News

1. “Involuntary compliance”

Halifax Regional Police officers and Halifax Regional Municipality staff at Horseshoe Park on the Northwest Arm on Aug. 18, 2021. Police and city staff evicted five people living in tents from the park. Photo: Zane Woodford

In high school, I had a teacher whose approach to finding volunteers was to look at a group of us and say, “I need four volunteers. You, you, you, and you — you are the volunteers.”

I thought about him this morning as I read Zane Woodford’s story on Halifax staff continuing to recommend — against the will of councillors — that police enforce proposed rules on park encampments. Woodford discusses the staff report, written by Max Chauvin, parks and recreation special projects manager, and Maggie MacDonald, parks and recreation executive director:

Chauvin and MacDonald wrote that municipal staff will start with a “restorative, collaborative, and voluntary process,” but “situations exist where this may not occur.” Those include times when someone is in an unsafe location; there’s an “immediate threat to life or property;” health concerns; or a person refuses “to participate in a negotiated re-location.”

“If it is determined that an involuntary compliance approach is required, the Executive Director of Parks and Recreation will refer the matter to HRP and they will be responsible for enforcement, which may include removing the individual. It is intended that an enforcement approach would generally not be considered until all others have been exhausted,” Chauvin and MacDonald wrote.

Given the events of the past year — the pepper spraying, the dismantling of a shelter with a chain saw, the tents picked up and thrown in the garbage, the lies about everyone being offered adequate shelter and about police only being called as a last resort — are we supposed to believe that municipal staff will start with a “restorative collaborative and voluntary process”? And, even assuming that happens, couching what comes next as “involuntary compliance” is a sickening use of language to make the act of forcing people out of a park with the threat of violence seem more palatable.

We are, of course, a culture awash in language like this, but that doesn’t mean we can’t resist it.

Last week in the Examiner Slack, Tim Bousquet wrote:

I dislike the word “landfill,” as it takes away the actual thing we’re doing, which is throwing (dumping) shit away.

More of that please. Some of these terms stick around for so long we forget that they were introduced as euphemisms in the first place.

Read Woodford’s story here. 

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2. “Our worst nightmare”: Call-takers and dispatchers still struggling, two years later

OCC dispatch supervisor Kristen Baglee addressing the Mass Casualty Commission on June 13, 2022.

Yesterday, the Mass Casualty Commission heard from dispatcher Bryan Green and shift supervisor Kristen Baglee, both of whom were on duty at the RCMP Operations Communications Centre (OCC) on April 18 and 19, 2020. The centre responds to 911 calls.

Jennifer Henderson reports on the testimony, during which Green and Baglee described staff fielding a large number of calls and trying to get help to people who were wounded at the same time as paramedics had been warned to stay indoors. She writes:

“It was tough when [Cst] Chad [Morrison] was shot,” said Baglee. “When he went to the (Milford EHS) ambulance station and was waiting for an ambulance. After Heidi had been killed, I’ll never forget him coming on the radio, so unassuming, ‘do we know where my ambulance is? Because I’m bleeding pretty badly.’ And me getting back on the phone and asking the ambulance where they were…knowing that of course they need to be safe in their response but I had a police officer out there who needed help!”…

At this point, Baglee broke down in tears at the memory of  the frustration and grief compressed into two short hours that Sunday morning.

The paramedics assigned to help Morrison, didn’t respond immediately because their boss at EHS Dispatch had told them to remain indoors because the whereabouts of a killer masquerading as a policeman were unknown and posed a threat to the ambulance crew.

“Our job is to keep our members safe,” recalled Baglee tearfully. “It was our worst nightmare, yet we couldn’t take time to emotionally react because we had a job to do.”

Henderson discusses changes that have been made to the OCC in the last two years, the large number of people who have left, and the toll on the staff on duty at the time of the murders.

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3. A guy who can’t bother to register a domain name wants to build a $300 million attraction

The proposed Titanic Experience. Photo: Contributed

Last week, the Chronicle Herald ran a story based on a LinkedIn post, saying that “A business development firm has identified a potential site at the Port of Halifax in Nova Scotia for a proposed Titanic Experience replica ship, restaurant and aquarium.”

The next day, the paper ran a story by Jen Taplin, in which she talked to the project’s proponent, Clark Squires. She also dug around and found that this “proposed” project seemed to exist only in his head:

Coun. Waye Mason (Halifax South Downtown) hadn’t heard anything about this project until he read about it on Wednesday morning. When contacted by The Chronicle Herald on Wednesday, the Port of Halifax and Develop Nova Scotia, which oversees the Halifax Waterfront, hadn’t heard of it either.

Then, The Coast got involved and the fun really began. In a story published June 9, Kaija Jussinoja and Matt Stickland look more deeply into the players involved in the “proposed” project, and literally knock on doors, to very funny effect.

Clark Squires & Associates Ltd is a company registered in Nova Scotia as an “Extra-provincial Corporation”— it has addresses in both NS and PEI — but according to the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies, its registration was revoked in 2020. According to PEI’s corporate registry, Clark Squires and Associates was founded in June 24, 1982 as Mulberry Motel Limited.

The phone number on the Clark Squires & Associates website goes to a voice mailbox that is not set up… The email address for this “Global Business Consulting Firm” that is supposed to be able to handle a $300-million project is the super-professional clarksquires1@gmail.com.

The address listed for the company is in Spryfield, but a completely unrelated business is housed there. An email to Squire’s supposed associate in the venture bounced. On his website, Jussinoja and Stickland report, there is a letter praising Squires from the head of the “United Nations Department of Sports, Music, and the Arts” to which Squires claims to be an adviser.

Problem: the UN department does not exist.

Oh, and there’s a crypto angle, too.

Meanwhile, in an email to The Coast, Squires says he is upset about the Chronicle Herald reporting on his plans, which he wrote about in a public LinkedIn post:

The info was for my network on LinkedIn and not for public distribution as a formal press release would have been sent out when we had control of the land site and had our financing. I am not very happy.

I am consistently amazed that people post stuff online and then are surprised when other see it. (I once had a guy I was interviewing ask me coldly, “How did you find that out?” when I asked if he still worked in wealth management; it was right there on his LinkedIn profile.)

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4. NSHA pathologists working in appalling conditions

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

For CBC Nova Scotia, Carolyn Ray reports on the conditions under which pathologists are working at the Mackenzie Building in Halifax.

In addition to leaking pipes, flooding and toxic fumes, pathology staff also have to deal with computers running Windows 7. Note that Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 in January 2020, meaning there have been no software updates or security updates and fixes since then.

The computer system causes all kinds of headaches for staff, Ray reports:

[Pathology head Dr. Laurette] Geldenhuys says it’s so unreliable, some pathologists have resorted to manually typing out their lengthy reports instead of dictating them.

“That takes forever,” she said. “Then you have to keep rereading it to make sure that you don’t have typographical errors. It really is very frustrating.”

Ray says Nova Scotia Health “declined several requests for an interview.”

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Views

Overexposed, part 2

Getting your Instagram pics at the Acropolis. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

I read Ethan Lycan-Lang’s Morning File essay on putting down the phone and enjoying the experience last week, on a bus to Athens. The next day I was at the Acropolis with family and friends, phone in hand.

I had lots of opportunity to think about tourism, photography, and experiences over nearly a month in Greece. We started our trip on the lovely and relatively quiet island of Syros, in the Aegean, and went from there to Santorini, which was like entering a different universe.

The island has been a tourist destination for decades, but Instagram has super-charged it. The main purpose of visiting Santorini seems to be to get photos of yourself visiting Santorini. It’s a beautiful island. Stunning. Incredible. And it was once a thriving centre of Minoan civilization too, until one of the largest volcanic explosions in history destroyed it. I can see why people go there.

A couple visiting Santorini, along with their personal photographer. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Many of the women we saw — both in Santorini and at archaeological sites in Athens — were dressed in beautiful, flowing jewel-coloured dresses. Bright reds, emerald greens. Colours that pop against the whitewashed buildings and the blue sea and sky. Santorini has great public transit, so we rode a lot of buses, surrounded by passengers scrolling through their hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of photos of themselves on the island. (I don’t think I saw a single person scrolling through Twitter; it was all Instagram and Facebook.)

At the popular tourist sites, you feel like part of a procession of people walking, pausing, taking the pics and the selfies, and carrying on to the next station. It’s like some kind of pilgrimage.

And, of course, we participated in this too. I’ll spare you my Santorini selfies, but believe me, I have them.

In Oia, the small town visitors flock to see the sunset, the scene gets even wilder, as everyone stakes out their spot for their sunset view photos. Oia, weirdly, reminded me of Peggy’s Cove — a place where hardly anyone lives, but which accommodates an enormous number of tourists, and where many visitors seem to treat the whole town as an attraction. (When my kids worked at a gift shop in Peggy’s Cove they would tell stories of customers asking questions like, “Where do you put the rocks in winter?” — as though they were not a natural feature, but something simply set up for their viewing pleasure.)

In Oia, the crowds have made it harder to get the perfect Instagram shot, leading people to doing things like standing on the roofs of houses at 6am. There were a few signs in Oia reminding visitors that people actually live there.

Image from the Respect Oia blog.

A 2018 blog post on respecting Oia reads, in part:

Would you walk into any random house in your street, because it had a better view than your own, just so you can take a selfie? Would you climb on their roof to photograph your girlfriend in a fake wedding dress? Furthermore… would you do it at 6am? No you wouldn’t… because you would be in jail. So what do you think gives you the right to do it in Oia? Who was it that told you that you have the right to climb on any roof top, any terrace, anyone’s front or back yard… just so you can take photos for your Instagram account? [ellipses in original]

During this trip to Greece, I left my bulky DSLR at home, so I took all my photos with my so-so phone camera. A couple of times, as I was photographing columns at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, or the Parthenon, I wondered what the point of all this was. I know what these places look like, and I don’t really need a record to remember them. I imagine every single possible angle of the Parthenon has been photographed, and many of those photos will be far better than mine.

But I also think that’s not the point. Even if you’re not in the photo yourself, the point is somehow to indicate, “I was here.” It’s a natural human impulse, right? In Sparta, during a visit to the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil (you should go) I saw an image of some graffiti scrawled over a church fresco. The graffiti was written by someone saying they had been there picking olives. It dated from the late 1600s.

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Noticed

Tony’s Donairs on Robie in Halifax, photographed in the early 2000s. Photo: Alexei and Verne Stakhanov / Flickr

Last week’s episode of the CBC podcast The Secret Life of Canada is on the Halifax donair, with writer Omar Mouallem and author and food blogger Lindsay Wickstrom. Wickstrom writes the Eat This Town blog (latest post: “The Best Vegan Donair in Halifax”) and is the author of Book of Donair.

In under half an hour, the podcast covers the roots of the donair / doner / gyro in the Ottoman empire, how it spread from there, and Halifax’s particular take on the dish. (Can I call it a dish if you eat it on the street?) As with so many food stories — curries originating in England, Hungarian Jews developing fish and chips, Lebanese immigrants creating tacos al pastor — this one is about culture, migration, opportunity, and adaptation.

I learned from this episode that Edmonton is Canada’s other big donair city, and that Vancouver calls any ridiculous thing a donair.

Wickstrom explains:

[Places outside Halifax] might put pizza sauce on it, or they might put pepperoni and cheese on it. You go to New Brunswick, it gets even worse: there’s lettuce everywhere. But once you start going to places like British Columbia, it’s wild. There’s no law, there’s no rules. in some places they seem to use the word donair to refer to any style wrap, and then they’ll say it’s Halifax style if the sauce is sweet… When I was doing my research I would come across things like Hawaiian chicken donairs, with pineapple and chicken on them. There are just no rules there.

Mouallem says he believes he may have been the catalyst for Halifax declaring the donair the city’s official food:

Ten years ago, I gave a talk at this semi-seasonal event where people from the community present to an audience on any topic they want… and I did mine very tongue in cheek about why Edmonton is the true donair capital of Canada. But it may have gone viral or something like that, because word spread to Halifax, and, I think through the filter of the internet and social media, they may have taken my talk a little too seriously — may have seen it as this legitimate attempt to claim the donair as Edmonton’s local dish.

The podcast refers to the staff report on whether or not the donair should be named Halifax’s official food, and, lucky for us, the report is still online.

Reading it is truly an exercise in embarrassment. I can just imagine the staff who wrote it trying to keep a straight face.

The report is 43 pages long, but 38 of those pages are just reproductions of, or links to, seemingly everything ever written about the donair. Even a letter written by former radio host Jordi Morgan, posted on his own website. There are links to nine news stories about an NBA player saying he likes donairs.

I am trying to imagine former CAO Richard Butts very seriously signing his name to this:

In the absence of detailed staff analysis, including consideration of supporting processes to identify and evaluate other official foods or other official features, staff would not put forward a recommendation for a proclamation. It is at Council’s discretion to direct a proclamation by the Mayor.

There is nothing to prevent Regional Council from recognizing the donair and drawing attention to it by directing the Mayor to make a proclamation declaring the donair the official food of Halifax.

Even if you are very familiar with the history of the donair, I highly recommend you listen to the podcast for the very Halifax story that closes the episode. It brings together drunkenness, tourists, a cold donair and… well, just listen for yourself.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda

Wednesday

District Boundary Resident Review Panel (Wednesday, 3:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Province

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — agenda setting

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — 2022 Report of the Auditor General: Follow-up of 2017, 2018 and 2019 Performance Audit Recommendations Regarding: November 1, 2017 Report of the Auditor General: Chapter 3, Climate Change Management; with Lora MacEachern, Dept. of Environment and Climate Change


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

One Chance To Be A Child: Child rights and well-being in Nova Scotia (Tuesday, 6:30pm) — online discussion with Sara Kirk, Laura Stymiest, Lisa Lachance, and Christian Whalen:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, attention and resources were placed overwhelmingly on protecting older populations. In doing so, the interests and needs of children and youth were sidelined. Disruptions to school food programs and a lack of access to safe places to play or gather, for example, have likely left some children in a more precarious situation than before the pandemic.

Children and youth continue to face complex barriers to realizing their rights and experiencing well-being. The impacts of poverty, trauma, and hopelessness are evidenced in the bodies and minds of children and youth. The causes of these problems, however, are rooted in systemic shortcomings of social policy, interventions for which are necessary at multiple levels.

In this panel, thought leaders will engage with the findings emerging out of a recent comprehensive report on the status of child and youth well-being in Nova Scotia. Panelists will highlight the most pressing issues facing young people in Nova Scotia which undermine their well-being and discuss policy shifts which could result in their experiencing the benefits of rights realizations during their one chance to be a child.

Wednesday

Structure of the Nuclear Pore Complex (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Building) — also online; public seminar by Picchione Visiting Scholar Andre Hoelz, from California Institute of Technology. Bring your own nuclear pore complex.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

Wednesday

Making it Mya: A Drag Dialogue with Dillon Ross (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Patrick Power Library) — from the listing:

Mya Foxx, a Halifax-based drag performer known for her high energy performances and choreography. From live performances to dance workshops to inspirational talks, Mya strives to ensure opportunities and accessibility for the 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.


In the harbour

Halifax
07:30: Yasa Flamingo, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Melkoya, Norway
16:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, moves from Fairview Cove to Pier 41
16:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
22:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain
22:30: MSC Tamara, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
23:30: Dee4 Fig, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea

Cape Breton
08:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax, on a seven-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
10:00: CSL Metis, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
15:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Punta Rincon, Panama
17:30: Zaandam sails for Charlottetown


Footnotes

How was your experience going through security? Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Past the security gate at the Athens airport. Rating security? I’m sorry, what?


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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. My wife and I visited Santorini in the summer of 1982 during a 6-week-long Greek island adventure. The only way to get there was by boat and then a long climb (or donkey ride if you were inclined) up the cliff path to the town. There were hardly any tourists. We rented a scooter and visited beaches where we were the only sunbathers. We could get a sunset picture anywhere. The days were a little busier with visiting cruise ships but the evenings were calm and quiet and magnificent. I think that returning there would ruin our memories of one of the most beautiful places we have ever been.

  2. When I was backpacking with a friend through Scotland many moons ago (2001), we found an old stone-age tomb that was just along the side of the road on the Main Island in Orkney. You could go right inside it (I recall it might even have had electric lights installed), and on one of the rocks were some scratched runes. Upon reading about it in our guidebook, it turned out that the runes were from Vikings (who had probably pillaged the tomb when they found it), dating from around 800 AD, and the translation was essentially “Bjorn was here”.

  3. Based on my own experience with Halifax Regional Police on June 11, I know they are not the personnel to be enforcing rules surrounding the park encampments. If any reporter wants to know more, feel free to get in touch. I’ll share – just not in the comments section. 🙂

  4. I have no idea how much actual research has gone into the history of the donair in Nova Scotia. But in Truro, it is taken as a simple fact that the Donair was invented by the Rafih family at Damascus Pizza in Truro/ Bible Hill.

  5. Hey Philip

    I had the pleasure of spending 5 days on Santorini (Thira) in January 1974. There were 5 tourists on the island, I was one of them. My experience was nothing like yours, I took photos of the archeological dig, which you don’t mention, the volcano which we visited by boat and windmills. No sunsets and no selfies.

    1. The archaeological site is fantastic. We spent the better part of a day there, and there has been considerably more excavation since 1974. It is covered with a roof to protect it now as well. We also visited the archaeological museum in Fira, which has some of the materials from the dig site at Akrotiri.