doesn’t mean I find it easy to talk openly about my own personal issues. It doesn’t mean I’m always perfectly comfortable speaking with someone about their mental illness or health. It’s tough to see someone struggling mentally.

Witnessing that struggle with mental illnesses can be heartbreaking. Anyone who’s known someone who’s slipped away with Alzheimer’s, or battled addictions, or struggled with mental disorders, will know that it can be hard to watch. It can feel like you’re losing someone you care about, someone you once knew. It can also be a stark reminder of how fragile the mind is. And as hard as it can be to watch, it’s even harder to help. Sometimes it can feel impossible.

In my time working at an emergency shelter at the start of the pandemic, I spoke with a number of people struggling with different forms of mental illness. Let me say here that I have zero mental health training. I felt ill-equipped and overwhelmed on a regular basis, but I tried to do what I could — to be a human being, have some compassion, and help connect people with trained professionals when they needed. I didn’t hold any stigma against any of the illnesses I encountered.

I wish I’d known at the time what would have helped. I still don’t really. And I don’t feel great about it. Perhaps if the shelter had more funding to hire mental health workers to work on site, or to at least provide more training for staff — that would be a start.

If we want to talk about mental health today, we can talk about providing the basic needs of life to those suffering the most from the housing crisis we find ourselves in right now. We can talk about funding mental health services and making sure those who need it have access to medicine and professional help. Let’s talk about what’s really important, and then turn that talk into action.

Let me go back to Moscovitch’s article here:

I’m not suggesting groups devoted to raising awareness don’t also fund worthwhile programs and services. They do. But they don’t emphasize the kinds of fundamental change we need.

It does no good to raise awareness if you have an underfunded mobile crisis team that only has the capacity to go out on calls for 12 hours a day, or if patients wait months for assessment, or if you can’t provide stable, supportive housing for those who need it so they can recover and carry on with happy and productive lives.

So take part in the phone company day if you like. I mean, I’m writing about mental health here because of the date, so I guess it’s accomplishing its awareness-raising goal right now. But remember it’s just one day. And it doesn’t offer a whole lot. Making sure we, as a society, offer supports and services that give people a chance to take care of their mental health, and treat illnesses over the long-term, is far more important and far more difficult. So is actually talking about your mental health and truly talking about these things with the people we care about. It’s uncomfortable. It’s difficult. But it’s possible. It just takes more than a text or a Tweet.

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Noticed

Fight Club has been censored in China this week. Photo: Amazon.ca

By now you might’ve heard that a streaming service in China has censored the ending to Fight Club, the 1999 David Fincher movie adapted from a Chuck Palahniuk novel.

If you haven’t heard about this, the film has had its ending edited to remove a scene where the main character’s anarchist plot comes to fruition.  

Here’s how the BBC describes the new ending:  

The original ending saw Edward Norton’s narrator killing his imaginary alter-ego Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, before bombs destroyed buildings in the climax to a subversive plot to reorder society, dubbed Project Mayhem. 

In China, before the explosions, a message now says the police foiled the plot, arrested the criminals and sent Durden to a “lunatic asylum.” 

The new finale tells viewers: “Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. 

“After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”

There’s been a lot of response to this. It’s ranged a bit.  

Human Rights Watch called the decision “dystopian.”  

An anonymous source involved in the import of foreign films into China told Variety, “It is better to have 99.9% of the film shown legally to tens of millions of people than to not have it shown at all. I think it’s a win-win situation.” 

But I’d say most in the West are not fans of censoring the ending of any movie just to make Chinese authorities happy. At least, I’d hope not. 

It’s kind of a case of Poe’s law in reverse. Instead of writing satire that some might take seriously, the Chinese are doing something serious that’s ridiculous enough to be taken as satire. I mean, stopping a movie to put up a title card that explains everything worked out for the state and dissent was quashed is pretty laughable. Almost Monty Pythonesque. 

But censoring movies is nothing new. It’s not even unique to China. 

Take this excerpt from a September article by Shirley Li in the Atlantic: 

What critics might call censorship, Hollywood studios might label a market-entry strategy. The phenomenon has long been part of the global film industry. Post–World War II West German audiences saw a different version of Casablanca than the rest of the world. Last Tango in Paris, with its notoriously explicit sex scenes, was edited before it could be released in Britain and barred from being shown in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Three Nordic countries placed an age restriction on the film E.T. in 1982 after child psychologists accused the film of portraying adults as enemies of children.” 

The censorship of Fight Club is a little different, in that the ending’s been changed to subdue dissent and anti-state ideas, but it’s still not an entirely new phenomenon. 

What’s more interesting to me, is how China’s sway has begun to influence our culture, not just our politics. 

In that same Atlantic article, Li is more concerned with how Chinese authorities are shaping the way Hollywood makes movies, rather than with how it censors what’s already been produced. 

In 2020, the Chinese film market officially surpassed North America’s as the world’s biggest box office, all but ensuring that Hollywood studios will continue to do everything possible for access to the country. This also means China will assert itself more aggressively to control Hollywood. The country, which already places a quota on the number of foreign films that can be screened every year, banned them for nearly two months this summer because of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding.” 

China’s sway on Hollywood, writes Li, has led to more mainland Chinese actors being cast in American movies (which would be fine if it wasn’t done to pander) and more shooting on location in China (apparently the case with Iron Man 3, for example). China and Chinese characters are less likely to be antagonists in movies, and mentions of Tibet and Taiwan are out of bounds if you want a screening. 

If you’ve noticed a rise in mindless action movies and a drop in the number of comedies Hollywood makes, you largely have China to thank. Explosions and car chases translate a lot easier than witty dialogue. So we’ll be stuck with The Fast and the Furious 24 before long. Sigh. 

Hollywood isn’t the only area of western culture that’s been changed by Chinese expectations. Just ask the NBA. 

As someone who grew up inundated with media from Hollywood and America while local culture and community took a backseat, I might take a little schadenfreude in seeing Hollywood have to bow to the influence of another country, if it wasn’t so unsettling. 

A jarring title card at the end of Fight Club might be a flashy story, but the bigger picture of how the art we produce can be so heavily shaped by the beliefs of a country so ideologically opposed to so many western values is what’s really worth paying attention to. 

Read the full Atlantic article if you have time. It’s as fascinating as it is disconcerting. 

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Government

City

Wednesday

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting

Regional Centre Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Intracellular taurine supports cardiac function and metabolism in non-model organisms (Wednesday, 4pm) — Tyson MacCormack from Mount Allison University will talk

Thursday

R-PEACE discusses Why Space Matters in active learning (Thursday, 11:30am) — Via Zoom, Fiona Black and Michael Fox

will discuss the development of an Active Learning space and community engagement, and its influence on pedagogies. As part of the Research Partnerships for Education and Community Engagement (R-PEACE) group, they are interested in “blowing out the walls of the traditional classroom.”

Talking to ‘Others’ from within my Authentic Self (Thursday, 4pm) — James R. Johnson Chair Anniversary Distinguished Lecture with David Divine and Barbara Hamilton-Hinch

Problematizing Eurocentric Social Work Education (Thursday, 5:30pm) — online panel discussion with Merlinda Weinberg, Alec Stratford, Dr. Raluca Bejan​, Michelle Sutherland-Allan, Destiny Mercredi, and Likda Morash

King’s

Wednesday

Disability Can Save Your Life: Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer (Wednesday, 6pm) — online lecture with writer and scholar Kenny Fries

Thursday

Waves of Change: Creating Communities of Accountability (Thursday, 3pm) — In this online workshop, participants

will work together to generate an understanding of what a safe and inclusive community can look like and how to make that vision a reality. Also, how to recognize when someone in your community is causing harm and how direct that person towards more accountable behaviour.


In the harbour

Halifax
04:00: One Helsinki, container ship, sails for New York
10:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
10:30: Torrens, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
11:00: Contship Leo, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
15:30: Torrens sails for sea
22:00: Larvik, oil tanker, arrives at Tufts Cove from Freeport, Bahamas
22:30: Contship Leo sails for Kingston, Jamaica

Cape Breton
10:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for sea
13:00: Phoenix Admiral, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
14:00: Front Cruiser, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Odudu Terminal, Nigeria


Footnotes

Anyone catch that four-minute long story on CBC radio Monday morning about quitting coffee? I did. Twice. Once on the Cape Breton morning show as I left the island, and once on the Halifax show as I drove to the Valley. It was full of time-filling material, but the best part of the piece was an interview with a Shopify employee who said coffee is very important to tech industry workers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t every profession use coffee to get through the work day?


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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. Hollywood has long made and censored films to meet domestic market expectations. It’s not unusual for scripts to be run by the MPAA classifiers several times before or during production, to ensure the desired rating is achieved. In most countries, including Canada, censorship or classification (they function the same way) is a government function, but in the USA, it is managed by the film industry. My research (https://utpjournals.press/doi/10.3138/jcs-2018-0022) suggests industry classification is more restrictive than government classification (in a democracy). Unfortunately, the trend in Canada is to give more censorship power to the film industry, despite their record. As noted, the real concern is not cuts, but what does and does not get made in pursuit of mass audiences, at home and abroad.

    Incidentally, the Nova Scotia ban of ‘Last Tango in Paris’ was challenged by Gerard McNeil, the editor of the Dartmouth Free Press. The case went to the Supreme Court twice, first establishing that a citizen could challenge the constitutionality of a law, then confirming that any province in Canada can ban any film, any time, for any reason (except criminal obscenity), on the grounds of regulating trade. That power has not been challenged at the Supreme Court since the 1978 case. The transition from DVD sales and rental (provincial authority) to streaming (federal authority) has lessened the effectiveness of ongoing film bans, but the provinces and territories still have that power.

    ‘Last Tango’ is no longer banned in Nova Scotia – it’s now classified as Restricted – but when or how that happened is unknown. There is no record of reversing the decision at the Utility and Review Board (which handles appeals) and records of film board decisions prior to the mid-1980s are incomplete.

  2. The CIA and the Department of Defense have been involved in Hollywood in both subtle (CIA) and overt (DoD provides soldiers as extras and tanks/planes etc for free to movies they like) since at least the 1930s.

    China’s hamfisted, and honestly kind of funny censorship of Fight Club is quaint in comparison, bordering on self parody. The decision to bowdlerize the ending is not a technocratic plot by the CCP to stop people from getting ideas about blowing up buildings, but because the CCP feels it has to control Western influence in China. I don’t see the censorship, in this case, as nefarious – it’s analogous to bleeping out swear words.

    The Chinese versions of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are much more heavily censored, not because the CCP is afraid that the movies will make Chinese people become pirates, but because of cultural sensitivity around the undead.

  3. > how the art we produce can be so heavily shaped by the beliefs of a country

    You’re describing “A Clockwork Orange”

    I was shocked, as an adult, to discover that the ending of my favourite movie didn’t at all reflect how the Burgess book actually ended….that the North American version of the book actually completely dropped the last chapter written by Burgess for ideological reasons (altho’ this is somewhat disputed by some). To me the avoided chapter makes the entire narrative portray the opposite than intended message. In the movie version it is about the downfall of society, rebellion &violence. The added chapter essentially argues that rebellion is part of youth and that society, through its individuals, cycles back with every generation. That an extended timeline matters in understanding things.

    It’s argued that the chapter was dropped because no one wanted the message that rebellion was part of youth to be reinforced, rather that it was better to convey that the state will attempt to crush dissent and that this approach will fail, that other means were necessary.

    I think that my greatest disillusionment was towards Stanley Kubrick and his deciding to make the movie along the lines of the American version of the story as opposed to that published elsewhere. I lost a fair amount of my respect for him as a director when I realized that.

  4. DON’T LOOK NOW
    All of us livingf in the “free world” are subjects to efforts in mind control thru censorship and media control all day, every day, in every way. (The CIA owns the movie rights to Animal Farm, for example.) The idea that we need to worry over how other nations are practicing such control is all part of that larger effort. Like a magician’s trick: it misdirects us. We take our eye off what is happening here to criticize what is happening elsewhere. And so the job is done. We congratulate ourselves on being, in John Lennon’s words: “so clever, classless and free.” But, in reality, we are–again with Lennon–“still fucking peasants.”

  5. I never drank more coffee than when I was working out of a co-working space with a pot constantly on the go.